Lesson 7: The Play

The contract level sets a specific target of tricks that must be won to make the contract: –

Level Number of tricks to be won
  1 7   2 8   3 9   4 10   5 11   6 12   7 13

If the declarer makes the contract (including any overtricks then a positive score is given. If the declarer fails to make the contract, the defenders are said to have set or defeated the contract (declarer has gone down), and are awarded points for doing so.

Points awarded for contacts made: –

Contract
or
Points Contract
or
Points Contract
No Trumps
Points
  1   70   1   80   1   90
  2   90   2   110   2   120
  3   110   3   140   3 400/600
(game) NV/V
  4   130   4 420/620   4 430/630
(game) NV/V (game + 1 extra trick)
  5 400/600   5 450/650   4 460/660
(game) NV/V (game + 1 extra trick) (game + 2 extra tricks)

(Slams will be dealt with later)

IMG_0636NV = non vulnerable (green on the boards) – if the declarer fails to make a contract 50pts are given to the defenders for each trick not achieved. Points awarded for bidding and making a game are lower (400/420)

V = vulnerable (red on the boards) – if the declarer fails to make a contract 100pts are given to the defenders for each trick not achieved. Points awarded for bidding and making a game are higher (600/620). Caution is needed when competing for a part contract when vulnerable e.g. down two tricks = 200pts. which is more than the opposition would get for making their part game (PASS is often sensible)

Opening Leads

To begin play, the defender on the declarer’s left makes the opening lead. In more formal play, the opening leader does so by first placing the card face down on the table to afford his partner an opportunity to ask questions about the auction, then faces it when partner has no further questions. This practice also allows the defender to return the card to his hand without penalty if the lead is not his to make.

Remember always to reflect what the bidding has been before choosing your lead card.

  1. Leading against NT contracts

There are two steps in choosing the lead against a NT contract:

  • Choosing the SUIT
  • Choosing the CARD

Choosing the best suit to lead is the most critical aspect. Once we’ve decided on the suit, selecting the appropriate card is usually a matter of rote.

In no-trumps you are trying to establish a suit; and part of this process is maintaining communications with partner, so it’s much more of a patient waiting game – less emphasis on the actual lead of an honour, more about trying to eventually benefit from the length of the suit.

 Choosing the Suit: –

The key to choosing the best suit to lead is to listen to the auction. The standard guidelines are:

  1. Lead partner’s suit
  2. Otherwise, lead the longest suit, but: – avoid the opponents’ suits,
  3. With a choice of suits, lead the longer
  4. Lead an unbid suit from weakness or strength

 Choosing the Card: –

  1. Always lead the highest card in you partner’s bid suit
  2. Lead the 4th highest of your longest and strongest suit (provided that it has not been bid by the opposition)
  3. From any 3 card honour sequence always lead the top honour (KQJx).
  4. From a sequence of two honours with one card exactly two below the lowest honour, lead the highest card, (sometimes referred to as a 2 &1⁄2 honour sequence) e.g. KQ1043 – the 10 is two below the Q
  5. Lead an intermediate card from a weak suit (MUD)
  1. Leading against Suit Contracts

The opening lead can often be critical to the success or failure of a contract, so it’s important to get off to the right start whenever possible. There are two aspects to the opening lead:

  • Choosing the suit – requires good judgment
  • Choosing the card – once the suit has been decided is more a matter of rote.

Against a suit contract it’s usually the first two rounds of a suit that are important, and consequently it’s often correct to concentrate on the quick trick taking potential of a suit – i.e. honours. Subsequent rounds are less important, since there is a high probability that they are going to be ruffed in any case.

One golden rule of bridge – on the opening lead never under-lead an ace against a suit contract.

If you do under-lead an ace, this may enable declarer or dummy to make a singleton king. Also following this rule enables partner to make the correct play in the following situation:

♠ J9652 (W)

♠ Q74 (S)

♠ K103 (E)

♠ A8 (N)

Against a suit contract West leads ♠5 (a low card – implying that he has an honour). Dummy plays ♠4. ‘Knowing’ that your partner would not under-lead the ♠A, you must play ♠10. If instead you played the ♠K, you present declarer with two spade tricks instead of one.

 

Remember to always reflect what the bidding has been before choosing your lead card.

Choosing the Suit: –

The key to choosing the best suit to lead is to listen to the auction. The standard guidelines are:

  1. Lead partner’s suit
  2. Lead an unbid suit – don’t lead away from a king
  3. MUD – lead “middle – up – down” of unwanted suit
  4. Lead a singleton or doubleton (high card first – not king or queen) of unwanted suit
  5. Lead the trump suit

Choosing the Card: –

Lead the top of a doubleton or a singleton (hoping for a rough)

  1. From any honour sequence always lead the top honour. From an interior honour sequence lead the top of the internal honour sequence – this does include the ‘10’) e.g.                                 KQxxx

QJxx

AKxx

J10xx

KJ104

Q1097

  1. Lead middle card of MUD
  2. Lead lowest trump card when 2/3 low trump cards (reduces oppositions chances of cross roughing)
  3. Lead fourth highest card of an unbid suit

Leads against a contract

 

Final          Bid by         Hand of                                       Card                 Why?

Contract   Partner     Lead Player                                   Led

1  3NT       no bid   J10x(S),Qxxxx(H),xx(D),Kxx(C)

 

2  3D           1H     Qxx(S),Jx(H),xxx(D),Kxxxx(C)

 

3 3NT   no bid   Jxx(S),KQJxx(H),Qxx(D),xx(C)

 

4 4H   no bid   Axxx(S),Jxx(H),xxx(D),Kxx(C)

 

5 2NT no bid KQ10xx(S),xx(H),Kxx(D)Jxx(C)

 

6 5C     no bid   Axx(S),Qxxxx(H),xx(D)xxx(C)

 

7 1NTX Double   QJx(S),Kxxx(H),Qxxx(D),xx(C)

 

8 3S   no bid       Jx(S),Jxxxx(H),Kx(D),Axxx(C)

 

9 3D   no bid     K10xx(S),xxx(H),xxx(D)Qxx(C)

10 4H   no bid   Kxxx(S)xxx(H)x(D)QJxxx(C)