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Understanding the ‘ruff and discard’

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Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3

One of the most important plays in bridge to understand is the “ruff and discard”. That usually happens when a defender leads a suit where you have none in either hand and both declarer and dummy have trumps – this allows declarer to ruff in one hand and discard a loser from the other, a play that is usually very advantageous for declarer and bad for the defence.

So if you are defending, avoid giving declarer a ruff and discard at all costs – as you get more “expert” you will see a few situations where giving a ruff and discard can’t hurt, but those are few and far between.

Given the above , declarer should try and engineer situations where the defence is forced into a bad play in order to avoid giving a ruff and discard, and with all that in mind take a look at today’s hand (Figure 1).

You are playing Teams (where making the contract is all that counts) and arrive in the small slam in spades, so 12 tricks is your objective – West leads the club queen.

The hand looks hopeful – the heart finesse, where West must have the Queen is 50 per cent and if that fails you can still guess who has the queen of diamonds, another 50 per cent chance, so the odds of you making the hand by trying both those finesses is 75 per cent: 50 per cent + 50 per cent of the other 50 per cent!

But of course you know that I am going to tell you to avoid the finesses as I usually do !

The hand is actually a stone cold 100 per cent make – win the club, draw trumps, cash the other club (crucial) and now play the Ace and King of hearts. If the queen drops (unlikely) that is wonderful and you can now guess the diamonds for an overtrick.

Assuming however that the queen does not drop this is the position (see Figure 2).

All you have to do now is exit with the heart and the defence is dead – they either have to lead a diamond and find the queen for you or lead another suit and allow you to ruff in one hand and discard a diamond from the other, either one giving you your contract.

This is called an elimination play and notice how crucial it was to cash the other club so as to not leave the defence with a safe exit.

Again , many times you have to give up tricks to gain tricks –here is another example (Figure 3).

You are in four spades, all the opponents trumps have gone and you have lost one trick, so you can lose two more but not three. I know what most players would do here – they will try and play on clubs in the hope of finding the jack and will probably go down, all because they hate giving up a trick, even ones that are unavoidable!

All that is needed here is to recognise that a diamond loser is inevitable, so simply play Ace King and another diamond – the defence are in and either have to lead a club solving your problem or…… give you a ruff and discard, also solving your problem.

Take a good look at these, as elimination plays will gain you bushels of points.

Now, before I end , go back to the first hand and ask yourself how you would play this at Pairs where overtricks are gold – do you make the “Teams” play and guarantee the contract or do you get greedy and play West for the heart queen and then try and guess diamonds for the overtrick?

Much will depend on when this hand turns up and how desperately you need a big result….for me, I would go to make the contract for two reasons – firstly, a making slam will never be a bad score and secondly, perhaps more importantly, going down will be a real morale killer for you and partner. And making the wrong choice in diamonds could be whirring about that little head of yours for the rest of the evening, and that is never a good thing!

In closing , we received the hugely sad news that the wonderful Peter Rodger, a friend of the Bridge Club and husband of our own Louise Rodger, passed away after a long , tough fight with illness, during which he won some battles.

Peter was always pleasant and polite with a ready smile, but with a twinkle and a mischievous sense of humour, and never anything but a real gentleman.

He will be missed by all of us who were lucky to know him, and our thoughts go out to Louise, who supported him so strongly throughout his battle, and the rest of the family.


Friday, November 6


1. Richard Gray - Wendy Gray

2. 2= Betsy Baillie - George Correia

2= Gertrude Barker - Magda Farag


1. Aida Bostelmann - Heather Woolf

2. Martha Ferguson - Judy King

3. Judith Bussell - Molly Taussig

Monday, November 9


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2. Lynanne Bolton - Allyson Eadie

3. Sheena Rayner - Magda Farag


1. Elizabeth McKee - Stephanie Kyme

2. Jane Clipper - Caroline Svensen

3. Martha Ferguson - Judy King

Tuesday, November 10 <149

1. Tim Mardon - Jean Schilling

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3. Duncan Silver - Marion Silver

Wednesday, November 11


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2. Sheena Rayner - Magda Farag

3. Michael Tait - Jane Clipper


1. Rachael Gosling - Delton Outerbridge

2. Greta Marshall - Lynanne Bolton

3. Gertrude Barker - Jane Smith

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Published November 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 13, 2020 at 9:23 pm)

Understanding the ‘ruff and discard’

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