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Adapting your play to different bridge formats

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For most bridge players, the format they are most familiar with is Duplicate Pairs, where every overtrick is precious, as opposed to Teams play, where making the contract is really all that counts and overtricks are the icing on the cake.

As a result the “safety play” by declarer takes a bit of a back seat, as the play is used more in Teams bridge where one doesn’t mind giving up on an overtrick if it secures the contract.

Players often find it hard to adapt their bidding and play to cater for the different format, and all too often one sees players making “pairs” bids and plays when playing in a Teams match.

As far as the bidding goes, Teams bridge requires a bit more care in fighting at the part-score level as going for a big number can decide an entire match, and in the play of the hand and defence one has to be aggressive and go all out to make a contract, and in defence go all out to beat the contract.

Today’s hand comes from a Teams match, so your only concern is making the contract (see Figure 1).

South opened 1NT and North had an easy raise to 3NT – West leads the Jack of hearts.

You have seven top tricks with possibilities of one more in diamonds if the suit breaks 3-3 and possibly one or two more in clubs, depending on the location of the Queen – and the 10! You cannot play on spades as the defence is ahead of you based on the opening lead.

I know how the play will go at 95 per cent of the tables – declarer wins the heart, cashes the King of clubs and leads another club – alas, East discards a diamond and now there is no way to make this contract even if diamonds break 3-3. Down one.

Figure 1

Before we look at the full hand and the solution, let’s take a look at the club suit in isolation (see Figure 2).

If the queen is “onside”, all is well, but the key to the play of this suit is knowing that you can 100 per cent guarantee three winners in this suit by taking a safety play, no matter how the opposing cards lie. You do this by, counterintuitively, cashing the Ace first and now playing the 8 – if West plays low so do you and if East wins the suit is 3-2 and you have three tricks.

If when you play the 8, West shows out, you win the King and lead another club towards your Jack, knowing that East has the Queen – again three tricks.

Now let’s return to the full hand (see Figure 3).

Figure 2

The key to success in this hand is deferring the play of the club suit until you know just how many tricks you need from the suit, three or four, and the way to get there is to win the opening heart lead and play on diamonds first.

Figure 3

Once diamonds break 3-3, you only need three tricks from the club suit and can afford to take the safety play. You play the Ace of clubs and then lead the 8, intending to run it – West is helpless in stopping you make three tricks whether he plays low or plays the 10 – your reward is nine tricks and a making contract.

Going back to the diamonds, if diamonds do not break 3-3 now you know you need four tricks from the club suit and the play of the King and another is correct.


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Published July 03, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 02, 2021 at 6:24 pm)

Adapting your play to different bridge formats

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