Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grand National Teams

Philadelphia!  Kim and I are here for the Summer NABC to take part in the Grand National Teams (flight B) which starts this afternoon.  We're on a six-person team, our teammates being Michael and Alya, Leo and Jay.  I have a fair bit of confidence in our team -- we fairly cruised through the district qualifiers and all three pairs are established partnerships.  However, we will be going up against the best teams from the other 24 districts and it isn't going to be easy!

I will try to post each day that we're still in the event, hopefully with some interesting hands from the competition.  Failing that, I have some partially completed articles which I can publish.

Let's start with a few thoughts about team tactics.  The standard mantra for team games is "bid your games!"  While this is undoubtedly good advice, it seems to me that it is equally important to fight for the part-score whenever there are shapely hands about and, conversely, allow them to declare when everyone appears to be balanced.  An incorrect game decision typically loses 6, 10 or 13 imps, according to vulnerability and how you went wrong.  However, a hand on which the opponents make a part-score at both tables will lose 7 or 8 imps.

Now, we come to the question of doubles.  One of the more trying moments in bridge is going back to your table and explaining how you let them make 530, 670 or whatever.  And, while it would appear that doubling their game contracts is relatively safe (unlike at matchpoints) there are several bad things that can happen.  The least bad thing is that they were making anyway and you lose 5 imps.  Or, worse, your double may tip declarer off to the best way to play the hand and now you are losing 11 or 14 imps!  Even worse, you might jostle them into a better (and possibly higher-scoring) contract that does make.  The sky's the limit on how many imps you swing here.

So, you should never double at teams?  Not at all.  But there are lots of ways that they can end up playing a doubled contract, especially when using cooperative doubles.  Some of the juiciest penalty doubles come this way providing that everyone is being disciplined.

Finally, how do we cope when we find ourselves in a hole?  There are two scenarios where this can occur.  In a short Swiss match, it sometimes happens that your opponents bid and make a lucky contract that you know your opponents won't bid.  Perhaps they had a misunderstanding about keycards but the trump king turned up onside and their slam rolled home.  Generally, however, you should always have confidence in your teammates bidding and making normal games and slams.  In a longer (knockout) match, you may not be sure you're down until the half-time comparison.  There is a tendency for players to overbid wildly in the second half under such circumstances.  This is entirely the wrong strategy and, like its American Football cousin, the "prevent" defense, usually ends up having the opposite effect.

The proper strategy is to be contrary.  The opportunities for this occur when you aren't 100% sure whether to bid game or slam.  If you think your counterpart will bid it, then don't.  If you think he'll stay out, then bid it.  If it's a 50% guess, then you will have trouble guessing what you're opponent will do but a team that is ahead will tend to do everything by the book (no risks).  So that should help guide you.

I do enjoy team games -- they are the closest thing we have to "real" bridge.  Wish us luck!

1 comment: