Main     Analyses 7S05 by Richard Pavlicek    

ACBL Instant MP Pairs

The 36 deals in this collection were played September 17, 1997 in the 11th annual “Instant Matchpoint” Pairs, a continent-wide event conducted by the American Contract Bridge League. The analyses were written by Richard Pavlicek and originally published in a souvenir booklet given to each participant after the game.

Regardless of whether you played in this event, these analyses provide instructive reading with many tips on bidding and play. To benefit even further, prepare these deals in duplicate boards (or have someone else do it) and play them. Determine your matchpoint scores from the tables (top is 100) then compare your bidding and play with my write-up.

Original Letter

July 9, 1997

Dear Bridge Players:

I hope you enjoyed playing in this event as much as I enjoyed writing about the many exciting deals. Try to find the time to read the analyses in this booklet, and have your convention card handy to compare the results. Who knows? You might even find that your bid or play was a spectacular success and mine failed.

Besides the analyses I have included some related sidelights in the boxed text at the bottom of each page, starting after Deal 7. This year I couldn’t come up with enough new bridge jokes (ha ha) so the themes are instructive or informative and pertain to one of the deals on the same page. I think you will find some helpful tips.

I also included a statistical analysis of the deals showing the average HCP and hand freakness for each player. (See the box after Deal 36.) This year East had the best in the way of high cards (10.44 average HCP per deal) and South had the best in the way of shape (3.22 average freakness). It is also worth mentioning that East-West outgunned North-South in total HCP, 750 to 690 — all you skeptics take note!

I welcome any feedback — questions, criticisms, or whatever — about the analyses. If you wish a reply, please contact me by e-mail (see address above). Also, if you have access to the Internet, check out my Worldwide Web site (see URL above) which has a variety of complimentary bridge material.

Richard Pavlicek

© 1997 Richard Pavlicek

TopMain

Board 1

North Deals
None Vul
S 7 5 2
H A K Q 8 2
D 10 8 6
C A Q
S A Q 6
H J 6 4 3
D A Q J
C 7 4 2
TableS K 9 8 4
H 7 5
D K 7 5 3 2
C K 10
S J 10 3
H 10 9
D 9 4
C J 9 8 6 5 3

North’s choice of opening will have a great impact, usually determining which side will declare. I slightly prefer 1 NT to avoid a rebid problem, then perhaps:

West

Pass
North
1 NT
3 C
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 S

Above is the “Standard American Yellow Card” way to sign off in a minor; 2 S forces opener to bid 3 C, then responder passes or corrects to 3 D. Other ways include a direct 3 C response to play, or the use of 2 NT as a transfer to clubs (my own preference).

In the “never lead from a king” school East will lead a heart; 10, jack, ace; then declarer has a chance for some trickery: Cash the H K and lead the eight. If East casually discards, away goes a diamond, then the H Q allows declarer to win nine tricks. Note, however, that if East ruffs with the C 10, declarer may still go wrong.

If North opens 1 H, it is likely to be passed to West, who will balance with 1 NT, which has nine easy tricks. If South competes with 2 C, East should try 2 NT. Some East-West pairs may even bid the cold game.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 1

...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
+80
...
100
99
98
96
94
93
90
87
+50
...
-50
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
83
79
71
63
62
61
58
45
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
35
30
23
16
12
11
10
9
-300
...
-400
...
-430
...
-500
...
8
7
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 2

East Deals
N-S Vul
S K 7 6
H K J
D Q 8
C K J 7 5 4 3
S 5
H 10 9 6 4 2
D K J 10 9 6 3
C 8
TableS J 10 9 3
H A Q 8 5 3
D A 5
C 9 2
S A Q 8 4 2
H 7
D 7 4 2
C A Q 10 6

North-South own this deal in high cards, but East-West have the upper hand in playing ability. I would expect this auction to be repeated at many tables:

West

4 H
5 H
North

4 S
Dbl
East
1 H
Pass
All Pass
South
1 S
Pass

When West bids 5 H on so few high cards, it feels like a sacrifice, but in fact it’s unbeatable. This emphasizes why good players put more faith in distribution than in point count when making competitive decisions. With exciting shape, bid one more.

In spades South can win nine tricks, but it’s tricky. After ruffing the second heart lead, declarer may think he has been handed 11 tricks and draw trumps; then accurate defense will win five tricks. To win nine tricks, declarer must lead diamonds early (optionally after one round of trumps) to pursue a diamond ruff.

The North-South hands play better in clubs (10 easy tricks), but the only benefit against hearts is that 6 C doubled (minus 500) beats those who double 5 H.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 2

...
+690
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+140
100
99
98
97
96
94
93
92
+130
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
...
91
90
88
86
83
81
74
67
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-420
...
-450
58
50
49
48
47
43
40
34
...
-480
...
-500
...
-590
...
-650
29
26
23
20
17
16
15
11
...
-690
...
-750
...
-790
-800
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 3

South Deals
E-W Vul
S K Q 7
H A 8 6 3
D 5 4 3
C J 7 2
S A 10 5
H K J
D A J 6
C K 9 5 4 3
TableS 9 4 2
H 7 5 2
D K 7 2
C A 10 8 6
S J 8 6 3
H Q 10 9 4
D Q 10 9 8
C Q

Not much action here. Strong notrumpers should have a simple auction:

West

1 NT
North

Pass
East

Pass
South
Pass
Pass

West can always win 10 tricks by guessing clubs, and the opening lead should provide the clue. If North leads the H 3, declarer can deduce he has no 5+ card suit, hence North is more likely to have longer clubs. Therefore the proper play is to cash the C K first, and when the queen drops, follow restricted choice principles to finesse against the jack.

If North leads the S K or the D 5, declarer is still able to diagnose it is a short suit and guess the club layout, although he later has to guess hearts as well to win the maximum.

Evidently, this is good case for making a deceptive lead such as the H 6 (to imply a longer heart suit), after which declarer would be inclined to win the C A first. Or better yet, how about leading the C 7, top of my “doubleton”; thank you.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 3

...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
...
+110
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+100
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
92
88
87
86
83
79
73
58
-130
...
-150
...
-180
...
-210
...
53
51
39
20
16
11
10
9
-380
...
-600
...
-630
...

8
7
5
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 4

West Deals
Both Vul
S 7 5
H A 10 7 6
D J 7 3
C K J 6 4
S 10 3 2
H 9 5 4
D 9 5 2
C 10 9 5 3
TableS Q J 4
H Q J 3
D A K Q 10 8 6
C 8
S A K 9 8 6
H K 8 2
D 4
C A Q 7 2

Lacking a major fit and a diamond stopper, the North-South hands are awkward to bid. I like this auction:

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
1 NT
3 H
East
1 D
2 D
Pass
South
1 S
3 D
4 H

North’s 1 NT response is flawed, but I would not pass 1 S. South cue-bids to get additional information, North shows his heart suit, and South’s hand is ideal to play in the Moysian fit. Note that the diamond ruff(s) will come in the shorter trump hand.

In hearts 11 tricks can be won. After a diamond lead and a club shift (best), there are several successful lines. I think it is best to win the C K, cash two high trumps, and lead the C J. Whether or not East ruffs, declarer can win all but the high trump trick by establishing spades, and not ruffing a diamond prematurely.

Other North-South pairs may play in spades (10 tricks maximum) or in clubs. The latter is the only normal trump fit, but the 4-1 break is a nuisance; 11 tricks can be won (e.g., ruff the second diamond, cash C A-Q and duck a spade), but this is far from clear-cut.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 4

...
+800
...
+650
...
+620
+600
...
100
99
98
94
92
86
82
81
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
80
79
78
77
73
68
60
51
+150
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
50
39
27
25
23
21
20
19
-90
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
18
12
5
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 5

North Deals
N-S Vul
S A 9 5 2
H A 7 5
D 4 3
C 10 7 6 4
S Q 6
H 10 8 2
D A K Q 7
C K Q 8 5
TableS K 10 8
H 9 4
D 10 9 8 6 5 2
C A 2
S J 7 4 3
H K Q J 6 3
D J
C J 9 3

South has a pitiful hand, but the desire for a heart lead would persuade me to open in third seat. I would not criticize 1 H but slightly prefer a weak two-bid:

West

Pass
3 H
4 D
North
Pass
Pass
Dbl
All Pass
East
Pass
3 D
Pass
South
2 H
Pass
Pass

West has no sensible action over 2 H so he passes; East chances 3 D at favorable vulnerability; West cue-bids to try for game, and then wisely gives up in 4 D.

In diamonds the obvious heart lead and continuation hold declarer to 10 tricks. If the defenders fail to cash two hearts, one will disappear on the club suit.

In hearts (or spades) North-South can win only seven tricks, so venturing to the three level could be costly, especially if West wields the ax.

If South’s opening bid makes you shudder, consider what would happen if he passed: West would routinely open 1 NT, and East would probably take a shot at 3 NT — cold for 9 or 10 tricks without a heart lead. And please don’t tell me you’d lead a heart as North. In the practical world it is often more dangerous to pass.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 5

...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-90
-100
100
99
97
96
90
84
83
81
-110
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-170
-180
80
79
60
41
33
26
25
24
...
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-400
-420
23
22
21
20
19
18
14
10
-430
...
-460
...
-500
...

8
7
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 6

East Deals
E-W Vul
S 9 4 3
H 10 4
D Q J 9 5
C A 9 8 3
S 8 5
H A K 7
D K 6 4 3 2
C K J 5
TableS K Q 7 6 2
H Q J 6
D 10 7
C 10 6 2
S A J 10
H 9 8 5 3 2
D A 8
C Q 7 4

Standard bidders should repeat this auction at many tables:

West

1 D
1 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
1 S
South
Pass
Pass

It has often been said that 1 NT is the most difficult contract, and the many possible play variations here add fuel to that. After the best lead of a heart, declarer can always win seven tricks if he opts for the entry-saving maneuver of ducking the first spade, but this is dubious at matchpoints. Note that if declarer leads first to a spade honor, South should duck to shut out the long spades; if declarer then switches to diamonds, continued heart leads defeat the contract.

Some East-Wests will play in 2 S, particularly those using weak notrumps. Eight tricks can be won if trumps are cleared early, but there’s a cute trap: Assume a heart lead, won by the ace; then a spade to the king, and South ducks smoothly — a much easier play if West is declarer after a transfer bid. If declarer leads anything but another spade now, the defenders can prevail with a heart ruff. I must admit I would fall for it.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 6

...
+500
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
89
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
0
-50
83
82
81
70
60
59
58
57
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
56
55
49
42
34
22
18
13
-150
...
-180
...
-300
...
-600
-620
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 7

South Deals
Both Vul
S K 10 4 3
H 9 7 4 2
D 9 2
C Q 10 5
S J 7 2
H 8
D K 10 8 7 5 4 3
C K 4
TableS Q
H J 10 5 3
D A Q J 6
C A 7 3 2
S A 9 8 6 5
H A K Q 6
D
C J 9 8 6

Both sides can make a game, so aggressive bidding will pay. Here’s a well-judged auction all around:

West

3 D
All Pass
North

3 S
East

5 D
South
1 S
5 S

All the bids seem routine except for South’s push to 5 S. This is dubious with only a five-card trump suit, and contrary to advice against bidding “five over five.” But I would be persuaded by the diamond void to take the chance. In any case it’s right here.

In spades 10 tricks are easy, and it is possible to win 11 (except against the C K lead) by guessing spades. Normally, declarer would go wrong because of West’s 3 D bid; but if West leads the H 8 (obvious singleton), it would be sensible to play him for at least two trumps and cash the S A first. When the S Q drops, odds favor the finesse (compare Board 3).

There is nothing to the play in diamonds for East-West, with 11 tricks virtually assured.

Proponents of the “Law of Total Tricks” may find it curious that this deal and Board 2 each have 20 total trumps and produce 21 tricks. Call it inflation.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 7

...
+990
...
+850
...
+790
...
+650
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+620
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
90
86
81
79
78
74
71
70
...
+100
...
-100
...
-130
...
-150
69
68
67
62
59
58
57
52
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-600
46
44
43
42
41
40
39
29
-620
...
-750
...
-910
...
-1000
...
18
17
9
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 8

West Deals
None Vul
S 10 4
H K
D A J 9 8 5 3
C Q 8 7 6
S 8 5 3 2
H A J 10 2
D Q 4 2
C 4 2
TableS A K 7
H 9 8 7 6 5 3
D 6
C A K 9
S Q J 9 6
H Q 4
D K 10 7
C J 10 5 3

Once again it’s a bidder’s game. Would you have the courage to bid 4 H on the East cards?

West
Pass
3 H
North
2 D
Pass
East
2 H
4 H
South
3 D
All Pass

A weak two-bid in diamonds may not be stylish any more, but it suits me fine. In fact in a recent tournament it caught two top internationalists by surprise. They were prepared for Roman, Multi, Flannery, and just about everything else; but when 2 D showed diamonds they were lost. “Is that legal?” they quipped.

When East overcalls in his topless suit and West raises, the push to 4 H is dubious but justified by East’s excellent controls. Of course, if 4 H had no play, I would write that East had lost his mind bidding such a lousy suit. Armchair quarterbacks go with the flow.

Ten tricks are routine in hearts, and there is no conceivable way to make more or less.

North-South can win seven tricks in diamonds, so 3 D is the safety limit. Anything higher could be doubled and set more than the value of East-West’s game — except for 3 NT, which also yields seven tricks with a correct diamond guess.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 8

...
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
0
-50
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
-170
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
77
...
-200
...
-230
...
-300
...
-420
66
62
59
58
57
56
55
39
...
-450
...
-500
...
-590
...
-630
19
15
12
11
10
9
8
7
...
-690
...
-800
...
-1100
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 9

North Deals
E-W Vul
S K 10 5
H 9 7 6 5
D A Q 10
C Q 10 3
S J 8 4 2
H K Q
D 9 8 7 4 3
C A 8
TableS 7 6
H J 8 4 3 2
D 6
C K J 6 5 4
S A Q 9 3
H A 10
D K J 5 2
C 9 7 2

Most North-Souths will reach 3 NT, though the roads will vary. Here’s a standard scientific auction:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
1 H
2 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
1 S
3 NT

A good case could be made for North to ignore his worthless heart suit and respond 2 NT immediately (11-12 HCP as a passed hand), but the same contract would be reached.

After any lead but a spade, 3 NT is doomed. The contract can be set outright with a club lead, but even after a heart lead (or a diamond lead by West) it would take double-dummy play to get spades right.

Evidently, this is a good hand for weak notrumps (12-14). When South opens 1 NT, North might elect to pass his flat 11 and go plus. Passing with borderline values is also a good tactical maneuver, as it sets a trap to lure East into balancing. In this case East would have to be insane to bite, but it is curious to note that 2 H can be made against any defense. Could there be a reward for insanity?

North-South Matchpoints — Board 9

...
+1100
...
+800
...
+430
...
+400
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
90
...
+200
...
+150
...
+120
+110
+100
84
83
82
81
80
78
72
71
+90
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
70
69
40
9
6
4
3
2
-250
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 10

East Deals
Both Vul
S J 10 9 5
H K Q J 9 2
D A J 3 2
C
S K 7 6
H 6 5
D K 4
C A Q 7 6 4 2
TableS A Q
H A 10 8
D Q 7 6 5
C K J 10 3
S 8 4 3 2
H 7 4 3
D 10 9 8
C 9 8 5

Many East-West pairs will have a straightforward auction to the best contract:

West

3 NT
North

All Pass
East
1 NT
South
Pass

Besides simplicity, this also has the effect of silencing North. If West were to show his club suit (either with a transfer bid or by starting with 2 C Stayman), it would allow North to bid hearts to direct the best lead. The chances of reaching a makable slam are dubious at best, so the direct approach seems right.

In notrump there are 10 easy tricks with a heart lead, or 11 after any other lead. Some Norths might slip on defense, allowing declarer to win 12 or even 13 tricks — e.g., if declarer leads a low diamond toward his queen before running the black suits, North may abandon his heart stopper to keep D A-J.

No doubt there will be some numbers floating around when North gets doubled in hearts — “Nice dummy, partner; now show me your real hand.” It looks like continued club leads will hold North to just five tricks, but he can manage six with best play. Playing in spades North-South can do a trick better.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 10

...
+500
...
+200
...
+150
...
+110
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+100
...
-150
...
-200
...
-400
-500
91
89
88
87
86
85
84
83
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-660
...
-690
82
72
58
46
33
26
14
13
...
-750
...
-800
...
-950
...
-1100
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
...
-1370
...
-1400
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 11

South Deals
None Vul
S J
H Q J 10 7 5 4 2
D J 7
C J 7 6
S Q 6 2
H K 3
D A K 9 4 2
C 10 8 2
TableS K 10 5
H A 9 8 6
D Q 10 8
C A K Q
S A 9 8 7 4 3
H
D 6 5 3
C 9 5 4 3

An easy 6 NT as the cards lie, but difficult to bid. Here’s a reasonable auction that almost gets there:

West

Pass
4 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East

3 NT
South
2 S
Pass

South’s weak two-bid is not a thing of beauty — OK, it’s just plain ugly, though a winning tactic. East’s 3 NT seems like an overbid, but it’s based on the expected point range of a balancing 2 NT (14-17 in my methods). West invites slam and East rejects with minimal values. Perhaps West should chance 6 NT himself.

The singleton S J makes 12 tricks easy, but an expert would succeed if South held S A-J-9-x-x-x. Assuming a club lead, the technique is to run diamonds (throwing two hearts) then cash the top hearts to force South to part with his long club. Finally, strip clubs and exit with the S K to endplay South.

As on the last board, some East-Wests will collect numbers, especially when North preempts in hearts (he can win only five tricks). I guess the 2 S bid wasn’t so ugly after all, as it was virtually impossible to double for penalty, and it kept partner quiet.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 11

...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
95
92
91
90
89
...
-150
...
-170
...
-240
...
-300
88
87
86
85
84
83
82
81
...
-400
...
-460
...
-490
-500
...
80
79
78
74
68
49
27
25
-800
...
-920
...
-990
...
-1100
...
22
20
19
18
15
7
4
2
-1400
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 12

West Deals
N-S Vul
S K 7 2
H 4 2
D Q J 10 8
C K 10 7 3
S J 10 5 3
H A 9
D A 2
C A 9 8 4 2
TableS 9 8 6
H K 8 6 3
D 7 6 5 4
C J 6
S A Q 4
H Q J 10 7 5
D K 9 3
C Q 5

Some East players might respond 1 H at the favorable vulnerability, but those on good behavior will pass and hear this likely auction:

West
1 C
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
1 NT
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
2 NT

Eight tricks are easy in notrump, so the goal is to win nine. After the C J lead; queen, ace, and a low club back, declarer must finesse the seven — the correct percentage play by 3:2 odds assuming the 5-2 club break. Then it is a simple matter to knock out the D A for nine tricks.

An original spade lead and continuations will hold declarer to eight tricks regardless of his play. West’s long spade can be set up as a fifth defensive trick.

Some weak notrumpers may treat the West hand as balanced and open 1 NT. If North-South win nine tricks, this yields the same score (down 3, 150) as North-South declaring. Of course, if South is shrewd enough to double, East-West have nowhere to run.

If South plays in hearts, the limit is eight tricks. It may seem possible to develop a trump coup against East, but accurate defense can prevent it.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 12

...
+660
...
+630
...
+600
...
+500
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
92
91
90
89
87
86
78
64
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
60
55
40
26
21
19
17
14
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-200
...
12
10
7
6
5
4
3
2
-500
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 13

North Deals
Both Vul
S A K J 4
H K J 10 3
D 10 7 2
C A 4
S 8 7 3
H Q 7
D K 8 6 5 4
C 10 9 8
TableS 10 9 6
H 9 5 2
D A Q 9 3
C K 5 2
S Q 5 2
H A 8 6 4
D J
C Q J 7 6 3

Almost all North-South pairs will reach 4 H. Standard bidders will have a routine Stayman auction:

West

Pass
All Pass
North
1 NT
2 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
4 H

East is unlikely to lead a diamond, so most declarers will have a chance to win 12 tricks. I must admit I would lead a trump, eliminating any guess in that suit. Declarer can just draw trumps, cash four spades (throwing the diamond), and play ace and a club. Of course, some may be too greedy and try an early club finesse, allowing the defense to recover.

Here’s a cute play: Win the trump lead in North and immediately lead a low club toward dummy. As East, would you climb with the king? Perhaps you should, but it is routine to duck, since partner rates to have the ace from declarer’s play. Oops! You now lost your ace and king, as declarer wins all 13 tricks.

Weak notrumpers will be forced to open the North hand with a minor, so South will become declarer. West is more likely to lead a diamond to hold declarer to 11 tricks, assuming he plays hearts correctly.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 13

...
+1430
...
+710
...
+680
...
+660
100
99
98
97
96
83
71
70
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+230
...
52
34
33
25
17
16
15
14
+200
...
+170
...
+120
...
-100
...
13
12
11
10
9
8
5
2
-200
...





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Board 14

East Deals
None Vul
S 8 7 4 3 2
H K J 6
D 9 7 5
C K 4
S 10 6
H A 10 8 5 4
D A 3
C A Q 10 2
TableS A K Q 9 5
H 3
D K Q J 6
C J 7 6
S J
H Q 9 7 2
D 10 8 4 2
C 9 8 5 3

Conservative bidders will land in a comfortable 3 NT, probably after this auction:

West

2 H
3 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East
1 S
3 D
South
Pass
Pass

It is illogical for North to lead a heart, so 12 tricks are easy with the S J coming down — just give up a club. A few will even bid 6 NT and make it.

The best contract based on the East-West hands alone is 6 S, which has two chances: either the S J falls or the C K is onside. Except in the actual case, the 5-1 spade break can’t be handled if East is forced to ruff, so the heart lead is again the killer.

What about 6 C? Then a spade lead hurts. If declarer cashes diamonds to pitch a spade (to avert a spade ruff), communication is lost. But wait! Declarer can succeed if he ruffs two hearts before cashing the third diamond; then high spade, overruffed; heart ruff (North can’t gain ruffing); high spade, overruffed. Finally, exit with ace and a trump, keeping a spade if North wins, or a diamond if South wins. Cute, but also double-dummy.

Bottom line: Bid hearts with authority, then 6 NT.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 14

...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-170
100
99
98
97
96
94
92
91
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
90
89
88
84
80
78
68
59
-480
-490
...
-510
-520
...
-980
-990
57
35
13
12
11
9
8
5
...
-1210
...




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Board 15

South Deals
N-S Vul
S J 9 7 3
H J 4
D K 10 3
C J 4 3 2
S A K Q 10 4
H A 5
D A 9 2
C 10 6 5
TableS 6 5
H 10 6 3 2
D 7 6 4
C K Q 9 8
S 8 2
H K Q 9 8 7
D Q J 8 5
C A 7

Most players will deem the West hand too strong for a simple overcall, so the bidding is likely to go:

West

Dbl
2 S
North

Pass
All Pass
East

2 C
South
1 H
Pass

In spades West can win nine tricks with sound technique. Assume the H J lead to the ace; cash one top trump, and lead a low club to the king, ace. South cannot benefit by leading hearts, so he shifts to a diamond, taken by the ace. Cash the remaining top trumps, then run the C 10, etc.

At some tables North might gum up the works by responding 1 S (a disgusting bid) over West’s double. South rebids 2 D, then West may still bid 2 S which is natural, not a cue-bid. Important rule: When you make a takeout double, the only suit you can later cue-bid is the suit you doubled.

If North-South buy the contract they are destined to fail. Against best defense only seven tricks can be won in hearts or diamonds, and only five in notrump.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 15

...
+300
...
+180
...
+150
...
+110
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-80
-90
-100
92
89
88
77
65
63
61
58
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
46
35
34
24
16
14
13
12
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-420
...
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
-470
...
-500
...



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Board 16

West Deals
E-W Vul
S J 7 5
H A K Q J 6 4
D 8
C J 5 2
S Q 4 2
H 9 8 5 2
D 10 7 6
C K Q 6
TableS A 9 3
H 10 7 3
D J 9 5 4 2
C 10 3
S K 10 8 6
H
D A K Q 3
C A 9 8 7 4

Most North’s will drive their solid suit to 4 H, perhaps in this repetitive manner:

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
2 H
3 H
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 C
2 S
3 NT

In hearts 11 tricks can always be won, although declarer must be careful not to lose trump control before establishing his spade trick. Assume a diamond lead, won by the ace. The proper play is to ruff a diamond immediately, draw trumps and run the S J to the queen. North cannot be tapped, so it is routine to pitch two clubs on the top diamonds and force out the S A.

Some will reach the awkward 3 NT contract. After a diamond lead, 10 tricks can always be won, but it takes some fancy footwork and good guessing. Win the D A and lead the C 7 to West’s queen; win the next diamond (pitching a spade) and lead another low club to the king. West’s best return is a club, which forces declarer to read the ending for the overtrick. But wait! What if West is clever and ducks the first club lead — sure enough, I would let it ride and go down.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 16

...
+990
+980
...
+490
+480
...
+460
100
99
98
97
96
94
92
85
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+200
...
67
56
52
42
34
33
32
31
+170
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
30
29
22
14
10
6
5
4
-200
...
-300
...



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Board 17

North Deals
None Vul
S 9 6 5
H 5 4
D K 7 6 5 3
C K Q 5
S K Q 7 4
H A Q
D 10 8 4 2
C J 6 4
TableS 10 8 3
H 10 9 7 6 3
D A Q 9
C A 2
S A J 2
H K J 8 2
D J
C 10 9 8 7 3

Many possibilities exist here, depending on system and judgment. If South passes in third seat, standard bidders may take this route:

West

1 D
1 S
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
1 H
1 NT
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

Assume the C 10 lead, won by the ace, then a spade to the king. If declarer next leads a diamond to the queen (how sweet) then another spade, he can come to nine tricks by taking all his finesses. (Note the club suit is blocked.) Of course, if the D 9 is finessed first, the defense can cash six tricks.

Weak notrumpers may play 1 NT from the West side. Assuming the D 5 lead (fourth best) the same diamond guess allows declarer to win nine tricks. On a technical basis (without tempo consideration) the proper play is the queen, as this allows declarer to win three diamond tricks when South has any singleton except the king.

Some East-Wests will play in hearts, most likely after a weak notrump opening and a transfer bid. Once again a correct diamond guess allows nine tricks; otherwise probably just seven.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 17

...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
+90
...
100
99
98
97
96
91
85
84
+50
0
-50
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
75
63
61
60
59
58
54
44
-120
...
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-300
33
29
20
10
8
7
6
5
...
-400
...
-500
...


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3
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Board 18

East Deals
N-S Vul
S K Q 9 7
H Q 3
D 10 6 5 3
C Q 9 3
S J 2
H 6 2
D Q J 7
C K J 8 5 4 2
TableS 6 5 3
H J 7 5 4
D A K 9 8 2
C A
S A 10 8 4
H A K 10 9 8
D 4
C 10 7 6

After 1 D, would you overcall or double as South? I prefer the latter to bring spades into the picture:

West

2 C
North

2 S
East
1 D
All Pass
South
Dbl

It is possible to win 10 tricks in spades (except against the C A and a low diamond), but most will win only nine. Assume East cashes a top diamond and the C A; he should next lead a low diamond to tap the South hand (West should request this by dropping the D Q or by suit preference in clubs). The only road now to 10 tricks is a heart finesse against East, a risky play few will make. More likely, those winning 10 will be helped by East with a heart or spade switch.

In hearts the North-South cards play worse, usually just eight tricks unless declarer gets a trump lead or is inspired to finesse East for the jack.

Some East-Wests will buy the contract in diamonds. After the likely high heart lead, South should shift to a trump, then North can gain the lead in hearts or spades to lead a second trump, holding declarer to eight tricks. Without trump leads declarer could ruff twice in dummy and win nine tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 18

...
+790
...
+650
...
+620
...
+500
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
92
91
90
89
88
87
84
83
+140
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-90
76
69
68
62
57
49
41
34
-100
-110
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-200
24
14
9
7
6
5
4
3
...
-470
...




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Board 19

South Deals
E-W Vul
S Q 9 5 3
H J 9 8 5
D K 2
C 10 9 6
S 6 2
H A K Q 4
D J 10 6 5 3
C A K
TableS J
H 10 7 6 2
D Q 7 4
C Q J 8 5 3
S A K 10 8 7 4
H 3
D A 9 8
C 7 4 2

Here’s a little excitement. Active North-South bidders will take advantage of the vulnerability to torment West, perhaps like this:

West

Dbl
Dbl
North

3 S
All Pass
East

Pass
South
1 S
4 S

Four spades looks routinely down one, but West has to be careful. Assuming a high heart lead, West must cash both of his top clubs immediately. After any other play, declarer can strip out the hand (ruffing three hearts and one diamond) and exit with a club to force West to concede a ruff and discard.

This turns out to be a phantom sacrifice, since East-West cannot make 4 H; in fact it requires careful play to win nine tricks. Assume the defense starts with two rounds of spades, ruffed. If declarer draws two rounds of trumps immediately, North can win the first diamond and fire back the H J; then when South wins the D A, he can lead a spade to tap out the last trump. To circumvent this, declarer must lead diamonds right away (or after one round of trumps).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 19

...
+800
...
+630
...
+590
...
+530
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+500
...
+420
+400
...
+300
...
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+100
...
84
80
77
74
57
40
34
28
-50
...
-100
-110
...
-130
-140
...
24
20
15
7
6
4
3
2
-300
...





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Board 20

West Deals
Both Vul
S J
H 7 3
D A J 9 8 6 2
C 10 7 4 2
S A Q 10 8 7 6 2
H A 9 4
D 7
C 9 3
TableS K 4 3
H 8 6 5
D K Q 10 5
C A Q 6
S 9 5
H K Q J 10 2
D 4 3
C K J 8 5

Most Wests will wind up in 4 S, though the auctions will vary. Here is one possibility, which allows South to make a lead-director:

West
1 S
2 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
4 S
South
2 H
All Pass

After the indicated heart lead, declarer will probably win the ace and be held to 10 tricks. It is possible to win 11 by ducking the first heart (a risky play since it could be a singleton). One way is simply to finesse the D 10 after drawing trumps. A more elegant way is to lead a diamond to the king, ruff a few diamonds, and lead all the trumps to catch South in a squeeze throw-in — if he keeps his C K guarded, he is thrown in with a heart for the endplay.

At some tables South will not get his heart bid in, so North will have to guess what to lead. A club lead threatens defeat if declarer finesses (dubious), allowing the obvious heart switch — then he has to duck the first heart to survive. If North leads the D A, declarer is in clover; in fact, if North doesn’t shift to a club, 12 tricks can be won on a club-heart squeeze.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 20

...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-140
100
99
98
97
96
88
80
79
...
-170
...
-200
...
-500
...
-600
78
77
76
75
74
73
72
71
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-680
...
56
39
38
23
8
7
5
4
-1100
...
-1430
...



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Board 21

North Deals
N-S Vul
S 10 5 3
H A 10 8 6
D A K J 10
C Q J
S A Q 8 6 4 2
H Q J 2
D
C K 8 5 3
TableS K J 7
H 9 4 3
D Q 9 8 3 2
C 6 4
S 9
H K 7 5
D 7 6 5 4
C A 10 9 7 2

I’m sure a lot of Wests will play in spades, but some may be blocked out after this auction:

West

All Pass
North
1 NT
East
Pass
South
2 NT

It is actually a blessing for West to be shut out, even after the irritating diamond lead. Assume West pitches a club (an error if North held a spade stopper and precisely C J-x). Declarer will try the club finesse, then West will shift to a low spade allowing the entire suit to be run — down two.

Although difficult to reach, a North-South heart contract has potential for a great score (compare Board 4), and some will win 10 tricks.

In spades West can win eight tricks against best defense. After a high diamond lead, ruffed, best technique is a low club from hand; North wins and leads a trump, won in dummy, then a second club is led. It is tempting for South to duck, after which declarer can win nine tricks if he goes up, or only seven tricks if he ducks. If South instead wins the C A, he must lead a diamond (or a club equal); if he leads a heart, declarer can win a ninth trick with proper timing.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 21

...
+620
...
+300
...
+170
...
+150
100
99
98
97
95
94
93
92
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
91
90
89
88
81
75
74
67
...
-80
...
-100
-110
...
-140
...
60
59
58
54
46
43
34
26
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-420
...
22
19
16
13
12
11
10
9
-500
...
-530
...
-590
...
-800
...
8
7
6
5
4
3
1
0

TopMain

Board 22

East Deals
E-W Vul
S A 7 2
H A K 10 9 7 5 2
D 5 4
C J
S Q J 8 6 3
H 8 4
D 8 7 3 2
C 7 5
TableS K 9 5
H Q J
D A J 10
C A Q 8 6 3
S 10 4
H 6 3
D K Q 9 6
C K 10 9 4 2

Most Norths will buy the contract in hearts, usually below game as with this auction:

West

2 H
North

3 H
East
1 NT
All Pass
South
Pass

Two hearts is a Jacoby transfer to spades, so 3 H is natural. East uses good judgment not to compete to 3 S — he knows West may have almost nothing, and the H Q-J is probably worthless.

In hearts North can always win 10 tricks. Assume East leads a heart honor; then North leads the C J, taken by the ace. The C K provides a 10th trick (dummy can be reached in diamonds) so there is nothing the defense can do. Some will be handed 11 tricks, e.g., if East leads a second club or if he takes his D A on the first round (after not switching to spades).

In spades East-West can win only seven tricks, so those who get too frisky will pay. On the above auction if East competed to 3 S, I think North should double (optional) to protect his investment — hoping to collect 200 (instead of 100) to offset the likely 140 in hearts. In this case the defense does a trick better.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 22

...
+1100
...
+800
...
+690
...
+650
100
98
97
96
95
94
93
92
...
+590
...
+500
...
+480
...
+450
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
82
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+300
...
+230
79
78
71
61
59
57
55
54
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
53
47
40
30
19
15
12
11
+100
...
-50
...
-100
...
-200
...
10
9
6
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 23

South Deals
Both Vul
S A 8 7
H Q 8 4 2
D K 8 5
C J 5 3
S 6 5 4
H A 7
D A Q J 9 6
C K 9 7
TableS K Q J 9 3 2
H 9 5
D 7 4 3
C A 4
S 10
H K J 10 6 3
D 10 2
C Q 10 8 6 2

Most East-Wests will reach an easy 4 S. Standard bidders might produce this auction:

West

1 D
1 NT
4 S
North

Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

1 S
3 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Most players treat East’s 3 S bid as invitational, and West is happy to accept with his fine hand. In my methods 3 S is forcing, so I’d bid 2 C (new minor forcing) followed by a spade bid to invite game.

In spades East-West can win 10 tricks always, or 11 if North-South fail to attack hearts. Note the defense has a second opportunity to lead hearts when North wins the S A (or D K if declarer plays diamonds first).

Here’s a cute swindle: Assume a club lead to the ace; diamond finesse, losing; heart to the ace; then a low spade. Would you fly with the ace? I doubt it. If declarer gauges the position, he can now win 11 tricks.

Some Souths will enter the fray, either with a hungry weak two-bid or a passed-hand Michaels (or unusual 1 NT). North-South almost have a good save in 5 H, but sound defense will find the club ruff to collect 800.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 23

...
+300
...
+200
...
+140
...
+100
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
...
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
-170
...
-200
...
-500
...
-600
-620
83
80
78
75
74
73
72
52
-630
...
-650
...
-790
-800
...
29
28
15
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 24

West Deals
None Vul
S K J
H J 9 7 6 5 4
D 10 8 4
C 10 3
S Q 10 2
H K
D A K 7 6
C K Q J 5 4
TableS A 6 4 3
H 2
D Q J 9 3
C A 9 8 7
S 9 8 7 5
H A Q 10 8 3
D 5 2
C 6 2

East-West easily make 5 C or 5 D, but who wants that if there’s action for higher stakes:

West
1 C
Dbl
North
2 H
All Pass
East
Dbl
South
4 H

North’s weak jump overcall is not a thing of beauty — I would never make such a bid (cough, choke) — but it certainly makes things difficult. After East’s negative double, South preempts to game, and West makes an uncertain double.

In 4 H doubled, North will surely guess trumps, so everything hinges on the spade guess. Get it right for above average; get it wrong and you’re close to bottom. It is a moot psychological issue whether West should lead a spade early; an average declarer might be steered into the winning play, while an expert might be suspicious and put up the king.

Whenever the par contract is five of a minor, you can be sure many pairs will stray. Some East-Wests will try a frightening 3 NT, and others will stretch to a minor-suit slam — all hopeless with the expected heart lead. This accounts for the seemingly unfair awards; it’s just a fact of bridge life that players shun five of a minor.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 24

...
+300
...
+250
...
+200
...
+150
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
...
-130
92
90
87
72
59
58
57
56
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
55
54
53
52
51
50
49
48
...
-400
-420
...
-460
...
-500
...
47
35
14
10
9
8
7
6
-800
...
-920
...
-1100
...

5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 25

North Deals
E-W Vul
S J 10 6
H K 9 8 6
D K 10 2
C Q 7 4
S A K 5
H A Q 10 2
D 9 6 5 4 3
C J
TableS Q 9 7 2
H J 7
D A 8
C A 10 9 6 2
S 8 4 3
H 5 4 3
D Q J 7
C K 8 5 3

There are many ways to bid the East-West hands, including whether East should open or pass. This auction appeals to me:

West

1 D
2 S
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
1 S
4 S
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

The Moysian fit is a delicate contract with no clear-cut line of play, but 10 tricks should come home if declarer is patient. Assume a trump lead to the 10 and queen, then the H J (North smartly ducks) and a second finesse is lost to North’s king. On a trump return, declarer can draw trumps, finish hearts and establish a club trick. On a diamond return, win the ace and concede a diamond to establish that suit — for an overtrick no less. On a low club return, duck.

A more popular contract will be 3 NT. Nine tricks are easy by conceding a heart, and many will win 10 when the defense is not perfect. If East plays 3 NT with a club lead (jack, queen, ace) North will surely return a club when he wins the H K, allowing the overtrick; only a double-dummy diamond shift holds declarer to nine.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 25

...
+200
...
+100
...
-110
-120
-130
100
99
98
94
91
89
88
86
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
-210
82
76
74
71
65
63
62
60
...
-500
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
59
58
57
50
38
24
11
9
-660
...
-690
...



4
2
1
0



TopMain

Board 26

East Deals
Both Vul
S K Q 7 2
H A Q
D K 7 5 3
C Q 9 8
S 9 8 6
H 10 9 8 4 3 2
D Q J 2
C 4
TableS 10 3
H K J 7
D A 9 6 4
C A 10 7 5
S A J 5 4
H 6 5
D 10 8
C K J 6 3 2

Most North-Souths will find their spade fit and reach game despite East’s opening. Here’s one scenario:

West

1 H
Pass
All Pass
North

1 NT
2 S
East
1 D
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 C
4 S

North’s vulnerable 1 NT overcall is frightening between two bidders, but people often have so little for their bids that you have to take the chance. South uses Stayman to reach the routine contract.

In spades an immediate club lead is devastating, allowing the defense to take the first five tricks. In real life though East will probably lead a trump. Declarer now can succeed with an unusual procedure: Draw trumps; lead the C Q to the ace, and duck the club return to the nine. Without this spectacle, the defense can prevail.

Some North-Souths, by accident or design, will bid 3 NT which has a more realistic chance. If East leads a heart honor, declarer will have to take the same view of the club suit to succeed; but many Easts will lead a minor suit to make it easier. After a diamond lead, East may end up getting squeezed.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 26

...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
100
99
96
95
92
88
85
84
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
83
80
77
76
71
68
67
64
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
-100
-110
...
61
60
57
55
54
49
42
41
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
37
32
23
15
12
11
10
9
-500
...
-620
...
-790
...
-930
...
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
0

TopMain

Board 27

South Deals
None Vul
S 10 7
H Q 10 5 3 2
D J 10 8
C J 10 3
S K J 9
H 9 7
D A K 7 4 3
C A 9 8
TableS A Q 8 6 5 3
H 4
D Q 2
C K 7 4 2
S 4 2
H A K J 8 6
D 9 6 5
C Q 6 5

A strong East-West pair should appreciate the power of fit and controls to reach this excellent slam despite only 26 HCP. Here’s a sensible auction:

West

1 NT
Pass
3 D
4 NT
6 S
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

2 H
3 C
4 H
5 D
South
Pass
Dbl
Pass
Pass
Pass

After East’s Jacoby transfer, South doubles for a heart lead so West passes — a routine action trying to right-side the contract. (West should bid 2 S only if happy with a heart lead.) East continues with 3 C (natural, GF) and West shows the location of his strength with 3 D. The jump to 4 H is a splinter, which encourages West to check for aces. Those using key-card Blackwood might assume a club fit and show two key cards.

The 3-3 diamond split makes the play easy, but note that a 4-2 break would be no problem since the long card could be established with a ruff. Only a 5-1 diamond break could defeat the slam, and even then there would be a slim chance of a minor-suit squeeze.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 27

...
+50
...
-230
...
-260
...
-420
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
-450
...
-480
...
-510
...
-800
92
90
89
59
22
21
19
18
...
-980
...
-1010
...
-1100
...
17
14
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 28

West Deals
N-S Vul
S 9
H K 6 5 2
D K Q 6 4
C J 6 5 3
S J 6 3
H J 9 3
D 10 8 7 3
C K 10 8
TableS A Q 10
H A 8 4
D A J 2
C A 9 7 4
S K 8 7 5 4 2
H Q 10 7
D 9 5
C Q 2

East’s hand seems a little thin to open 2 NT, but what the heck; take an extra point for all the aces and simplify the bidding:

West
Pass
3 NT
North
Pass
All Pass
East
2 NT
South
Pass

The useful spot cards make 3 NT a fair contract, and declarer probably should succeed. South leads a spade and the jack is played to win in dummy. It is surely right to play a diamond, but I don’t like leading low to the jack after North is known to be short in spades. Much better: Lead the D 10! If North ducks it becomes easy; if he covers there are some hurdles to clear, but declarer can prevail even after a diamond misguess. Note how the heart position cramps the defense.

Those who open the East hand 1 C may play it right there, probably scoring eight tricks.

A few Souths may ignore the vulnerability and overcall 1 S or 2 S. This may lead to trouble, especially if East is in a doubling mood, as only six tricks can be won in spades. Even if the defense gives declarer a heart pitch on the C J, the trick comes back with a trump promotion.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 28

...
+180
...
+150
...
+100
...
+80
100
99
98
97
96
94
92
91
...
+50
...
-70
...
-90
-100
-110
90
82
74
71
69
65
59
56
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-180
...
-200
50
46
45
43
41
40
39
37
-210
...
-300
...
-400
...
-430
...
35
34
32
29
20
10
9
8
-460
...
-500
...
-800
...
-1100
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 29

North Deals
Both Vul
S A K
H J 6
D A K Q 10 8 3
C Q J 10
S Q 8 5 2
H 9 7
D 7 6 4
C K 7 5 3
TableS 9 7 6
H K Q 8 3
D 9 5
C A 9 6 2
S J 10 4 3
H A 10 5 4 2
D J 2
C 8 4

The North hand is awkward to describe in most systems, so once again it seems right to simplify:

West

Pass
Pass
North
2 NT
3 D
3 NT
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
3 C
3 H

South uses Stayman to ask for a four-card major, and then shows his heart suit to seek three-card support. Perhaps, with such a mediocre suit and 2-2 in the minors, South should not even mention the hearts and rebid 3 NT. In any event, North denies support and the world’s most popular contract is reached.

If North chooses to open a more traditional 1 D, South will respond 1 H, and North should jump to 3 NT — a sequence that shows a long, strong diamond suit.

This will be one of the flattest boards, with 10 tricks almost etched in stone. There is a chance for 11 if East leads a low heart (a dubious choice, especially if South showed hearts). After winning the H J, a shrewd play is to cross to the D J and lead a club. It’s hard to imagine any West player putting up the king to return a heart, but that’s the only successful defense.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 29

...
+690
...
+660
...
+630
...
+600
100
99
98
90
81
54
27
24
...
+150
...
+130
...
+110
...
-100
20
19
18
15
12
11
10
7
...
-200
...
-300
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 30

East Deals
None Vul
S J 8 7
H Q 6
D Q 9 8 4
C Q J 9 4
S 4
H A K 9
D A K J 6 3 2
C 10 6 5
TableS A K 9 5 3 2
H J 8 7 4 2
D 10
C 2
S Q 10 6
H 10 5 3
D 7 5
C A K 8 7 3

Most East-Wests should have the means to find their heart fit. Here’s a sensible auction if East passes:

West

1 D
2 D
3 H
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
1 S
2 H
4 H
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

West’s 2 D rebid is a little hefty, though correct in my view — 3 D is surely an overbid. At West’s next turn the heart raise normally shows four cards, but it stands out if you consider the alternatives.

At some tables East will open the bidding. If East opens 1 S, there’s a danger West may push to slam after discovering the major two-suiter. If East opens 2 S, West may conservatively pass fearing a misfit.

In hearts it is possible to win 12 tricks (S A-K, ruff a spade and draw trumps), but I don’t think that is the proper play. I would ruff the second club, cash the D A-K and ruff a diamond with the H 7, overruffed by South; ruff the club return; cash S A-K and ruff a spade; ruff a diamond, then draw trumps — 11 tricks. The advantage of this semi-crossruff is that you’ll succeed against most bad breaks as well.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 30

...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
100
99
98
97
96
94
91
88
...
+50
...
-110
...
-130
-140
...
86
80
74
72
71
70
69
68
-170
...
-200
...
-230
...
-400
-420
67
66
63
62
61
60
59
51
...
-450
...
-480
...
-510
...
-980
36
29
19
11
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 31

South Deals
N-S Vul
S Q 7 4
H 5
D J 10 9 5 4 3
C A 10 7
S A J 9 6 3
H K J 7
D A 2
C Q 9 4
TableS 2
H A 10 9 6 4 2
D K 7 6
C J 8 3
S K 10 8 5
H Q 8 3
D Q 8
C K 6 5 2

A continual debate is whether or not to open 1 NT with a five-card major. I say yes, provided your hand is otherwise suitable. It often simplifies the bidding:

West

1 NT
4 H
North

Pass
All Pass
East

4 D
South
Pass
Pass

East’s 4 D is a Texas transfer showing at least six hearts. The same contract could be reached via 2 D (Jacoby transfer), but most experts treat the subsequent raise to game as a slam invitation (else use Texas).

After a 1 S opening the road to 4 H is less clear. East is not worth 2 H so he starts with 1 NT. Standard bidders will play it there, but those playing 1 NT forcing may continue: 2 CH; 3 HH. These problems only add fuel to the practical solution of opening 1 NT.

In hearts it would be illogical to pick up the H Q with a finesse, so the hope for 10 tricks lies in winning a club trick or establishing the long spade. Sound technique fulfills the latter: Win the D K (key play); S A and ruff a spade; H A; H K; ruff a spade; D A; ruff a spade; diamond ruff; good spade. Anyone too lazy for that can do just as well by finessing North for the C 10.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 31

...
+300
...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+50
...
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
86
79
77
74
73
71
68
65
...
-170
-180
...
-200
...
-300
...
64
58
52
51
50
49
48
47
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
...
-500
...
46
31
9
8
6
4
3
2
-800
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 32

West Deals
E-W Vul
S 10 6 5 2
H A 5 4 3
D A 10 7 3
C 7
S K 9 8
H Q 9 7
D Q 5
C K 8 6 5 2
TableS Q J 7 4 3
H J 10 6
D 8 6 4
C A 3
S A
H K 8 2
D K J 9 2
C Q J 10 9 4

A variety of North-South partscores are predictable according to system and judgment. I like this auction:

West
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
1 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 C
2 H

South has an awkward rebid problem, but the three-card raise is obvious at matchpoints — great results are often achieved with a well-chosen Moysian fit. If North had responded 1 S, I would treat the hand as balanced and rebid 1 NT.

In hearts there is great potential, with up to 10 tricks available. Assume a spade lead, then the C Q taken by the ace. The best defense is a spade return, ruffed; then the C J for a ruffing finesse. Each opponent will score a trump trick, but declarer can win the rest if he picks up the D Q. At some tables East may shift to a diamond making the play easier.

Many North-Souths will play in their normal diamond fit, where 11 tricks can be made by guessing the minor suits correctly. Note, however, that if East ducks the C 7 lead from North, declarer will almost surely try a ruffing finesse later and be held to 10 tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 32

...
+800
...
+500
...
+430
+420
+400
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
92
90
88
87
78
70
67
54
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
0
-50
...
41
37
33
29
27
26
18
11
-80
...
-100
-110
...
-150
...
-300
10
9
8
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 33

North Deals
None Vul
S A 10 8 6 4
H 7 5 4
D A 8 6
C A 3
S J 2
H Q 10 8 2
D 9 5 3
C 8 7 6 4
TableS Q 9 7
H J 6
D K J 7 2
C Q J 10 2
S K 5 3
H A K 9 3
D Q 10 4
C K 9 5

Despite the 5-3 spade fit, the balanced nature of the North-South hands suggests playing in notrump. Traditional bidding is straightforward:

West

Pass
North
1 S
3 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT

Nowadays there is a tendency (I call it a disease) to use the 2 NT response as a forcing major raise, so these advocates will have to improvise to steer the contract into notrump.

Assume a heart lead to the jack, ace; South cashes the S K, then a spade is ducked as East overtakes to return a heart. Declarer can win 10 tricks by leading toward his D Q sooner or later, but this is not obvious. If West held the D K, the same 10th trick would be available on an endplay. It’s a case of “Who’s got the button?”

A few declarers may swindle an 11th trick if East ducks the first diamond lead, which could result in a minor-suit squeeze or endplay if timed properly.

Those who play in spades will score poorly, since the ruffing ability does not provide an extra trick. After the likely C Q lead, declarer has the same opportunities for 10 or 11 tricks as in notrump.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 33

...
+460
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
...
100
98
96
94
74
48
28
14
+180
+170
...
+150
...
-50
...
-100
12
9
8
7
6
4
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 34

East Deals
N-S Vul
S A K 10 5 3
H A 6
D A Q J 8 7
C 10
S 8 2
H J 8 3 2
D 10 6 4 3 2
C A K
TableS 7 4
H K Q 10 7 5
D
C J 8 5 4 3 2
S Q J 9 6
H 9 4
D K 9 5
C Q 9 7 6

An excellent North-South slam, a killing defense, and a possible sacrifice will make this an exciting deal. I can imagine this scenario at an expert table:

West

Pass
5 H
North

1 S
6 S
East
Pass
2 S
All Pass
South
Pass
3 S

The 2 S bid is Michaels (hearts plus a minor) and West takes an advance sacrifice in 5 H. North uses good judgment to take a stab at 6 S. It is tempting as East to sacrifice further in 7 H, but this is rarely wise at matchpoints. In the long run it is better to hope to defeat the slam for an excellent score. Even when a slam sacrifice is profitable, it rarely scores well since many pairs may not bid the slam.

Alas. Would you defeat this slam? East has to lead a club, and West has to switch to a diamond. The latter should be routine (in view of dummy there is no reason to try to cash a second club), but the club lead is difficult. A case can be made for West to bid 4 C (or 5 C) as a lead-director, but holding so many clubs East may lead the H K anyway. It seems like a lose-lose situation.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 34

...
+1660
...
+1430
...
+1100
...
+800
100
99
98
87
78
77
76
73
...
+680
...
+650
...
+500
...
+300
70
49
30
28
26
23
21
17
...
+100
...
-100
...
-200
...
-590
13
12
11
7
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 35

South Deals
E-W Vul
S 9
H J 6 5 4
D J 10 8 3
C A J 8 7
S A K Q 6 5 2
H K 10 9 7
D 4
C 10 9
TableS 8 7 3
H A Q 8 2
D A 9 7 2
C Q 5
S J 10 4
H 3
D K Q 6 5
C K 6 4 3 2

East-West have an easy game in either major, but the trick-taking potential is greater in hearts. I would bid this way using 1 NT forcing:

West

1 S
2 H
North

Pass
Pass
East

1 NT
4 H
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

Some may rebid 2 S as opener, but it is generally superior to show the hearts — partner often has a singleton spade and four or five hearts, so rebidding the spades could miss a game. East intended to show a limit spade raise with three trumps, but now chooses the better heart fit instead.

Unless North is an ace grabber, declarer can win 12 tricks. Assume a diamond lead, won by the ace. The proper technique is to win the H K, then lead the H 10 to the ace. When South shows out, ruff a diamond with the H 9, then finesse and draw trumps. Note the importance of unblocking in hearts, else declarer would be stuck in his hand after the diamond ruff.

In spades just 11 tricks are possible. The only problem is the heart guess, but this should be routine after North shows up with a singleton spade.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 35

...
+200
...
+100
...
-100
...
-300
100
98
96
89
82
81
80
78
...
-500
...
-620
...
-650
...
-680
76
74
72
67
62
46
24
16
...
-1430
...




4
2
0




TopMain

Board 36

West Deals
Both Vul
S 10 8 7 4 2
H K 9 4
D J 4 3 2
C 3
S K Q J 6 5
H J 7 5 2
D 8 7
C 7 5
TableS A 3
H 10 8 6 3
D A Q 5
C K 10 9 8
S 9
H A Q
D K 10 9 6
C A Q J 6 4 2

South has an interesting problem after East commandeers his long suit. Patience is the key:

West
Pass
1 S
2 H
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
3 D
East
1 C
1 NT
Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
2 C
Dbl

South’s 2 C bid is natural because of his previous pass over 1 C. When East-West come to rest in 2 H, South tries a reopening double, so North becomes the surprise declarer in diamonds. Actually, North would do better to passH doubled, which can be set one trick.

In diamonds, the friendly layout allows 11 tricks to be won. Assume the S A lead, then a heart switch. The key play is to overtake the H Q with the king to finesse the club. Then cash the C A; ruff a club (or overruff if necessary) and lead a diamond to the 10. One more ruff establishes the clubs, and East is helpless to win more than his D A. A stronger defense is a spade continuation at trick two, but declarer can do the same.

The importance of finding the diamond fit is emphasized by the fact that only 8 tricks are available in clubs, a dismal contract with only one entry to North.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 36

...
+500
...
+200
...
+150
...
+130
100
99
97
93
90
84
81
74
+120
...
+100
+90
...
-90
-100
-110
67
66
63
44
29
28
19
10
-120
...
-200
...
-500
...

8
7
4
2
1
0

TopMain

© 1997 Richard Pavlicek