Happy New Year

Top ten New Year’s resolutions for bridge players:

  1. I’m going to talk to my granddaughter who’s in college to ask her where she gets her fake ID to sneak into bars when she’s not 21 yet. Now I need a fake ID to add a few years to my age to move up on the priority list for the COVID vaccine.
  2. I’ll stop criticizing my partner for his/her bids and plays. I’ll save up all the nasty remarks I wanted to make to my partner for when I’m playing with a robot and then I’ll unload on him – after all, robots have no feelings or egos to be bruised and won’t talk back to me.
  3. I have to stop having all these mistresses. First it was Miss Fit who threatened to break the harmony between me and my partner; now the latest “new woman,” Miss Click, has also come between us.
  4. I have to stop complaining to the director that it’s always my opponents who are slow and should be punished with an average-minus or less; maybe I’m not Speedy Gonzalez myself anymore.
  5. I should start telling myself that every BBO bridge session is actually available live on Zoom; maybe then I’ll actually shave again, or put on some underwear or makeup.
  6. I should update my profile on BBO. Now that I’ve been online more than 10,000 times, I’m not really a beginner any longer, and fewer and fewer people invite me to play in limited games anymore anyway.
  7. I’ll quit this game if I get one more 5-0 trump split – or if I have to play against another idiot anti-vaxxer who goes on and on about why she won’t take the COVID vaccine, whatever comes first.
  8. I’ll stop suspecting opponents of cheating only because they always finish ahead of us – maybe it’s just because they’re better than we are. Then again, maybe Donald Trump will stop complaining that he lost the election to a cheater – fat chance!
  9. I have to go on a new diet; the old one wasn’t working. I had decided to cut out eating snacks at the bridge club, since it was closed anyway. I guess I didn’t realize that I started snacking even more at home instead.
  10. I vow to play more bridge – they say it helps to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, even if last week I twice forgot what trump was.


My partner Christine and I probably made our last appearance of the year on the Monday before New Year’s Eve and despite horrendous mistakes that resulted in low scores on three boards – two of them mine and one Christine’s – we came in third in our direction with a 57% game, so we must have done something right, and we got 1.47 MasterPoints for our efforts.

We had two competitive boards against our good friends Arnie Summers, a fellow-director, and Ann Taylor, a board member of the Vero Beach Bridge Club, two solid A players (we had to play as A’s as well because we were in the top third of the entries). On the first hand, Ann bid a gutsy 4 Spades and made it with careful play. Four Spades was the par but not everyone got there, so they got a 70% score.

But we turned the tables on the next board, getting an 80% when Arnie went Down Three in 3 Hearts. He could have limited the damage to Down Two, which would have made a significant difference, with a loser-on-loser play, which makes it good fodder for a Bridge Burglar blog entry. Arnie will be the anti-hero, Flustered Flo, on this occasion, while Christine will be her nemesis, Smug Sam. Arnie is playing with his (Flo’s) usual North partner, Loyal Larry, while Christine (Sam) has Shy Shem (me) as a partner.

South Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

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

Opening lead: Ace of Diamonds

The New York Times’ bridge columnist, Phil Alder, has called the “loser-on-loser” play one of the most under-used bridge techniques for getting an extra trick.

After playing the diagrammed hand as South in one of the last virtual club games on BBO for the year, Flustered Flo had to reluctantly agree.

Flo landed in an unfortunate 3 Hearts contract and went Down Three. From the West seat, her nemesis Smug Sam led the Ace of Diamonds on the opening trick and saw that he could not continue Diamonds because he would set up dummy’s Queen and Jack in the suit. He did not want to give Sam a free finesse in Clubs, so he led a small Spade, hoping to catch his partner Shem with the King – he had to have something!

Shy Shem did indeed have the King and returned a Spade to Sam’s Ace and Queen, whereupon Sam led his last Spade. Flo ruffed high with the Jack, but Shem over-ruffed with the Queen.

Shem returned a Diamond, forcing Flo to ruff in her hand. From that point on, Flo could draw trump and take her Ace of Clubs and ruff one Club loser in dummy, but she would be forced to give up one more trick, a second Club, second Diamond or a trump trick, for a final result of Down Three and a score of minus-150.

That turned out to be significant in pairs match-point scoring, because a slightly different result of only Down Two for minus-100 would have netted Flo a 60% score on the hand, instead of the 20% she got. The 150 points she gave up was also worse than the par on the hand, which was 130 for East-West for making either 4 Diamonds or 4 Clubs.

Flo was particularly distressed to get the hand records after the game and see that she should have been able to limit the damage to Down Two, even against the best possible defense.

“How could I have made another trick?” she asked Sam during the club’s post-mortem Zoom meeting. “With the way the cards were lying, I just don’t see a seventh trick for our side. Where did I go wrong?”

“Ever heard of loser-on-loser?” asked Sam, smug as always.

“Yes, but what does that have to do with this hand?” Flo asked.

“It was the key to the extra trick you were looking for,” explained Sam. “You’ve got to listen to the bidding. I had doubled your opening bid, so I had most of the high-card points. My partner had already come up with the King of Spades, so there was no way he was going to have the King of Clubs as well. That mean the Club finesse was never going to work for your extra trick.”

“I wasn’t going there, anyway,” said Flo.

“Bear with me here,” said Sam. “I had doubled your first Heart bid, showing I could support the three other suits, but I had no Hearts. Therefore, my partner was likely to have any Hearts you were missing. When I led my last Spade, ruffing in dummy was just like throwing away a trump. My partner Shem was likely to over-ruff anyway. Instead, that was your opportunity for a loser-on-loser play. You’d lost the trick anyway, so that was your chance to get rid of another loser – dumping a Club from dummy. Then you wouldn’t lose any Club tricks at all and you’d get your seventh trick easily.”

“I see it now,” said Flo. “Here’s another New Year’s resolution for me this year: Study up some more on loser-on-loser plays.”

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