How to Establish Tricks in Bridge
4 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Playing a Hand of Bridge
When you establish tricks in bridge, you make sure you have winning cards by playing or forcing out your opponents' higher cards. You have to be sure that you can take enough tricks to meet your contract. So, how do you establish tricks? Say that you hold the entire hand shown in the example. Your final contract is for 12 tricks. West leads the ♠J. Now you need to do your thing and establish some tricks.
Before you even think of playing a card from the dummy, count your sure tricks:
Spades: You have three sure tricks — the ♠AKQ.
Hearts: You have another three sure tricks — the ♥AKQ. (Don’t count the ♥J; you have three hearts in each hand, so you can’t take more than three tricks.)
Diamonds: Sad. No sure tricks — no ace, no sure tricks.
Clubs: You have three sure tricks — the ♣AKQ.
You have 9 sure tricks, but you need 12 tricks to make your contract. You must establish three more tricks. Look no further than the dummy’s magnificent diamond suit. If you can drive out the ♦A, you can establish three diamond tricks just like that.
When you need to establish extra tricks, pick the suit you plan to work with and start establishing immediately. Don’t take your sure tricks in other suits until you establish your extra needed tricks. Then, take all your tricks in one giant cascade.
Here’s how you’d play the hand in the example:
First deal with West’s opening lead, the ♠J.
You have a choice. You can win the trick in either your hand with the ♠A or in the dummy with the ♠Q. Your objective is to establish tricks in your target suit: diamonds. Say that you decide to save your ♠A for later, and you take the ♠J with the ♠Q in the dummy.
Following your game plan, you lead the K from the dummy.
Pretend that West takes the trick with the ♦A and then leads the ♠10. Presto — your three remaining diamonds in the dummy, the ♦QJ10, have just become three sure tricks because you successfully drove out the ace. Your sure trick count has just ballooned from 9 to 12. Don’t look now, but you have the rest of the tricks and have just made your contract.
Capture West’s return of the ♠10 with the ♠K.
Take your three established diamonds, your three winning hearts, your three winning clubs, and finally your ♠A.
You now have 12 tricks, 3 in each suit. Ah, the thrill of victory!