100 Winning Duplicate Tips: For the Improving Tournament Player
Klinger (Ron)
Source: Klinger (Ron) - 100 Winning Duplicate Tips: For the Improving Tournament Player
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Part 1: Constructive Bidding (Tips 1-25) – 9
    • Success at duplicate requires an understanding of the nature of the scoring. You are not rewarded for the score you achieve. You gain only if your score is better than the scores of other pairs, no matter by how little. Bidding and making a slam might be worth nothing. If you make 6H vulnerable for +1430 you could score zero match-points if the other pairs in your direction make thirteen tricks for +1460 or 6NT for +1440 or if they bid and make a grand slam. Likewise, one down in 3NT might be a top score if the other pairs are going two down, three down or more. It is not the score that matters but how that score compares with the other pairs holding the same cards as you and partner.
    • This leads to the strategy of duplicate bidding. Safety is not your primary concern but the frequency of gain. How often will your action produce a positive result rather than a negative one? The size of the gain is rarely critical. Gaining 50 points four times but losing 800 once would be anathema to rubber bridge players and to teams' players, but at match-pointed pairs that would be an excellent approach. If the success rate exceeds 50%, it is a sound strategy even though the size of the loss might be horrendous when it occurs.
    • Basic strategy at pairs is to avoid 5C and 5D at all costs if 3NT is feasible. If the choice is between a minor suit game or 3NT, ask yourself not whether 3NT will make or whether it is safe but whether it could make? If the answer is `Yes, it could make,' then that is the contract for you. On the other hand, almost always choose 4H or 4S ahead of 3NT as long as your side has eight or more trumps. If your major suit fit is only seven cards, then choose 3NT unless the bidding has revealed that 3NT is unsound.
    • The following tips for opening and responding supplement this basic strategy.
    • Tip 1: Use the Rule of 20 as a base for deciding whether to open (HCP + 2 longest suits)
    • Tip 2: Add Quick Tricks to the Rule of 20 to produce the Rule of 22
    • Tip 3: Reduce the Rule of 22 to 21 at favourable vulnerability
    • Tip 4: Upgrade for honours in combination and downgrade for honours in short suits
    • Tip 5: When using the Rule of 21 or 22 in deciding whether to open, if your total length is 8 or 9, add ½ for a singleton or void; and if your total length is 10 or 11, add ½ for a void
    • Tip 6: After 2 passes, be prepared to open any hand which would be a sound overcall at the 1-level, even 8-9 HCP.
    • Tip 7: When choosing a pre-empt, be prepared to open at a higher level with freakish shape or at favourable vulnerability
    • Tip 8: At pairs, choose a minor-suit fit when your combined count is up to 21, but be happy to play in 1NT with 23-24 points together
    • Tip 9: After a 1C opening, if you have 4 diamonds and a 4-card major, prefer to respond 1D if you are in the 6-9 point range or with more than 16 HCP. In the 10-15 point range, bid your major first as long as you have a comfortable no-trump rebid. You might still choose a 1D response to try to ward off a diamond lead.
    • Tip 10: Do not commit to a 5-3 or 5-4 fit in one major if a 4-4 fit is feasible in the other major
    • Tip 11: With a major suit fit and also a hand reasonably suitable for no-trumps, play in the major suit when your combined count is 25-29, but play in no-trumps when your side has 30 points or more
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  2. Part 2: Competitive Bidding (Tips 26-60) – 46
    • In no other area of match-pointed pairs are the rewards so great for a sound and courageous approach. Time and time again you will find that the winners are not those who can bid to a fine grand slam missed by the field or those who can play an exotic squeeze. No, the winners come from those who are able to judge the right time to push higher, the right time to defend, how high to go, when to double.
    • Judgement here brings in the match-points, but so does a sound systemic strategy for pairs play. Many find it difficult to throw off the shackles of rubber bridge in this area. Many remain wedded (or welded) to the penalty double. At low levels particularly, the frequency and usefulness of takeout doubles relegates the penalty double to the dinosaur era in the evolution of competitive bidding.
    • Competitive doubles do not mean that penalties cannot be collected, but they do entail the recognition that takeout doubles have greater flexibility and usefulness. At pairs, frequency of success counts, not the size of the score. When that factor is accepted, the partnership will adopt low-level takeout doubles in countless areas previously the domain of the penalty double.
    • Basic strategy for contesting the part-score include the following:
      … Pushing from the 2-level to the 3-level when they have bid and raised a suit to the 2-level and then subsided.
      … Competing to the 3-level when your side has a trump fit and their auction has stopped at the 2-level in a suit above your trump suit.
      … Competing above them at the 3-level only when your side has at least nine trumps or some other significant additional feature.
      … Not competing to the 4-level with only part-score values.
    • The following tips for competitive auctions will supplement your basic strategy.
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  3. Part 3: Opening Leads (Tips 61-80) – 87
    • In no other area of the play of the cards is there such a marked difference in strategy between the pairs game and either teams or rubber bridge as with the opening lead. At teams or rubber bridge, your objectives are clearcut: declarer's task is to make the contract and overtricks are a minor consideration; the task of the defence is to defeat the contract — conceding an overtrick to try to achieve that objective is an acceptable loss.
    • The approach to the defence at pairs is radically different. It may be some time before we can tell what is our objective. Is it to defeat the contract OR to hold declarer to the contract OR to give away no more than a specific number of overtricks? We can rarely tell which of these is our objective when it comes to choosing the opening lead. Our only clues lie in the bidding.
    • One thing is sure: we cannot afford to be generous, light-hearted or carefree with the opening lead. To give away a precious overtrick with our lead is an opportunity squandered. That might be the difference between a good score and a below-average result. Recovery from a bad start may be impossible. The best match-point players are very, very frugal with their opening leads.
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  4. Part 4: Declarer Play (Tips 81-90) – 113
    • The bidding is over, the lead appears, dummy comes down. This is the moment when good habits can bear fruit. Before you play any card, stop and count dummy's HCP and your own. Then estimate where the missing points are likely to be and whether you are in a poor contract, the normal spot or an excellent contract. This can have an important bearing on how to tackle the play.
    • At rubber or teams your task is to make your contract, whether the contract is good, bad or routine. At pairs, the story is quite different. Suppose you find yourself in 3NT and see that 4H is the normal contract. If ten tricks are comfortable there, you cannot be satisfied with just nine tricks in 3NT. You must go all out to score the tenth trick in 3NT notwithstanding the risk. If 3NT making is a rotten score, 3NT failing will not be much worse. By risking the contract for the overtrick, you are risking only a little in order to gain a lot. Such thinking is the heart and soul of pairs play.
    • You judge that your contract is normal. Next consider their opening lead. Does it appear to be the usual lead? Was it made swiftly or only after long deliberation? A quick lead means the same lead is likely at other tables. A slow lead means that other tables may fare better or worse. If the lead does not appear to be automatic and has given you an extra trick, make sure you retain the edge received. If the lead is not automatic and looks ominous, you may have to take chances to recover the ground lost.
    • If you feel your contract is superb, you should take no chances at all. If doubled, making your contract will usually be enough to ensure an excellent score. The same applies to a slam you feel the rest of the field will not reach. Safety plays which involve conceding a trick to guard against a bad break usually cannot be afforded at pairs. In a doubled contract or an uncommon slam, be prepared to concede a trick if that makes your contract certain or more likely.
    • If doubled in a part-score not vulnerable, your aim may be to ensure one down, -100, and not two down for -300 and a terrible score.
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  5. Part 5: Defence (Tips 91-100) - 125
    • This is an excellent area on which to concentrate. Players who can defend well have a significant edge. The standard of defence among most players is lower than other areas of their game. Most players can handle constructive bidding competently and can play the dummy reasonably well. When it comes to defending, many adopt a futile line or slop trick after trick. It is no compliment for a defender to be known as a 'magician', one who makes tricks disappear.
    • At rubber bridge or teams, your task as a defender is clear: defeat the contract. If it happens to cost an overtrick, too bad. You are prepared to sacrifice an overtrick or two for even a remote chance of putting the contract down.
    • At match-points, defence is far, far tougher. Your object may not be to defeat the contract at all. You may achieve a good score if you can restrict declarer to, say, ten tricks in 3NT instead of allowing eleven tricks. When dummy appears, try to work out whether declarer is likely to succeed. Count dummy's HCP, estimate declarer's points. Does declarer seem to have ample strength for success? If so, your aim is to limit the overtricks. Have they bid a game or a slam with very few points? Then you will need to go all out to defeat the contract. Try to judge the popularity of the contract. If few pairs are likely to bid this game or slam, it will hardly matter whether you concede an overtrick. Defeating their contract will be your objective.
    • Good defence is often a matter of partnership co-operation. Strong partnerships spend time and effort on their signalling agreements. During play, pay close attention to partner's signals. In defence you can do with all the help you can get.
    • One of the most important aspects in match-point defence is 'Take our tricks'. When it comes clear that you cannot defeat the contract, make sure that none of the tricks you could take go begging.
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In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: I was in the process of copying over the Tips as and when I read through the book; I’ve not completed it, hence the empty lists.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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