Guide 9QC8   Main

About the Techniques

  by Richard Pavlicek

Card play techniques are divided into two main groups: (1) Notrump Feasible if they can occur at notrump, and (2) Trump Dependent if a trump suit is required. Note that Group 1 techniques can also occur at suit contracts (with rare exceptions) provided the trump suit has no special role. Each group is divided into categories, and techniques in each category are ordered approximately by complexity. Techniques named in italics are judged to be too remote for practical benefit. Some categories have a separate listing for “anti” techniques, i.e., plays to counteract a technique in that category.

Each diagram shows the technique for North-South in its simplest form (2-7 tricks) and the number of tricks N-S must win (goal). South is always on lead unless an opponent is required to lead, then West. If there is a trump suit, it is always spades.

Essential plays are shown, pursuing the most likely path if variations exist. Key plays are followed by an exclamation point (!). If West is on lead, a question mark (?) after the lead means it’s a losing choice for the ending but likely in practice and forced for the technique.

Diagram labels

To better understand the mechanics of each technique, diagrams may have one or two labels:

auto(automatic) Same technique* works with the East-West hands switched
auto?Goal is achievable with East-West switched but by a different technique
bi(bidirectional) Same technique* works with the opposite hand on lead
bi?Goal is achievable with opposite hand on lead but by a different technique
re(reciprocative) Squeeze card (C A) may be in the opposite hand
notGoal is impossible with best E-W play (technique only offers a chance)
not?Goal is achievable after West’s forced lead but not after West’s best lead

*or simply winning any trick possible if the case becomes trivial

Squeeze diagrams

Diagrams involving squeeze plays follow a uniform structure to aid interpretation:

TermSuit or Card Rank
Threat suitSpades… (downward as needed)
WinnerAce… (downward as needed)
Threat cardHighest partnership non-winner in suit
Essential cardFour… (upward as needed)
Idle cardTwo or three
Squeeze cardC A (or S A if in trumps)

An idle card opposite the squeeze card (C A) is usually shown in clubs as an aid to identify reciprocative positions. This makes the ending bidirectional by definition. If the idle card were instead in a threat suit, the ending is usually not bidirectional.

What’s not included

Defining a “technique” is arbitrary. Some basic tenets have been excluded: (1) Cashing winners, e.g., you won’t find how to play A-x-x opposite K-x-x for two tricks, (2) second hand low, (3) third hand high, and (4) fourth hand winning a trick when able. These might be considered the default strategies of card play, akin to following suit. Situations in which they should be violated are the techniques that need to be included.

No attempt is made to distinguish which technique might be correct on any given occasion. For example, the “Finesse” category does not profess when and when not to finesse — an exhaustive study in itself subject to many factors — but only the available techniques.

Deceptive play is ignored. Almost any technique could be applied as a psychological bluff, and trying to identify such cases could land you in the nut house fast. No problem! Plenty of room in my ward.

Guide 9QC8   MainTop   About the Techniques

© 2014 Richard Pavlicek