Working the Vulnerability

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Your strategy and tactics should vary according to the vulnerability

Paul Lavings
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Your strategy and tactics should vary, considerably according to the vulnerability. When you are not vulnerable vs. vulnerable, “green”, you can afford to be three down doubled, -500, when opponents have a game on. You can be ultraaggressive, to the point of recklessness.
When you are vulnerable vs not vulnerable, “red”, you can only afford to be one down doubled, -200, when opponents have a game on. Two down doubled would be -500, and opponents’ game will only score -420. When “red” you should tread very carefully.

You hold this hand:

9 4
A 4
K Q J 10 3
9 8 6 4

If you are green it is an easy 1 opening. Diamonds are a great lead, you have good playing strength, and your side may have a good save in 5 or 5 against 4 or 4. But if you are red, you should pass. No longer are you interested in a save, and you may end up in a partscore, failing by two tricks. Minus 200 at pairs is the “kiss of death” since -200 will be a larger minus than all your opponents’ likely partscores.

What about this hand after a 1 opening on your right:
A J 9 5 4
7 6 4
9 6 4 2
If you are green, you should venture a 1 overcall. The vulnerability is your protection, plus your singleton in an unbid suit is a powerful asset. As well as the nuisance value of a 1 overcall, you may have a good save in 4 against 4. If you and your partner have five spades each, one of you must make the first move, and you should enter the bidding while you have the chance at the one-level. And if your partner has a shapely hand with only four spades, then clearly it’s even more your responsibility to make your side’s first bid.

If you are red, you’re better to pass; it looks just too risky to bid on such a poor hand when the penalties are so high. That’s not to say a number of world class experts wouldn’t overcall 1 when red. How about this hand in first seat:

A K J 10 7 4
6 2
8 3 2
9 4

It looks like a standard weak 2 opening, and so it is if it is equal vulnerability, or you are red. But if you are green, you can afford to up the ante with a 3opening. Don’t forget that when green, you can afford to be three down doubled if opponents have a game on. Opening three bids are invariably seven-card suits when vulnerable, but a reasonable six-card suit can be a very effective three-bid at green or nil vulnerable.

And if partner can raise your preempt there is an even bigger problem for opponents, 3 (Dbl) 4 or 3 (4) 4. Should opponents double you and risk collecting only 500, or gamble on bidding on to the five-level to try and score +650? Either way, many things can go wrong for them.

This time the bidding proceeds (1) Pass (1) ?:
K J 10 8 7 4
J 10
9 5
7 5 3

At green, my partner ventured 3, based on the vulnerability, and the fact that I had passed over 1. Her LHO doubled 3, and I bid 4 with:

9 3 2
7 6 4 3
J 8 7 4 2

It’s very difficult to bid 7 now, or even 6. At red, you’re looking for trouble if you bid even 2. Alert opposition will be on the look-out to extract a penalty from their vulnerable opponents, and go out on a limb to double you.
Sacrifices are vastly underrated, and according to the Deep Finesse analysis on hand records, are the best result available on many hands. And when you are green, sacrifices abound. But you’ve got to push the envelope to find them.

Paul Lavings
Paul Lavings Bridge Books & Supplies

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