Jeff Lehman

He who guesses last …

A good principle of winning competitive bridge battles is to make the opponents take the last guess.  Here is a hand from Monday’s matchpoint club duplicate as an illustration.

Your partner opens 2 in second chair, both vul.  RHO overcalls 2 as you look at surprisingly good trump support: 8, JT653, AK8, 7532.  Your call?

Well, do you intend to bid on over the inevitable 4 by the opponents?  How about 5 by the opponents?  How many tricks at a heart contract might you make?

Let’s “give” partner a weak two bid that is consistent with second chair vul and corresponds to our suit lengths: I am going to guess at xxx, AKxxxx, xx, xx.  

On defense against spades, you appear to have two diamond tricks, and your side might have a heart trick or even a possible diamond ruff.  All in all, it seems pretty likely that the opponents can make ten tricks at a spade contract, while eleven is hard to evaluate.  Meanwhile on offense, you expect to lose one spade, no hearts, no diamonds and two clubs for ten tricks.  (I hope you are not looking to use the crutch of Total Trumps at this level.)  The above analysis suggests that you are willing to defend against 5♠ but not against 4

The point of all of this is simply that you should be considering all of the above factors before making your call.   And then make the call that makes the opponents have the last guess.  This means your correct call is 5.  Now, and not after the opponents have had the opportunity to exchange information.

Maybe you disagree with the guesses about how many tricks your side can produce on either offense or defense.  But the principle that you should bid right away to the highest level you intend to reach is a good one.

For what it is worth, the whole hand was:


Dealer: N #29
Vul: Both


What would North bid over a 5 call?  Well, if North is placed in the position of “giving” his partner a hand, he might choose something like KQxxxx, –, xx, AKxx.  5 is making opposite such hand, and if you morph a small diamond into the K, even slam can make.  Seems pretty hard to me for North to bypass a 5 call.  As you can see from the hand diagram, the unexpected matching diamond lengths of NS, missing the top two cards, maximizes the diamond losers of NS and causes 5 to be defeated by a diamond ruff.  Such is the impact of a well-chosen 5 call: that call put the pressure on the opponents to make a guess, and, as we all do, they might guess wrongly.

1 Comment

RobinMay 8th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Great exemplar of one the principles which I hold dear.

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