The Burglar’s brother steals the bid

My oldest brother Johan taught me how to play bridge some 60 years ago, but we had never played duplicate together as a pair. So naturally, when he and his wife visited me and Christine in Vero Beach – they were the first of what we hope will be many visitors – we had to play duplicate at least once.

If we waited 60 years to do this, we thought we’d better make it count – and we did. We were the lowest-ranked team in the Saturday pairs competition at my new home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, but we placed first overall ahead of all the other A and B pairs with a 66% game, earning .60 MasterPoints. Those were the first points my brother earned in the ranking system of the American Contract Bridge League.

We surprised ourselves how well we played: we got absolute tops or ties for tops on 9 out of the 25 boards we played, and only one absolute bottom.

My brother, who is 76 now, said he felt really funny when 95-year-old Georgia Pierpont, always very gracious, complimented him on well he had played one hand. He also felt pretty good when one of our “A” opponents, Al Killian, gave him permission to rake me over the coals for a supposedly ill-advised bid, since he was the older brother.

Another one of our friendly opponents, Chicago native John McClenathan, said that since this was the first time he had seen me play without Christine, he’d finally find out who was the stronger player in our usual pairing. Presumably, that was a compliment to Christine and Johan, too, since he said that Johan was obviously carrying me.

Truth be told, we got many gifts from our opponents – one lady had a Heart hidden among her Diamonds and landed in a very unfortunate Diamond contract as a result, but on other boards, we actually did something right.

One of the hands we got a top one was due to a very creative bid by my brother. He opened with a weak 2 Hearts in third seat with 11 points – but he had only five Hearts, not six. He promptly got doubled by “Big Al” Killian, who had 18 points, but Al’s partner Audrey Bracken who had only 3 points with Hearts as her best suit, passed, leaving the double in. That allowed Johan to make a doubled vulnerable Game for 790 points and an absolute top.

Stealing that doubled contract makes an excellent entry for my “bridge burglar” blog. Audrey, who passed Al’s double with her East hand, will have to assume the role of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, while Al becomes Flo’s West partner, Loyal Larry.

Johan becomes Smug Sam with the South hand, and I’ll become Sam’s North partner, Shy Shem. I was certainly too shy to bid anything the way the auction proceeded.

The hand

North Dealer; both sides vulnerable

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


The bidding

North East South West
Pass Pass 2 Double
All pass

Opening lead: Ace of Clubs

How Flustered Flo played the hand

Can you ever pass a partner’s double over a weak opening bid at the two level?

Flustered Flo thought she could with the East hand at a recent club game when her West partner, Loyal Larry, doubled the weak 2 Hearts opening bid by her nemesis, Smug Sam. Flo had only 3 high-card points, so she didn’t want to bid anyway. Besides, Hearts, the suit in which Sam had opened, happened to be her best suit.

So she thought she was justified in passing under those circumstances.

Larry collected his Ace-King of Clubs and Sam ruffed the third Club lead. Sam next led a small Spade from his hand and Larry took the Ace right away and led another top Club. Not that it would have made any difference, but Flo ruffed with her Queen, forcing Sam to over-ruff with his King. She thought her Queen would be dead meat anyway after two finesses.

Sam next pushed out Larry’s Diamond Ace and got the lead back ruffing Larry’s last Club. He cashed in two good Spades and three good Diamonds, and in the end had to give up a Spade, but he made his doubled contract, limiting Flo and Larry to two Club tricks, the Spade and Diamond Aces and one more Spade trick in the end. The doubled vulnerable contract for 790 points gave Sam an absolute top – and Flo and her partner an absolute bottom.

Larry is much too loyal to Flo to criticize her for not bidding and leaving the double in, but Smug Sam himself had no such compunctions.

“You have to bid with your hand, Flo,” said Sam. “You can’t leave the double in.”

“But I had only three points,” Flo protested, “and Hearts just happened to be my best suit. I thought I had a better chance of letting you go down.”

“Well, obviously you were wrong,” said Sam. “If I double, you do Down One in 2 Spades and that’s 200 points for us, but that’s a lot better than the 790 you gave up.”

“Wait just a minute,” said Flo. “I think I counted the cards right and you had only five Hearts. You can’t bid a weak Two with a five-card suit. I should call the director on you.”

“You go right ahead,” Sam said. “I can do whatever I want to. I had to bid in third seat with 11 points and I thought 2 Hearts described my hand better than a One Heart opening, since I was pretty weak and had a lot of losers.”

“So if you’d opened One Hearts as you should have,” Flo mused, “then we probably take the contract with 2 Clubs.”

“That’s another reason why Two Hearts is a better bid than One Heart for me,” said Sam. “It kept you out of that Club contract.”

“So you just make up your own rules as you go along?” Flo asked.

“I describe my hand as best as I can,” said Sam. “If I have to lie a little bit, I lie as little as possible.”

“At least you admit you’re a liar,” said Flo – but she decided against calling the Director.


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