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The reason you play in a trump contract, rather than a notrump contract which scores 10 points more for the same number of tricks, is that you want to use your trumps to win extra tricks.

  • Trumps act as stoppers. You can ruff the opponents' winners.
  • Trumps can provide extra tricks by ruffing your losers.
    • Typically ruffs in the short hand provide extra tricks.
      If you have AKQJT opposite 987, you have 5 trump tricks in the long hand. Any ruff in the short hand provides an extra trick. To score a 6th trick by ruffing in the long hand, you need to ruff 3 times in the long hand. That is called a dummy reversal.

  • If you have a lot of winners and stoppers, you may be better off playing in notrump because you don’t have losers to ruff and don’t need trump to act as a stopper.

When in a trump contract, you typically want to draw trump. When the opening lead is made and dummy is tabled, you should take a minute to plan your play. Part of the planning is determining whether there is a reason to delay drawing trump. Potential reasons include:

  1. Need to discard a loser
  2. Need to ruff losers in the short hand
  3. Want to use trumps as entries
  4. Need to sever communication
  5. Planning a cross-ruff
  6. Need trump to act as a stopper
  7. Want to lead trump from the right side

Here are a couple examples:

  1. You need to ruff some losers and cannot afford to draw some or all of the trump first. If you need to lose the lead before ruffing, you must consider the defenders may try to draw your trump.
    e.g. playing 2♠ with ♠AK987 A43J76 ♣A5 opposite ♠Q43 98 KQ2 ♣Q9876, you may want to delay drawing trump in order to ruff the 3rd round of hearts.

  2. The defenders have a suit to run, and you need trump to act as a stopper. You can work on establishing your tricks in the side suits before drawing trump.
    e.g. playing 4♠ with ♠KQ9872 AK6 87 ♣K5 opposite ♠J43 987 AK3 ♣QJT9. On a heart lead, you don’t have time to draw trump and knockout the club Ace. To avoid a heart loser, you should knockout the club Ace before drawing trump.  This allows you to discard a heart loser on a club winner. 

Related articles:

  • In his "Draw Trump in Dummy - Yes" article, Andrew Robson discusses how ruffing in the short hand provides extra tricks, using a Loser on Loser play to avoid a defensive overruff, and how the defense can use trump leads to reduce ruffing power when declarer needs to ruff in the short hand.