You may hate to give up the lead in a hand of bridge for fear that something terrible may happen. And you’re right. Something terrible is going to happen — if you’re afraid to give up the lead to establish a suit. Most of the time, beginners fail to make their contracts because they don’t establish extra tricks soon enough. Very often, beginners fall into the trap of taking their sure tricks before establishing tricks.

Of course, you’d never commit such a grievous error as taking sure tricks before you establish other needed tricks. But just for the fun of it, take a look at the example hand to see what happens when you make this mistake. This isn’t going to be pretty, so clear out the children.

In this hand, the opening lead is the ♠J, and you need to take 12 tricks. Say you play the hand like this:

1. You take the first three spade tricks with the ♠AKQ, then the next three heart tricks with the ♥AKQ, and finally the next three club tricks with the ♣AKQ.

This image shows what’s left after you take the first nine tricks (Remember: You need to take 12 tricks.)

2. 2. You lead a low diamond.

West takes the trick with the ♦A. And now West has all the rest of the tricks! West remains with a winning spade, a winning heart, and a winning club. Nobody else at the table has any of those suits, so all the other players are forced to discard. West’s three cards are all winning tricks, and those great diamonds in the dummy are nothing but deadweight.