One of our favorite Bridge Instructors, Barbara Seagram, has been coaching players aboard our ships for the past six years. An award-winning player and the author of a number of popular bridge books, Barbara never tires of sharing her love of the game. Below, she shares one of her top bridge tips.
To pull or not to pull, that is the question! Trumps that is. We learned at mother’s knee that we should always get the kiddies off the street. Thus as new players, we assume that on all hands we should make “drawing trumps” the first order of business.
In order to decide whether or not to embark immediately upon pulling trump, let us explore the scenarios in which doing so will cause us to not make our contract.
You and partner have overbid considerably on this hand and you (south) have landed in 6 Hearts. West leads the Ace of Spades. South counts his losers to find that he has 1 trump loser and two Diamond losers. He looks to dummy and notes that there is a singleton Diamond over there. Great. First item on the agenda: Create a Diamond void in dummy and ruff a Diamond loser in dummy, crossing back to his hand with a Club to ruff the final Diamond in dummy. Hold it…suppose he thinks to himself that he only needs to ruff two Diamonds in dummy and therefore can afford to pull one round of trump first. Alas, the opponents will win the Ace of Hearts and lead back a Heart. Now there is only one Heart left in dummy with which to ruff two Diamonds. Moral of this story: When you have a useful singleton, doubleton or void in dummy and have to ruff some losers from declarer’s hand with dummy’s trump, don’t pull trump first unless you have gazillions of trumps hanging around in dummy.
On this next hand, you have arrived in 4 Spades. You are South and West leads the K Hearts.
Counting those pesky losers again, you find that you have 1 Spade loser, two Heart losers, no Diamond losers and one Club loser. One too many. Let’s analyze those Heart losers again. Are they quick losers or slow losers? Since we won the Ace Hearts at Trick # 1, the two small Hearts are now quick losers as opponents will take two tricks QUICKLY if they win the lead. Along with Ace of Trumps and Ace of Clubs, this will spell disaster. So, the moral here is: When you have quick losers and no Ace of trump, try to discard a loser before pulling trump. Look for an extra winner i.e. A good looking lopsided suit (more cards on one side of the table than the other) which will provide an opportunity for a discard. Careful how you play that suit…Play the Diamond 3 to the King, then the Diamond 7 to the Ace and Queen of Diamonds. On the Queen of Diamonds, you must now pitch the Heart 4. Aha, now you can pull trump safely because now the opponents cannot hurt you. Less experienced players worry and think: “What if the opponents trump the third round of Diamonds?” Well in that case, you were never going to make the contract. If you had pulled trump first, you would have lost the next 4 tricks in a row.
Now for one more occasion in which you must not pull trump first:
This time you made it all the way to 7 Hearts! Three potential Spade losers. Looks like a finesse situation. HMM…There are two extra winners over in dummy on which you can discard two small Spades. Then what? Finesses only work 50% of the time. Is there an alternative to doing the finesse? Yes! Dummy has a long suit…a five card suit! Always a good thing! Dummy has no entries however other than the trump suit so we cannot pull all the trump first. Opponents lead a Diamond. Shame they didn’t lead a Spade to be helpful! You win this and now you cross to dummy’s Heart 8 and play the AK Clubs, discarding your two small Spades. Now ruff a Club in your hand, carefully counting opponents’ cards in this suit. They follow. Back to dummy with Heart 10 to do this again, one more time with feeling. Lo and behold, you ruff the fourth club and opponents follow to four rounds of Clubs. Awesome. Now your fifth Club in dummy is finally high! Cross to dummy’s Q Hearts and play the thirteenth Club, pitching your Spade Q.
So, to summarize: These are the three commonest occasions on which we, as declarers, cannot afford to pull trump first:
- When we need to ruff losers from declarer’s hand with dummy’s trump.
- When we have quick losers and no Ace of trump, we need to first look for a parking place for our quick loser (extra winners in dummy or declarer’s hand on which we can make a DISCARD).
- When dummy’s trump will provide you with the only entries to dummy e.g. Long suit establishment.
These situations crop up very often. So be careful to watch for these. If you haven’t got one of these dilemmas, then it is probably okay to get the kiddies off the street right off the bat.
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