The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (January 2013)

10.  They allow their opponents to make mistakes. 

One of the big differences between matchpoint pairs and IMP team scoring is the importance of sacrifice bids. Team players are more hesitant to sacrifice because the profits are often small (minus 500 instead of 620) and being wrong can be so costly. 

Sacrifices are more common in pair events, where small savings can be worth lots of matchpoints. They also create tougher dilemmas for your opponents. When you outbid them at IMPs, they're more likely to double and take the sure plus. At matchpoints, though, there's more pressure to go for the optimum score. If you can safely force them into making a bid-or-double decision, they'll sometimes get it wrong.

Your opponents would usually prefer that you stay silent and let them play at the level they choose, but there are many exceptions. These include auctions where you're doing the guessing instead of them. That's often the case when you make a solo sacrifice (discussed in the previous issue) after they've already exchanged information.

The most welcome competition of all is the phantom sacrifice, where you find out -- too late -- that their game would have gone down. Even if you incur a relatively small penalty, the scoring swing can be huge because you've turned a plus score into a minus.

So how do you determine if the opponents can make a game? It's not an exact science. Success in judging these situations comes with experience, but there are a number of clues that can help you make better decisions.

In general:  If you have doubts about the success of their game or the safety of your sacrifice, pass and go for the possible plus score. Here are some of the conditions that should create those doubts: 

   2013   Karen Walker