Main     Analyses 7S69 by Richard Pavlicek    

ACBL Instant MP Pairs

The 36 deals in this collection were played September 17, 1998 in the 12th 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 2, 1998

Dear Bridge Players:

I hope you enjoyed playing in the ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs, an annual event begun in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ACBL. Whether you won or lost, try to find time to compare your results with my analyses in this booklet. You might find some helpful tips to improve your game, and who knows? You might even show me up with a spectacular success of your own.

In addition to the analyses of the deals I have included several quizzes in the boxes at the bottom of the pages (beginning after Board 8). Most of these are instructive, like the ones on finessing techniques. Nonetheless, I also appreciate useless knowledge so I threw in a few novelty puzzles you might enjoy — if not, just clip the boxes and mail them in for a refund (ha-ha).

After Board 36 you will find a statistical analysis of all the deals, showing the average HCP and hand freakness for each player. This year East had the most HCP (10.56 average per deal) and North had the fewest (8.94 average). Overall, the hands were rather tame, so if you are one of those who often complain about “wild computer deals” you won’t find any fodder here.

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

Richard Pavlicek

© 1998 Richard Pavlicek

TopMain

Board 1

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

This should be the flattest board of the set. Here is one of many ways to reach the obvious spot:

West

Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
3 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
4 S

Some North players may deem their hand worth only a single raise; others might use Drury; and I suppose a few will jump directly to 4 S. But all roads lead to the same contract.

The South hand also might be bid differently. It is reasonable to open 1 NT (strong), after which a Stayman sequence will reach 4 S. Which opening is better? I have no strong feelings, but I prefer 1 S since there is no rebid problem — if partner responds 1 NT, you have a perfect raise to 2 NT.

The play is straightforward, virtually etched in stone for 11 tricks. It makes no difference what the lead is, or whether or not East covers one of North’s heart honors with the king. Declarer is destined to lose one trick in each minor suit.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 1

...
+1100
...
+980
...
+800
...
+500
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+480
...
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
92
91
89
51
14
13
12
11
...
+230
...
+200
...
+170
...
-50
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
...
-100
...




2
1
0




TopMain

Board 2

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

This standard auction should be very common:

West

2 D
3 H
North

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

Note the handling of East’s 6-4 shape. Generally, it is better to show the four-card suit before repeating the six-carder, especially with a four-card major. East’s plan was to complete his pattern by bidding spades next, but this was unnecessary when West raised hearts.

Listen to the bidding! The contract is doomed if South leads the unbid suit and North finesses against dummy’s queen. It might appear that declarer has only three losers (by finessing hearts correctly), but there is no way to win 10 tricks. If he draws trumps, he is a trick short; and if not, North will score a heart trick sooner or later.

Some East-Wests will be allowed to make 4 H, either without a club lead, or if North wins the C A at trick one. The latter is a reasonable play and might be crucial when East has the C K. Evidently, this is a case where “leading low to promise an honor” is beneficial.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 2

...
+500
...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
100
99
98
97
96
94
90
82
...
+50
...
-110
-120
...
-140
...
74
57
40
39
38
37
36
35
-170
...
-200
...
-400
-420
-430
...
33
31
30
29
28
19
9
8
-450
...
-480
...
-590
...

5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 3

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

Despite the awkward pattern, West’s hand is clearly worth a 2 C opening. Here is one route to slam:

West

2 C
3 D
4 NT
5 NT
6 NT
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

2 S
4 C
5 C
6 H
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

West finds that all the aces and kings are held, but he certainly cannot bid seven when no fit is found. If East had more body cards (like the S J) he is allowed to bid seven, since 5 NT guarantees all the aces are held.

Assume the H 10 lead. West wins and takes the S A and three top diamonds to find he has 12 top tricks. The best play for the overtrick is simply to finesse North for the C Q, which works. Note that finessing South for the C Q would jeopardize the contract since it would be necessary to cash the top spades first. Another possibility is to play for a squeeze (double or club-spade simple), but these all fail with correct defense.

Why bother. Just take your 13 tricks with a finesse. Let the experts run the squeeze plays and make 12.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 3

...
+200
...
+100
...
-150
...
-170
100
99
98
92
91
90
89
88
...
-190
...
-600
-620
-630
-640
-650
87
86
85
84
83
82
81
80
-660
...
-680
-690
-710
-720
...
-1370
79
78
77
74
71
65
59
58
...
-1390
...
-1430
-1440
-1460
-1470
...
57
56
55
54
46
39
26
13
-2140
...
-2210
-2220
...
-2490
...
12
11
10
6
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 4

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

Tit for tat. North-South even the score with a similar non-fit slam decision. Here’s a reasonable auction:

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 H
3 C
4 C
5 H
6 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 D
3 S
4 NT
5 NT
6 NT (AP)

Even if North had shown the C K, South would still bid 6 NT. The only purpose of 5 NT was to allow North a chance to bid seven with an exceptional hand.

After a spade lead, it looks like an easy 13 tricks with the C K onside and the H Q falling. That’s an illusion. Suppose declarer crosses to the H A and finesses the club. Even though it wins, there is no assurance it will win again — a good East player would routinely duck. Further, declarer does not know the H Q is falling so it is dangerous to lead a second heart. And if South were to cross to his hand with a low diamond and the next club finesse lost, a heart return is deadly. Very annoying.

Another option after the club finesse wins is to lead a low club (or the C J) from dummy. This mangles the club suit, and a diamond return sets the contract.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 4

...
+2490
...
+2220
...
+2140
...
+1470
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
83
...
+1440
+1430
...
+1390
...
+1370
...
72
61
47
41
40
39
37
36
+800
...
+720
+710
...
+690
+680
...
35
34
32
28
27
24
16
15
+660
+650
+640
+630
+620
+600
...
+190
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
...
+170
...
-100
...
-200
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 5

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

East-West have a sound game in hearts, but it takes an aggressive move to reach it. Here’s a reasonable route for those who play secondary jumps invitational:

West

1 H
3 C
4 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East
1 C
1 S
3 H
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

West’s second bid is a borderline case, but 2 C would be a distinct underbid. East shows his three-card heart support, and West continues to the obvious game. Note that East’s preference to 3 H should be forcing because a player who bids over a game invitation is deemed to have accepted it.

Some North-Souths may get in the bidding, although neither hand warrants action at the vulnerability. Indeed, this might even help East-West get to game.

The play in hearts is routine for 10 tricks. There is no legitimate way to make more regardless of the lead (well, OK, if North leads the H K…) since North-South have a second chance to cash their diamonds. But there will be gifts like a club lead, heart finesse, and club back; then North covers the S J, handing declarer 11 tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 5

...
+200
...
+150
...
+110
+100
+90
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
92
...
+50
0
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
91
87
83
82
81
80
77
75
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-200
72
66
63
59
57
49
37
35
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
29
28
20
10
9
8
7
6
-480
...
-500
...
-590
...

5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 6

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

With 27 HCP, no trump fit, and tame distribution, almost all North-Souths will reach the world’s favorite contract. I like this auction:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 D
1 S
3 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
1 H
1 NT

Note North’s 1 S rebid (fourth suit forcing) since he is not sure of the best contract. South might have more extreme distribution, perhaps with three diamonds to make 6 D a good bet. Further, South’s spades might be Q-x or K-J, which would right-side the contract.

After a spade lead (assume the S J) the contract is doomed, or at least I would go down. The first five plays seem routine: Win S K, cross in diamonds; club to king, and cash the top diamonds. Declarer now can succeed by giving up a diamond and holding up in spades, but this doesn’t appeal to me as it only ensures eight tricks. Leading a second club rates to do at least that well and might yield 10 tricks. Alas, the clubs split even worse; East wins the C A and returns the S Q — down one.

At double-dummy 11 tricks can be made.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 6

...
+800
...
+500
+490
...
+460
+450
100
99
98
97
96
95
86
79
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+300
...
+210
78
71
63
54
44
43
42
41
+200
...
+180
...
+150
...
+130
+120
40
39
38
37
36
35
34
33
+110
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
32
31
25
11
7
6
5
4
-200
...
-500
...



3
2
1
0



TopMain

Board 7

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

Opening the South hand would make Al Roth shiver, but I suspect many will. Here is a plausible auction, resulting in a treacherous Moysian fit:

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 S
4 S
East

2 H
All Pass
South
1 C
2 S

Assume the H K lead to the ace, and a spade to the queen. To succeed against best defense, declarer must immediately cash the S A; then with East out of the picture 11 tricks come home. Even after an original club lead and ruff, 11 tricks can be won with exact play.

If South chooses to pass over 2 H (or make a support double to show three-card spade support), North-South are likely to wind up in 3 NT — not a glamorous contract, but a lucky make thanks to the entryless East hand. Routine finessing plays can win 11 tricks.

Some Easts will jump directly to 4 H and play it there (surely doubled). Eight tricks can always be won for a profitable save, but there are pitfalls. For example, after a club lead, North may shift to the D Q when he wins the H A; if East covers he will suffer a diamond ruff and go for 800.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 7

...
+950
...
+800
...
+660
+650
...
100
99
98
97
95
93
88
86
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
...
+300
...
85
82
79
78
69
67
66
65
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
62
55
49
48
47
46
44
42
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
-100
-110
...
39
37
36
28
22
20
15
12
-140
...
-200
...
-670
...
-730
...
10
9
7
6
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 8

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

Almost all East-Wests will reach 3 NT or 4 H, with the former probably more likely. Here is one route:

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

East’s 3 H rebid is of the forcing genre, and West is cornered into bidding 3 NT with an unattractive spade holding. Perhaps West should bid 3 S to be flexible (e.g., East might have S Q-x), but this may depend on partnership agreements, as some would consider it a forward going move to look for slam. Those who use limit jump rebids by responder would bid 2 S (fourth suit forcing) over 2 C, then 3 H (forcing) next.

In notrump the obvious spade lead is annoying, but a holdup play will save the day for nine tricks. Some will be given 10, e.g., if South fails to cash the C A after winning the H K.

East-West do better in hearts, with 10 tricks makable against best defense. Here too is a cash-out problem: Assume the S 4 lead to the ace, heart finesse lost, then the S Q. North should overtake and shift to a club since he knows there are no more spades to be won.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 8

...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+100
...
+50
...
-110
-120
-130
92
90
84
75
67
66
65
64
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-400
-420
63
62
61
60
59
58
47
32
-430
...
-450
-460
...
-480
-490
...
23
19
13
12
11
10
9
8
-590
...
-650
...
-690
...
-750
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 9

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

This should be another landslide to the obvious 3 NT. I would expect this sequence at most tables:

West

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

East’s overcall shows 15-18 HCP with a club stopper, and West happily jumps to game. The auction would be more difficult after a 1 S opening (say, playing four-card majors); East then should double and West should bid 3 D, followed by 3 NT from East.

This contract will make from 10 to 12 tricks depending on the opening lead and the diamond guess. After the friendly C 10 lead (covered), North is likely to win and continue, hoping South has the nine. Declarer now can win the rest if he plunks down the D A, but this is not clear-cut; North might have 11 HCP without the D K, plus a little shape. After a spade lead, the best declarer can do is win 11 tricks if he gets diamonds right.

In isolation (with adequate entries) the proper play of the diamond suit is low to the queen, guarding against a singleton king onside; then if it wins, return to hand and lead the 10, guarding against K-9-x-x onside. But as anyone can see, this only works in theory.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 9

...
+200
...
+100
...
-50
...
-100
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
92
91
86
82
79
77
76
73
...
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-500
...
71
70
67
66
65
64
63
62
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-690
61
59
51
38
37
22
14
11
...
-800
...




2
1
0




TopMain

Board 10

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

Another dull auction, which at least might dispel suspicions that these deals are rigged or hand-picked.

West

1 NT
North

Pass
East
Pass
3 NT
South
Pass
All Pass

Ideally this contract should be declared by East to protect the H K, and traditionalists might achieve this by not opening 1 NT with a worthless doubleton. Nonetheless, most experts prefer to show their strength and shape immediately and ignore the slight defect. I agree. In the long run it pays to simplify the bidding.

West’s concerns are realized as North tables the H Q. Ducking the first trick is surely right, but when North continues with the H J it’s a tough guess. Ducking again works, but it would be crucial to cover if North has the ace, or if he has Q-J-10 alone (the suit blocks). Mathematically, it seems right to cover (sorry, down one), but being at the table and knowing your opponents might be helpful. Nine tricks are cold if you get it right, and many will win 10 when South errs and sluffs a diamond.

With South on lead 3 NT is a cakewalk. Assuming a diamond lead only nine tricks are likely, though it is possible to win 10 with mirrors.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 10

...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-110
100
99
98
96
93
83
76
75
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-180
...
-210
74
72
70
69
68
67
66
65
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
64
58
49
30
12
11
6
2
-690
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 11

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

Most Souths will begin with a weak two-bid, and this might steal the show:

West

Pass
North

Pass
East

Pass
South
2 H

Some Wests will double 2 H (or overcall 3 C), which rates to work out well as East has an obvious 3 NT response. But a double could backfire: As North I would bid 2 S (fearing a penalty pass), after which East is likely to make the same bid, counting on West for a spade stopper. Viva la difference! South, with no outside entry, should then lead the S Q and East is down two. Note that 3 NT would come home after the H K lead thanks to the 3-3 club break and the diamond finesse.

The play in hearts is a drudgery. Assume the defense wins two diamonds, then a low diamond as South sheds a club and West ruffs; C A and a club to the king; spade to queen, ace; C J (East throws his last spade) ruffed; H K to the ace; high diamond. South must ruff with the H 9 to escape for down two.

In spades, it appears North can do a trick better, but there are dangers there too. For example, if West shifts to a low club early, you better fly with the king.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 11

...
+500
...
+470
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+150
+140
...
+110
+100
...
+50
92
91
90
89
87
80
75
70
0
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
65
60
54
53
48
38
34
31
...
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
30
24
19
17
15
13
11
9
...
-430
...
-500
...
-800
...
7
6
5
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 12

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

There are many paths to the obvious 3 NT spot, depending on both system and judgment. This one appeals to me:

West
1 C
1 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 D
3 NT
South
Pass
All Pass

With a strong hand East bids his better diamond suit, rather than the topless spades; and West judges well to rebid 1 NT with his major-suit kings, rather than 2 C on such a lousy suit.

Assume North leads his better major — a six-spot does beat a three-spot — and South wins the ace. In view of dummy’s spade holding (and declarer’s jack) it looks right to shift to a heart, which could be deadly on some layouts (e.g., switch the H K and H Q). In this case, however, declarer has 11 tricks after establishing clubs. It takes a spade return (and a later cash-out) to hold it to 10 tricks. An original heart lead also holds declarer to 10 tricks, since he can never enjoy the S K.

I’m sure some lucky West player will get a diamond lead, and later guess to lead a spade to the king (when South ducks), scoring up 12 tricks. The winning East-West pair, no doubt!

North-South Matchpoints — Board 12

...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-110
100
99
98
97
96
94
92
91
...
-130
...
-150
...
-180
...
-210
90
89
88
87
86
85
84
83
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-460
...
-490
82
80
75
64
53
29
4
2
...






0






TopMain

Board 13

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

How many clubs would you bid as South? If you answered one or three, you are a soft opponent. Much better is:

West

Dbl
North
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
4 S
South
4 C
All Pass

In fact, a good case can be made to open 5 C, but that’s a little too rich for me. (Speaking of “rich” my son might bid five.) The point is to put the maximum pressure on your opponents so they have a chance to go wrong. The presence of a four-card heart suit has little bearing once partner is a passed hand.

This time West has a routine takeout double and East lands in 4 S, which may look easy but requires careful play. Assume the C K lead then a low club (not best) which is ruffed high (pitching simplifies the play); S K; S 9 to the queen; D A-K-Q (discard a club); diamond ruff; spade to jack; then a diamond to North (tossing a club) for the guaranteed endplay.

At double-dummy it is possible to win 11 tricks — run the S 9 as your one and only spade play, then crossruff. On the bidding this is almost realistic, but imagine your dismay if it lost to the 10.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 13

...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
98
96
95
94
93
90
...
+140
+130
...
+110
+100
...
-90
88
87
86
85
84
71
56
55
-100
-110
...
-130
-140
...
-170
...
53
50
49
48
47
46
45
44
-200
...
-500
...
-600
-620
...
-650
42
40
38
37
36
25
11
9
...
-680
...
-790
-800
...
-1100
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 14

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

Assuming South chooses to open 1 H (not a thing of beauty), I would bid this way:

West

1 NT
3 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
2 S
South
1 H
Pass

After a 1 NT overcall it is best to play “system on” (as after a 1 NT opening) and I use 2 S to show the minors. West’s jump to 3 NT shows a maximum with strength in the majors. Of course there are many other ways to bid these hands, depending mostly on system.

This will be a battle for overtricks. After the H J lead declarer can win 12 tricks if he guesses diamonds and finesses the C J. If he goes wrong in diamonds, he should win only 10 tricks because South clearly should shift to the S K after winning the D A.

The normal percentage play in diamonds is to try to drop the jack. South’s known heart length changes the odds to favor a second-round finesse, but this is tainted because South rates to have the high cards.

The double-dummy spot for East-West is 6 D. Even a spade lead is no problem with the quick discards available, so it hinges only on the diamond play.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 14

...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
89
...
-50
...
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-210
...
-240
77
75
74
73
72
70
69
68
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-460
...
-490
67
59
48
38
28
19
9
8
-500
...
-800
...
-920
...
-990
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 15

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

Not much excitement here. Standard bidders are likely to follow this route:

West

Pass
All Pass
North

1 D
East

Pass
South
Pass
1 S

Since South is a passed hand, 1 S is nonforcing and North smartly passes to reach a superior contract. Note that if North instead rebids 1 NT, he would surely fail after the likely diamond lead.

The play in spades is complex. After a friendly heart lead to the queen, South leads a diamond to the king, ace. If East-West clear trumps, South’s clubs will set up for eight tricks, so assume a heart back to the ace. Declarer now can score eight tricks on a crossruff: C A; diamond ruff; C K; diamond ruff; club ruff; diamond ruff with S Q, overruffed; then later finesse West for the S 10.

Those who play super-weak notrumps (10-12) should do well here, buying the contract with 1 NT by West. Regardless of the lead, eight tricks can be made by picking up the diamonds — run the queen then finesse for the 10 (if North covers the D Q, the seven falls so West’s six can hold the lead on the second round).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 15

...
+300
...
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
88
+100
+90
+80
...
+50
0
...
-90
82
79
76
75
74
71
67
65
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
...
-180
...
52
40
39
38
37
36
35
34
-200
...
-300
...
-400
...
-500
...
24
11
7
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 16

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

With accurate bidding North-South should stop short of game. I like this sequence:

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

South’s takeout double is a close choice over 1 NT, but it seems right with diamonds being the shortest suit. After that it is well-judged all around. There are those who almost never stop in 2 NT, barging every hand into game; and too often it seems the defense is lacking and they succeed. This is a typical case; only eight tricks can be made legitimately but many will be given nine.

East has an opening lead problem; either the S 4 or the D 5 is reasonable (I’d never lay down the H A). To make a good fight assume the latter, ducked to the king. West should use his only entry to lead the H J; queen, ace; then a diamond to the ace; spade to queen; club to king. Declarer now can cross to the H Q (dangerous if hearts were 4-3) to lead another club or just bang down the C Q, either way coming to eight tricks. Note that when East wins the C A, he must not cash the D Q. In short, a lot of opportunities for defensive errors.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 16

...
+500
...
+430
...
+400
...
+300
100
99
98
97
96
89
84
83
...
+200
...
+180
...
+150
+140
+130
82
81
80
79
78
71
64
62
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
-50
...
53
40
34
30
26
25
17
9
-100
-110
...
-150
...
-180
...
-200
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 17

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

Those who play “two-over-one game forcing” will use a forcing 1 NT, probably producing this sequence:

West

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

East cannot pass 1 NT so he follows the usual practice of bidding a three-card minor; West invites game in notrump and East rejects. Considering some of the lousy opening bids of today, perhaps East should accept.

If North finds the best lead of the H 10, declarer can win eight tricks by leading twice toward the C K-Q. It appears he can do better by capitalizing on the spade lie, but entry problems prevent it. For example: H Q; club to king; duck a spade; heart to ace; run the spades. Ouch! Declarer gets squeezed and eight tricks are the limit.

If North instead leads the C J, declarer is a tempo ahead and is able to win nine tricks. Doing so, however, requires an anti-percentage play in spades — the proper finessing technique is low to the ten — plus, it seems like a better overall plan to work on diamonds. I think most experts would still wind up with eight tricks. To make nine, you really need help, like a diamond lead.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 17

...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
94
90
81
71
56
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
43
42
41
39
33
29
28
25
...
-180
...
-300
...
-400
...
-430
24
23
22
21
20
14
5
3
...
-460
...




2
1
0




TopMain

Board 18

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

There are those who would pass the East hand, but it’s a clear-cut opening one-bid for most. This should be a popular sequence:

West

3 NT
North

All Pass
East
1 C
South
1 D

After South’s overcall, West should consider a forcing club raise (there might be a slam); but the balanced nature of the hand plus two diamond stoppers suggests the practical bid. Note that a jump to 2 NT would be nonforcing in competition, so West has to bid game.

In notrump there are 10 easy tricks (with the diamond finesse) and no way to make more aside from a gross defensive error. How’s this for gross: North has a brainstorm to lead a spade, and declarer holds up dummy’s ace until the third round. Now there’s a cold double squeeze for 11 tricks, left to the reader.

Those who play in clubs should win 11 tricks. No doubt, a few desperadoes will be in slam going down. The best chance for 12 tricks is to cash the S A early, draw the enemy trumps, strip out the red suits, and exit with a spade. It’s all in vain here, but imagine if South held S K-x and failed to unblock.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 18

...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
91
-100
...
-130
...
-150
...
-170
-180
90
89
88
87
84
80
79
78
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-420
-430
77
76
74
73
71
59
46
32
...
-460
...
-490
-500
...
-550
...
18
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
-650
...
-800
...
-920
...
-1100
...
8
7
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 19

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

West has a borderline opening, but lacking two defensive tricks and at unfavorable vulnerability it seems right to pass. A standard auction:

West

Pass
1 D
2 S
3 NT
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

1 C
2 H
3 D
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

After five routine bids, West must decide whether to make a move toward slam. Certainly, one can construct East hands that make slam a good bet, but the known spade duplication (K-Q opposite shortness) and likely heart duplication suggest 3 NT to me. This proves right in theory — 6 D is about 34 percent; 6 C only slightly better — but in practice either slam comes home.

Assuming a spade lead against 3 NT, declarer can win all 13 tricks by crossing to the C K to finesse diamonds, a dubious play as it risks losing the long diamonds. More sensible is to play D A and a diamond, which makes 10 to 12 tricks depending on the defense. North should find the heart switch (from South’s spade signal), then South should cash out since he can’t stop the clubs.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 19

...
+500
...
+200
...
+100
...
-150
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
-170
...
-190
...
-600
-620
-630
92
91
90
89
88
87
85
79
-640
...
-660
...
-690
...
-720
...
74
71
68
59
56
53
44
29
-1370
...
-1390
...
-1440
...
-1470
...
27
24
20
16
15
14
8
0

TopMain

Board 20

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

After a routine weak two-bid South must decide how to investigate slam on a misfit. A practical solution:

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

North’s 3 S rebid shows a minimum. South still can’t be sure about slam — North might have three-card heart support or a side four-card minor — but the odds surely favor giving up. The above sequence could also produce an unexpected bonanza: East, looking at a spade stack, might double. Oops. Redouble!

In notrump 10 tricks are easy and it is possible to win more. For example, a diamond lead gives North an extra entry to finesse hearts twice for 11 tricks. And consider this scenario: Against 3 NT redoubled, West dutifully leads a spade and East ducks the king. Bang, zoom — 12 tricks! The only hard part is adding up the score.

Two slams are makable, but don’t be proud if you bid either one. In 6 D declarer can use the D Q and a club ruff as entries to finesse hearts twice. In 6 H declarer can ruff one club and discard the other on the S Q (after a ruffing finesse) and lose just a trump trick.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 20

...
+2200
...
+1800
...
+1660
...
+1540
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+1440
+1430
...
+1370
...
+690
+680
92
91
90
89
88
84
83
82
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
78
72
58
51
43
30
23
22
+230
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
...
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
13
8
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 21

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

Most North-Souths should have no problem reaching this near laydown slam. Here is one of many routes:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
2 H
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
3 C
6 H

The purpose of 3 C is to investigate the possibility of a grand slam, but when North offers no encouragement I would settle for six. There is really no point in using Blackwood — South is missing only one ace (or key card) — and it might be detrimental: North’s response would be 5 D, allowing East a free double to request the only lead South fears. Further, if 6 H happened to be doubled for a diamond lead, it is still possible for North to be the declarer in 6 NT if he has the D K.

There is nothing to the play, other than the chance to make seven if West were to lead a club. Even without South’s 3 C bid, I wouldn’t risk such a lead because of West’s sturdy diamond holding; I’d lead a spade.

A few greedy pairs might try 6 NT which is cold with any lead but a diamond. But if West leads the D K, you may as well be in 7 NT, needing the C K onside.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 21

...
+1660
...
+1470
+1460
+1440
+1430
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
68
41
+720
+710
+690
+680
...
+660
+650
...
40
39
35
24
15
14
13
12
+630
+620
+600
...
+230
...
-100
...
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
-200
...
-300
...



3
2
1
0



TopMain

Board 22

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

With few clear-cut actions the bidding will take many turns. Here is one, using a convention I like:

West

Pass
All Pass
North

1 D
East
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 H

I play weak jump shift responses at all times, so 2 H is perfect and North knows right away to cool it. Another advantage of this agreement is that when you bid 1 H then 2 H, partner can rule out terrible hands.

But there are many scenarios. Some Souths will open 3 H at the vulnerability (dubious in second seat). Many Wests will open in third seat, but this begs for disaster with a flat, suitless hand at unfavorable vulnerability.

In hearts South should win nine tricks unless East-West find their spade ruff. Assume the D Q lead; king, ace; East shifts to the C J to the king, then the H Q goes to the king. West now knows there is no future in clubs, but the diamond layout is unclear; the winning defense of a low spade would be disastrous if South’s spades and diamonds were reversed. Perhaps East should have led the S 10 at trick two, or grabbed the H Q at trick three to do so. In any event, finding the ruff is not easy.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 22

...
+800
...
+570
...
+530
...
+500
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+470
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
92
91
90
88
85
84
83
82
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
+70
75
67
66
58
50
45
44
43
0
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
42
35
28
26
18
11
10
9
-150
...
-180
...
-300
...
-500
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 23

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

The borderline slam in clubs (easy to make) seems out of reach. I think most experts would bid this way:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 D
1 S
3 NT
East

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
1 H
1 NT

North’s 1 S rebid is “fourth suit forcing” to elicit more information. When South next bids 1 NT, North settles for the obvious game. Both players have a tad extra for their bids, but not enough to warrant bidding further.

Sound technique should manage 12 tricks. Assume a spade lead, won by the queen, then the D J; king, ace. It is tempting to continue diamonds, but this is inferior. Lead the C 7 (a potential unblocking play) to the jack, then a low club to the 10, queen. If East returns a heart (or a spade), take the heart finesse. If East returns a club to remove your hand entry, running the clubs and spades will squeeze East in the red suits. But there is a defense: On the C 7 suppose East plays an honor. You would win the ace (not knowing East has both); then East takes his club trick on the third round. Now you can’t benefit from the finesse or the squeeze — 11 tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 23

...
+1440
...
+1370
...
+690
...
+660
100
98
95
93
91
72
51
39
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+240
...
+170
26
20
14
13
12
11
10
9
...
+150
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 24

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

This is a cruel deal for aggressive East-Wests. I can picture this from my “been there, done that” catalog:

West
1 S
5 S
North
3 D
Pass
East
4 S
6 S
South
Pass
All Pass

North’s jump overcall is dubious but on the mark in my view. West might pass 4 S, but East’s raise shows a good hand (from a limit raise to perhaps 15-16 points) so I must admit I would try for slam. The raise to 5 S shows concern about diamond control.

Too bad. The slam is sound but doomed by a diamond lead. Declarer has two reasonable options: Try for a fast discard on the clubs, or lead trumps hoping South has the S A and a singleton diamond. The latter would also work if South ducks — he is not sure a diamond will cash and North might have a blank S K. Unfortunately, the 5 S bid gave away the show if South is alert.

Curiously, despite their 10-card fit and slam potential, East-West do best to double 3 D. Assuming a spade lead won by the ace, declarer cannot enjoy his fourth heart against best defense. Either he will lose trump control, or East can maneuver a heart ruff and deny dummy the same. That’s a cool 500.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 24

...
+100
...
+50
...
-200
...
-230
100
99
98
91
86
85
84
83
...
-420
-430
...
-450
...
-480
...
82
81
80
79
48
17
12
11
-500
...
-650
...
-800
...
-980
...
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
2
-1100
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 25

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

Perhaps North should downgrade his hand and open 1 NT, but most will honor its HCP to produce this:

West

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

North’s reopening 1 NT logically shows 18-19 since he would pass with 12-14 and heart length or strength. (Reopening is obligatory only if short in the enemy suit.) East is worth a second heart bid, which is likely to end the auction.

In hearts eight tricks can always be won, and imperfect defense will often allow nine. Assume a club lead, then a trump shift (needed to stop a diamond ruff) won by the king; H Q ducked by North; then a spade. South should realize the spade layout and put up the king won by the ace; then a club ruff and a spade to the nine, queen. North exits with ace and a heart, and declarer is obliged to lose two diamonds. Note that if East leads the D Q, North must duck to deny the entry to dummy. All considered, it takes sharp defense to stop the overtrick.

In notrump North-South should win six tricks, hence pushing to 2 NT over 2 H would be a profitable sacrifice unless East-West were inspired to double.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 25

...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
98
97
95
94
93
88
...
+120
...
+100
+90
+80
...
-50
83
82
81
76
70
69
68
65
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
61
60
52
41
30
29
24
16
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
...
-600
...
-670
...
-730
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 26

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

There are two schools of thought on bidding the East hand: Open the bidding, or pass then make a two-suit takeout (like Michaels). I believe in getting in first:

West

3 S
All Pass
North

4 H
East
2 S
4 S
South
3 H
5 H

Many would scoff at the jack-high two-bid, but rules have to be bent occasionally to give your opponents problems. Further, when East is raised he should push to 4 S (an abnormal action) because of his wild shape. Note that 4 S doubled is a fine result for East-West — probably down two (500) against the cold North-South game. South judges well to push on to 5 H.

In hearts a lot depends on the lead. If West cashes the S A, declarer can win 12 tricks — cash all the winners and crossruff. After any other lead (I prefer a trump) the limit is 11 tricks with best defense.

In spades the outcome should be eight or nine tricks. More likely, declarer will guess wrong in diamonds by leading to the king, ending up with eight tricks. Proper technique is to start diamonds before drawing trumps, else there is danger of losing control.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 26

...
+1660
...
+1430
...
+1190
...
+1050
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+990
...
+850
...
+800
...
+680
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
...
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
82
61
42
41
32
24
23
22
...
+200
...
+170
...
+100
...
-100
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
11
...
-140
...
-200
...
-500
...
8
7
6
4
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 27

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

It takes fine judgment for East-West to shun 3 NT and reach game in their 5-2 fit. I like this sequence:

West

Pass
3 H
4 H
North

Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

Dbl
3 S
South
1 S
Pass
Pass

East is too strong for a balancing 1 NT (not to mention no spade stopper) so he doubles, West jumps to invite, then East cue-bids to show doubt as to the best game. West wisely repeats his hearts (3 H only promised four) rather than 3 NT with short spades and one stopper.

In hearts 11 tricks can be won. Assume a spade lead to the ace and a spade. If you know North has another spade from the lead, it seems best to lead a diamond to the king immediately; South wins and returns a spade, ruffed. Draw all the trumps (pitching clubs), then lead a diamond, finesse, and dummy is good. But the finesse is not so obvious (you would be set if it lost). Being in an excellent contract, you might reject the finesse to guard against A-J doubleton. Note that you still make 10 tricks when North has the D J since he is out of spades.

Those in 3 NT will be down one with a spade lead.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 27

...
+100
...
+50
...
-50
...
-90
100
99
98
88
78
77
76
75
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
74
72
69
66
58
49
48
46
-180
...
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-400
44
43
40
39
38
37
36
33
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
-500
...
24
20
19
13
5
4
3
2
-800
...





1
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Board 28

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

East-Wests will have a slam decision, which accurate bidding should reject. I would bid this way:

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

I play all second-round jumps by responder forcing, so 2 NT is unlimited; then 4 NT is a natural invitation. West has minimum values (some might not even open) so he passes. If you are wondering why 4 NT is not Blackwood, I have a definite rule which might benefit other partnerships: If notrump has been naturally bid and no major suit has been raised, 4 NT is natural.

Assume a diamond lead, won by the 10. Declarer has an easy 11 or 12 tricks depending on how he plays clubs. In isolation, it is best to win the C K then finesse, but there are other concerns. If North gains the lead, a spade shift (though unlikely) would be annoying if the king were offside. Further, if South had C Q-x-x-x, finessing either way ensures only three club tricks (lack of entries) while the safety play of cashing the C K-A ensures five. (If North has Q-x-x-x it is revealed with any play.)

Those in slam have the same guess at higher stakes.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 28

...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+50
...
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
92
85
83
82
81
80
79
78
-180
...
-210
...
-400
-420
-430
-440
77
76
75
74
72
68
61
57
-450
-460
...
-490
...
-520
...
-920
56
42
25
18
12
11
10
9
...
-990
...
-1090
...
-1230
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 29

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

West has an impossible hand to describe after partner opens in his void suit. Bidding 2 C is likely to get you overboard, so I would go quietly with this sequence:

West

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

Not pretty, but practical. At least you know there is no major fit (East would bid up-the-line with four spades). My only real concern is that game might be on.

Those who play weak notrumps (12-14) will probably get to game. West uses Stayman; then when he retreats to 2 NT, East goes to 3 NT with his maximum.

Chalk one up for weak notrumps, as nine tricks come home with proper play. South will lead the S J, ducked to the king. The best technique is a club to the king then duck the second round (unless the queen or jack appears) hoping to lose the trick to South to minimize the danger of diamond leads through your hand. Even if the defense is clever and North wins the club, you can finesse the D 8 and duck the spade return to survive.

Here’s a cute swindle: North wins the club and shifts to the D Q; king, ace. When he wins the S A and leads another diamond, declarer puts up the 10. Ouch.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 29

...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+180
100
99
98
97
96
94
91
90
...
+100
+90
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
89
83
75
74
73
72
67
63
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
56
49
42
36
35
34
33
31
...
-400
-500
...
-600
-620
-630
...
30
29
28
27
18
9
4
2
-750
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 30

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

Few North-Souths will reach this good slam in spades with only 28 HCP and such mild distribution. Here’s a sound auction with a touch of optimism:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 D
3 S
4 H
5 D
East
Pass
1 H
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 C
1 S
4 D
5 C
6 S (AP)

East’s 1 H overcall is dubious, but I couldn’t resist it for the lead-directing benefit. After finding the spade fit, North-South cooperate well via control-showing to seek out the optimum spot. Blackwood lovers take note how useless that convention would be in this slam decision.

Six spades basically requires a 3-2 trump break and the diamonds to run, which figures to about 58 percent — clearly good, but not excellent. The actual layout fits the bill and 12 tricks are a breeze.

At some tables East may throw in a monkey wrench by opening the bidding, any of 1 C, 1 H or 1 NT (yuk) according to system. Any North-South who reaches 6 S now deserves a medal. This adds fuel to the point I made on Board 26 about getting in the bidding first.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 30

...
+1100
...
+990
+980
...
+920
...
100
99
98
97
90
84
83
82
+800
...
+750
...
+510
+500
+490
+480
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
48
...
+460
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
...
28
23
14
13
12
11
10
9
+230
+210
...
+150
...
-50
...
-100
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 31

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

Most North-South pairs will reach the sound game in spades, perhaps with this standard sequence:

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 NT
3 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 S
3 H
4 S (AP)

South’s jump shift is borderline, but I think it’s right. If you bid only 2 H on these hands, partner must compensate by raising on less, then you’ll get overboard too often with minimum hands. North’s preference to 3 S implies a doubleton, which South is delighted to hear.

Against 4 S I would lead the S 9 (a diamond is OK too), after which declarer should fail. The best plan is to pitch a club on the D A then try to set up a heart trick, either with a 3-3 break or by finessing or capturing an honor. Alas, with only one heart finesse available this doesn’t work. At double-dummy declarer can succeed by unblocking the D K and leading a low heart (or the jack) from his hand; note that if East wins, the defenders cannot cash two clubs without setting up the C 10.

The winning spot is 3 NT, with nine cold tricks. This would be preferred at IMPs but not here, since spades will usually play a trick better.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 31

...
+800
+790
...
+680
...
+660
+650
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+300
...
+200
92
89
75
60
58
57
56
55
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
...
54
52
49
46
44
43
42
41
+50
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
40
39
29
11
6
4
3
2
-500
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 32

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

Are you a practical bidder or a prude? In my view there is only one practical way to bid the North hand:

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

Yes, 2 NT with a singleton king. Most players would not hesitate to open in notrump with a worthless doubleton, which has no chance as a stopper; but a blank king has excellent prospects with its positional value. How often do you lead an ace against 3 NT? The bidding is greatly simplified: South transfers to hearts, and North jumps to game with his exceptional fit.

If North opens 1 C, South will bid 1 H and North will drive to game, perhaps with a splinter bid. The defense now knows more about the North-South hands, and the stronger hand will be exposed as dummy.

In hearts, a spade lead is likely (no matter who is declarer), won by the king. The best plan is a crossruff, though the exact order of plays is not crucial. I would take this route: Cash the C A; D A-K; club ruff; S A (pitch the diamond); diamond ruff; club ruff; spade ruff; club ruff (unless East ruffs high). Finally, lead the last diamond and ruff to ensure 11 tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 32

...
+800
...
+690
...
+460
+450
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
78
62
+430
+420
+400
...
+200
...
+170
...
61
47
39
38
37
36
35
34
+150
+140
+130
+120
+110
...
+90
...
33
32
31
30
29
28
27
26
+70
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
25
24
17
9
7
6
5
4
-300
...
-500
...



3
2
1
0



TopMain

Board 33

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

With 35 combined HCP almost every East-West will get to slam (yea, right). I see no way to improve on this simple auction:

West

6 NT
North
Pass
All Pass
East
1 NT
South
Pass

I would not use Stayman with such a flimsy spade suit and so many HCP, as a likely outcome would be to reach a dangerous suit slam (say, needing a 3-2 trump break) with 12 tricks cold in notrump. Also, there is no need to check for aces since West can account for at least 33 HCP (assuming 1 NT shows 15-17).

Too bad. The contract is doomed unless South elects to lead a spade from his king. After any other lead, declarer should eventually try a spade toward the queen as his best chance. An alternate line (but inferior) is to cash all your winners except the S A, and exit with a heart hoping for an endplay. Nothing works this time.

A few lucky pairs will reach 6 D, which is cold for 12 tricks with the added ruff; but don’t be proud of this. At matchpoints you are bucking the odds and would be a big loser in the long run. In the almost words of Patrick Henry, “Give me notrump, or give me death!”

North-South Matchpoints — Board 33

...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
97
96
95
93
70
...
-170
...
-400
-420
-430
-440
-450
48
47
46
45
44
43
42
41
-460
...
-490
...
-800
...
-920
...
40
38
37
36
35
34
31
26
-940
...
-990
...
-1020
...
-1440
...
25
24
12
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 34

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

One bid by East will end the auction at most tables:

West

Pass
North

Pass
East
1 NT
South
Pass

This could be a textbook deal to illustrate “fourth from your longest and strongest.” On a heart lead declarer can win only five tricks, whether he takes them early or later, as the defense has exactly eight tricks. Oh well. I must admit I would lead a passive spade, which costs me three tricks, as declarer wins eight in a breeze.

Those who use weak notrumps (12-14) will open 1 C and reach the same contract after a 1 S response — unless North doubles 1 S, then South will bid 2 H; East might compete to 2 S; and perhaps South to 3 D.

In hearts North-South can win eight tricks with best defense (trump leads), but most will win nine. Note that if the defense starts with two rounds of clubs, declarer is off and running on a dummy reversal, and might win 10 tricks if the defense is bad. The play in diamonds is similar — nine tricks with trump leads; 10 without.

In spades East-West can be brutalized with a club lead; South can get three ruffs, holding declarer to just five tricks. In clubs East-West can win eight tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 34

...
+870
...
+670
...
+300
...
+150
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
91
89
86
83
69
59
58
47
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
36
30
26
23
18
7
6
5
...
-200
...
-280
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 35

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

A slam in diamonds is a good bet, but it takes some optimism to reach. Here’s a reasonable sequence:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

2 H
3 D
4 D
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 NT
2 S
3 NT
6 D (AP)

After the Jacoby transfer, North bids 3 D (natural, game forcing) and South bids 3 NT to deny a trump fit. When North tries again with 4 D (showing at least 5-5), South is worth a stab at slam.

Assuming the H K lead, I think the proper play is to ruff it and try the club finesse, which works. At this point you could play safe: Draw the missing trumps, repeat the club finesse, lead the S J (West must cover) and you have 12 tricks. But perhaps you should endure the slight risk of West having a stiff club or spade and cash only two trumps before taking the spade finesse; then you can ruff a spade in dummy and win all 13 tricks.

Anyone who bids 6 NT will be undeservedly blessed. Assuming a heart lead, you should discard a club and try the spade finesse first because it is always needed. When spades don’t split you need the club finesse as well.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 35

...
+1330
...
+1230
...
+1020
+1010
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+990
+980
...
+940
...
+920
...
+520
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
74
+510
...
+490
+480
...
+460
+450
+440
61
59
44
27
24
21
17
16
+430
+420
+400
...
+270
+260
+240
+230
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
...
+170
...
-50
...
-100
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 36

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

There is a perfect opening bid for hands like West’s: One no-hearts (useful on Board 14 too). Realistically, though, you have to bid what you are dealt:

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

After the single raise, West has a borderline game try. In my methods it qualifies because a single raise shows 7-10 support points — with weaker hands (4-6 range) I would bid 1 NT forcing, followed by a preference. East has an absolute maximum so game is easily reached. Isn’t that curious? West bids hearts and spades, and almost his entire wealth is in diamonds. I guess that’s what they mean by “length before strength.”

Regardless of the lead, declarer can win 11 tricks in hearts if he plays all out, but in some scenarios this involves an extra risk. Assume a diamond lead, a heart ducked, a second diamond, and a heart to the ace. When hearts split 2-2 the contract is secure for 10 tricks, but to make 11 declarer must immediately lead a spade to his king — which, if it lost, could mean going down. It’s a tough choice. Note that an original spade lead makes it easier to score the maximum.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 36

...
+200
...
+100
...
-110
-120
...
100
99
98
96
94
93
92
91
-140
...
-170
...
-200
...
-230
...
90
89
84
79
77
76
75
74
-300
...
-500
...
-600
-620
-630
...
73
72
71
70
69
57
42
40
-650
...
-680
...
-790
-800
...
23
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

© 1998 Richard Pavlicek