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Trump Utilization - Bridge


The proper management and utilization of trumps is an essential part of declarer play. I have covered this topic previously, notably in Esramagazine 162 and Esramagazine 189, so please indulge me while I refresh some of the basic principles.

We've all heard the old adage of children going without shoes because their fathers failed to draw trumps and, yes, in general, one wants to void the trumps in opponents' hands lest they use them to zap your side-suit winners. However, the timing of the trump plays is often critical.

In a recent pairs competition, my partner and I gained a shared top score when our opponent, in his play of a 4S contract, failed to take advantage of the trumps in the "short hand", the hand with the lesser amount of trumps, normally as in this case, dummy:


♠ J 8 3

K 8 4 2

A Q 7 6

♣ 6 5


♠ A K Q 4 2

A 6 5

K 9

♣ K 9 4

Declarer won my partnersJ lead in hand with the K and drew a round of trumps with the ♠J. He next led a club to his ♣K. My partner won with the ♣A and played a trump. Declarer played another club which I won and still had another spade to lead to void dummy's trumps. In the final analysis declarer was able to throw a heart loser on dummy's Q to make the contract but at most other tables, an over-trick was made by ruffing a club in dummy. Declarer should have won the diamond lead in dummy and immediately tried the club. We would have won and attacked trumps but we would have been unable to prevent him from scoring the club ruff in dummy.

In contrast, trumping in the "long hand" generally serves no purpose other than to set up a long side suit in the "short hand". In the next hand, you are declarer in 6S. TheK is led and you see you have a loser in hearts and two in diamonds:


♠ K J 10

3 2

8 7 6

♣ A K 10 7 4

South (You)

♠ A Q 9 7 5

A 9

A K 4 3

♣ 6 3

You can trump your fourth diamond in dummy but that still leaves you with two losers. The only hope is for clubs to beak 3-3 and for you to set up the suit to provide you with two discards on dummy's fourth and fifth clubs. So, win the lead with the A and draw two rounds of spades with honors in your hand. Win the next two tricks with dummy's ♣A and ♣K and play a third round of clubs which you ruff with the ♠9. If both defenders follow suit, your ♠K allows you both to draw the last trump and to enter the table to cash to the established club tricks. If not …. Oh well, at least you gave it your best shot! Note that you could not draw 3 rounds of trumps before playing the clubs as this would have left you without an entry to dummy to enjoy the club winners.

Finally, another slam from a recent tournament. This time the contract was 6Cl after my partner had opened the bidding with 1S. He led the ♠K:


♠ J 3

A Q 8 7 4 3 2


♣ A 8 7 4


♠ A 5


K Q 10 8 2

♣ K Q J 6 3

This hand is easy to get wrong, as did our opponent. She won the spade lead with the ♠A and played the K. My partner covered with the A and she ruffed in dummy. Next came the A, felling my partner's singleton K, followed by the 2, which was ruffed high in the closed hand with the ♣J. Declarer now played her Q on which she discarded dummy's remaining spade and then a small diamond which she trumped in dummy. She next trumped another small heart with her ♣Q, setting up dummy's hearts. Now a round of trumps headed by the ♣K in her hand to which we both followed. Hopefully, she next played a trump to dummy's ♣A but when I showed out, my partner's third club prevented her from enjoying dummy's established hearts. Since I had started with 5 diamonds to the J, she still had to lose 4 tricks.

The correct line of play was to count on hearts being 3-2 or one of us having the singleton K, as was the case here. At trick 2, declarer should have played to dummy's A, trumped a low heart high in hand, drawn 3 rounds of clubs with the ♣K, ♣Q, ending in dummy with the ♣A. Another heart ruff sets up the heart suit while dummy still has a trump entry via a diamond ruff. All that would be lost would be dummy's small spade at the end.

Your trumps are valuable. Keep on using them wisely. 



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Friday, 14 June 2024

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