THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
COUNTING WINNERS CAN BE PREFERABLE
Casey Stengel, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966, said, “Without losers, where would the winners be?”
In bridge, of course: A winner for one pair is a loser for the opponents. And when you are the declarer, you are advised to count your losers before playing from the board at trick one. After doing that, if you can also count your winners in a reasonable length of time — say, five minutes! — you should do so. I estimate that on about 20 percent of deals, counting winners will make the best line of play apparent.
In this example, West leads the spade jack against four hearts. How should South play?
South has four potential losers: one in each suit. And if that is as far as declarer went, he would probably win the first trick in his hand, cash the club ace and play a club to dummy’s queen. When it lost to East’s king and a spade came back, South would win on the board and try the diamond finesse (a better bet than the heart finesse, which would need East to have exactly king-doubleton). But when that finesse lost also, declarer would go down one and complain about bad luck.
Now count winners. South has 10: two spades, five hearts, two diamonds and one club. All he needs to do is win with his spade king, cash the diamond ace, and play the diamond queen. West wins and leads another spade, but declarer takes that on the board and discards his remaining spade on the diamond jack. Then he plays on trumps, home and dry.
Count losers and winners; at least one will help.