May 8th, 2005

weekly bridge column

				     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.