You win some, you lose some

LANCASTER, PA – Well, although I’m probably less than five points away from attaining my Life Master status now, I didn’t quite get there yet. At Sunday’s  four-person Swiss format team competition that ended the Lancaster, PA, Winter Regional duplicate bridge tournament (an ACBL-sanctioned event), our team captained by Marylyn Calabrese and also including her partner Andy Rubin and my partner Christine Matus, we ended up with a 3-4 record in head-to-head matches.

We were tied 3-3 going into the last round and had a pretty good score because our wins had been by bigger margins than our losses, but we got blitzed in the last round, dropping back to 3-4 and limiting our MasterPoints haul  to 2.05 Red. My partner and I had a grievous bidding misunderstanding that caused us to miss a cold Small Slam. Even if we had still lost that match, but earned at least some victory points from that Slam, we would have leapfrogged over a whole bunch of other teams close to us in the standings and we could have easily walked away with 5 or 6 MPs that would have put me over the top.

Oh, well, they tell me patience is a virtue – too bad I have so very little of it.

From the only pairs session I played earlier in the week in Lancaster, I had already used a hand on which I fell for a deliberate misdirection play for a column. That hand knocked us out of first place in the C stratification and we wound up third overall among the Cs, still earning 1.28 Red MasterPoints. There were several other interesting boards in that Tuesday evening session I played with Christine. Although we wound up just a hair under 50%, we had a positive score against the Deep Finesse computer analysis with three pars, 11 birdies and just 10 bogeys.

At least one other hand is also column material. We actually got a top on the board against a couple from Kentucky, and I hated to do it to them because they seemed okay people – they agreed that both their U.S. senators are idiots: GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell, as well as Rand Paul, the son of perennial Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (who talks more like a Libertarian).

We got a top against the Kentucky people with a plus-800 score when we set them by four tricks doubled not vulnerable in their attempted 5 Clubs contract. I had chased them to Clubs after I had also doubled their 4 Diamonds bid, but that had actually been makeable. So by showing a lot of bluster and doubling everything, I barely avoided giving them a top and ourselves a bottom by letting them make a doubled Game in 4 Diamonds, which would have been worth 610 points to them. Instead I drove them to a 5 Clubs contract which the Kentucky man horribly misplayed to go Down Four and gives us 800 – a swing of 1,410 points on one board.

We had the majority of points – I had 18 of them in my own hand – but yet the most we could have made on the hand was 3 Spades because we would have lost two Heart tricks and one each in the minors all day long. And they could have made a 4 contract in any of the other suits, in Hearts or in either of the minors. (I wouldn’t have let them play 4 Hearts – I would have gone to 4 Spades, but I would not have made it.)

The man from Kentucky really sat West, but to make play easier to follow, I’ll turn the board around and he’ll become South and will play the role of Flustered Flo, my column’s hapless protagonist. His wife and partner with the North hand will become Flo’s partner Loyal Larry, and she didn’t seem very loyal to him after the hand was over – as a matter of fact, she got positively bitchy at him. I played the West cards and will become Flo’s nemesis Smug Sam, while Christine will be Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, who behaved anything but shyly with her three-point hand this time.

The hand

7 3
A K 10 9 7 3
9 7 6

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


 6 5
A Q 10 5 4
J 9 8 7 6 2

The bidding

North                East                South                 West
1                     2                 Double *           Redouble
3                     3                  4                     Double
Pass                   Pass                5                     Double
All pass

* South’s negative double indicated a two-suited distributional hand in the minors

Opening lead: Ace of

How Flustered Flo played it

How much attention do you pay to an opponent’s penalty double? There’s a famous saying in bridge that you should never double the only contract you know they can’t make, because your double just tips them off to that fact, and thus gives them a chance to escape somewhere else, to a less disastrous contract.

Flustered Flo thought she had finally outwitted her nemesis Smug Sam on the diagrammed hand at a recent Regional duplicate tournament. She was playing South and wound up in a 4 Diamond contract after she had given her partner Loyal Larry a choice between her two minor suits. Sitting West, Sam doubled, which led Flo to believe she was probably facing a bad trump split in Diamonds.

Sam is only doubling because he thinks I have nowhere else to go,” Flo thought,” but he doesn’t know I’d rather play in my six-card Club suit anyway.” So she bid 5 Clubs, only to see Sam double again.

Flo ruffed Sam’s Spade Ace on the opening trick, went to the dummy with a top Heart and attempted the deep Diamond finesse by letting dummy’s 9 ride. Sam took the trick with his Jack and led another top Spade, forcing Flo to ruff again in her hand. She got to dummy with another top Heart and tried another Diamond finesse, this time losing to Sam’s King. Sam led yet another Spade and Flo couldn’t afford to ruff high in dummy, so she sloughed a Heart and ruffed in her hand again.

She led a trump, but Sam jumped up with his Ace and led another trump to take out dummy’s last trump. Flo next led a small Heart off dummy, hoping East would ruff so she could over-ruff with her last trump and run the Diamonds, but East smartly held on to his last trump, forcing Flo to use her last trump. She then lost total control of the hand. East ruffed the next Diamond lead and ran his remaining Spades for Down Four and a minus-800 score. All Flo got was two Heart tricks, a trump trick and four ruffs — three on Spades and one on a Heart.

“Sorry, partner,” Flo said after that disastrous score had been entered into the computer. “I guess I should have left it in 4 Diamonds. I was too scared of Sam’s first double on those Diamonds.”

“My first double was a bad double,” Sam admitted, smug as always since he had apparently gotten away with a bad bid, “because you can make 4 Diamonds.”

“How does that make?” Flo asked.

“You know I have all the power because my partner had nothing with his weak jump overcall,” Sam explained. “Actually, he didn’t even have the Spades he bid because I had the power there, too. That means you have to finesse everything through me. Leave the Diamond finesses alone because they’re bound to fail anyway, and go for the Heart finesse to set up your Hearts.

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