Greed is Good

Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 07/11/2019
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

My sister and I didn’t just enjoy Halloween. No, we loved it. We planned for it for months- we discussed which streets had the best candy; which streets were the easiest to get from door to door; optimal walking patterns between houses (same side of the street vs crossing the street). We even opted for costumes which would yield more candy (although my idea to come as myself holding a mirror as an “identical twin” and demanding candy for the twin was only briefly considered).

Then, the night before Halloween one year, we were told Becky would be joining us. Our meticulous planning was for naught--Becky was the slowest walker on the planet. There would be no hustling, only oozing from one house to another. So my sister abandoned ship--she told my parents she had to go with friends. I was furious about her betrayal. She had a successful evening while I only got to visit about 5 houses.

Luckily, when she got home, bag overflowing, my mother forced her to share her plunder. Still, her greed wasn’t punished- she ended up better off. In duplicate bridge we often want to be greedy, particularly when the worst case is to break even. 

Too often players will complain "why didn't I get a good score for making game?" The answer might be that the player was in 3NT making only 3 and everyone else made 4. Be very careful about double dummy analysis here. If you made 3NT and double dummy says that's the most you can make, don't be complacent. Other tables making 4 is a sign that either your opponents defended better or you declared worse. 

See if you can find a way to be greedy on this deal. 

♠ Q
♥ Q104
♦ Q94
♣ AKJ1043


♠ K752
♥ AJ3
♦ 10873
♣ Q2










Contract: 3NT

Lead: ♠6


Trick 1- ♠6-10-K-A

Plan the Play.

Here we see 9 quick tricks- 3 Hearts and 6 Clubs. We’re in a good 3NT (only 24 high) so it’s possible (but unlikely) that people didn’t bid it. However it never hurts to see if we can get extra tricks. 

We see that we can set up a spade trick easily (play a spade to the K) and if it wins or loses, we’ll get a spade trick eventually. What’s the worst that could happen? 

Time to discuss the diamond suit. We actually have a decent holding here--missing the AKJ the only card we actually care about is the JACK. If it is offside (behind the queen) then we stand to lose 3 diamond tricks. So, in the worst case scenario, we would lose 1 spade and 3 diamonds. That still leaves us with 9 tricks- back where we started but no worse for wear. 

If we run clubs first, we will squeeze the declaring hand--we have to lose protection in diamonds meaning that we will just have to run off all of our winners or risk going down. If we play on spades earlier, the 1098x of diamonds are surefire insurance. 

So, play on spades early and you will likely see your greed rewarded.