A Loser on Loser play swaps a loser in one suit for a loser in another suit in order to increase the safety of the contract.
Reasons for a Loser on Loser play include:
- To allow a safe ruff to produce an extra trick
- To allow a safe re-entry
- To prevent an overruff
- To prevent the dangerous opponent from gaining the lead
- To establish tricks in the suit led
- To help establish a side suit
- To avoid being tapped and losing control of the hand
- To execute an end play
- To rectify the count for a squeeze
Loser on Loser plays are easy to execute. The key is to recognize the opportunity for a Loser on Loser play. Part of planning the play of the hand is counting your quick losers (tricks the defenders can win immediately) and count your slow losers (tricks the defenders can potentially win, but are not yet available to them). When counting losers, declarer should consider whether there is an advantage to swapping a loser in one suit for a loser in the other suit. If the swapping losers benefits a goal listed above, consider using a Loser on Loser play. Here are a couple of examples.
Loser on Loser Play to Prevent an Overruff
West leads the ♦King against your 4♠ contract. East unblocks by playing the ♦Ace and leading a 2nd round of diamonds. West wins and leads a high diamond.
Declarer has 9 winners: 6♠ + 1♥ + 2♣. Declarer has already lost 2 diamond tricks and has a club loser. West's Weak 2♦ opening suggests a 6-card diamond suit. So declarer expects East to be out of diamonds. If North ruffs, East will overruff for East-West's 3rd trick, and declarer still has a club loser.
Declarer can make 4♠ with a Loser on Loser play. Declarer discards North's club loser. This positions declarer to safely ruff a club for their 10th trick.
You can practice declaring this hand here.
A Loser on Loser Play to Retain Trump Control
West leads high hearts against South's 4♠ contract. If declarer ruffs, a 3-3 spade break, a 35.5% chance, is needed to make their contract. A Loser on Loser play allows declarer to handle a 4-2 break.
Declarer has 2 diamond losers. Instead of shortening their 4-card spade suit by ruffing, declarer discards a diamond loser on the 2nd and 3rd rounds of hearts. If East-West lead a 4th round of hearts, it can be ruffed in the short hand.
When declarer gains the lead, declarer draws trump and claims 10 tricks: 4♠ + 1♦ + 5♣.