Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

The Partscore Battle

Isabelle and I are having a discussion about how hard you should fight for partscores at IMPS.  My contention is that we try too hard and take too much risk, having spent too much time playing matchpoints.  I came to this view a few years ago after going through a number of world championship books and counting the number of swings that occurred because of partscores.  I used the championship rounds where every hand was recorded. 

My conclusion was that the number of imps won and lost as a result of contesting a partscore after each side was bid out was very low provided that you defended well. 

The only real edge to bidding on was the cases where the defense should have prevailed and didn’t.  This was rare among these great players and didn’t factor in.  Most hands either:

a) the score was the same whether you bid on or not since you were getting about the same plus or minus either way

b) you might rarely turn a minus into a plus particularly if your opponents bid on

c) double partscore swings – where both sides made a plus were not common

d) you occasionally went for a number or turned a plus into a minus

The best way to fight for a partscore is to get into the hand early and bid it to the max then subside.    When the opponents have a good idea of their strength and/or when you are vulnerable you have increased the risk.

That being said when should you keep bidding in risky situations.  

I believe you need to push on if there is a reasonable chance that your side might make game or at the very least you have a high expectation that your side can make a higher partscore.

Isabelle and I were discussing this case as an example.  (I have changed it a bit to protect the guilty – not us by the way).

Opp    You  Opp      Partner
1C      1NT      2H       Pass
Pass     ?

Your hand is S Kxxx H Ax Dx KJx Cx  AQ10x

You play double by partner would be takeout over 2H.

All Vul should you bid and if so what?

All NV should you bid and if so what?

The conclusion we came to was game was unlikely for our side and it is not at all clear that we have a playable partscore so the risk of bidding vulnerable outweighed the advantages. 

Not vulnerable we would bid double since this seemed most flexible, in case partner had hearts.  Responder should not pass without good hearts since this double is for takeout and tends to show heart shortness.

What do you think?  Am I too conservative in my thinking?


Roy HughesDecember 19th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

I would pass at all vulnerabilities. I act again as a one notrump bidder (opener or overcaller) only when all the signs are right. The kicker here is that partner didn’t double 2H for takeout, so it probably isn’t our hand for 2S. It may be chicken but I would sell to 2H.

lindaDecember 20th, 2007 at 5:18 pm

I do agree it is close Roy. I first started off with the idea that there was too much risk in doubling and then swung over during the discussion. In this auction 2H was not forced so something like 33 HCP+ have already been accounted for.

Now that I think about it playing negative doubles in that auction does suggest that pass is better than double. You do have 17 very nice HCP though. So I am changing my vote to pass at all vulnerabilities. Isabelle if you are reading this do you change your vote too?

IsabelleDecember 21st, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Sorry pard, I am not changing my vote on this one. 🙂 I dont think you can go for too much when NV and 2 s or 3 c can make.

Jeff SmithDecember 21st, 2007 at 12:44 pm

The one thing to ask yourself is how much value do you place on white games? The reason I ask this question is losing a double partscore swing is worse than missing a white game, in situations like this where the points are 50/50 I tend to become a Law of Total Tricks zealot, and when they have an 8 card fit at the 2 level, I want to compete. Sure there are times when this is wrong, but remember it only takes 2 double part score swings to make up for the 800 you go for once in a blue moon.

lindaDecember 21st, 2007 at 4:55 pm

I see a trend here. Younger people balance and older people sell. Well I guess I wouldn’t skydive either. In these close situations it is not surprising that there is a difference of opinion regardless of age.

Jeff, I don’t think on this hand that it is clear that your opponents have an 8 card fit which is the argument against balancing.

Isabelle and I do not question each others judgment. We are both free to make close decisions as we chose and answer only to our own conscience. So its okay if we sometimes fall on either side of the age divide.

Ray LeeDecember 26th, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Sorry, but for me this is a no-brainer.

1) Balanced hands defend.
2) Partner failed to act over 2H
3) There is no guarantee the opponents have a fit
4) What do I have that partner doesn’t know about already?
5) Clearly we’re not on for a game (although they are — 2H dbled).

Auto-pass at IMPs. MIGHT think about it at favorable at matchpoints.

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