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Bridge – Maximising plus scores and minimising minus scores

Paul Mendelson

19 July 2021


Paul Mendelson heads up our Saga Bridge Club team and is the author of over a dozen books on bridge. He has coached at all levels, from complete beginners to national team players, and has helped tens of thousands of players to improve their bridge, and most importantly, to enjoy this amazing game even more.

Top tips for maximising and minimising your Gentle Duplicate scores.

Saga Gentle Duplicate gets you into the key mind-frame for the competitive version of the game. Each deal is a new and completely independent challenge. Your aim is to score as high a plus score as you can manage, or as low a minus score.

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Maximising your Plus Score

Play in a major suit, rather than minor suit; play in a no-trump contract, opposed to a major-suit contract. Take these two hands for example:

Bridge game diagram

Should West re-bid 4H – her side does, after all, hold an 8-card heart fit – or should she re-bid 3NT?

Because West has no shortages, she should definitely rebid 3NT. If East’s hand contains a singleton or a small doubleton, she will take the contract back to 4H. But, here, East’s hand is balanced also, so she passes 3NT. North leads 5♠ and West will make two spade tricks, four hearts tricks, one diamond and three club tricks = ten tricks for 3NT+1.

4H would also have made ten tricks, but look at the difference in the score:
4H✓ = + 420 but 3NT+1 = + 430

At any form of the game other than duplicate bridge, that would make no difference but, at Duplicate scoring, that 10pt improvement for being in no-trumps will score you a significant amount more once everyone has played the hand.

Minimising your Minus Score

When you hold very poor cards, it is often inevitable that your opponents will make a contract and you will get a minus score. What is not inevitable however, is how big that minus score might be. If you can lose fewer points on the deal than others playing the same hand in your position, you will do well.

Bridge game diagram

East has been pretty aggressive overcalling 2C initially. Can she bid on again over North’s bid of 4S?

East must calculate how many points N/S will score if they make 4S, and then ask herself if there is any way her side could lose fewer points by bidding on to 5C. If N/S make 4S – and it certainly looks as if they might – they will score 620. If East bids on to 5C and gets doubled, she can afford to go up to three down, and still lose fewer points than 620. (Non-vulnerable, doubled: 1 down is -100; 2 down is -300; 3 down is -500.)

Reasoning that N/S hold nine spades between them, as East holds three spades, it is reasonable to assume that West has a singleton. On that basis, it looks like 5C will not fail by more than two or three tricks, and East should bid 5C.

This turns out to be the perfect bid. If N/S double East in 5C, they can only defeat this contract by 1 trick, losing E/W only - 100. If N/S bid on to 5S, E/W can defeat them by taking A♣, A and K quickly. This means that E/W end up with a plus score: +100!

So, here, for East to bid 5C is the perfect “sacrifice” – bidding a contract that you know will fail but which will cost you less than leaving the opponents to make their contract. Look for these opportunities particularly when your opponents are vulnerable and your side is not.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

Paul Mendelson

19 July 2021


Paul Mendelson heads up our Saga Bridge Club team and is the author of over a dozen books on bridge. He has coached at all levels, from complete beginners to national team players, and has helped tens of thousands of players to improve their bridge, and most importantly, to enjoy this amazing game even more.

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