Pairs or matchpoints versus team play 

This interesting hand came up in club play on a Sunday some time ago and is interesting for the illustration of a point about the differences between "regular," or rubber bridge (also known as social bridge) and the duplicate pairs game. In a social game I will always make this contract because I will make the standard safety play of holding up my diamond ace for two rounds and then taking the heart finesse. If the finesse loses to the king, as it will as these cards lie, the contract is still safe with four club tricks, one diamond, three hearts and two spades for an overtrick. If the diamonds split 4-4 and south still has a diamond to cash, I still take nine tricks and have only four losers. The overriding philosophy in those games, and also in team play, is to play to make your contract and never endanger it for the sake of overtricks.

When you are playing matchpoints, or pairs duplicate bridge, the philosophy is quite different. You play to get the best score possible in order to beat as many of the pairs as possible who are playing the same cards that you play. For this reason, I took the first diamond trick, finessed the heart, and promptly went down because north was able to cash four more diamond tricks. I played that way because if the king of hearts was to my left, I would score four clubs, one diamond, three or four hearts, and two spades for a total of either 11 or 12 tricks. This score would beat any of the players who held up the ace twice to assure their contract, and would only be equaled by other players who played for the best possible result. My play cost us close to a bottom score on this hand because almost everyone else made the social bridge play. We still won this game by a comfortable margin.

We are in the middle of North American Open Pairs qualifying now. This is a grassroots competition that leads to a national final, held in Hawaii this year at the Fall Nationals. Players qualify at the local level, and if they win at the district level, are subsidized for a trip to the final. Make sure you qualify!

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