Counting Winners and Losers
The first thing a declarer should do after the opening lead is made and dummy is exposed, and before a card is called from dummy, is to consider the number of tricks needed to fulfill the contract. The second thing a declarer does is count winners and losers.
As a strategy declarers usually count winners when the contract is no trump and losers when playing a suit contract. Sometimes it is necessary to count both winners and losers.
Counting Winners In a No Trump Contract
Dummy (a) K (b) A (c) A (d) A ( e) A
Q K K K K
J 4 Q 4 4
Declarer 5 Q 7 Q Q
3 J 6 9 9
2 3 7 7
(a) Count zero tricks. Clearly you can force 3 tricks with this suit, but not until you have put the opponents in the lead.
(b) This suit looks like 4 tricks, but there is only 3, because one of the declarer’s honors will fall under the second honor in dummy.
(c) Count 3 winners, but be aware the if the opponents cards split 3-3, a rather unlikely event, you can gain a 4th trick.
(d) Count 3 winners, but be aware that if the opponents cards split 3-2, a reasonably likely event, you will gain 2 more winners. Even if the suit split s 4-1 you can still set up a 4th trick by conceding a trick that will establish the last card in the suit as a 4th. Trick.
(e) Count 3 winners, but you will gain 3 more winners unless one opponent has all four of the missing cards.
Counting Winners in an entire hand
♠ ♥ ♦ ♣
9 A Q K
8 K J Q
6 5 J
♠ ♥ ♦ ♣
A Q A 4
4 8 K 3
5 10 2
Imagine your contract is 3 no trump. If the opponents lead a spade, you can count 9 tricks (1 spade, 3 hearts and 5 diamonds). Your contract is safe, but observe the club suit. You can establish 3 tricks in that suit by forcing out the opponent’s ace. Unfortunately, if you lead a club, the opponents will take their ace and then cash enough spade tricks to set your contract. Note that if the opponents had chosen to lead any suit other than the clubs, you would have had time to set up your club tricks while still maintaining control of the spade suit. You would have made you would actually have made 12 tricks, instead of 9. You would have time to establish 3 club tricks, five diamonds three hearts and a spade.
Counting Losers in a Trump Suit Contract.
A loser is counted for any missing ace, king or queen in suits where both declarer’s hand and dummy have at least three cards, and any missing ace or king where one hand has a doubleton, and any ace where one hand has a singleton. Just to be clear, If you have 3 or more cards in one hand and 3 or more cards in the other hand, you will count a loser for each missing ace, king or queen. If you have two or more cards in one hand and exactly two cards in the other, you will count one loser for a missing ace or king. If you have one or more cards in one hand and a singleton in the other hand, you will count a loser for a missing ace. Here are some examples.
Dummy (a) K (b) J (c) Q (d) A ( e) 9
Q 8 J 6 6
J 4 10 4 4
10 2 9
Declarer A A 7 K 10
3 Q 6 5 8
2 5 3 2 7
(a) Count 1potential loser. You might eliminate that loser by finessing through your RHO>
(b) Count 1 loser. You might eliminate that loser, but you would have to be very lucky. You can play a low card from dummy, if RHO plays a low card, you will play the queen. If that holds play the ace. If you RHO had king doubleton, you will establish your jack. This is a rather unlikely outcome but it is possible.
(c) Count 2 losers. After forcing out the king and ace, you will likely have established 2 tricks.
(d) Count 1 loser.
(e) Count 3 losers.
Counting Losers in an Entire Hand
♠ ♥ ♦ ♣
K A 6 J
4 Q 4 10
3 2 3 7
♠ ♥ ♦ ♣
Q 6 A Q
J 4 K 4
Your contract is four spades. The opening lead is a diamond. Count your losers (1 spade, 1 heart, 0 diamonds, and 2 clubs) You have 4 losers and you must have no more than 3 to fulfill your contract. You must eliminate one looser. Is there a way? The only way to eliminate one loser is to win the diamond lead and lead a low spade, to dirve out the spade ace. Then when you next gain the lead, remove all the opponents trump. Now play a low heart from your hand and when LHO plays a low card call for dummy’s queen. If that holds the trick, you will have eliminated your heart looser and you will fulfill your contract. If it fails, you will go down one trick.