Posted by Nick H on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 11:25
Why does Australia underperform internationally? For instance, we last won the Far East in 1972. There are many reasons - pro deals, changing partnerhips - but another factor is lack of tough matchpoint events. "Matchpoints?? Most international events are all IMPs!"
True but matchpoints is the tough learning school. Every hand counts, every trick is important. Concentration, judgement and tempo are all tested. IMPs is a simple game "Bid your (vulnerable) games, defeat theirs. Be aggressive" Matchpoints is more subtle.
Take this hand from Match 5 of the DC Swiss:
West opens a weak 2♥. This is what happens at IMPs ....
North bids the obvious 2NT and South thinks "Have to be aggressive here. 18 + 7 = 25." So South transfers to spades, then bids 3NT, which East might double. After the ♦K lead, North sees prospects are poor, but has little choice. He basically needs opener to have ♠K as well as the top hearts and diamonds to be 5-2. So he ducks the first diamond, then plays ♠A-another and shrugs when this leads to a quick -300. Perhaps it will be a flat board.
At Matchpoints, North might judge to pass over West's 2♥ opening. 2NT is marginal and pairs events are won by making plus scores. Then 2♥ will be passed out for +100, or +200 if North swings ♠A.
In the DC Pairs, +100 was worth 77%.
Say North succumbs and bids 2NT instead. What should South do? The crude and aggressive IMPs approach is not good enough to win matchpoint events. South needs to judge game prospects. Game needs a maximum opposite. Even so, diaomnds could be a problem, even hearts if partner has one stopper only. The odds favour staying low. Then there is the choice between 3♠ and 2NT. 3♠ looks safer, plus partner might super-accept with the right hand.
So South transfers then passes, sitting back to watch North go -100 in 3♠. How does that score? In the DC Pairs, -100 NS was worth 67%. How about that?
Perhaps South judges to pass 2NT, hoping for the same number tricks in notrumps as spades. How will that go? It's interesting. If North ducks a diamond or two, then plays ♠A-another, it's -200 and 45%, like 18 of 65 pairs in the Open field.
20 pairs in the open field were -300 in 3NT for a deserved 15%.
Could the notrump declarers have done better? Indeed they could. The idea is not so much to make contracts but to earn matchpoints. This is often achieved by limiting the damage. North should see that 3NT - even 2NT - has no real play. For one thing, West might have opened 1♥ with ♠Kxx and ♥AKxxxx.
So North should try to find a line for seven tricks. It's quite subtle. Win the second diamond, cross to the ♣K and lead a heart off dummy. West will hop with ♥K and find the spade switch. the difference here is that the defenders miss out on their second heart trick. Note that if West cashes the second heart, declarer can come to seven tricks without going after spades. (East is squeezed)
So passing 2♥ gets you at least 77%, landing in 3♠ and going one down is nearly as good, 67%. As does playing 2NT "correctly."
Playing 2NT greedily is still worth an acceptable 45%, while those who - like me - went for -300 in 3NT should probably stick to IMPs. Matchpoints is too tough for us.