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Copyright 2003 by John Strichman (all rights reserved)

John Strichman is the author of
by JohnGalt Strichman

Valley Publishing - Boulder, Colorado


This is the tenth (and designated last) hand of a tournament game.

Score: Your Team 477
Opps 453

    North 2      
West 3         East 3  
    SOUTH 3

2 5 A
4 6 J
3 7 K
2 5 Q A
On the first trick, West leads the 3 of Clubs… your partner plays the 6… and East plays the Jack.

What card should you play?

If you do not win the trick with the Queen, you are making a mistake.


On the last hand of a game, when you will win the game even if you incur a bag penalty, if you do not attempt to win every trick that you can until your team has made its bid, you are needlessly getting set, and you and your pard are losing more Spades games than you should.

Before playing your first card on any last hand, you should determine under which possible outcomes on the hand your team will win the game, and under which possible outcomes it will lose. Specifically, this means identifying which of the teams will win the game under each of the 14 different outcomes that are possible on every hand.

The 14 possible outcomes are defined by the 14 different total numbers of tricks that your team can win on the hand (0, 1, 2, .....11, 12, or 13 tricks). Only by knowing how your team will fare under each of these possible scenarios is it possible to arrive at the proper playing strategy on any last hand. This process is not nearly as difficult as it may first appear, and in the above example is performed as follows:

On this hand, since you have the Ace of Spades, you need only consider the effect of your team taking anywhere between 1 and 13 tricks.

The opponents have bid 6 and can take as many as 12 tricks without suffering a bag penalty… bagging for them does not enter the picture on this hand.

If your team gets set on the hand, it will wind up with 477 - 50 = 427 points. If you get set, by definition the opponents will make their bid and wind up with 453 + 60 = 513 plus some irrelevant number of bag points. Getting set, that is taking 1, 2, 3, or 4 tricks on the hand, will cause your team to lose the game.

If both teams make their bids, the score will be 477 + 50 = 527 for your team and 453 + 60 = 513 points for the pones, with 2 irrelevant bag points going to one or both of the teams. If both teams make their bids, you will win the game.

On the other hand, what will happen if your team wins enough tricks to incur a bag penalty? Your team would have to win 8 or more tricks in order to get bagged. If this happens, the opponents will win 5 or fewer tricks and get set (you may have forgotten, but this is the reason why you bid 3 rather than 2 when you were the last player to bid… very smart!).

If your team bags with 8 tricks, it will wind up with 477 + 53 = 530 minus 100 bag penalty points = 430 points. At the same time, the opponents will get set and wind up with 453 - 60 = 393 points. If you bag, you will still win the game.

This analysis shows that the only way for your team to lose the game is to get set on its bid. You can lose by not taking enough tricks, but you can not lose by taking too many tricks.

Therefore, the obvious playing strategy in this situation is to try to win as many tricks as you can from the get go, and keep trying to win tricks until your bid is made and you have insured victory in the game.

This means that you should win the first trick with your Queen of Clubs, and then try to win the next trick by leading your Ace of Clubs. With this approach, it is almost guaranteed that your team will win its required 5 tricks and win the game.

Remember, whenever bagging is not a concern for your team on the last hand of a game, obey the no dumping sign, and save and use all of your high cards to win as many tricks as you can as early in the hand as you can. In these situations, no dumping results in no losing at spades.


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