Dan Barlow - Tip #17

Endgame two-on-one, part 4

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In the past we've discussed endgame situations in which your opponent had only one card left. You had to decide which of your two cards to play to your opponent, based on the board position. While it's true that these situations arise only at the end of the game, it's also true that the end of the game may be closer than you think. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security simply because your opponent needs 25 or 30 holes to your out and you need only a few.

You need seven, opponent needs 34, your deal.

Your Hand Cut
2-3-4-5 4

The Play So Far

Opponent You
4 2 (6)
3 (9-3) 3 (12-2)
3 (15-8) ?

What a nightmare! You knew pairing a 3 might be, disastrous but every play looked dangerous and you decided to gamble the pone didn't have a pair. Besides, the possibility that you might actually lose this game is only now occurring to you. Do you play the 4 or the 5? What would you play if he/she had needed 28 holes? 26? (Solutions at end of column)

Let's assume you're playing Phyllis Schmidt. You needn't have seen three of her cards to solve these problems. Suppose you hold 6-8-9-10. The cut is a 5. Phyllis leads a Q, you play your 9, and she scores a go with another Q. If she is now 24 holes from winning and you are six, you might feel so confident that you carelessly lay down your 10. And if her last two cards are 5s, you've thrown away a game you should have won. You should have led the 6 or the 8. If she pegged on one of those, she couldn't possibly have had enough to go out.

Suppose you have enough to go out and Phyllis needs 31; the cut is a 5. Assume from a defensive point of view that she has a 29 hand and play accordingly until it's proven otherwise. If she leads a 4 to you, great; you now know she doesn't have a 29!! Now, still on defense, assume she has a 24 hand and play accordingly. By being pessimistic, you'll save a lot more games.


If Phyllis needs 34, you should play the 5. Her only hope of winning is if her last card is a 5 and you let her peg three more holes. If she needs 28, again you play the 5. True, she'll win the game, but you couldn't have prevented that. You can prevent a defeat if she's holding a 2 by playing the 5. If she needs 26 points, she's already won if she's holding a 2 or a 5. If however, she has a 4, she has a twelve point hand and needs to peg three more holes. Play the 4 and Phyllis ends up in the dead hole where she ends up so often!! Play the 5 and she wins the game she should have lost.

- Text copyright © 2002 by Dan Barlow. All rights reserved.

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