"DECALRER" the player of the pair who won the final contract in the bidding & must play his and partner's
"DUMMY" the partner of the declarer who must expose his hand after the opening lead for declarer to play.
Aka. the "TABLE" or "BOARD" not to be confused with actual physical entities.
"RHO" means "Right Hand Opponent".
"LHO" means "Left Hand Opponent".
"STRENGTH" pertains only to the potential high card natural winners in a suit (8 or higher) , regardless of length
in that suit.
"LENGTH" pertains to the number of cards in a given suit beyond the first 4 cards. Length does not mean strength.
"TRICK" pertains to the sequence of four cards played in clockwise rotation which is normally won by the
highest played card.
"LEAD" pertains to the first card played on a trick. It is normally the winner of the prior trick that leads to the
next trick, except for the
"OPENING LEAD" is the lead to the first trick by declarer's LHO.
"FOLLOWING SUIT" refers to the requirement that after the lead to a trick, all other players must play a card of
the same suit if they can.
"TRUMP" pertains to a suit being declared in the bidding as "TRUMP", wherein every card in that suit is
capable of winning a trick in another suit that is led, assuming the player cannot FOLLOW SUIT
of the trick led. If two or more trumps are played to a trick, the higher one wins. The more trump
a player has, the better.
"DOMINANT LENGTH" pertains to the hand among all players that has the greatest length in a suit.
"PREDOMINANT LENGTH" pertains to the hand between partners that has the greatest length in a suit.
"SUBORDINANT LENGTH" pertains to the hand between partners that has the shorter length in a suit.
"SUPPORTED" means a high card has at least 2 low cards beneath it.
"BACKED" means a high card has touching underlings.
"UNDERLING" means a card touching a higher card.
"SHELTERED SEQUENCE" pertains to a continuous sequence of touching cards above & including the 8, said sequence
being long enough to drive out the higher honors and produce at least 1 natural winner.
"AT RISK HONOR" is an honor card which can be lost to the next higher honor, and is not covered by the AK (as in AKJ), and is not part
of a naked 3+ card sheltered sequence, with the additional provision that in playing no-trump it must not be part of
any 3+ card sequence (naked or otherwise) & it must not be accompanied by any more than 1 other honor card.
In AKJx, the J is not at risk, because there is more than 1 other honor.
In KJT98, the J is top of a complete sequence, BUT THE K IS AT-RISK .
In AJT98, the J is not at risk in no-trump, but the J IS AT-RISK in a trump contract.
In QJx, the Q IS AT-RISK , because the Q is not part of a sheltered sequence.
In QJT, the Q is not at risk, because the Q is part of a sheltered sequence.
In AQxx, the Q IS AT-RISK , because it has insufficient honors surrounding it.
In AQJx, the Q is not at risk in no-trump, but the Q IS AT-RISK in a trump contract.
In AQJT, the Q is not at risk in no-trump, but the Q IS AT-RISK in a trump contract.
In KQxx, the K IS AT RISK , because it has insufficient honors surrounding it.
In JT98, the J is not at risk, because the J is part of a sheltered sequence.
In JT9x, the J IS AT-RISK, because the J is not part of a sheltered sequence.
"CASH" means to lead out your winners.
"THE LENGTH-STRENGTH THRESHOLD" is the point where we stop counting winners and begin counting long tricks.
It is where the holdings 789T & 89TJ meet.
"LONG NOTHING SUIT" is one containing 4+ cards but has no card higher than the 9.
"SHORT NOTHING SUIT" is one containing less than 4 cards but has no card higher than the 9.
B. OBJECTIVES: Usually in playing the hand, you are attemtping to do any of five things.
1. Promote your high cards into winners & Promote your suit length(s) into being runnable.
2. Keep the opponent under control and force him to lead to you for an extra trick.
3. Extend your trump suit by ruffing to maximize it's ability to win tricks
4. Squeeze the opponent in the end game.
C. The following describes the general principles of playing the hand roughly in the order of OBJECTIVES above.
Note: Unless specifically indicated these principles apply to BOTH declarer and defenders.
1. PRELIMINARY CONCEPTS and PROMOTING YOUR HIGH CARDS and SUIT LENGTHS.
a. The PRINCIPLES OF MINDSET.
PRINCIPLE #1: The NO SUCH THING AS ALWAYS principle.
In defending a hand, you may hear an irrate partner exclaim "Why did you not return my opening lead?", insisting that you
should always return his opening lead. This is non-sense, unless of course he also bid the suit. But more than likely,
he is complaining, because you switched suits in compliance with the PROMOTION principles and the LEAD RISK AVOIDANCE
principle, expecting him to also be in compliance.
If there is anything we learn in playing bridge, it's that there is NO SUCH THING AS "ALWAYS".
But there are some "NEVERS".
PRINCIPLE #2: The POLITENESS principle.
Do not scold your partner or opponents.
Do not insist that your opponents bid or play your way.
PRINCIPLE #3: The DON'T GO TO SLEEP & DON'T GET ANXIOUS principle.
Pay attention, even if you have a lousey hand. Stay alert.
But don't get hyper either and start cashing your winners immediately.
PRINCIPLE #4: The ECONOMY OF MEMORY principle.
Some people try to count every card played in every suit played from beginning to end.
As a beginner, unless you have a photographic memory, don't waste your time trying to remember every card played.
Instead keep track of the number of tricks played in a suit, the first two of which will generally have 4 cards in the suit without
Also, track what cards have been promoted both in your own hand and in dummy's hand.
This is far more important than trying to count each and every card that has been played.
If you need exact counts, I suggest keeping track of how many cards in a suit remain out, not how many have been played.
Observe suit distribution starting with the SPLIT PERCENTAGE ESTIMATE dynamically modified by observation as the play
More advanced players will be concerned with actual card count and RECONSTRUCTING THE CARD COUNT for the purposes of
CARD PLACEMENT. But for the beginner and intermediate player, there are more important other things with which to deal first.
PRINCIPLE #5: The REEVALUATION principle.
As the play of the hand proceeds, always be re-evaluating yours & partner's hand in light of the dummy & the
manner in which the other players manage their cards. As defender, always keep close watch of the dummy &
your partner's play throughout the course of the play.
PRINCIPLE #6: The GLOBAL VISION principle.
Don't just play your own hand. Play everyone's hand, especially your partner's even when on defense.
Try to ANTICIPATE how the hand is going to play.
PRINCIPLE #7: The PLAY-TO-WIN principle.
NEVER ALLOW THE OPPONENT TO WIN ANY MORE TRICKS OTHER THAN THOSE TO WHICH HE IS
NEVER GIVE THE OPPONENT ANY TRICKS THAT HE WOULD NOT OTHERWISE GET.
DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO PROMOTE YOURS & PARTNER'S LOWER CARDS INTO WINNERS.
Have a purpose in playing to every trick, even if you have a bust hand.
PRINCIPLE #8: The DEFENDER HOPE NOT principle.
Defenders, NEVER LEAD INTO 4TH HANDS STRENGTH "HOPING" YOUR PARTNER CAN RUFF. NEVER GUESS.
Observe the bidding & your partner's OBVIOUS SIGNALS. BE PRUDENT.
Only lead into 4th hand's strength on the opening lead (if necessary) to avoid finessing yourself, or when you have a SINGLETON
and with a PROTECTED TRUMP that gives you a sure shot at ruffing that suit the next time it is lead.
PRINCIPLE #9: The COMMON SENSE principle.
USE IT...your common sense that is.
Whether you are declarer or defender, the object is to win as many of 13 tricks as possible. Therefore, you should not
allow your opponents to take any tricks that they would not otherwise get. This may sound like a very simple & common
sense task, but you would be surprised how easy it is to violate, especially when it comes to "cashing in" your winners or
rigidly adhering to an agreed upon signaling system ignoring what is in the dummy. You want to win tricks as cheap as possible.
Treat your cards like money.
You wouldn’t pay $1000 for a pencil, would you? So don't waste your higher cards catching little fish. Don't waste your ace
capturing a duece. You want the most bang for your buck. Use your 5, not your ace, to win the 2,3,4 on a trick. Conserve
your highest cards, ie, "honors", for capturing the opponents' highest cards just below yours & promoting your lower cards.
Aces are for capturing kings, kings are for capturing queens, etc..
You would not open your door to a burglar to come in and rob you. Neither should you open the door for your right hand opponent
to get away with making his king good by under-leading your ace. If you were interested in capturing a bird who got loose in the
room, you wouldn't open the front door, would you? By the same token, do not underlead your high cards making it possible for
your high-valued prey to allude capture by your higher cards.
Example of Common Sense:
Holding AQ sitting behind right hand opponent's (or dummy's) king, play the queen unless the
opponent plays the king. This is an example of a "short-card finesse". If you hold the ace,
but not the queen, & the right hand opponent does not play the king, then do not play your ace,
because you want to catch that king.
Examples of lead mistakes.
Being on opening lead, you lead out the ace of a suit in which you don't have the king & partner
has not bid the suit. Guess what the other three players do? They play their deuce, 3 & 4 on
the trick underneath your ace. You have effectively squandered the value of your ace,
because you did not catch a big fish.
Having the A of a suit, you under-lead it. Not seeing the ace in sight & being the last to play to
the trick, the opponent will gladly take his king, leaving you there with your ace to capture his
deuce on some subsequent trick.
And whatever you do, certainly do not lead suits in which you hold AT-RISK HONORS.
Leave this kind of suit alone & let it be lead to you, except when your partner has bid (or signaled) in the suit or you are in danger of
not getting your winners due to the opponents having a side suit established where they can dump their losers in the suit.
Many people, myself included, have failed to recognize that the lowest card must be promotable such as leading out the queen
from QJ9. And many times I have regreted leading that queen when I see AT in the dummy & declarer takes my queen with his king.
When leading out the top of the promotable sequence observe your partner's play & look very closely at the dummy. I cant tell you
how many times I've seen the opening leader take his king, & looking straight at the protected queen in dummy & with a negative
signal from partner he proceeds to cash his ace, thereby setting up the queen as an extra trick for declarer. As the play progresses
you may want to cash your ace, but not normally in the beginning of play. More will be said later on leads.
b. The PRINCIPLES OF INDIIVIDUAL HAND EVALUATION.
(BEFORE OPENING LEAD & BEFORE DUMMY GOES DOWN)
PRINCIPLE #10: The PRE-PLAY REVIEW principle.
Evaluate Your Hand Before Playing a card.
a] In what suits do you have AT-RISK HONORS WHICH ARE TO BE AVOIDED IN LEADING?
b] What was bid by your partner during the bidding?
c] What was bid by the opponents?
d] What is TRUMP (if any) and the length & strength of your holding in it?
e] In what suits do you have nothing of value? These are EXITS or LOSERS .
PRINCIPLE #11: The DROP PROTECTED principle.
A card is said to be "DROP PROTECTED" if there are a sufficient number of other cards in the suit to prevent the opponents from
capturing that card by simply leading out all of their high cards in that suit, thereby promoting that card into a natural winner.
The term "DROP PROTECTED" is a pretty common term among bridge circles and means that the highest card will become
a winner IF THE OPPOSITION LEADS OUT THEIR HIGH CARDS IN SUCCESSION, because there is a sufficient numer of
lower cards in the suit to buffer against this event.
Example: Your Qxx in a suit is drop protected. If opponents lead out their A & then K, your Q will
become a winner. By the same token, your Jxxx is drop protected. But your Qx or Jxx are NOT drop protected.
PRINCUPLE #12: The POSITIONALLY PROMOTED principle.
A card is said to be "POSITIONALLY PROMOTED" if it is in the hand immediately behind the would-be higher captor cards sitting in
the RHO's hand. "POSITIONAL PROMOTION" gives rise to the possibility of "3RD HAND SHORT CARDING" which is also called
"FINESSING" . A card is FULLY POSITIONALLY PROMOTED if it is positionally promoted & drop protected.
Example: Your Qxx in a suit is FULLY POSITIONALLY PROMOTED if the AK are in your RHO's hand.
PRINCIPLE #13: The SHELTERED CARD principle.
This principle defines a "SHELTERED CARD" as being one that is not only drop protected or positionally promoted, but it is also
shielded by higher cards from being taken by potential captor cards in the LHO's hand.
If there is a sheltered card in a suit, then there is a SHELTERING SEQUENCE of cards above that card, whereby the sheltered card can
be promoted to becoming a natural winner by simply leading out the upper sheltering cards to drive out the opponent's higher cards.
PRINCIPLE #14: The NATURAL WINNERS principle.
"NATURAL WINNERS" are those cards which will or may take a trick in their suit , assuming the absence of a trump suit.
Natural winners are of 3 types: SURE, POSITIONAL or PROMOTIONAL.
Your greatest concern is the promotion & development of natural winners & the establishment of runnable suits in your hand
& in partner's hand. In a trump contract, no card is guaranteed to be a "sure winner" except the ace of trump. Just because you
hold a non-trump ace does not mean it wont be taken by a small trump card when the opponent is void in that suit. But were we to
always be so pessimistic we would never be able to evaluate our hand. Therefore, we treat our hand as if we were in a no-trump
contract & evaluate our high cards in each suit as being "Natural Winners", of which there are four types.
a] Potential Positional Natural Winners are winners only if their would-be captor cards are in RHO's hand.
They are AT-RISK potential winners.
Example: Q96 <- Queen drop protected by 9-6
The Q is only a winner if left hand opponent does not have AK.
For that reason it is only a POTENTIAL WINNER & not a sure winner.
Teds Rule : In breaking a NEW SUIT, as long as there is a chance that an AT-RISK honor can be positionally promoted into
a winner by virtue of playing position, then that suit should not be led by the holder of that honor until there is
further information acquired regarding that suit.
Example Holding AKJX or KQJx calls for the lead of the K, because there is a higher promotable sequence.
But AQJx does not contain a higher promotable sequence over the Q. The lead of this suit gives
the opponent's K a free ticket, as opposed to holding off to see if the A might not capture the K.
b] Sure High Natural Winners are Aces only.
c] Length Promotable Winners (aka, Long Tricks/Reserve Tricks or Distributional Winners).
Of all the hands at the table, if you have the DOMINANT LENGTH in a suit, then you may be able to run it. if you have a 7 card suit or more
all in one hand, then you defnitely have a long trick (or tricks) in that suit, because there can be no more than 6 out all in one hand. With
less than a 7 card suit, you may still have long tricks in a 6 or 5 card suit even if your partner has none in the suit, because you may stil
l get a favorable split which would establish a long trick(s) for you. With a 4 card suit the chances are slim to find the remaining cards
distributed 3-3-3, but that does not mean it cannot happen.
Example: 8765432 <- The deuce is definitely a long trick.
Runnable suits are especially valuable in no-trump contracts, because once they are established, no one can stop the extra reserve
of cards (ie, long tricks) held in the dominant hand from winning tricks, ("IF" the player gets in the lead that is). Normally, in a trump
contract you longest suit will be the trump suit. But you may have a secondary runnable suit called a side-suit. In trump contracts
these runnable side suits are also useful, especially for declarer, because once he has pulled all outstanding trump, he can run the
side suit as in no-trump. They are also useful to declarer in helping to pull trump via a tactic called "the Coup" which is discussed
later. And they are also useful to defenders in their attempt to defeat a no-trump contract or to tap the declare r out of trump in a
d] Promotable Sheltered Sure Natural Winners.
These cards are sheltered (ie, protected) from left hand opponent as described in the SHELTERED CARD
principle. To determine if a given suit is of this type, we must start from the top & seek out the "LOWEST PROMOTABLE CARD(s)" in
the suit (if any) based upon increasing suit length.
Example: QJT <- Ten is sheltered by QJ against the AK & a sure natural winner.
Identifying the HIGHEST SHELTERED CARD .
Starting from the top of the suit down, the highest sheltered card can be identified by the following formula:
REQUIRED # Of Cards Above It = Required Protection = RP = ((16 - Value Of The Card) / 2 ) - 1
Where A = 14 K = 13 Q = 12 J = 11
Example: Given QJT is there a sheltered winner/stopper?
Examining the Q, we compute RP = ((16 - 12) / 2) - 1 = 1. The Q is not sheltered.
Examining the J, we compute RP = ((16 - 11) / 2) - 1 = 1.5 = 2 . The J is not sheltered.
Examining the T, we compute RP = ((16 - 10)/ 2) - 1 = 2. The T IS SHELTERED.
Example: Given KJ98 is there a sheltered winner/stopper?
Examining the K, we compute RP = ((16 - 13) / 2) - 1 = .5 The K is not sheltered.
Examining the J, we compute RP = ((16 - 11) / 2) - 1 = 1.5 = 2 . The J is not sheltered.
Examining the 9, we compute RP = ((16 - 9)/ 2) - 1 = 3.5 The 9 is not sheltered.
Examining the T, we compute RP = ((16 - 8)/ 2) - 1 = 3. The 8 IS SHELTERED.
In addition to any sure natural winners (stoppers) in a suit, you may also find long tricks. As stated previously, for any long tricks to exist,
the suit should be at least 4 cards in length. A question arises as to where sure winners end and long tricks begin?
The dividing line between length vs strength, what I call THE LENGTH-STRENGTH THRESHOLD, centers about a 4-card holding containing
the 89T. If the 4th card is an x (ie x89T), then there is ONLY the possibility of 1 long trick and no natural tricks.
If the 4th card is a J, (ie, 89TJ), then there is ONLY the assurance of a natural trick and NO LONG TRICK.
In either case, the addition of a 5th card does not create any more natural tricks, but does produce the possibility of another long trick.
These observations in conjunction with Ted's Rule & Lead Risk Avoidance will play an important role in determining how we lead
& defend against no-trump as well as trump contracts.
The method for identifying the highest sheltered card is derived from a process I call Identifying The LOWEST
It is rather simple to identify our sure high winning cards, ie, the aces. But it becomes a little more difficult task to identify the
lower valued cards that may be promotable into winners. It is at this point we realize that we must use our higher cards not just
to win a trick, but to make sure we use our highest cards to capture & eliminate the opponent's highest cards that might otherwise
capture our lower valued promotable cards. It becomes necessary to identify such "Low Promotable Cards" and ask "What is
the Lowest Promotable Card in each of our given suits?". Assuming a no-trump contract & given the length of a suit, it is
possible to determine what is the lowest valued card that can be promoted into a natural winner.
The formula for this is:
LPC (lowest promotable card) = 16 - 2 X Suit Length
Where: jack equals 11, queen equals 12, king equals 13, and ace equals 14.
Thus, for a 2-card suit, the lowest card value that can be promoted into a winner is the queen, ie, 16 - 2 x 2 = 12 = Q.
For a 3-card suit, the lowest card value that can be promoted into a winner is the ten, ie, 16 - 2 x 3 = 10.
And so on. In other words, the lowest promotable card becomes lowered by 2 as the suit's length increases by 1.
Interestingly enough, the lowest promotable card is always an even valued card.
Now armed with this information, we must ask, "Do we in fact have any promotable cards in a given suit?".
This requires carefully and thorough examination of the suit, beginning with the lowest card in the suit and seeing if it is
Example: Take two 5-card suits both containing KJ98x, but where one of the suit's lowest card is the 5 while
the other suit's lowest card is the 6. Is there any way of telling if their lowest card is a winner?
The answer is "yes". First, we compute the
LOWEST PROMOTABLE CARD for a 5-card suit to be the 6,
ie LPC = 16 - 2 X Suit-Length = 16 - 2 x 5 = 16 - 10 = 6.
For a 5-card suit the LPC is the 6 (just as the table above says) . Thus, in our example, in the suit
whose lowest card is the 6 (KJ986), the 6 is a natural winner, where in the other suit whose
lowest card is the 5 (KJ985), the 5 is not a natural winner. However, there still may be a natural
winner higher up from the 5. As a matter of fact, the 8 in both hands is a natural winner, because
the LPC for a 4 card suit is the 8.
Given this table, it's a fairly simple process to compare your lowest card in a suit to the lowest protectable card for that suit's'
length & decide if your lowest card is promotable into a natural winner. If your lowest card is less than the LPC, then it is not
promotable. But that does not mean that you have no promotable natural winners in the suit, because the next from the lowest
card might be promotable. So younow compare the next lowest card in the suit to the LPC for an adjusted suit length that is
reduced by 1. It suffices to say that the LPC value will increase by 2 for each downward adjustment in suit length by 1.
So all you have to do is add 2 to the prior LPC value when examining the next card up. You may find yourself going through
this repetitive process all the way up to your top card in the suit without finding any promotable cards. BUT once you have found
a low card in a suit that is in fact promotable, then you will know you have at least one natural winner in the suit and you have
the suit stopped.
c. The PRINCIPLES OF COMBINED HAND EVALUATION. (IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE DUMMY GOES DOWN)
PRINCIPLE #15: The SPLIT PERCENTAGE principle.
What are the most likely distributions in each suit?
You can reckon by the bidding & the manner in which the cards are played as to how the outside cards in a suit are split.
But there is an additional aide for estimating the suit distribution, & it's called "Split Percentages", which is employed
immediately after dummy is exposed.
In short, this principle says that if you and another visible hand start with an even number of cards between you, the other remaining
unseen cards will be split evenly between the other two unseen hands at least 51% of the time. If you have an odd number of cards
between the two of you, then the cards will not be split evenly, but instead split with a 2 card difference between them at least 51% of
the time. This principle is applicable to both declarer & defenders.
A prior study in random suit distribution showed the following table to be true.