5.1 Rules and Guidelines with Grand and Suit Games

5.1.1 Soloist

For the Soloist there are really two main strategies. One either already holds a long trump suit and bids on that basis or one depends on good side-suit cards.

In the first case, one must pull trump and continue to make trump leads until the opponents have none left. Holding the three highest Jacks, for example, one would lead them one after another. In this case, it might be good strategy to lead with the Heart Jack. When sure trump winners are missing, one can't lead from the top down. Here, a better strategy is to lead low following the rule, "Small fish can catch big ones." This also generally works well unless most of the remaining trump are held by one of the opponents in which case one would probably have heard "double" and would have to play more carefully. If the outstanding trumps are not evenly divided, then there are good possibilities for the player lacking trump to smear, i.e., play high counting cards to tricks won by the other opponent. Another difficult possibility is that opponents can lead cards that force you as Soloist to trump thus depleting your hand of trump cards. In the end, the opponent holding several trump may have more than the Soloist and even lead them weakening the Soloist's hand further.

In the second case, the Soloist would initially lead the side suits (not trump), first the Aces then the 10s. With luck, all these cards will go through and the game may already be won before any trump are played.

Finding yourself in Middlehand so that another player plays before and after you, you should always try to win the trick with a safe card.

The decision of whether to underplay or not is important only when playing the last card of a trick. Normally, this is a question of possibly catching a 10. Suppose that you hold the Ace and King of a suit and the opponents lead a 9 followed by the partner's Queen. One could first win the trick with the King and then immediately re-lead the Ace. With a little luck, the 10 will fall. But, consider carefully whether you want to take this risk because it may well be that one of the opponents will be out of the suit and can trump your Ace. It's also important to know how many card points you already have won. If you are missing only the last 11 or fewer, then you would never underplay the Ace. On the other hand, if you are certain that the opponents are out of trump, then there is no risk to underplaying the Ace and you have only to gain since the trick is secure.

The Soloist must also consider what to do when he or she is out of the suit that is led. If opponents lead a high-counting card (e.g., an Ace), then one would play a trump. This might not pay for a trick containing few card points in which case one might simply throw off a card from another suit.

Example: The opponents have played the Club Queen and 9. The Soloist lacks Clubs, but holds a single Spade (non Trump) Queen. It this case, it makes sense to give up the Queen's three points, voiding the Spade suit with the possibility of trumping the Club Ace and 10 later. Holding onto the Spade Queen could mean a loss of 24 points, if the Ace and 10 are both played on a trick and the Soloist must follow suit.

5.1.2 The Opponents (Defenders)

What's the best strategy for the defensive partners when they lead? This is not an easy question to answer. It depends heavily on where one sits relative to the Soloist. We consider first what a defender sitting in Forehand should lead when the Soloist is in Middlehand (i.e., the Defender leads a card and the Soloist plays the second card to the trick). The partner, then, plays the last card in the trick.

The beginner should follow the rules, "Long route, short suit" and "Short route, long suit." Route means "distance" to the Soloist. With the Soloist in Middlehand, the route is short and the Defender should lead the from longest suit that he or she holds. The reason for this is that probability is highest (since only a few cards are not held by the leader) that the partner will be out of the suit. The partner in Rearhand can then react to the card played by the Soloist. Either Rearhand must follow suit, and gives up the fewest card points possible, or has the opportunity to trump or overtrump should the Soloist play a card higher than the one led. This situation allows the defenders to optimize their decisions.

It's a somewhat different situation when the Soloist is in Rearhand. In this case, the opponents have already played their cards to a trick and the Soloist can figure how best to react without worrying about the cards that follow. Because of this, the defenders should always try to keep the Soloist in the middle position. In this way, the Soloist is always "in the dark" about the last card that will be played in the trick. If the Soloist is already in Rearhand, then the defender in Forehand should follow the rule above, "Long route, short suit," that is, play from the shortest suit so that the partner can try to take the trick.

Some defenders lead trump right away, but only if they hold only one. This lets their partner know that they have no more trump in their hand and enables a calculation of how the remaining ones must be divided.

How does one respond to a lead made by one's defensive partner? If the partner's card is already winning the trick, one would generally contribute a card with the highest point value. When holding the Ace of the suit led and knowing that the 10 sits elsewhere, one must consider underplaying as already described in the chapter on the Soloist.

The most important thing for all players, however, is to keep close track of which cards have already been played, who is out of which suits, and how many cards points one has already collected. Only by doing this can one correctly evaluate whether taking a risk is worth it or whether one has already won.

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