Tampa pre-empt doesn’t scare Eagles fan

TAMPA, FL – The people of Tampa Bay proved to be very congenial hosts when Christine Matus and I decided to spend a weekend there around the Buccaneers’ NFL home game against our former home team, the Philadelphia Eagles, on Sunday (10-13-2013).

Walking the streets of Ybor City the night before the game (It’s the historic area of Tampa that started with the hand-rolled cigar industry transplanted from Havana), nobody hassled me about the Eagles jersey I was wearing – not the same one I wore to the game the next day; I have several. I heard more “Go Eagles!” than any booing or heckling.

The Tampa Bay folks seem to know that their Bucs team is pretty woeful this year and would still be winless after Sunday’s 31-20 loss to the Eagles, and there were almost as many Eagles jerseys as B ucs jerseys at the game. In Tampa, they seem resigned to the fact that the owners, the Glazer family, now seem to be focused more on their new acquisition, the Manchester United soccer team, after they won their first and only Super Bowl with our former offensive coordinator, Jon Gruden, as coach.

On Saturday afternoon, we got a pretty good reception as well at the Tampa Bay Bridge Center, a nice bright facility tucked in among the trees just off Florida Avenue in North Tampa, not too far from the University of South Florida, where Tampa’s two annual Regional duplicate tournaments are held.

The club, a membership organization, owns its own building debt-free and has been at its present site for over 30 years and charges only $4 card fees to members, the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere outside Youngstown, OH.

Mike, the director, greeted us warmly, introduced us to all the players at the 10-plus tables and even followed our progress during the game. We started out like a house on fire and for a while were in first-overall position, then fell back, but had a strong last round to finish first in the C stratification with a 51% game that earned us 1.15 MasterPoints.

The bridge players were all very nice to us as well and gave us an excellent recommendation for a restaurant to have dinner at that evening (which turned out to be spectacular). Then, like good hosts, they proceeded to give us several good boards.

One of the most interesting boards – wouldn’t you know it? – came at a table where I, in my Eagles shirt, came to face the only Tampa resident in the crowd who was wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers shirt, one from the year they won their SuperBowl. The Bucs’ fan and his partner tried to screw us up when we had a big hand by opening pre-emptively with a 3 Clubs bid, but we easily reached a 4 Spades contract and even let ourselves be pushed to 5 Spades when they attempted to sacrifice in 5 Clubs.

But they were too scared to sacrifice in 6 Clubs, giving us a score of over 70% for our 5 Spades contract, which I made.

We’ll make a “bridge burglar” column out of that hand. I’ll play it as South and will become Smug Sam (my partner Christine becomes Shy Shem as Sam’s partner), while the guy with the Tampa Bay Bucs shirt will have to assume the role of Flustered Flo, my column’s anti-hero, who had some strange ideas as to why he shouldn’t sacrifice at the 6 level. His west partner becomes Flo’s habitual partner, Loyal Larry.

The hand

West Dealer’ North-South vulnerable

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

The bidding

West North East South
3 Double Pass 4
Pass Pass 5 5
Pass 5 All pass

Opening lead: King of Clubs

How Flustered Flo played the hand

Making a successful sacrifice often depends entirely on the vulnerability. When your opponents are vulnerable and stand to make a Game in a major suit for 620 points, you can go quite far sacrificing in a minor if you’re not vulnerable.

Flustered Flo found that out to her chagrin when she sat East on the diagrammed hand at a recent “common” duplicate game played at most Florida clubs simultaneously.

From her partner Loyal Larry’s opening pre-emptive bid of 3 Clubs, Flo knew she and her partner had a tremendous fit in Clubs, and Flo had no problem attempting a sacrifice in 5 Clubs when her perennial nemesis, Smug Sam, immediately jumped to Game in 4 Spades. Sam wouldn’t let the double stand and gave his partner, Shy Shem, a choice to play at the 5 level in Diamonds or Spades — Shem liked both but naturally chose the higher Spade sit because it would be more points.

That’s when Flo threw in the towel and passed.

Larry’s opening lead of the King of Clubs held and he continued with his singleton Diamond, which Sam took in his Declarer’s hand. Sam drew three rounds of trumps to end up in his hand and after clearing all the Diamonds, led the Heart 10 out of his hand, playing low from dummy when Larry ducked the King. Flo took her Ace of Hearts, but Sam had the rest of his tricks to claim his contract.

“Maybe you should have sacrificed in 6 Clubs, partner,” Larry suggested in good humor to Flo, keeping any tone of criticism out of his voice, since he is always very loyal to Flo.

“I can’t do that – I was afraid of driving them right into Slam,” Flo replied.

“That’s the most inane thing I ever heard,” said Sam, even though no one had asked him for his opinion. “You’ve got two Aces in your hand. Of course we can’t make Slam and we’re not going to go to Slam.”

“Well, I heard some place that you don’t sacrifice to the Slam level,” Flo defended herself. “You will probably go down way too many, and even if you don’t drive your opponents into Slam, they’re already so high at the 5 level that you have a better chance of them going down.”

“With all due respect, that sounds like another one of your rigid rules that makes no sense, Flo,” retorted Sam, smug as always. “If a sacrifice can be good at the 5 level, there’s no reason it can’t be good as well at the 6 level or even at 7. I once stole a contract myself bidding 7 Clubs on just one point.”

“So should I have sacrificed in 6 Clubs?” Flo asked.

“Absolutely!” Sam replied. “You go Down only 2 to give me 300 points – instead of the 650 I got. That score would have given you a top instead of the tie for bottom you got.”

“I guess that once again when I came up against you, I was just too timid,: said Flo.

“Nobody’s ever accused me that,” said Sam, “and I hope they never will.”

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