Pauses at Trick One

By David Stevenson, Merseyside and Ian Spoors, Newcastle upon Tyne

When we learnt, we were taught to take some time at trick one to plan our play of the hand. This is before playing a card from dummy. Why? To make sure that we do have a plan, and the card dummy plays at trick one may be an important part of it. But there is another good reason. If we do our planning now, the opponents can draw no conclusions about our hand and we can hope to maintain a steady tempo throughout the rest of the hand. If we don't stop to think until we hit the problem that we knew was coming, it makes life much easier for astute defenders.

What's right for declarer is right for defenders as well. If third in hand takes time to plan his defence as a whole - even if he knows now what he is going to play to trick one - declarer can draw no conclusions. And this applies even if declarer played a card from dummy immediately: third in hand has a right to his thinking time.
If you and your partner can't play at an even tempo later in the hand, you are not only giving declarer information that he may use, you are also giving the same information to partner - which he may not use. Breaks in tempo give ethical partners all sorts of problems. Even when third in hand does not have much to contribute to the defence, thinking at trick one gives partner some thinking time, which he may need.

The message is clear: whatever your hand, declarer or defender, take a bit of thinking time at trick one.