MPs are about bidding 3NT and trying to make it – by Milan Macura

In the first tournament of February, we are back to nearly 1,000 players in IMPs and over 1,600 players in total.

MPs are about bidding 3NT and trying to make it


MPs are about bidding 3NT and getting as many tricks as possible

Every experienced player knows you have to apply a different strategy in IMP and MP scoring. But what is the main difference?

IMPs are based on counting the difference between your achieved score and the average score of other tables. This difference is then converted into a scale of IMPs which determines the winners. Each board can have a different value from -24 to +24 IMPs – games and slams allow to win or lose more IMPs.

In MPs, your goal is to get a better score than most others players and it doesn’t matter by how much. You get 2 MPs for every score lower than yours and 1 MP for the same score. The final score is presented in a percentage which is based on how many MPs you have collected from all possible results: (number of tables/players – 1) * 2 * number of boards. Each board has the same value (0-100%). It doesn’t matter if you play for overtricks in 1NT or if you play a grand slam.

Based on the evaluating method you have to adjust the strategy. In IMPs, you try to play the safest contract possible and be aggressive to reach the game or slam bonus. In MPs, you often risk playing a contract which can give you just some extra points – mostly No Trumps. Minor contracts are very rare unless you have an unbalanced or goulash hand.

Even with Major fits, it can be beneficial to play in 3NT instead of 4♥/♠. That’s why a lot of people open 1NT with a 5-card Major in MPs and even if they find a Major fit, they go to 3NT with balanced or semi-balanced hands. If you go to extremes, you can bid 3NT on every board and try to make it.

How can this strategy affect the last MP tournament?

Here is the list of boards I have played:

Let’s analyse it board by board and see what could have happened if I had bid 3NT where possible.

Board 1

I was defending against 3NT. The majority of declarers scored 10 tricks and EW got above-average score because some EW pairs didn’t reach the right contract. Not much we can do.

Board 2

Reaching 3NT scored over 95%. Only 38 out of 652 players bid 3NT and everyone made it. You had the following hand in South:

Partner opened 1♦ and I made a game try with 2NT. Partner passed with the following hand:

Opponents can get 5 tricks from top but it is not easy for them. After a spade lead to the Ace, East returns a spade. When you get to the trick with the third round of spades, you score 10 tricks, 9 when East switched to hearts.

Board 3

After showing a strong balanced hand, partner asks for a 4-card Major and bids 4♠.

The card play is relatively easy with this layout, you just lose the A♠ and A♦ for 11 tricks and 65.21%. But if you decide to deny a 4-card major, you end up in 3NT. Even if EW attack with hearts, West has no entry to cash his heart winners. For scoring 11 tricks in 3NT, you get 99.12%.

Board 4

On this board, 3NT is not an option. West opens 1♦ and East jumps to 5♦. What do you do with this hand?

In IMPs, I will not take the risk of taking an action but in MPs, I can be more aggressive – the potential benefit can be higher or similar to potential loss. I have decided to double as other 163 players. Can you beat the contract when partner leads ♥A and switches to ♣K?

If you fail to overtake the ♣K with ♣A, you will be squeezed in hearts and spades. The only way to beat the contract is to give partner a heart ruff. You will be squeezed at the end anyway but you already scored an extra trump.

Board 5

On board 5, everybody understood the goal and bid 3NT. Now it is the race of who takes the most tricks. It all depends on the lead.

After a heart lead, you can cash all your clubs and if West discards only one spade, you will establish the spade suit, losing only ♠K. After a diamond lead, you can score maximum 11 tricks.

Board 6

Here it depends on your bidding system. You have a very strong hand and you have to choose a GF sequence in order not to get passed in 2NT. I thought the 2♦ response is already GF and 2♥ will show a negative bid – check your setup before you decide not to open 2♦ as GF.

West led the ♥4 and I won the ♥J with ♥A. East won the first diamond trick and switched to a low spade. Although I made the most tricks (11), I scored only 40.77%. +460 is for 98.92%.

Board 7

Here it seems that the only possible contract is in hearts and that’s what most people played. 6 people reached 3NT and 5 made it. Only Candoz Canduzzi (IT) scored 10 tricks when West led the ♠K and East discarded the ♠J. This 100% score helped him  win the tournament with 77.90%. Did he apply the 3NT strategy or did he have some extra information?

In any case, there are only 9 tricks unless West leads a club. 8 tricks are from top and you have to play a small diamond from South to score the ♦Q as the 9th trick. This proves that the 3NT strategy can sometimes work in the most unexpected cases.

Board 8

I would rather skip this board but it is very educational – you can watch the video for full analysis.

After this bidding, I have found out that 3♣ should go down and wanted to double for penalty. I have not realized that in this sequence, the double is still take-out. After several attempts, I couldn’t convince North that hearts are not good. At some point I was in the best contract (5♦), partner corrected.

Passing 3♣ is the winning action and is rewarded by 81.79% if you manage to beat it twice: 2 diamond tricks and 5 club tricks if you manage to give partner two spade ruffs.

What would the score have been if I had chosen the 3NT strategy and hit the jackpot?

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