Swiss downer: Scaredy-cats never win

WILMINGTON, DE – For the first time in many weeks, we got our regular Thursday night four-person Swiss team together again last week (5-16-2013) at the Delaware Bridge Studio with Eileen Bickel-Thomas, recovering nicely from a minor operation, always steady Ed Maser, our fiery captain John Walston and myself.

We did quite well, prompting Eileen to warn me that my regular participation in the team will be required in the future – no more free passes. We won three head-to-head matches in the lower bracket of the competition and losing just one.

That had us tied at the top with two other teams with the same 3-1 record, but we were relegated to third place because we had fewer victory points – meaning the one loss we had was by a substantial margin, 23 International Match Points (IMPs), to the Joneses (it’s always hard to keep up with the Joneses). The three matches we won were by much smaller margins, 2, 9 and 13 IMPs respectively. That third place won each of us .32 MasterPoints.

As the East-West pair of our team, John and I did okay, playing 14 of the 24 boards better than par, with 4 pars and only 6 boards with below-par results, which should be equivalent to a 67% game in pairs. We had some good sacrifices. Every time we gave up 100 points because of going down one vulnerable and two not vulnerable, the hand records later showed that the opponents had something better, 110, 120 or 140 points.

Doing well in bridge often depends more on how you do on those middling hands than on the Games and the Slams if everyone bids them.

One board I particularly liked for a “bridge burglar” column was one in which I put my partner John in an unmakeable 3 Diamonds contract, with the result that he did indeed go Down One, as he should have, to give up just 50 points. But the hand records later showed that our opponents, notably Clyde Hess who is known as a conservative bidder, could have made 3 Spades. So it was much better to give up 50 points rather than 140.

John sat West during the evening, but to make play easier to follow, I’ll turn the hands around and make him South, and he will be Shy Shem, Smug Sam’s partner. I’ll be Smug Sam with the North hand that becomes the dummy because I put my partner in that winning sacrifice bid. Clyde who failed to find the winning 3 Spades bid with the West hand will become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, who always gets bested by Smug Sam. Clyde’s East partner becomes Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry.

The hand

North Dealer; neither side vulnerable

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

The bidding

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

Opening lead: K

How Flustered Flo played it

Flustered Flo is always a little confused what suit to bid first when she has two suits of equal length, but one has a lot more honors than the other. On the diagrammed deal in a recent club game when Flo played the West hand against her nemesis Smug Sam who sat North, that confusion cost her a low board.

Smug Sam’s partner, Shy Shem opened light in third seat with a Diamonds but then was not heard from again in the auction.  Flo knew she was going to overcall, and she liked her Hearts a lot better than her Spades, so she said a Heart. Sam said a No-Trump, showing a Heart stopper, and Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry, said 2 Clubs.

When Shy Shem passed on the second round, Flo decided to mention her second five-card suit and bid 2 Spades. After Sam went to 3 Diamonds, Flo’s partner Larry had no bid. He couldn’t really support Flo’s second suit, and with only two Hearts and knowing Sam had a Heart stopper, he couldn’t go to 3 Hearts, either, so he passed.

Flo led the Heart King and she didn’t mind it when Larry overtook it with the Ace to try and get a ruff. But Larry first collected the Club Ace, which revealed Flo’s void, so he led another Club to give Flo a ruff before Flo collected her Heart Queen. Eventually Flo also cashed in her trump Ace for her fifth trick to put Shem Down One and collect 50 points.

Sam didn’t seem to mind. “Well played, partner,” he told Shem. “That minus-50 should be a good result for us.”

“Why do say that?’ Flo asked. “We don’t have anything better than that.”

“Yes, you did,” said Sam, with the smug smirk Flo hated so much. “You have 3 Spades.”

“How can we make 3 Spades when we’re missing the top three trumps?’ Flo asked.

“Yes, you lose those, and one Diamond, but that’s all,” Sam said. “You make it – and 140 points would be a lot better that the 50 you got.”

“But how can we bid it?” Flo asked. “My Hearts are so much better than my Spades. I can’t bid that ratty five-card Spade suit to the Jack.”

“Sure you can,” said Sam. “Of course the best bid on the hand is a Michaels 2 Diamonds bid showing 5-5 length in the majors. Some people have trouble remembering that a Michaels 2 bid in a major suit doesn’t mean minors, but the other unbid major and a minor. That’s why some people don’t use Michaels.”

“So what do you do if you have two five-card suits and you don’t play Michaels?” Flo asked.

“You always bid the higher suit first, no matter how ratty it is. This hand is a textbook case for it. Bid Spades first, and then later the Hearts. Since your partner has three Spades and only two Hearts, then he won’t be afraid to put you back in your first suit by bidding 3 Spades. The way you did it, you partner doesn’t have a re-bid.”

“I’m so afraid to bid a bad suit,” Flo admitted.

“Well, scaredy-cats never win,” said Sam, “so suit yourself.”

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