Mel’s Rule of 2

My partner Christine and I have made it something of a priority to try and qualify for the North American Bridge Championships this summer in Toronto, Canada, in the B classification of the Grand National Teams (GNT) competition. This past weekend (2-25-2017) we took the first step toward that goal by qualifying for Florida’s District 9 playoffs in Palm Beach Gardens April 28-29 with our friends Pam and Frank “Monty” Page at the Wickham Park Senior Center club in Melbourne.

If we place first, second or third in April, we qualify for the Nationals at the end of July in Toronto, we earn lots of MasterPoints and we get paid some stipends by both the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and by District 9, so that the costs of the trip are basically covered. (If we place fourth, I believe that we can go and compete in the Nationals if we want, but we won’t get any money.)

We’re tickled pink that the Pages agreed to play with us because they’re good players, good friends, and they will travel to the next stages. In past years, we made it to the Nationals once in the North American Pairs (NAP) competition by placing second in the playoffs, but we had trouble qualifying for GNT team events because our home club in Vero Beach offers few open team games (that’s another story!). Even if we qualified somewhere, we never had the right partners willing to travel and commit to the next step.

Last Saturday with the Pages, we didn’t exactly blow away the field of 12 teams in a GNT qualifying game. We came in third, earning .93 Red and .93 Black MasterPoints for a total of 1.86. Four teams were tied at the top with 3-1 won-lost records in head-to-head competition, but the “C” team of the Reimondys and our friends Tom Ahlin and Frieda Martin took first place overall with most victory points. The team anchored by the Phebuses also snuck in ahead of us, relegating us to third place.

We were hurt by one hand in the Reimondy match when we went down one in a 6 No-Trump Small Slam on a combined 32 high-card points because our points in Diamonds fell over each other and we couldn’t avoid two losers. Tom and Frieda stopped at 3 NT making 5 and got 13 International MatchPoints (IMPs) for the winning margin as a result. It wasn’t the worst Slam I’d ever been in, but it was unmakeable. Had that match been more or less even – as it was on all the other boards – we would have taken first place.

Oh well, cowardice got rewarded again! But we achieved our main goal, to qualify for the state playoffs.

Still, we did a lot more good than bad, and one board we were particularly proud of was from the match against Dave Casper’s team, when both the Pages and we got part scores on the same hand, which, by adding them up, gave us a nice total of 6 IMPs, about half of our winning margin.

At both tables we followed unconventional bidding systems to get positive results. The Pages use a strong 1 Club opening and a weak No-Trump, so with the East-West cards, they opened a Club and wound up in 3 Hearts, making it for 140 points. We used Mel’s Rule of 2 and the Cappelletti defensive bidding convention against Dave Caspar’s classic 1 NT opening to arrive at 2 Diamonds, making it for plus-90 and a combined 230 score or 6 IMPs.

Some people say Swiss is all about making your Games, but getting a non-vulnerable Game for 420 points while your teammates get only 170 at the other table provides a margin of only 250 points and exactly the same 6 IMPs. So this hand is proof that you CAN get good results with partials!

East Dealer; neither side vulnerable:

A Q J 7
10 9 8 6 4 3
J 3
West East
10 9 3 K 9
J 10 6 4 A Q 5 3
A 7 5 Q J
Q 9 6 A 10 8 7 5
8 5 4 2
K 9 8 2
K 2
K 4 2
East South West North
1 NT Pass Pass 2 *
Pass 2 ** All Pass

*alerted as a Cappelletti defensive convention bid, indicating a long suit, probably not Clubs
**alerted as a forced convention bid inviting partner to bid his suit, or pass Diamonds

Opening lead: 6 of Clubs

Flustered Flo is always chagrined by the fact that her nemesis, Smug Sam, seems to get away with violating all the rules she has been taught.

On the diagrammed deal from a recent Grand National Teams qualifying event at her home club, Flo had the 1 No-Trump opener with the East hand. When her left-hand opponent passed and her own West partner, Loyal Larry, passed also, Flo thought she’d probably get to play one of those 1 NT contracts.

But Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, was in the fourth pass-out seat as North and he wasn’t about to let that happen. He bid 2 Clubs, duly alerted by his South partner, Shy Shem, as a Cappelletti defensive convention bid indicating a six-card suit somewhere other than Clubs. Flo didn’t have a rebid after 2 Clubs, so she passed, and when Shem made the forced 2 Diamonds response inviting Sam to bid his suit, Shem was left to play 2 Diamonds when everyone passed.

Flo took the opening lead with the Club Ace and returned a Club to Shem’s King. Shem went to dummy with the Spade Ace and led the Heart, putting Flo in the lead again with the Ace. Flo led another Club which got ruffed in dummy and then Shem started the trumps, leading the 10, which was covered by the Jack and the King before Larry took his Ace.

Larry returned a Spade to Flo’s King, but Flo’s only lead now was a Heart to Shem’s King. Another trump forced out Flo’s Jack, and this time the Heart she led next got ruffed in dummy. Shem pulled out Larry’s last trump and claimed the remaining tricks with good Spades and trumps to make his contract for a plus-90 score. Shem had lost only two trump tricks and one trick in each of the side suits, even though he and Sam had only a combined 17 high-card points to 23 for Flo and Larry.

At the other table, Sam and Shem’s teammates wound up playing and making 3 Hearts, so Sam’s team won the board by a total 230 points or 6 International Match Points (IMPs), the same margin they would have gotten from bidding and making a non-vulnerable Game missed at the other table.

Flo was livid at Sam’s gall for jumping into the auction. “How dare you make your partner bid Diamonds when you have a suit with no honors, nothing higher than a 10?” Flo fumed. “And while we’re at it, I thought you weren’t supposed to bid a weak 2 in a minor when you have a four-card major?”

“Our card doesn’t say anything about the strength of the suit,” said Sam, smug as always. “All I promised my partner was that I had six of them. And as for not bidding a six-card minor when you have a four-card major, that may be one of your so-called rules, Flo, but it’s not one of mine.”

“You shouldn’t have bid at all with that pathetic 8-point hand of yours,” said Flo, not giving up yet. “You should have let me play One No-Trump and I’d probably make 2 for a plus-120 score.”

“And that’s exactly why I didn’t let you play that,” said Sam. “I go by a different rule, Mel’s Rule of 2. It says that if you’re in the pass-out seat after your left-hand opponent has opened One No-Trump and two other people have passed, if you have at least 2 distribution points, bid! And that means regardless of points. I had a singleton Heart, so I had to bid.”

“What kind of crazy rule is that?” Flo asked.

“Not so crazy,” explained Sam. “See, after a One No opening and two passes, the points are probably close to a 20-20 split, says Mel Colchamiro of Mel’s rules. So if you have any distributional advantage, get in the auction and bid.”

“So my rules are no good and yours always work?” Flo asked.

“Only the ones I choose to follow, Flo,” said Sam.


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