Notrump Play Overview

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 09/29/2015
Level: Intermediate

Planning the play at notrump is very different from suit contracts. While at suits your thinking is more along "what will I lose," at notrump, it is what will I win.

Count your sure tricks (in both hands). You can take into account the opening lead. For example, if you have ♠K2 and dummy has ♠43 and they lead a spade, you are sure to take a spade trick.

It is rare that you will find you have enough tricks for your contract. In, say, 3NT, you will typically see 5 or 6 or 7 sure tricks.

The next thought is "How do I get to 9?"

Which suit will I work on?  Will I have to lose the lead (maybe knock out an ace or concede a trick and hope the suit breaks)?  Maybe I can take a finesse.  What happens if I lose the trick and the opponents get in? What is my stopper situation?

For example, in the aforementioned ♠K2 opposite ♠43, suppose you are in 3NT with a spade lead. You cannot afford to lose the lead! The opponents will take enough spade tricks to set your contract. So, if you have a choice of a finesse (maybe  ♠1098 opposite ♠AQJ76) or knock out the ♠A (maybe ♠KQJ108 opposite ♠932), which would it be? Since you can't let them in with the ♠A, you would have to rely on the diamond finesse.

But, what if you had 2 stoppers in the suit they led? Then you could afford to knock out the ace.

Declarer must always consider the "race against time." Can I get to 9 before they get to 5 (in 3NT). Or, can I get to 7 before they get to 7 (in 1NT). Consider what happens when you lose the lead--what is your stopper situation.

This is just a brief summary of play in notrump. Full details are in Larry's 2016 book and 2017 DVD on the subject.

Larry's Webinar Series on Notrump Play and Suit Play 2021