Bridge: How to Determine Sure Tricks by Suit

Depending on which cards you and your partner hold in a hand of bridge, your side may hold some definite winners, called sure tricks — tricks you can take at any time right from the start. You count your sure tricks one suit at a time. After you know how many tricks you have, you can make further plans about how to win additional tricks.

Sure tricks in spades

When the dummy comes down, you can see that your partner has three small spades (♠7, ♠6, and ♠5) and you have the ♠A and ♠K, as you see here:

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Because the ♠A and the ♠K are the two highest spades in the suit, you can count two sure spade tricks. If you also held the ♠Q, you could count three sure spade tricks.

When you have sure tricks in a suit, you don’t have to play them right away. You can take sure tricks at any point during the play of the hand.

Sure tricks in hearts

This example shows the hearts that you hold in this hand. Notice that you have the five highest hearts in the deck, the ♥AKQJ10, between your hand and the dummy.

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Your wonderful array of hearts is worth only three sure tricks because both hands have the same number of cards. When you play a heart from one hand, you must play a heart from the other hand. As a result, after you play the ♥AKQ, the dummy won’t have any more hearts left (and neither will you). You wind up with only three heart tricks because the suit is equally divided (you have the same number of cards in both hands).

When you have an equal number of cards on each side, you can never take more tricks than the number of cards in each hand. For example, if you both hold four hearts, it doesn’t matter how many high hearts you have between your hand and the dummy — you can never take more than four heart tricks.

This example shows how the tragic story of an equally divided suit unfolds:

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In this image, you have only one heart in each hand: the ♥A and the ♥K. All you can take is one lousy heart trick. If you lead the ♥A, you have to play the ♥K from the dummy. If the dummy leads the ♥K first, you have to overtake it with your ♥A.

Sure tricks in diamonds

In the following image, you can see that South holds four diamonds (♦K, ♦Q, ♦J, and ♦5), while North holds only two (♦A and ♦2). When one partner holds more cards in a suit, the suit is unequally divided:

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Strong unequally divided suits offer oodles of tricks, providing that you play the suit correctly. For example, take a look at how things play out with the cards in this figure. Say you begin by leading the ♦5 from your hand and play the ♦A from the dummy, which is one trick. Now the lead is in the dummy because the dummy has taken the trick. Continue by playing ♦2 and then play the ♦K from your hand. Now that the lead is back in your hand, play the ♦Q and then the ♦J. Don’t look now, but you’ve just won tricks with each of your honor cards — four in all.

Sure tricks in clubs

When the dummy comes down, you may see that neither you nor the dummy has the ace in a particular suit, such as the club suit in the following image. You have ♣4, ♣3, and ♣2; the dummy has ♣J, ♣10, ♣9, ♣6, and ♣5:

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So, the opponents have the ♣AKQ. You have no sure tricks in clubs because you don’t have the ♣A. If neither your hand nor the dummy has the ace in a particular suit, you can’t count any sure tricks in that suit.

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