Mr. Ping’s Thing

Last week my partner Christine and I closely followed the Daily Bulletins from the Florida Southeasterns Regional bridge tournament in Coral Springs. Due to her teaching and my directing commitments, we’d be able to play there only one day, Saturday [4-13-2019] Bracketed Swiss Teams with our South Florida friends, Sandy Weinger and Michael Siegendorf (once again: Sandy is the “he” and Michael is a “she”).

About mid-week, we got a notice that for all team games, entries had to be submitted with every team member’s name and American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) membership number, and we wondered what that was about. Team competitions, between knock-outs, bracketed, stratified and single-session Swiss events, are most popular at Regionals and Nationals; it’s where most of the big boys and girls hang out, and it’s where most of the big gold (or platinum, in the case of Nationals) points can be won.

The usual procedure had been a bit chaotic, especially at the start. When you paid your entry fee, all you had to hand in with your money was a little slip with total team MasterPoints and the captain’s name (Christine was always captain because she does a great job and Harry Falk, the soon retiring Chief Director for Florida, had prohibited me from ever being captain because my last name is too long).

With the close of registrations at 10 a.m., directors would figure out how many brackets they had, call out each captain’s name with a first-round table assignment and a new team number, starting with the top bracket. It was time-consuming, and you often wouldn’t start playing until about 10:15 a.m. – once in Philadelphia we didn’t start until 10:45 a.m. All scoring was on paper and more delays occurred between rounds as teams disagreed on the final victory margins by International MatchPoints (IMPs).

The ACBL is now beta-testing a new system invented by a Chinese genius from Chicago, a Mr. Ping, who was present at this Regional. His computer program handles all registrations and scoring automatically. You find out from a huge electronic scoreboard what bracket your team has been placed in, who you’re playing against and at what table. You enter your score on all boards on a held-held BridgeMate and the computer automatically tells you whether you won, lost or tied the board and by how much.

The computer does all of this so much faster and more error-free than humans, no matter how good the ACBL directors are. When the system is fully rolled out, everyone will be playing no later than 10:05 a.m.

Selected tournaments had used parts (the Gatlinburg Regional posted table assignments via electronic boards, and other Regionals and Nationals had electronic scoring) but Ping’s brainchild ties it all together. It was beta-tested earlier this year in District 7, Georgia, the Carolinas and Eastern Tennessee, and at Coral Springs, it was used last Saturday in the lowest four of the seven Swiss brackets.

“We figure if the lower brackets can handle it,” said one director, “the higher ones won’t have any problems.” He said initial experience was “excellent,” and games progressed much faster and smoother.

Since we were in Bracket III, we still had to do everything on paper, and we were a little disappointed not to be used as guinea pigs, but we were happy with our results anyway, a very respectable second place in our bracket with a 5-2 won/lost record worth 7.04 Gold points for everyone.

Sandy was our hero with a weak 2 opening on 3 high-card points that kept his opponents from finding their fit in 4 Spades. At our table, the opponents didn’t open Sandy’s hand, and we did find the 4 Spades fit. Positive scores at both tables for a total of plus-730 and 12 IMPs gave us the round. For his heroics, Sandy will become Smug Sam in this Bridge Burglar episode as he once against bests Flustered Flo. Sandy’s partner Michael is Sam’s partner Shy Shem, while Flo plays with her usual partner, Loyal Larry.

South Dealer; both sides vulnerable

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

The Bidding:

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

Opening Lead:  10 of Hearts

How many points do you need to open an auction with a weak 2 bid? Most club and tournament players have it on their convention cards that a weak 2 opener should have between 5 and 11 high-card points and a six-card suit, but can you shave it a bit?

Flustered Flo didn’t believe anyone could or should be able to do that, and as a result, she lost one round in a bracketed Swiss teams competition at a recent Regional tournament in her home state and was responsible for her team being bumped from second all the way down to fourth place, out of the big points reserved for the top three places.

Flo sat East on the diagrammed hand, and she suspected that with her 15 high-card points, she probably had the best hand around the table. But after her left-hand opponent, her perennial nemesis Smug Sam, had opened with a weak 2 Hearts and two passes, she was torn what to do. If she doubled to make her partner bid, he might have very little and they could be forced to go to the 3 level on a hand with close to 20-20 distribution in high-card points.

That didn’t seem like a very good prospect to Flo with everyone being vulnerable. On the other hand, she had four of Sam’s trumps with two honors if she let him play the hand in 2 Hearts, so she thought she might have a better chance of setting him. If she could put him down by two tricks, a plus-200 score with everyone being vulnerable was better than anyone could get for a part-score.

That’s why she decided to pass, hoping for the best of defense.

Sam played dummy’s King of the trump suit on the opening trick and Flo took the trick with the Ace, continuing with the Queen to remove dummy’s last trump. Flo next led a small Club to her partner’s King and he returned the Club lead to her Ace, and another Club lead put Sam in his hand.

Sam removed Flo’s last two little trumps, took the successful finesse on the King of Spades and gave up a Diamond in the end to make his contract for a plus-110 score. Flo and Larry had been able to take only five tricks on defense – two high trumps, two Clubs and a Diamond.

It was a disastrous score, since at the other table, Flo’s teammate had not opened the South hand, judging it too weak. After the West hand opened 2 Spades, East-West easily found 4 Spades, which made, for a minus-620 for Flo’s team. The combined minus-730 score from both tables gave Sam’s and Shem’s team 12 International MatchPoints (IMPs) on the board and let them win the round by 10 IMPs.

Flo was very reluctant to admit defeat on what she considered highway robbery.

“That was an outrageous bid,” Flo yelled at Sam. “How did you dare open that hand with nothing but crap and just three high-card points? What does your convention card say? Let me see it … Just as I suspected, it says 5 to 11 points for weak 2 openers. I think you were psyching us, and I have a mind to call the director!”

“Call him of you wish,” said Sam, smug as always, “Sure, our card says 5 to 11, but is also says that our style for pre-empts is very light. And I can always bid anything I want, as long as my own partner is as much in the dark about what I’m doing as you are. He expected me to have 5 points. My philosophy is always to get the first blow in if you can.”

“But you psyched me out,” Flo protested. “I had a good One No-Trump opener.”

“Then what happened is your own fault,” said Sam. “You could have overcalled 2 No-Trump or doubled. If you double and make your partner bid, you easily get to 4 Spades, which makes. All you lose is two Spade tricks and the Ace of Diamonds. If you correctly finesse the King of Hearts, you can pitch a losing Club on a high Heart.”

“You always do it to me in pairs games,” Flo lamented. “Now you do it in teams, too? How can I explain this to our teammates? They seemed so excited to be able to play with us …”

“Just tell them you happened to get an opponent from hell,” Sam suggested.

“That’s exactly how I feel every time I have to play against you,” said Flo.





Speak Your Mind