TACTICAL BID by Stephen Rzewski Matchpoints Vul: none Dealer: East North ♠ AJ10962 ♥ 54 ♦ 106 ♣ 954 West East ♠ 843 ♠ Q5 ♥ K963 ♥ AQ87 ♦ K93 ♦ AQ42 ♣ A108 ♣ KJ7 South ♠ K7 ♥ J102 ♦ J875 ♣ Q632 bidding: E S W N 1NT P 2♣ 2♠ 3♥ P 4♥ (all pass) Success at matchpoint duplicate bridge often involves taking some calculated risks. Such is the nature of North’s 2S overcall on today’s hand from a recent game at the Mashpee Senior Center. With East opening a strong 1NT and West implying at least game-invitational values with a Stayman inquiry, North’s bid would be considered dangerous at rubber bridge, because it could result in a substantial penalty. At duplicate, however, the lead-directing value of the call could bring significant rewards even if it only prevents a precious overtrick. Consider what might happen if E-W have an unobstructed auction to reach 4H. South might well lead a club, giving declarer a free finesse in that suit and an easy road to eleven tricks. At the table, South was able to make the otherwise unlikely lead of the king of spades, then low to her partner’s ace. A further spade continuation now ensured a third trick for the defense, as South’s J10x of trumps were promoted. If East ruffs high, South simply discards. In fact, East ruffed with the 7; South overruffed with the 10, then exited with a trump. Declarer drew the remaining trumps, then tested the diamonds; had they been 3-3, she would have been able to discard a club from dummy on the 4th diamond. No such luck. Declarer now had to guess the location of the queen of clubs. Normally, with a complete count on the hand now, declarer should take the finesse through South, because that hand is known to have the greater length in the suit. However, declarer decided reasonably that North might have that card to justify in part his overcall, and therefore took the finesse the wrong way. Result: down one and a tie for bottom. Nevertheless, declarer probably should have made her contract without having to make the guess in clubs. Ruffing the third spade low would gain only in a few improbable cases: North having both the jack and 10 of hearts, South having a 3rd spade or four trumps. Instead, East would do better by simply discarding a club instead of ruffing. This type of play is called a “loser-on-loser”, as it effectively trades a potential club loser for a third spade loser. With both declarer and dummy out of spades, there is little the defense can do. Best is for North to play a 4th spade and South to ruff with the 10 of hearts. But if declarer wins in dummy and plays for the remaining trumps to divide evenly, ten tricks come home.