I limped into the club today with an ego still bruised from yesterday’s outing. On the very first hand with a combined and fairly evenly distributed 21 HCP, we were in 1NT down three; it was not an auspicious start and by the fourth round the wheels had well and truly come off.
With no one vulnerable, my LHO was the dealer and passed to the Mad Scientist who opened 1♦. My RHO passed to me and I passed holding:
(This was just one of many 4-3-3-3 hands I would pick up today; meanwhile TMS was pulling out hands with wild distribution, eight card suits and two suited 7-5 monstrosities — none of which played particularly well I might add.)
The bidding continued:
Once TMS scrapes up a 2♥ bid, the value of my hand increases significantly, but I’d like to play in 2♥X if the take-out bidder thinks their hearts are good enough to let it stand. Of course, they were balancing so the chances of that are slim. TMS thought I should have bid 3♦ at this point. Later I would take a shine to the idea of redoubling instead, as a passed hand I think it should show that I’m now at the top of my pass and I have values in hearts.
TMS, of course, has a monster and makes four easily, but 3NT is gin. I suspect most of the room opened his hand 2NT, but I can see why with 2=4=5=2 and 21 HCP he might choose not to. Anyway he felt my 3♦ bid was too little too late. As I said, I wish I had redoubled. He made it very clear he thought it was foolish for me to think that we might actually get to play 2♥X.
On the next hand, again neither vulnerable, this time TMS is the dealer and opens 1♣ which could be short if he has a big NT type hand. My hand:
Lovely, isn’t it? My RHO over-called 1♥. And, as far as I was concerned, that made my hand a whole heck of a lot better. If we find a spade fit great, if there isn’t a spade fit I have clubs to fall back on.
I wasn’t happy when he bid 3NT because I know he’s expecting a lot more from me, but I didn’t want to let them play in 2♥. Needless to say he was very unhappy with the dummy. In retrospect, I think I have to bid 4♣ and hope he doesn’t take it as a slam try. As it turns out, 5♣ will make but 3NT is doomed. After the hand TMS demanded to know if playing standard I would have bid with my hand had my RHO passed. The answer is “No” of course, but she didn’t pass, she over-called the suit in which I have a singleton. As for the 3♣ bid, I didn’t want to sell out in 2♥ (a contract they can make, by the way), but I have no way of telling my partner that I’ve led him down the garden path yet again. When the round was over I walked away from the table to get another cup of coffee. When I returned to the table, TMS was gone and my LHO who is a very sweet lady was saying to her partner, “She’s a good player.” When I realized she was talking about me, I noted that that was a matter of some debate. Her response, “Oh everyone thinks you’re a good player. Well, everyone except your partner.”
No one likes losing (well, probably there’s some weirdo somewhere who likes losing at bridge), and I’ve had more than my fair share of really bad games. But ideally even when having a bad game there’s a certain amount of camaraderie between partners. You tell each other that the hands just aren’t scoring well through little or no fault of your own. You’re in this mess together. I once had a partner tell me, “I enjoy having bad games with you more than anyone else.” I took that as a big, if somewhat backhanded, compliment. But once your partner turns against you, it’s a peculiar kind of alienation that descends. In a game that is so highly dependent on clear communication the disconnect can seem, if you’ll pardon the pun, unbridgeable. And bridge players with our considerable egos seem particularly prone to both withdrawing and lashing out, like angry snapping turtles (or perhaps that’s just me). But the loneliness in those moments is fathomless, even with three other people so very close at hand.
After the game, I realized two things: first, I had to come back in three hours to do it all over again, and second, I really wanted a beer. Okay, I really wanted a hug, but since I’m not prone to hugging strangers, I went for a beer instead, and if I didn’t feel like a total loser already, walking into a pub by myself in late afternoon did the trick. I took the latest issue of the ACBL Bulletin with me, but found myself distracted by a conversation being had by three middle-aged gentlemen sitting at the bar. It didn’t seem intentional, but their meandering discussion kept hitting upon the topic of their favorite things including a favorite wedding band (I didn’t catch the name of the band, but they play both the Beatles and Pink Floyd and are booked solid for months in advance); their favorite Olympic sport (badminton, and yes he was serious, “It’s a real sport, you know?”) and, of course, their favorite whiskey (Bushmills, “It’s even better than Crown Royal!”).
When I finally tore myself away from the tantalizing eavesdropping, I found myself paying attention to the letters to the editor in the Bulletin. Nickel caused quite a stir with his assertion that we should do away with alerting conventional bids and that people should be able to play whatever system they choose. Sounds like fun to me, certainly seems like the ACBL could see fit for at least one “anything goes!” event per national, but it may be that I just really want a chance to play the Mad Scientist’s system in a tournament setting.
I returned to the club later on to play in the “no stress duplicate” game. It lived up to its name and my partner and I had a blast. The hands were totally weird and this time everyone was getting strange distributions. I had one hand with 6=6=1=0, each major was to the AT and the singleton diamond was the king. I ended up in 3♥ much to the dismay of my partner. Not surprisingly the opponents were bidding clubs and he was loaded with them while having a doubleton in each of my suits. If only I’d somehow known to pass three clubs … and please don’t ask why I was still bidding on the 3-level with 11 HCP and two lousy suits.
The highlight of the evening was when in third seat, both sides vulnerable, I picked up:
The bidding got passed around to me, naturally I opened 3♣. After a slight hesitation, my LHO passed and then my partner went into the tank for a very long time before bidding 5♣ bid which mercifully went un-doubled and ended the auction. “You’ve clinted me,” I muttered. My LHO led his ace of spades and this was the dummy:
My LHO switched to the ace of clubs, my RHO followed suit. I fully expected his next card to be the ace of hearts, but then I didn’t get doubled so perhaps that was unrealistically pessimistic. Much to my surprise he switched to a diamond. I played low from dummy, my RHO played the queen and I won my king. I ruffed my spade in dummy, and pulled the last trump returning to my hand by overtaking the jack with my queen. Now I played clubs and watched as both defenders discarded a diamond. Oh joy, oh rapture, on the thirteenth trick I dumped my singleton heart on dummy’s fourth diamond for the eleventh trick. Not surprisingly, +600 was a top, but I noted to my partner that +150 would have been too, of course, that wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun.