What Risk Will You Take for an Overtrick?

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Author: Roman L. Weil
Date: October 25, 2021

By BBOer roman99 (Roman L. Weil)

Not that I have much experience with ACBL Instant Matchpoint Tournaments where I see the results at fifteen tables, each with one human and three robots, but I cannot recall seeing [m]any others than this one with [almost] identical auctions and opening leads.

Refer to the accompanying North-South layout where no one will be surprised by South’s opening 2NT nor North’s raise to 3NT. Opening lead is the club 3. Plan the play before reading on….

First, let your pulse-rate slow on not getting a heart lead and consider the possible strategies, which I enumerate as follows, grouping together ones I think alike. I invite your comment on ones that you think should be separated because they have different effects on opponents’ thinking.

  1. Win the first trick with club King and lead the diamond Jack. Need I point out this wastes a club trick?
  2. Let the first club run to South and win the Ace. Play the club Queen to dummy’s King and lead a diamond Jack towards South. [Given the many diamond cards in South, and ease of re-entry to dummy, I consider #2 and #1 equivalent, but welcome instruction as to why these differ.] This, too, wastes a club trick.
  3. Let the first club run to South and win with Ace. Play the diamond Ace.
  4. Let the first club run to South and win the Queen. Play the two minor suit Aces in either order; I can’t discern any difference therein.
  5. I trust you won’t consider what three declarers did: run the opening club to South to lead away from the diamond Ace towards dummy. Yipes.

Have you decided on your line? Please do before reading on. Let me know if you’ve thought of a different one.

At the table, it never occurred to me to forgo the diamond finesse [50% chance to win in order to try for the drop of the singleton diamond King, 26% chance.] My main thought is that whatever induced West not to lead a heart, let’s keep him thinking that way; make him decide what to lead at trick three. There’s a 22% chance the diamonds split 3-0 and East will be void half that time, 11%. If so, I can only imagine how large will be the heart he will discard on the second trick.

I did not think of the facts in this paragraph at the table, but consider. Assume the finesse works—the on-side King was singleton so all strategies—well, except #5—worked. This means that by the time you cash six diamond tricks, three club tricks (assuming like me you wasted a club trick), and two spades, that will have accounted for eleven tricks, with only two to go. The defender with four spades and, likely, four hearts will have a devil of a time knowing which suit to retain. In fact the robot defenders who are perfect card counters unguarded the spade suit and the declarers who held onto their xx or even x in spades cashed those tricks. I confess I got sloppy and didn’t even notice that East has discarded his fourth and third spade before I had to make my critical discards and I discarded one of mine. I made only twelve tricks, not thirteen, scoring 64%, rather than 89%.

Well, what would you guess were the strategies chosen by the declarers other than me and the boobs who chose #5?

  1. Two, one other than me.
  2. None.
  3. Five.
  4. Four.

If you audit my results, you’ll see that the sum of those just above is eleven and I told you about three lost souls who led away from the A-Q of diamonds. That adds only to fourteen, but you know a tournament comprises fifteen tables. One human didn’t understand his robot’s responses to his opening 2C bid followed by a 2NT rebid, and found himself playing 4H with the South hand. Poor soul. I sympathize with humans who don’t know all the GiB conventions, but not with ones who fail to read the hints given in the bidding explanations.

I do not understand the nine declarers who went for the 26% chance of dropping the singleton King, rather than the 50% chance accompanying the finesse. (I made such a choice just yesterday, but there was a potential ruff lurking.) I invite those who understand playing that way to tell us in the Replies here.

The bidding system I use with my partners is sufficiently primitive that I think I don’t know how to bid this hand at IMPs to get to 5. Do you have a way to bid this hand?

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