Ray Lee

State of the Match

It was pointed out to me yesterday by a kibitzer, during the final stanza of the Meltzer-Nussbaum match at the USTT, that bridge is one of the very few sports where the players don’t know the score as they play.  The only other I could think of was boxing.   So most of the time, the players are guessing at where they stand, and that renders decisions based on an assumed score very dangerous.

Just because a result looks ‘normal’ at your table, doesn’t mean that something weird didn’t happen elsewhere.  Partners may have picked up a number on a partscore deal.  Or that tricky game that you thought you won IMPs by making may have been trivial for your opponents, who happened to get a different lead.  Your good boards may not be as good as you think, and your bad ones may not be as disastrous.  And some innocuous deal may have swung a whole bunch of IMPs one way or the other.

These thoughts began to percolate yesterday as the match drew to a close, because the final deal decided it.  Meltzer had started the set down a little over 20, and from John Schermer and Neil Chambers’ point of view, they had probably got that back.  Maybe a little more, maybe a little less.  So given that, I put you in Chambers’ seat when he picks up the following:

♠AJ109xxx ♥Q ♦AQ ♣ Jxxx

Everybody red, partner opens 1C, and you bid 1S.  Partner rebids 2C and you invent a forcing 2D call.  Partner bids 3S (nice), but over your 4C slam try, signs off in 4S.  So here’s the moment of decision.  Given the state of the match, are you going to push for slam or not?

With a double fit, and controls in both red suits, it’s very tempting.  But partner knows about the double fit, and hasn’t cooperated.  If he has the hand you want him to have, with prime cards in the black suits and not much wasted in the reds, wouldn’t he have done more than bid 4S?  On the other hand, maybe you need this to win the match.  On the third hand, maybe you’re going to blow the match by bidding a bad slam.  If only you knew the score.

Well, suppose I tell you that you are actually 5 IMPs down at this point, with just this board to play.  Do you want to bid a slam now?

Okay, enough suspense.  Neil Chambers gave it a lot of thought and emerged with a bid of 6C over 4S.  That ended the auction.  This was the whole deal:



10 9
West East
Kxx AJ109xx
Kx Q
AQxxxx Jxxx

As you can see, the bridge gods were feeling bountiful.  The trumps behaved, spades broke 2-2, and the DK was even onside if that were needed.  A contract that fits Bob Hamman’s famous definition of a ‘good’ slam: one that makes.

So Chambers’ swashbuckling leap to a roughly 25% slam paid off big-time, and won the Meltzer team the match.  But I wonder what he would have said to his partners if the CK had been offside, and it turned out his team had been 5 IMPs up, rather than down, going into that final board.

1 Comment

Chirs HasneyJune 9th, 2009 at 3:12 am

I love it when Meltzer wins. As I told her in an elevator once, I’m proud of her for getting out of the ladies’ events and mixing it up with the boys. And she’s proven herself worthy to be in any event with any competition. Now Open really means open, not a euphemism for “Men’s.” Go Rose!

BTW, I wonder how this would look if played as a barometer event?

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