Sunday, October 9, 2011

Matchpoint Bridge

Recently, I've been re-reading what surely must be the best book that deals specifically with playing matchpoints, and one of the best bridge books of all time.  I refer of course to Hugh Kelsey's Match-point Bridge (ISBN 0 571 11437 7).  After the excellent introduction, there are five parts, each of which is treated in three different sub-parts: Bidding, Dummy play and Defence.  The five parts are: Fundamentals, Contesting the Part Score, The Lead, Sacrifice and Deception.

In the introduction he makes the very important point, obvious if you stop to think about it -- but not so clear otherwise -- that the two phases of the matchpoint game, the auction and the play are inextricably linked.  If your side has fallen short in the auction, then you are destined to a poor score so that explanation of the auction must be incorrect.  You have to play on the assumption that you actually did get the auction right.  An example which we've all experienced is to have missed an "obvious" game which looks likely to make.  Clearly, you are headed for a bad board -- unless that is the game goes down.  You should therefore assume that the cards are wrong for the game and right for you.

Here's one of my favorite sections from "Sacrifice - Dummy Play."

None Vulnerable, Dealer West

West leads the King of diamonds against your doubled contract of four spades and you win with the ace. How do you plan the play?

The situation looks grim. Partner's raise was eccentric, to say the least, and it is a safe bet that most of the other North-South pairs will choose to defend against four hearts.
In order to restrict the penalty to 300 in four spades doubled, you will need to make six trump tricks and the king of hearts in addition to the diamond already in the bag. But if the heart ace is right for you, it is wrong for the opponents -- that is to say the heart king would have scored in defence. It follows that with a normal spade break you would have four defensive tricks against a heart contract, and the pairs defending against four hearts will register plus scores. That is a possibility which must not be entertained. You must assume that your idiot-partner did the right thing in bidding four spades and the only distribution to make that possible is a 4-1 trump break with the singleton in the West hand. Accordingly, you should lead a spade to the king and if the knave does not appear, finesse the ten on the way back.
The book is full of such gems, not all quite as humorous as this one, but each equally brilliant in its analysis and good advice.

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