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Beginner Learning How To Play Suit Combinations & Using the Bridge CCAnalyser

I'm a beginner, and in an effort to improve my declarer play, I've been reading some book chapters & webpages about the best standard ways to play (without extra knowledge) certain card combinations.
e.g. KTxx opposite Qxx (and very, very many others).

I've a couple of questions:

  1. Am I meant to be learning and memorising each specific combination, or am I meant to be just absorbing some general principles from studying all the different specific examples? Different books/webpages seem to begin with entirely different card combinations, so there doesn't seem to be an established 'order' in which to learn them? [In play at the table, I'm really only at the level of just beyond 'eight ever, nine never'].

  2. Many sources just give (what they regard as) the 'best' play. But there's definite differences between some of them, and they very rarely give an idea of how much better / worse those plays are compared to others. To be honest, I'm not really yet worried about if a play is only 2% better than 'my' way - I first need to ensure I have mastered all the common plays that are 20% better than 'my' natural method.
    I've found the website/app called 'Bridge CC Analyser' that appears brilliant at calculating precisely the best play for any specified card combination - and it also shows how much better it is that many alternative plays. Perfect, except for one thing. It only seems to explicitly show the play of the first card (and defenders' second position card options).
    I need / want to know how the entire play is intended to move forward. Perhaps it's meant for people who only need a hint at the first card, and from then on can work out the subsequent plays - or is there something (a way of using it?) that I'm missing?
    I'm especially keen to use it because - if I'm expected to 'learn' the best methods by rote, then I want to check that what I'm being told is definitely correct. As I've said, I've seen numerous examples of differing advice.

Thanks for any help people can give.


  • "Am I meant to be learning and memorising each specific combination?" - NO !!!!

    I can't imagine anything worse. The ACBL Encyclopedia of Bridge lists page after page of suit combinations. You couldn't seriously expect to learn them all. Anyway, there might not be a right or wrong answer - the best strategy might depend upon (1) whether you are playing Pairs (Match Points) or Teams (IMPs); (2) how many tricks you need from the suit; (3) whether you have the entries in side suits to play in a particular order; (4) what is the rest of the hand; (5) what was the auction ...

    Instead you should think about some general principles:
    (1) How many tricks do you need from the suit? If you are playing pairs the answer might be "as many as possible". but if you are playing teams you shouldn't worry about over-tricks and your strategy holding (say) a five-card suit might be different if you need to make five tricks compared with needing to guarantee four tricks.
    (2) There are some sound general principles which hold most of the time. For example: "Lead towards Honours". This is the basis for finesses - everyone knows to lead towards AQ - but is generally the right idea even if it isn't obviously a finesse.
    (3) There are a few things that are worth learning - for example the rule for finesse or drop. Missing 2 cards: It is slightly better to play for the K to drop. Missing 3 cards: finesse for the K. Missing 4 cards: it is slightly better to play for the Q to drop. Missing 5 cards: finesse for the Q. Missing 6 cards: play for the J to drop etc. There is a simple rule: Missing an even number play for the drop - missing an odd number play to finesse.
    (4) Think about the whole hand. For example, which way do you finesse the heart suit if you hold KT9X opposite AJXX in dummy? In a sense it may seem like a 50:50 guess. But if I tell you that in diamonds you hold KX opposite XX in dummy it is clear that you don't want to lose the lead to RHO and have them lead through your KX. It is probably better to lead hearts towards your hand and finesse with the ten - if it loses you are at least safe from a diamond switch.

  • Thanks, that’s very helpful.

    Now does anyone know how to use the CC Bridge Analyser program to show a whole line of play, rather than just recommending (and evaluating) the next specific card to be played?


  • edited February 20

    Probably the easiest way to understand all the aspects of suit combinations, you should read a book by a good bridge writer who is able to create excellent teaching examples to show you how to think through most of the card combination problems that go beyond the 50 or so you learn just from playing and reading a daily bridge column.

    Where can you get such a book?

    Mike Lawrence wrote a book called How to Play Card Combinations. Mike Lawrence is one of the all-time best bridge writers. He has been writing a column for Mr. Bridge for about a year.

    How to Play Card Combinations by Mike Lawrence

  • Try to lead towards touching cards twice, say KQxx opposite Jxx.
    You may be surprised how many times Ax is onside.
    If you lazily play back to the jack, then you promote 10xxx for the opponents

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