Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too deep into Pinochle here, I just wanted to point out a few neat little tricks you can use to try to beat the declarer. You won’t be able to use these all the time, or even every game, but when the opportunity comes up it’s nice to have them in your bag of tricks. Pun intended!
The Ace on Ace maneuver – This is a handy little trick that isn’t complicated at all and is automatic in a lot of situations. But a lot of people don’t know about it, and it can surprise people who haven’t seen it before. Let’s say your fellow defender leads the A♣, and you have the following Clubs to choose from:
Of course you want to help partner by putting on a counter, but instead of dropping the King, put your Ace on it! This lets your fellow defender know that you have at least one Ten and that he should play Clubs again on the next trick. If you don’t he might switch suits or play a low Club into you, both of which are undesirable. Remember that all counters are equal and that your fellow defender is a temporary partner, so don’t feel bad about giving up the Ace. If he comes back with a Club you will get your Ten, and if it gets trumped you were bound to lose it anyway.
Leading through declarer – Of course you know that leading a Queen of trump into declarer is almost always a good play. But in some rare cases it can be a good (even necessary) play to lead a King through declarer!
My grandpa told me about a hand where he was defending against a declarer that needed only a few tricks (8 or 9) to make it. Pa had the following trump:
He reasoned that declarer must have a really weak hand to be playing out for 8 or 9 tricks (if had a cinch he would have just showed it; they played each hand individually), so he might not have the other A♠. He played the K♠ into him! Declarer had to put his 10♠ on it and the other defender won it with the Ace. That was enough to barely defeat the contract. The declarer was really annoyed afterward and accused Pa of looking at his hand, and said he wouldn’t have done that unless he knew what he had. But Pa stuck to his guns, saying he knew it was the only chance they had, and that if declarer had the other Ace he was probably going to make the contract anyway.
This is something that comes up pretty rarely, but is shows the thinking process that goes through a good defender’s mind and can be applied to many other games.
Getting out of the way – This last trick is a little more involved than the others but also the most valuable. Let’s say declarer melds the following (Spades are trump):
You can see what’s going to happen during the play: declarer is going to try to establish his Diamonds by playing them whenever he leads. If you have the following hand:
you’re going to end up trumping a lot of Diamonds. Declarer will play them, your fellow defender will be able to win some tricks with his higher Diamonds, and then you’ll have to trump in. That’s a waste because your side has already won the trick. What you should do instead is get out of the way as soon as you can.
Let’s say declarer leads out with the A♦ and you put your 9♦ on it. Declarer comes out with the other 9♦, the other defender puts the K♦ on and you trump with your K♠. You should immediately play your A♠ and after winning that trick play your last trump, the 9♠. Now when declarer plays his Diamonds instead of being forced to trump partner’s good tricks you can put a counter on, like the K♥ or 10♣. Those were counters that were probably going to go to the declarer and now you’ll be able to slough them off to your partner. It’s a very effective way of getting extra tricks, but it can only be done under certain circumstances; you need to have not too many trump, not very many of declarer’s secondary suit, and some counters in the other two suits to slough. In the example hand if you didn’t have very many Club or Heart counters getting out of the way wouldn’t be worth it.
Like I said, these little tricks won’t come up all the time, but often enough that being aware of them is worthwhile. And when you do get to pull one off it’s a big thrill; it took me years to understand how getting out of the way worked, but once I did it was pretty fun to put into play. I considered learning it my “final graduation” from Pa’s school of Pinochle mastery.