Psych bid: Down 2, but still a winner

Snow kept down attendance at the Wednesday night (2-13) game at the Delaware Bridge Studio and with 2.5 tables, every board was played only twice, so you got a win, a loss or a tie on the board – there were no in-between scores.

With that kind of scoring, anything can happen and in this case the five pairs were bunched up pretty close together. Fateh Jain, playing with Director Carole Everitt, came in first, followed by Randy Berseth, another  director, playing with pupil Anne Cullom, came in second. There was a three-way tie for third between Kathy Bear and Karen Pollak, Herb and Kathy Chalek and my partner Arthur Zadrozny and I. (We all got .36 MasterPoints.)

Against the Deep Finesse computer analysis according to the hand records Arthur and I did much better than against the human competition, scoring 12 of the 20 boards we played better than we should have done, and failing to reach the norm only 5 times with three pars. That should have resulted in  a 67.5% game, but we were actually just below 50% in real life.

We did have several steals along the way that are candidates for a bridge burglar column, but I particularly liked one board Arthur and I played against Kathy and Karen in which I went Down Two doubled, but not vulnerable, in a 4 Hearts contract giving up 300 points. But our opponents missed a 3 No-Trump Game that would have been worth 400 to them, so it was a good sacrifice. What made it even more notable that neither I nor my partner had any honors in our trump suit – our highest card in it was a 10.

I originally bid Hearts more or less as a psych bid – to keep them from reaching their fit in No-Trump, which worked like a charm. But I just about died when my partner Arthur decided to support my garbage suit at the 4 level. I tried to keep a poker face and made the best of it, going Down only two instead of the three I should have been down.

Kathy Bear played the hand as East, and she’s the one who missed the 3 NT bid because she had the stoppers in the red suits, so she’ll become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo. Her West partner Karen becomes Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry. With the South hand I’ll become Flo’s nemesis Smug Sam, while Arthur is my partner Shy Shem with North.

The hand

South Dealer; neither side vulnerable

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

The bidding

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

Opening lead: Ace of Clubs

How Flustered Flo played it

When do you double a bid by your opponents that you’re pretty sure they can’t make, to get 100 or 300 points (500 if you’re really lucky), and when do you bid on to get a Game of your own for 400 or 600 points?

It’s a question that will face every duplicate bridge player at least once during every session. On the diagrammed hand at a recent club game, Flustered Flo sat East, once again against her nemesis Smug Sam, who was South. Everyone was in the lively auction until Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, reached 3 Diamonds. That’s when Flo decided to bow out, although she was happy to see her partner Loyal Larry  still hang in there to support her Spades at the 3 level.

When Shy Shem raised to 4 Hearts, Flo knew they couldn’t make that. Her partner had a solid opening and she had 10 points so they had the majority of the points, and with Flo’s Heart holdings she also knew Sam and his partner couldn’t have a very good trump suit, so she slapped the double card down.

Sam could barely keep a smirk off his face when dummy came down. His 2 Hearts bid had been intended as a psych bid to keep the opponents out of No-Trump, and he never in a million years had expected his partner to support the suit.

Sam ruffed the Club Ace in dummy on the opening trick, came to his hand with the Spade Ace and ruffed another Club in dummy. Then he collected the Spade King and ruffed a Spade in his hand to ruff a third Club in dummy. Then he took dummy’s Ace of Diamonds and tried to collect a second top Diamond, but it was ruffed by Larry’s West hand. Larry drew a round of trumps with his Ace and then continued with a low Club. Flo had to take the trick with her trump Jack. She continued with the trump King, but in the end had to concede one more trick to Sam’s 9 of trumps to let him make 8 tricks.

“Down Two doubled for plus-300 for us,” said Flo, rather content with her double. “I don’t think we could have done any better, partner,” she said to her partner Larry.

But the smile ran away from Flo’s face when Sam started analyzing the hand.

“Well, Flo, you could have done considerably better on two accounts,” said Sam, smug as always. “After my partner bid three Diamonds, you could have bid game in 3 No-Trump, and we won’t bid again after that. Then the gig is up with my psych bid. My partner knows you’ve got my Hearts stopped and he won’t bid 4 Hearts – he almost gave me heart attack when he did.”

“How can we make 3 No?” Flo asked, rather stunned.

“Easy,” Sam explained, “You get six Club tricks and three Hearts. You don’t even need any Spades or Diamonds, but you’ve got my partner’s Diamonds stopped with your Queen sitting behind his power. When you have a long suit like your Clubs, you can often gamble on 3 No even if you don’t have the point count.”

“Sounds pretty risky to me,” Flo said, “but you said we missed the boat on two accounts. What else did we do wrong?”

“You should put me Down Three, not just Two,” Sam explained patiently. Your partner should lead two trump tricks right off the bat to take two of my trumps in dummy out. Then I don’t get the third ruff in dummy I need to limit the damage to Down Two.”

“And how are we supposed to know to lead trump?” Flo asked.

“Well, I had my opponent fooled into thinking I really had Hearts,” said Sam, smirking once more. “I thought maybe my opponents would catch on to my psych bid quicker than my own partner.”

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