We have covered a few tips for choosing contracts in the Play Level 2 Bridge video but there are a couple more things it might help to think about.
When choosing a contract, you will either be planning to go for one of the bigger bonuses - game or slam, if you have 25 or more points between your hand and dummy - or to settle for a part score if you can’t see enough tricks to make those higher level contracts. If you are going to play in part score, you may as well elect to play at the one level because you will get the same score as you would for any level below game, and it’s easier to make your contract. Remember the scoring? Bid 1♠ and make 9 tricks and your score is 90 (3 x 30 for the tricks above 6) plus part score bonus of 50, so 140 in total. If you set the contract at 3♠ and make the same nine tricks the score will be the same but you would run a greater risk of not making enough tricks. So either bid the game (or slam) contracts and go for the big bonuses, or bid one of the suit you want to play in and make life easy for yourself.
When you play Level 3 bridge, you won’t be able to get away with this because your opponents will also bid and you will need to bid more to win the contract but for now, play it safe if you are playing in part score.
The hints we gave you about declarer play for Level 1 bridge also apply here but now you also have to think about how you use your trumps. So when you look at dummy, decide whether you want to take out the defenders’ trumps as soon as you can or do you want to use your trumps in one hand to trump losers from the other? We will look at this technique in Module 6 once you have had more experience of play but as before, trying to figure out some tactics for yourself is good practice.
Again, all of the tips we gave you for Level 1 bridge still apply but you, too, need to think about trumps. If you are leading to the first trick, is there a suit other than the trump suit where you only have one or two cards? If so, leading your short suit right away might mean you will get to trump one of declarer’s winners before they can draw your trumps, like you saw in the Module 3 video.
Again, watch partner’s cards. Are they leading something that might be a short suit? If so, make sure you lead that suit when you get the lead so they can get their ruff.
You have seen in the video how distribution affects playing strength. This is why we talk of ‘high card points’ (HCP) rather than just ‘points’ — your hand is worth more ‘points’ overall if it contains certain features. Here are just a few principles to reinforce what you have learned and to help you judge how good your hands are:
Aces are very important, not just because they win tricks but because they give you control - you can grab that control and start to do what you want to in the hand rather than letting your opponents shape the play. The four points for an ace in one suit is a ‘better’ four points that a king and a jack in different suits.
Honour cards are more useful in long suits than in short ones. The king in KJT87 is worth a lot more than the king in K87 even though you count the same number of points for both.
Honour cards have much more trick taking potential when they are in combinations, especially of ‘touching’ cards. A holding of QJT9 (three HCP) means you can knock out the ace and king by playing two of them and then have two tricks guaranteed in no-trumps or if they are trumps. The four HCP holding of KJ9 on the other hand, may not take any tricks at all if the hand playing after it holds AQT because they can beat every card you play.
So when judging the strength of your hands to choose a contract, try to get into the habit of thinking about how many tricks you and your partner are likely to take with your combined hands, rather than just the point count.