No fear!


A friend of mine once said that he likes bridge so much because anyone has a chance. If a decent club tennis player got on the court with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, he wouldn’t win a single point; he’d lose every game 0-40 and the match 6-0, 6-0. However, in bridge, some hands just happen to be cold for 3 No-Trump (or whatever) and a decent club player can bid and play it just as well as a world champion, so you should be able to hold most people to at least 50% on many boards.

A case in point was this past weekend’s Susan Rowley Memorial Sectional bridge tournament in North Orlando, Perry Poole’s new club that sprang up a few years ago as a result of his spat with the Orlando Metropolitan Bridge Center.

Poole, who had his games taken away from him at OMBC which prompted him to go out on his own, has made it with his own club. He lost the lease at his first suburban location because he exceeded occupancy limits in a commercial building, but he’s found a new home in the suburban Maitland civic center, a nice facility by a lake surrounded by lots of greenery, although late in the day the lighting could have been better. Poole now draws as many or more tables as the OMBC every day for his club games, so he definitely merits his own Sectional (the OMBC still has several more).

In any event, when my partner Christine and I walked into the place Saturday morning (10-20-2018), we immediately saw all of the usual suspects there: John Brady from Jacksonville, who has won more Silver MasterPoints from Sectionals than anyone else in the country; the North Florida pro Spike Lay; Bob Dennard who has more points than God even if he’s not very godly; Patricia Dovel, the wicked widow from Gainesville; Orlando tournament chairman John Moschella and wannabes with thousands of points like Lee Bukstel from South Florida and Dave and Maureen Loeb from Orlando. What chance did we have against those people who’ve done nothing but play bridge since time immemorial?

Well, I always tell my partner that even if first place overall seems out of reach, we can always make it our aim to come in first in the B stratification – and we often do. In North Orlando, we didn’t quite make it to first in the Bs, but in the morning session, we finished 5th among the Bs with a decent 52% game that earned us .35 Silver MasterPoints.

Particularly satisfying was the round against Dennard and Bukstel, whom we battled to a virtual draw; we had one average board, one below par and a tie for a top against them. The tie for a top was quite a feat – they could have had a Game in 4 Spades for a plus-420 score, but instead they let us make 3 Diamonds for minus-110, a swing of 530 points. To make matters worse, they could have set us in 3 Diamonds, which would have given them plus-200 if they’d doubled us.

Dennard and Bukstel were not happy with each other over the result of that hand, with Bukstel trying to blame Dennard for not giving the right signals, while Dennard was saying his partner was trying to make everything too complicated – he should learn how to play basic bridge first (hence the moniker “wannabe” that I applied to Bukstel). For us, it’s always a good sign when we leave the table with our opponents arguing among each other, so that’s why the hand is worth a Bridge Burglar blog entry.

For his mistakes in bidding and playing, Bukstel with the East hand will assume the role of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, while I’ll be his nemesis, Smug Sam, as the South Declarer. Christine is my North (dummy) partner, Shy Shem, and Flo is playing with her usual West partner, Loyal Larry (Dennard).

South Dealer; North-South vulnerable


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

The bidding:

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


Opening lead: Ace of Clubs

One of the most frustrating things in bridge is to know that it’s your hand but to see the bid taken away from you by people you believe to be unworthy opponents; you don’t know whether they’re bluffing or whether they were just lucky to have a found a favorable distribution that allows them to steal a contract.

That’s the feeling Flustered Flo had as East on the diagrammed deal played recently at a Sectional tournament in her home state. What made it even worse that the player doing the stealing in the South seat was her perennial nemesis, Smug Sam.

After Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, had boldly and uncharacteristically raised the bid to 3 Diamonds, Flo didn’t think she had another bid. And when her partner, Loyal Larry, also passed, Sam was left to play 3 Diamonds.

Larry collected his top two Clubs on the first two tricks and shifted to a Heart, letting Flo capture dummy’s King with her Ace. After some deliberation, Flo returned the 3 of Spades. Sam took the trick with his Ace, drew trump in two rounds, took his Queen of Hearts, gave up a Spade and took the rest of the tricks by cross-ruffing dummy’s remaining Hearts in his hand and the remaining losers from his hand in the black suits in the dummy.

Sam had made 9 tricks for his contract and had lost only 4 – two Clubs, the Ace of hearts and a Spade – for a plus-110 score. That turned out to be a tie for a top and Flo and Larry sensed immediately afterward that it had not been a good score for them.

The recriminations started immediately.

“You know we could have set the contract if you had returned a Heart when you got in with the Ace of Hearts,” said Larry, somewhat hesitantly because he’s always very loyal to Flo. “When I led the 10 of Hearts, it was a singleton and I could have ruffed the second Heart. That would have meant Down One and 100 points for us.”

“Well, I was trying to figure out the shape of your hand,” Flo said defensively. “You probably started out with six Clubs, but since you never bid Spades, I thought you had started out with three Spades, two Hearts, two Diamonds and six Spades. I thought Sam had the singleton Heart.”

“You out-thought yourself, again, Flo,” said Sam, smugly butting in although no one had asked him for his opinion. “If you just returned your partner’s lead without all that thinking, you’d have me down. You make this game too complicated. But that’s not even your worst crime on this hand.”

“I’ll bite,” said Flo. “What was that, then?”

“It’s your hand,” said Sam. “You can’t let us have the bid. Your partner opened and had a rebid. He’s got a solid opening, probably 13 or 14 points. You have 8 yourself. You have the majority of the points and you’re not vulnerable. You can’t let us have the bid in a part-score.”

“But I don’t have a bid after Shem raised to 3 Diamonds,” Flo protested. “What can I say?”

“You can double,” said Sam. “That leaves it up to your partner what to do. He can go to 4 Clubs, which you guys can also make; he can leave the double in if he thinks you can set the 3 Diamonds; he can bid No-Trump if he has a Diamond stopper, and don’t forget – your partner never denied having four Spades, so he can still say 3 Spades, in which case you will raise him to 4 Spades.”

“Surely we can’t make 4 Spades on our measly 21 points?” Flo asked.

“As a matter of fact, you can,” said Sam. “All you lose is the trump Ace and the top 2 Diamonds. You’ve got the rest of the tricks. It’s a lay-down.”

“So you did it again, stealing a contract from me,” said Flo, showing considerable irritation. “You proud of yourself?”

“Actually, Flo,” said Sam, “what amused me most is that this time, even your own most loyal partner, Larry, kind of got on your case. On this hand I didn’t have to point out all your foibles by myself. I had some help from Loyal Larry. When we leave two opponents arguing at the table, we know we’ve done something right! Thanks for the chuckles!”

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