“Oh good, we’re skipping [the Mad Scientist],” one of the better players muttered to his partner as they walked by our table. One day some player I have a healthy respect for will say, “Oh good, we’re skipping her.” Probably I won’t hear it because I’ll be too busy listening to my partner call me names and I’ll miss what is actually the sincerest form of flattery.
Those of us who play bridge with a chip on our shoulder, as if we have something to prove, are always looking to lock horns with the best players in the room. The good players, of course, aren’t typically even aware that they’ve been targeted. At best, the up-and-coming player is viewed as a minor annoyance; at worst, they are seen as a mere conduit to the next top. It’s a sign that you’ve arrived when the old guard cease to enthusiastically embrace these skirmishes. The next best thing to being someone the good players are wary of, is playing with someone the good players are wary of, but one day I too will stop giving out more tops than bottoms and will rise to the level of
fearsome adversary minor annoyance.
Speaking of chips on shoulders, the Hen was there today. On our first hand against her, I opened the bidding, the Hen’s partner over-called, TMS raised and then the Hen raised her partner. I accidentally pulled out two pass cards at once. She made a remark about how that was an extra weak bid, “She has a terrible suit.” In fact, I had a good suit, but a terrible hand, not that it mattered. On the next hand the same thing happened (one of the pass cards was bent and was catching the card next to it). She said something again. At the end of the bidding I shoved the offending pass card toward the back of the box. Though she would have claimed to be joking she was actually insinuating that I meant something by it, which, needless to say, I did not. While she’s hated me ever since I made that alleged psyche bid, she seems genuinely fond of TMS (who isn’t?) so I doubt she thinks he would take part in such a harebrained scheme which makes the whole thing even more ridiculous. Or maybe she really was joking, chickens aren’t known for their sense of humor.
The Mad Scientist and I came in 2nd by one lousy matchpoint. I surrendered both the tying and winning points dozens of times today, but the last two rounds were especially bad. I got lazy on defense and botched things on a hand when I had only roughly sketched in the count without really working it out. TMS noted that I should have known it was safe to tap declarer in my long suit because even though she had length she’d be forced to ruff in front of me on subsequent tricks, never setting up her honor in that suit. I explained that I hadn’t wanted to risk setting up her jack, but I guess I looked stricken because when I was done he said, “It’s okay.” I said, “It’s really not.” And he said, “You’re right; you’re a f_ckin’ kumquat.” And with that status quo was restored. At times, TMS has threatened to bring a banana with him to give to me whenever I’ve really blown it (a nod to my suggesting he might do better training a monkey to play bridge). This seems like a good plan, mostly because when enacted I’ll have a life-time supply of free bananas.
Yin and I have been working on not becoming demonstrably angry with one another at the table. Perhaps he and I should adopt something like the banana system. Since we’re far closer in skill level than the TMS and I, my thinking is that we should exchange the “banana” whenever one of us commits a grievous error. Like a game of hot potato in slow motion, the goal will be not to be the person stuck with the banana at the end of the session. (Errors induced by partner, presumably so that they can unburden themselves of the banana will not count.) Of course, it doesn’t have to be a banana (which would almost certainly get bruised and smelly in the process), it could be a loaded die or a plastic figurine, something small, useless and funny that would both express our displeasure but sting less for the receiver than nasty remarks.
While I didn’t win at the club today, I still feel like a winner because I won an eBay auction for a first edition of The Four Aces System of Contract Bridge that was signed by all Four Aces (Oswald Jacoby, David Burnstine, Howard Schenken and Michael T. Vanderbilt). This particular copy was “awarded to Mr. Myer S. Kripke for correct solution of the Four Aces’ problem published in the Playbill.” I am a very happy kumquat.