Never let your opponents play 2 Hearts!

PIKESVILLE, MD – They raised money to build a new bridge club in the Harrisburg, PA, suburb of Camp Hill with a variety of fundraising techniques, including the sale of commemorative bricks at the entrance. When my partner Christine Matus and I played in the inaugural Sectional tournament there about a month ago, we saw one brick that has inspired us ever since. This particular benefactor had chosen not to put his or her name on the brick, but instead imparted some advice: “Never let them play 2 Hearts!”

Christine and I have steadfastly lived by that motto ever since on defense, and it served us well over the past weekend in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville, for the Chesapeake Fall Sectional, an ACBL-sanctioned event.

It gave us the opportunity to seriously derail a couple of opponents and snatch a top on a board during the Saturday morning session – and gave me another column on the “bridge burglar” theme.

We played well enough in the open game that morning, beating par on 10 boards, while 10 other boards were below par and we had four boards exactly at par against the Deep Finesse analysis distributed in the hand records.  But we didn’t do quite as well against the human competition, finishing below 50% and out of the points.

In the afternoon session, even though we didn’t think we played as well, we finished in 6th place overall in the pairs game with a 52.72% performance, earning .27 Silver MasterPoints.

That game had a unique scoring format as it was both a pairs and a team game at the same time, with the chance to earn points both ways. The lowest-ranked pair was teamed up with the highest-ranking pair, the second-lowest was the second-highest, etc.  We were apparently among the higher-ranked teams in the lower bracket, so we were teamed with one of the lower-ranking teams in the top bracket, Carol and Jim, who had about 2,500 points between them (we have about 775). Carol and Jim had their troubles, winding up with a game in the low 40s percentage-wise.

They thanked us for carrying them on several boards, but we couldn’t pull them up into positive numbers.  In the win-lose-draw scoring system for the team game, we wound up with a 10.5-11.5 score, just under 50% and missing any additional points.

Definitely our greatest satisfaction came from the board that became a bit of a comedy of errors. One of our opponents had an Ace of Diamonds in the wrong place in his hand, thinking it was a low Heart. On the diagrammed deal for my column, the West player originally thought he had 9 high-card points and three Hearts, so he just raised his partner’s opening 1 Heart bid to 2 Hearts.  The East player passed 2 Hearts (which he probably shouldn’t have, even if his partner’s bid had been correct, since he had extra values with his void in Clubs).

Since every other East-West pair reached at least Game or Slam on the board, we could have had a top by me just passing the 2 Hearts bid and letting them make 5. The minus-200 would have been a top anyway. But since we live by our new motto “never let them play 2 Hearts,” I opened my mouth and said 3 Clubs with 6 points and five Clubs to the 10. West raised to 3 Hearts, still believing he had 9 points and three Hearts since he had been at the top of the range for his 2 Hearts bid, and then my partner Christine became my partner in crime, raising the bid to 4 Clubs with her 8 points.

I went Down 3 but since it wasn’t vulnerable and not doubled, I gave up only 150 points, which was even better than the minus-200 I could have gotten by passing 2 Hearts. Although either score would have been a top on the board for us, I would rather get a top by aggression, sticking my neck out and bidding on fumes, than by passively taking it and letting them underbid.

Even though I really sat East, to make the play easier to follow, I’ll turn the board around make myself South. I’ll become Smug Sam, who always beets my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo, who’ll be West and have the snafu with the card in the wrong place. Christine will be North and will play the part of Sam’s partner, Shy Shem.

The hand

East Dealer; neither side vulnerable

8 7 6
9 8 5 4
J 10
A K 8 3

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

Q 9 5
A 10
7 6 2
10 7 6 5 4

The bidding

East                        South                    West                     North
1                         Pass                       2                       Pass
Pass                       3                         3                       4
All pass

Opening lead: Queen of Clubs

How Flustered Flo played it

It’s hard enough for Flustered Flo to beat her nemesis Smug Sam under normal circumstances. But when she has accidentally put a card in the wrong place when she’s sorting her hand, she has no chance whatsoever.

On the diagrammed deal, Flo was playing West and she accidentally put the Ace of Diamonds in with the other red suit as a small Heart. When her partner Loyal Larry opened a Heart, she thought she had 9 high-card points and three Hearts, so she gave the minimum raise to 2 Hearts. Larry took Flo at her word for his discouraging reply and also passed.

That’s when Smug Sam, who played South, swung into action with a 3 Clubs overcall. Since Flo thought she was at the top of her 6-9 points range, she squeezed out a 3 Hearts bid, but then Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, shed his normal shyness and raised to 4 Clubs, which was passed around.

Flo suspected that Sam would want to do considerable cross-trumping to try and come close to making his contract, so she decided she was going to take out as many of his trumps as possible early, which is why she led the Club Queen. That told Sam exactly where everything was.

Sam took the opening trick in dummy and before he finessed out Flo’s trump Jack, he decided to use of the dummy’s trumps to ruff a Diamond, so he led to Diamond Jack to Flo’s Queen. Flo led another low trump to Sam’s 4, giving Sam an opportunity to lead another Diamond to Larry’s King. Larry then led his Ace of Spades followed by a small Spade to Flo’s Jack and King. Flo then led her trump Jack to dummy’s Ace, but Sam got to his hand with the Heart Ace and Sam had his Diamond ruff in dummy.

In the end, Sam gave up three Spade tricks, a Heart and two Diamonds for Down Three and a minus-150 score that made him positively elated – and which turned out to be a top on the board.

“I’m sorry, partner,” Flo said rather sheepishly. “I discovered halfway through playing the hand that I had my Diamond Ace in with the small Hearts. So I bid all wrong. I should have given you more enthusiastic bidding support.”

“I’ll say,” Sam scoffed, smug as always, “you had Games in all the other suits, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and No-Trump, and you had Small Slams in Spades and Diamonds.”

“Oh my,” Flo said, “but with both of you guys bidding, I thought you had something, and I guess my partner did, too.” As she saw her partner Loyal Larry nod his agreement, she continued, addressing Sam: “You had very little – what made you bid?”

“I had six points and a five-card Club suit to the 10,” admitted Sam. “But I recently saw a sign on a brick at the entrance to a new bridge club that said ‘never let anyone play 2 Hearts.’ So I didn’t.”

“But because of my mistake of having the Ace of Diamonds in the wrong place in my hand, you could have had a top anyway by just passing our 2 Hearts,” Flo said. “Everyone else bid at least Game on the hand, so if we get only 200 points instead of 400, 430 or 450, you would have had a top anyway.”

“That may be true,” said Sam, “But I’d rather get that top by being aggressive and bidding. It’s a lot more satisfying this way.”

“And those Slams are a bit far-fetched, aren’t they?” Flo asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Sam. “The Small Slam in Spades may be tough to find with a seven-card fit, but if you’d known you had the Diamond Ace, you’ve got to bid Diamonds in the first or second round, and your partner will settle for the fit in Diamonds and explore Slam. You both keeping bidding because you both have extra values. The 6 Diamonds is a cinch – all you lose is the Ace of Hearts.”

“What a difference one card can make,” Flo sighed. “A simple partial two bid or a Small Slam.”

“You can blame missing the Slam or your simple mistake,” said Sam, “but I’m going to take the credit for it with our aggressive interference bidding.”

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