Play Basics: Setting Up Long Suits

By Kitty & Steve Cooper

One of the ways to develop tricks is to set up a long suit. If you have an eight card or longer fit in a suit, all you need is a fairly even break to set up tricks there. For example, if you have A5432 opposite 876, you can duck two tricks. Then if the suit has split 3-2 the ace will take the last high one that the opponents have and the two remaining small ones will be winners. Thus you get three tricks from this suit with very few high cards. Length matters!

An easier one to visualize is when you are in 3NT and dummy puts down a side suit of AKxxxx opposite your doubleton. Here you have to duck a trick to get the five tricks you are entitled to when the suit splits 3-2.

What if dummy has seven of them, so AKxxxxx and you have a doubleton? In an earlier article in this series we discussed some probabilities in the article titled "Percentages". You mainly need to know that when you are missing an odd number of cards, such as five, the most even break is very likely (about two thirds of the time). On the other hand, when you are missing an even number, such as six, the even break occurs less than half the time. The 4-2 split is much more likely than the 3-3. In our case dummy has seven cards and you have a doubleton, so the remaining four cards are more likely to be 3-1 than 2-2. So if you need only six tricks and have no entry outside of dummy’s seven card suit it is best to duck once to guarantee six tricks whether the opponents cards split 2-2 or 3-1 (if they split 4-0 you are very unlucky; don’t play bridge for money!). Caveat: If you cannot afford to let the opponents in to cash their winners then you have to play for the 2-2 split.

You can also combine finessing with setting up a long suit. If dummy has K5432 opposite your 876 you should lead toward the king twice, expecting three tricks if the ace is onside and two otherwise (as long as you have an entry to dummy).

Another combination play is when you can ruff a suit good. Suppose you have a six card side suit of Axxxxx opposite a singleton in a trump contract. If you have enough trumps and entries you can ruff three times to set up the last two small cards. This will work whenever the suit is 4-2 or 3-3, an excellent chance (about 82%).

If you count your tricks when dummy comes down and you do not have enough to make your contract you should look to see if there is a suit you can set up to get to the desired number of tricks.


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