Director, please!

In a month or so I’ll get a letter in the mail from the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) telling me if I’ve passed the test to become a club director. I took it this past Monday (1/29/2018) just before the start of the Lone Star Regional bridge tournament in Houston, TX, and I guess I can say with some degree of confidence that I do expect to have passed.

Of the 30 people in my class, I was the first to finish the 113 questions, taking just over half the three hours allotted for the open-book test. And although I’m sure I didn’t get every question correct, I only needed about 60-odd right answers to pass.

Although it was pretty intense, it was a good experience participating in two full days of study classes for the test and then taking the three-hour exam. Our class included a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT in Boston who said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, and a judge who said this test was tougher than the notoriously difficult bar exam for lawyers.

I’m not even sure I really want to become a club director. The job doesn’t pay very much and you take a lot of abuse from some players. And, more importantly, I like playing too much. But maybe I can help out my home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, directing student games in the morning and leaving me free to play in the afternoon Open games with my partner Christine, who loyally accompanied me to Houston and passed the time playing in a couple of club games in Houston with pickup partners while I was in my classes (she did well, getting scores of over 50% and MasterPoints both times).

In any event, I learned a lot more about the Laws of Bridge and how directors should apply them when there has been an irregularity at a table. We also covered how to set up games in Howell and Mitchell movements, with their variations such as bumps, skips and bystands, and we got into ACBLScore, the software program that reports all club results to ACBL headquarters and keeps track of members’ MasterPoints. It even allows you to set up special games for cruise ships and prisons – believe it or not!

Houston has a very active bridge scene with three big clubs spread across different parts of the gigantic city (metro area about 6 million) and the Lone Star Regional was a big tournament, the biggest Regional we’ve seen after Gatlinburg, TN. One day they had 15 different brackets for Swiss teams!

After taking my test, Christine and I stayed behind a couple days to play in the tournament and we did okay, getting points every time. On Monday afternoon we hooked up with my seatmate in the directors’ class, Bob Echols, and his partner from Minnesota, Carl Hartney, to play in the 4th highest Swiss bracket and we came in second with a 6-2 won/lost record, earning 7.76 Gold MasterPoints.

The next day we played in the two-session mid-flight pairs (no one could have more than 3,000 points in this event) and we happened to come up against Bob and Carl, whose planned partnership for another Swiss team match had fallen through. In the morning, Bob and Carl came in first North-South while we were first East-West with a 61% game, but in the afternoon we both fell back a bit. We wound up 4th in the Y category and added another 4.83 Gold to our MasterPoint haul.

The day of our departure on Wednesday, we played in a morning side game and came in tied for 2nd in the B stratification in our section with a 53% game that added another 1.26 Red MasterPoints to our record. My total two-day catch from Houston was almost 14 points, while Christine got close to 16 with her two club games.

Ironically, one of our best boards was from the mid-flight pairs Tuesday morning against our allies-turned-enemies Bob and Carl, where we got a top and they got a bottom zero because of our super-aggressive bidding. No one else in the field got to the 5 Diamonds I bid and made, which qualified the board for a Bridge Burglar blog entry.

We really played the board as East-West, but to make play easier to follow, I’ll turn the boards around and make myself the South Declarer. Carl, who’ll get the East hand, will become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, and Bob will be his West partner, Loyal Larry. I’ll be Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, with the South hand, and Christine will be my North partner, Shy Shem, although in this case she was anything but shy in raising me to the Game level in Diamonds

West Dealer; both sides vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

West North East South
Pass Pass 1 4
Pass 5 All Pass

Opening lead: 8 of Clubs

What can you do against a super-aggressive bidder who jumps all over the place and doesn’t leave you any room to explore where you and your partner might be able to play?

Bidding over them is a shot in the dark when you haven’t heard anything from your partner. Doubling them is risky – distributions and splits are probably crazy. So the only choice you may be left with is to pass and hope that they’ll go down.

That’s what Flustered Flo decided to do with her East hand after her nemesis, her South opponent Smug Sam, quickly reached Game in 5 Diamonds with the help of his North partner, Shy Shem. Flo had opened a Club, a very reasonable way to get the auction started in third seat, but after Sam shocked her by jumping right away to 4 Diamonds, she knew she was out of the auction. Loyal Larry had been all set to jump into the auction as West with a weak 2 Spades bid, but Sam’s jump silenced him as well.

Flo took the first two Club tricks and led another Club, but Sam was taking no risks and ruffed with the Ace, then drew out all the opponents’ trumps. He took his two top Spades, ending up in his hand, and then led the Jack of Hearts. When Larry covered from the West seat with his King, it was all over – Sam had made his 11 tricks for his contract. It was a top for Sam and Shem, and thus a bottom for Flo and Larry, since no other North-South pair had reached a Game contract.

“How did we deserve that zero?” Flo asked in frustration. “There was nothing we could have done to prevent them from making Game. What did we do wrong?”

“The only thing you did wrong was to sit down at this table and play this board against us,” said Sam, smug as always. “You know we’re aggressive bidders.”

“What did that 4 Diamonds bid mean anyway?” Flo asked. “That’s not any book I ever read and it wasn’t in any class I ever took, either. That bid simply didn’t exist for me.”

“It’s very simple, actually,” said Sam. “I couldn’t say 2 or 3 Diamonds because those would be weak bids. And I didn’t think I was quite strong enough to double and switch suits. And why go through that rigmarole when I knew I’d be playing the hand in Diamonds anyway? It would just give you guys information abut our strengths and weaknesses and give you a chance to get in. So my 4 Diamonds really tells my partner: ‘If you have anything useful to me, take me to Game.’ He had two Aces which were certainly useful, so he did.”

“But to make it, you needed to make the finesse on the King of Hearts,” said Flo. “You couldn’t be sure it would work.”

“Of course you can’t be sure of everything,” said Sam. “The only sure things in this world are death and taxes.”

“And the other sure thing is that you always seem to beat us, even when we haven’t done anything wrong,” said Flo.

Speak Your Mind