H.L. Hunt, a Texas oil tycoon who had three wives and 15 children, said, “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.”

That is a perfect mantra for a bridge player, especially a declarer in no-trump. After counting your top tricks, decide what you need – how many extra winners – and decide where you will get them. You will “exchange” the opponents’ winners while establishing tricks for yourself.

This deal occurred in a social game and highlighted how not to play.

North’s two-club rebid was New Minor Forcing. When South implied 2-5-2-4 distribution, North signed off in three no-trump.

South starts with six top tricks: two diamonds and four clubs. Normally, one would assume that the diamond queen was onside, but the auction made a diamond lead almost inevitable, whatever West’s holding in the suit.

Declarer should take the first trick in his hand and attack spades by leading low to dummy’s jack. Here, when that wins, South returns to his hand with a club and leads another spade. With this layout, overtricks pour in.

At the table, South won with dummy’s diamond jack, cashed his club winners, unblocked the diamond ace, played a spade to dummy’s king, took the diamond king (trick eight), and led a heart to the queen, king and ace. West cashed the spade acequeen and diamond queen, then led a heart to East’s jack for down one.

Establish winners first; top tricks won’t run away.

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