Magic in Orlando

My partner Christine and I just returned from a successful, but exhausting seven straight days of competition at the fall North American Bridge Championships at Disney’s Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. We played on various teams and in pairs competitions, in double sessions most days, and got at least some points every day.

In retrospect, we probably chewed off too much, and we paid for it in disturbed sleep patterns and digestive systems. We should have known better because we wind up exhausted when we play every session of a three-day Sectional, and we’ve never played more than three or four days at week-long Regionals, either.

So why did we decide to do a whole week at the 10-day Nationals? We’d played a few sporadic rounds when the Nationals were in Philadelphia a few years ago, and we did a couple of sessions at the Atlanta Nationals three years ago when we were en route from Philadelphia to Florida. With both of us retired now and neither one of us having work-related time restrictions, and with the Nationals being so close, less than two hours from where we live, we wanted to take advantage and play as much as we could. Also, we tried to accommodate several requests from friends to play teams with them.

How do the pros do it when they play double team sessions every day for 10 straight days in the supercharged competitive atmosphere? Well, for one, they’re professionals and they do this almost every week of the year at Nationals or Regionals – it’s their job. They do nothing but this. For us, it’s still just a hobby, although for many of us it has become something approaching a passion.

But even pros need to take a mental health day off once in a while. Looking at blue-ribbon event winners at Nationals, some 75% of top-placed teams had five or six members rather than the minimum four, meaning that several team members could get a day off once in a while to recharge batteries.

Also, the pros have become more adept at concentrating their efforts. They can tell right away which boards will be flat where glory is unlikely to be obtained. They can dedicate all their mental energy to the challenging boards and competitive auctions that offer opportunities for big swings.

While the pros gathered their hundreds of points in the blue-ribbon events, Christine and I muddled along getting single-digit points, but we wound up with almost 16 points, more than 2 points a day spread between Red and Gold, and we were happy with that harvest.

Here’s a summary of what we did:

Monday 11-28: One win in team knockouts with our Vero Beach friends Dick and Ann Bottelli, worth .93 Red MasterPoints, and then 1.59 Red points for a single side session Swiss with a 3-1 record good enough for 5th place in the B stratification.

Tuesday 11-29: A decent 53% game in a side pairs game worth .99 Red points, and a satisfying 4th place overall in an evening Swiss team side game with Jean Kay and Betty Wiese from Vero, who were at the Nationals to take their required directors’ refresher course. Our 3-1 record got all of us 3.62 Red points.

Wednesday 11-30: With the Bottellis, we compiled a 4-2 record in a two-session, all-day Swiss; we were contending for the top spots all day long until we got blitzed on the last board, compiling a combined minus-1,400 score on the worst misfit ever. Christine was 6-6-1-0 and I was 7-5-1-0; of course our hands were a total mismatch. After that setback, we had to be content with just 1.40 Red points for four wins.

Thursday 12-1: Christine and I came in first in the B strat with a 57% score in a side pairs game good for 2.63 Red points – the only day we just played one single session.

Friday 12-2: With our Melbourne friends Kathy Pichardo and Marie LaChance, we got knocked out in the first round of a new knockout series, and then in the subsequent single Swiss side game, we scratched out one win for .25 Red points.

Saturday 12-3: Christine and I did well enough in a tough A/B/C field that included a professional at just about half the tables, but we finished the two-session competition with a 55% combined score good enough for second in our section and 3.13 Gold MasterPoints.

Sunday 12-4: We redeemed ourselves quite a bit with our Melbourne team, with a 4-3 won-lost record in a two-session all-day play-through Swiss event, but since our wins were by narrower margin than our losses, all we got was the 1.08 Red points for our four wins.

Our most satisfying wins came Monday evening in the team side game with the Bottellis when we stole a 3 No-Trump Game (with 3 overtricks, no less) that gave us 11 International MatchPoints (IMPs) and the match when our teammates set the same contract at the other table with correct defense.

In this latest episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar, the West player on the diagrammed deal will get to play the role of Flustered Flo for her woeful defense, while Christine gets to be her nemesis, Smug Sam, for a brazen bluff that was successful.

Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

North East South West
1 1 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead: 2 of Hearts

Flustered Flo knows that her nemesis, Smug Sam, often bests her with his adventurous bidding, and she still hasn’t quite figured out when to call his bluff.

On the diagrammed hand played at the recent Nationals in Orlando in a team competition, Flo sat West and with her three-point hand, there wasn’t much she could do to prevent Sam, in the South seat, from reaching a Game contract in 3 No-Trump.

Flo dutifully led a Heart, the suit her East partner Loyal Larry had bid as an overcall, on the opening trick. Larry took it with the Ace, and returned the 10 of Spades. He was convinced that Sam would never have bid 3 No-Trump without having the King as a Heart stopper.

That enabled Sam to run off the remaining 12 tricks. He took the first Spade with the Ace in the dummy, executed the successful finesse on the missing King of Diamonds to allow him to run five Diamond tricks, took the two top Spades sloughing a small Club from dummy, led the King of Clubs from his hand and took the rest of the tricks with dummy’s good Clubs when the Queen fell on the second round.

Sam had made his contract with three overtricks, and Flo was not happy with her partner.

“Why didn’t you return a Heart after the opening trick?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, partner,” said Larry. “But I could not believe that Sam would actually bid No-Trump without having the Heart King as a stopper in my suit.”

“Well, what did you have to lose by leading a Heart anyway?” Flo asked. “That contract should have been Down One. That’s a 590-point swing for them – just awful.”

Larry did not defend himself because he is – well, always extremely loyal to Flo, but Smug Sam himself had no such qualms.

“You have only yourself to blame, Flo,” said Sam, smug as always. “You should lead the highest card in your partner’s suit. And when you lead the King of Hearts and follow up with your next highest Heart, you will take the first five tricks to set me.”

“I didn’t do that because my partner’s overcalls are sometimes rather weak, like a five-card suit to the Jack, and then I wind up giving away an unprotected king that could have won a trick,” said Flo.

“Well, you could also have done something different in the auction to guarantee that you would set me,” said Sam.

“No way,” said Flo. “I can’t bid anything. I have only three points.”

“You can double my 3 No-Trump bid,” explained Sam. “That would be a clear signal to your partner that we have a chance to set the contract and the only chance is in Hearts. Then he would return your opening lead of the low Heart.”

“I did not think of that,” admitted Flo. “But if I double, you’d probably run to Diamonds.”

“That’s true,” said Sam, “and then we might bid and make a Small Slam in Diamonds, so perhaps your pass wasn’t so bad after all.”

“Since no one bid that Diamond Slam, that’s not much consolation to me now,” said Flo.

Speak Your Mind