Tip #17 - To Draw Trumps, or Not?

To Draw Trumps, or Not?

That is the question.
We have all probably heard the story of the person roaming the streets, destitute, because of their failure to draw trumps! However there are occasions where to immediately draw trumps is not the winning line of play. Some examples:

  • Drop a loser The following is a simple example but going by results was missed by a number of declarers
    KQ10876                                           J543
    Q2                                                     AK5
    54                                                       A67
    AK8                                                   Q63

Declarer is in 6 spades with KD lead. Clearly if lead trumps on the second trick the A is going to win and the QD will take the next trick for one down. So first need to get rid of the diamond loser by playing three rounds of hearts.

  • Using small trumps to trump losers. This is a situation commonly missed.
    K85                                                   AJ953
    AQ1086                                            542
    A852                                                 -
    K                                                      AJ963
    The contract is 4 and going by point count and losing trick count should easily make. However declarer went down 2 tricks by not using dummy’s trumps to take care of diamond losers and trying to immediately draw trumps. Declarer was undone by 4-1 breaks in both hearts and spades with the missing K and Q both being off side. But 4 make if three diamond losers are trumped in dummy, with a spade loser being dropped on the ace clubs. Admittedly this is a difficult one as the diamond losers can be discarded on the ace clubs and spade suit if the spade finesse works. Nevertheless a powerful feature of the dummy was wasted and this is all too common.
  • An outstanding trump is high.
    In this case you may try and get the defenders to use their high trump to ruff one of your off suit winners. This is particularly useful where there is at least one trump in each of dummy and declarer’s hands, and then it may be possibly get two tricks with a later cross ruff. The corollary of this is that defenders should try and resist trumping in with a top trump and look to get the lead to take out two of declarer’s trumps with their high trump. Exception. Where the defenders hold winners in a side suit then they should trump in as early as possible to cash those winners before declarer drops them on their long off suit. Declarer’s exception. If there is a long suit to run and there is no other entry to that suit then, if you are able to maintain trump control, lead trumps so that you can later run the suit without interruption.
  • Outstanding trump(s) is/are not high.
    Situations often arise where declarer has a 4/4 trump suit fit and the outstanding trumps are 4/1. Even if you are able to take out all the trumps without loss it may be tactically better to let the defenders trump with one of their trumps in order to maintain trump control or provide an entry to a long suit. I call this 2 for 1 where I can make my two trumps separately by giving one away.

Trump Promotion

Consider the defenders holding in the trump suit of:
                 Q10                   J3
Looks like declarer hasn’t any trump losers, but occasionally a situation arises where what is called a trump promotion can be engineered. Partner leads AK of a side suit where you have a doubleton and leads a third one. Partner is aware that both you and declarer are out of that suit, but hopes that you have the J of trumps in order to force a high trump from declarer. You of course need to play the J and not the three! This should be routine as there is nothing to lose by playing the J. Even if declarer has a third card of the suit led, the J hasn’t been wasted as it will fall anyway when trumps are played. Your play of the J is rewarded when the K overtrumps, the Ace is played and partner then holds the winning Q. It may not be necessary to have an honour to engineer a trump promotion. At a recent session my partner held K103 and I held 9,2 of the trump suit. Partner led a suit that ultimately both I and declarer can trump and my 9 forced the J, thus promoting partner’s 10 as she held K103 over declarer’s AQxx. I had nothing to lose playing the 9 as it will fall, as would partner’s 10, when declarer plays trumps from the top.
It can be difficult at times to ascertain whether partner is looking for a trump promotion. So just in case when trumping, trump with the highest card you can afford.