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I had a lot of fun in Orlando and mixed success, including in the Mixed. My favourite hand was this little pearler from session 5 of the Mixed Pairs qualifying. Our little Aussie crew chortled though dinner that night over it, with the siren song of matchpoints delivering a wide range of mostly rational outcomes. Here's the hand (rotated for convenience) and a little tour of the (116) results.

West
Q72
109
1062
Q6543
North
A43
K765
K973
A7
East
105
AJ832
J54
1092
South
KJ986
Q4
AQ8
KJ8
D

At my table I opened one vanilla spade (playing weak NT) and, after a little sniff at slam from my wife Jenny, we bailed in 4. I got the 10 lead run around to my Q. That was favourable in the sense of providing me with some extra options. Remembering my Woolsey (roughly, when you're ahead of the field on the board try to stay there) I plonked the Q on the table.

Both oppos signalled odd. I believed them and went for a combo 12 trick line (with an option on 13) - I cashed K, A, and then pushed out 's, getting rid of my remaining . 12 tricks, 67%, happiness.

People don't always enter the right lead, or declarer, or strain (!) but it looks like 44 people played 4 from South on a lead for an average of 11.23 tricks, spread across 10 (3 times, 6%), 11 (29 times, 28%), 12 (11 times) and 1 hungry demon racking up the lot (97%).

The line for 10 tricks isn't clear to me but I can certainly see 11. Sniffing blood and feeling greed, you take the percentage line in planning to follow up the drawing of trumps with the cashing of 4 's (and probably a ruff along the way). Nice try but no cigar.

The 13 tricker clearly cleaned up the trump suit, I guess by successfully pushing out J at trick 2, which enables a ruff for 13.

Interestingly, the 2 pairs in 5 and the 1 in 6 who got the 10 lead all managed only 11 tricks. Other minority outcomes were 8 in 4 on a lead (which kinda blows a trick, but not a helpful one - 11.25 average tricks), 1 in 5 (making 12 - well done!) and 2 in 6 on a lead (both going 1 off), and one player in 4 from NORTH on a trump lead (12 tricks).

At IMPs, this is one of those entertaining hands where you might make 12 tricks in 4 (run the J trying to protect against 5-0 and losing to the "safe" hand if not) while making 11 tricks in 6 (where you take the percentage line in as your best shot)

Now for the NTers

West
Q72
109
1062
Q6543
North
A43
K765
K973
A7
East
105
AJ832
J54
1092
South
KJ986
Q4
AQ8
KJ8
D

My mate Peter Reynolds landed in 3NT after opening 1 strong NT and only getting to show 4 of his 5 spades later. On the minority lead (14 out of 55) run around to his Q, Peter could see he was at risk vs 4. At IMPs the play is easy - run the J to protect the K. 12 tricks, easy game.

At matchpoints, Peter, remembering his Woolsey (roughly, when you're behind on the board take some calculated risks to improve your position) decided to go flat out - straight A, finesse and when that lost, hop K on the continuation. Oops, 1 off. Much to Peter's amusement, and our entertainment as he told his story in his wry self-deprecating way.

His assessment was basically right. 10 tricks would have been worth only 9.6% and going 1 off got him 2.2%. Negligible. Getting 11 (or 12) tricks in would have been worth way more if the layout had been friendlier. The risk was clearly worth it.

The 32 Souths in 3NT who got a lead had a much easier time of it because now the extra trick IS handy. 14 took 11 tricks (53%) and 18 took 12 (85%). No doubt several Easts unwisely ducked their A in the mid-game and regretted it soon after.

There was a smattering of other leads - 10 from West, a , a , a from East. In all those variations, declarer usually made 12 tricks (a couple made 13 for 99.13% of the marbles, one made 10, a few made 11).

I love these sorts of hands where people can and do take a wide variety of reasonably rational courses of action - and get a wide variety of results.

Matchpoints is a harsh yet beautiful form of the game. I love it, even when it isn't loving me.

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