Main     Analyses 7T69 by Richard Pavlicek    

ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs

September 14, 2000

Dear Bridge Players,

I hope you enjoyed participating in the ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs, an annual event begun in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our ACBL. Regardless of how well you did, try to find time to compare your results with my analyses in this booklet. You may find some helpful tips, and might even discover that some of your results topped my predictions.

I have also included statistical analyses of these 36 deals, as well as all 504 deals since this event began. You will find this at the end of the booklet.

I welcome any feedback — questions, criticisms, or whatever — about the analyses. If you wish a reply, please contact me by e-mail (richard@rpbridge.net). Also, if you have access to the Internet, visit my web site (www.rpbridge.net) where you will find a large assortment of complimentary bridge material — quizzes, puzzles, humor, articles, systems, bidding practice, and more.

Kindest regards,

Richard Pavlicek

Richard Pavlicek of Fort Lauderdale FL is one of the leading ACBL bridge players. He has won 10 North American championships including the coveted Vanderbilt Cup (1983, ‘86, ‘95), the Reisinger Cup (1982, ‘83, ‘84, ‘90), the Grand National Teams (1973, ‘97), and the Open Swiss Teams (1992).

Mr. Pavlicek is the author of a variety of bridge booklets and lesson materials including his Bridge Tutor software for personal computers. He and his wife, Mabel, are successful bridge teachers in South Florida.

For the 14th year in a row, Pavlicek, a respected bridge analyst, has focused his highly skilled critical examination on each of the 36 deals in the ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs.

TopMain

Board 1

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

Assuming 15-17 notrumps, a good case could be made for North to open 1 NT with such a barren 18, but most will honor the point count:

West

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

South’s 3 D is “new minor forcing” (an artificial checkback) and North is supposed to show his three-card spade fit (or perhaps bid hearts), but I would take exception with North’s flat hand. Three notrump sure feels right at matchpoints.

Unless East finds a club lead, 10 tricks are available in notrump — duck a spade to establish that suit, then eventually collect four heart tricks with the lucky lie. An original club lead limits declarer to nine tricks, but this seems far-fetched with North bidding the suit.

Those who play in spades appear to have no advantage, but 11 tricks can be won unless West leads a club. Assuming a passive diamond lead, the best technique is to cross to the S K and take a first-round heart finesse; then win the S A and eliminate the diamonds with a ruff (key play) before running the hearts. When East wins his high trump, he will be endplayed. If declarer misses the elimination, only 10 tricks can be won.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 1

...
+490
...
+460
+450
...
+430
+420
100
99
98
97
96
95
91
81
+400
...
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
56
38
37
36
35
34
32
30
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
...
+90
...
24
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...

9
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 2

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

The top spot for East-West is 5 D, but it is difficult to reach. Here is an auction I would expect at many tables:

West

Dbl
3 H
North

3 C
All Pass
East
1 D
3 D
South
2 C
Pass

West’s final bid is dubious with a diamond fit, but the solidity of his suit makes it a good matchpoint venture. A new suit by a player who made a negative double is nonforcing, and East does well to resist the temptation to raise to 4 H.

In hearts, the play goes sour for declarer. The routine diamond lead nets two quick ruffs, limiting declarer to nine tricks and a poor score. Note that if North shifts to a spade after getting his second ruff, declarer must take the spade finesse to make 3 H.

In diamonds, however, the play is sweet for 11 tricks. After a top club and spade shift, declarer can just draw trumps. If the defense begins with two rounds of clubs, declarer should lead trumps once (ducked, best) then ruff his last club, etc.

A few North-South pairs may unwisely push to 4 C, which is routinely down two and may be doubled for a terrible score.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 2

...
+300
...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
92
+50
...
-100
-110
...
-130
-140
-150
88
85
84
82
80
78
74
56
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
38
37
36
35
34
33
32
27
-420
...
-450
...
-500
...
-550
...
17
15
9
6
5
4
4
3
-610
...
-650
...
-800
...

3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 3

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

The bidding could take many different turns, but this looks like a reasonable auction to me:

West

1 D
All Pass
North

Dbl
East

1 NT
South
Pass
2 S

Note East’s decision to suppress his lousy four-card major. In the long run it is suicide to bid a weak major suit after an enemy takeout double; even if you locate a 4-4 fit it will usually play poorly with the trump honors offside and the likelihood of a 4-1 break. The only intelligible way to reach hearts, I think, is for West to open 1 H with his sturdy suit — a reasonable choice even if your approach is “five-card majors.”

In spades, there are only three apparent losers, but the limit is nine tricks with any sensible defense. For one, West could get a club ruff; for another, the defense could lead trumps. But none of these attacks is really necessary. Declarer’s trumps are too meager to negotiate all the ruffing and establish clubs without the defense getting four tricks.

What about hearts for East-West? As predicted above, it plays poorly despite the nice trump fit. The limit is eight tricks, and an astute North player might double 3 H for the magic 200.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 3

...
+800
...
+500
...
+420
...
+300
100
99
99
98
97
97
96
94
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
92
88
83
78
73
72
63
54
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
-50
...
-80
53
49
38
32
31
26
21
20
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
-140
-150
...
16
10
8
7
6
5
4
4
-170
-180
...
-300
...


3
2
1
1
0


TopMain

Board 4

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

Bidding philosophy after a 2-over-1 response comes up for debate here. I believe in the “natural” approach and would bid like this:

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

Opener’s 3 C rebid is the focus of the debate. To me, it just describes opener’s shape; but to many others it promises extra strength — sometimes called a “high reverse.” Players in that camp would be forced to rebid 2 S, which is just a waiting bid. (To me, 2 S would show six cards or a very strong five.) Either way is OK as long as you agree with partner. Oh, and there is another camp I probably should mention: Al Roth would pass the North hand and still reach 4 H in a breeze.

In hearts, 10 tricks are easy and many will win 11 with the help of the opening lead. At double-dummy, only a spade lead by West stops an 11th trick. If West leads, say, a club, declarer has three club tricks and needs only to negotiate one diamond ruff in dummy before drawing trumps.

With stoppers in all the suits, some will play in notrump where only nine tricks are available, unless the defense slips.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 4

...
+690
+680
...
+660
+650
...
+630
100
99
98
97
96
87
80
71
+620
+600
...
+200
...
+180
+170
...
53
36
30
29
28
27
25
23
+140
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
22
21
13
5
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 5

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

Many North-South pairs will bark at the door to this inferior slam, but sound bidding should stop short:

West

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

South’s raise to 3 H is forcing (assuming 2-over-1 game force) and North emphasizes his 6-4 pattern. When South shows the wasted diamond control, North uses good judgment to give up. The slam appears to be 50-50 (on the spade finesse) but is actually worse with the possibility of bad breaks in the majors. Alas, by another definition, a “good slam” is one that makes; so the overbidders will be rewarded. Hmm. Have we ever heard that before?

Most Easts will lead the ace and another club (unbid suit) which seems friendly but actually gives declarer a losing option: a ruffing spade finesse after discarding a spade on the third club. Nonetheless, it is superior to draw trumps and take the straight finesse since declarer can cope with K-x-x-x onside. Alternatively, declarer can succeed without a finesse by ruffing out the S K before drawing trumps, but this requires a 3-2 break in both majors and no club ruff.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 5

...
+1460
+1440
+1430
...
+710
+690
+680
100
99
98
91
85
81
77
54
...
+660
+650
...
+620
...
+230
...
32
31
20
11
10
9
8
7
+200
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 6

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

Now it is East-West’s turn for the slam barking, and once again accurate bidding should stop short:

West

2 D
4 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East
2 C
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass

East promotes his superb 24 HCP to the 25-27 range, after which West is obliged to invite slam and East declines. It is difficult to reject anything with a hand like East’s, but everything is relative to what you have shown; and East is clearly at a minimum for his 3 NT bid.

Can a slam be made? With the club and heart finesses working, it looks like 12 tricks: one spade, four hearts, three diamonds and four clubs; but these cannot be realized with one entry to the West hand, assuming South doesn’t help with the opening lead. The limit is 11 tricks, and some will win less if they use the lone entry to lead clubs and mistime the play.

A defensive error may allow a few declarers to win 12 tricks. If the H J is led from dummy, North must cover — normal technique since the honor led is unaccompanied by a touching card. If North were to duck, declarer could switch to clubs then catch North in an endplay in the black suits. (This is true even after an original spade lead.)

North-South Matchpoints — Board 6

...
+500
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+100
...
-170
...
-210
...
-600
92
87
84
83
82
81
80
79
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-680
-690
77
67
57
56
36
17
16
10
...
-720
...
-1430
-1440
...
-1470
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
2
1
-1680
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 7

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

The slam theme continues, but this time it’s a claimer. The proper bidding is mostly a matter of system. Here is one possibility:

West

1 H
4 NT
6 H
North

Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

3 NT
5 S
South
Pass
Pass
Dbl

Three notrump is an artificial forcing raise with no splinter, and West has enough to drive to slam. A routine check with Roman key-card Blackwood reveals that East has two key cards plus the trump queen. South doubles the 5 S response to request that lead, but it makes no difference.

Looking over the previous results on this deal was mind-boggling, as 36 pairs scored only 650 in hearts. Say what? I suppose one could imagine a beginner ruffing a club low and getting overruffed; but 36 times? Give me a break. If that wasn’t enough, five pairs scored 710. Wow! Now that’s what I call great declarer play.

All considered, I felt the calculated awards were unfair, mainly because the actual award for a par result (-1430) gave North-South only 14 percent. Therefore, I made the adjustments reflected below.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 7

...
+100
...
-230
...
-650
...
-680
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
70
-690
...
-710
...
-1430
-1440
...
-1660
45
44
43
42
23
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 8

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

Left to their own, North-South would reach 3 NT; but I can picture this scenario at some tables:

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

South’s double is negative, and North converts it to penalty with his strong hearts — a reasonable choice but it backfires. With routine play East will come to six tricks (down two) for a superior score. In fact, if South begins with three rounds of clubs, East can win seven tricks by leading a diamond early (ace wins), then winning two spades before leading a heart from dummy (without cashing D K); North is eventually endplayed and both of East’s spades go away on the diamonds.

In notrump, a heart lead by East makes nine tricks easy by developing a spade trick. It is possible to win 10 tricks, either by finessing the S 8 or by several workable endplays, but these seem dubious. I suspect that most who won 10 tricks were given help.

This deal offers more evidence that bridge is a bidder’s game. East’s weak jump overcall with a lousy suit and a side four-card major may be revolting to some, but it upsets the apple cart — at least in my scenario.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 8

...
+800
...
+500
...
+460
...
+430
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
83
...
+400
...
+300
...
+180
...
+150
70
49
31
30
29
28
27
26
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
-200
17
13
7
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 9

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

A stretch for game will be a common issue here, and it is difficult to improve on this standard sequence:

West

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

Well, I suppose you could improve on it by catching West in 1 D doubled (routinely down two for 500) but that’s unrealistic. Just getting to the sound game with only 24 HCP assures North-South a good score.

With the D A marked to be onside, 3 NT essentially requires a 3-3 break in either clubs or spades, which makes it a favorite. With both black suits behaving, declarer has 10 easy tricks, or 11 if West doesn’t cash two hearts after winning the D A (or if he ducks twice). Note that the blockage in hearts prevents East-West from cashing a third heart trick.

A slightly inferior play could produce less. Assume a diamond to the ace and a diamond return; then S A, S K. When West drops two significant cards (it matters not which) the percentage play in the spade suit alone is to finesse East for the other card, based on restricted choice. Luckily, declarer still survives with nine tricks (unless he cashed his high diamond).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 9

...
+800
...
+500
...
+460
+450
...
100
99
98
97
96
90
81
80
+430
+420
+400
...
+300
...
+210
+200
74
67
64
63
62
61
54
44
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
+120
40
35
25
22
18
13
8
6
+110
...
-50
...
-100
...

5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 10

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

The misfitting values make this a treacherous deal for East-West, and some will get overboard. I like this sequence:

West

1 D
2 H
3 D
North

2 C
Pass
All Pass
East
Pass
Pass
2 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

West’s reopening reverse seems ideal with his great playing potential. It would also be acceptable to rebid 2 D (conservative), but I would never double with a singleton spade. East shows his spade suit and then uses good judgment to pass 3 D — just in time.

In diamonds, nine tricks are laydown if declarer just plays trumps from the top. The other option is to cash one top trump, then try to reach dummy with a heart ruff to take the finesse. The probabilities are too close to call; but the deciding factor, I think, is that if North held a singleton diamond (i.e., 4=3=1=5 or 3=4=1=5 pattern) he might have doubled 1 D instead of overcalling. Hence, the simple line is better. Or, by the armchair rules of analysis, the play that works is always better.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 10

...
+800
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
92
+200
...
+100
...
-90
-100
-110
...
83
74
66
59
58
57
39
22
-130
-140
-150
...
-200
...
-300
...
13
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
-400
-500
...
-800
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 11

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

A textbook weak two-bid seems rare these days, but sometimes you get endplayed by the dealer. I like this sequence:

West

2 S
5 H
North

3 H
Pass
East

4 NT
6 C
South
2 H
Pass
All Pass

Assuming Roman key-card Blackwood, West shows two aces without the queen of spades. East is then forewarned of the spade problem and bids the slam in clubs to increase his chances. It is painful at matchpoints to eschew a major to play in a minor, but it is surely warranted here.

In clubs, declarer does not even need to take the spade finesse. The proper technique is to lead all but one trump to reach: S A-8 D A-K-10-5 opposite S K-10-9 D 6-3 C 7. (Note the unblock of the S J in case a finesse through North is necessary.) Next cash the top diamonds and ruff a diamond; either the D 10 will be good or North’s S Q will pop up on the second round. Alternatively, declarer could ruff the diamond early and lead all his trumps to accomplish the same thing.

In spades, 12 tricks are also available with a spade guess, and the enemy bidding provides the blueprint. Even the annoying defense of two rounds of hearts does not prevent declarer from picking up North’s queen.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 11

...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
100
99
98
97
96
88
81
80
...
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-230
79
78
77
76
75
74
73
72
...
-400
-420
...
-450
...
-480
-490
71
67
62
58
52
44
35
25
-500
-510
-520
...
-800
...
-920
...
24
23
22
21
20
19
15
11
-940
...
-980
...
-1010
...
-1100
...
10
9
6
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 12

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

Unless East gets ambitious, a routine game in spades should be reached with this standard sequence:

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

Should East make a slam try? It is close, but in my experience 5-4-2-2 shapes are usually disappointing. The only real hope for a good slam (not dependent on a finesse) might be if West had an exceptional diamond fit; but this is remote. If East reveals his second suit, it is more likely to aid the defense. I think a simple 4 S will net the best results in the long run.

In spades, 11 tricks can be won by ruffing two diamonds before drawing trumps; or, in some scenarios, by establishing the long heart. If South finds the best lead of a low trump, declarer must take the diamond finesse early to make the overtrick — a dubious play since it could result in down one if it loses and two more trumps are led. The safer line (clearly correct at IMPs) is to play the H A and another heart; but now South can hold declarer to 10 tricks with S A and another spade. Note that declarer is unable to establish the long heart and take the diamond finesse.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 12

...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-140
100
99
98
97
96
95
92
91
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
...
-400
90
89
88
87
86
85
84
82
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
-480
...
72
62
54
33
5
4
3
2
-980
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 13

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

This excellent slam might be reached in many ways. Here is one way, similar to the sequence on Board 7:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 S
4 C
4 NT
6 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
3 NT
4 D
5 H

After the 3 NT artificial raise (no splinter), North indicates slam interest by showing his club control; South shows his diamond control; then North takes charge with Roman key-card Blackwood. A case could be made for North to be less aggressive over 4 D (perhaps bidding 4 H), but South would surely drive to slam with his maximal values.

Only slight care is necessary to win 12 tricks in spades. To avoid a club guess, declarer should plan to ruff two hearts in dummy before drawing the enemy trumps. Assuming a diamond lead, the best technique is to lead a heart to the king immediately. Assume East wins and returns a trump; play the S 8, which holds (else win in hand); heart to queen; heart ruff high; spade to the 10; heart ruff; diamond ruff high, and draw the last trump. Nonetheless, almost any sequence of plays will suffice as long as declarer doesn’t draw two rounds of trumps before leading a heart.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 13

...
+1660
...
+1440
+1430
...
+690
+680
100
99
98
97
80
61
60
41
...
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
...
-100
23
21
16
14
13
12
11
7
...
-200
...
-300
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 14

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

Assuming East passes (a dubious assumption these days), West must decide whether to open one or four in third seat. I slightly prefer:

West

4 S
North

All Pass
East
Pass
South
Pass

This is the pressure bid. While it may be an unnecessary overbid (down one or two when North-South can make nothing) this would not be a terrible result — below average, yes, but not a zero. The upside is that it often stirs indiscreet action, resulting in a top. If North-South were to bid over 4 S, I would double with the West hand to indicate an overstrength preempt; this comes with no guarantees, of course, but at matchpoints you have to take your shots. It is all irrelevant this time, as almost all roads lead to 4 S.

In spades, there are 10 cold tricks. Assuming a diamond lead, declarer should try for an overtrick by cashing a second diamond and crossing to dummy with a club. Alas, South ruffs the third diamond, so it’s back to 10 tricks. At least South wasn’t able to ruff the second diamond. The only way to win more might be if North led a club, or if declarer played spades first and South failed to shift to hearts.

Some will reach 4 S from the East side (e.g., a weak notrump opening and a transfer), but this offers no advantage in the play.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 14

...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
...
-170
100
99
98
97
96
92
88
87
...
-200
...
-300
...
-420
-430
...
86
85
84
83
82
60
35
34
-450
-460
...
-480
-490
-500
...
-800
20
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 15

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

With the weak two-bid on Board 11 and now this, Howard Schenken would be very pleased. Two textbook bids. What is the world coming to? Here is a sensible auction:

West

3 C
North

3 S
East

All Pass
South
2 S

East does well to resist the temptation to bid 4 H, which North would surely double (down two with best play all around). Sigh. At the table I don’t think I could resist it, but I could always blame the result on Grant Baze for his “six-four, bid one more” tip. Maybe I should ask him to amend it to “six-four, feeling sore.”

In spades, most lines of play result in nine tricks. Assume West leads his singleton heart, won by the ace; then the S 2 (it is better to save the 9-8) is led to the queen, king; diamond shift (best) won by the ace; then the S 9. When trumps split 2-2 the rest is easy. Note that if trumps were 3-1, the careful spade plays would allow declarer to take the ruffing heart finesse and return to dummy in spades. (This would not be possible if the S 9 were led at trick two.)

This deal actually belongs to East-West who can make 4 D, but I don’t see a realistic way to bid it.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 15

...
+800
...
+650
...
+620
+600
...
100
98
96
94
93
92
90
89
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
88
87
86
85
84
83
82
80
+150
+140
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
79
74
70
69
66
64
62
61
-100
-110
...
-130
...
-200
...
-300
47
33
32
31
30
21
12
8
...
-400
...
-500
...
-800
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 16

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

Aggressive North-South pairs will capitalize on the vulnerability here, perhaps with this sequence:

West
1 H
4 H
North
2 D
5 D
East
2 H
Dbl
South
4 D
All Pass

The jump raise to 4 D is weak (as if you couldn’t tell), and North takes the sacrifice since he has little defense against 4 H. Five diamonds is right on the money (down three, minus 500), an excellent result for North-South with East-West on for a vulnerable game.

Should East-West have pushed to 5 H? I think not. Perhaps East should pass the decision to West; but it is hardly obvious for West to bid 5 H, and I believe most experts would double. Note that 5 H would fail if the C Q were held by North (where it is more likely to be).

In hearts, there is little to the play. Only a diamond and a spade should be lost for 11 easy tricks. Yet, I am bewildered in looking over the past results to see that 92 pairs scored 620. Hard to believe.

The above makes me think of a nullo puzzle: What is the fewest number of tricks East-West could win in hearts if they deliberately tried to lose tricks? The answer is three. Sorry, I won’t explain it since the men in white coats could be nearby.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 16

...
+200
...
+100
...
-100
...
-150
100
99
98
95
92
91
90
89
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
88
87
86
85
84
83
82
78
...
-620
...
-650
...
-680
...
-800
74
71
69
36
6
5
4
3
...
-850
...




2
1
0




TopMain

Board 17

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

Playing 1 NT forcing (or more accurately, 6-12 range as a passed hand), South has an awkward rebid problem. A lot could be said for a conservative 2 S, but I would take the aggressive route:

West

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

The raise to 2 NT is about right on values — hopefully the sixth spade will offset the lack of a point or two — and North has more than enough to accept. Indeed, North would bid again over 2 S, so all roads should lead to game, though some will get to 4 S.

It is debatable which game is superior. Without a club lead, 4 S is clearly better; you can take the fast pitch and score up 420. But a club lead beats 4 S outright, while 3 NT has its chances.

Can 3 NT be made against best defense? Not at double-dummy. East must lead a high club then a low one, with West unblocking the 9-8; then as soon as West wins a spade, the C 4 through the 10-6 defeats. If East makes any other lead (including a low club), declarer can succeed by ducking a spade; then, depending on what the defense does in clubs, declarer can either set up the spades or endplay East in diamonds to win a second club trick.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 17

...
+460
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
...
100
99
97
96
94
81
59
49
+170
...
+150
+140
...
-50
...
-100
47
46
45
43
40
21
6
5
...
-150
...
-500
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 18

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

Players will be all over the court on this one. Among the ruins, you might find this sequence a few times:

West

3 S
Dbl
North

4 D
All Pass
East
3 C
4 S
South
3 D
5 D

East’s preempt looks ugly but is typical for aggressive bidders at favorable vulnerability. South bids his diamonds, West bids his spades (forcing as most play), and both partners dutifully raise; though East might not even provide a trick. Is this beautiful, or what? South remembers the Grant Baze tip “six-five, come alive” and pushes to 5 D. Oops, not this time.

Five diamonds is routinely down one barring a defensive slip, such as West not splitting his heart honors. This gives East-West a great score since they couldn’t make 4 S, or any contract beyond 3 C for that matter.

In spades West gets ripped apart. The defense can take the first four tricks (D A; C A; H A; club ruff) and declarer still has to lose two trump tricks to North (or one trump trick and a heart to South). I guess you could call this a fitting result for the bidding.

In clubs East can win nine tricks (as he said, ha-ha) with almost any line of play since South’s singleton spade is no threat.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 18

...
+870
...
+800
...
+750
...
+710
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+600
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
...
+150
+140
+130
...
+100
...
+50
84
83
76
67
58
49
40
33
...
-100
-110
...
-140
...
-170
...
25
23
19
16
12
10
9
8
-200
...
-420
...
-500
...
-800
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 19

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

Another excellent slam, provided East-West don’t get greedy. Here is a good standard sequence:

West

1 C
3 C
4 H
5 D
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East

1 H
3 S
5 C
6 C
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

East’s bidding indicates slam interest without diamond control, and West shows first-round control with 5 D. East has some fleeting thoughts about a grand slam but wisely settles on six since there must be a hole somewhere. Note that if West held the H A instead of the queen, his hand would be too strong for a 3 C rebid.

The main problem in the bidding is to avoid the matchpoint trap of trying 6 NT. Sometimes this gives the entrepreneur a top score, but here it costs big time. The obvious diamond lead gives declarer no chance.

Curiously, it is possible to do better than the club slam. Six hearts can be made, though it requires double-dummy play after a diamond lead. I’ll let you work it out.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 19

...
+200
...
+100
...
-170
...
-230
100
99
98
97
95
94
93
92
...
-600
-620
-630
-640
-650
-660
...
91
90
85
78
77
75
58
41
-680
-690
...
-720
...
-1370
...
-1430
32
30
29
28
27
16
5
4
-1440
...
-1470
...



3
2
1
0



TopMain

Board 20

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

This should be a routine game for North-South. I would bid this way:

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

The purpose of 2 S is to explore for slam, which is certainly possible if South held a sound raise with club control. For example, facing as little as: S Q-x-x-x H J-x-x D x-x-x C A-x-x, the slam in spades is excellent, and South might have even better hands. (Compare this logic with Board 12 where I felt a slam was too remote to warrant a probe that might be helpful to the defense.) In any event, North’s slam ambitions are quickly quelled when South returns to 3 H.

In hearts, declarer’s only objective is to steal an 11th trick in diamonds. With the ace offside this seems futile, but I can see a possible con job: Ruff the third club; draw trumps; cash the S A-K, and lead a diamond. West might think declarer’s shape is 2=6=3=2, in which case he must duck the diamond to avoid being endplayed. But it shouldn’t work. If East had a stiff diamond, he would have led it at Trick 3; and further, East would have bid differently with 5-6 in the black suits (Michaels cue-bid).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 20

...
+800
+790
...
+650
...
+620
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
53
14
+500
...
+170
...
+100
...
-100
...
13
12
11
10
9
8
5
2
-200
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 21

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

Standard bidders are likely to miss this excellent game, as the auction comes to a screeching halt:

West

Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
South
Pass

Should West keep the bidding open with four points? Granted, the S K is a nice card, but responding 1 NT is more likely to get you overboard. This is just an unfortunate case. If anyone should be faulted, I would pick East since he might have opened 2 C with his great playing potential.

In spades East will win anywhere from 8 to 11 tricks depending on the lead and play. At double-dummy, 11 tricks are available with any lead by finessing the S 8 to gain an extra entry to dummy to finesse hearts twice; or by leading the H J early from hand. Back to the real world: After a club lead, the most likely result is 10 tricks (losing two hearts). The killer is a diamond lead, which starts the tap. Declarer makes only eight tricks if he draws all the trumps after finessing hearts once; but he should win nine by clearing the hearts after discovering the 4-1 trump break. The scenario with a diamond lead at least justifies the bidding.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 21

...
+300
...
+150
...
+110
+100
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+50
...
-100
-110
...
-140
...
-170
91
89
88
84
81
78
74
61
...
-200
...
-230
...
-420
...
-450
49
38
28
27
26
18
9
7
...
-480
...
-500
...
-800
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 22

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

Most North-South pairs should reach this reasonable game. Here is a sequence using 1 NT forcing:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

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

North’s delayed jump raise shows 11-12 points with three trumps (with four trumps North would raise directly), and South clearly has enough to bid game. A case could be made for North to eschew the raise with his flat shape and rebid 2 NT, but the tenuous stoppers offer little comfort.

In spades, declarer should win 9 or 10 tricks depending on the heart guess. At the table I would probably get this wrong based on the subtle inferences that West chose not to lead a heart and that East has shown up with most of the other high cards — unless East tries to be sneaky and shifts to a low heart, in which case I would play him for the ace, not the queen. An original heart lead would seem to eliminate the guess, but it creates another: To succeed, declarer must shun the diamond finesse to obtain a fast discard.

Those who play in notrump will not be happy with a club lead. The best declarer can do is to win eight tricks, and many will win less.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 22

...
+430
+420
+400
...
+200
...
+170
100
99
86
71
69
68
67
65
...
+140
...
+120
...
-50
...
-100
62
58
55
54
53
38
22
12
...
-150
...
-200
...


4
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 23

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

Another sound game contract should be reached at most tables, perhaps after this sequence:

West

2 C
Pass
North

2 S
4 S
East

3 C
All Pass
South
1 S
3 H

South’s 3 H bid is a game try (long-suit or help-suit), not an attempt to locate another trump fit. (Note that if South instead bid 3 S, it would be strictly competitive, denying game interest.) North is happy to accept with his tiptop maximum.

In spades, proper play brings home 11 tricks. After ruffing the second club, the best technique is to lead a diamond (assume West ducks) to the king and take the heart finesse; then continue hearts. When West shows out on the third round, it’s a picnic — just continue the crossruff; or if West ruffs in front of dummy, overruff, draw two rounds of trumps and establish the hearts. Even if West held 10-9-x in trumps, he could not stop you from winning 11 tricks.

It is apparent from the vast number of 620 results that many declarers were too anxious to draw trumps — a common error. One of the tips I give my students is “When in doubt, work on your side suit.”

North-South Matchpoints — Board 23

...
+990
...
+800
+790
...
+680
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+650
...
+620
...
+500
+400
...
+300
87
76
54
33
32
31
30
29
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+100
28
27
26
21
17
16
15
14
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
13
8
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 24

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

OK, forget everything I said about classic weak two-bids. I could never pass the North hand, so my bidding might go:

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

South’s 2 NT is a game try (forcing) — obviously, he is not in on the joke — and North indicates a minimum by rebidding 3 H. Unfortunately, this is already too high.

In hearts North should be held to seven tricks. After a high club lead, it is obvious to shift to trumps, and declarer can win only six trump tricks and the D A — unless West errs by hopping with his ace on a low spade lead. If East fails to shift to trumps, declarer can win eight tricks by ruffing two clubs. Note the folly of East thinking he should not lead trumps because of his H Q, as many players would believe. Sound advice: When a trump shift is obvious, do it; don’t worry about your trump holding.

There is some good news for North-South. If they were less active in the bidding, East-West would probably buy the contract in notrump, where nine tricks can be made against any defense. Hence, a small minus score is not bad; indeed, escaping for minus 50 scores 72 percent.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 24

...
+800
...
+500
...
+300
...
+170
100
99
98
97
95
93
92
91
...
+150
+140
...
+110
+100
...
+50
90
89
88
87
86
84
83
82
...
-50
...
-100
-110
-120
-130
...
81
72
61
44
27
25
24
23
-150
...
-180
...
-200
...
-300
...
17
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
-400
...
-430
...
-500
...
-800
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 25

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

There are some players who would open the North hand 3 S (obviously, their cages were left unlocked), but the mainstream bidding will be:

West

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

North’s 3 H is a Jacoby transfer and South dutifully obliges. A case could be made for South to jump to 4 S based on his excellent fit and controls, but the conservative bid pays off here on the unfriendly layout.

In spades, nine tricks will usually be won. After the D Q lead, I think the proper technique is to continue diamonds, ruffing with the S 7, after which declarer is destined to lose two spades, a heart and club. It is possible to win 10 tricks by playing the H A and a low heart immediately, but if declarer is going to play double-dummy, the defense can, too: An original club lead always stops a 10th trick because South can be forced to ruff.

Ironically, those who do not play transfers have an edge here. If North is declarer, East is likely to lead a heart. Declarer then can win 10 tricks if he plays West for the H K (i.e., don’t finesse the queen) and establishes a second heart trick for a club discard. But don’t hold your breath.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 25

...
+1100
...
+800
...
+500
...
+420
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+300
...
+200
...
+180
+170
...
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
85
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
...
-50
84
78
71
69
68
67
66
50
...
-90
-100
-110
...
-150
...
-200
33
32
21
11
10
9
8
7
...
-300
...
-500
...
-670
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 26

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

After a routine 1 NT opening, North faces the dilemma of how to search for a heart fit and be able to stop in 3 C. In most systems it can’t be done. I would bid this way using minor-suit transfers:

West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 NT
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 NT
3 C

Two notrump is a transfer to clubs — end of story. Note that if North were to bid 2 C Stayman followed by 3 C, this would be forcing (usually a slam try) so the only practical solution is to give up on hearts. The use of 2 NT as a transfer necessitates another agreement: To invite game in notrump you must bid 2 C (even with no major-suit interest) and follow with 2 NT.

In clubs, it plays like a dream for 11 tricks. Declarer can easily ruff two hearts in the South hand without affecting his ability to draw trumps. Only a club and a diamond need be lost.

Those who play in notrump will not be happy with a spade lead, which kills North’s entry. Declarer can win only six tricks with accurate defense, but he may be given a seventh trick in spades. With any other opening lead, declarer has nine easy tricks by establishing the clubs.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 26

...
+800
...
+600
...
+500
+400
...
100
99
97
95
94
93
92
91
+300
...
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
90
89
88
87
86
85
84
83
+150
...
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
77
68
66
62
57
49
42
35
+70
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
33
32
31
30
22
14
13
12
-140
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
11
10
7
4
3
2
1
0

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Board 27

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

If West opens 1 D, his next bid becomes awkward — either an overbid of 2 NT or a misdirected 3 D — so the practical solution is to treat the hand as balanced and open 1 NT. This might produce:

West

1 NT
2 S
3 NT
North

Pass
Pass
All Pass
East

2 H
3 C
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Two hearts is a Jacoby transfer, and 3 C shows a second suit (forcing to game). West has the wrong off-suit values (kings instead of aces) and no spade fit so he signs off in 3 NT. This seems well-judged, since no slam can be made, though it’s also a bit lucky; for example, if East’s red suits were switched, the bidding would be the same with 6 D a virtual laydown.

In notrump, 11 tricks can be won if declarer establishes two spade tricks and leads a diamond to the jack (in either order), but this is not a standout. If the play begins with a heart to the king; S A; spade to the queen; S J to the king and a heart return, it would be just as reasonable to lead a diamond to the king for only 10 tricks. Another possibility (though inferior) is to work only on diamonds, which nets just nine tricks if the defenders keep leading hearts.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 27

...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
89
...
-130
...
-150
...
-170
...
-400
85
84
83
82
81
80
79
78
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
-490
...
74
58
45
44
23
4
3
2
-920
...





1
0





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Board 28

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

A strong notrump overcall should end the bidding at most tables:

West
Pass
North
1 C
East
1 NT
South
All Pass

South would like to compete with his major two-suiter, but the dearth of high cards should be a warning at the vulnerability. Even if the partnership has a gadget to show both majors (I use a raise of opener’s minor, which is almost useless here as a natural bid), it seems prudent to pass.

In notrump, eight tricks should be won regardless of the lead. Assuming a spade lead (best), win the second round; unblock the hearts; lead the D K and a diamond to the jack. Eventually, declarer must score the C K as his eighth trick since South has no entry.

Careless play might produce less: Say, declarer wins the first spade trick (which looks OK with the spades blocked) and plays in the above manner. North wins the second diamond and returns a diamond. After declarer takes his hearts, the defense is able to win five more tricks (including South’s long heart), holding declarer to seven tricks.

A few North-Souths will wander into 2 S, where seven tricks can be won with careful play — a good result undoubled — but more likely West will push to 2 NT or 3 D (which also makes).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 28

...
+670
...
+200
...
+180
...
+150
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+140
...
+110
+100
+90
+80
+70
+50
92
91
90
89
87
86
85
82
...
-80
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
79
78
75
70
61
45
34
33
-150
...
-180
...
-200
...
-300
...
24
16
15
14
12
11
10
9
-400
...
-470
...
-500
...
-800
...
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

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Board 29

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

A routine Stayman sequence will put most North players in the obvious heart game:

West

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

Those who play weak notrumps should reach the same contract from the other side after a 1 D opening. I suppose a few daring Easts might muddy the water with a club bid, but they should be taught a lesson in 2 C doubled where routine defense gets 800.

In hearts, 11 tricks can be won with perfect play, but 10 is more realistic. Assuming the C K lead, the best technique is to win the ace and duck a diamond; assume East cashes a club and shifts to the H 7; eight, nine, king; then a trump to the queen reveals the 4-1 break. Declarer now can win the rest by finessing West for the S Q, but this hints at hindsight. At the table I think I would give up on the finesse, i.e., cash two spades and crossruff to ensure 10 tricks, which nets a decent 64 percent.

Those with notrumpitis will find only nine tricks available (assuming a successful spade guess) for an inferior score.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 29

...
+800
...
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
100
99
98
94
89
87
64
41
...
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
39
38
37
36
35
34
33
31
...
+120
+110
+100
...
-100
...
-200
30
29
28
27
26
16
5
3
...
-300
...




2
1
0




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Board 30

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

Well, it’s back to the slam theme. This one’s not so good, though I must admit I would be trapped into bidding it:

West

2 C
3 S
6 NT
North

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

The 3 S bid may seem unusual, but it barked up the right tree — the only makable slam is in spades; in fact, 13 tricks can be won at double-dummy. Should West have stood his ground in spades? I don’t think so. It is easy to visualize a club ruff to help establish that suit; but the trouble is it comes in the long trump hand, which probably necessitates a 3-3 trump break, only a 36-percent chance.

In notrump, 11 tricks should be won. Declarer must take care to duck the first or second round of clubs, else he can be held to 10 tricks with a heart shift before the clubs are established. There is no way to win a 12th trick (famous last words); even an opening heart lead into the A-Q gives declarer no recourse outside of clubs, and that suit is going nowhere.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 30

...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
92
85
71
56
48
...
-130
...
-150
...
-400
-420
-430
41
40
39
38
37
35
30
21
...
-450
-460
...
-490
...

14
13
7
2
1
0

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Board 31

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

The slams continue. Six clubs is a laydown for East-West and should be bid, perhaps with this sequence:

West

1 C
1 S
3 H
4 D
North

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East

1 H
3 C
3 NT
6 C
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

East’s jump to 3 C is forcing in my methods. (Those who play limit jump rebids would have to bid the fourth suit instead.) The key decision is West’s to continue beyond 3 NT; he should appreciate his five-card club suit and well-placed values. The choice to bid 4 D is moot, but it seems wise to show the diamond control (singleton or void) and leave the slam decision up to partner.

In clubs, there is little to the play. After the likely singleton heart lead, declarer can draw trumps and win all 13 tricks.

The daring souls will be thwarted here. Some will try 6 NT, which has 11 top tricks, although the only chance for a 12th is a favorable diamond lead. Another decent matchpoint contract is 6 H, which would deliver a top on a good day. Ouch, not this day.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 31

...
+300
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
87
...
-140
...
-170
...
-190
-200
...
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
74
-400
-420
-430
-440
-450
-460
...
-490
73
72
70
67
62
50
40
35
...
-520
...
-920
...
-940
...
-990
30
29
28
25
21
14
6
3
...






0






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Board 32

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

It is difficult to predict the bidding here as there will be many contrived auctions. Here’s one I can’t remember ever seeing before:

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

East’s redouble is S-O-S, a wise choice to run from 1 D doubled. West’s decision to select hearts (over spades) is unlucky and no improvement, but as North I would not sit for 1 H doubled; after the runout to 2 C, South quite reasonably jumps to game.

South should fail in 3 NT, even with a favorable heart lead to the king and ace. After establishing hearts, declarer has eight tricks but no more with sound defense: At some point, West must play declarer for a blank D A since he could always succeed with D A-x by an endplay.

East-West can make nothing. Even in their best fit in spades, they can win only six tricks — the defense can take the first seven aided by a crossruff. Those who get stuck in diamonds or hearts may do even worse.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 32

...
+1100
...
+800
...
+500
...
+400
100
99
97
96
95
92
90
87
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
85
84
83
81
78
77
76
75
+140
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
74
71
70
66
61
59
58
57
-50
...
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
47
36
26
18
17
16
12
10
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-800
...
8
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

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Board 33

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

Joe: “What was the contract?” Sam: “One club!” Joe: “Really? How did the bidding go?” Sure enough, standard bidders may witness:

West

Pass
North
1 C
East
Pass
South
Pass

In clubs North will be an unhappy camper (what a surprise). After the likely diamond lead and heart shift, the best declarer can do is win five tricks; but that may be double-dummy, so I’d expect only four.

Can the bidding be faulted? Yes. I think North should open 2 NT (or 2 C if systemic to show 22 HCP). A singleton king is often useless at a suit bid but has great positional value at notrump. Which would you rather have in the suit led at notrump: two small, or a stiff king? Of course. The king is better, yet almost everyone bids notrump with a worthless doubleton.

If North does open 2 NT, it seems right for South to take a chance with Stayman, then pass 3 H (if opener had no major I would also pass 3 D). At least this gets you to a realistic contract.

In hearts, nine tricks can be won, but it requires mirrors; more likely, after a diamond lead and trump shift (best), declarer will wind up with seven or eight. In spades, similarly, the maximum is nine but more likely eight. Alas, the North-South cards seem destined for a minus score.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 33

...
+800
...
+500
...
+420
...
+200
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
...
+170
...
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
92
91
90
89
88
86
85
84
+100
...
+80
+70
+50
...
-50
...
79
77
76
74
73
72
63
54
-90
-100
-110
...
-150
...
-180
...
53
39
25
24
18
12
11
10
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-800
...
9
7
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 34

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

Holding both majors and prime values, it would be reasonable for North to open 2 C, but most will settle for 1 H. Here’s a well-judged auction:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

1 H
Dbl
2 S
East
Pass
2 C
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
2 H
4 H

North reopens with a takeout double and South corrects to 2 H, which promises nothing. Hence, when North tries again with 2 S, South should jump to game — surely, he could have a lot worse.

Some Easts will open 3 C (atypical with C A-K at the vulnerability, and further flawed by the four-card major) making it tougher to reach 4 H.

In hearts, it looks like 10 easy tricks with a spade ruff, but declarer is put to the test with three rounds of clubs as West pitches a spade. The proper technique is to draw two rounds of trumps before ruffing a spade, then West will be endplayed when he overruffs. Even if East were short in spades and ruffed in front of dummy, declarer would succeed if he held the D J. Note that East’s initial pass (or preempt) marks West with the D K, so there is no real guess involved.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 34

...
+1100
...
+800
+790
...
+650
...
100
99
98
97
96
95
94
93
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
...
+300
...
92
83
71
70
69
68
67
66
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
...
65
64
63
58
50
49
41
33
+110
+100
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
32
31
30
20
10
6
2
1
...






0






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Board 35

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

It’s only fair to finish our weak two-bid coverage with another egregious example (I demand equal time). I admit I would open 2 D in first or second seat also, but in third seat it seems routine:

West

Pass
Pass
3 S
North

2 D
Pass
All Pass
East

Dbl
Dbl
South
Pass
3 D
Pass

East uses good judgment to double twice (both takeout), ending in a sound contract. No doubt, some will bid notrump; but the East hand has too many holes to prefer this with only one diamond stopper.

In spades, 10 tricks will usually be won. Only an original low heart lead by North will hold it to nine tricks, as the defense can develop a heart trick before the clubs can be used. If East is declarer (plausible after a transfer sequence), 10 tricks can always be made, but it takes double-dummy play after a heart lead (clubs must be established before leading trumps).

Those who play in notrump get their just deserts. After a diamond lead, the best declarer can do is dislodge the S A and wind up with seven tricks. Curiously, a non-diamond lead would be even more devastating if North tables the D Q after winning his spade trick. Ouch.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 35

...
+500
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
97
95
94
93
90
88
...
+110
+100
+90
...
-50
...
-100
85
83
80
76
75
74
71
69
-110
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
68
65
62
58
55
53
47
41
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
-600
40
39
38
36
33
32
31
30
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-800
...
18
6
5
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 36

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

North has another borderline 2 C opening (compare Board 34). I have no strong feelings but suspect most will start with one:

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

After the jump shift, South has a problem whether to raise diamonds or bid his values which suggest notrump. I would choose the latter since slam seems unlikely unless North has a freakish hand, in which case he will bid again over 3 NT. This time, however, the well-fitting North hand makes 6 D a fair contract but no more than that. With all the things that might go wrong it’s probably less than even money.

In notrump, 11 tricks should be won. Declarer has seven top tricks and with proper timing can establish four more in the black suits. The zugzwang in hearts prevents the defense from attacking that suit successfully. In fact, after a heart opening lead (from either side) 12 tricks can be made, though it takes double-dummy play — an exercise left for the reader.

In diamonds, 12 tricks are available. South’s long club can be established with a ruff, plus declarer needs the spade finesse (or a favorable heart lead, or in some variations a well-timed heart ruff or two spade ruffs).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 36

...
+1440
+1430
...
+1370
...
+800
+790
100
99
98
97
93
90
89
88
...
+720
...
+690
...
+660
+650
...
87
86
85
81
72
54
36
35
+630
+620
+600
...
+170
...
+150
...
30
19
15
14
13
12
11
10
-100
...
-200
...
-500
...

7
4
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Statistical Analyses

The average high-card points and freakness for each player in these 36 deals are shown below. Freakness is a measurement I invented to rank the 39 possible hand patterns on a 0-to-20 scale. A hand with 4-3-3-3 shape has a freakness of zero. My formula adds one point for each card over four or under three in each suit, plus one extra point if the hand contains a singleton (or two extra points if the hand contains a void). The theoretical average freakness of a bridge hand is 2.98.

Averages For 36 Deals
PlayerHCPFreakness
North10.03 3.25
South 9.64 3.00
East10.22 2.72
West10.11 3.00

The table shows that East had the most high cards, while South had the fewest. The North hands were wilder than usual; the East hands were tamer than usual; the South and West hands were almost as expected.

It is interesting to observe how random deals fit the laws of probability theory. Generally, the more deals you examine the closer they will approach the average. In the 14 years I have done this event the statistics are:

Averages For 504 Deals
PlayerHCPFreakness
North 9.88 2.96
South 9.89 3.16
East10.27 2.86
West 9.97 3.06

Let’s quell some rumors. In events like this I have heard people say, “The cards always run North-South.” Not true. As shown above, it is East-West who held the majority of high cards, though not by much. I have also heard the line, “I hate computer hands because they’re so wild.” Well, let’s see: South and West were slightly above the norm; North and East were slightly below the norm. The average freakness of all four players calculates to 3.01 — true, that is above the theoretical 2.98, but it is remarkably close and surely no cause for alarm. Indeed, it would be surprising if anything came out exact in a sampling of only 504 deals.

TopMain

© 2000 Richard Pavlicek