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Basic Cardplay by Paul Bowyer

Counting Winners and Losers

ONE OF the essential strategies that straightforward. Suppose we alter Hand 1 trumps might split. South is again declarer

declarer must adopt when dummy is a small amount, giving North the ®Q: in 4´ and this time West leads a heart.

displayed is to count his winners and

losers. In practice, counting losers is only

of use in a suit contract – in no-trumps Hand 2 Hand 3

declarer should concentrate on where his South plays in 4´. South plays in 4´.

winners are coming from. So this article West leads the t10. West leads the ™K.

will focus on the play of the cards in ´ Q 10 8 3 ´ 762

trump contracts. ™ J92 ™ 753

Counting (in its many different forms) t QJ4 t KQ8

is the bedrock of success at bridge. On the ® KQ3 ® AK32

sight of dummy declarer should look to

see where his tricks are coming from and N N


where his opponents’ tricks might come S S

from. Let’s look at a very simple example

deal to start with: ´ AKJ97 ´ AKQ43

™ 865 ™ A86

t AK3 t J54

Hand 1 ® A5 ® 87

South plays in 4´.

West leads the t10.

´ Q 10 8 3 Now there are eleven winners (five spades, Now the count of winners and losers

™ J92 three diamonds and three clubs) but still depends on whether the spades break

t QJ4 three losers (all in hearts). Oddly, perhaps, favourably or not. If spades are 3–2, then

® K93 the winners and losers don’t add up to declarer has five spade winners, a heart

thirteen. Where we have more winners winner, two diamond winners and two

N than we need, that doesn’t matter (you club winners (ten winners in all). If


S can’t have too much of a good thing after declarer looks at losers, there are no spade

all). losers, two heart losers, a diamond loser

´ AKJ97 The effect on Hand 2 is that the ball is in and no club losers. That makes ten

™ 865 the opponents’ court. If they were to lead winners and three losers. If, however, the

t AK3 a heart they could take the first three spades break 4–1 (or, horror of horrors,

® A5 tricks. If, however, they fail to do so (and 5–0) then the number of winners

remember that the opponents have to decreases while the number of losers

make a blind opening lead), then one of increases.

If declarer counts his winners, South can see your losers will disappear. In the case Anyway . . . when declarer can see

five spade tricks, three diamond tricks and above West has led a diamond. Declarer enough winners for his contract, then he

two club tricks. That makes ten winners in can win that, draw trumps and play off the should usually aim to draw trumps and

all – that’s useful, in a contract of 4´! If diamonds and clubs. On the third club set up his winners in the other suits. In

South counts his losers, then he should see South can discard one of his hearts, the specific case of Hand 3, South should

no spade losers, three heart losers, no disposing of one of his losing cards. win the heart lead and play off the three

diamond losers and no club losers. The exercise of counting winners and top trumps. Assuming that the suit

This is what you might expect – ten losers is so important that it bears much breaks 3-2, then declarer should switch

winners and three losers, making a total of repetition. The next deal is more subtle as his attention to diamonds and drive out

thirteen. However, not all hands are so it requires declarer to think about how the diamond ace.

Often we meet puzzling hands where we

count winners and losers and they don’t

Mike Scoltock and Jeffrey Allerton (Surrey) won the 2012 Corwen Trophy

for County Pairs, ahead of Andrew Southwell and Ian Lancaster (Sussex). add up at all (we see eight winners and

only three losers, for example). Where we

20 English Bridge August 2012


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