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Finding the right way to 3NT to win by Milan Macura

Every week, bridge professional player Milan Macura organises and analyses Exclusive Tournaments on the Funbridge app. Debriefing and videos included!

MPs results

IMPs results

Finding the right way to 3NT to win

Videos

MPs results

I had a very good run this week scoring 82.27%, which was the best score on Thursday morning. Later afternoon, Klaus Wünsche (DE) managed to do even better and won with 84.86%. Third place went to meepO15 with 80.49%. Altogether 757 players joined this tournament. Below are the top 3 players.

My friends’ list results are complete and the second place goes to Thomas (FR) with 75.79% and bronze to Steven (BE) with 74.91%.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

IMPs results

I am presenting the results from the IMP tournament as usual after I have finished streaming the tournament live. Gog2711 (HR) won the tournament with +42 IMPs followed by dan28 (FR) with +41 IMPs and Ralf Bendix (DE) with +38 IMPs.

Colin Deheeger (FR) was the best on my friends’ list with +37 IMPs. With Christian (DK) and his +33 IMPs, they made it to the top list. Ivan (HR) got the bronze with +28 IMPs. I have finished with +17 IMPs in 114th place out of 1,089 players.

General ranking
Milan’s friends ranking

Finding the best way to the ideal contract to win the tournament

In order to score over 70% on every board, you have to find the right contract, but often that is not enough. You have to choose the best way to reach it and to declare very carefully and precisely. Here is the list of my scores:

You can notice once again that it was important to go NT whenever possible. Let’s go through these boards in detail.

Board 1

The first board is more about the bidding than card play. You have the following hand:

If you open a standard strong 2NT to show 20-21 HCP, partner transfers to diamonds and bids 4♠ when you accept. The Funbridge description says it shows 3 cards but in reality a new suit after a minor transfer shows a singleton. Also, you can always expect 6 cards after a minor transfer, not only 5 cards as the description says.

At this point, you have to make a decision if you are going to a slam or not and if you do, which one. The most likely North distribution is 1363. You can count 6 diamond winners if partner holds ♦AQ, 2 hearts and one sure winner in each of the black suits – 10 top tricks in total. How to get the extra two tricks?

Partner is inviting to a slam and we counted only 6 HCP so far in his hand, therefore we can expect ♣K or ♣Q+♥Q and maybe even one jack. In the worst-case scenario, the slam will be based on a spade finesse.

The question you should ask yourself is: “Do I make an extra trick if diamonds are trumps?” The answer is: “NO”. You cannot ruff anything in South and you cannot use North’s trumps to establish a side suit – spades. That means if you decide to bid a slam, it should be 6NT and not 6♦. The difference is quite significant.

Board 2

Board 2 is a classic decision between 4M on a 4-4 fit and 3NT. In theory, a 4-4 fit produces an extra trick if you can use at least one trump to ruff a loser. North opens 1NT and you have the following hand. Should you try to find a 4-4 fit in hearts?

If partner’s distribution is 4432, you can make a ruff from his side but in what suit? Is he ruffing a loser? The secondary values in all suits tell you that with 25-27 HCP combined, you are missing minimum 3 top cards (Ace or King). That should be the reason to try for game bonus in 3NT instead of 4♥.

In MP, you always need to make the right decision to win a short tournament but in the long run 3NT can bring you better scores with a 4333 shape. First of all, a heart fit is not guaranteed and if you tell defenders extra information about declarer’s shape, it will be easier for them to defend. My suggestion is to bid 3NT directly unless you have only primary values and you can get a ruff in all other suits.

Board 4

Board 4 surprised me a lot. After a 1♦ opening by West, you are balancing with the following hand:

It is almost certain that HCP are split equally among the two partnerships with most of the points in the West hand. Partner didn’t overcall in a Major so there is only one reasonable contract we want to play: 1NT. Luckily, Argine plays 1NT in a reopening position with 9-13 HCP, which describes our hand perfectly. After a spade lead and a diamond switch, there was no problem to take 8 tricks. Almost 93% was a pleasant surprise.

Board 5

Everybody reached 3NT on board 5 but not many managed to make it. What is your plan after the ♦4 lead from East?

You start with the ♦J which wins the trick. You have a chance to score extra tricks in all four suits. The biggest potential is in hearts. If the ♥10 drops in three rounds, you can even fight for 10 tricks. What you have to realize is which card you discard on the second heart trick.

A very hard decision with a relatively simple solution: don’t play the second heart. Lead the ♥Q on trick number two and postpone the decision. You will see what the defenders play next. If they let you win the ♥Q, start establishing clubs or spades.

That is only the start. If you want to see the full play, watch the video on Funbridge YouTube channel.

Board 6

The key decision on board 6 lies in the opening.

With 14 HCP, most people automatically open 1♣. Before the bidding starts, I always think about which contract I want to play. With 2425 and honors in short suits, I want to play either NT or hearts. I should declare to protect honors on the first round. The extra club makes the hand strong enough for a 1NT opening. With a simple bidding 1NT – 3 NT, it is often very difficult to find the proper defense.

West made a standard spade lead, which gives you enough time to try for extra tricks. The best way is to play a small heart from South to dummy’s ♥Q. If West has the ♥K, he is very likely to play it now and you have 3 heart winners. If you lose the ♥Q to East’s ♥K, the fourth heart in South is a potential threat. When East won the ♥K, he returned a heart to break the communication.

Still, I put him in a pseudo-squeeze by cashing all black winners. Because he had all the HCP, he expected maximum 1 HCP in West and he threw away one heart and kept the ♦K8. The ♥3 was the twelfth trick and extra 40%.

Board 7

On board 7, the majority of players reached 3NT but only 90 of them managed to win it. Why?

The key decision is to find the best rebid after the 1♦ opening and partner’s 1♠ response.

It is obvious that you have to end in 3NT with 7 top winners and a potential club trick. You should find out how partner can declare 3NT to guard his heart honors or if there is a way to prevent the heart lead.

I have decided to rebid 2♥, which should show 5♦ and 4♥. If you don’t have your bid, you have to be ready to play hearts on a 4-3 fit if partner has 5♠4♥. Recently, I wrote an article about conditions in which to play in a 4-3 fit. We fulfill them all: if you will be forced to ruff, it has to be from the short side, you need a source of tricks in a minor suit and you should be able to draw trumps in 3-4 rounds.

Would you find a heart lead after this bidding? Or a club lead and partner finds the heart switch? Argine led a spade and the game was over…

Videos of Milan Macura’s tournaments

MPs tournament video

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IMPs tournament video

You can find all the boards of the IMPs tournaments in the video I posted on my YouTube channel. Don’t forget to Subscribe to so you don’t miss my next Exclusive tournaments analysis.

And if you didn’t know it yet, know that I challenge 5 of you at the end of each IMP tournament video!

My previous exclusive tournaments analysis are available here.