We have been talking about playing techniques with each hand we have played out, from the very beginning, and these are the main ones that have been discussed.
When you first see the dummy, you, the declarer, should plan your strategy. You should keep in mind the bidding by the opposition, and of course the opening lead, which probably is significant. You should see which cards are winners, and which are definate losers, and which are potential winners.
If you have a Trump:
If between you and the dummy you have 8 trumps, it is usually best to play them out at the first opportunity. But before you do this, you should look carefully at what cards you have as losers and winners. If you have to lose control of the trump by playing it out, then it might be best to see if there is some way you can get rid of one of your losers on another winner. This is when you have a singleton in one hand, which is a definate loser, but you have a winner in the other hand. By playing your winner and throwing away your loser on it, you improve your hand enormously, because now the suit where the loser was can be trumped. If you had taken out your trump first, it is quite possible that you would not have been able to do that.
Assuming that you have no reason not to play trump as soon as you get in, you should do so until the opposition's trumps are all out, unless they have 1 trump remaining and it is larger than yours, and by taking it out you will lose 2 of your trump to 1 of his. In that case, change to another suit, and hopefully you might win both your smaller trumps by trumping in. Of course a good defender would not let you do that, and as soon as they won a trick, they would play out the last trump, taking your 2 cards to their 1.
Sometimes even if you have 8 trumps between you, if you have shortages in both hands, it is well to try to win your trump tricks separately by cross trumping, rather than playing 2 of them on each trump trick. If is very nice if you have singletons or voids of different suits in the two hand, and can happily play back and forth trumping. But after the second round of doing this, remember that you have not taken the trump out, and opposition might well be able to trump too, so if you do trump, use a fairly high card, so if they trump they have to go even higher, if they can. This might well do you a service by getting rid of one of the high trumps that you could not have won, and you are only using one of your trumps to get it out.
Often what you have is a combination of a bit of taking trump out, and a bit of cross trumping. You make your plan in the beginning, but you may well have to alter it as the hand progresses and you get clues from the cards played by the opposition as to what they may have or not have left in their hands.
Whenever you have a gap in honours between your hand and
your partner's, it is well to consider whether you should finesse
not. This is when you have the Ace and Queen, and in the dummy you might
have the Jack or ten, but you are missing the King. If you assume the missing
honour is located in the hand before the 2 honours, you can either trap
it or if they choose to not put it up, win with the lower honour in your
hand. Of course if you have guessed wrong, you will lose the trick
to their King. Finesses are 50-50 gambles, unless you have some clue from
the bidding or cards previously played to help you place the missing honour.
There are times when you should not finesse. If you have 9 of the suit between you and your partner and you are missing the Queen , you should play the Ace and King, and if you are lucky the distribution of cards will have been 2-2 in the oppositions' hands, and the Queen will fall. Another possibility is that their cards were 3-1, but that the Queen was the singleton. If you had finessed for the Queen and it was on the wrong side, it would have won a trick unnecessarily. That is called PLAYING FOR THE DROP.
An alternative way of playing with missing honours, is to collect the Ace, and then give away the King, and then collect your Queen. Sometimes this is a better option. I have heard that you should leave finessing to late in the play of the hand, after opposition has had to do some discarding, hopefully, and when you will have a better idea of which opponent is more likely to have the missing honour.
When you are playing in No Trump, many of the above techniques will not be available to you - since you don't have a trump suit. You can still use the finesse, of course. The most common technique used when playing in No Trump is to try to establish a long suit by losing your losers first. For instance if you had a very nice long suit between you and your partner, but were missing the Ace and King in the suit, once those cards were out, the rest of your suit would all win. So you would deliberately lose tricks to the opposition as soon as you can in the play of the hand. You want to get and keep control of all the suits when you are playing in No Trump, and this is much easier said than done. But the worst thing to do in No Trump, unless you have a hand where you can see exactly how you can make all of your tricks without any finangling, is to play out all your winning cards first. Not that you can't run through a suit that you have solid winners in. This is fine - and you complicate life for the opposition by making them find discards which might well mess up their hands. But if you only have an Ace or even an Ace and a King as controls in a suit, it is better to lose tricks in those suits in the beginning, and win your Ace at the last opportunity, because that means that it is less likely that the opposition can make use of their established cards. Although I will be mentioning it again, it is only fair to say now that a good defence will try hard to keep the declarer from having everything his own way. If he is trying to lose losers first, the opposition will refuse to win them, at least for awhile. It is what makes No Trump very exciting and very frustrating. Each side has to know how many cards to duck, and when to stop.
Each hand is different so nobody can make a set of rules that say what should be done for every occasion.
Go on now to the next lesson which
is on Opening Leads.