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Tips Bridge Game

Quick Tips for Improving Your Bridge Game

When you're declarer:

Tips Bridge Game Don't play to the first trick too quickly. Force yourself to stop and think when dummy comes down. Look ahead and plan your play to at least the next few tricks.

Concentrate on the opening lead for a few seconds so you'll remember it later. Decide what it tells you about the leader's length or strength in that suit.

Mentally review the bidding. If one of your opponents has bid, try to come up with a general picture of his point-count and his length in the suit bid.

For most suit contracts, your general plan should be:

1 - Count your losers. Decide which ones can be disposed of or turned into winners (by trumping, by finessing or by discarding them on a side suit).

2 - Double check by counting your winners. Look at each suit and estimate how many tricks it offers -- top tricks and tricks that will be good after you establish the suit. 

3 - If your plan calls for trumping one or more of your losers in the short-trump hand (usually dummy), do that before you lead trumps -- even if you have to give up tricks to set up the trumping position.

4 - Next, lead trumps, counting as the opponents follow to each trick. Pulling trumps will usually be your best plan if you have good honor strength and/or length in one or more of the outside suits.

5 - After you've collected all the opponents' trumps, lead your longest side suit. Give up your losers early.

6 - Last, cash honors in your short suits.

For most notrump contracts, your general plan should be:

1 - Count your winners and potential winners. If you don't have enough top tricks to make your contract, decide which suit offers you the best chance of creating more winners.

2 - Lead that suit first (it will usually be your longest side suit). Give up the tricks you have to lose early.

3 - Stick with one suit at a time. Keep leading it until you've established your tricks (count the defenders' cards as you go), then cash your winners in the suit. When you move to a different suit, start counting again.

4 - Last, cash honors in your short suits.

When you're a defender:

Lead attacking combinations -- suits with touching honors such as QJ10x, KQx, AKxx, J109x. Lead the top of an honor sequence.

Don't lead unsupported aces (Ax, Axx, Axxx) unless it's the suit partner has bid.

When in doubt about what to lead, lead the fourth-best card in your longest suit. Leading from length is the "standard" lead to a notrump contract, and it's often the safest lead to a suit contract.

Count cards and points as you play. Use clues from the bidding, the opening lead and the play to try to come up with a mental picture of partner's or declarer's hand.

Think ahead, and be ready for critical plays. Indecision will often tell declarer what you hold in a suit, so try to decide in advance which card you'll play when declarer leads a suit toward or from dummy.

Use defensive signals to help partner during the play:

When discarding or following suit, signal with the highest card you can afford in a suit you want partner to lead (play the 8 from AQ872). Play a low card if you have no interest in the suit (play the 4 from 954).

When following suit, use count signals to help partner figure out how many cards you hold in the suit. Playing high-low in a suit tells partner you have an even number of cards. Playing low, then high shows an odd number of cards.

When you're bidding:

Always search for a major-suit fit if one is possible, even if you've already found a fit in a minor suit. If you have a 4-card major you can show at the one-level, always bid it.

Consider playing 3NT instead of 5C of 5D when you have the strength for game, but your only fit is in a minor suit.

Keep the bidding simple. If you have a fit for partner's major, always raise.

If you have a fit for partner's suit, "stretch" to raise, especially in a competitive auction. If you have extra trumps (one more than you need for an 8-card fit), feel free to compete to the 3-level if the opponents bid over your 2-level partscore.

Stay low on misfits.  When you have a minimum without support for partner and he doesn't show support for your suit, stop bidding as soon as possible. Unless you have game-going strength, don't bid higher just to show yet another suit and don't bid 2NT. Your goal is to stop in a reasonable contract, not a perfect one.

If you have length in the suit the opponent opened and are in doubt about what to bid, just pass, even when you have opening-bid strength. Don't show your problem by thinking too long about what to do.

Always assume partner has minimum point-count until he tells you otherwise. A minimum range is 12-15 points for the opening bidder, 6-10 points for responder.

If you have a minimum hand (13-15 points for opener, 6-10 points for responder), keep the bidding low until you find a fit. Don't bid past the one-level unless:

You're raising partner's suit  (1H-2H,  1D-1H-1S-2S).

You're rebidding your own long suit  (1C-1H-2C,  1D-1S-1NT-2S).

You're bidding a second suit that's lower in rank than your first suit (1D-1S-2C,  1S-1NT-2H).

There are two types of bids that pinpoint your point-count range -- any notrump bid and any bid of an "old" suit (one that you or partner have bid previously in the auction). If you're making any of these bids, be sure you show your point count by making the bid at the proper level:

If you know you have 25+ combined points, jump to game in your suit or notrump. Don't give partner a chance to pass below game level.

If you have an invitational hand (16-18 playing points if you're opener; 10-12 points if you're responder) and you think you and partner might have 25+ points, make your bid one level higher than necessary. This usually means you'll freely take the auction to 2NT or 3 of a suit  (1D-1S-1NT-2NT, 1D-1H-2C-2NT,  1C-1S-3S,  1H-1NT-3H  ).

If you have minimum strength, show it by making your bid at the lowest level available.

On your own:

To improve your overall skills, make a commitment to devote some time to practicing away from the table.  
Source: Karen Walker Site

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