I hope you are having fun when you play a tournament. That’s the most important thing, but let’s face it, those who are winning are probably having even more fun. If you haven’t won your share of masterpoints yet, it might be because you are not fighting hard enough for those partscores. Take a look at your convention card from previous sessions. You do keep a private score, don’t you? Keeping your own score makes it easier to go over the boards later using the hand records if you played in a pairs game.
The directors appreciate it, too, in case there are any questions on the scores. Team games don’t have printed hand records, but it’s imperative to keep score so you can go back and compare with your teammates. I remember one
Swiss teams match where I played with a fellow I had never played with before and he took my convention card to see what we were playing. I had no place to keep score and he didn’t write our scores down either, which I didn’t discover
until we went back to compare at the end of the round. It’s quite embarrassing to have to go back to your opponents to find out what happened on each deal!
But I digress. Look at a simple auction that you probably hear frequently.
West North East South
1♥ 1♠ 2♥ 2♠
First, let’s clear up one possible misunderstanding. Both East and South have shown hands worth from 6 to 9 or 10 high-card points. A raise of partner’s suit to the two level shows a minimum responding hand with or without competition. Forget about free bids if you’ve ever heard about them. Bridge players today are aggressive. How likely is it that the auction is over? Not very. When both sides have a fit, you almost always get a poor score for allowing your opponents to play in their fit on the two level.
Either East or West might go on to 3♥. East’s hand is already limited so there is no danger of West taking that as a game try.
But what if opener bids 3♥? Don’t bury your partner for being competitive. Bidding three of our suit in competition is NOT a game try. All we are trying to do is win the auction. It is quite likely that both pairs have about half the points in the deck.
Why should North-South get to play just because spades rank higher than hearts? They are at an advantage because East-
West are forced a level higher. How might East- West benefit? 3♥ could make. But even if 3♥ goes down one, North- South were probably making 2♠.
If you are playing matchpoints, compare the scores from the perspective of East-West. If North-South play in 2♠, East-West score minus110. If East-West play in 3♥, they might score plus140 or minus 50 or minus 100 if vulnerable.
There is some risk of scoring worse if the opponents can double a vulnerable 3♥ bid and cause East-West to go minus 200, but it is often tough to know who can make what. Matchpoints is all about getting a plus score whenever possible and giving up the smallest minus score otherwise.
Say East-West do bid 3♥. Will North-South push on to 3♠ or will they sell out? If North-South are clairvoyant, they will push on when they can make 3♠ or even when they know East-West can make 3♥. But who is clairvoyant?
Fortunately for bridge players, the law of total tricks gives us a good guideline for situations like this. Once your opponents reach the three level, bid more only with extra distribution. The most common extra distributional feature you will have is an extra trump. So, if North overcalled with a six-card spade suit, North should bid 3♠.
If South raised with four spades instead of the required three spades, South should bid 3♠. There are no guarantees, but if you follow this simple guideline you will come out on the winning end of more partscore fights. Get out there and fight!