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A problem in duplicate
Charles Goren
June 29, 1959
The infinite variety of bridge is to a great extent enlivened by the infinite variety of arguments the game inspires, and the schools of thought are many. Yet, some players take a firm position against postmortems on the ground that they are simply arguments which have a tendency to slow up the game, and which pound on the eardrums and produce a pain in the neck.
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June 29, 1959

A Problem In Duplicate

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The infinite variety of bridge is to a great extent enlivened by the infinite variety of arguments the game inspires, and the schools of thought are many. Yet, some players take a firm position against postmortems on the ground that they are simply arguments which have a tendency to slow up the game, and which pound on the eardrums and produce a pain in the neck.

Perhaps the most common sort of battle has to do with the comparison of rubber bridge with duplicate bridge scored at match points. This argument will finally be laid to rest only when it is at long last established which is the better flavor, chocolate or vanilla. However, the really pertinent fact is that the two forms of bridge are different, and to play both games well it is vital to know the points of difference.

Here is a hand that involves one of the most important but least known of these points.

North was rather inconsistent, to put it mildly, when he used the two-club convention to ask his partner to name a four-card (or longer) major suit if he could, and then, after South obliged, to give only a single raise to that major and, finally, to accept a three no-trump contract. Considering North's flat distribution, no trump was by no means unattractive at match-points (honors do not count at that game), but if North felt that way, then why did he dabble around with the two-club convention in the first place?

West chose his natural opening lead, the fourth-highest heart, and when declarer took East's king with the ace, he had good reason to stop and ponder. South was an experienced match-point player; he knew that many of the North-South pairs would end up in a spade contract rather than in no trump, and that fact had considerable significance, as we shall see.

Declarer tested the spades with two rounds, saw that they broke three-two, and promptly cashed the ace and king of diamonds! Great was the fall thereon—and South made four no trump.

Wasn't South simply shot with luck to drop the diamond queen as he did, when the percentages clearly called for a finesse in that suit? Yes and no. His play of the diamond suit was extremely well calculated under the circumstances. Let me repeat that it was a lead-pipe cinch that many of the North-South pairs would land at four spades, perhaps on the same approach as was used at this table—more probably because other Souths might start off with one diamond, thus getting into a train of spade bidding.

So, when this declarer found out that the spade suit broke—remember, I mentioned that fact though it seemed to have no importance at the time—he knew that every declarer in a spade game would automatically try for the diamond finesse, and if it succeeded they would get rid of a club from dummy and make five-odd. That was the crucial fact. At no trump the same successful diamond finesse would produce only four-odd, and it would not be very logical to play for an under-average match-point score. The only chance to beat the pairs in spade contracts was by doing the opposite of what they would do—and hoping that heaven would protect a hard-working declarer.

EXTRA TRICK
At rubber bridge, the contract you're in is your only consideration. At duplicate, you must try to figure out where the majority of pairs will land.

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