Snookering the bridge pros with four little hearts

CONSHOHOCKEN, PA – A week after my partner Christine Matus got her Life Master ranking in bridge at a Regional tournament in Rhode Island, I got all the silver points I need to achieve the same distinction at this past weekend’s Sectional tournament in Conshohocken.

I’m within about 40 MasterPoints of the 300 I need to get that ranking and I got enough gold, silver and red points (the most difficult to get) I need.

Swimming with all the bridge sharks, people with tens of thousands of MasterPoints, in so-called “Open” games, Christine and I placed first in the “B” stratification Friday earning 2.42 silver points with a 57.16% game at the Conshohocken Fire Hall.

On Saturday morning, we placed second in the “C” stratification with a hair under 50%, netting another 1.39 silver points and in the afternoon, we placed second among the C’s and third among the B’s (who range up to 2,000 MasterPoints) with a 53.52% game that got us another 1.46 silvers for a total two-day haul of 5.27 silver. Since I needed just over 5 silver points to complete my Life Master quota for that color, I now only need a few more garden variety points that can be won at club games any of the week.

Particularly satisfying were some good boards we scored against players with tens of thousands of points and people who regularly appear at area Regionals with teams that fly in from all over the country and walk away with more points in a couple of weekends than I have been able to amass in my lifetime.

For example, by opening my mouth on a 10-point hand and bidding a four-card Heart suit to the 9, I scared them away from their best contract, which would have been a Game in 4 Hearts making on overtrick. Instead, they settled for 3 No-Trump, a much inferior contract. And since my partner Christine had nothing (well, 2 points with one Queen – I don’t want to belittle her too much), if they had left me in my 1 Heart contract I would have been Down Five for a minus-500 score.

Our opponents were not amused about having been snookered by me. “You bid one Heart on a four-card suit to the 9 being vulnerable?” my opponents asked. “How dare you?! Let me see your convention card” – and he grabbed it with an angry gesture.

Since it clearly said that we will overcall on a minimum of 8 points and we will bid four-card suits – it doesn’t say anything about needing honors to do it – all he could do was throw the convention card back on the table with an expression of disgust. They did not wish us good luck for the rest of the afternoon, as is customary among players, and they did not thank us for the friendly competition (as is also customary).

The hand is too good to pass up for a column, since it has all the elements of the “bridge burglar” theme.

The player angry at having been snookered by me was actually South, but top make play easier to follow, we’ll make him North and he’ll come my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo. His South partner will become Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry, and will eventually get the play the hand in the wrong contract, I was actually East but I’ll become West and be Smug Sam, who always bests Flustered Flo. And my partner with the East hand (Christine) will become Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, and will eventually take the setting trick.

The hand

South Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The bidding

South West North East
1 1 2 Pass
3 No-Trump All pass

Opening lead: King of

How Flustered Flo played the hand

Flustered Flo is almost resigned to the fact that her nemesis Smug Sam will snooker her once in a while – Sam just seems to have her number.

But he had never played her as badly as he did on the diagrammed deal at a recent Sectional tournament near her club. Loyal Larry, Flo’s partner, opened a Club and when Sam, who was playing West, overcalled 1 Heart, it kept Flo and Larry out of their ideal fit in a Game in 4 Hearts, which would have made an overtrick for a top board.

Instead, Larry wound up in the very unfortunate contract of 3 No-Trump. Sam led his Club King and Larry ducked twice before he was forced to take the Ace. He collected the four Heart tricks but then had to lead Spades to set up that suit, letting Sam in with his Ace, after which he led a small Club to his partner Shy Shem’s East hand. To his own great surprise, Shem, the shy one, then took two Club tricks to set the contract.

When Flo realized she and her partner had been snookered by Sam’s one Heart bid, she was none too pleased.

“You bid one Heart with four Hearts to the 9 being vulnerable?” Flo asked indignantly. “Are you even allowed to do that? Let me see your convention card.”

“Let me help you out,” Sam said in his sweetest possible voice after she had snatched it up. “You see where it says that we will overcall with a minimum of 8 points and we will bid four-card majors? That’s what I did,”

“Disgusting!” exclaimed Flo. “There ought to be a law against bidding like that! You should not be allowed to do that. I have a mind to call the Director on you.”

“You go right ahead, Flo,” Sam replied. “There’s nothing he can do for you. You should not have let me dissuade you from bidding your hands. You know you make an overtrick in 4 Hearts, which would be a top score.”

“So that also means,” said Flo, “that if we had left you in your silly one Heart bid, you would have been Down Five vulnerable for a 500-point score for us, which was more than we could have gotten with a Game since we weren’t vulnerable. I guess you go to 2 Clubs if we double, so it would never be doubled.”

“Right,” said Sam, “but just to make you feel even worse, Flo, you had another game in 4 Spades. You had Games in both major suits, but you chose the only Game that doesn’t make in No-Trump.”

“I guess you’re really proud of yourself, Sam,” said Flo, flustered as ever.

“As a matter of fact,” said Sam, “yes I am.”

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