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Matchpoints and Intangibles
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You are playing in a four-session pair game in a local regional. You were in third at the start of the final session. You haven't been playing to best advantage this evening, but your opponents have been doing very little right, so you estimate that you still have a chance to win if you do well on the last few rounds. You sit down to play against a pair you don't recognize. They seem like nice people, and the husband, on your left, seems to be the dominant player. He asks all the questions about the methods you pre-alert, and the wife simply agrees with his suggested defenses.

This is the first board:

West
QJ5
AQ
J75
K9652
North
4
KJ10743
A832
74
East
A10986
852
94
AQ3
South
K732
96
KQ106
J108
W
N
E
S
2
2
P
3
X
P
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

I was West. Partner's pass over the double of 3 was noncommittal. He would rebid 3 with a minimum and a good suit. My 3NT rebid offered a choice of games, and he chose NT by passing. (Here is a tip for players just learning the game: Do not make these doubles. They simply give the opponents extra room to maneuver. In particular, don't make doubles on suits headed by KJ10.)

The opening lead was the 4. How would you plan the play?

West
QJ5
AQ
J75
K9652
North
4
KJ10743
A832
74
East
A10986
852
94
AQ3
South
K732
96
KQ106
J108
W
N
E
S
2
2
P
3
X
P
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0

I have to take the spade finesse regardless, so I played low from dummy. South contributed the 2, and I won my J. I next led Q, North played 4 (low discourages), dummy played 8, and South played 3. How would you continue?

When I led my last spade, North played 7 (high encourages), and I had to commit myself. Playing IMPs, I would obviously win the A and run clubs (North's club discard suggested they were running), taking my nine tricks.

At this table, though, I felt certain that my RHO would always lead her husband's suit. First he bid it, then he doubled my cue bid, then he encouraged in hearts. No loyal wife could decide to ignore all those suggestions! So I ducked the third spade, won the heart return, and took my 10 tricks and my 22.5 matchpoints (25 top). The intangible--my impression of how my opponent would behave--was more important here than technique.

This hand indicates why playing bridge online is not a complete substitute for playing face to face against human beings. If you can't "play the players," you'll have a hard time winning, at least at matchpoints.

 

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