THE NEA BRIDGE by Phillip Alder
DIFFERENT STRATEGY IN PAIRS AND TEAMS
Michael Porter, a leading expert on competitive strategy, said, “The essence of strategy is that you must set limits on what you’re trying to accomplish.”
At the bridge table, your strategy may depend upon the form of the game. When you are playing Chicago or in an event scored using international matchpoints, you should concentrate on making or breaking the contract; overtricks are trivial. But when you are competing in a pair tournament, overtricks can be valuable. You get one matchpoint for every other pair holding your cards that you outscore, whether by 10 or 500 points.
How does that affect strategy? Look at this deal. South is in four spades after the given auction, in which East made a three-club weak jump overcall and West allowed the unfavorable vulnerability to silence him. First, what should West lead?
At the table, Jerry Masters of Bonita Springs, Florida, led the club king, giving the defenders the option of who would lead to the second trick. Then he shifted to a low heart.
When overtricks are unimportant, South should win with dummy’s ace, draw trumps and drive out the diamond ace to guarantee 10 tricks. At pairs, though, it is tempting to play low from the dummy at trick two. Maybe the finesse will work. And if it does not, the play costs only when East has a singleton diamond, shifts to it at trick three and receives a diamond ruff — exactly as happened at the table.
Yes, South erred, because if Jane Cookson of Bonita Springs (East) had not held the heart king, she would have overtaken the club king with her ace and led a heart (or her singleton) herself.