The num­ber of tricks gov­erns the strat­egy

Cecil Whig - - & & - 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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