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Proper Play Depends on Scoring

  by Richard Pavlicek

The card-play strategy at bridge varies according to the method of scoring being used. At matchpoint duplicate bridge, every single trick is important because a player’s score is compared with everyone else who plays that deal. At rubber bridge, however, the only concern for declarer is making his contract; overtricks are of little value. For the most part, the latter is also true at IMPs (international matchpoints). Today’s deal illustrates these two different strategies.

When this deal occurred at rubber bridge, the bidding was straightforward. North’s major-suit opening promised five cards; South made a forcing jump response of two notrump; and North continued to game. The bidding should be same at matchpoint duplicate, or any other form of scoring.

3 NT South
N-S Vul
S A J 2
H K Q 9 8 2
D K 4 3
C 3 2

1 H
3 NT
2 NT
S 10 7 6 5 3
H 7 5 4
D J 9
C K J 5
TableS K 8
H A 6 3
D 10 8 7 2
C Q 10 9 6

Lead: S 5
S Q 9 4
H J 10
D A Q 6 5
C A 8 7 4

West led his fourth-best spade and declarer played low from dummy, losing to East’s king. The club 10 was returned and now declarer was in trouble. He tried his best by holding up the club ace until the third round, but this proved fruitless. East gained the lead with the heart ace and cashed the setting trick in clubs.

Did you spot the error? Declarer could have ensured his contract at trick one by rising with the spade ace and leading hearts. The spade queen and jack would provide a second stopper in that suit and, most important, the club suit could not be attacked before dummy’s hearts were established. This play is correct at rubber bridge.

Declarer’s actual play would have been correct (though unfortunate) at matchpoint duplicate. The odds favored that West held the spade king (since it was likely he was leading his longest suit), and the chance for two precious overtricks should be taken — even at the risk of being defeated.

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© 1985 Richard Pavlicek