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Count Declarer’s Tricks


There has been one other major influence on my Bridge-playing life, who has received little mention to date: charismatic Pakistani-born Zia Mahmood.

Although Zia is qualified to play for the USA, and therefore only available for the occasional game, we did win the Cap Gemini in 2000 and 2001. I felt confident the second time, because I saw a car on the way to the airport with the number-plate CAP 2! Less than a month later, I almost lost my life in a hill-walking accident in the Lake District which I alluded to earlier.

Britain’s most prestigious invitational event (since the demise of the Sunday Times/Macallan), the Lederer Memorial Trophy, has also been kind to Zia and I. As part of the “All Stars” (team of four), we won in five successive years from 1998 to 2002.

This deal from the 1998 Lederer won me the Best Defended Hand of the Year, although in truth I thought it barely worth all the accolades it received. West, Zia, led the king of clubs against the Six Spade slam. Declarer won the ace, and led a diamond to the king. I was the ace, and it was crunch time.

North Deals
Both Vul
K 10 7
K 9 6 5 2
K Q 9 8 4
7 4 3
J 10 3 2
K Q 9 7 2
W   E
J 8 5 3
A 7 6
10 8 5 4
A Q 9 6 4
A 10 8
A J 6 3
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2  Pass 3 ♣1
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 4 NT2
Pass 5 3 Pass 6 ♠
Pass Pass Pass
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing. “We’re going to
    game - more information please”.
  2. Roman Key Card Blackwood, agreeing
  3. One (or four) of “five aces” (including
    the king of spades).


The key was to count declarer’s tricks. If I, say, woodenly returned a club, hoping to score my jack of trumps later, I would be disappointed. For declarer is known to have four side-suit winners (aceking of hearts, queen of diamonds, and ace of clubs). He would simply cross-ruff all his eight trumps, to make 12 tricks and slam made.

The way to reduce declarer’s tally of trump tricks was to switch to a trump. Yes, away from ♠ Jxxx. Declarer could still have made the slam after my trump switch, because of the miraculous heart position. Reasonably, he played to set up the fifth diamond, and ended up down two when trumps did not split.

It’s worth remembering that defensive tip: counting declarer’s tricks. I have found it most useful over the years.

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