Imagine that you are playing the last deal of a 25-boards pairs final, with match-point scoring. With both sides vulnerable, your partner sitting west opens 2C, strong and artificial. As east and with S A-Q-x-x-x-x H x-x D x-x C Q-x-x, you respond 2S. Partner rebids 2N and you rebid 3S to suggest a six-card suit. Partner makes an advance cue-bid now with 4C to suggest a hand with excellent controls.
Before you decide what to bid, let me add that you reckon that you are currently at 60% or thereabouts. Your experience has been that a score of about 62% usually wins. It is likely everyone will be in plan. What do you bid?
Analysis: Partner appears to have only K-x for you in spades, for you know he would have raised your response to 3S with three trumps. So, you are wondering how to get a ‘top’. It is very simple.
In order to outstrip the others in the same direction as you, you should take a position that the slam may not make if trumps are 4-1.
Solution: Just bid 4S and be done! The EW hands are:
As hoped for, trumps are 4-1 and you finally emerge with a score of 61.60 %. When the results are out, you find you have won by a whisker!
The art of playing deliberately for an abnormal result is termed ‘shooting’ in bridge. Basically, the shooter is hoping for the less likely result.
Occasionally near the end of the match-point event, a couple of tops are needed in order to have any chance of winning. Under these circumstances, playing for a top at the risk of earning a bottom is fully justified.
What if trumps are 3-2? There is no way it would have improved your percentage even if you had bid the slam and made it. You would have only got an ‘average’. In fact, it will remain wherever it was or even go below.
Shooting can also be adopted in the play of a hand. Take the slam hand below, for example:
Contract: 6H by south. West leads the SQ. Plan the play.
As before, let us say you need a ‘top’ on the board to clinch the first prize.
Play: Reject the finesse but bang the A-K of hearts, playing for the queen to drop, above the A-J!
As an aside, let me say that your partner had the sense to put you in 6N. What now?
You partner has won it for you in bidding. Why lose it by taking an anti-percentage line to drop the HQ? It is better to adopt the percentage play of finessing the HJ, and score a top, if it wins. You beat those in 6H, making. This is not the time to go ‘shooting’.
It is important to ‘keep scores’ and also to make a ‘running estimate’ in a pairs contest, to know how you are ‘faring’. This will help you decide what your approach should be towards the end, both on bidding and play.
One word of caution: Do not shoot, if you have no chance of finishing high. It will only upset the results.
Finally, a request: Don’t shoot against me!