Bridge According to the Stars

The bridge players’ horoscope for the month of September, 2019:

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) – This is your lucky month! Your astrological sign is star-crossed and you’ll consistently get below-average hands in point count. So when you complain about never getting any cards, at least this time it’ll actually be true!

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) – If your partner is a Cancer, you’ll be able to blame him or her for all your disasters. This is not a good month for teaming up with Cancers. If you do, you’ll be at loggerheads all the time.

Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21) – If you make one more lead out of turn, that cute director might start suspecting that you just want to see him once again up close at the table and hear his dulcet voice as he recites the five options.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21) – Quit making faces at your partner when you don’t like her bidding or play. Your face is ugly enough as it is.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) – Might as well stay home and play at your club this month. If you go to that nearby tournament, you’ll probably run into the same irritating opponents from your club that you were trying to get away from.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18) – Try to sit East-West for a change. Your opponents will be surprised to see you’re not as decrepit and senile as they thought you were. (Besides, hot tip: The stars promise the cards will run for East-West this month.)

Pisces (Feb. 29-March 20) – Was the last time you made a finesse back in the Millard Fillmore administration? Your luck is not about the change, so don’t take any more losing finesses.

Aries (March 21-April 19) – This is a good time to get an excellent score through a penalty double – too bad you’ve eliminated all penalty doubles below Game level from your convention card.

Taurus (April 20-May 20) – If you’ve been following all the rules and you’re still losing, maybe it’s time to stop blindly following a bunch of so-called “rules” and try to think for yourself just once.

Gemini (May 21-June 21) – Your prayers for no more 4-1 trump splits have been answered. Get ready – this month you’ll get a 5-0 trump split instead.

Cancer (June 22-July 22) – If your partner says, “Where’s the hand you were bidding?” after you put your dummy down, it may be time to look for another partner. No, wait! He’s already looking for another partner, saving you the trouble.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22) – If you believe that the dealing machine has been set on “evil” because of these impossible hands you’ve been getting, go play in team game once where human beings shuffle and deal the cards randomly. You’ll discover a universal truth: Human beings are more evil than machines.

* * * * *

Talking about crazy stuff, here’s a hand from August’s first-Saturday-of-the-month 8-is-enough (Pro-am) Swiss teams event at the Vero Beach Bridge Club (8-3-2019). I don’t think I’ve ever had an 7-6-0-0 distribution with two voids, and I made the most of it, thanks to a couple of boo-boos by our good friend David Jarvis, who will have to become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, in this episode of the adventures of the Bridge Burglar.

Going into the last two rounds, David’s team of himself, Gail Reams and the two Romanians, Nick Michaels and Victor Tigamina, was tied for first place with the eventual winners, the team of Jamie Portell, Boots Van Nostrand, Mike Williams and Doug Ell. But thanks to the crazy hand, our team of Christine and myself with Marilyn Cance and Beth Sexton-Stryker, zoomed into second place behind the Jamie-Boots team, and relegated the Jarvis-Reams team to third place. The Boots team got 1.98 MasterPoints; we followed with 1.49 points and the Jarvis-Reams team was third with 1.11. All other teams only got fractions of points from a few head-to-head wins.

On the crazy hand, I’m South (Smug Sam) and my partner Christine is North as Shy Shem. Dave is East as Flustered Flo and Gail is West as her partner, Loyal Larry.

North dealer, Neither side vulnerable:


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

The Bidding:

West North East South
(Loyal Larry) (Shy Shem) (Flustered Flo) (Smug Sam)
Pass* 1
2 3 3 4
5 5 Pass 6
Pass Pass Double All Pass

*East passed out of turn, but by digging over the Pass, South accepted the bid out of turn.

Opening Lead: Ace of Diamonds

They say that there’s not much of a penalty these days for a pass out of turn, but that’s not always true.

On the diagrammed hand at a recent club team game, Flustered Flo with the East hand wasn’t paying attention and passed out of turn. South, her nemesis Smug Sam, was extremely anxious to start telling the story about his extremely unusual hand with two voids and accepted the pass out of turn, opening the auction with One Heart.

As the auction proceeded, Sam was able to tell his partner about his two dynamite majors, and when Shy Shem offered support for Spades, Sam went to 6 Spades despite spirited interference in Diamonds from Flo and her partner, Loyal Larry.

Flo thought that Slam was surely a stretch with his partner having an opening hand, so he doubled.

Sam ruffed the opening Diamond lead in his hand, cashed the Ace of Hearts and ruffed a Heart in dummy, cashed dummy’s Ace of Clubs, sloughing a Heart, and came to his hand ruffing another Diamond.

Sam next ruffed another Heart in dummy as Flo’s Queen fell, drew one round of trump with dummy’s Ace, ruffed his last Diamond in his hand, drew out the opponent’s last trumps and claimed all 13 tricks with good Hearts and a trump.

Sam had made the doubled Small Slam with an overtrick, fur a plus-1,310 score that gave Sam and Shem’s team 13 International Match Points (IMPs) on the hand since at the other table, North-South had stopped the auction at 4 Spades. That margin helped propel Sam’s team to second place in the competition and relegated Flo’s team, which had been in the lead up to the last two rounds, to third place.

“What could I have done?” Flo muttered. “I can’t fight against two voids – how often will that happen?”

“Well, for starters, you might not have doubled,” said Sam, smug as always. “Because of my bidding, jumping in my second suit on the second round of bidding, you had to suspect that I was void in at least something. With weird distributional hands, doubling is always dangerous.”

“I guess so,” said Flo. “Point taken. But you said that was only for starters as far as what I did wrong. What else can there be?”

“It was a most unfortunate time for you to pass out of turn to start the auction,” said Sam. “Just imagine, if you’d kept your mouth shut, my partner Shem surely would have opened the auction with a pre-emptive 3 Clubs bid. Then I’ll probably bid 4 Hearts. I have to bid my longest suit first, and I don’t want to miss Game. And that 4 Hearts will probably get passed around. I’ll make 5 Hearts but we’ll miss the Slam in Spades.”

“And here I always thought that a pass out of turn was no big deal …,” moaned Flo.

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