Sunday, December 23, 2012

Two Wrongs Often Make it Right

First the Weather Report in Rochester, New York. It snowed and we have a clean blanket of snow covering the ground and more on the way. I have forgotten all my Minnesota driving skills and so have experienced going down the highways mostly sideways and out of control. Nobody sent the scotch that I requested in my last post, but fortunately I brought my little bridge flask along and have had plenty of table experiences that challenged my resolve. 
A couple of times I have discussed what I believe to be the significant advantage of long term partnerships when it comes to bidding bridge hands. Usually familiarity presents itself by precise bidding and a little intuitive feeling about borderline situations that gives them an edge. In spite of this, they occasionally get off track and you expect to benefit by the unintended misunderstandings. Lately, however, just when it looks like somebody is going to put a “top board” in my stocking, I end up with a lump of coal. Here is an example from Friday (E-W vul):

KQ7654                 T82
J                             853
J62                         T983
KJ8                         QT7


 My partner, Mike Spitulnik, sitting East passes as does South. I am sitting West holding 11 hcp and a 7 LTC hand. I am sure many would choose to open that hand in 3rd seat one spade, but with my partner being a previous pass and holding a single heart and no real defensive values, I decided on two spades (preemptive). I might point out that in standard or 2/1 I probably would  not open this hand in 1st or 2nd seat. IMHO, too good for a pre-empt and not good enough to open in 1st or 2nd seat. Yes, I have a good rebid, but that might not find me much solace if opponents find their heart fit. Surely if I open and partner doubles a high level heart contract he is not going to be happy with my defensive values. I’ll take criticism over this choice!!

North and South are experienced players, not experts, but know their way around the bridge table. After my 2 spade bid, North overcalls 3 hearts. Without hesitation her partner raises her to 4 hearts. When the South hand comes down as dummy, Mike and I are trying to be stoic, but our eyes meet and we are savoring what surely has to be a doomed contract and a high board for us. Normally you would expect North to have 14-16 hcps for the 3 level overcall so when South came down with 7 hcps it became clear that Santa was on his way. At the conclusion of play as they wrapped their 4 heart contract, we sat there like plucked geese knowing that we had been the victims of double offsetting miscommunication. We hear South say “Well, I knew that her bid at the 3 level was highly invitational and I did have 7 hcps.” North’s rejoinder was “Well, I was surely entitled to bid 3 hearts with 20 hcps. One wrong compensated for another and our anticipated good board turned into an average minus. If you hold the North hand, double first and then when South bids 3 hearts, raise to 4 hearts. Now you are showing 17+ hcps and a game invitational hand. 

The next one catches one of my favorite rascals, Bill Foster, and his longtime partner, Gayle Phillips, in a senior moment. They are both Gold Life Masters and Gayle only plays with Bill. After a couple of false starts, Bill is my nominee for this year’s “zero tolerance” award.

I see Bill and Gayle coming to my table, but I am loaded for bear with one of my top partners, Lydia Fischer. Lydia celebrates her 90th birthday today and is so close to 5,000 master points that every time we scratch I expect diamonds to rain down from the sky. We play K-S by choice which totally suits me since it is a system I play often. Here are the hands (N- S vul). 


T986432                         void
96                                    KJ87
AK                                  QT52
82                                    AJT93


I am South and dealer and open 1NT (12-14). Gayle without hesitation overcalls 2 spades!!!  Lydia passes and without any tempo break Bill passes. I have no rebid so I pass and we are in 2 spades. All of a sudden Bill regains consciousness and realizes that he has passed an opening hand equivalent with a void in the trump suit.

Bill does not take criticism all that well and Gayle can dish it out when justified, so he goes on the offensive saying, “partner I know I made a tragic mistake by passing, and please do me the favor of not commenting about it in front of these nice people. It is not clear what Gayle’s 2 spade bid was all about, but given she claimed it was preemptive and there was no conventional alert, it seems likely that she did not notice my 1NT opening. The next thing I hear Gayle saying, “what mistake, I made a weak bid of two of 2 spades, what did you want to do other than pass?” Now Bill, always quick to grab the offensive and get off defense, says “What weak 2 bid, you made a 2 spade overcall!” No one can go from guilt to indignance quicker than Bill. It was a draw, so Gayle played the hand in two spades with a ten high suit and a board void in trump. In spite of the convoluted bidding and mutual miscues, they actually made 2 spades which was a top score on the board, sharing it with 3 clubs. How did we fare? Well I did not see diamonds descending from the sky. It was late in the day, and I did get a chuckle seeing two very good players having super senior moments. Only Bill Foster could come out of this smelling like a rose. I am sure that he reveled with our frustration. If he has to stuff a lump of coal in someone’s stocking, I’m sure that I would be one of his favorite candidates. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all my readers.
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