Lost in San Diego, but stolen bid saved the day

SAN DIEGO – Local bridge clubs want to keep the rent low to keep card fees low and they’re often located in out-of-the-way places, making them hard to find for strangers. So my partner Christine Matus and I got horribly lost this weekend (3/1/2013 to 3/3/2013) trying to find San Diego’s Adventures in Bridge for the San Diego winter Sectional when Googlemaps turned out to be totally wrong, the crude drawing on the tournament flyer wasn’t much help, either, and we couldn’t get an answer at any of the phone numbers we had.

By the time we finally found the place Friday morning, two rounds had already been played, but one of the sections had an odd number of pairs with a sit-out, so they hustled us in late. It was a 199er competition and since we’re both Life Masters, we were not eligible to compete for the extra MasterPoints for the overall game.

The people were all very nice and the hospitality was outstanding. The people we ended up against in that first session appreciated being saved from sit-outs, but there was some good-humored grumbling about having to play “ringers” like us. We would have been embarrassed if we hadn’t come out on top, but we did, earning 1.28 silver points for coming in first with a 61% game.

Since we had played “down” in the morning, on Friday afternoon new played “up” in the open game for the thousands-of-points people and we finished under 50% and out of the money, but we did have one satisfying top board, when we made 2 Hearts while our opponents had 3 Spades but were legally barred from bidding it.

My partner Christine opened One No-Trump and her left-hand opponent said 2 Clubs, which was alerted by her partner as “Hamilton.” I was explaining to my partner that this is basically a West Coast version of the defensive Cappelletti convention against 1 NT opening bids, when Christine’s right-hand opponent put the 2 Diamonds card on the table for her waiting bid.

“Director!” I yelled immediately and explained that she hadn’t let me make a bid. Truth be told, I was so weak with 5 points and no shape to my hand that I had been planning to pass, but when our opponent was forced to withdraw her 2 Diamonds bid, just for the heck of it, I decided to bid 2 Diamonds, which made everyone, including the Director, laugh. Both our 2 Diamonds bids – the one our opponent was forced to withdraw and my own – were artificial. Hers was a waiting bid and mine was a transfer to my weak five-card Heart suit. The real kicker was that because of her partner’s mistake, the original Hamitlon/Capelletti 2 Clubs bidder was now barred from the entire auction, so she couldn’t bid the 3 Spades she had wanted to bid with her seven-card Spade suit.

The partner who’d made the mistake was peeved and blamed everyone but herself. “You confused me by talking – I thought you’d passed,” she told me. Then she turned on her partner: “Why didn’t you just bid your Spades?” she said. “Because I was barred – by your mistake,” the partner answered, logically.

On Saturday we mixed sightseeing in incredibly beautiful San Diego and shopping trips in bustling Tijuana (it’s all quiet there now) with one session of play with our peers where we did belong, and we came in fifth overall with a 54.49% game that earned us another .49 points. We had been a couple of points higher going into the last round, but I double-counted a Queen to give myself 16 points and a 1 No-Trump opening when I really had only 14 high-card points. That landed us into a very difficult 3 NT contract, which I could still have made if I’d finessed the Queen of Diamonds the other way.

On Sunday for the four-person Swiss team competition, we hooked up on a “blind date” with a pair of California ladies with similar point records to ours named Joan and Jane, both retired teachers, and we earned another .48 MasterPoints for winning two head-to-head matches, although none of us had stellar games and we lost five other matches.

The best “bridge burglar” hand for one of my columns was a hand we played on Saturday, when Christine and I lustily bid up our modest Spade suit (she had an absolute minimum opening and I had absolute minimum support) to reach a 3 Spades contract that our opponents let us have. Christine went Down Two vulnerable, as she should have, for a minus-200 score, but our opponents, apparently cowed by our super-aggressive bidding style, missed two Small Slams in the red suits which could have earned them 1,430 or 1,380 points – a major plus for us.

Christine played the hand as South and she will become the lead “bridge burglarette” as my column’s Smug Sam, while I will be in the supporting cast this time as Sam’s North partner Shy Shem, although I wasn’t shy about bidding whatever little I had. Our unfortunate West opponent, who had the big hand and shall remain nameless although she was most to blame for their debacle, will become my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo. Her East partner will become Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry.

The hand

North Dealer; both sides vulnerable

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

The bidding

North East South West
Pass Pass 1 2
2 Pass Pass 3
Pass Pass 3 All pass

Opening lead: Ace of Diamonds

How Flustered Flo played it

Flustered Flo hates it when her nemesis Smug Sam steals the bid away from her and she was firmly resolved not let him do it again. But on the diagrammed hand at a recent Sectional bridge tournament, Flo once again had a big hand as West, yet seemed powerless to stop Sam from doing it to her once more.

After she had bid both of her five-card red suits and got no response from her East partner, Loyal Larry, she thought she had to pass after Sam, playing the South hand, had reached 3 Spades, especially since both sides were vulnerable (something that never seems to stop Sam from sticking his neck out, though).

Flo led her Diamond Ace, but the second Diamond got ruffed. Sam didn’t seem to be too fazed by the bad trump split, but all he was able to take was his six trumps and the Heart Ace for a total of seven tricks. That made it Down Two and a plus-200 score for Flo and Larry.

“I hope that’s score is going to be okay,” Flo said afterward to Larry. “It seemed to be our hand and we had the majority of the points, but I guess you couldn’t bid anything, partner.

“I wasn’t going to jump in at the 3 level with just a four-card Club suit,” Larry explained, “and I didn’t have much of anything at all in your red suits to go as high as 4 there.”

“I wish I would have heard anything from you …” Flo sighed, but she was hesitant to criticize Larry too much, since he is, well, … very loyal to Flo.

“Actually,” said Sam, butting in with his maddening know-it-all tone, “you guys missed a Small Slam in either one of the red suits, Flo, and I’d say that’s mostly your fault.

“How can it be my fault?” Flo angrily protested. “I bid both of those red suits, but I just have a fairly minimal opening strength with my 14 points, and how can I go on when I don’t hear anything from my partner?”

“You’ve got to make your partner bid,” Sam explained, smug as always. “I know you’ve heard of the Michaels cue bids because they’re on your convention bidding cards. That’s what you should have done in this case.”

“I forgot all about that,” Flo admitted. “How does it go again?”

“After I open a Spade, you bid two Spades, indicating you have the other major suit, Hearts in this case, and a minor,” Sam explained. “Even if my partner Shem interferes with a 3 Spades bid, now your partner will bid 4 Clubs. You can then correct to 4 Diamonds, since that was your minor suit, and your partner should then raise you to 5 Diamonds. Since your hand just became huge with both of us bidding Spades and you have a void in that suit, you can take a shot a 6 Diamonds.”

“Can we even make 6?” Flo asked.

“Easy,” Sam replied. “All you lose is my Ace of Hearts. Actually, you can also make 6 Hearts and that would be more points, but that’s a riskier bid. It works only because my Heart Ace is in front of you and the Hearts split, which you can’t really count on in a crazy hand like that.”

“I’ll never forget about Michaels again,” Flo promised.

“You’d better not,” Sam admonished her, “because Mr. Michaels is turning over in his grave right now and he doesn’t want to have to do that again.”

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