ACBL16 – Declarer: ARCH Checklist              Ward Trumbull

                                                                                                                  Feb 5, 2012

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    When the opening lead has been made and the dummy displayed, the declarer should pause and review the ARCH checklist.


                    A - Analyze the opening lead.


          R - Review the bidding.


                    C - Count your winners (notrump) or

                your losers (suit).


          H - How will you play the hand?

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A - Analyze


    The opening lead depends a lot on whether you are in a notrump or a

    suit contract.  See ACBL07.


    Notrump Contract – Remember the notrump acronym is FIST.


               F. If it appears to be Fourth longest in a suit, apply the Rule of

                   11 to that suit.  See ACBL11.


              I. If it appears to be the top of a sequence, or an Interior

                   sequence, decide whether or not a hold-up play will help.


              S. If it’s an ace or face card, it is probably from top of a

                   Sequence (should be of 3).  Watch RHO’s attitude signal.


             T. If it appears to be the Top of nothing (trying to hit partner’s

                   suit), watch RHO’s attitude signal.

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A – Analyze (continued)


    Suit Contract – Remember the suit acronym is STAMPS.


             S. If it’s a Small card, it could be “small from a face card”.  If you

                    finesse the first time, don’t be afraid to later finesse again for

                    that same face card.


              T. If it’s an ace, king, queen or jack, assume it’s the Top of

                   touching honors.  If it turns out that it isn’t, this is a bad

                   defender and will give you a trick or two along the way


                   The lead card might be the beginning of a Two-card high low

                   signal.  Can you afford to pull some trump?


             A. The lead of an Ace might be from a singleton or a doubleton.


          M. A non-ace or non-face card lead could be a Mud signal.


             P. And of course a trump lead is to Pull/Push trumps to cut down

                  on ruffing.


            S. There are some clues to detect possible Singleton leads.


                 1. If the opening leader preempted, the opening lead in another

                      suit will probably be a singleton.  Better pull one-or-more



                 2. If the lead is RHO’s bid suit, beware, it could be a singleton. If

                     you have the ace and queen of that suit in dummy; think

                     twice before taking finesse for the king.




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R - Review


    If you too suffer from a limited memory, as declarer, ask for a review of the bidding immediately after the last “PASS”.  If you’re using bidding boxes, ask for a review of the bidding cards before they are returned to their boxes.


    Review the bidding to get a feel for the distribution of suits and high card points.


          1. Did someone preempt?  If so, beware of a bad trump split.

              Expect other suits to have uneven distribution.


          2. Have the opponents agreed on a suit?  if so, how is that suit split?

              Is it 4x4, 5x3, 5x4, 5x5, 6x2, 6x3 or 6x4?


          3, Does one opponent appear to have the majority of points?  That

              is, high cards which might be finessable?


          4. Did both opponents pass all the way?  If so, play the outstanding

              high cards to be evenly distributed.


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C - Count


       Winners – This is for notrump contracts


             Count your “for-sure” winners first, based on the cards in both

           hands..  Subtract that number from the contract tricks needed, and

           the remainder is the of number of tricks you must develop.


      Example: Contract is 3 notrump.  That’s 9 tricks.  You count 7 winners.

                      That leaves 2 tricks which you must develop.  See HOW



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C - Count – Winners: For notrump contracts (continued)


      Scan each suit for “sure trick” winners, not “maybes”.  


                 1. An ace is 1.  Ace-king is 2.  Ace-king-queen is 3. etc.


                 2. An ace-queen is only 1, as is an ace-jack.


                 3. An 8 card suit (5 opposite 3) headed by ace-king-queen is 5.

                     Ace-king only would be 4.  Ace-queen only would be 3. Ace

                     only is 2.  If headed by a queen-jack in the same hand, it’s

                     only 1.


                 4. King-queen is 1. King-queen-jack is 2. etc.


                 5. An 8 card suit (6 opposite 2) headed by an ace only is 4.  By

                     ace-king is 5, and by ace-king-queen is 6.


                 6. Note that a king-jack is zero.  Same for a queen-jack.


       Count – Losers: For suit contracts


       Count your sure losers, again based on the cards in both hands.  If

       you have too many losers to make the contract, you will have to

       eliminate some of them.  See HOW below.


       You count losers for the 3 top cards only.


                 1. In suits without an ace or face card, a singleton is 1 loser.  A

                     doubleton is 2.  Any more is only 3.


                 2. Ace X is 1, ace X X is 2, and ace any more is still only 2.


                 3. King singleton is 1. King double is 2.  King third or more is 3

                     It’s the same count for a queen or jack.


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                 4. King-jack is 2 and king-jack-more is 3.


                 5. Queen-jack doubleton is 2, and queen-jack third in the same

                     hand is still only 2.


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C/H - Count vs How


      The typical mistake made by players learning ARCH is to miscount winners (notrump) or losers (suit) by mentally jumping ahead to how they are going to play the hand.  Some examples:


  1.  Assuming a finesse will work
  2.  Counting ruffs that are available in a suit contract (later)
  3.  Over counting winners because they are naive
  4.  Under counting losers because they are not as good a player as they think


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H - How


    If you’ve taken the time to do the ARC of ARCH, then the HOW should become a little easier.


       How - Suit Contracts


           1. If the dummy has a void, singleton or doubleton, you should

               get some ruffs.  Count the number of potential ruffs by

               dummy and subtract that from the number of trumps in

               dummy. The difference is the number of trump you may pull




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H - How – Suit Contracts (continued)


               Example:  In a 4 spade contract you have 3 spades in dummy.

                                Dummy has a singleton heart.  You can pull 1 round of

                                trump and then use dummy’s last 2 spades for heart



               Note:  In the above example you would have the ace of hearts.  If

                         not, you would have to give up the lead in hearts.  If you

                         did, a good defender would immediately lead trump to stop

                         dummy’s ruffing.  So you wouldn’t pull that first round of

                         trump until after you lead the heart.


            2. Trumping with the “long” hand (the one with more trumps)

                will buy you nothing in the way of an extra trick.


           3. When you have too many losers, you must try to get rid of them

               as soon as possible.  The possibilities are:


               a. Ruff them in dummy.  (See above)


               b. Slough them on immediate winners in dummy or your hand,

                    i.e., on aces and kings in other suits.


               c. Take an early finesse to set up an honor in the opposite hand

                   for a pitch.


               d. With a king in a loser suit, take a finesse in another suit so

                   that it could only lose to the opponent behind the king.


               e. When you have a singleton loser opposite a king high suit in

                   the other hand, lead that singleton as early as possible.

                   Defenders do tend to hold up with their aces.  Note that it

                   doesn’t matter which hand (declarer’s or dummy’s) has the



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H - How – Suit Contracts (continued)


         4. When the “long” hand has 6+ trumps, it’s a good technique to

             run trump forcing the opponents to have discard problems.


               a. They may give you a clue on a side suit that has a two-way



               b. They may set up a 4th card in a side suit in dummy or your



               c. By deliberately not discarding a suit an opponent may tip off

                   that he/she has one-or-more honors in that suit.


               d. They may have to discard honors to protect honors in another



         5. Learn to give up the lead so that the opponents may give you a

             favorable return lead.  Such as:


               a. A free finesse.


               b. Break a new suit for you.


               c. Give you a slough-and ruff.


H - How - Notrump Contracts


            1. Does the Rule of 11 apply to the opening lead?


            2. Can you give up the lead to set up a long suit?


            3. On a two-way finesse, which way looks best?


            4. Should you cash winners first or give up the lead?


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H - How - Notrump Contracts


            5. Can I, or should I play for or a doubleton ace in front of a king?

                See ACBL14 series on finessing.


            6. Always watch for favorable distributions on your long suits,   

                that is, 4-3-3-3 and 5-3-3-2


H - How Recap


    Once you have become comfortable with the ARC of ARCH:


                 1. You should know whether to immediately pull trump or to

                      work on the side suits first.


                 2. You should know whether or not to take a finesse based on

                     the opening lead.


                 3. You should know whether or not it is a cross ruff hand.


                 4. You should know whether to set up a long suit in your hand or

                     dummy.  If so, maybe one or two ruffs will be needed.


ARCH - Last Word


    You must learn that good players frequently give up the lead to make their contracts.