Ted's Bridge World Teditorial

The New & Improved Scoring Table?
Bah, Humbug

Harold Vanderbilt, while traversing the Panama Canal in 1925, formulated his brilliant new scoring table for contract bridge (together with other new features).  His concept was so good that it sold the public virtually without additional effort on his part.  The only real difference was the notrump trick score, originally set at 35 points.  At some juncture the 50-point bonus for making a doubled contract was suspended, only to be permanently restored in 1943.

Yes, bridge scoring was perfectly fine for the next half-century — that is, prior to the National Directors' 1993 exercise in micro-meddling.

Legend has it that Edgar Kaplan and Norman Kay bid to 7, whereupon an opponent, Jeff Meckstroth, bid 7 out of the blue, holding nothing but 9xxxx in spades.  He lost ten tricks (eleven would have been okay) for -1900 a good save against what would have been -2210.

As the story continues, Kaplan was so irritated by this and other similar actions that he railroaded the scoring change to increase the penalties for undertricks.  Today, Meckstroth would have to win at least five tricks for a profitable sacrifice.  I am not alone in considering this adjustment frivolous, as it serves only to suppress imaginative players and ruin some great stories.

The other scoring change was the addition of 50 points for making a redoubled contract, which is inherently logical.  The apparent reason for the change, however, seems to have been to correct a perceived flaw wherein a knowledgeable opponent could make a stripe-tailed-ape double of five of a minor, vulnerable, which with an overtrick was worth 1350 points if redoubled.  As bidding the slam would have scored 1370 points, the double was profitable — provided that the opponents had intended to bid the slam and that no overtrick could be taken.

So now the scoring has been fixed, right?  Now there is no situation in which it is not better to redouble than to bid on, right?

WRONG!  It still is profitable to double five notrump or four or five of a major, non-vulnerable, if the opponents are about to bid and make a grand slam.

Here are the scores:

7 or 7 = 1510
7NT = 1520

4 or 4 redoubled with three overtricks = 1480
5 or 5 redoubled with two overtricks = 1400
5NT redoubled with two overtricks = 1440

Several major tournament directors have acknowledged to me a lack of awareness of this anomaly; and admittedly it is an esoteric consideration.  Nevertheless, if the aforementioned stripe-tailed-ape situation really was a flaw, then so is this one.  Don't hold your breath awaiting a fix, however; the National Directors are too busy micro-managing other issues.

I miss those 700's.  Bah, humbug.

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