Silver Life

My partner Christine achieved her Silver Life Master rank on Sunday (11-22-2015) when we won the 8-is-enough Swiss team competition at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, partnering with our friends Ann and Dick Bottelli to place first with three wins – two of them by blitzes – and just one loss.

That performance was worth 2.10 MasterPoints, and Christine had needed just 1.90 points of any color to go over the 1,000-point mark and proudly be able to display the title Silver Life Master. We’re not done yet – in a few years we hope to celebrate her 2,500th point when she becomes a Gold Life Master.

It’s fun to reach such a milestone with a team. Just a couple of months earlier, Ann Bottelli, who is about to be elected to the Vero club’s Board of Governors, had herself gone over the 1,000-point mark to achieve her Life Master rank, also after a team game with us. Dick’s a few points behind, but it’ll take me probably another year to get the same distinction as I’m still trailing Christine by almost 200 points.

We got the win in dramatic fashion on Sunday, when we lost the first round by 16 International MatchPoints (IMPS), but won the next two rounds by blitzes – one of them by a lopsided 52-0 score. That put us in the last round against the team led by Ellen Gelberg and Karen Adelman, who were then in first place, 7 Victory Points (VPs) ahead of our second-place standing.

We won that match by 20 IMPs, not only securing first place overall for our team, but also relegating the Gelberg team from the top spot all the way down to third place. The team led by sometime director Toril Lapis snuck into second place.

I am very pleased that Christine’s points started coming in faster ever since she asked me to play with her in a Regional tournament in the Philadelphia area almost four years ago. She had more than 300 points at the time – I had barely over 100 myself – but she needed some more gold to become a Life Master. We fixed that problem by going to a Regional tournament in Rhode Island where we won both sessions of a very well attended Gold Rush Pairs event with a score close to 70% that got us more than 17 Gold Points, still to this day our biggest haul from one single event.

(We got close to 15 Gold recently winning a knockout competition with our friends from Melbourne, Marie LaChance and Linda Donahue; we got almost 13 Golds when we placed second in Florida’s playoffs for the North American Pairs competition last year, and we got more than 10 points in a team game in a team competition with our Delaware/Pennsylvania friends Colin McKay and Spencer Kiernan.)

Christine helped me get my Life Master rank at a Regional in Charleston, SC; then I helped her get her Bronze Life Master rank when she went over the 500-point mark, and she returned the favor, getting me my Bronze Life Master rank. In short, it’s been a very successful partnership. We make a good pair. I tend to be the more adventurous bidder, while she is a tad more conservative. Many times I am disappointed at first when she stops short of a Game or a Slam, but I wind up thanking her for passing because the Game or Slam that I aspired to just wasn’t there.

One of the two hands that put us over the top on Sunday in the team game was one on which we set an attempted 3 No-Trump Game contract by Ellen by two tricks for a plus-100 score, while our teammates the Bottellis collected another 300 points from putting their vulnerable opponents down by three tricks. That total 400-point score gave us 9 IMPs and got us just about halfway to the margin of victory we needed. Instead of being in 3 NT, our opponents belonged in 4 Spades, so the swing from plus-100 to minus-420 would have prevented us from claiming that first place and Christine’s new title.

That qualifies the hand for a Bridge Burglar blog entry, and Ellen will this time assume the role of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, as she goes down in the wrong contract, while Christine will be her nemesis, Smug Sam, with the East hand that puts her down with its long Heart suit. I’ll be Sam’s West partner, Shy Shem, while Karen Adelman is Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry, with the North hand.

North Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The bidding:

North East South West
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 NT Pass
Pass Pass

Opening Lead:  9 of Hearts

When you know you and your partner should bid a Game because of your point total (minimum 25 points) do you steer towards a 3 No-Trump contract because it takes only 9 tricks to make and if you make an overtrick, it gives you 10 points more than other pairs who bid 4 Spades or 4 Hearts?

In four-person Swiss team competitions the extra 10 points don’t matter, so just pick your best Game. But in pairs games, those extra 10 points often make the difference between a top and a middle board.

On the diagrammed hand at a recent duplicate game at her home club, Flustered Flo knew that both she and her North partner, Loyal Larry, had opening hands so they should be in Game. After her partner’s second bid, she know they had stoppers in all four suits, so she decided to go for the extra 10 points and bid 3 NT rather than 4 Spades to support her partner’s first suit.

That didn’t turn out so well for her when Shy Shem led the 9 of Hearts (a logical lead – the only unbid suit). Flo ducked dummy’s Queen, Sam played the Jack and Flo held up her Ace for one round. Back came a small Heart and now Flo’s Ace and Queen crashed. To make her contract, Flo would now have to make all 5 Club tricks and with some luck, she might be able to do that.

She crossed to dummy’s Club King and led another Club to try the finesse on the Queen. Alas, it failed and Shem had another Heart left to get into his partner’s hand so Sam could run four more Hearts. Eventually Sam also collected a Spade trick for Down Two and a minus-100 score for Flo and Larry.

“Good try, partner,” said Larry, who’s always … well, very loyal to Flo.

“Thanks, partner, but I wonder if I would have been better off supporting your Spades in 4 Spades,” said Flo.

“Of course you should have,” said Sam, smug as always. “You lose only three tricks, a trump and two tricks in the red suits, either a Heart and a Diamond, or two Diamonds, depending on what you discard when you run your Clubs after setting them up with ruffs.

“It’s no picnic making 4 Spades, but I do see now how I could make that,” said Flo. “But I was trying to get a top making an overtrick in 3 No-Trump. I wanted those extra 10 points.”

“Well,” said Sam, “greed usually gets punished.”

“How did I know I should stay away from No-Trump and go for the Spades?” asked Flo.

“You only had a doubleton in Hearts, and your partner gave you no indication he had a Heart stopper,” said Sam. “That might have been a big clue for you.”

“Why didn’t you help me out and tip me off that No-Trump would be a disaster by bidding that 6-card suit of yours pre-emptively?” Flo asked. “If you’d said 3 Hearts, I would have bid 4 Spades instead.”

“I do try to help my fellow-man,” said Sam, “but at the bridge table I try to help my partner, not my opponents.”

Speak Your Mind