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What is the true value of a card? - Diamond article

What is the true value of a card?

When we first begin playing bridge, we naturally assume that the value in a card is how high it is. The higher the card, the more valuable it is. Later, we learn that consecutive cards have equal value. Our 9 can be just as powerful as our A, if we have all the cards between them.

We move away from our original thinking of a card’s value is strictly in how high it is and shift to realizing that a card’s strength is in its ability to take a trick. After all, the 2 of diamonds can be more powerful than the K of clubs if the 2 can take a trick and the K cannot.

This shift in thought marks a powerful moment in our bridge career. Thinking of a card in terms of what it can do for us (take tricks) versus just how high it is means we are no longer a beginner.

It is these moments that allow us to make leaps forward in our knowledge and skill. Having the right perspective allows us to learn faster and to apply our tools more efficiently.

There is yet another shift that needs to be made when considering the value of a card. Rather than just looking at its trick taking potential, we need to consider all of the things a card can do for us.

It might seem that the best thing a card can do is take a trick, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, we have a better use for a card. If we can see the value of a card beyond how high it is and its ability to take a trick, we can make the best possible use of it.

Consider the following hand:

image1 3.jpeg

You are in 4s in the South. Your LHO (West) has helpfully led the 5 of diamonds. You play low from dummy, winning the Q in your hand. You play the A and K of spades, drawing all the trump. Now, you lead the J of hearts. West ducks the first trick, so you lead the T of hearts. This time, West takes the trick and leads the J of clubs. East wins the A of clubs and leads the 8 of diamonds, you win the A.

This is what the hand looks like now:

image1 5.jpeg

What do you do? Take a moment and think about that. I’ll give you a little bit of space. Scroll down when you’re ready.

More specifically, what do you do with the K of clubs? The K of clubs is now the high club. You can lead it and win the trick with it. Do you? Or is there a better use for this card?

This moment illustrates how important it is to be thinking of losers on a trump hand. If we count losers on the North hand now, we see that we only have 1 loser, the 4 of diamonds.

So, when we are thinking about what we are going to do with the K of clubs, what we are really thinking about is: How can this K of clubs help me with my diamond loser?

Have you come up with the answer yet? I’ll give you some more space, scroll down when you are ready.

Taking a trick with the K of clubs will not help us with the diamond loser. Even if we discard a diamond from dummy on the K of clubs, we still have the same diamond loser. But, the K of clubs can do something very important for us, it can get us to dummy.

Lead the K of clubs and trump it. Now lead the K or Q of hearts and discard the losing diamond from your hand. The true value of the K of clubs is not how high it is. It is not even its ability to take a trick. We don’t need it to take a trick. The true value in the K of clubs is what it can do for us to help us with this diamond loser. It can get us to dummy if we trump it.

Bonus question: How could the defense have held this contract to 4? (Scroll down for the answer.)

A lot of times, the tactics we need to use as a defender come from the tactics the declarer needs to use. What do I mean by that? Look at this hand. How does the declarer make 5? She sets up her hearts and discards a diamond. The defense should always be taking a club trick and a heart trick (though they can lose out on the club trick if they don't take it before the hearts become good). The trick the defense needs to work for is the diamond trick. Notice the symetry there. For declarer to make 5, she has to discard a diamond. For the defense to hold her to 4, they have to get their diamond trick.

Which begs the question, how do they do that? They need to create a diamond trick before the hearts are good. Which means that the defense has to get the A of diamonds to play before declarer takes control. Once declarer takes control, she will draw trump and lead hearts. It will now be too late to generate a diamond trick if declarer still has the A.

West cannot lead diamonds or South will win the Q and still have the A. Therefore East must be leading diamonds. How do we get East on lead before letting South on lead? West has to lead a club on the opening lead. East wins the A and leads a diamond. If South takes the finesse, West gets his K of diamonds. If South refuses the finesse, she is now vulnerable in diamonds and when West wins the A of hearts, she can take her diamond trick.

Should the defense have found this line of play? I think it's a reasonable line of play. But analyzing the mechanics of it afterwards, whether it was discoverable or not helps us learn for the future.

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