An Unusual Entry

Bridge players love to tell each other about the strangest things that ever happened during a bridge tournament they attended. We keep telling people about the time when the a/c went out during a Regional in Fort Lauderdale, where profuse sweating made everyone Ill-tempered, and also about the time a Sectional had to be canceled in the Palm Beaches because someone had stolen 80 feet of copper wire and there was no electricity.

In Dallas, Texas they told us the club where we played was robbed once. Thieves relieved players in one room of cash and valuables while they were completely unaware that another section was playing in an adjoining room – and those players were blissfully unaware their colleagues were being robbed.

But one of the strangest things we ever witnessed happened on Friday (1/29/2016) at the Margret Sectional – so named after the two co-managers of the club named Marianne and Gretchen – at the St. Petersburg bridge club in the suburb of Pinellas Park.

In the middle of the morning session, a late-model Mercedes came crashing through the back wall of the club, coming to rest just short of Table C4 at the far end of the Non-Life Masters game. It turned out that Gretchen herself, one of the co-managers, had hit the accelerator on a beautiful new Mercedes instead of the brake and had thus entered her own club in a most unconventional way, bouncing off the dumpster and taking part of the outer wall with her. The pushed-in wall propelled inward by the car came to rest inches from the back of the North player at Table C4, but although the loud crash caused general consternation and interrupted the tournament for quite a while, no one was seriously hurt.

Gretchen, who had been moving the car of one of her players because it had not been properly parked, got some medical attention for a bruised hand sustained in the crash, but was back at the tournament in the afternoon, supervising the emergency repairs to the wall.

“My next stunt will be in 15 minutes,” she announced to the crowd with a touch of black humor.

A construction crew significantly disturbed the players’ peace during the afternoon session, with loud hammering and sawing to close the hole in the wall provisionally with plywood until more permanent repairs could be made the following week.

My partner Christine thought someone was being tortured next door by a dentist, and she felt so sorry for the poor patient that she lost her concentration at times. Actually I played the first couple of boards very badly myself and I don’t know what my excuse could have been. In any event, we started off in a deep hole from which we weren’t quite able to extract ourselves and wound up under 50 percent and out of the points.

We recovered nicely the next day, with a 54 percent game in the morning, good enough for second place and 1.69 Silver MasterPoints followed by a 51 percent game in the afternoon for second place in the B stratification and another .83 MasterPoints (a total one-day haul of 2.52 points).


We did have several good boards in the latter part of Friday afternoon after the hammering and sawing had stopped and we tied for tops with a 94 percent score on one board where both Christine and myself exaggerated the values in our hands just a little, but enough for the opponents to get scared and let me play 3 Spades, which I made.

Our opponents must have been mighty surprised to see that they got only 6 percent on the hand and a tie for bottom, because they could have had their choice of a Game in 5 Clubs or even a Small Slam in 6 Diamonds.

Our West opponent who missed bidding a Game in either minor or a Small Slam in Diamonds will become my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo in this latest Bridge Burglar blog entry, while I’ll be Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, with the South Declarer hand.

South Dealer; North-South vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

South West North East
1 2 2 3
3 All Pass

Opening lead: 4 of Diamonds

When everyone around the table is bidding, bridge players generally add up the minimum points everyone would need for their bids to decide whether to go higher in the auction or let the opponents have the bid in the hopes of being able to set them.

 But what if one or more of the players around the table are lying about their point counts? Then adding up the supposed point totals can lead you to a very wrong decision, as Flustered Flo found out at a recent Sectional tournament in her home state with the West hand.

After Smug Sam, her nemesis, had opened the South hand with a Spade, she had overcalled 2 Clubs and Sam’s North partner, the normally timid Shy Shem, had responded 2 Spades from the North seat. Flo’s own East partner, Loyal Larry, then came in with a (to her) surprising 3 Diamonds bid. Encouraged by his partner’s support, Sam then went to 3 Spades. Before passing, Flo did a quick calculation. For his 1 Spade opening, Sam had to have at least 12 points. To respond, Shem had to have at least 6 points, so that left only 22 for her and Larry. Since she had a good 15 herself, that left only 7 for Larry – he must have been bidding Diamonds only on length.

With that kind of math, Flo decided there was no way she and Larry could make 4 Diamonds on just 22 high-card points between them even in a best-case scenario, so she just passed, letting Sam play 3 Spades.

Flo was surprised to see Larry come up with the two high Diamonds on the first two tricks and then lead the King of Clubs – he had more points than she had him pegged for. Sam ruffed the next Club lead, drew trump and gave up a trick to Flo’s Ace of Hearts, but he had his 9 tricks to make his contract and score 140 points.

“I had 15 points myself and my partner turned out to have had almost a full opener,” Flo said after play was over and it was revealed she and Larry where in a tie for bottom on the board. “You guys must have been lying about your points.”

“Now, now Flo, those are rather harsh words,” said Sam, smug as always. “At most we might exaggerate a little. I had 10 points and a singleton myself so I figured that was close enough for an opening bid. And my partner, well, he had 4 points but apparently he gave himself one extra point for the four-card trump support and another point for the doubleton in Diamonds, so he thought he had a legitimate 6 points, good enough for one solid response.”

“That sounds like funky math to me,” said Flo.

“Whatever, Flo,” said Sam. “In any event you have to trust your partner more than you trust your opponents. With your 15 points you’re at the max for your overcall and your partner came in freely at the 3 level, so he had to have quite a bit of strength. You’ve got to take him to at least 5 Diamonds. As a matter of fact, 6 Diamonds makes, too.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Flo. “How?”

“All we get against 6 Diamonds is the Ace of Spades,” explained Sam. “You can get rid of two Heart losers on your extra Clubs.”

“But surely we could never bid that Slam,” said Flo.

 “I’m not so sure,” said Sam. “You can ask for Aces and find out you’re missing only one. Then you have to figure that a double fit in the minors is very powerful and will allow you to do some sloughing.”

 “Only a crazy man like you would do something like that,” said Flo. “But then again, you’re crazy enough to bid 3 Spades on your hand, so maybe you’re just crazy like a fox.”

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