Declarer play in bridge
When you are declarer in a game of bridge it's helpful to have a plan for how you are going to play the hand and in order to make a plan you'll need to assess your overall strength.
Count your tricks, make a plan!
Count your tricks
Our first job, then, is to learn how to count our tricks. There are two ways of counting tricks and the best one to use depends on whether you are in a suit contract or notrumps. Counting winners in bridge is a way of assessing your strength in a notrump contract. You count the number of sure tricks you can see and then decide the best way to win the extra tricks need to make your contract. In a suit contract it's easier to count losers before making your plan to play the hand. For example, if you are in a contract of 4♥ and you can see 4 possible losers then you'll need to find a way to dispose of one of those losers in order to make your contract.
Planning the play as declarer
You've counted your winners or losers and now is the time to make a plan to make extra tricks or dispose of those pesky losers. In a suit contract you'll need to decide whether or not to draw trumps now or later but either way, and especially in a notrump contract, establishing a long suit is the number one way of developing extra tricks.
You're in 3NT on a spade lead with plenty of points and only 8 top tricks - 3 spades, 3 hearts and 2 diamonds. You need one more trick.
The only possible place is the club suit and you need to play a club immediately at trick 2. Do not play out all your winners first or you'll risk losing a trick in the other suits. Keep playing clubs at every opportunity and you will make 3NT. In a notrump contract, it's usually right to play your longest suit.
In a suit contract, ruffing in the hand with the most number of trumps is usually fruitless. Those trumps will make tricks anyway.
North is in 4♥ with the ♠K lead.
You are a trick short. You have five hearts, one spade, and three clubs once you have taken the losing finesse in clubs. Where can you find that extra trick?
If you draw trumps you will make five tricks in hearts. If you ruff a diamond in the North hand, you will still make five tricks in hearts!
But, if you ruff spades with dummy's trumps, you will make six or seven trump tricks depending on the number of spades you ruff. If you ruff two spades, you will make an overtrick instead of going one down. Obviously, you should not draw trumps until you have used dummy's trumps to ruff spades.
Generally, it is only possible to score extra tricks in the trump suit by ruffing in the hand with the least number of trumps - which is usually dummy. The key is to look for a shortage in dummy. If there is a singleton or void, you might be able to use dummy's trumps for ruffing.
It's kinda easy and kinda hard. Worth studying!
Advanced Declarer Play
Ready to take your declarer play to the next level?