Stealing the bid: Is there a bridge burglarette in town?

Although I played twice last week at the Bridge Studio of Delaware with different partners and teammates and got some additional MasterPoints, I couldn’t find a good hand on the “bridge burglar” theme of stealing a bid or a contract. There was no clever trickery – if we got a good board, our opponents made a bidding or playing mistake, and if we got a bad one, we’d done the same.

In the Wednesday night open pairs game, my partner Arthur Zadrozny and I were far ahead in first place overall going into the last round, but my other regular partners Christine Matus and John Walston, who were playing together that evening, decided to give away some very good boards to the second-place team of Barbara Rhoads and Spencer Kiernan allowing them to sneak past us into first place and relegate us to second, which earned us .77 MasterPoints.

In the Thursday evening four-person Swiss teams game, our team of John and I, playing with Eileen Bickel-Thomas and Ed Maser, fresh off a bridge cruise to Bermuda, finished somewhere in the middle with two wins and two losses, which got us only .14 more points. But we got bragging rights because in out head-to-head to match, we beat the eventual winners, the Kathy Bear team which also included Christine (and which got only .40 points for its victory).

But if I didn’t score any new “bridge burglar” feats, Christine may very well have gotten one of her own. Maybe she’s bucking to take away my title as the bridge burglar – or at least take her place alongside me as the “bridge burglarette” – but she made a 2 Hearts contract in which she should have gone Down Two doubled vulnerable, stealing no fewer than two tricks, while she and her partner, Mary Lou Farnum, kept their opponents out of makeable bigger contracts in 2 No-Trump or 3 Spades.

Christine, despite her competitive spirit, is fairly modest and she was not sure that her performance was worthy of being highlighted as a bridge burglarette feat. She wasn’t sure if her success was due to something clever that she did, or just to inept defense, in this case by Barbara Thayer, and especially Carole Everitt, who failed to make any second bid with a 19-point hand.

Since the combined results on the hand – at the other table Christine’s teammates did double the 2 Hearts bid and set the contract by two tricks for a plus-500 score – the 610 total for 12 International MatchPoints (IMPs) was such a coup that swung the whole round, that we’ve decided Christine’s steal can indeed count among the string of crimes committed by our favorite bridge burglars and burglarettes.

Christine really played the board as East, but to make the action easier to follow, we’ve turned the hands around made her South and she will play the part of Smug Sam in my column. Mary Lou will be her North partner and become Loyal Larry. The unfortunate Carole will become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, with the West hand, and her partner Barbara Thayer, who couldn’t so much to prevent the disaster, will become Flo’s partner Loyal Larry.

The hand

West Dealer; both sides vulnerable

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

The bidding

West North East South
1 2 * Pass 2
All pass

* the 2 Michaels convention bid indicated a 5-5 fit in the majors

Opening lead: 3

How Flustered Flo played it

It really irritates Flustered Flo that her nemesis Smug Sam always seems to steal the bid away from her when she has a good hand, but on the diagrammed deal at a recent club game when Flo had the monster West hand and Sam sat South, she was once again unable to stop him from doing it.

Flo didn’t think she had another bid after Sam chose Hearts in answer to his partner Shy Shem’s Michaels convention take-out bid asking him to pick between the two majors.

Since Flo knew the dummy would have both major suits, she decided to lead a Spade on the principle of leading through strength – and she was also trying to fool Sam into believing she’d never lead away from a King.

Sam called her bluff immediately and played the Queen, following by the Spade Ace, pitching two Clubs from his hand. He ruffed a Spade in his hand and led a Diamond to Flo’s Ace. Flo led a Club to dummy’s Queen, her partner Loyal Larry’s King and Sam’s Ace, and Sam then ruffed a Diamond in dummy. He came back to ruff another Spade, which Flo over-ruffed.

Flo exited with a Club to her partner’s Jack, and Flo over-ruffed the return Spade lead. Flo collected her last high trump, but then had to let dummy take the last trick with a trump, letting Sam make his contract with two Spade tricks, the Club Ace, a Spade ruff in his hand, two trump tricks and two Diamond ruffs in dummy.

“If I counted right,” said Flo, “we had 24 points and you guys had just 16. How is it possible that you got the contract and made it?”

“Well, if you really want me to answer that, Flo,” said Sam, smug as always, “you have monster hand – you’ve got to bid again after we try to steal the bid with our Michaels bid.”

“But what can I say?” Flo protested. “You guys bid my best suit – Hearts.”

“You can bid 2 No-Trump over my 2 Hearts and you make that contract,” Sam replied. “You have three tricks in Hearts, two in Diamonds, one in Clubs and two in Spades. Or you can double and make your partner bid. He’ll surely bid 2 Spades and even if we try to go 3 Hearts, you can go to 3 Spades and you still make that – you lose two trump tricks, a Club and a Diamond.”

“What if my partner passes and thinks I’m doubling for penalties?” Flo asked.

“You should be so lucky,” Sam replied. “Since everyone is vulnerable, you can put me down by two tricks and collect 500 points for a top board instead of letting me make it.”

“Did I defend that badly?” Flo asked.

“I’m afraid you did,” said Sam, not sorry to pile it on. “Your Spade lead was an infantile trick. I had nothing to lose by playing the Queen since I could have ruffed the trick anyway. On a distributional hand like this one when an opponent uses a Michaels bid, you’ve got figure we’re short somewhere and we’re going to try and cross-ruff, so you’ve got to knock our trumps our right away.”

“So I’ve got to lead my three top trumps and then let you have control of the hand with your remaining trump?” Flo asked. “I didn’t think that was such a good idea, either.”

“That was absolutely the best idea,” Sam explained, “because then all I can get is two trump tricks, the two black Aces and if I’m lucky a couple of Diamonds. You put me down at least two.”

Speak Your Mind