Polling You #52: Contract Bridge End Plays, March 14, 2011

Contract Bridge: Avoidance, Elimination and End Plays

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In this series, we are going to teach you how to lose tricks.  Huh?  What’s that you say, “I can lose tricks just fine on my own, thank you very much!”  Okay, let’s rephrase that teaser with:

The purpose of the upcoming lessons will illustrate methods where the declarer may win extra tricks by forfeiting a trick or tricks at the appropriate time and/or in the appropriate suit (may be void where prohibited, such as playing against your loved ones). 

Seriously though, in life and in Bridge sometimes we find it beneficial to offer up a pawn to win a game of chess, to let an opponent take one of our checkers so we can take two or more, to entice an opponent to reveal their assets so we can discover their weaknesses.  And so it goes in Bridge, sometimes we gain by using tactics such as:

Temporarily ducking a winning trick

– Waiting for the right time to deliberately make one or either opponent win a trick

– Offering a losing play to a “non-dangerous” opponent

For instance, we certainly should not attempt a 50-50 chance on a finesse when we have a 100 percent guarantee of making a trick using another tactic.  Of course opponents are all too happy to see us take try unsuccessful “practice finesse” – it’s just that partner prefers we discover the winning line of play.

Here are four hands with suit combinations that illustrate the basic elements of an elimination play based on the finesse.  On the first hand, we need one trick to make the contract and are holding:


J 5 4


Q 6 3

Above, our initial odd of taking one trick is 49 percent.  Yet if the opponents must lead the suit, we are assured of taking 1 trick.


A 3 2


J 10 7

When we are forced to lead this suit, we are limited to one trick 90 percent of the time.  However, should the opponents eventually be forced to lead this suit, our chances to make 2 tricks zooms to 76 percent.


K 2


4 3

Taking a simple finesse, we initially have 50 percent chance to make 1 trick with the above hand.  However, if East is forced to lead this suit we are guaranteed to win 1 trick with the King.


A 2


Q 3

Provided the opponents do not err during play, here we are limited to 1 trick.  But if West is on lead when holding the King and must this suit, we have magically earned 2 tricks from this holding.
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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,



  1. BridgeHands says:
    Hello Bridge Pollsters,
    Okay all, after the first day we have an impressive 91 percent that voted “all of the above” with another 5 percent that voted “both of the above.” The few who did not go with the entire set of responses omitted “Forcing the opponents to give you a ‘ruff and sluff’ (discard) or free finesse.” We understand that this is not the only element to instantiate an Avoidance, Elimination and End Play, albeit one of the primary methods of choice.
    Of course, like most aspects of Bridge it’s always a matter of timing – playing the right card at the right time.
    Well done,

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