5.2 Rules and Advice in Null Games

In this game, the Soloist may take no tricks. Winning even one trick means an immediate loss and the cards are re-shuffled and dealt again.

5.2.1 The Soloist

The decision for the Soloist is quite simple. When leading to the first trick, he or she should select a safe card. If several cards of a suit are held, one must be sure that the remaining cards are secure after the first one is led. The Soloist must assume that the Defenders will play their highest cards to the trick. A lead of a 7 by the Soloist requires the Defenders to take the trick, so they might as well do so with their highest cards.

The Soloist is still required to follow suit, however. When unable to follow suit, you should throw off from the least secure suit. What "least secure" means has already been more fully explained in Chapter 3.5 "Criteria for a Null Game."

When following, the Soloist should choose the highest card held that is still lower than the highest card already played.

Example:
The Soloist holds the Club 7, 9, and Jack. The Club 10 has been led. Following the rule above, play the 9. It would be wrong to play the Jack because the Soloist will take the trick and lose if the Club 8 is held by the other Defender. The Club 7 is not correct either because the 9 would then becore vulnerable should the 8 not be played.

5.2.2 The Defenders

What should the individual defenders do? Let's begin with a simple "ouvert" game. The Defenders see the cards of the Soloist right away and can focus on their considerations. Which suit is vulerable? Who must throw off what and in which sequence must the cards be played for the win?

Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb since what must be played depends heavily on how the cards are divided. Nevertheless, the following example should clarify things somewhat.

Soloist:

Miller:

Meyer:

The Soloist plays Null ouvert and Miller must lead. The only weak spot for the Soloist is Hearts. All of the other suits are absolutely secure. Playing the Hearts out straightaway will not work because Miller has only high cards. The only thing that will work is for her to throw off the Hearts.

How does this work?

The Spades must be used. Thus, Miller first leads a Diamond in order to give Meyer the lead. Meyer plays his Ace, wins the trick, and leads Spades two times. Since Miller cannot follow the Spade leads, she throws off her two Hearts. Meyer then leads his Heart 8 and Heart 9 and the Soloist loses taking the Heart 9 with his Heart 10.

It goes somewhat differently with a normal Null game. Exact calculations are not possible as they were with the "Ouvert" game. The Soloist probably has a weak point (since he's not playing Ouvert), usually a single 9. One of the defenders should first lead cards from the shortest suit (often a suit with only two cards) so that the partner will know better which suits are short. The other defender can then analyze carefully whether the Soloist might also have a weak point in this suit. If so, then then continue leading this suit. If not, try another short suit and give your partner a chance to analyze things with your short suit.

If this sounds a little abstract, consider this example played with the same cards as before (but not Ouvert).

Meyer (now in Forehand) leads his single Club King. Miller takes the trick with her Club Ace and, seeing that the Soloist has played the Club 7, figures that the Defenders cannot win with Clubs. She leads her Heart Queen which Miller takes with his Heart Ace. The example then continues with Spades followed by the Heart 8 and 9 and before. With luck, the Soloist will be forced to take a trick on the lead of the Heart 9.

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