2016-10-26 / Entertainment

The number of tricks governs the strategy

by Phillip Alder

Winston Churchill said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Strangely, in bridge, sometimes the strategy is chosen first and in one way the concern for tricks is secondary. In Chicago or a team tournament, making the contract is all that matters. But in a duplicate pair event, overtricks are usually valuable. If the room is winning only 10 tricks in four spades and you can collect 11, you get a top. If the odds are in your favor, you should try for the extra winner.

The difference is highlighted by this deal. How should South tackle four hearts in teams and in pairs? The defenders start with three rounds of diamonds.

The auction was straightforward.

Note that South should have at least five hearts for his jump to game because North might have raised with only three-card support and a singleton spade.

When South’s only concern is making the contract, he can afford one trump loser, but not two. Then the correct play is to cash the ace first. If nothing good happens, declarer crosses to the board and leads toward his queen. He will succeed whenever it is possible.

However, if an overtrick is desired, South should take the heart finesse. A priori, East will have a doubleton king some 20 percent of the time, and the chance that West will hold a singleton king (when finessing costs the contract) is only 6.25 percent. But if declarer’s queen does lose to the singleton king, and he goes down one, it helps to be sitting opposite a sympathetic partner, not a result merchant.

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