Bridge Corner – Lesson 8 – The Play continued

The dummy spreads his/her hand on the table with each suit in a column from highest to lowest facing the declarer, customarily with any trump suit on declarer’s left and the colors of the suits alternating. The rules of play are similar to other trick-taking games, except that the declarer directs the play of cards from the dummy in addition to playing cards from his own hand. Dummy is allowed to try to prevent declarer from infringing the rules, but otherwise must not interfere with the play; for example, dummy may attempt to prevent declarer from leading from the wrong hand (by stating, e.g., “you won the last trick in dummy”) but must not comment on opponents’ actions or make suggestions as to play.

IMG_20141003_112927The hands play clockwise around the table, and each hand must “follow suit” (that is, play a card of the suit lead to the trick) if able. A hand that cannot follow suit may either “ruff” (play a trump) if there is a trump suit or discard (play a card of any other suit). The hand that plays either the highest trump or, in a trick that contains no trumps, the highest card of the suit led to the trick wins the trick for its side and proceeds to lead to the next trick. The play continues until all thirteen tricks are played. The declarer or a defender may “claim” the rest of the tricks by showing his hand and stating how he will take them.

In duplicate bridge, each player retains the card played from his hand to each trick and lays it on the table turned in the direction of the side that won the trick, thus keeping the hands separate to return them to the board at the end of play.

If upon reviewing dummy after the opening lead, declarer assesses that he does not have enough tricks immediately available to make his contract, he can try to develop additional tricks through a variety of methods. These include:

  • Losing tricks to the defenders‘ high cards in order to “promote” the remaining cards of that suit in his hand.
  • Running out long suits after the defenders’ cards in that suit are exhausted, to force defenders to discard useful cards.
  • The “finesse, in which a low card is led toward a high card in the hope of trapping a high card held by the defender who must play in between.
  • In trump contracts, declarer should try to take out all the trump cards of the defenders to avoid ruffing from the defenders
  • In trump contracts, the declarer may attempt to cover losers in his hand by trumping them in dummy, while also taking care to draw out the defenders’ trumps if necessary. (Cross ruffing)
  • Cutting communications between the two defenders, for instance by allowing them to win early tricks in a suit until they are unable to use the suit as an entry.
  • The “squeeze play in which a defender is forced to choose which card to discard before declarer has to make his own discard choice.


A discard occurs when he/she are no longer able to follow the suit that has been led. A discard should be used to send a signal to the partner about a suit that you have strength in and would like your partner to lead should your partner win a trick.

The standard method for sending a signal with a discard is a high card in a suit to encourage and low card in a suit to discourage.

However, we are going to learn an alternative method where a discard gives a suit-preference signal (“McKenney”).

First, let’s establish what constitutes a suit-preference discard. It is the play of a card directing partner’s attention to some other suit. That other suit is never the suit led or the suit discarded, and in suit contracts it will never be the trump suit – on which the discard is most likely to occur. So, in a suit contract, it will be one of two other suits.

The signal conveyed to partner is that the play of a high card of a poor suit asks for the higher-ranking remaining suit, whilst the play of your lowest card in a poor suit asks for the lower- ranking remaining suit, e.g.: –

There have been 2 rounds of Spades played and the hand below has no more Spades. What card does he/she discard to signal to his/her partner his best suit?

  1. KQ102   973   J1083
  2. Q95   J94   AJ765