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Scheming For a Top Board

Today’s deal is another to illustrate the strategy of winning at matchpoint duplicate bridge. Put yourself in the South seat and see if you meet the test.

4 H S A 6 4 3
H K 8 4 3
D 8 4 2
C K 5
N-S Vul

West

Pass
All Pass


North

3 H


East

Pass


South
1 H
4 H
S J 10 9 7
H J
D A Q 6 3
C J 8 7 6
Table S Q 5
H Q 2
D J 10 9 7 5
C Q 10 4 3
Lead: S J S K 8 2
H A 10 9 7 6 5
D K
C A 9 2

The bidding employs a popular, modern treatment. North’s jump to three hearts is a limit raise (10-12 points) inviting game, and South is happy to accept with his attractive hand.

After West leads the spade jack, how would you play? At total-point scoring you should be concerned only with making the contract; but at matchpoints you should be scheming: “How can I fool these opponents and steal a trick for a top board?” Average scores just won’t hack it. To be a winner, you must seek opportunities to beat the field.

One possibility is to lead a diamond from dummy at some point, hoping that East has the ace and plays low; then you’ll win your singleton king. Not bad, but there is a better scheme.

If the enemy spades break 3-3, dummy’s fourth spade will provide a discard for your diamond king, provided the opponents do not cash the diamond ace when they win a spade trick. Therefore, I would give up a spade trick at a clandestine time — like right now. Duck the spade jack. West would have to be psychic to lay down the diamond ace, so assume he leads another spade to your king.

Since the spades do not break 3-3, this line of play appears to be in vain. Not at all. Now you apply the pressure. Draw trumps in two rounds, ruff your club loser in dummy, and lead all your trumps. Dummy’s last two cards will be the ace-six in spades; you will have a spade and the diamond king; and West… oh, poor West, he had to throw away his diamond ace to keep two spades.

Postmortem: A clever East player could have saved his partner by overtaking the spade jack with the queen; then if you duck, he could shift to a diamond to put an end to your scheming ways.

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© 2-4-1990 Richard Pavlicek