Trumps Are Wild!
Drawing Trumps: Count on Your Opponents
“Counting to a bridge player is similar to an actor
learning his lines — it does not guarantee success, but he
cannot succeed without it.”
George S. Kaufman, playwright, director and bridge player
Counting trumps should be a straightforward process.
However, most players do it the hard way. Here is the
simple, yet effective technique used by experienced players.
S 6 5
H Q 7 6 5 2
D 10 3
C K J 4 3
S J 9 4 3 S 10
H K J 10 9 H A 4 3
D Q J 2 D 9 8 7 6 4
C 7 5 C A 10 6 2
S A K Q 8 7 2
D A K 5
C Q 9 8
West North East South
— P P 1S
P 1NT P 4S
With only two sure losers, prospects are good. The HJ
is led, and it is time to think about the opponents' trumps.
You have six spades and dummy has two, a total of eight.
Therefore, the opponents have five.
After winning the HJ, West leads a second heart
which you ruff. You do not need to keep track of that trump.
The opponents began the hand with five, and they still have
all of those. Don’t draw trumps just yet. First things
You must ruff your D5 while dummy retains some
trumps. You cash the DA-K and ruff a diamond with the
S5. You need not worry about that trump either. The
opponents' five spades are still intact.
Now you are ready to draw trumps. Lead a spade to
your ace as both opponents follow suit. Two down, with three
to go. When you continue with the king, East discards
a diamond. You know that West has two trumps remaining,
since only three of the opponents' five spades have been
Take the SQ, pulling one more trump from West. You
now leave him with his trump winner, and establish clubs.
Your only losers are one heart, one spade, and the CA.
Voids Are the Name of the Game
For a little fun, consider the following: What is the
fewest number of HCP needed by one side to make a grand
slam? (Hint: You have only two opposing trumps to count, and
each royal member is single.)
H 9 7 6
D 4 3 2
C 6 5 4
S 8 7 6
5 4 3 2
H A J
10 8 5 2
The answer is five. 7H is cold as long as trumps
are divided 1–1 and neither opponent has five spades. You
will ruff spades until you have established them.
Dummy's Ruff Can Be Smooth
“Shortness is in the eye of the beholder.”
Wee Willie Keeler, 19th century baseball player
Many players do not appreciate the importance of winning
extra tricks with dummy's trumps. Of course, this is
possible only when dummy has a short suit along with
On this deal, declarer was not impressed with any of
S Q J 6
H 8 6 5
D 7 6 3
C A 8 7 2
S 7 5 4 S 3 2
H K J H Q 10 9 4
D Q J 10 8 D 9 5 4 2
C Q 9 6 5 C K J 10
S A K 10 9 8
H A 7 3 2
D A K
C 4 3
West North East South
— P P 1S
P 1S P 4S
Declarer won the diamond lead and drew trumps in three
rounds. He now turned his attention to hearts, hoping for a
3–3 split. Not likely. After the normal 4–2 heart split,
declarer ended with the same nine winners he started with.
However, he could have made 4S.
While dummy is not short in hearts, he does have fewer
than declarer. With that in mind, declarer should trump one
of his heart losers in dummy for the tenth trick.
Use good crossruff technique by taking your side-suit
Trick 1: Win your DA.
Trick 2: Lead your DK.
Trick 3: Lead a club to the ace.
Trick 4: Lead a heart to your ace.
Trick 5: Concede a heart trick.
Trick 6: Win the likely trump return in your hand.
No other defense would affect the outcome.
Trick 7: Concede a second heart, creating a void in
Trick 8: Win the trump return in your hand.
Trick 9: Ruff your losing heart with dummy's Q.
Más vale tarde que nunca. That translates to better
late than never, which is all I remember from three years of
high school Spanish.
At this point, you have won seven tricks. You still have
three winning trumps in your hand. In addition to your four
obvious side-suit winners, your ruff in dummy increased your
five trump winners to six. All you lose is one club and two
hearts. Very smooth!
Drawing Trumps First is Often the Worst
Just as a golf or tennis pro must concentrate on
correcting the imperfections in a student's swing, a bridge
teacher must often correct a student's misconceptions.
Whatever the source, many players carry around a great deal
of incomplete and/or incorrect information. You have heard
it all before:
“An opening 1C bid is usually made with a three- card
“The Rule of 11 only works in notrump.”
“You need an opening hand to answer partner’s preempt.”
I have always been struck by the irony of the following
scenario. Someone calls, seeking bridge lessons. We agree on
all the administrative details. He then announces, “There’s
just one problem. I’ve never played bridge before. I am a
My reaction: “Problem? What problem? You’re fortunate to
be starting fresh — no bad habits to undo. What could be
Perhaps the most popular bridge misconception is that
declarer should draw trumps first. Wrong! I do not know why
so many players believe this when the truth is: With most
hands, it is wrong to begin, let alone finish drawing the
opponents' trumps as soon as possible.
It would be absurd to say that drawing trumps first is
never correct. However, there are many reasons to postpone
pulling trump, such as:
1. You need to ruff losers in dummy.
2. You must preserve trump entries in order to develop a
long suit or set up an endplay.
3. You are eager to set up a side suit on which you will
In fact I would estimate that declarer should draw trumps
first roughly a third of the time.
As South, can you take 10 tricks on the following deal?
S 5 3 2
H 5 4 2
D K Q 6
C K J 10 4
S A K S 6 4
H Q J 10 H 8 7 6 3
D J 9 5 4 3 D A 10 8 7
C 8 7 5 C 9 3 2
S Q J 10 9 8 7
H A K 9
C A Q 6
West North East South
P P P 1S
P 2S P 4S
Declarer is confronted with four possible losers: two
spade tricks, one heart and one diamond. Clearly, there is
nothing he can do about the ace and king of trumps. The
diamond loser is also inevitable, unless of course, the
opponents neglect to take their ace. Therefore, declarer
should focus his attention on avoiding the heart loser.
Some players are overly impressed with the quality of the
club suit. They immediately attack trumps, planning to
discard the heart loser on dummy's fourth club. This cannot
Give it a try. You (South) win the heart and play a
trump. West takes the SK and leads a second heart. You win
and play a second trump, giving West the lead. He cashes the
H10 and shifts to a diamond. Down one. No, after the heart
lead, dummy's fourth club is not the answer. The
correct line of play is as follows:
Trick 1: Win the HQ lead with the ace.
Trick 2: Lead a diamond to the king and ace.
You need to develop a diamond winner; until you force out
the ace, dummy's diamonds are worthless.
Trick 3: Win East's heart return with your king.
Trick 4: Play the C6 to dummy's king.
Trick 5: Cash dummy's DQ, discarding the H9 from your
Trick 6: Draw trumps, conceding the ace and king. It
never ceases to amaze me what is possible when you don’t
draw trumps first. I know that it is difficult to undo the
habits of a lifetime, but why not start today?
Copyright, Marty Bergen. All rights reserved.
Next month Marty will complete his saga, “Trumps are
Wild” so stay tuned.