Sacrificing

Length: 10 minutes

Initially, we are taught to bid to contracts we can make and play to make them. However, once we know the scoring, we sometimes bid a contract we know will be doubled and will go down because we know that will be a better score for us! -50 is better than -110, – 500 is better than – 620, and -1400 is better than -1430. If we are playing MatchPoints, this can make an enormous difference to our result. If instead we are playing IMPs, sacrificing still makes a big difference.

Game – The most common sacrifices

99% of the time when we choose to bid over our opponents’ game, they will double us. We shouldn’t let the double panic us though. This is still where we will get the most gain from knowingly sacrificing. The score for a making non-vulnerable game is 400 or more and for a vulnerable game is 600 or more. Consider the below table in this context:

DownNon-Vulnerable & DoubledVulnerable & Doubled
1100200
2300500
3500800
48001100
  • Favourable: The opponents’ vulnerable game will score us -600 (or worse). We are non-vulnerable and will score -500 if we go down 3 doubled non-vulnerable.
  • Equal vulnerability: When we are both non-vulnerable, we can do down 2 doubled scoring -300 to beat over -400 for our opponents making game. When we are both vulnerable, we can do down 2 doubled scoring -500 to beat at -600 or worse for our opponents making game.
  • Unfavourable: The opponents’ non-vulnerable game will score us -400 or worse. We are vulnerable and will score -200 if we are doubled and go down one.

When we are favourable, we will often want to sacrifice over our opponents’ games as we can go down three doubled and still get a better score. However, when we are unfavourable, we can only go down two, so it is very rare to sacrifice then.

Small-Slam

It is almost 100% certain that we will be doubled if we bid over our opponents’ small slam. A non-vulnerable small-slam making score between 920 and 990. A vulnerable small-slam making score between 1370 and 1440. So, consider this using the below table

DownNon-vulnerable & DoubledVulnerable & Doubled
48001100
511001400
614001700
717002000

It is tricky to be confident that a small-slam is making, so sacrifices here are not as common as over games. However, the same importance of considering the vulnerability applies.

For any non-vulnerable small slam, vulnerable 6H, 6S or 6NT:

  • Favourable: The opponents’ vulnerable small-slam will score us – 1430 in a major or -1440 in NTs. We are non-vulnerable and will score -1400 if we go down six doubled non-vulnerable (good if they could make 6H/S/NT).
  • Equal vulnerability: When we are both non-vulnerable, we can do down four doubled scoring -800 to beat over -920 (or worse) for our opponents making small-slam. When we are both vulnerable, we can do down five doubled scoring -1400 to beat at -1430 or worse.
  • Unfavourable: The opponents’ non-vulnerable game will score us -920 or worse. We are vulnerable and will score -800 if we are doubled and go down three.

For a vulnerable 6C or 6D,

  • Favourable: Doubled down 5 for -1100 would be a better score for us than -1370 for them making small slam in a minor.
  • Equal: Doubled down 4 for -1100 would be a better score for us than -1370 for them making small slam in a minor.

Playing in a sacrifice

Whatever our contract, we always want to make as many tricks as we can but we may have a different key goal/ aim. Playing a normal contract, our key goal would be make our contract. When we are playing in a sacrifice, we are not trying to make our contract. We want to score a smaller negative than we would have gotten had our opponents played and made their contract. So, if our opponents bid 4H vulnerable and we are now playing in 4Sx non-vulnerable, our key goal is to go down by no more than three tricks.

Assuming we are doubled and that our opponents would have made their contract, the below table shows us the maximum number of tricks we can go down and still get a good score.

GameGameGameSmall slamSmall slamSmall slam
UnfavourableEqualFavourableUnfavourableEqualFavourable
12334 NV/Usually 5 V*Usually 6*

*When our opponents bid a vulnerable slam in a minor, this scores less than 1400, so we can go down one trick fewer than listed in this table.

When to sacrifice

The best time to sacrifice is when:

  • We have a good fit in a suit and ideally some shape (e.g. singletons and voids)
  • We are confident that our opponents are making their game
  • We are favourable

4SX non-vulnerable over a vulnerable 4H is one of the most common sacrifices in the game. It is a key one to look out for.

Back to: How to Score in Bridge