Planning a hand of bridge
Sometimes it can be hard to plan a hand as declarer in bridge. If you take a moment to focus on each suit individually you might get some ideas about how to play the whole hand.
A common way of playing a hand as declarer in a suit contract is to ruff something in dummy, draw trumps and then establish a side suit. Whether or not we end up actually doing that, it can be a good way to start thinking about a hand. It can also be helpful to look carefully at each suit before you start to play.
Responding to a 2NT opening bid
North opens 2NT showing a strong balanced hand. 2NT shows two, three or four spades so we've got at least eight spades between the two hands. North's got 20 points and I've got six so that's enough for game. I'm going to bid 4♠. You might choose to bid differently, that's okay, but either way, whatever you do, we're probably going to end up in 4♠.
How do I play this hand?
How are we going to play this hand? And if you are like me, you're looking at that hand and thinking, goodness gracious me, what I mess! There's cards all over the place. What do I do?
One thing I find helpful is just to tackle the suits one by one. Don't overwhelm yourself with too much information or make some master plan or some great grand scheme here. Just go through the suits.
Let's look at the diamond suit. Okay, we've got four in the north hand, two in the south hand. We've got the ♦A and ♦K. We can play the Ace and King throwing away the eight four. West has led the ♦2. So that could be a singleton or maybe it's a fourth highest from a long card suit. Not sure yet.
Clubs. A bit of a mess. We are going to get one club trick, but we'd be pretty lucky to get any more.
The heart suit's interesting. We've got the ♥A and we might make a trick with the ♥Q. A common mistake here is to play the queen thinking, well, I can take a finesse. I could just hope that West has got the ♥K, but that's not going to work because if East has got the ♥K, it's just going to go ♥Q, small, small, and you're lose to the ♥K. And if West has the ♥K, West isn't going to let you get away with running the ♥Q. West is going to play the ♥K covering your honour with an honour that's going to force you to use the ♥A. So you're only going to make one trick in that suit wherever the ♥K.
What we need to do is to hope that East has got the ♥K and we're going to play a low heart from the North hand towards the ♥Q. If East plays the ♥K, we just play low. And if East plays a low card, doesn't matter what, then we can win with the ♥Q.
Finally, let's look at the spade suit. Ace, Jack and King, 8, 7, 6, 5, 3. That looks pretty good! Where do you want to start playing the spade suit from? Do you want to play a low spade towards the ♠A and ♠J or do you want to start from North with the ♠A? Here we want to play a low spade towards the ♠A and the ♠J, hoping that west has got ♠Q.
Some plan better than no plan!
So we've gone through all the suits and we've decided diamonds, not very interesting clubs, not very interesting. We want to play a low heart from the North hand towards the South hand. With spades we want to play a low spade from the South hand towards the North hand. So we're going to win the ♦K or ♦A, either way, and we kind of want to draw trumps. That would be a good thing to do. We want to play spades from the South hand but we're in the north hand. Okay, well, while we're in the North hand, remember we decided that we want to play hearts from the north hand so we can play heart now.
What we've done here is rather than think of everything together, we've just isolated the suits and said, well, I want to play hearts from North. And that's led us to a reasonable way to play the hand. The best way? Maybe, maybe not. But we have a plan!