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A good routine

When drawing trumps, follow this routine:

  • (a) Work out how many trumps are missing (typically this will be four or five, perhaps six).
  • (b) Think of those cards in terms of their likely split. Thus you would expect five missing cards to split 3-2. You can hope for four missing trumps to split 2-2, but don’t expect it: a 3-1 split is more likely because it can happen two ways (i.e. 3-1 and 1-3).
  • (c) Each time you see an opponent play a trump, reduce the number of missing trumps down. When you reach zero, their trumps are “drawn”.
  • (d) If, however, you reach “one” (i.e. one outstanding trump), and that opposing trump is higher than yours, it will normally be best to leave it out. Why waste two of your trumps getting rid of a trump that will win a trick anyway?
South Deals
Both Vul
10 6 3
K 6 2
A 8 7 3
6 3 2
J 8
10 9 7 5
K J 6
K J 10 8
W   E
Q 9 5
J 8
Q 10 9 5
Q 9 5 4
A K 7 4 2
A Q 4 3
4 2
A 7
West North East South
Pass 1 NT1 Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 2 NT2
Pass 4 3 All pass  
  1. Lacking the strength for a new suit at the Two-level. Second choice 2 .
  2. Good bid. Partner’s 2  is a preference bid, and is consisent with a small doubleton. Having already shown your 5-4 shape, you should show that, within that context, your hand is relatively notrumpy, and that you have game-invitational values. Hence 2 NT.
  3. You have a third spade, a working king (in partner’s second suit), plus an ace facing relative shortage. This is a way better hand than some higher point-counts e.g.  xxx,  xxx,  KJx,  KJxx.

What happened
Winning  J with  A, declarer cashed  AK and led a third spade. No good. East won  Q, and, with West wisely clinging on to all his four hearts, declarer scored just four trumps,  AKQ and the two minor-suit aces. Looked at another way, he lost  Q, the fourth heart, and the second-round of both minors. Down one.

What should have happened
You as declarer duck  J and win  8 (to  Q) with  A (the duck is good communication-cutting technique though makes little difference here). You cash  AK, counting down the missing trumps (five become three become one). Because the outstanding trump,  Q, is high, you do not waste two of your trumps (including, crucially, dummy’s). Instead you begin hearts, cashing  AKQ. East is welcome to trump  Q (or not), because you can trump your fourth (losing) heart in dummy (not minding if East overtrumps). This “ruff” in dummy is your tenth trick: game made.

If you remember just one thing...
The “Rule of One”: leave the master trump outstanding.

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