Why I Lose at Matchpoints

I'm playing in a unit game against random opposition. I'm sure I've seen these ladies around, but I don't remember much about their game. At favorable vulnerability, in third chair, I hold
 S:84 H:AK86 D:J4 C:QJ1083
Partner deals and opens 1D: and I respond 1H:. LHO butts in with a double. Partner redoubles showing three-card heart support. I figure I can make 1H:, so when RHO passes, I do, too. LHO pulls this (rats!) to 2C: (all right!), but partner ruins my fun by bidding 2D:. I have no idea whether to bid 2H: or pass 2D:, but figuring that it's matchpoints and I might as well be greedy, I bid 2H: which ends the auction.

LHO leads the S:A, and dummy is a trifle thin.

S: 10972
H: 954
D: AKQ1075
S: 84
H: AK86
D: J4
C: QJ1083
2D:Pass2H:All Pass
Still, 2H: looks like a reasonable contract. If I can get trumps drawn, I have lots of diamond tricks, and if they let me ruff clubs in dummy, I might take a lot of tricks by cross-ruffing.

LHO continues with a second high spade which produces the S:J from RHO. After a little thought, she continues with a low trump to RHO's H:10. I duck this in tempo. RHO thinks for a little while, as well she might, and plays another heart. I duck this one, too! LHO wins with the H:J and continues a third trump. RHO follows with the queen (huh?), so I draw trumps and run the diamonds for eight tricks.

I'm a little unhappy that trumps turned out to be 3-3, because I could have won the second trump, ruffed a club, crossed back to the D:J, and made ten tricks. That didn't seem like the indicated play; it looked like LHO had five clubs and four spades. If she had three hearts, would she really be so fast to play on trumps, particularly from the queen? Might she not play her singleton diamond at some point? Still, since diamonds can't really make more than 9 tricks and there are pitfalls in the play, I like my plus score.

...Until I see the traveller. Two managed to reach notrump our way and score +120 and another was +130 in diamonds. Just another average-minus.

This play is similar to the standard technical play of ducking the first round of trumps with AKQx vs. three small, but it's a little harder to see missing the trump queen. All in all, a pretty play, but not the winning one on this hand.

Copyright © 2006 Jeff Goldsmith