2-Day Monkey Business

Our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, this past weekend experimented with a two-day Sectional tournament, instead of the usual three-day format. According to the club’s managers, they made just as much money off a two-day Sectional on Saturday and Sunday only as they used to earn off a three-day event.

How can that be? Well, for a three-day Sectional starting on Friday, the club would have had to cancel a 0-20 MasterPoint student game, a 0-299 limited Non-Life Master game, as well as a lesson, and all those events are well attended in winter, so the club would have lost a lot of revenue there.

But in the end, whether to hold a two- or a three-day Sectional wasn’t a question of money – the finances were pretty much a wash. The deciding factor was that the Vero club wanted to be responsive to the wishes of most of its newest players, who enjoy the social atmosphere of their NLM games and aren’t interested in matching wits with visiting sharks from elsewhere. They’re not into earning the Silver MasterPoints they need to aspire to the next ranks bestowed on them by the ACBL.

So whether clubs are better off holding two-day or three-day Sectionals depends on demographics. If your populace consists mainly of Life Masters who love competing with visitors in tournaments for colored points, you’re better off with three-day events that command higher card fees. If you’re lucky enough to have a lot of beginners who just want to play and don’t care about silver points, you’re probably better off going with the two-day format and not cannibalizing your own NLM club games.

In Vero Beach, the two-day Sectional was an experiment and for its next Sectional in February, the club will return to the usual three-day format.

My partner Christine and I did okay in the Sectional, scoring 53% Saturday morning (12-2-2017) for .68 Silver MasterPoints, and topping that with a 56% performance in the afternoon, good enough for a second-place in the B stratification and 1.63 Silver. In the Sunday Swiss team game, we got another .60 points for two wins (against 4 losses) with our friends Dick and Ann Bottelli.

Apart from the points, we got a lesson on a new kind of double from our friend Reannette Frobouck, a well-to-do snowbird from Pittsburgh who used to hire the best professionals in the country, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell, for her knockout teams at National championships.

Reannette popped a “stripe-tailed ape” double on me when I bid 5 Spades. I made my contract with an overtrick for a whopping 1,050 points, but Reannette was happy, because her double scared me out of going to Slam, which would have been 1,430 points. The point of the “stripe-tailed ape” double is that if I had called her bluff and redoubled, she would have run away like a stripe-tailed monkey to her own suit to bid 6 or 7 Diamonds, whatever would have been necessary. As a matter of fact, the hand records later showed that 7 Diamonds doubled Down Five for minus-1,100 was the par score on the hand.

For allowing Reannette to scare me away from my Slam, I’ll be Flustered Flo in this latest episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar with the South Declarer hand, while Reannette with the West hand will be my nemesis, Smug Sam. Sam is playing with his usual East partner, Shy Shem, while Christine will be playing the role of my North partner, Loyal Larry.

East Dealer; North-South vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

East South West North
3 Double 5 Double
Pass 5 Double All Pass

Opening lead: Ace of Diamonds

There’s a proliferation of doubles in the modern duplicate bridge game. Apart from the normal penalty doubles, there are negative doubles, stolen-bid doubles, takeout doubles, maximal doubles, constructive doubles, support doubles, responsive doubles, DOPI convention doubles, Meckwell No-Trump defense convention doubles, Lightner Slam doubles asking for an unusual lead and probably a few more.

Flustered Flo thought she knew just about all of them until she was hit with a new double she’d never heard of – the stripe-tailed ape double. Naturally, it had to be her nemesis, Smug Sam, who had to use it against her.

Flo sat South on the wildly distributional diagrammed hand played at a recent Sectional tournament at her home club. She knew she wanted to be at least in Game in 4 Spades, and maybe more, depending on what her North partner, Loyal Larry, had. But she knew there would be trouble along the way when her East opponent, Smug Sam’s partner Shy Shem, opened pre-emptively with a 3 Diamonds bid. Flo doubled to hear what Larry had before she would switch suits to her Spades, but from the West suit, Sam made it even more difficult for Flo, raising the bid to 5 Diamonds.

However, Larry doubled the 5 Diamonds, inviting Flo to bid her best major, which was obviously Spades so she bid 5 Spades, drawing a somewhat surprising double from Sam.

The play of the hand in the doubled 5 Spades contract was rather uneventful. Sam’s Ace of Diamonds held on the opening trick, but that was the only trick he and his partner took, as Flo captured Sam’s King of Hearts with dummy’s Ace on the second trick, drew one round of trump, collected her two top Clubs and took the rest of the tricks with a cross-ruff.

The score was 1,050 for Flo and Larry, and Flo couldn’t figure out why Sam had such a smug look on his face.

“Just curious – why did you double me?” Flo asked. “You gave me a doubled overtrick. Those aren’t cheap.”

“Of course I knew that,” said Sam, still smug as always. “It was my typical stripe-tailed ape double and it was designed to make you run scared so you wouldn’t bid Slam. And it worked! Your Slam in Spades was cold, but you didn’t bid it. That would have given you 1,430 points.”

“Why is it called a stripe-tailed ape double?” Flo inquired.

“Because if you call my bluff and redouble, then I have to run like a monkey to the top of the tree in our own suit and bid 6 or 7 Diamonds, as high as I need to go,” said Sam. “Going Down Five doubled in 7 Diamonds only gives you 1,100 points, much less than the 1,430 for the Slam.

“By the way,” Sam continued, “there’s still a big argument if the term stripe-tailed ape was invented by some bridge players with a warped sense of humor, or whether such animals really exist. But I’ve seen pictures. And there really is a lemur with a striped tail living in the jungles of southern Madagascar.”

“But we both know many cowards in this room won’t bid the Slam,” said Flo. “Isn’t it counter-productive to double me at 5 Spades and give me a doubled overtrick? You risk giving yourself a bottom.”

“I can’t worry too much about the rest of the room. All I worry about is getting the best possible score against you on this hand at this table,” said Sam. “I felt pretty sure you would go to 6 Spades, and therefore I had to do something to scare you off, giving up only 1,050 points instead of 1,430. Take it as a compliment from me that I had you pegged as a Slam bidder.”

“Thanks for the compliment, I guess,” said Flo … “and for the natural history lesson about Madagascar monkeys.”

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