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Bridge & other card games/Line of Play at MPs

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Question
QUESTION: E Deals
N-S Vul

North:
♠KQ86
♥AQ95
♦8
♣AK92

West:
♠T92
♥KJT62
♦J92
♣53

East:
♠J74
♥873
♦KT63
♣J74

South:
A53
♥4
♦AQ754
♣QT86

NS 7♠; NS 7♣; NS 6N; NS 5♥; NS 5♦; Optimal Contract +2210

Common Game Analysis by Ed Antosz <quoting>
North has a huge hand and supports partner's club suit and drives the partnership to the club slam.

A diamond lead by West makes it easier to make 13 tricks so let's assume a non-diamond lead. Declarer wins, gets to dummy if necessary and leads a diamond taking the finesse. Declarer follows ith a diamond ruff, a spade to hand for a second diamond ruff. Declarer can now cash dummy's two high clubs, the ♥A, ruff a heart to hand to draw the last trump.The diamonds are now established and the spades break for four tricks.
<End Quote>

-------------------

I played this hand in 6♣ in a Common Game at our very strong club in the Expert section, and the lead was the ♥J.  My line of play was to take two (only two!) spades, and cross-ruff the hand for making six.  I believe that this line of play is the right probability play, for it makes with any distribution except 5-2 splits, and even makes with some of those splits.  The problem is that it gives up any possibility of making 13 tricks.

The Common Game analysis suggests finessing diamonds after taking the HA on the lead, but I believe that this is an inferior line, that has a 40% probability of going down in 6♣ if the diamond finesse loses, and a heart is returned with declarer forced to ruff hearts.  In that line, declarer can't get back to his hand three times to perform the Analysis line of play of ruffing diamonds twice, pulling trump and running diamonds, so he must try for the low probability 3-3 spade break.  My line of play has about a 90% chance of making slam.

So, assuming my probabilities are right:
(1) Common Game line: 45% chance of making an overtrick + 40% chance of going down.

(2) My line: 0% chance of making an overtrick + 10% chance of going down.

At MPS, what would you do?

ANSWER: Hi,

The common game analysis still has reasonable chances even if the diamond finesse loses and a heart comes back. Declarer can then play to ruff 3 hearts in his hand. Ruff the heart return at trick 3, then spade to Q, heart ruff, spade to K, heart ruff, club Q, diamond ruff, A, K of trumps followed by spade ace and diamond ace for last two tricks. This does not depend on a 3-3 spade break since the third spade is not cashed until trumps are drawn and the fourth spade goes on the ace of diamonds. The biggest risk comes when ruffing the fourth heart with the club 10 but for that West needs to be out of hearts and hold the club jack...about 20% or so.

Your line is not unreasonable but it is not 90%. 5-3 or worse heart splits with the dangerous hand holding the shortness plus the club jack is a little less than 20%. For diamonds, the analogous risk is about 10%. There is an interdependency among the calculations but I would guess your line is about 75% (only a guess). Also, the biggest risk of the common game line if the diamond finesse loses is that the fourth round of hearts gets overruffed with the jack. Your line has the same risk. After the overruff, West can lead a trump which sets you if partner started with three trumps, lead a spade if partner started with 2 spades or lead a diamond if partner started with three diamonds.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you!  

The line you gave after the diamond finesse loses is a much better line than the hope for a 3-3 spade break that I suggested.  The 3-3 spade break has only a 43% chance of making (comparing only to a 4-2 spade break), while your line fails only if clubs split 4-1 (a 72% chance of making).

Still, if clubs split 4-1, my original cross-ruff line of play doesn't fail except where both lines fail -- that is where hearts split 5-3 and the CJ is in the short hand.  So, it would seem that my line is a about 14% (diamond finesse not making and clubs splitting 4-1) better than the common game analysis for making the contract.  At IMPs, that's enough to go for my line, but at MPs, my line gives up all hope of making an overtrick.  Should I go for my line or for the overtrick?  I'm not so sure any more -- how should I think about this?

I find your answers to be extremely thoughtful by the way!  I asked some other pros at the club and even wrote to the original author of the analysis, who wrote back that he agreed that my line of play was better -- but everyone missed your line of ruffing all three hearts and using spades to get back to the dummy (the original author didn't mention it in his reply).

So thank you!

Answer
Hi,

Minor suit slams in 4-4 fits are very difficult for most pairs to bid. Many pairs will just settle for 3NT or possibly reach a vastly inferior 6NT. Therefore, just getting to the good 6C contract will get you most of the matchpoints (provided that you make it of course). Therefore, I would totally forget about overtricks in this case. You would lose a lot more matchpoint trying for the overtrick and going down than you would gain by making the extra trick. The general rule is that if you in a contract that the whole field will be in such as a 28 point 3NT, you might think of taking a reasonable shot for an overtrick. However, if your superior bidding gets you to a good spot not likely to be reached by much of the rest of the field then just pocket your advantage by making the contract.

Bridge & other card games

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I can answer questions on bidding and on cardplay with the caveat that the former may necessarily involve some subjectivity. I have been playing tournament bridge for over 20 years and I have won several regional tournaments.

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