From “Take All Your Chances” by Eddie Kantar

How should you attack these hands? If you are declaring a notrump contract, count your sure tricks. If you don’t have enough to make the contract (you won’t!) look for some way to develop that missing trick or tricks. If you see at least two lines of play to secure those extra tricks, stay alive! Give yourself a chance to take both lines. At trump contracts counting losers and sure tricks is the way to go. If the total doesn’t come to 13, count your cards.

There are many hands where more than one line of play exists to make your contract. If you select the best percentage line, your chance of making the hand increases, but if you don’t … But why take the worst of it? The idea is to take the line of play, which if it doesn’t work, still allows you to take the other line, and there ever may even be a third line! This is called “staying alive”; in other words, avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket!

Unfortunately, but realistically, there will be hands where you have to decide immediately between several lines of play. The opponents have forced your hand and there is no time to try one line and then switch to another if the first doesn’t work. Now it helps to know a bit about percentages or the odds.

The bidding will be given and explained. Use the bidding as a guide in the play.

Assume IMP scoring. Play to make and do not worry about overtricks or undertricks.

West North East South
1 Pass Pass Dbl
Pass 3♣ Pass 3♠
Pass 4♠ All Pass

With both sides vulnerable, West opens 1, North and East pass, you double, partner responds 3♣, too strong to make a forced 2♣ response. You bid 3♠, forcing, and partner raises to 4♠.

Incidentally, when making or responding to a takeout double, devalue jacks and queens in any suit or suits the opponents have bid unless responding in notrump or having a death wish.

West leads the A and K and the 10. East ruffs the third diamond and exits with a low heart. Spades are 2–2. What is your plan? (Notice that the Q and J were worthless).

Twelve high-card points (HCP) are missing and West, the opening bidder, is a heavy favorite to have all 12. Win the A, cross to a spade, play the ♣A, discarding a heart, and ruff a club. Return to dummy with a spade and ruff another club. If the king appears, use the ♣Q to discard a second heart. If the king doesn’t appear, try to drop the Q in the West hand. Why finesse into a player who is known to have the queen?

Tip #1: When the bidding tells you that a particular defender must have a particular card, play that defender for that card even if it means going against the odds in the play of that suit.

Tip #2: Assume an opening bidder has at least 12 HCP unless the opener is known to have a distributional hand, in which case 10 or 11 HCP is possible.