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A method of scoring for Duplicate Contract Bridge, usually used in pairs tournaments. This scoring method is sometimes called tournament scoring or simply pairs scoring. Each deal is played several times, by different sets of players, and after all the players who are scheduled to play a deal have finished it, each raw score is compared to each other raw score achieved by another pair who held the same hands. In each comparison, the higher raw score gets one match point, and the lower raw score gets no match point. In case of a tie, each pair gets ½ match point. It is possible to get a good match-point score even while losing points in the raw score, by losing fewer points than most other pairs who held the same score. (This is the American method. In most other countries the higher score gets two match points, and tied scores each receive one match point. The two methods are equivalent, but the 'European' method avoids fractions.)

This basic idea has analogues in other competitive endeavors, such as the Borda Count in voting theory and the Skins Game in golf. It might be interesting to apply the match-point principle to a multiple-machine pinball tournament.

Compare International Match Points.

The effects of match-point scoring are threefold.

First, it greatly reduces the luck factor involved in simply getting better cards than one's opponents. In rubber bridge, or if the raw scores were used with no modification, a pair who is not necessarily very good could easily win a tournament simply by being dealt more Aces and Kings than everybody else.

Second, match-pointing reduces the effect of a wild or high-scoring deal, and makes each deal equally important. Approximately half of all bridge deals are in the part-score range, where only one or two hundred points are at stake; about 40% are in the game range where at least 400 points are at stake; and about 10% are in the slam zone, where a mistake could easily cost 1000 or more points. Without match points, a pair could do reasonably well by slacking off on the part-score deals, and save their concentration for the game and slam deals. Equally, there might, for example, be a deal where every pair in the room will be in the same cold contract, and the only question is whether or not a 30-point overtrick can be scored. Since there are only 30 points at stake in this situation, the entire deal will be meaningless if raw scores are used, since the 30 points will be overwhelmed by random noise on other deals. With match points, that one seemingly unimportant overtrick is as important as finding a biddable vulnerable grand slam worth 2210 points on another board.

Third, match-pointing alters the strategy of bridge in subtle ways. The reader may recall that No-Trump scores 40 for the first odd-trick and 30 for each additional trick, while major-suit contracts score simply 30 for each odd-trick. That extra 10 points for scoring the same number of tricks in No-Trump can swing a lot of match points. Similarly, gaining 100 points by defeating the non-vulnerable opponents' contract by two tricks can be catastrophic if it is possible to get a better score by bidding on and scoring 110 points by bidding 2 of a major suit. Recommended reading on the subject of match point strategy is Matchpoints by Kit Woolsey (Devyn Pr; June 1982).

An example might be useful here: Suppose a deal of Contract Bridge is played eight times. These are the raw scores each time the deal is played:

(Both sides vulnerable)

  1. North-South bid 2 Spades and make it. They score 110 points.
  2. North-South bid 2 Spades and make it with one overtrick. They score 140 points.
  3. East-West bid 3 Hearts and go down one undertrick. North-South score 100 points
  4. East-West bid 3 Hearts, doubled and go down one. North-South score 200 points.
  5. East-West bid 2 Hearts and make it. They score 110 points.
  6. North-South bid 1 No-Trump an make it with one overtrick. They score 120 points.
  7. North-South bid 2 Spades and make it. They score 110 points.
  8. North-South bid 1 No-Trump and make it. They score 90 points.

The travelling score sheet might look like this:

+-------------+------------+----------------+
| Pair Number | Raw Score  |  Match Points  |
|   N-S E-W   |  N-S  E-W  |    N-S  E-W    |
+-------------+------------+----------------+
|    1   5    |  110       |     3½   3½    |
|    3  14    |  140       |     6    1     |
|    4  12    |  100       |     2    5     |
|    8   9    |  200       |     7    0     |
|   10   6    |       110  |     0    7     |
|   11   7    |  120       |     5    2     |
|   13  16    |  110       |     3½   3½    |
|   15   2    |   90       |     1    6     |
+-------------+------------+----------------+

Pair 11, for example got a better score on this deal than five other pairs did. Pair 2 beat six other pairs by having a smaller minus score, i.e. although they lost 90 points on the deal, every other pair, except pair 6, did even worse.

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