Double the Fun

My partner Christine and I like to combine bridge and something else in our travels, and this past weekend (3/4-3/6/2016) it was bridge and baseball. On Friday we played in the Stuart Silver Sectional because it was the home tournament of Florida’s chief director Harry Falk, and we figured we couldn’t very well stand him up. Then on Friday we drove across the peninsula to play in a small Sectional at Bradenton, where we still had to make our own boards and score on slips of paper, with director Karl Miller.

And the weekend culminated in our attendance in Clearwater at a sold-out Phillies-Yankees spring training baseball game in absolutely perfect weather. The Phillies at one point were up 6-1 and held on for a 6-5 win.

It got us thinking that bridge and baseball really have a lot of similarities:

Both are played over 9 rounds (innings) and each round generally consists of 3 boards (outs).

Baseball games and bridge sessions generally last just over 3 hours and slow play is the bane of all umpires and directors.

In both baseball and bridge, you alternate between offense and defense.

Both have Aces. In bridge they head suits; in baseball they head pitching staffs.

Both have Clubs, and baseball is played on a Diamond.

Bridge has red and black suits, and baseball has the Reds, the Red Sox and the Red Birds. It seems like they also had the Black Sox at one point (1919).

Both have squeeze plays, which are difficult to execute but very exciting when you can pull them off successfully.

Bridge has Kings, Jacks and Queens; baseball has home run kings and jacks of all trades, and the ball girls are often beauty queens.

In both baseball and bridge, you sometimes post zeroes – except it’s a lot more painful in bridge.

Both baseball and bridge are scored in percentages. Anyone scoring over 50% in bridge often has a chance at glory with MasterPoints; in baseball a record over .500 may get you close to the glory of post-season play.

Steals are good in both games; stealing a contract is very satisfying – so is stealing a base.

And hesitations are bad in both games. In baseball pitchers who hesitate in their motions get called for balks and their opponents get to advance a base. In bridge those who hesitate get their bids taken away from them and have a score substituted.

It happened to us again in the afternoon session in Bradenton, when I got doubled in 3 Hearts, which was an obvious sacrifice because both Christine and I were passed hands. My left-hand opponent doubled, but only after his partner, Lou Rabinowicz, had thought for a long time before passing. We called Karl, the director and called attention to the hesitation, with the doubler outright denying that there had been a break in tempo, which was a blatant lie. Karl said he’d investigate.

After play was over, he told us how. He didn’t ask Rabinowicz if he had indeed hesitated. He simply asked him: “What were you thinking about?” When Rabinowicz replied that he had not understood his partner’s previous bid (2 No-Trump) before the final double, Karl had heard enough – there had indeed been a hesitation, so he took Rabinowicz’s double away and adjusted the score in our favor from minus-100 to minus-50. That gave us a better-than-par score and an extra one-half match point.

It didn’t change our final standing but we wound up in first in the B stratification with a 52% game that earned us 1.01 Silver MasterPoints. (At one of the previous day’s sessions in Stuart, we had also placed first among the Bs in our section with a 57% game and earned another 2.32 points.

One of the more interesting hands we played was from the Saturday afternoon session in Bradenton when we tied for top on a board because I executed a rare two-way finesse to make an overtrick in a 3 No-Trump contract that only one other pair also found.

My hapless West opponent who gave us the top by slavish adherence to one of bridge’s so-called “rules” will become Flustered Flo in this latest episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar. I’ll be Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, with the South Declarer hand, and Christine will be my North partner, Shy Shem.

South Dealer; North-South vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead: 10 of Clubs

There’s a so-called “rule” in bridge that you always have to cover an honor with an honor. Supposedly, it’s always good bridge to have an opponent sacrifice two honors to catch just one of yours.

But, as Flustered Flo found out as West on the diagrammed hand played at a recent Sectional duplicate tournament in her home state, almost no rule applies universally in all cases, and everything is more likely to be situational. By her slavish adherence to the “rule,” she actually gave her nemesis, the South Declarer Smug Sam, the chance to executive a rare two-way finesse that gave him an overtrick in a 3 No-Trump contract.

That overtrick was enough to give Sam and his North partner, Shy Shem, a tie for top on the board and relegated Flo and her East partner, Loyal Larry, to a tie for bottom.

Shem jumped straight from Sam’s 1NT opener to Game in 3 NT on total high-card points and decided not to use the Stayman convention to show his four-card Heart suit because he wisely realized that his flat hand had no ruffing values if Hearts were to become trump.

Sam ducked the opening Club lead from dummy and so did Larry from the East seat. Sam took the trick with his Ace and followed with the Queen of Spades. Flo covered with the King, Sam took the trick with the Ace and immediately led a small Spade off dummy, playing the 9 from his hand when Larry followed low.

Sam collected the remaining two Spade tricks, collected all four Diamond tricks and the Ace of Hearts before surrendering the last three tricks. Sam had made his 3 NT Game contract with an overtrick, taking all four Spade and Diamond tricks and the two side Aces, which turned out to be a tie for top for Sam and Shem, and a tie for bottom for Flo and Larry.

“I don’t understand what we did wrong and why we got such a bad score on that board,” Flo asked Sam when she found him looking at the posted results.

“You shouldn’t have covered my Queen of Spades with your King,” explained Sam, smug as always. That gave me the extra trick with the two-way finesse on your partner’s 10.”

“But they always taught me,” Flo protested, “that it’s always good to make my opponent spend two honors to catch one of mine. It’s supposed to be one of those rules in bridge.”

“I keep telling, Flo,” said Sam, “there are no rules in bridge. Everything is situational. Just look at that board. If I have Queen-Jack-10 of Spades, it doesn’t make any difference whether you cover the Queen with your King or not, because then I have at least three Spade tricks anyway, and maybe a fourth if I have the 13th Spade. But you might as well not make is so easy for me and hold up your king, so don’t cover on the first trick.

“But if I don’t have the 10, and it’s in third position in your partner’s hand, then you can get a Spade trick,” Sam continued. “You hold up the King for one round. If I lead the Jack, you then cover and make your partner’s 10 good. If I lead low from my hand on the second Spade trick, you also play low and either you make your King good or your partner gets his 10. You must hold up that King for at least one round.”

“That’s a lot of what-ifs for me,” said Flo. “I prefer simple rules. Cover or not – so what’s the answer?”

“Nothing is simple about bridge, Flo,” said Sam.

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