BYOB – that means ‘box,’ not booze

Homer said to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Poker players know to be wary of anyone bringing his own deck to the table. But in Canada, no one has to be scared of any bridge player bringing his own bidding box to a tournament.

They’re just from Quebec City, the only place in Canada where for some unknown reason, the clubs don’t provide bidding boxes and everyone brings his or her own box that you have to lug from table to table if you’re playing East-West (although, fortunately for us, most clubs do have a few extras for visitors and people who forgot theirs).

So when someone shows up elsewhere in Canada carrying his or her own bidding box, people just laugh and say, “Oh, you must be from Quebec City.”

That’s just one of the peculiarities we learned when my partner Christine and I interrupted our sightseeing of the gorgeously beautiful city of Quebec for a few hours to play bridge at the l’Entame club (the name means “opening lead” – another club is called l’Imperatif or “forcing”) that meets twice a week at a civic center in Vanier, a former suburb named after a onetime Canadian governor-general which has now been swallowed up into Quebec City.

Everyone at the l’Entame club was French-speaking, but they were the nicest and the most welcoming group of people we’ve ever met – a thousand times nicer than the people in Paris or even Montreal.

The club uses special score sheets printed by the Quebec Bridge League, which allows them to get sponsorships from local orthodontists, restaurants and cosmetic surgeons who advertise in the margins of the scoresheets – which sounds like a pretty good idea, actually.

Despite a couple of bad boards with zero scores (we tried for a Slam that no one else went for and it went Down One), Christine and I had a pretty good 57% game good enough for third place in our section and .65 MasterPoints.

One of our best boards was a hand on which we tied for tops when we put a lady Down Three in a 4 Spades contract that five other people made. We tied with another pair that also set their opponents by three tricks, but in an ill-advised 3 No-Trump contract.

It’s a great illustration how you should “place” the missing cards in your opponents’ hands and play accordingly. Or as our Vero Beach friend Bill Poole says, being able to actually look through the back of your opponents’ cards if you use all information from the bidding, the leads, etc.

The South player who went Down Three in 4 Spades will play the role of my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo in this episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar, while Christine will be her nemesis, Smug Sam, with the West hand for her heroic defense with just 4 high-card points.

North Dealer; neither side vulnerable

K Q 9 6
A Q 9 2
A K 5 3
West East
J 8 7 5 2
9 7 5 2 A K Q 4 3
K 10 8 7 5 4
8 A J 10 9 7
A 10 4 3
J 10 8
J 6 3
6 4 2

The Bidding:

North East South West
1 1 Pass Pass
Double 2 Pass Pass
Double 2 2 Pass
4 All pass

Opening lead:  9

On the diagrammed hand at a recent club game, Flustered Flo, who sat South, managed to go Down Three in a 4 Spades Game contract.

That seemed a bit out of line since five other North-South pairs made 4 Spades, even though one of them had not bid it.

The result was a tie for bottom for Flo and her North partner, Loyal Larry, because one other North-South pair unwisely chose to play a Game contract in 3 No-Trump and also went Down Three. But it was a tie for tops for Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, who played West, and his East partner, Shy Shem.

“I can’t believe your defense was that brilliant,” Flo said to Sam. “But I find it hard to believe that my Declarer play was that bad, also. So which was it?”

“I’m afraid your play was really that bad, Flo,” said Sam. “You never seemed to have a strategic plan how to get your 10 tricks, and you didn’t take advantage of the information available to you to place the cards in our hands. The bidding marked me for being 5-5 in Hearts and Clubs, so I probably had nothing in Spades and Diamonds. Whatever cards you were missing in those suits would probably be in my partner’s West hand.”

“Let’s see,” said Flo. “After you guys took the Ace of Hearts on the opening trick, I got a Queen of Clubs lead on the second trick to dummy’s Ace. Then I drew two rounds of trump ending up in my hand and getting the bad news about the trump split. I ruffed a Heart in dummy and drew another round of trump with dummy’s Queen. Then I led the Ace of Diamonds since I couldn’t get back to my hand and followed up with the Diamond Queen to your King. Then I lost control of the trump suit because you drew out my last trump with your Jack and you led a Heart to let your partner take three Heart tricks before he had to give me the last trick with the King of Clubs. So what was so terrible about that? I was just unlucky with the trump split.”

“You didn’t maximize you opportunities for entries into your hand for finesses through me,” said Sam, smug as always. “Believe it or not, with my 4 points I was actually your more dangerous opponent.”

“So how could I have played it that way?” Flo asked.

“You should have realized that to make 10 tricks, you needed three tricks drawing trump and two more ruffs with your trump, two Club tricks and then three Diamond tricks, which you can only get by executing finesses or end-playing me.”

“Easier said than done,” scoffed Flo.

“Well, here’s how someone did it at one of the other tables that made 4 Spades,” said Sam. “South ruffed a second Heart lead in dummy, came to his hand with the Spade Ace and ruffed his last Heart in dummy. He next drew another round of trumps with dummy’s King. He then led dummy’s Ace-King of Clubs. My hand did not ruff the second Club because then he would lose control of the trump suit. Declarer then led a low Club to East’s 10. East came back a Club, which was ruffed and over-ruffed by my West hand, but then my hand was end-played. I had to lead Diamonds into you and give you the free finesses you couldn’t set up for yourself.”

“That’s too much razzle-dazzle for me,” said Flo. “Just give me a 3-2 trump split next time.”

“Anyone can play the easy hands, Flo,” said Sam. “It’s time you learned how to play the difficult ones.”

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