Larry Cohen has long been one of our best matchpoint players. His accounts of several sessions of Life Master Pairs available on CD are excellent analyses of how to play matchpoints.
One of his favorite strategems is balancing when the opponents have settled at a low level. In addition to the "Law of Total Tricks," there is another "Law" which he follows and which may be described as the "Iron Law of Matchpoints":
Never let the opponents buy a contract when they have bid and raised a major suit and stopped at the 2-level when you are not vulnerable. Get them out of their comfort zone.
There are several reasons for this: (1) When they have a fit, you should have one also; (2) If you bid and go down one, even doubled, your score is better than allowing them to play it (-100 vs -110); (3) Much of the time, they will compete to the 3-level and go down. The last possibility is what you are really hoping for; if they have to raise the level, they are outside of their comfort zone.
Here is one example, from the Instant Matchpoint Game earlier this month. We will post others as they come up.
You hold, in second seat with only the opponents vulnerable:
RHO passes, you pass, and LHO opens 1 Diamond in third seat. Partner passes, RHO bids 1 Spade, you pass, LHO raises to 2 Spades, and this is passed back to you. This isn't much of a hand, but it is nonetheless time to apply the Iron Law. Partner has to have a decent hand since the opponents stopped at the 2-level. So I balanced with a double. It isn't pretty, but I did have support for any suit partner bids. Partner bid 3 Clubs, which ended the auction. This worked out very well, as the entire hand was:
S K96 S 32
H J54 H AKQ2
D K743 D J6
C T72 C QJ865
3 Clubs made 3 for +110 and 86 out of 100 matchpoints. If I had passed, they would have made 2 Spades for -110 and 24 matchpoints. If they had gone on to 3 Spades, they would have gone down 1, and we would have gotten 71 matchpoints.
Get the opponents out of their comfort zone. Your scores will improve.