Two Floridians pick pockets in France

Vive la difference!

In the second week of our two-week European vacation, my partner Christine and I started needing our bridge fix, and in advance we had arranged to play on Friday (5-29-2015) at the Club St. Honore just behind the Arc de Triomphe. And even though one of the other main clubs, France-Bridge, had not bothered to reply to our email, its website said there was a Wednesday evening game at its club just behind the Palais de Chaillot across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to just show up then, too.

Our overwhelming impression from playing bridge at two different sites in Paris is that people don’t seem to be very welcoming of strangers. Whenever we play in a new place Stateside, we are introduced as visitors and people strike up a conversation to find out where we’re from, etc. Not so in Paris. They let us play, tolerated us, but showed virtually no curiosity about us. Paris is so overrun with tourists – it’s supposed to be the No. 1 tourist destination in the world with 24 million annual visitors – that the Parisians may be tired of dealing with the hordes of camera-toting Japanese and Indians during the day and at night they just want to get away from them to play bridge among themselves.

I could understand that – we wanted to get away from all the other tourists ourselves. Then again, maybe they were just being the typical arrogant Parisians. Only the bartender, who was an Indian, offered us some water “on the house.”

Also, the millions of tourists have also attracted numerous bands of pickpockets and maybe the bridge players didn’t relish having their pockets picked at the table by a couple of tourists.

Things are done a little differently in Paris. There are full bars at both clubs, and a significant number of players at France Bridge dined together at one long table before the start of the game. Both bars stayed open throughout the evening, although drinking alcohol has never improved my bridge game.

Everything runs late in Paris, so the France-Bridge game didn’t start until much later than the announced 8 p.m. time, and we didn’t finish the 26 boards until well past 11:30, and the St. Honore game on Friday didn’t start till 8:30 p.m. and we didn’t finish the 25 boards until 11:45 p.m. – good thing the Paris Metro runs until almost 1 am to get us back to our hotel.

It was especially difficult to adjust to the different circumstances for Christine, who had never played in Europe before. The bidding boxes are different (they go down vertically instead of across horizontally), all the face cards are different (a King is an R for “roi,” a Queen is a D for “Dame,” and a Jack is a V for “valet”) so Christine had to be super-careful to count her points every time. Also, the names of the suits are different. Spades are “piques” and Clubs are “trefs” although the Hearts are at least a literal translation (coeurs), and Diamonds are “carrots” after the carre shapes, so when the Dealer was calling for dummy to play the Valet of Piques, Christine had no idea what was going on until the card was actually pulled..

Then with the din of French all around her, she had a hard time concentrating.

I understood most of the French, but when we left a table after inflicting a bad result on a pair of opponents, they usually started arguing among themselves in rapid French as to who was more at fault, and I was lost, too. Except that the obvious sound of arguments we have caused is always music to my ears …

Under those circumstances, it seems to me that we did exceedingly well, getting a 52 percent final score at France-Bridge good enough for 5th place among the East-West pairs in a 13-table game. We got some points in the French bridge federation’s scoring system, but those didn’t mean much to us.

At St. Honore, we had a 50% game, but we finished in the lower half of the scoring column among the pairs because we hadn’t realized that scoring was on the International Match Point (IMP) system normally used for Swiss-format team games. They take the average of what all the pairs scored, and then convert however many points you were over or under that average into IMPs. A couple of minus-800 scores that wouldn’t have hurt us in normal MarchPoint scoring (a bottom is a bottom) dragged us down.

It’s an interesting format and we’ll do better at it the next time when we know what’s important and what’s not. They also distributed hand records we’d never seen anywhere else before, which tell you how many you should have gone down even if you couldn’t make any contract, which is important to determine whether you made a good sacrifice or not.

For that, and other reasons such as the physical appearance of the clubs, we liked St. Honore better than France-Bridge.

One of our best boards, worthy of a bridge burglar blog entry, was one from St. Honore on which I made a doubled 3 Clubs contract for a plus-470 score, while our opponents had an easy 3 Spades contract that would have given us a minus-140. Our score was an absolute top and got us 10 IMPs.

In real life we played East-West, but to make play easier to follow, I’ll turn the boards around and I’ll become South. My West opponent who got suckered into doubling me into Game will become Flustered Flo, while I’ll be her nemesis, Smug Sam.

North Dealer; neither side vulnerable

4 3
9 7 4 3
A K Q J 7
Q 4
West East
A 6 K Q J 10 5 2
Q 5 J 10 8 6 2
10 6 5 2 4
K J 7 6 5 3
9 8 7
9 8 3
A 6 2
North East South West
1 1 2 Pass
Pass 2 3 Double
All pass

Opening lead: Ace of Spades

Flustered Flo never knows if her nemesis, Smug Sam, is bluffing or if he really has the goods when he makes one of his seemingly crazy bids. But on the diagrammed deal at a recent club duplicate game, Flo sat West when Sam, in the South seat, bid Clubs for the second time, she was pretty sure she had him right where she wanted him for a big score in down points, so she slapped down the double card.

Flo led the Ace of Spades, the suit her East partner, Loyal Larry, had bid first, and followed with a small Spade to Larry’s King. Larry rightly didn’t see much future in another Spade lead, which would surely gave Sam a chance to over-ruff from the dummy’s short trump side, so he shifted to a Heart, which was captured by Sam’s Ace.

Sam next led a small trump out of his hand, and Flo could think of nothing better than to jump up with the King and lead her last Heart to Sam’s King. Sam went to dummy with the Queen of trumps, which revealed the bad trump split, but Sam now knew because of the bidding that Flo, who was his most dangerous opponent with all the trumps, also had to have all the little Diamonds so she was no threat to ruff as he ran his Diamonds.

Flo had to follow suit as Sam took dummy’s top four Diamonds, getting rid of his remaining Spade loser from his hand on the last one. Then Flo had to start playing trump, but all Flo could get was her Jack and Sam had the last two tricks with higher trumps. Sam only had to lose two Spade and two trump tricks – he took the other 9 to make his doubled contract.

“I’m sorry about the double that gave them a Game, partner,” Flo said to Larry by way of apology for the bad result that turned out to be an absolute bottom. “But with you bidding twice, I thought you had more points.”

“My hand was totally distributional,” said Larry, always very loyal to Flo. “I had singletons in both the minor suits. I understand with your hand you felt you had to double.”

“Instead of blaming your partner for not having a better hand,” said Sam, “you’re the one to blame, Flo, for not supporting your partner’s suit. He gave you two choices. You have doubletons in both Spades and Hearts. You should have gone to his first suit and bid 3 Spades. That makes. But I would have gone to 4 Diamonds or 4 Clubs and you could have gotten 100 points if you doubled me, which is a lot better than giving us 470.”

“But I thought I had a sure thing with my double,” Flo responded weakly. “I had five of your trumps and my partner had bid twice. I thought there was no way you could make that contract.

Come to think of it, you were much better off in Diamonds than in Clubs. Why didn’t you bid 3 Diamonds instead of 3 Clubs?”

“Well, if my partner was really allergic to Clubs,” explained Sam, “he could have gone back to his Diamonds. But there was a more important reason.”

“What’s that?” Flo asked.

“The 3 Clubs bid gave me a chance to catch your double and give us a cheap Game,” Sam explained. “You probably wouldn’t have doubled 3 Diamonds.”

“So I’m the chump and I fell for your dirty rotten trick?” Flo asked.

“You said it, Flo,” said Sam. “I didn’t.”



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