Silver…at last

Well, I finally did it. I went over the 1,000-point mark and I am now officially a Silver Life Master.

It seems like only yesterday that I had just 100 or so points and I looked up to people who had around 800 points as if that was an impossible mountain to climb. I thought I’d never get there, but now it’s happened.

A while ago, my partner Christine and I (she’s about 200 points ahead of me and since we play almost exclusively with each, that’s the way it’ll probably stay) thought that I’d be a cinch to make Silver Life Master by the end of October, but then we hit a dry patch and got shut out a couple of times.

It seemed like I’d never get those last four points or so I would need to get to 1,000. I got frustrated and we were probably putting too much pressure on ourselves to get me across that imaginary finish line.

But it didn’t take long in the first week of November to break the barrier. It was a bit of a roller-coaster, since at one point we thought we had it but we had double-counted one score and we were still a little short. Then we thought we had won a whopping 5.03 Silver points at one session of the Bernie Chazen Memorial Sectional in Palm Beach Gardens, but two scoring corrections knocked us down to 1.94.

In any event, we’re now sure that I went over the 1,000-point mark at some point on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, either at a sanctioned charity event my partner Christine and I played in Vero Beach in the morning, coming in first in our section, or during the afternoon session of the Palm Beach Gardens Sectional that same day when we also placed first in our section with a 57% game for the corrected score of 1.94 Silver MasterPoints.

We had a good tournament at Palm Beach, getting another first place among B players (fourth overall) with a 59% game Saturday afternoon in an extremely tough field where just about every table had at least one professional player. That got us another 3.29 points. And we topped off the weekend in the Sunday Swiss competition with our friends Ann and Dick Bottelli, notching .72 points for our two wins.

I guess it’s not that unusual that your best results come when the pressure is off, when you play just for fun and don’t strive to obtain a specific result.

One of our best hands from our most successful Saturday afternoon session at the Sectional was one on which we became one of only two pairs to bid and make a 4 “thin” Spades Game on a combined rather flimsy 21 points.

What made us do it? Well, sometimes ignorance is bliss. My partner Christine was an overcaller when she first bid a Spade as South. She could have had anywhere from 8 to 15 points. As North, I chose to believe that she was probably more toward the upper range of that point spread, so I put her in Game. She wasn’t, but once she landed there, all she could do was try and make the contract, which she did.

The unfortunate East player who could have prevented the whole thing by passing out the hand will be my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo in this episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar, while I’ll be her nemesis, Smug Sam, with the North hand, and Christine will be my South partner as Shy Shem.

North Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The bidding:

West North East South
Pass Pass 1 1
2 2 NT Pass 3
Pass 4 All Pass

Opening lead: 10 of Diamonds

One of the most un-specific bids in bridge is the overcall at the one level. After an opponent has opened the auction, most partnership agreements say that an overcall could indicate anywhere between 8 and 15 points. That’s one of the widest margins for any bid in bridge. You just don’t know yet what kind of hand your partner has.

But sometimes that ignorance is bliss, as the diagrammed hand played at a recent Sectional in Flustered Flo’s home state shows.

Flo sat East, and after two passes, she had to decide whether to pass, bid one Diamond or open with a weak 2 Diamond bid. She’s trying to bid more aggressively, so she opened a Diamond. That gave South, Shy Shem, the opportunity to make an overcall bid of a Spade. Flo’s West partner, Loyal Larry, bid 2 Clubs, after which Shem’s North partner, Flustered Flo’s nemesis Smug Sam, bid 2 No-Trump, indicating that he had Hearts as well as stoppers in each of the minors.

But Shem didn’t relish playing No-Trump when the opponents had bid both minors where she had nothing, so she was forced to rebid her Spades. Then Smug Sam decided to take a shot at Game in 4 Spades.

Shem took the opening lead with dummy’s Ace of Diamonds, and immediately tried the Heart finesse, which succeeded spectacularly when Flo put up her King right away to cover dummy’s Queen. Shem went back to the dummy with another Heart to try the finesse on the missing trump King, but it failed. Larry had no better lead than to return a trump, but Shem finished drawing trumps, set up his King of Clubs by leading a low Club from his hand, and claimed the rest of the tricks he needed with his good Hearts and the remaining trumps.

Shem made his contract, having lost only one trick in trumps, a Diamond and the Ace of Clubs. The contract turned out to have been unbeatable.

“If I’m not mistaken,” said Flo, “you guys had only 21 points between you. How did you even dare bid Game on that? Some chutzpah!”

“To tell the truth,” said Sam, smug as always, “I had no idea how strong my partner’s hand was. She was an overcall after you opened the bidding, so she could have had anywhere between 8 and 15 points. I chose to believe he was more toward the upper end of that point range. It turned out he was more toward the lower end, and he repeated his Spades out of desperation, not strength. I chose to interpret it as strength when I took him to Game, and he almost had a heart attack when I did. But once he was in Game, he just tried to make it, which is what he had to do,”

“Is there any way we could have prevented this disaster of getting a tie for a bottom on the hand?” Flo asked.

“Not in the play, but in the bidding, for sure,” said Sam.

“What should I have done?” asked Flo.

“Keep your mouth shut,” said Sam. “If you don’t open your 10-point hand, my partner, whose name isn’t Shy Shem for nothing, won’t open the bidding, either, and the hand gets passed out.”

“And I thought you were telling me to be more aggressive in my bidding?” said Flo.

“Everything in bridge is situational,” said Sam. “There are times to be aggressive, and times to decide that discretion is the better part of valor. A weak 2 Diamonds bid would have been a more accurate description of your hand, but your best move would have been to pass.”

“And how was I supposed to know that?” Flo asked.


  1. Gordon Wilkinson says:

    It’s easy to be one of many but exciting to be one of a few.

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