One of my new partners is also on the softball team. After yet another defeat I was wandering back to the parking lot, lost in thought over just how bad our team actually is, when he got my attention, “Tomorrow night is something we’re good at!” That reminder cheered me up greatly. Once a month the local club has a team game that is balanced by a formula that anyone with fewer than 1,000 masterpoints is a “1″, players with between 1,000 and 2,500 masterpoints are “2″s and those with more than 2,500 masterpoints are a “3″. The total for the four-person team cannot be greater than 8. This particular partner and I had played once before and the card we’re playing is pretty simple, though we expect to add more in the future.
Early on in the night, my partner remarked that I was overly pessimistic in the way I played and defended. I wanted to tell him that my experience playing with the Mad Scientist has inured me to lousy hands and bad trump splits, but instead I told him I was just being “realistic”. Then we went off to compare with our teammates and found out that all our good work had been undone by a speculative double that went spectacularly wrong at their table. “It happens,” I said while thinking of my bridge teacher who almost always continued that with, “… and sometimes ‘it’ is spelled with an ‘sh’.”
On one hand during the very last match, red against white, in fourth seat I opened 1♥. My LHO overcalled 1♠ and my partner jumped to 3♠. I could think of two plausible explanations for the bid, but luckily position told me everything. If he wanted me to bid 3NT with a spade stopper he wouldn’t hold the kind of hand that would have gotten markedly better when I opened the bidding 1♥ and since he was a passed hand he couldn’t be forcing to game with a hand that didn’t improve with my opening bid. Ergo his 3♠ bid was a splinter. I found this quite nifty because I had a pretty good hand:
Since it’s safe to say that he is at the top of his range for being a passed hand (10-11 HCP) and with those points not being in spades, I’m actually interested in slam now that I am no longer worried about spades. Of course, clubs are still a problem so I can’t just pass GO! and go directly to Blackwood, but I have lots of room on this auction so I bid 4♦ showing both a diamond control and denying one in clubs.
Now my partner knows I don’t have a club control, and clearly I’m interested in slam or I would have just signed off in 4♠ so I must want to know about clubs. As it turns out, he has something for me in clubs, but instead of bidding 5♣, he makes a truly great bid of 5♥ which I interpretted as showing the club ace as well as either a void in spades or something extra in diamonds I wasn’t sure which it was, but it was enough for me to jump go right on up to 6. (Later he would clarify that with the spade void he would have instead cuebid 4♠ so he was showing something in diamonds as well as first round control of clubs.)
As my partner remarked while putting down his hand, “That was a sophisticated auction for an unsophisticated pair.”
6♥ was ice cold. The opponents won only their opening lead which was the ace of spades. I was starting to feel distinctly more optimistic.
In the same round a few hands later, I picked up a 23 HCP NT-type hand and another “sophisticated” auction was underway. This time the opponents remained silent throughout:
** I have at least one four card major
***I don’t have hearts.
****3 or 0
*****Do you have the ♠Q too?
******Yes and the ♦K, but not the ♣K
There was a long hesitation before my partner bid 6♠. It seemed possible he was contemplating seven, but it turns out when I saw his hand I realized the question was really between 6♠ and 6NT. He too had a flat hand but we’d found our 4-4 spade fit so my preference (and his it appears) is to play in the suit. Well most of the time….
The opening lead was a diamond which my RHO promptly ruffed. “Six notrump,” I said glumly. Things were looking up when it came to light that I had to lose two more tricks anyway so 6NT was also a non-starter. Of course, our intrepid teammates intervened over the 2♣ auction at the other table and so they never got to the 33 HCP small slam that wasn’t, instead they stopped in 3NT — making five. When the smoke cleared we came in 2nd overall, not a bad showing all things considered. And, more importantly, we won the jackpot (the team that came in first had not entered).
My partner and I decided to play the next night in the regular pairs game and again we bid right up to 6♥ unopposed. In first seat, vul. against not, I opened with:
*2 Keycards + Q of trump or the “Oh why oh why did we put off adding Kickback?!” bid.
My LHO led a spade. As he was laying down his hand, my partner remarked “If [my RHO] trumps this, I’m never playing with you again.” “Agreed,” I said thinking we were going to make seven and then I asked him to play low from dummy:
My RHO trumped. It’s really a shame that such a promising partnership has ended so soon. Now at this point I’m still convinced that six is going to be gin, unless of course the hearts break 0-4 so guess what? After my LHO showed out on the first round of trump I went into the tank for a long time, certainly longer than most of my partners have ever witnessed me do so. I was, of course, trying to think of a line that would let me make six. Finally it dawned on me that I could make six if my LHO along with his FIVE F_CKING SPADES also held both the King and Queen of clubs and with this in mind I started to pull trump when the bridge gods smiled on me and my LHO discarded a spade (he did not in fact have both missing club honors so there was no squeeze). I was the only person to make 6, in fact several people only made 4. Later on (after three hands on which he opened I did not have enough in my hand to respond) I asked if he still thought I was overly pessimistic, he agreed that I wasn’t.
We didn’t actually end the partnership, though he probably wanted to later on in the evening when I made a boneheaded play on defense which gave the pair that was then in second place a top and the edge over us. We came in 2nd again, but again we also won the jackpot. Things could be worse.