Bridge players are constantly urged to count losing tricks in a suit contract. If there aren’t enough to set the contract, by all means draw trump and cash your sure tricks.

But what if there appear to be too many losers? Don’t panic. There may be ways to eliminate one or more losers before your opponents can cash the setting trick. Here South is dealing, with no one vulnerable:

                      ♠Q 10 6 4
                      ♥ A 8 7
                      ♦A J 8
                      ♣K 6 5

WEST                                 EAST
♠ A 7                                   ♠ 9 8
♥ K Q J 2                            ♥10 9 3
♦ 4 3 2                                 ♦Q 10 9 5
♣ J 9 4 3                              ♣10 8 7 2

                    ♠K J 5 3 2
                    ♥6 5 4
                    ♦K 7 6
                    ♣ A Q

The bidding proceeded as follows:
South         West         North         East
1♠              Pass          2NT•          Pass
4♠ ••          All Pass

• 4+ spade support, opening dummy values
•• Minimal opening hand

Opening lead: ♥K

From the looks of things, it appears North-South may have four losers: one spade, two hearts and a diamond if the finesse loses. Is there any way to make the diamond loser disappear?

Yes. Let’s start with trick one. Win the opening lead and cash the ace-queen of clubs. Now lead trump. West will win, cash two hearts and possibly exit safely with a trump. Now here’s the “aha” moment. Don’t take the diamond finesse! Finish drawing trump, winning the second one on the board, cash the club king, discarding what would have been a diamond loser, and claim.

Among the most common ways to eliminate losers is by ruffing or, in this case, discarding. Take a long look at the board to count your losers, and then devise a strategy before playing to trick one.

Sitting South, with South dealing and both sides vulnerable, you hold:

♠8 4
♥10 8 7
♦A K 6 5 3
♣K 7 6

The bidding has proceeded as follows:

South         West          North         East
Pass            Pass          1♣•            Pass
1♦               Pass          1 ♥             Pass

• Could be as short as two cards

What do you bid?

A.— Resist the temptation to bid 2♣ (I speak from bitter experience with this hand at the Bridge Club of Martha’s Vineyard). You can’t bid 1NT with those lousy spades, and if you raise hearts, you’ll be dealing with a seven-card trump suit. Players are urged not to rebid five-card suits, but I think 2 ♦ is the safest course here. And it will make.