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
W E W E
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 www.ebu.co.uk