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44 - December 2023

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MATCHPOINT PAIRS.
DEALER SOUTH – N/S VUL.

Your South hand looks like this:

♠ AKQ92
Q43
AQ5
♣ 96

You open 1♠ and two bids later, the auction is over:

WNES
1♠
Pass2NT(*)Pass4♠
(*) Three-card support in Spades and 11-12DH.

West puts the King of Clubs on the tablecloth and you will now do all you can in order to get the best score possible, as it is necessary when playing matchpoints…

Contract: 4 Spades.
Lead: ♣K (the 2 from East).

If trumps are 3-2, how many tricks will you make?
Twelve (five Spades, five Diamonds, the Ace of Clubs and a Heart). You will draw the five missing trumps in three rounds and discard a Club and a Heart on dummy’s Diamonds. Then, you will inevitably get a Heart trick.

Will you duck the opening lead?
Certainly not, because if the opponents cash their Ace of Hearts, you’ll take an intercontinental zero. Sometimes it’s necessary to duck, but certainly not here.

What rating do you think you’ll get if all suits break normally?
An average board, since everyone will bring home twelve tricks without a problem.

So what?
In order to get a better score than the other players, you need to consider (almost “hope”) that “accidents” will give all declarers a hard time… except you.

With your mind on alert, where do you start?
By drawing the defenders’ trumps. You are in dummy and you play the Spade 7 for East’s 3, your Ace and the 4 from West. You continue with the King and West discards the 3 of Clubs.

Are you awake?
Yes you are and a little bell tells you that if you want to be able to safely capture East’s Jack of trumps with the help of your Queen-9, you must unblock dummy’s 10 on your King:

and then cross to dummy with a Diamond to take the marked finesse against the Jack of Spades.

What can happen in this suit, which you need to communicate with dummy?
That one opponent is short, East to be exact, since West certainly doesn’t have two singletons.

How can you protect against that?
Take the Queen of Diamonds with the King (without cashing the Ace, of course), West and East following small. Continue with the 8 of Spades to the 9 before cashing the Queen.

How do you finish?
You cash the Ace of Diamonds (East indeed had a singleton and would have ruffed an earlier second round of the suit) and then take the marked finesse against West’s 10 by playing up to Jack-9. That way you end up with twelve tricks in your pocket. Let’s bet that not all South players will fare as well, and that your score will be very satisfactory.

THE PRINCIPLE

In matchpoint pairs, a “hunt for the top” takes place in every board.
In fact, this is one of its main attractions, but also one of its greatest difficulties. Of course, if you want to be able to score well in matchpoint pairs on a regular basis, you need to acquire excellent technique in dummy play (and in defense!), especially when the road ahead is full of pitfalls.

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Norbert Lébely

Bridge teacher passionate about education, Norbert Lébely contributed to several bestsellers, including the book collection “Step by Step” and the book series “Les clefs du bridge” (Keys to bridge) with Robert Berthe as well as the series “Bien enchérir” (bidding well) with Michel Bessis. He has been working on the software "Step by Step in action" for several years. Picture © Caroline Moreau.

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