Wednesday, June 21, 2006 9:58 AM

Hand Evaluation  Tactics  ( IMPs vrs Matchpoints )




            Expert Bridge means how you “think the game . It also can mean avoiding “thinking in match points” when you are playing IMPS or “thinking IMPS” when you are playing matchpoints. Both are destructive ways to lose at your respective games.


            Bridge systems decided by a partnership should not be a “power struggle” . That means  the ego gets in the way of plain Bridge logic on what system to play. When an expert plays with a non expert , choosing the system is simple. You “play down” to the system played by the non expert. You do not expect the non expert to handle the complexities of an expert bidding structure.


            With both experts it is a different matter. A mutual system must be decided by negotiation . There is no “playing down” to a system in an expert partnership. Logic should be the supreme arbitrator in these situations so a blanket refusal to play something because you are more comfortable with the old way is not the way to go. When you are too busy with work & everything is “information overload” that is a different story. That is a valid reason for rejecting a Bridge system/idea for the short term. In the long run , work is required if you have lofty ambitions in Bridge. In choosing a system though , do not mix your games !!


In addition , your system may already be more “matchpoint” orientated so that is not a valid reason for rejecting an IMPS based system. An IMPS based system is totally geared to games & slams & penalty sets . A matchpoint system caters to accuracy & pressuring the opponents. Competing for partials rule matchpoints whereas it does not in IMPS. IMPS & matchpoints are like night & day. 


Common matchpoint faults when playing IMPS is trying to be too accurate with respect to games. In IMPS , just bid it  when you feel the odds are in your favour. A game making doubled is a disaster in matchpoints. In IMPS its  lose 4” so on to the next hand. In IMPS , sometimes you “bite the bullet “& deliberately allow the opponents to play in a doubled game making when the alternative of bidding is not palatable. Risk taking is different in the two games. Matchpoints by its very nature involves taking more risks with opening bids & competing. Penalty doubles are more frequent in matchpoints.


            Do not accept a complex bidding agreement , if you do not have the time to understand all the nuances . Just say no. When your heart is not in it , you will forget when the situation comes up in the heat of battle. With the help of Tom Gandolfo & others , I have been trying to devise a good IMPS system via articles for 6 years now. There are not just conventions but understandings with a general disciplined philosophy. We are trying to fix holes in a standard system so we can compete with forcing club systems or other expert systems but at IMPS. My articles do not generally apply in the matchpoint game


            This system we built  is geared to IMPS & not match points. In matchpoints , full blown D.S.I.P. competitive double theory is silly as you need match point doubles. Garbage Stayman is better than complex Stayman understandings. In matchpoints ,  a major fit plays a trick better than NT usually & certainly scores better than a minor partial. Even 4-3 major fits can really score well in matchpoints. In IMPS , I prefer showing the shape & HCP’s by bidding NT rather than a bad 4 card major. Matchpoint players do not like bypassing a 4 card major in lieu of making an inverted minor. In IMPS, this fear is silly as you get to minor slams better with a good start to the auction & play 4NT or 5 of the minor if the slam try is aborted. Missing a major game or even a major partial might be a disaster in matchpoints. 


            Openers in matchpoints are not as strict re quick tricks as in IMPS. Openers with quick tricks are constructive as you being disciplined . The idea is to get in early & confuse the folks sometimes at the expense of partner. Pre-empts are more suicidal in matchpoints as again you just trying to make it rough on the opponents. Strong two suiters or strong 4-4-4-1 are opened at the one level in matchpoints as the fear of missing game in matchpoints are not as strong as in IMPS. In IMPS,  these hands should be included in your 2♣ structure so responses like showing controls should be avoided.  Accepting game invites in matchpoints differs than in IMPS. In IMPS, you bid vul games as Peter Jones says “just in case it makes . In matchpoints , you must be away more accurate in making your decision. In fact , invitational auctions are more rare in IMPS as you just blast to game so as not to suggest a particular opening lead.


            After a 2NT opening & a transfer , accepting the transfer should show 3 trump in IMPS. This makes Q bidding for slams easier & getting to alternative games simpler. In matchpoints , where accuracy is more important , you should accept the transfer in all situations so you can bail out in a partial ( accuracy) . Playing 2NT as a new suit in 4th suit forcing auctions is an IMPS idea. In matchpoints , you might want  to play exactly 2NT which is impossible with this games & slam orientated understanding. Who cares if we play a 2NT partial in IMPS.


            In matchpoints , it is better to have more invitational bids. In IMPS , its best to recover the strong jump shift to get to slams based on good suits. Matchpoint players are reluctant to give up jump rebids by responder as invitational. In IMPS , it is far more lucrative to have them strong as getting to a small or a grand slam because of it rewarded well. The hardest concept I have found for matchpoint players or players who think matchpoints regardless the game to adopt , is “taking out insurance” . Matchpoints is so plus orientated they are reluctant to bid one more rather than passing or doubling. Disaster avoidance is an IMPS philosophy while being deadly accurate is a matchpoints phenomenon.


            Opening leads & lead directing doubles are entirely different in the two games. The IMPS scoring encourages lead directly doubles ( unless playing the Pritchards) but in matchpoints it is a zero. Matchpoint players lead passive & “blind” more often than IMPS players. In IMPS, you lead a bare Ace to avoid leading blind to beat the contract. In IMPS , leads are more aggressive.  If there is a chance to beat a game or slam , go for it.


            In IMPS , we advocate “destructive bidding” by playing the vulnerability only 1/4 of the time . Nv vrs vulnerable the so called terrorist vulnerability. If the opponents own the auction or partner is a passed hand , discipline also takes a beating. In Matchpoints , discipline takes a beating all the time. Klimo , Maurice & Tom G open hands or pre-empt hands that would be passed in IMPS . Two games , two different systems & philosophies. One convention card for IMPS & one for matchpoints makes sense to me. Know why you are playing one systemic understanding rather than another is beneficial to play both games well. The scoring of each game determine your respective strategies.