3

Say I need 3 trick from the suit AKJx opposite xxx to make my contract at matchpoints. I recently discovered that the best line is to cash AK and then lead to the jack (winning when the suit breaks 3-3, Q onside or Qx offside). However this line gives up on overtricks when Qxx is onside.

Should I play to maximise my expected number of tricks? I think this involves cashing the ace and finessing the second round (since Qxx onside is more likely than Qx offside).

Is there a standard line 'the room' would take and should I vary my play accordingly? I'm assuming I'm in a normal contract that most pairs will find themselves in.


Example hand:

I was considering this suit combination when reading 'The Rodwell Files' and this 3NT hand appeared,

  ♠ K7                   A2 
  ♡ AJ83                K42
  ♢ AQ42                K55 
  ♣ J76               K8532 

On a spade lead Rodwell wins in hand, then plays on diamonds finding a 3-3 split. The ninth trick can then come from finessing the club Ace and falling back on the heart finesse, or by playing the heart Ace King and lobbing towards the Jack. Rodwell gives both lines a 76% chance but says he would favour the latter line at teams (because of the slight chance of well placed singleton Ace or Queen of clubs).

  • What was the auction? What was the opening lead? Are your opponents strong, weak, or in between? Are you in a suit contract or NT? What are the full hands for Declarer and Dummy? What is the vulnerability? What system are your opponents playing? Are you having a good game or a bad game? Is it early or late in the session/game? What has been the play up to the point where you must decide on a line? Before a wise decision can be made here, which will rely on subtle inferences to get right. more information is required. – Forget I was ever here Nov 4 '17 at 4:10
  • 1
    @ForgetIwaseverhere I realise it is difficult to say much about this suit in isolation. I haved added a 3NT contract for context (is there a right way to format hands on this site?). I was hoping answers to this question would explain how the factors you mention affect the play. For example, does an opening lead that gifts a trick make the safety play more attractive since I'm beating pairs that received a different lead? – Bysshed Nov 4 '17 at 5:17
  • 1
    "How to play this combination for 3 tricks" is answerable, but you seem to know the answer already. "Should I play to maximise my number of tricks" [which is the opposite of maximising the chance of making 3] is not answerable without much more information. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Nov 4 '17 at 17:07
2

The best line for maximum tricks is to cash the Ace and then finesses the Jack. This has an 18% chance of success and averages 2.87 tricks per occurrence (from hardcopy of The Bridge Encyclopedia). This is a losing play in Matchpoints; unless other considerations exist.

The real trick in Matchpoints is to make losing plays that work, and avoid winning plays that fail. Barry Crane is alleged to have been able, when he really needed a top, to incite a revoke from opponents. ;-)

However, making these subtle choices requires complete information on the hand. Not to be rude, but the fact that you are asking this question, a rather basic one on declarer play, without specifying the other conditions suggests that you actually have no idea how to judge if a contract is normal or not. There are several contributors on this site who can help you learn how to properly make those judgements, if you can provide more detailed information.

For this particular card combination, I would much rather be looking for a squeeze or endplay to get my extra trick. That requires an exact count of opponents distribution as well as our own, and a better than random guess at the high point locations. I also need to know how hard to try for the extra trick. Hence all the questions asked in my comment above.

Let's review some basic end game techniques to emphasize why full disclosure of the hand is necessary. Fundamental to all Squeezes is rectifying the count, meaning losing the desired full number of losers early. Fundamental to all Throw-Ins is losing the desired full number of losers late, possibly to a specific opponent. What are my prospects of doing so on a given hand? Only after that is answered does one even begin to think about taking optional random finesses.


More on Crane, for anyone interested, by Grant Baze, who was one of his regular partners.

  • Thanks for your answer, could you explain in more detail what makes playing the Ace and finessing the Jack a losing play. I'm unfamiliar with the terms winning and losing play in this context. – Bysshed Nov 4 '17 at 5:11
  • @Bysshed: You don't win at Matchpoints by getting tops; you win by avoiding bottoms. The way to do that is to swing only when you have an edge, and to play down the middle when you don't. My best rounds are when partner and I have only zero or one result below 3 (on a 12 top). Collect your tops with expert play as they become available, not by randomly betting on unknown card lies. – Forget I was ever here Nov 4 '17 at 6:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.