Introduction to an Endplay

Players at most levels have experienced an endplay, and have often even heard the term thrown around. Generally when a defender gets endplayed, you can tell by the level of discomfort and squirming as they try as they might to find some way out of it. Alas! There is often no way out of it.

When you are endplayed, there is often no way around it; there is usually no reasonable way to avoid it. What a powerful play! Let’s introduce a fundamental endplay technique, for when a contract SEEMS impossible to make, but in reality, it is makable. Endplays are an intermediate+ concept, but players with less experience may find this interesting, at the very least to assuage your misery when you are endplayed by an opponent, as you will understand there was really nothing you could have done to avoid it.

For this basic endplay, you need a lot of trumps in both hands – generally at least a 5-4 trump fit, or perhaps 5-5. Your basic premise is to FORCE the opponents to play a suit that you don’t want to play. Their only other option would be to give a ruff/sluff, also giving you the contract.

Take the following pair of hands:

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 6.29.29 PM.png

We land on our feet in 4in the East. We have no information from our opponents on the auction. South leads the ♣T – we have to make our first assumption. Does South have the ♣K after he leads the Ten? Nope. So, we count 1 club loser.

The red suits are looking solid, so we look to spades for losers there. The spades are what is known as a “frozen suit” – the first side (defenders OR declarer/dummy) to lead this suit takes one fewer trick in the suit than if the other side broke open the suit. This takes some logic-ing, but if you think critically, you will see that if declarer leads spades himself, we will often lose the ♠A, ♠K, and ♠10. If the defense leads spades from either North or South hand, we can play second hand low to force one of the big honors, then only lose the ♠A and ♠K.

So, to recap: As East (declarer), we have one club and three spade losers – one too many! Try to put on your thinking cap and see how we may play to FORCE the defenders to give us a trick, either by leading spades, or by giving us a ruff/sluff late in the hand.

One you have a plan, see below for the solution.

To set up this type of endplay, you need to have trumps in both hands, and void in as many side suits as possible in both hands. So, the opponents lead a club. We already established that North holds the ♣K, so there is no sense in ducking this. Win the ♣Ace in dummy. Now, pull 2-3 rounds of trumps, depending on if trumps split 2-2 or 3-1. The endplay does not work if trumps break 4-0. We NEED to have 1+ trump left in both hands.

Now, cash your three top diamond tricks. The N/S hands now have no more trumps, and if they lead a diamond, it would give us a ruff/sluff. We come to the following position:


Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 6.24.04 PM.png

Now, LET the opponents have their club trick. See the position below, with NORTH on lead after winning ♣K:

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 6.24.16 PM.png

With this play, we are voiding both the E/W hands of clubs, so:

  • If North leads a diamond OR a club, we get to shed a spade loser from the East hand and ruff in dummy (a ruff/sluff). Now we only lose 2 spades and 1 club trick.
  • If North leads a spade, we established that we can play second-hand-low and again only ever lose 2 spades and 1 club trick to make 4.

Congratulations — you just survived a tough contract!

— Julie Arbit


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