Bridge: Eliminating Your Opponents’ Trump Cards

If you can trump your opponents’ winning tricks when you don’t have any cards in the suit that they’re leading, it follows that your opponents can turn the tables and do the same to you. Instead of allowing your opponents to trump your sure tricks, play your higher trumps early on in the hand. Because your opponents must follow suit, you can remove their lower trumps before you take your sure tricks. If you can extract their trumps, you effectively remove their fangs. This extraction is called drawing or pulling trumps. Drawing trumps allows you to take your winning tricks in peace without fear of your opponents trumping them.

The dangers of taking sure tricks before drawing trumps

Send the children out of the room and see what happens if you try to take sure tricks before you draw trumps. For example, in Figure 4-1 (where spades are trump), after you trump the third round of hearts, if you lead the ♦2, West has to follow suit by playing the only diamond in his hand, the ♦8. You then play the ♦Q from the dummy, East plays a low (meaning lowest) diamond, the ♦3, and you take the trick. However, if you follow up by playing the ♦A, West has no more diamonds and can trump the ace with the ♠6 because the bidding has designated spades as the trump suit for this hand.

FIGURE 4-1: Your trump suit stops the bleeding.

The same misfortune befalls you if, instead of playing diamonds, you try to take three club tricks. East can trump the third round of clubs with the lowly ♠4. Imagine your discomfort when you see your opponents trump your sure tricks. They, on the other hand, are thrilled over this turn of events.

You should usually try to draw trumps as soon as possible. Get your opponents’ pesky trump cards out of your hair. Then you can sit back and watch as your winning tricks come home safely to your trick pile.

The joys of drawing trumps first

To see how drawing trumps can work to your advantage, take a look at Figure 4-2, which shows only spades (the trump suit) from the hand in Figure 4-1. Remember, your goal is ten tricks.

Drawing trumps is just like playing any suit — you have to count the cards in the suit to know if you have successfully drawn all your opponents’ trump cards.

In the hand shown in Figure 4-2, you and your partner start life with nine spades between you, leaving only four spades that your opponents can possibly hold. Suppose that you play the ♠A — both opponents must follow suit and play one of their spades. You win the trick, and you know that your opponents have only two spades left. Suppose that you continue with the ♠K, and both opponents follow. Now they have no spades left (no more trump cards). You have drawn trumps. See? That wasn’t so bad.

Refer to Figure 4-1 (where West begins with the ♥AKQ, and you trump the third heart with your ♠2). After you trump the third heart, you draw trumps by playing the ♠AK. You can then safely take your ♣AKQ and your ♦AKQ — you wind up losing only two heart tricks. You needed to take 10 tricks to fulfill your contract, and you in fact finished up with 11 tricks. Pretty good! Drawing trumps helped you make your contract.

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