Counting Declarer’s Tricks

This lesson plan was developed by Eddie Kantar.  As Eddie says, “In order to become a competent declarer you must train yourself to count declarer’s distribution, point count, and tricks.”  Here are the sources of information you need to assimilate in order to do this.


  1. The Bidding.
    1. What suits did declarer ______ ?
    2. Did declarer _______ any suits?
    3. Did declarer open a _______ at the one level and rebid a ______ at the one level?
  2. Opponent’s Bidding Conventions.  Some of these reveal distribution.  Specific examples that you don’t need to memorize, but you do need to have a general idea of:
    1. Flannery 2D opener shows _____ hearts and _____ spades.  Some play that the opener could have 6 hearts.  If their explanation is just “Flannery” you need to ask them this specific question.
    2. Mini-Roman 2D opener shows a ______ suited hand, typically 4-4-4-1 or 4-4-5-0 distribution.  Some play that it guarantees a ______ suit.
    3. Short Club people promise 4 or more when they open ______ .  Montreal Relay people (a number of these in Williamsburg) promise 5 or more.
  3. The Opening Lead
    1. Honor leads generally clarify the position quickly.
    2. Lead A from AKx(x) at trick 1 in unsupported suits.
  4. Partner’s Count Signals
    1. Primary signal when the ______________ side attacks a suit.
    2. With odd number, play _________ then ___________ . (standard count)
    3. With even number, play _________ then _________ . (standard count)
  5. Partner’s Discards, both encouraging and discouraging.
    1. Discouraging discards allow you to infer that _______ has missing honors.
    2. Honor card discards:  Discard the ______ honor in a sequence of 3 or more.
  6. Someone Shows Out or Partner Follows with Highest Missing Card.
    1. Most common in the trump suit.
    2. Example:  Partner follows low once under Declarer’s A and then plays the Q under Declarer’s K.  Partner should have _______ remaining in the suit.
  7. Inferences
    1. Declarer fails to attack a near ________ suit in the dummy.  Examples:  AQJxx, KQJxx.  The missing honor is probably with ____________ .
    2. Positional holding in front of or behind dummy.  Example: Dummy has AQJxx in a suit.  If you have K10xx you will get _____ tricks.  If you have xxx declarer will likely get ______ tricks.

Why This Is Important

If you can do this you will know what your strategy should be if you get in.  If you know declarer is short a trick or more then you play __________.  However, if declarer has established all of their tricks using three suits it is imperative that you switch to the ________ suit.