All said and done, the fact remains that Bridge is about making tricks and more tricks. The bidding system and bidding can help partners to reach a good contract but this is only a job half done. Now the declarer of the contract must make certain minimum number of tricks to get a positive score. Being a good card player is quite handy for playing bridge reasonably well.
Let us check some basic rules of card play and then we shall see a few basic ways of making tricks:
The first card that gets played is called the ‘opening lead’. The defender on the left of the declarer must make the opening lead.
Something interesting and peculiar to bridge happens now. Declarer’s partner places all his cards face up on the table after the opening lead is made. He arranges his cards suit by suit (see the picture) and this arrangement is called ‘Dummy’.
Dummy’s cards are thus visible to remaining three players – The declarer and the two defenders. The Dummy player cannot take any part in the play of the contract. What card to play from dummy is decided by the declarer only.
The play continues after the opening lead and each player follows to the trick being played. The first trick thus gets completed.
Who starts the next trick? The rule is — player who wins the given trick, must start the next trick. Remember there are 13 tricks to be played
There are four suits involved as you know. Suppose a trick starts with a spade being played. Now each player must ‘follow the suit ‘if he has a card in spades. What if he does not have any spade card? No worries; he can play a card from any other suit suitably and complete the trick.
A card once played cannot be taken back. Also, once any trick is over, all cards are placed upside down and these cards cannot be viewed again by any player
This process continues. Sometimes, all 13 tricks need not be played. Either the declarer or any of the defenders can claim tricks at some point where there is no reason to just continue playing. Such claim can be checked by the opponent and accepted or rejected. Claiming tricks saves time and energy.
Once the play is over, it becomes clear which side has made how many tricks. That determines if the Contract got made or it went down.
What are the building blocks for making tricks? Here is an overview of the basic ways
It is nice to have big cards, isn’t it? What if you are dealt
AK or AKQ or AKQJ of a suit? It is obvious that such holding will mostly provide you two, three and four tricks respectively. These are called ‘solid suits’.
If you are not that lucky and you are dealt KQ, KQJ, KQJ10? Well, the Ace you do not have but no need to despair. Give opponents their Ace and next remaining high card/s are winners for you. Thus, you can get one, two, three tricks respectively once the A is driven out. Such card holding is called ‘semi solid suits’.
Every time you may not get such goodies though. Let us say you hold KJ1098. It is called a ‘broken suit’. Imagine losing Ace and Queen to the opposition but still you can have remaining three cards promoted to a winning rank. The long suits offer such potential.
Let us see one more layout of cards. Say you hold AK432 and your partner holds 8765. It means your side has nine cards out of 13 of this suit & Opponents hold remaining four cards. You start with the Ace and all follow. Then you plunk your King and again all follow. Bingo! Eight cards are out, opponents all cards are out and your 432 of the suits are now undisputed winners! Cool this is, right?
There is more to such card layouts and combinations and to winning extra tricks too.
However, it is beyond the scope of an article like this. Only when you get down to learning the game formally, it is possible to know and understand the whole gamut.
(The writer is a National Championships winner, advanced Life Master rank holder, and bridge teacher. You can reach out to him on firstname.lastname@example.org)