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Count your side suit top tricks

Crossruffing, trumping in both hands, is very committal. If it fails (an opponent overruffing, for example), there is no Plan B. For, with both your trump lengths shortened, the opposing trumps can never be drawn. Only embark on a crossruff, therefore, when you have no sound alternative line (e.g. setting up a side-suit, ruffing in one hand but not both etc).

The key ingredients of a crossruff are:

(1) Shortages opposite length in two suits (alternate hands) - the very essence of the strategy.
(2) Good trumps, including spot cards - necessary to prevent overruffing.

You can work out how many trump tricks you need by counting up how many top tricks you have outside trumps. This will tell you whether or not you need to risk ruffing low.

South Deals
None Vul
K J 8
9
A 9 5 4 2
A 8 3 2
9 5
Q 10 8 5 2
Q 8
K Q J 9
 
N
W   E
S
 
6 4 3
K J 4
K 10 7 6 3
10 6
 
A Q 10 7 2
A 7 6 3
J
7 5 4
West North East South
      1 1
Pass 2  Pass 2 2
Pass 4 3 All pass  
  1. A Rule of 20 opener, the high-card
    points added to the lengths of the two
    longest suits reaching 20.
  2. Showing the five-four shape.
  3. Now knowing of the eight-card spade fit
    and, with the asset of the singleton heart,
    the values for game.

 

What happened
Declarer won  K lead with  A, and correctly planned a crossruff. The shortage opposite length in both red suits (headed by the aces to boot), together with good trumps made this a clear cut choice.

At Trick Two declarer crossed to  A then ruffed  3 (with  8). He then cashed  A and ruffed  2 with  2 (West’s queen dropping). He ruffed  6 with  J, then ruffed a third diamond with  7.

Oops. West overruffed with  9 and promptly returned a trump. This removed two of declarer’s trumps (including dummy’s final trump,  K), and declarer wound up a trick short. Down one.

What should have happened
With three outside top tricks ( A,  A,  A), declarer only needs to score seven of his eight trumps to make 4 . He does not need to risk an overruff on the third diamond. The indicated line is: Win  A, and cash the two red aces (say  A first). Then ruff  2 with  7, ruff  3 with  8, ruff  4 with  10 (note), ruff  6 with  J, ruff  5 with  Q, ruff  7 with  K, ruff  9 with  A. 10 tricks and game made.

If you remember one thing...
When planning a crossruff, count your side-suit top tricks to see how many trump tricks are needed.

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