Main     Analyses 7U69 by Richard Pavlicek    

ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs

September 12, 2002

Dear Bridge Players,

I hope you enjoyed playing in this ACBL Instant Matchpoint Pairs, an annual event inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 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, or even discover that some of your results beat my predictions.

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, please 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. Each month I also conduct a fun participation project: a bidding poll on odd months, and a play contest on even months. In September it’s bidding, so please stop by and cast your votes.

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, and hosts an instructive web site dedicated to the advancement of bridge. He and his wife Mabel are successful bridge teachers in South Florida.

For the 16th 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 K Q J 8 4 2
H 4
D K 8 4
C 9 8 4
S 3
H J 10 8 5 3 2
D J 2
C K Q 6 3
TableS A 10
H A K 9 6
D Q 9 7 6
C J 10 5
S 9 7 6 5
H Q 7
D A 10 5 3
C A 7 2

It doesn’t take long for the action to start. A routine weak two-bid by North is likely to spark this sequence:

West

5 H
All Pass
North
2 S
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
4 S
Dbl

West’s push to 5 H seems right in theory (sometimes 4 S will be making) but proves wrong here. Credit South for the great setup, and also for the final double — unsound, to be sure, but probably the right strategy in an instant matchpoint event. This nets a fine result for North-South, as only 10 tricks are available.

Many North-Souths will play in spades (often 4 S, sometimes doubled) which shifts the spotlight to the play. After two top hearts, declarer ruffs and does best to lead the S Q (or jack). If East ducks (catering to a blank king), declarer can secure nine tricks by establishing the D 10 (D A, D K, diamond) for a club discard. To prevent this, and to foil all elimination attempts, East must win the S A and shift to a club: Assume the C J is led and ducked, then a low club is won by the ace as West unblocks. Now if declarer draws the last trump and exits with a club, East must win and lead the D 9 to trap dummy’s 10.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 1

...
+590
...
+530
...
+420
...
+300
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
...
96
95
94
93
90
89
83
78
+50
...
-50
...
-100
...
-140
-150
71
64
59
53
47
42
41
40
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-420
39
38
36
35
34
32
29
18
...
-450
...
-500
...
-590
...
5
4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 2

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

After two passes, the West hand is not everyone’s idea of a 3 C bid; but the vulnerability is hard to resist. Bid ‘em up, I say:

West

3 C
Pass
All Pass
North

3 S
Dbl
East
Pass
4 C
Pass
South
Pass
Pass
4 H

North has a close choice whether to overcall or double, but it’s probably better to bid the six-bagger; and East competes in clubs (passing and 5 C are also reasonable). North’s reopening double is dubious, but it catches South with just enough to have a good play for game.

Four hearts is a sound contract, but the 4-1 trump split is likely to beat it. After the D Q lead, it seems right to win the king and lead the C K; East wins and returns a diamond (a trump from the queen is better but unlikely); C Q pitching a diamond; S A; give up a spade. Declarer now can get home against any defense, and perhaps should based on the bidding and play; essentially, it comes down to assuming a 4-1 heart break.

In Fort Lauderdale we used to have a guy who would open the West hand 1 NT; his partner would bid 2 C, then he would alert: “That’s nonforcing Stayman.” All pass. I heard he’s in the state penitentiary now.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 2

...
+790
...
+650
...
+620
+600
...
100
99
99
98
97
91
85
84
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+180
+170
83
82
81
80
79
78
77
70
...
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
63
62
52
42
41
40
38
37
+80
...
+50
...
-100
-110
...
-200
36
35
34
33
23
13
12
8
...
-300
...
-500
...
-800
...
5
4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 3

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

Standard bidders are likely to duplicate this auction, assuming East is not too ambitious:

West

1 D
1 NT
North

Pass
All Pass
East

1 H
South
Pass
Pass

The danger, of course, is that East may invite with 2 NT — probably right at IMPs but wrong at matchpoints. The three low spades portend of danger, so the wise choice is to take the plus.

West can always win eight tricks, but it takes good views against tough defense. Assume the S 10 lead to the king and ace, then a low club won by the queen. North, already in trouble, does best to exit with ace and another club; then a fourth club is cashed ending in East. Of the many variations, suppose North discards a spade and South two spades. Cash the D K-A (North unblocking, best) then lead the H J and duck when North covers; North cannot cash his spade, so win the heart return and exit with the fourth heart to endplay South — pretty fancy footwork for an overtrick.

A few will play in clubs, where nine tricks are available on a crossruff. Curiously, even if East declares with three rounds of trumps led, declarer can duck two spades and catch South in a ruffout squeeze for nine tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 3

...
+500
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
99
98
97
94
90
81
...
+140
...
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
72
71
71
70
69
61
55
49
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
-140
47
45
40
32
30
20
12
11
-150
...
-180
...
-210
...
-300
...
9
8
7
6
6
5
5
4
-500
...
-600
...
-630
...

4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 4

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

After a routine strong notrump opening, North should probably stay out of the bidding, leaving rise to this sequence:

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

Two diamonds is a Jacoby transfer, and opener’s jump indicates maximum values and excellent trump support (usually four).

In hearts, 11 tricks should be made with a textbook endplay. The lead makes no difference; just clear trumps and cash all the black winners before leading a diamond to the nine. Even with East declarer and an original diamond lead, a different endplay is available with only a slight risk: Duck the lead, then after cashing one trump, strip the clubs and spades before throwing North in with the H K.

Some pairs may get greedy and try 3 NT (especially if North enters the bidding in clubs), but in notrump there are no workable endplays. Even so, winning 10 tricks is still above average for East-West. Bridge justice is often like political intelligence, just another oxymoron.

If North enters the bidding, it will invariably require bidding up to 3 C (few players can bid 2 C natural over 1 NT), which gives East-West the opportunity to collect 800 with accurate defense.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 4

...
+600
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
99
98
98
97
96
95
...
+100
...
-170
...
-200
...
-300
92
88
85
84
84
83
83
82
...
-500
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
82
81
81
80
65
49
39
27
-660
...
-680
-690
...
-800
...
-1100
7
6
6
5
4
4
3
3
...
-1400
...
-1430
...


2
2
1
1
0


TopMain

Board 5

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

Many West players will be disappointed when their fine hand turns sour, but here’s a sequence that might bring sunshine:

West

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

As East, it is tempting to pass 3 H despite the game force created by 2 S, however, this would be bad for partnership morale. The quality of East’s heart suit is certainly below par for a Moysian fit, but the alternatives seem even worse. Note that a 4-3 spade fit is unattractive because the diamond ruff comes in the longer trump hand.

In hearts, assume the D K lead, then the S K to North’s ace. North is likely to return a diamond, ruffing out the queen; then the H A-Q reveals the bad break. Next comes the C K to the ace, and a diamond to East. No problem: Just cash the black winners then lead the fourth spade to score the H 9 (if North ruffs high, discard to endplay him).

Curiously, to beat 4 H, North must return a low trump when he wins the S A. But even then, East-West are better off than in 3 NT (down three with a low diamond lead) or 5 C (down two with heart leads).

North-South Matchpoints — Board 5

...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
+150
100
99
99
98
97
95
92
88
...
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-100
-110
83
78
72
71
64
57
55
53
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
51
49
45
41
39
38
37
33
-200
-210
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
33
30
29
25
18
11
8
7
-460
...
-500
...
-590
...
-800
...
6
5
4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 6

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

After two passes, a weak two-bid by West will pose a challenge to North-South. I would bid this way:

West

2 D
Pass
Pass
North

Dbl
3 H
4 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
2 S
3 S

The double followed by 3 H shows a strong hand but doubts about the best strain. (With a heart one-suiter, North should bid some number of hearts immediately.) South then repeats his spades to show five with some useful values, and this leads to the routine game in 4 S.

The friendly layout allows declarer to win 12 tricks with almost any reasonable play. After the D K lead, assume West shifts to the C Q (the proper card to avoid giving declarer three club tricks) won by the king. Not knowing the H Q is falling, I think the best matchpoint play is to ruff a diamond, then draw trumps overtaking the second round. Assuming trumps break, the plan is to draw the last trump and take a ruffing heart finesse (pitching the last diamond) to ensure 11 tricks and make 12 when East has the H Q (barring Q-9-x-x-x). A 4-1 trump break would complicate matters, but you’d still end up with at least 10 tricks.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 6

...
+1010
...
+980
...
+800
...
+520
100
99
98
97
96
95
95
94
+510
+500
+490
+480
...
+450
...
+430
93
90
89
65
41
38
37
36
+420
+400
...
+260
...
+230
...
+200
34
32
31
31
30
23
16
15
+190
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
...
14
13
12
11
10
9
7
6
+110
...
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
5
4
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 7

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

Many standard bidders will duplicate this auction to a reasonable heart partscore:

West

1 C
1 S
North

Dbl
Pass
East

1 H
2 H
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

Despite the hefty values for a takeout double, North should retire peacefully. Reopening with a double (after 2 H) is a daring adventure — too rich for me — that could salvage a good score if South bids 2 S and escapes for down one undoubled; but there are more scenarios for disaster.

In hearts, East can always win eight tricks, and perfect defense is necessary to stop nine. South must lead a diamond, ducked to the queen; North exits safely in hearts or clubs; then South must win the first defensive trump trick to lead a second diamond. This is the only way the defense can get two diamond tricks.

Some Wests will pass their 11-count, allowing North to open 1 NT and probably buy the contract. After a heart lead won by the queen, the S J holds; diamond to queen; S K (bad news), then a heart to East. If West shrewdly pitches a spade, the defense can run clubs to squeeze-endplay declarer for down two.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 7

...
+800
...
+500
...
+200
...
+120
100
99
98
97
96
94
92
91
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
-90
-100
-110
90
84
78
77
75
74
69
55
-120
-130
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
42
40
33
30
29
28
27
26
-200
...
-300
...
-400
-500
...
-600
19
12
11
10
10
9
8
8
-620
...
-670
...
-710
...
-800
...
7
5
4
3
3
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 8

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

This should be a battle between hearts and clubs, and the little fellows should win for a change:

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

East’s 3 H bid is a little aggressive, but the alternative of passing seems wimpy. When 3 H comes back to North, 4 C is well judged because of the fourth trump. Finally, West will be tempted to push to 4 H, but with such doubtful assets a pass seems prudent; indeed, 4 H would probably be doubled for 300, a horrible result for East-West.

In clubs, 10 tricks should emerge on the fortunate layout. Note that East is endplayed after winning two heart tricks, so he may as well lead the C K (South should drop it anyway); then a simple spade finesse (or a diamond finesse through West) does the trick. The alternative of running the D J through East is clearly poor because if East had the D Q, he could always cover with Q-x or Q-x-x and force you to rely on the spade finesse. The best technique is to cash D A-K first in case the queen drops, then play West for the S Q.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 8

...
+510
+500
...
+300
...
+200
...
100
99
98
97
96
96
95
95
+170
...
+150
...
+130
...
+110
+100
94
93
92
89
76
63
60
48
+90
...
+50
...
-50
...
-80
...
39
38
31
24
20
16
15
14
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
-170
...
13
10
9
8
6
5
5
4
-200
...
-300
...
-420
...
-500
...
4
3
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 9

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

The war wages on, this time at a higher level. An unusual notrump overcall is likely to spur a lively auction:

West

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

South shows at least 5-5 in the minors, and North blasts into game with his exceptional club fit. Alas, this is routinely down one while 4 C probably would have bought the contract; at least it’s hard to imagine East or West bidding again.

Despite only 19 HCP including three unneeded jacks, East-West are gin for 4 S. Of course, you may need to drink some of that gin to bid so high. The crafty defense of North winning the C A and shifting to a low diamond might fool some declarers, but it is wrong to duck this to the jack because it assumes misdefense (4 S could not be made legitimately if South held the D A). Therefore, put up the king.

The gods of distribution can be fickle. Note that in hearts only eight tricks are available because South can get two spade ruffs. If instead you gave South S A-x and a blank H Q, then 4 H would make and 4 S could be set with a heart ruff. If you bid for 10 tricks, you better guess right.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 9

...
+650
...
+510
+500
...
+420
+400
100
99
99
98
97
97
96
95
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
95
94
93
92
91
90
89
88
...
+130
...
+110
+100
...
-50
...
87
78
68
67
64
61
44
27
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
-170
...
21
15
14
13
12
11
11
10
-200
...
-300
...
-620
...
-650
...
10
9
8
7
5
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 10

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

Players who bid by the book (if there are any still around) will duplicate this sequence:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

1 C
2 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
1 S
3 C

Unfortunately, it’s a mighty jungle out there, and the lion doesn’t always sleep. Some Wests (OK, I’m one of them) will open in third seat. I would bid 2 H. This may look foolish with only five cards and so many losers, but in practice it generates many more good results than bad. The preemptive and lead-directing effect gives your side a big edge. In this case 2 H would probably be passed out, and careful play results in down one for a good score. (I justify all my 800 sets with stories like this.)

In clubs, 10 tricks can be won. This is easy with the helpful D K lead, but otherwise double-dummy. After, say, three rounds of hearts, declarer can take one diamond finesse, then squeeze East in the pointed suits (including a spade finesse). The proper play, of course, is to use dummy’s two entries to take diamond finesses, winning only nine tricks.

In notrump, eight tricks are routine; probably nine without a heart lead.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 10

...
+800
...
+660
...
+630
...
+600
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+500
...
+300
...
+210
+200
...
96
95
95
94
94
93
92
91
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
+120
+110
90
89
88
82
77
73
54
34
+100
+90
+80
...
0
...
-100
-110
22
20
19
18
17
16
10
4
...
-200
...
-300
...


3
2
1
1
0


TopMain

Board 11

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

The South hand will not meet everyone’s standards for an opening one-bid, but it does mine, and this auction might ensue:

West

1 NT
Pass
North

Dbl
2 H
East

2 C
All Pass
South
1 D
2 D

West shows a balanced 15-18; North doubles for penalty, and East runs to safety. South’s 2 D shows long diamonds and poor defense against clubs (usually a singleton or void) as it deprives North of the chance to double. North then bids his hearts, which should be nonforcing in light of the enemy 1 NT overcall.

In hearts, nine tricks should be made, either by ruffing a club in dummy or by picking up the H Q-J-x if East leads a trump and West persists to stop the club ruff. Despite the lucky heart lie, it is impossible to make 10 tricks barring misdefense. Even an original spade lead, ducked to the king, does not hurt the defense if West is careful (best is to lead the C A and another club); but if West continues spades or leads trumps, declarer can benefit.

Is there any game on? Yes, North or South can make 3 NT with the double heart finesse, but it’s the old Kojak special. You’ll make it sometimes, but you’ll lose all your hair in the process.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 11

...
+800
...
+630
...
+590
...
+530
100
99
98
97
97
96
95
94
...
+500
...
+420
+400
...
+300
...
93
92
91
90
89
88
87
86
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
...
85
83
80
77
75
59
44
43
+110
+100
+90
...
+50
...
-50
...
37
29
27
26
25
24
19
14
-100
-110
-120
...
-150
...
-300
...
10
6
5
4
4
3
2
0

TopMain

Board 12

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

With only 21 HCP it will be a challenge for North-South to reach game, though it seems well within grasp on this sequence:

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

Some would argue that South is not worth a 3 S bid, but it’s a 17-point dummy by my evaluation method (15 HCP, 1 for the doubleton diamond, 1 extra for four or more aces and/or tens). North then has a close decision, but since he cannot determine whether the C K-Q is duplicated (facing a singleton), it is routine to accept. Having a fifth spade is a big plus.

In spades, the outcome depends on the lead. After a diamond lead (best), declarer is destined to win 10 tricks; otherwise, declarer can win 11. Note that after a heart lead won by the ace, then the C J (ducked), declarer must lead hearts to benefit — the long heart can be established for a diamond pitch. If instead he continues clubs, the obvious diamond shift will lock him in dummy, unable to reach his hand to rid the diamond.

At some tables, a light opening bid by West may steal the show. This will almost surely keep North-South out of game, and it may shut them out entirely if East bids 1 H.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 12

...
+1100
...
+800
+790
...
+730
...
100
99
99
98
97
97
96
95
+650
...
+620
+600
...
+500
...
+300
89
83
73
64
63
62
61
60
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
+140
...
59
56
52
45
38
36
34
30
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
+50
...
29
28
23
21
20
19
17
14
-90
-100
-110
...
-200
...
-300
...
13
8
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 13

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

After two passes, South has a textbook weak two-bid (almost embarrassing these days), which might produce this auction:

West

Dbl
North
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
3 C
South
2 S
All Pass

North will consider competing to 3 S, but the flat shape and dubious C Q suggest conservatism, especially if South is an aggressive bidder (note my suggested weak two-bid on Board 10).

In clubs, eight tricks are routine. Regardless of the lead (well, except for a low spade, hehe) there is no way to avoid losing two spades, two hearts and a club. Even if South fails to shift to a heart, North cannot be endplayed as long as he refuses to ruff and clings to his third spade.

In spades, the outcome will vary from 7-9 tricks depending on the spade guess and whether West gets a heart trick. After a top diamond lead, declarer can always win nine tricks if he does everything right: On a heart shift, he must win and return a diamond (optionally cashing one or two spades first) to kill West’s entry; then in time he can develop a club discard for his losing heart. Only the double-dummy lead of a heart will ensure a heart trick for the defense. Also, note that declarer will often misguess spades, abandoning the usual “nine never” in light of West’s takeout double.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 13

...
+870
...
+800
...
+730
...
+670
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+600
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
96
95
95
94
93
92
91
90
+200
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
+100
81
73
72
71
65
58
56
40
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
-130
...
-150
24
21
16
10
6
5
4
4
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
3
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 14

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

North-South players face the difficult bidding challenge to stop below game with two opening bids. I like this auction:

West

2 S
Pass
North

Dbl
4 D
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 H
3 D

North’s negative double shows both minors, giving South an easy rebid. The real problem comes next, and North’s straightforward game invitation seems best. South rejects with his bare minimum.

No doubt many North players will trot out the old western cue-bid, asking South to bid 3 NT with a spade stopper. Terrific. Even if West leads a low spade, this is set (barring double-dummy play); and if West leads the S K, it’s probably down three. This shows why it is often foolish to force a player to bid notrump when he did not choose that course in the bidding.

Even 4 D will often fail, as it depends on a club guess that is contraindicated by West’s weak jump overcall. Assuming the S K lead, I would win the ace and lead a club immediately, hoping West will fear a singleton and hop with the ace; if West ducks, I’d finesse the 10 for my usual result.

Is there any possible game for North-South? Yes, 4 H can be made with an anti-percentage heart finesse and guessing clubs.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 14

...
+500
...
+460
...
+430
+420
+400
100
99
99
98
98
97
96
94
...
+300
...
+170
...
+150
+140
+130
93
92
91
90
89
88
87
77
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
-50
...
68
64
57
55
54
52
40
28
-100
-110
...
-140
-150
...
-200
...
19
10
9
8
6
4
4
3
-300
...
-470
...
-500
...

3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 15

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

Almost all roads lead to 4 S by South. If West goes quietly, this will be a common route:

West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 S
East

Pass
South
1 S
4 S

The vulnerability will attract many West players to bid. A case can be made for 2 C or 3 C (or even 4 C if we’re counting mental cases), but with a topless club suit I much prefer an off-shape Michaels cue-bid to show hearts and a minor. The latter also has the favorable consequence of spurring East into a profitable 5 H sacrifice (down three with best play and defense) or pushing South to 5 S, which can be set.

In spades, 10 tricks are easy. If the defense finds the club ruff (club lead, diamond return), that’s the limit; but after winning the C A, East is more likely to return a heart (except perhaps in my Michaels scenario), giving declarer the opportunity to guess spades for an 11th trick. If West was active in the bidding, or if declarer infers that East has no more clubs, the odds favor a second-round spade finesse against East. (Compare Board 13 for a similar nine-trump finessing issue.)

North-South Matchpoints — Board 15

...
+1400
...
+1100
...
+800
+790
...
100
99
99
98
98
97
96
95
+660
+650
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
94
88
82
80
53
29
28
27
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+140
26
25
24
24
23
23
22
22
...
+50
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
21
21
20
12
4
3
2
2
...
-500
...




1
1
0




TopMain

Board 16

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

This excellent slam for East-West may be difficult to reach with the heart misfit. Here’s a good auction, using strong jump shifts:

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

East shows a self-sufficient heart suit, then 4 NT is a natural slam invitation. West accepts with his sturdy hand, offering 6 C as an alternative; then East wisely returns to 6 NT. Note the great superiority of West playing notrump as opposed to East playing hearts: The D A-Q is protected from the lead, there is no danger of a club ruff, and you don’t necessarily require a 4-3 heart break.

After a spade lead, the proper play is to cash three hearts (pitching a spade and two diamonds). When hearts break 4-3, it is easy. If hearts were 5-2 or worse, you will need the diamond finesse, and you must also decide whether to guard against C A-x with the long hearts (lead the C 4) or C A-9-x-x in the opposite hand (lead the C K). Note that if the player with 5+ hearts has C A-x-x, he could always foil you with a holdup play.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 16

...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-130
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-230
96
95
95
94
94
93
92
91
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
...
90
88
85
83
83
81
78
76
-680
-690
-710
...
-1100
...
-1370
...
63
48
37
36
35
34
33
31
-1430
-1440
...
-1660
...


24
13
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 17

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

An easy notrump game should be reached at most tables, perhaps via this auction:

West

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

South’s negative double shows four hearts, and 2 S creates a game force. As North it is tempting to pursue a slam in clubs; but having already shown a strong hand, it seems prudent to leave that move to partner. Bidding 3 NT after the cue-bid suggests indecision as to the best strain (with a hand like S K-Q-10 H 8-2 D K-Q-4 C A-K-Q-8-3, North should bid 3 NT directly over the double).

There is little to the play. With clubs breaking, declarer has 10 tricks, and the defense has three tricks after a spade lead (and continuation if ducked). A cunning declarer might attempt two risky holdups (banking on the H A with East); then he could steal an 11th trick if East leads a third spade (after crushing West’s 10), or if East does not win the H A on the first heart lead. Matchpoints is like shooting craps; you’ll roll a few sevens, but every now and then East will produce the H Q at trick three — snake eyes.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 17

...
+800
...
+750
...
+650
...
+500
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+460
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+300
96
92
88
67
46
44
43
42
...
+210
+200
...
+180
+170
...
+150
42
41
40
39
38
35
33
28
...
+130
...
+110
+100
...
+50
...
22
19
16
15
14
13
13
12
-50
...
-100
...
-150
...
-200
...
9
5
4
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 18

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

There are many roads to this fine heart slam. Here’s one using Jacoby transfers with splinter follow-ups and Roman key-card Blackwood:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

2 D
4 D
5 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 NT
2 H
4 NT
6 H

Because of the intermediate heart strength, it seems best to treat the North hand as a one-suiter (e.g., if partner held S K-x-x and H K-x, hearts would still be the better trump suit). Four diamonds shows that singleton or void with slam interest; 4 NT asks for key cards; 5 S shows two plus the trump queen. (Alternatively, North might make a response to show the void.)

In hearts, 12 tricks are easy if you draw trumps and play on clubs, but this is hardly the proper play. By ruffing spades, the contract is virtually assured if spades are 4-2 or 3-3, and there are chances when spades are foul. A spade lead is another consideration, but this does not suggest a singleton (at least on my auction). Assuming standard spot leads, I would try the S J at trick one, then lead the S 5. Sigh. After West ruffs and I find the H K offside, the final sword is to learn that East’s clubs were queen-third.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 18

...
+1660
...
+1430
...
+1100
...
+850
100
99
98
94
90
89
88
87
...
+800
...
+690
+680
...
+660
+650
87
86
86
85
79
75
74
62
...
+630
+620
+600
...
+500
...
+300
50
49
44
39
38
37
36
36
...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
...
-100
35
35
34
34
33
33
32
22
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
11
7
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 19

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

After a routine 1 NT opening by South, most Norths will appreciate the potential of their club suit and raise to game:

West

Pass
North

3 NT
East

All Pass
South
1 NT

After the S J lead, how do you play to guarantee the contract? The answer is to win the lead in hand and cash a top club, which ensures 10 tricks against any distribution. In the worst case, West will show out; then cross to the S Q, finesse the C 9, etc. Note that if you win the S Q at trick one, you lack the entries to do this, and the contract is in jeopardy when East has four clubs (you would then have to give East a club trick and hope they don’t cash four diamonds).

At matchpoints, a case can be made to win the S Q first to allow the club suit to be run before the spades. Barring four clubs with East, you can then capitalize on a defensive error, i.e., if the player with long spades lets go his stopper. This is a feeble case, however, as it should be obvious you have the S A-K, and only a weak opponent might misdefend.

Fast Eddie would lead the D 8, and when declarer looks at his convention card he volunteers, “Eight shows weakness.” East wins the ace and returns the five; queen, king. Eddie chuckles, “Yes, been feeling weak all day.”

North-South Matchpoints — Board 19

...
+500
+490
...
+460
...
+430
...
100
99
98
97
93
88
72
57
+400
...
+240
...
+210
+200
...
+180
56
55
54
53
50
47
46
39
...
+150
...
+130
...
+110
+100
+90
32
29
26
19
12
11
10
9
+80
...
-50
...
-100
-110
...
-140
8
7
7
6
6
5
4
4
-150
...
-200
...
-730
...

3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 20

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

The West hand is not strong enough for a 2 C opening, so I would expect this auction to be the popular choice:

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

West is tempted to raise spades but wisely passes, expecting East to have a sturdy club stopper. With a feeble holding such as C J-x-x-x, East should give a preference to 3 H with a doubleton or rebid a five-card spade suit in lieu of 3 NT. Further, the C Q rates to enhance the protection in notrump, and may have no benefit in spades.

And so it proves. Notrump is indeed the best contract, and 11 tricks should be won. After a club lead to the ace and back to the king, it seems best to pitch a heart from West and take the diamond finesse (low to the 10); the D K reveals the 5-1 break; then duck a heart. A greedy alternative is to hope spades are 3-3 and try for all the remaining tricks on a squeeze; but this fizzles, and the end result is probably 10 tricks. Note that North must pitch a club and a heart on the diamonds; if he unguards either black suit, declarer has a double squeeze for 12 tricks. If South instead leads a diamond, ducked to the jack, then back to the 10, North must duck the C Q; else a simple black-suit squeeze provides a 12th trick.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 20

...
+800
...
+500
+400
...
+300
...
100
99
99
98
97
97
96
95
+200
...
+100
...
-110
...
-130
-140
91
88
86
82
81
81
80
79
-150
...
-170
...
-200
...
-600
-620
78
78
77
77
76
76
75
72
-630
...
-650
-660
...
-680
-690
...
64
56
48
30
12
11
6
2
-1440
...





1
0





TopMain

Board 21

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

The North hand doesn’t qualify for 3 H at unfavorable vulnerability, yet I would hate to pass. So let’s compromise:

West

All Pass
North
2 H
East
3 C
South
Dbl

Action! It certainly seems right for South to double 3 C, but many will regret it. Assume South leads a top diamond and shifts to a trump (crucial). Declarer does best to cross to dummy with a spade and lead a heart, which North must duck to the king. On the next heart lead, South can ruff with the C 10 (not mandatory) and lead a second trump to limit declarer to just eight tricks. Curiously, the contract can also be beaten after an original heart lead if North finds the brilliant duck at trick one. Hmm. Why do I keep thinking of those AFLAC commercials?

In hearts, North can win only eight tricks against best defense. East can get a diamond ruff (or a spade ruff for that matter) in addition to his two natural trump tricks. No doubt many North-Souths will bid beyond 2 H and be set, perhaps doubled by East who is privy to the foul distribution.

Here’s some useless trivia: Which side can win the odd trick in notrump? Despite being outgunned 23-17 in HCP, the answer is East-West. Scary. Maybe it’s time to go out and buy that AFLAC policy.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 21

...
+1400
...
+1100
...
+800
...
+730
100
99
99
98
97
96
95
94
...
+600
...
+500
...
+300
...
+200
94
93
92
91
90
87
85
84
...
+150
+140
...
+110
+100
...
+50
83
82
81
81
80
77
73
72
...
-100
-110
...
-200
...
-300
...
71
59
47
46
33
18
17
16
-400
...
-470
...
-500
...
-800
...
15
14
13
12
7
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 22

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

Virtually every East-West pair will reach this notrump game, often after a routine Stayman sequence:

West

1 NT
2 S
North

Pass
Pass
East
Pass
2 C
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

Considering East’s weak four-card major and strong doubleton, it might have been better to eschew Stayman. Besides the chance that a 4-4 fit may not provide an extra trick, bidding 3 NT directly makes the defense more difficult by not revealing anything about opener’s shape.

North will probably lead a diamond (even without the 2 S bid, it is dubious to lead from K-x-x-x at matchpoints), and the friendly layout allows 11 tricks to be won. Just lead red suits from dummy and spades from hand, and the defense is helpless to win more than the H A and S K.

Only an original club lead creates problems for declarer. It is still possible to win 11 tricks, but it involves double-dummy play: Either win the first club with the ace and play as above, or play South specifically for D K-x (i.e., so the D J can provide an extra entry to East). More likely, declarer will be held to 10 tricks for a below-average score.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 22

...
+300
...
+200
...
+100
...
-110
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
-120
...
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
95
95
94
93
93
92
91
91
-210
...
-600
-620
-630
...
-650
-660
90
89
85
80
68
55
54
31
...
-690
...
-1440
...


6
3
2
1
0


TopMain

Board 23

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

With only 23 combined HCP, many East-Wests will miss this good game in hearts. Here’s one route, perhaps slightly optimistic:

West

1 H
2 S
North

Pass
Pass
East

2 H
4 H
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

The West hand is barely worth a game try. The shape is unattractive, but the presence of three aces and two tens surely ups the worth. Two spades is the popular help-suit game try, directing partner’s attention to where high cards or shortness are needed most. East has a clear-cut acceptance.

Some Wests will instead open 1 NT (a close decision to me), then East will discover the heart fit with Stayman and invite with 3 H. Should West accept? Yes. The fifth heart and control-rich hand surely suggest optimism. Only a pedant mired by point count would pass.

In hearts, 10 tricks are routine. There is no need to guess clubs since you can develop a pitch on the D Q. Even if North were to duck the D K and you also ducked (figuring South had the king), the king ruffs out anyway. If North leads the S Q, marking South with A-K, leading a diamond to the queen is a virtual lock; if South wins the king, that is 10 HCP for a passed hand, so the C Q should be in North — unless maybe South is Al Roth.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 23

...
+200
...
+100
...
-100
-110
-120
100
99
98
96
94
93
92
91
...
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
90
87
83
82
65
48
46
44
...
-300
...
-500
...
-600
-620
...
43
42
41
41
40
40
23
4
-650
...
-800
...
-1070
...

3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 24

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

Aggressive bidding is likely to land some East-West pairs in game. Lebensohl users will face this familiar predicament:

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

After the 2 H overcall, West cannot invite game in notrump if playing Lebensohl, so he must invoke the partnership method to show a heart stopper en route to 3 NT. Most players favor the “direct denies” version (an immediate 3 NT denies a stopper), so 2 NT (relay to 3 C) followed by 3 NT is a sign-off. Fortunately, opener has a little extra wood this time to have a fair chance for nine tricks. Too many times, it seems, you have the stoppers but no source of tricks.

After a heart lead, the best play is moot. With South showing (probably) six hearts, the odds slightly favor playing North for C Q-x-x, however, an immediate finesse might lose to a stiff queen. Suppose you guess correctly to win the C K. You can now get home with a simple spade finesse, but it is also reasonable to play South for the S K. In that event you probably could succeed by running the clubs and guessing the end position.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 24

...
+470
...
+150
+140
...
+110
+100
100
99
99
98
97
97
96
95
...
+50
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
93
89
86
81
77
76
71
67
-120
-130
...
-150
...
-170
-180
...
65
57
50
43
36
35
34
33
-200
-210
...
-300
...
-400
...
-430
32
31
30
29
28
18
7
6
...
-460
...
-500
-510
...
-550
...
5
4
3
3
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 25

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

A slightly good slam awaits the North-South pairs. I would follow the Old Trusty route:

West

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

After a two-over-one response, an immediate raise should not be made with three low cards (by my beliefs), so facing as little as H J-x-x makes South a favorite (53 percent) not to lose a heart trick. Hence, it seems clear-cut to use Blackwood and bid the slam off an ace. If partner had both missing aces, the Roman key-card response (5 H or 5 S) would indicate whether the H Q was held to allow a more accurate grand-slam decision.

There is little to the play. Either the defense takes its diamond trick or it loses it, and East’s double of 5 D should prevent any chance of the latter. Declarer has an early claim when trumps behave.

Those who play in 6 S will achieve the same result; and those in 6 NT will achieve, well, the last seven tricks and a lunacy award. If you’re going to attempt that coup, you better bid two diamonds first.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 25

...
+1020
+1010
...
+980
...
+800
...
100
99
93
86
62
39
38
37
+510
+500
+490
+480
...
+450
...
+260
34
30
29
18
7
6
5
5
...
+230
...
+200
...
-50
...
-100
4
4
3
3
2
2
1
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 26

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

A competitive auction should develop at most tables, probably ending in game. This looks reasonable all around:

West

1 S
4 S
North

2 D
All Pass
East
Pass
3 S
South
Pass
4 D

North has quite a good hand in high cards, but with defensive prospects dimmed by the diamond raise, it seems wise to go quietly over 4 S. Doubling with hands that are top-heavy in your long suit often backfires (as it would here), and it seems foolish to sacrifice in 5 D.

In spades (or hearts), 10 tricks are laydown, with virtually nothing to the play. The only variation I can see is if North cashes the H A-K and then underleads in diamonds, hoping to put South in to get a heart ruff. Oops. I’m sure North will be delighted to find out that his partner had no hearts to lead anyway. Some days are like that.

In diamonds, only eight tricks can be made against best defense. After a spade lead to the king, West leads his singleton club to the ace; the C 9 (suit preference) is returned for a ruff; then West underleads in spades for a second ruff. This puts the nail in the coffin of anyone doubled in 5 D.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 26

...
+710
...
+630
...
+600
...
+200
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+130
+120
+110
+100
...
-100
...
95
92
89
88
86
85
78
71
-170
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
64
57
53
49
48
47
46
45
-620
...
-650
...
-790
-800
...
-850
31
16
14
13
9
5
4
4
...
-930
...
-990
...
-1130
...
3
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 27

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

A routine 1 NT overcall and a transfer sequence will land many Easts in an unglamorous heart contract:

West

Pass
2 D
North

1 D
Pass
East

1 NT
2 H
South
Pass
Pass
All Pass

Most players treat a 1 NT overcall just like an opening bid, so 2 D is Jacoby, showing five hearts. This approach is a good general philosophy, as it simplifies your bidding methods. Why learn a different structure when the same one will suffice? I recommend “system on” after all natural 1 NT and 2 NT overcalls in both direct and balancing seat.

It looks like 2 H is destined to fail, losing three trumps and a trick in each side suit. Not necessarily. After a diamond lead, declarer can compress the losers with elopement technique. Suppose North wins the D A and returns a spade, finessed to the king; then a spade is returned. Cash the last spade; D K; diamond ruff; cash both clubs, and lead the last diamond. Then you need only to guess hearts right, as suggested by North’s opening bid.

In notrump, East can win only six tricks. An extra club trick might be developed with an intrafinesse (low to the 10, then finesse through North) but entries prevent doing this and leading toward the H K.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 27

...
+800
...
+500
...
+380
...
+300
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
+280
...
+200
...
+180
...
+150
...
95
94
93
92
90
87
84
81
+120
+110
+100
+90
+80
...
+50
...
80
79
69
58
57
56
48
40
-50
-70
...
-90
-100
-110
...
-140
38
37
36
35
31
20
8
7
-150
...
-300
...
-470
...
-500
...
4
3
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 28

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

A game in hearts should be reached at most tables, perhaps after this splinter-bid sequence:

West
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Pass
1 H
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
4 D

North’s response to 1 C is controversial. Traditional ways suggest 1 D; practical ways suggest 1 H. Since the probability of a diamond slam is too low to consider, I agree with 1 H; it simplifies the bidding toward the most likely contracts and is less revealing to the opponents. South’s 4 D is the equivalent of a 4 H raise with a singleton or void in diamonds. North is close to making a slam try but wisely settles for game.

In hearts, 10 or 11 tricks should be won depending on how declarer times the crossruff. After a spade lead, I would cash the top spades and begin ruffing diamonds first. This seems to offer the best chance for 12 tricks, but, alas, falls victim to an early overruff and yields only 10. The successful path for an overtrick is to ruff clubs first. Another possibility (inferior I think) is to ruff only clubs and establish the long club (using spades as entries to dummy) then run the H Q to West, hoping the H 10 drops for 12 tricks; but this also nets only 10.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 28

...
+1100
...
+990
...
+950
...
+800
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
+790
...
+680
...
+660
+650
...
+630
95
95
94
94
93
78
66
65
+620
+600
...
+400
...
+210
+200
...
52
39
37
36
35
35
34
33
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
...
+120
+110
33
32
31
30
29
28
27
25
+100
...
-100
...
-200
...
-300
...
24
23
15
8
5
2
1
0

TopMain

Board 29

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

South has a borderline 2 C opening, but considering the awkward pattern it is better to open 1 D. This might produce:

West

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

North wisely remains quiet over West’s double, and then shows his spade suit after South shows extra strength with a takeout double. South has more than enough to bid game. As East I would be tempted to bid 5 C. If West had a singleton diamond (as he probably should), this would be a great save. Alas, it’s another toll-free number.

In spades, the play is straightforward for 10 tricks, losing two trumps and the H A. The only faint hope for an overtrick might be to give West his trump tricks and con him into ducking one heart before running the diamonds. Not much of a chance, but hey, I’m always trying. This reminds me of the Richard Nixon coup: Lead the D Q from dummy and wait… and wait… and wait. Finally, when somebody says something, you promptly answer, “Oh! Was that my trick?” Darn; even that might not work with the diamond suit blocked.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 29

...
+1100
...
+930
...
+800
...
+680
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+660
+650
...
+620
+600
...
+500
96
95
94
93
69
45
45
44
...
+300
...
+200
...
+170
...
+150
44
43
43
42
41
39
37
36
...
+130
+120
+110
+100
+90
...
-100
35
33
30
28
26
24
23
18
-110
...
-200
...
-300
...
-500
...
13
12
8
4
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 30

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

Another good slam, albeit ill-fated, should be reached at many tables:

West

1 S
3 H
4 D
6 H
North

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

East’s 5 NT is not the grand slam force but asks partner to pick a slam from the obvious alternatives. It is dubious to choose hearts with three low trumps, but at matchpoints it can be costly to play in a minor. Further, East could have bid 6 D over 4 D to show favoritism toward diamonds.

Declarer has an interesting option in 6 H. Assume a club lead to the ace; H A; club ruff; heart finesse lost; club return ruffed; H K; D A-K. Do you give up a diamond? Or lead the last trump hoping to squeeze South with S Q-x-x-x (or make outright if S Q-10-x)? It’s probably right to concede down one, as South always could have beaten you by returning a spade.

In diamonds, declarer should cash the top diamonds, then pursue the extra chance of S Q-x-x in either hand before eventually trying the heart finesse; down one. The double-dummy make is to run the S J to smother the 10; but if anyone found this against you, hold your cards back.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 30

...
+400
...
+350
...
+300
...
+250
100
99
99
98
98
97
97
96
...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
96
95
94
92
90
83
77
60
...
-150
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
44
43
42
41
36
33
32
24
...
-480
-490
...
-510
...
-690
...
15
12
11
10
10
9
9
8
-920
...
-980
...
-1100
...
-1700
...
6
5
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 31

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

A massive spade fit will propel many North-South pairs to 4 S, though accurate bidding should put on the brakes:

West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

1 S
3 D
East

Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 S
3 S

Some steadfast “Law followers” will raise 1 S to game, but this makes no sense to me. With both opponents passing, it must be right to bid your values with a single raise. North makes a help-suit game try in diamonds, and South rejects with his nullo holding in that suit. Justice served; nine easy tricks and virtually no chance for 10.

Some East-West pairs will enter the fray, perhaps with 3 C (or a takeout double) by West. Eight tricks is the limit in either clubs or hearts. Against clubs, South gets a heart ruff. Against hearts, North can get a club ruff, though it’s not so easy: After a spade lead to the king, North should not lead a club immediately (South will assume a singleton) but return a diamond; then upon winning the H K, the C 6 should be read as a doubleton, and South ducks to preserve the entry.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 31

...
+620
...
+500
...
+300
...
+170
100
98
97
96
95
94
93
90
...
+140
...
+100
...
+50
...
-100
88
62
32
31
30
29
28
16
...
-140
...
-200
...


3
2
1
1
0


TopMain

Board 32

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

Action will be brewing at many tables, but events are likely to end in a peaceful partscore:

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

South’s overcall is not a thing of beauty, but the vulnerability is right. East reopens with 2 H (rather than double) to indicate at least 5-5 shape, and West takes a preference.

When I first looked at this deal, it appeared that 2 S would be an easy make, and 2 C would go down. Wrong. Let’s try the flip side: 2 C can be made, and 2 S should go down. Against spades, South leads a diamond (least of evils) to the king, ace; then a trump to the king, and a trump back. Whether or not declarer draws trumps, he lacks control to enjoy the long hearts. In fact, it requires double-dummy play not to go down two.

In clubs, South can win eight tricks if he avoids the temptation of leading a club to the jack (not so easy). The play is complex; in some variations West will be endplayed to give declarer a fourth trump trick. Alternatively, declarer can establish a second heart trick by leading low to the 10.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 32

...
+500
...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
100
99
99
98
97
95
93
83
...
+100
+90
...
-50
...
-100
-110
74
62
50
49
46
44
39
29
-120
...
-140
-150
...
-170
...
-300
23
22
14
5
4
4
3
2
...






0






TopMain

Board 33

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

A good spade game should be reached by many pairs, often via a Jacoby transfer sequence:

West

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

West shows a five-card spade suit, and then jumps to 3 NT, offering a choice of games. Some might argue that 2 NT is adequate with only 9 HCP, but C Q-J-10-2 looks like more than 3 points to me. East wisely corrects to spades, though it is tempting to try for the same number of tricks in notrump with 4-3-3-3 shape.

Even with the H A offside, friendly breaks allow 10 tricks to be won with routine play. After a trump lead (my choice) declarer can draw trumps and make two heart plays (to the 10 first if South plays low) to establish a 10th trick. After D A and a diamond, pitch a heart for an an easy 10. Even after the double-dummy lead of a low diamond and a diamond back, declarer can succeed by drawing only two rounds of trumps and playing on hearts.

Notrump is not so pretty. Even with a black-suit lead, there are only nine tricks; and with a red suit, down three. Yes, I know, someone will lead the D 10, ducked by North. Merry Christmas in September.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 33

...
+200
...
+150
...
+100
...
+50
100
99
98
97
95
90
86
83
...
-50
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
...
82
81
80
79
78
77
76
75
-140
-150
...
-170
-180
...
-200
-210
71
66
65
60
55
54
53
52
...
-400
-420
-430
...
-450
-460
...
51
50
28
5
4
3
1
0

TopMain

Board 34

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

This one’s hard to predict with so many options all around, but here’s one reasonable path:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

Dbl
Pass
3 S
East
1 H
Rdbl
3 H
All Pass
South
Pass
2 S
Dbl

North’s balancing double is risky with only 9 HCP (I’d be worried about playing 1 H doubled). After the redouble, South jumps to invite game. East uses good judgment to bid 3 H (inferring short spades in dummy); South states his opinion, and North wisely runs to 3 S.

In spades, 10 tricks can’t be stopped. With East marked for all the high cards, it is easy to guess spades. After a heart to the king, East will probably lead the D J; win in hand and lead a spade to the queen; East can do nothing but clear trumps; then clubs are established with a ruff. Plus 170 scores quite well thanks to North’s enterprise.

In hearts, East can win only eight tricks. If South leads the C A (not my choice), the defense must be exact: C K; club ruff; diamond underlead; club. Otherwise, the defense only needs to be careful; with only one entry to dummy, declarer cannot establish a club trick without help.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 34

...
+930
...
+790
...
+730
...
+620
100
99
99
98
97
96
95
93
...
+300
...
+170
...
+140
...
+110
91
90
89
84
80
77
74
73
+100
...
+50
...
-100
-110
...
-140
70
68
65
61
58
49
45
30
...
-200
...
-300
...
-400
...
-500
14
11
8
7
6
5
4
4
...
-530
...
-800
...
-1100
...
3
3
2
2
1
1
0

TopMain

Board 35

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

This deal gives the advantage to simple old-fashioned bidding. Can you bid this way in your system?

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 NT
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
Pass
2 NT

Many players (alas, including me) use 2 NT conventionally, which forces South to use Stayman, which in turn allows West to double for a club lead. The standard sequence gives no such opportunity, so East will make the normal diamond lead. Also note that with 4-3-3-3 shape South does not pursue a 4-4 heart fit, a philosophy with which most experts agree.

After a diamond lead, declarer has 10 top tricks with the heart finesse; and it is possible to win 11. After running the hearts, the key play is to duck a club before cashing the third spade, then East can be endplayed in diamonds. (If you cash the spades first, West can win a spade trick.)

In hearts, it is possible for North to win 11 tricks without a diamond lead: Win the C A; S A; finesse and draw trumps; S K-Q; exit with a club. Pretty, but a little too four-eyed to be realistic. Normal play should produce 10, losing the obvious club and two diamonds.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 35

...
+1100
...
+800
...
+500
...
+460
100
99
99
98
98
97
96
90
+450
...
+430
+420
+400
...
+210
+200
85
83
66
47
31
30
29
27
...
+180
+170
...
+150
+140
...
+110
25
24
16
11
10
9
8
8
+100
+90
...
+70
...
-50
...
-100
7
6
5
5
4
3
2
1
...






0






TopMain

Board 36

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

This edition will end on a calm note, as my model East-West pair judges well to stop low:

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

Both players have maximums for their bids, but with 24 HCP and no long suit, even 2 NT is often too high. East-West do best to defend 1 S doubled (probably down one; perfect defense sets it two) but it’s hardly realistic for West to trap pass and convert a reopening double.

In notrump, North leads the S J-10 (ducked all around); then assume a heart shift and return, clearing the suit. If declarer now takes a diamond finesse, he makes only seven tricks. It seems better (in theory) to cash the S A and top clubs. If North held C J-x-x-x, he’d have to pitch his long heart; then he could be endplayed in clubs for an extra diamond trick.

The matchpoint difference between 90 and 120 is significant because many East-Wests will score 100 (no doubt through misdefense) or 110 from a diamond partscore. It’s hardly significant to me, however, because in the words of Dennis Miller: I’m outta here.

Wishing you the best in bridge and in life — or together, even.

North-South Matchpoints — Board 36

...
+400
...
+300
...
+200
...
+110
100
99
99
98
97
96
95
94
+100
...
+80
...
-90
-100
-110
-120
88
83
82
81
75
63
52
35
-130
...
-150
...
-180
...
-200
...
21
20
16
13
12
11
9
7
-300
...
-500
...
-600
...
-630
...
6
5
5
4
3
2
2
1
-800
...





1
0





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Statistical Analyses

The following table shows the average high-card points and freakness for each player in these 36 deals (2002) as well as for all 576 deals in the 16 years this annual event has been held. The bottom row shows the respective deal averages.

PlayerHigh Card PointsFreakness*
200216 Years200216 Years
North10.08 9.92 2.97 2.99
South10.03 9.89 2.53 3.12
East10.2810.23 2.61 2.86
West 9.61 9.96 3.25 3.10
Deal40.0040.0011.3612.08

The table shows that the distribution was tame this year (only the West hands were wilder than expected). The average freakness of a bridge hand is 2.98, and the average freakness of a deal is 11.93. Over 16 years, the deals were slightly wilder than usual, but close enough to the theoretical expectation to be no cause for concern. The time to start worrying is when the high-card points don’t average 40 per deal.

*A measurement I invented to rank the 39 hand patterns on a linear scale. My formula counts 1 point for each card over four or under three in each suit, plus 1 extra point if the hand has any singleton (or 2 extra points if the hand has any void). Hence, 4-3-3-3 = 0; 4-4-3-2 = 1; 5-3-3-2 = 2; 4-4-4-1 = 3; 5-4-2-2 = 3; … ending with 13-0-0-0 = 20. The freakness of a deal (0-80) is the sum of the freaknesses of the four hands.

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek