A ruff and sluff occurs in a trump contract when a defender leads a side suit that declarer and dummy are both void in. If declarer and dummy both possess trumps, then one hand can ruff while the other hand "sluffs" (i.e. discards) a loser.

For example, assume that South plays in hearts in this 6-card ending, and West is on lead:

Dummy
532
KT5
--
--
WestEast
J876 AKQ
-- 2
93 54
-- --
South
ST94
J97
D--
C--


If West leads a spade, then the defense collects three spade tricks. However, if West leads a diamond, then South benefits from a ruff and sluff. The diamond is ruffed in one hand, and a spade sluffed from the other. South consequently loses only two spades.

A ruff and sluff can happen by:

  • A defensive error. The defenders fail to recognize that declarer and dummy are both void in a given suit.
  • An endplay by declarer. A defender is "thrown in" and forced to concede a ruff and sluff.
  • An intentional play by the defense for strategic purposes (rare). See: Husbands and Wives, an article about this kind of play.

See also

  • Coup En Passant
    A trump trick scored by ruffing a card "behind" a defender who holds a higher trump.

  • Crossruff
    A strategy of ruffing losers back and forth between declarer's hand and dummy.

  • Dummy Reversal
    A strategy in which declarer's long trumps are used for ruffing losers, and dummy's short trumps are used for drawing the opponents' trumps.

  • Ruffing Finesse
    A finesse of an enemy card (usually an honor) by threat of a ruff.

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