Matchpoint (Pairs) Strategy at Duplicate Bridge
Bid aggressively. Duplicate pairs tend to bid "close" games and slams, so don't settle for a safe partscore if you think there's a fair chance you can make game.
Choose the highest-scoring game. For game contracts, you should be most anxious to play 4H or 4S, willing to play 3NT and reluctant to play 5C or 5D. If you have game values and a club or diamond fit, consider playing 3NT instead.
Choose the safest partscore. When you have minimum high-card strength, choose the safety of a trump suit. A major-suit is still best, but if you're deciding between notrump and a minor, play a suit contract if you have a fit.
Overcall freely. Don't be afraid to make light, lead-directing overcalls at the one-level -- especially when you're not vulnerable and your opponent opens 1C or 1D. If you have to go to the two-level to bid your suit, though, be somewhat cautious. For a 2-level overcall, you should have a good suit (a strong 5-carder or, better, a 6+-card suit), especially if you're vulnerable.
Raise partner's suit freely. Even if you're light in high-card points, stretch to raise partner if you have a fit for his suit, especially in competitive auctions.
Sacrifice more often. If you have a good fit, sacrifice freely if your opponents are vulnerable and you are not. But be very conservative when you're vulnerable.
Don't "sell out" too low. If the opponents stop at a low level, you don't have to have a strong hand to balance back in. The best time to compete is when: (1) You're not vulnerable; (2) The opponents have stopped in 1 or 2 of a suit contract (not 1NT or 2NT); and (3) You're short in the opponent's trump suit.
Double more partscores. If you bid to a partscore you think you could have made, but your opponents bid over it, a double is sometimes necessary for you to get even an average score. (Be very careful in choosing when to use this tip!)
Use a simplified form of the "Law of Total Tricks (Trumps)" for competitive decisions. In part-score situations -- those where you've found a fit but wanted to stop at a low level -- don't let the opponents push you to the 3-level unless you have a 9-card trump fit.
Make "normal" opening leads. Don't try for a "top" by choosing an unusual lead. Against most contracts, choose a safe, non-deceptive opening lead.
Look for overtricks. Unlike in rubber bridge, it's sometimes right to make a fairly risky play trying for the overtrick -- especially when you're in a "normal" contract that you think will be bid by other pairs.
Play it safe if you're in an unusual contract. Go for the sure plus score if you're playing or defending a contract that won't be bid at most tables.
Play with the "field". When in doubt about what to bid or play, try to guess what might be happening at other tables and go for a similar result.
Consider using 15-17 pts. as the range for your opening 1NT bids. You'll often have a bidding advantage when you open 1NT. Most duplicate players use the 15-17 range (rather than 16-18) because it allows them to open more hands with 1NT. If you use this range, responder will need to adjust his requirements up by 1 pt. You should also change your 2NT opening range to 20-22 pts.Copyright 1997, Karen Walker