Questions and Answers

Question 19

I enjoyed I Fought the Law... and am trying to use it whenever possible.
   There is one aspect of the Law that was comforting and that is not presentin the AW-LAW system. That is, knowing when to sacrifice.
   The knowledge that the Law was protecting me (notwithstanding the fact that it probably wasn't) by giving me a minus score that was better than the opponents' positive score was a good feeling. In your answer to Mel's question (8c) you advise that if 'your estimation says your side will not make your contract, don't bid it – to avoid declaring when neither side makes their contract.' I am doing that but it seems that the opponents are buying a lot of contracts at the 2 or 3 level and outscoring us.
   Isn't there some feature of the system that would give me guidance on sacrifice bidding?

David Germaine


Our recommendation of trying for plus scores is a good strategy at IMPs, at least at the part-score level, since the difference between plus and minus (e.g. +110 instead of -110) is bigger than between two plus results (e.g. +140 instead of +100) or two minus results (e.g. -50 instead of -110). At other forms of scoring, things are more difficult, since conceding -100 is a good result if the opponents could have taken eight tricks in a major or nine in a minor. At pairs, it may be worth lots of matchpoints; at rubber it may stop the opponents from converting a part-score; and at board-a-match it may win the board. Still, being able to estimate how many trick your side is likely to take is valuable even here.
   In sacrifice situations the first thing you should do is estimate your tricks. If it says you are not going to make your contract, sacrifice only if the opponents would have scored more in their contract AND you think it is likely that they would have made it.
   Since you don't know anything about the opponents' distribution, you have to make an educated guess, but you often have clues pointing in the right direction. Suppose you know your side has roughly 17 HCP and the opponents bid 4H. How likely are they to make it? If all their HCP are working, they need an SST of 4 to succeed. If some of their HCP are not working, so that they have, say, 20 WP, they need an SST of 3. Sometimes, they will have more than 23 WP (e.g. when their trumps are AQxx opposite xxxxx and the king is doubleton onside), when even an SST of 5 may be enough for ten tricks. If you think that one of these situations is likely to be present, go ahead and save; if not, defend!
   Don't forget the clues from the bidding. If one of your opponents shows a singleton, you know their SST is at most 4, and it may easily be lower. The same when one of them shows at least 5-4 distribution, or a six-card suit. If one of them has shown 5-5, or a seven-card suit, their SST will never be more than 3, etc. And don't forget that if there is a bad split in one of their key-suits, it's a good chance that they will take less tricks than the formula says.

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