Passion of The Game of Bridge

Declarer Play: Playing No Trump Contract

Now the bidding is over and you have your bridge contract to play. Your LHO (left hand opponent) has select the card for opening lead and put it face down in the table. Your partner lay the card on the table as dummy and it is time for declarer play.

There are basically 2 different declarer plays: playing a suit contract and playing NT (No Trump) contract. I suggest you concentrate on how to play a NT contract first as it give you the skill also needed to play the suit contract.

But before even play, there are several things you need to do:

  1. Count all the HCP (high card point) in your hand and dummy’s hand. The total hcp is 40, then you know how many points the opponent have.
  2. Analyze the bidding. If there is no bidding from opponent, then you don’t have any new information. But if opponent has bid during the bidding, you need to determine: the minimum card of the suit he/she bid and point of that opponent.
    Make an educated  assumption or guess as where the points are (LHO or RHO)
  3. Analyze the opening lead.
    • First thing: is it from long suit or short suit?
    • Is it lead from a honor (Ace, K, Q or J) or not ?
    • Why he/she lead/choose the suit to lead? Is it partner’s suit? What is the intention?

Don’t be overwhelm at this stage if you don’t understand some of the questions above, you will be very soon. Just bear in  mind that those items are things that need to be done to be a successful declarer.

Playing NT Contract

Playing NT contract is basically finding a trick to be won. You must count your existing trick first, then you know how many trick more that you need to establish.


3NT Contract
Opening Lead:Q KQ9

Let see the 3NT contract hands above. To make the contract you need 9 tricks. Currently you only have 5 tricks (A,K of diamond, A of spade on hand and A of clubs, K of spade  on dummy) – so you need 4 more tricks.

From where we can get additional tricks?

Well, for a start look at Club suit. We have 8 cards on both hand (meaning opponent only have 5 cards between them) and the only honor missing is K of club. If K of club is with LHO (left hand opponent) then most likely opponent will not win any trick in club. (Just play Q of club from hand, if LHO produce K, then play Ace from the dummy. if LHO produce small card, play small from the dummy: this technique is called “finesse“).

Therefore potentially we will have 4 additional tricks  from Club suit if K of Club is with LHO – or only 3 additional tricks if K of club is with RHO.

If it is only 3 tricks, then we need to get another trick from Heart suit. So, in total  we could have 9 tricks and make the contract.

Now look at the threat from opponent. They lead Q of diamond, most likely from 5 cards or 4 cards suit and we only have 2 “stopper” before they establish their suit . Remember defender cannot get more than 4 tricks in order for us to get 9 tricks.

From our potential trick analysis above, in order for us to get 9 tricks,  we know that defender could win 2 tricks already (King of club if RHO holds it, and A of heart), then from diamond we cannot afford to lose more than 2 tricks.

There are 8 cards of diamond between opponents, so if it’s split 4-4 then we are safe. But what if it’s split 5-3? (which is seems likely since LHO lead the suit) – so, we need to make sure LHO don’t have the chance to make 3 diamond tricks.

So, on the opening lead, you play small on the table and win with diamond K on hand  – our first trick (we have only 1 diamond stopper now).

Then immediately play small heart to King to knock out the Ace of Heart. Once the Ace of heart win – first trick for opponent, our Q of heart is another trick ready for you. Most likely the opponent will return another diamond.

On this trick, you need to “duck” the diamond (let the opponent win) – 2 tricks for opponent. Why? Because if it’s split 5-3 (RHO have only 3 trick), by the time another diamond is played, RHO will have no more diamond to establish his/her partner’s long suit when he/she win with K of club.

On another diamond continuation, you win on hand with A – 3 tricks for you (2 tricks for opponent)- then play Q of club. Say RHO win with K of club- 3 tricks for you (3 tricks for opponent). But he doesn’t have another diamond to lead. If he has another diamond, that’s mean the diamon is split 4-4 and we are still alright.

Now any return back from RHO, you already have your 9 tricks to cash. Contract made.

The sequence is also important.  If you did not play heart early, meaning the rest of opponent’s 5 cards of Diamond has been established before Ace of Heart being played, you will be in the mercy of who owns the Ace of heart. If Ace of heart held by the one has long diamond, then the contract is in jeopardy.

Do you have any other way to make the contract ? Post a comment and tell us how you do it!


  1. Sandy /

    You make things so easy to understand. More, please, on how to play the cards! TY!

    • Denis Kristanda /

      Thanks for your kind words… more will come !

  2. Ray Skilbeck /

    I am a relative beginner, as is my partner. I am trying to explain to my partner that if you could lose the lead it is best to do this when you will then have control of which ever suit is led back. This is to avoid oppenents running a long suit. If opponent’s first lead is low from a suit it is likely that they are leading from at least a four card suit. If you have only 3 cards with 2 stoppers in that suit, say K $ Q then you must try to keep those available until the ace is played or RHO is out of cards in that suit. I may not have explained this well but it seems to work for me and my partner fails more often in no trumps.

    • Denis Kristanda /

      You are correct. The general strategy is: if you do not have good stopper in a suit or have only 1, you should try not to play that suit. If the defender already lead it, then one way to play it to do the ducking. For example your weakest suit in 3NT is A32 and dummy is 54. Then you can try to duck 2 times before taking the ace. The idea is then to do finesse or other safe play to the partner who did not get the suit any more as she/he cannot return that suit.

  3. walter zashin /

    Dear Denis: This is my very first time working your web site. My very sincere thanks for your kind help and am very much obliged to you.
    Live in Boca Raton florida. Till our next meeting my best wishes and good health to you.
    very truly yours,
    Walter Zashin

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