Snow doesn’t show, but ‘burglar’ does

The threatened first snow storm of the season (which never materialized) didn’t do much to hold down attendance at this week’s Wednesday night open pairs game at the Bridge Studio of Delaware (sanctioned by the ACBL) — we had five full tables.

Steve Blomstedt and Jane Malloy were the overall and east-West winners with a 64% game that earned them 1.75 MasterPoints. They were significantly aided by my crazy sacrifice in 6 Hearts over their 6 Clubs Small Slam bid. I had eight Hearts and I thought I might be able to limit the damage to Down Four doubled not vulnerable.  That minus-800 would have been better than the 920 for their Small Slam, but I played the hand badly, risking getting over-trumped, and I went Down Six for a minus-1,400 and an absolute bottom! (The Deep Finesse analysis later showed that I could have kept it to Down Five, but not Four as I had hoped.)

But, a bottom is a bottom, you’ve got to wipe it from your mind and go on to the next board, and my partner Arthur Zadrozny and I did just that, finishing second among the North-South pairs (first in the B and C stratifications) with a 54.5% game that netted us 1.40 MasterPoints. That was actually a bigger haul that the first-place North-South team of Barbara Rhoades and Spencer Kiernan got for their 57.5% performance, because Barbara has those gazillion points that put her in the A category while we’re Cs.

We were helped considerably by a couple of “bridge burglar” feats in which we managed to steal some contracts. One of them is too good to pass up for a bridge column. My partner Arthur opened a Club on 11 points in third seat. Barbara Thayer, who had the best hand around the table, tepidly overcalled a Diamond, and with six high-card points and five Clubs, I preemptively jumped to 3 Clubs, which got passed around.

Arthur should have gone Down at least three tricks, but he limited the damage to Down One for a minus-50 score. Barbara and her husband Chet must have been quite shocked to discover from the Deep Finesse analysis distributed at the end of the evening in the hand records that they missed a vulnerable Game for 620 points in 4 Spades.

Arthur played the hand as North, but to make it easier to follow, I’ll turn the board around and make him South and he’ll become Shy Shem, the partner of Smug Sam, the nemesis of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo. Flo’s role will be played by Barbara Thayer, and who will play the West cards. Chet will become Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry, as East.

The hand

North Dealer; East-West vulnerable

10 8
7 6 2
Q 9 5
A 9 8 7 2

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

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

The bidding

North               East                 South               West

North               Pass                1                    1

3                     All pass

Opening lead: 3

How Flustered Flo played it

Flustered Flo hates it when her nemesis, Smug Sam, takes the bid away from her with one of his patented sacrifices, but she hasn’t quite figured out yet how to stop him from doing it.

On the diagrammed hand from a recent pairs game at her club, Flo suspected that her West hand was the best around the table – yet, she seemed powerless to stop Smug Sam, who sat North and stole the contract away from her with a pre-emptive 3 Clubs bid. Her partner, Loyal Larry with the East hand, passed, and she didn’t have enough in her hand to bid either of her red suits at the 3 level.

Flo didn’t want to lead away from her King of Hearts or away from her Ace-Jack in Spades and she didn’t want to lead trumps, so she led her Ace of Diamonds followed by a little Diamond taken in dummy.

Shy Shem, who almost regretted having opened his mouth with his 11 points in third seat when his partner Smug Sam raised him, drew one round of trumps and then gave up a trump trick when Flo’s Queen and her partner’s King crashed into each other. Larry led a Diamond back as requested by Flo, allowing Shem to collect his other top Diamond. Shem then led a Heart, giving up a trick to Larry’s 10.

Larry led another Heart to give Shem the lead back in dummy with his Ace. Another Heart lead managed to put Flo back in the lead with her King, which Flo thought she had to take, lest she would have to eat it. That meant Flo next had to take her Spade Ace and come back with a Spade to dummy’s King to let Shem make 8 tricks: a Spade, a Heart, two Diamonds and four Clubs.

“Well, at least we got 50 for Down One,” Flo said without much enthusiasm, somehow feeling that it wasn’t a very good score on the board.

“You could have gotten 500 if you’d doubled us and played better defense to put us Down Three,” said Sam, smug as always.

“And how could we have done that?” Flo asked, feeling herself getting flustered again.

“You can lead a trump on the opening trick because your Queen is a dead honor anyway,” Sam replied, “or you can lead a Heart. You’ve got to figure out a way to get into your partner’s hand to have him lead Spades to you through my partner’s King.”

“So if 3 Clubs was such a bad bid, why did you make it?” Flo asked.

“Because I felt pretty sure that you wouldn’t double,” Sam replied, “and also because it kept you from getting your vulnerable Game, which would have given you even more points, 620 in this case.”

“Surely we didn’t have Game on that hand?” Flo asked.

“You have an easy 4 Spades,” Sam explained. “You finesse out my partner’s King in the trump suit and all you lose is one trick in each of the side suits.”

“But how can we bid that?” Flo asked. “I don’t see how anyone can get there.”

“Double my partner’s opening bid of a Club instead of making that weak overcall of a Diamond,” Sam replied. “Then even if I jump to me pre-emptive 3 Clubs bid, your partner will say 3 Spades and you can raise him to 4.”

“So you did it to me again with your off-the-wall jump bid in Clubs,” said Flo. “When will I ever learn that you have nothing when you do that?”

“Hopefully, never,” said Sam as he walked away.

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