How to Draw Trumps before Taking Extra Winners in Bridge

If you have enough tricks to make your contract in a hand of bridge, draw trumps (force your opponents to play their trump cards) before taking extra winners. By drawing trumps, your opponents can’t swoop down on your extra winner with a trump card and spoil your party.

In the hand in this image, you need to take ten tricks to make your contract, and spades is trump.

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As soon as the dummy comes down, try to curb your understandable eagerness to play a card from the dummy and do a little loser counting, instead:

  • In your trump suit (spades), you’re well heeled. You have ten spades between the two hands, including the ♠AKQ. Because your opponents have only three spades, you should have no trouble removing their spades. A suit like spades in this hand, which contains no losers, is called a solid suit.

  • In hearts, however, you have trouble — big trouble. In this case, your own hand has three heart losers. And the dummy doesn’t have any high cards in hearts to neutralize any of your losers.

  • In diamonds, you have two losers, but this time your partner does go to bat for you, with the ♦A as a winner. The ♦A negates one of your diamond losers, but you still have to count one eventual diamond loser.

  • In clubs, you have two losers, but not only does your partner take care of your two losers with the AK, but your partner also has an extra winner, the Q. Count one extra winner in clubs.

Your mental box score for this hand reads as follows:

  • Spades: You have a solid suit, no losers.

  • Hearts: You must count three losers (the three cards in your hand).

  • Diamonds: You have one loser because your partner covers one of your losers with the ace.

  • Clubs: You count one extra winner.

Next, you determine how many losers you can lose and still make your contract. In this case, you need to take ten tricks, which means that you can afford to lose three tricks. (Remember, each hand has 13 tricks up for grabs.)

Follow the play:

  1. West starts out by leading the ♥AKQ, taking the first three tricks.

    You can do absolutely nothing about losing these heart tricks — which is why you call them immediate losers (tricks that your opponents can take whenever they want).

  2. After taking the first three heart tricks, West decides to shift to a low diamond, which establishes an immediate winner for your opponents in diamonds and an immediate loser for you in diamonds, after the ♦A is played from dummy.

    You may have a strong temptation to get rid of that loser immediately on the dummy’s clubs — it may be making you nervous just to look at it. Don’t do it. Draw trump first. If you play the AKQ from the dummy before you draw trump, West will trump the third club and down you go in a contract you should make. Instead, here’s the most favorable sequence of plays, after losing the first three heart tricks and winning the ♦A.

  3. Play the ♠A and ♠K, removing all your opponents’ trumps.

  4. Play the AKQ and throw that diamond loser away.

  5. Sit back and take the rest of the tricks now that you have only trumps left.

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