When we learn to play Bridge, we learn Generic Bridge which shows us how the game is structured so that we can play the three main types of contract: Teams/Rubber/Pairs. However, the teaching lends itself more to teams/rubber and doesn’t really get to grips with the strategy for pairs which is the majority of bridge we play.
Consider the following:
You reach 4Hearts and receive the club Queen lead which you win draw trumps in two rounds test to see if both diamonds are onside but if your finesse loses you settle for 10 tricks making your game. At pairs though it is all about competing against the same pairs sitting your way and doing better than they do. Surely everybody will be in a heart game so to do better than them you have to consider making more trick to earn a good score. On this hand if one of the diamond honours is with West you can obtain an overtrick and get rid of your club loser by two finesses in diamonds but if both finesses lose you go down in your contract so what should you do? The answer is you should risk it because you have a 75% chance of success – you only lose in one hand in 4 – for the sake of argument suppose you played a 4 Board round and this hand was the same for each board and a top on a hand in terms of match points is 10 [6 tables] and for making 4H you get 4 match points but for making 4H with an overtrick scores 6 and if you go down 1 you score 0 match points. So, we use our strategy of a double diamond finesse on each hand and we will make 4H+1 on three of the hands and go down once. We will 6+6+6+0 =18 while if we had safely played for 10 tricks on each hand we score 4+4+4+4 =16 so we would do better by taking the risk. Now obviously you don’t play the same hand 4 times in pairs drive but if you adopt a strategy of saying to yourself is this bid/play/defence going to work more than 50% of the time on all the hands you play then because you are playing 24+ hands you would be exceptionally unlikely not to achieve a consistent result of being above average on a drive. So, the next time you play start taking risks and your results will improve.