The Pairs Dilemna


This hand occurred in the three tiered pairs held recently.



S 32

H 42

D 765

C AK6543





D A98

C 872


The contract was 3NT by South.


There are eight top tricks as you can see things looked a bit bleak on the lead of the King of Diamonds. But phew! They led a heart so there was time to duck a club to set up the suit before the hearts were cleared. If we had been playing teams where making the contract is paramount and the contract would never be jeopardised in the search for an overtrick there is no question how to play the hand. Win the heart, duck a club and hope it's not a 4-0 break.


But we were playing pairs where overtricks are vital. So how do you play the hand? David stops at this point so the rest of the analysis is mine. (Tony)


Ignoring the 4-0 breaks when the contract can't be made anyway the probabilities are as follows:


A 3-1 break either way 49.7%

A 2-2 break 40.7%


(As a rule of thumb an even number of missing cards will not break evenly between the opponents but an odd number will).


On this hand there are no finesses available so the question of an important card being singleton does not arise. It's a straight choice between ducking a club and going for the drop and as you can see ducking a round of clubs gives a 10% better chance of making 5 club tricks but playing for the drop is the only way to make 6.


Most players will therefore duck a round of clubs knowing that this is the winning play in the long term and it's rarely right to play consistently against the room and the odds. However if you need a top badly and are prepared to risk a bottom then playing for the drop is an attractive proposition as 40% of the time you will be rewarded.  You pays your money and you takes your chance as Shakespeare didn't say.