World beaters with a Shanghai sacrifice

WILMINGTON, DE – My partner Christine Matus and I were “Hungary” for points this past weekend (June 7-8, 2013) when the 27th annual World Wide Bridge Contest was held with the same boards being played at clubs all around the world. Because of the difference in time zones, no club was allowed to post its results on its website for at least 24 hours so as not to give anyone on Wake Island (which is located in the Pacific just before the International Date Line) an unfair advantage – if anyone was actually awake there.

We had not done well all week in Swiss club games at the Delaware Bridge Studio in Wilmington with different teammates, and not even in a pairs game, where we had played like a couple of Turkeys.

We did a little better on Friday, the first day of the World Bridge Contest, earning .12 MasterPoints in a small Swiss game for notching one team victory. Some of the other players in that match didn’t feel so good about their performance, either, and resolved to Taiwan one at the end of the evening.

We really reached our Himalayan peaks on Saturday, when we came in first in our East-West section, only a point behind the overall winners, North-South pair Jess and Lois Stuart. Our 60.12% game was good enough for 2.55 MasterPoints, 1.28 of them of the special Red variety.

Wilmington’s a pretty international place because apart from me being a Dutchman, we had Alessandra Graves from Italy, Spencer Kiernan from Great Britain via Canada and Chien-Ping Kao from China. Studio members Amal Gupta and Fateh Jain from India somehow or other missed this game, as did Muthiah Ramanathan, and Colin Mackay from Scotland, Andy Purbrick from England as well as Big Man Harold Jordan’s wife, Sigridur Kristjansdottir from Iceland.

The snacks included some coconut pastry and lemon tarts – nothing Greece-ey at all, and the weather was so nice, it was almost a shame to be inside – not Chile at all like Friday when tropical storm Andrea had come through, racing up the coast from Florida.

Christine and I avoided all “Death Valley” zeroes, and had five tops or ties for tops, which makes for a pretty good game, especially considering that some of the hands were hellishly difficult designed with a trap to trip you up. In a way we were all Guinea pigs to see how we would avoid the traps that were set for us.

One of the ties for tops we scored was such a good result that apparently even Canadian expert Eric Kokish, who analyzed all the hands in a booklet handed out to all players at the end of the contest, had been unable to find the bid. He didn’t even mention our excellent sacrifice in 4 Spades over our opponents’ 4 Hearts bid as a reasonable possibility for East-West pairs. All he talked about was whether North-South pairs should play the contract in No-Trump or Hearts, make 3, 4, 5 or 6.

I made the sac bid, taking advantage of favorable vulnerability for us – they were vul, we weren’t. Of course our opponents were Dublin us and my partner Christine went Down Three, for a minus-500 score. That was better than we should have done because they could have put us Down Four for a minus-800 score, but even that wouldn’t have been a bad result since we kept our opponents, Pat and Linda, from a Small Slam in 6 Hearts! They also had 4 No-Trump if they had wanted it, but they definitely left their Hearts someplace far away – maybe even as far as away as San Francisco.

The hand has all the necessary elements for one of my “bridge burglar” columns – a good sacrifice that Shanghais the auction, scares off the opponents and keeps them out of a much better contract.

In real life, Linda was North, and since she was the one that did not continue bidding Hearts (or No-Trump) after our sacrifice in Spades, she will have to become my column’s anti-hero Flustered Flo this time.  I’ll turn the hands around to make play easier to follow and she’ll play the West hand. Flo’s nemesis, Smug Sam, will be North and will be played by me. My partner Christine will become the South Declarer as Sam’s partner, Shy Shem. Flo’s East partner will be Loyal Larry.

The hand

East Dealer; East-West vulnerable

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

The bidding

East South West North
Pass 2 Double Pass
3 Pass 4 4
Double All pass

Opening lead: Ace

How Flustered Flo played it

Flustered Flo likes meeting people from other countries, and when she heard her home club was participating in the annual World Wide Bridge Contest in which the same hands were being played all over the world on the same days, she made a point of being there. Even though she was only looking at her perennial nemesis Smug Sam, she felt that spirit of kinship with players all over the world as she played the boards. She wouldn’t have missed it for all the tea in China.

On the diagrammed board, Flo was glad to get a big hand as West against Smug Sam, who sat North. But Flo was fourth to bid, and when Sam’s partner, the South player Shy Shem, shed his usual shyness to open with a weak 2 Spades bid, Flo thought her best option was to “Czech” what her partner might have by doubling.

Flo loved her partner Loyal Larry’s response of 3 Hearts, and immediately raised to Game in 4 Hearts. But the smile ran away from her face as Sam came to life from his North seat, overcalling 4 Spades. She smelled something rotten in the state of Denmark because based on the bidding, she didn’t Belize that Sam could possibly have enough values for his bid.

Flo was glad to see her partner Larry slap down the double card – if she’d had a Panama hat on, she would have taken it off for him. Such Dutch courage by Sam deserved to be punished big time.

Flo took her Heart Ace on the opening trick and, seeing the dummy had a singleton in Hearts, didn’t continue with Hearts and led her top two Diamonds instead, following up with another Diamond to give her partner a ruff. Larry continued with the Club Ace and a low Club to dummy’s Jack. Shem led another top Club from dummy, over-ruffing East’s Jack with his Queen.

Shem next ruffed his last Heart in dummy, and forced East to cover dummy’s 10 of trumps with his King, losing one more trump trick to East’s 8 before claiming the rest. The Down Three, Doubled, not vulnerable result for plus-500 for Flo and Larry didn’t seem to upset Sam too much.

“Well done, partner,” Sam said. “You mission was to limit it to Down Three because they had an easy vulnerable Game in 4 Hearts for at least 620 points — and that’s what you did.”

“Don’t cry for me, Argentina,” said Flo, “but I guess I should have said 5 Hearts over that horrible sacrifice of yours.”

“I hate to tell you, Flo,” said Sam, smug as always, “but there were so many things you could or should have done, and you did none of them. You could have said 4 No-Trump and made it; you could have said 5 hearts and you could even have said 6 Hearts for a 1430 score. And you could also have set us by four tricks, not three like you did, for 800.”

“How” asked Flo. “What did I do wrong?”

“Leading your top Diamonds after taking your Heart Ace was the wrong move,” Sam explained.” You have to let your partner lead Diamonds. You can lead anything else, a trump or another Heart to take our ruffing values off the board, or a Club which doesn’t hurt anything. All those roads lead to Rome for you to give you a seventh trick – all except what you did.”

“I hardly Canberra it,” said Flo, more distraught than ever.

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