Suit Combinations

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 01/01/2014
Level: Intermediate

Suit Combinations This is a very short summary of what takes up more than 50 full pages in the Encyclopedia of Bridge.

There are thousands and thousands of suit combinations--some can be memorized, others require logic. Some are just plain impossible.


The best pieces of advice I can give for general handling of most combinations is:

1) Let the opponents play the suit (don't you break the suit).

2) Leave key suit to late in the play.


As a typical example of #1):



If South or North starts the suit, they don't get a trick. It is best to let East-West start the suit, thus guaranteeing a trick. A close cousin is ?Qxx opposite ?Jxx.   Try not to break such suits yourself.

For an example of #2): 


The book says (with plenty of entries to both hands) to lead a low spade towards

dummy and finesse the 10. Later, finesse the queen. On a great day (king-jack both onside), North-South would take 3 tricks. On a medium day (either the king or jack onside), there would be 2 tricks. On this layout, there appears to be only 1 trick. However, if this suit is postponed to late in the play, East could be endplayed after the first finesse. If he has only spades left (or an equally poor choice in the other suits, such as a ruff-and-sluff), he has to concede an extra trick. 


Here are a few more tips which will help you with the sample deals at the end of this article:


3) Consider each suit in relation to the contact. Sometimes, you want to play safe. For example, let's say dummy in 3NT has a suit such as ?AKQ32 opposite ?54 in your hand. Dummy has no side entry. If you need 5 diamond tricks for your contract, you need to play AKQ and hope they are 3-3. If you need only 4 diamond tricks, you will duck a round first and then try the AKQ (making 4 tricks even against a 4-2 split).  Say you have plenty of entries to both hands and a suit of 

?AK832 opposite ?J95. If you need 5 tricks you will lay down the ace-king and hope the queen falls doubleton. If you need only 4 tricks, you should lay down the ace and then lead up to the jack. This guards against 4-1 breaks.


4) Many suits require brute force/calculations. Some require memorization. I'm not a big fan of having to memorize, so let's look at one that can be solved with logic:









With no entry trouble, you lead from hand towards dummy. But, should you lead the 10 first? No. If the king is onside tripleton, nothing will matter. If West has more than Kxx, you can't get all 4 tricks. But, if West has Kx or K singleton, leading the 10 first will cost a trick. You should lead low to the jack. Come back to hand and lead low, intending to finesse again.

With those quick tips in mind, try tackling these four example deals:

1 Safety First
2 Maybe at Matchpoints
3 Brute Calculation
4 Anyone Can Finesse