ACBL40 – Declarer: Those Pesky Losers Ward Trumbull

Jul 31, 2011

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This handout takes excerpts from Pat Harrington’s excellent article titled “Play and Learn” in the August 2011 issue of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin magazine.


When playing in a trump contract, declarer’s plan involves counting losers.

Her sample hand: Contract is 4 spades with a heart king opening lead.

North South

S - Q 9 7 2 S - J 10 8 4

H - 7 6 2 H - A 5 3

D - AKQ 10 D - J

C - Q 6 C - A K J 10 9

If you are in a 4 spade contract, you are immediately aware that you have four losers, two spades and two hearts. One loser must be eliminated.

There are three ways to eliminate a loser in a suit contract --- ruff it, dump it or finesse to avoid it.

1. Ruff in dummy (the short hand). Consider this play in a suit when

you see lopsided distribution in a side suit (non-trump suit) where

declarer’s hand has losers and more cards than dummy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since both hand have 13 cards, I think she

meant more trumps than dummy.

2. Discard it. This frequently involves looking for a long side suit,

where declarer is shorter than dummy; and dummy will have good

cards (TOP CARDS) once declarer runs out of the suit.

ACBL40 – Declarer: Those Pesky Losers Jul 31, 2011

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Harrington (continued)

2. Those top dummy winners can now be used to absorb declarer’s

losers in another suit.

3. Finesse to try to make a good high card counted as a loser.

Counting the losers in your hand can help you focus on exactly what needs to be done to make the contract.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Her notes are based on declarer have more trump

than dummy. There are many hands (transfers for

example) where the dummy is longer in the trump


Harrington – Back to the Example Hand

Focus on the two spade losers. Nothing can be done about top trumps, so something must be done about the two heart losers. With no other high hearts, rule out a finesse. The only remaining solution is to discard at least one heart, and dummy’s diamond suit provides the place

to do that.

Now declarer must plan the timing. The opening heart lead made all four losers into fast losers. Once East-West get in they will cash their heart winners. So declarer cannot lead trump until at least one heart loser

is eliminated. When one heart is discarded on a high dummy diamond, ten

tricks are assured. And if a second heart can be dumped on a top diamond, eleven tricks should be taken.

Note that if East-West ruffs the third diamond, declarer will still take

ten tricks.