The best thing I can say about tonight’s game with Yin was that it ended early enough for me to catch a late show. Or as he put it, “The horse ran out of track.” We hit our stride in the 4th round, but since there were only seven tables and we were playing four boards a round with a sit out at table seven for East-West, that meant we hit our stride, had a sit out and then played the last round. Adding to our misery we were behind an incredibly slow pair so we waited between every round.
During one such lull in the action, apropos of nothing (well, it was likely apropos of something I’d done in the last round, I just don’t know which of my many questionable bids prompted the remark), Yin casually mentioned that the Mad Scientist thought playing with the ‘bots on BBO was ruining my bidding.
“Yeah, he said the ‘bots are rotting your brain. You don’t feel a need to describe your hand anymore because you’re playing so much with the ‘bots.”
This coming from the man who had just opened 1NT with an unremarkable 11 HCP in first seat (granted they were playing a weak NT, but not quite that weak) by way of a man who twice bypassed our suit fit to play in a doomed 6NT contract (one of which made, but they both should have been down one). I suppose this is what I get for showing up on time instead of early. Yes, they’ve both been witness to and victim of more than their fair share of my doing incredibly dumb things, and perhaps grabbing a beer together so they can b_tch about me would be cheaper and more effective than therapy, maybe they’ve even earned it but it’s an awful thought.
Maybe that sounds strange considering I write a ‘blog detailing all the bad stuff I do at the bridge table. But let’s face it, writing about the one time I took a two-way finesse in the right direction would be pretty boring, not to mention, short. For me this ‘blog serves as both a catharsis and a preemptive strike, to paraphrase a quote from an otherwise unremarkable television show, “You can’t say anything that will hurt me, because nothing you can say about me can possibly be worse than what I’ve thought about myself in the last thirty seconds.” (And, yes, this would be the catharsis part of the ‘blog feel free to skip ahead to something interesting.)
Weirdly, it’s kind of a pecking order thing. I’m okay with the Mad Scientist criticizing me. Both the Mad Scientist and Washington are far better players than I am, I may not always agree with them, but I always listen to their criticisms and I don’t question their right to make them. Yin and Doc, on the other hand, are far closer to me on the bridge player hierarchy. It’s true in both cases that they were both significantly better than I when we first started playing, but I closed the gap so I expect them to keep a lid on it for the most part (and I try, with only marginal success, not to criticize them so I understand how difficult that can be). Anyway I’ve given Yin plenty of ammo on my own, he doesn’t need any help finding flaws in my abilities.
The big criticism I keep hearing from TMS (and the one he expressed to Yin) is that I “mastermind” the bids, but there’s a lot of gray area, because sometimes a bid that doesn’t describe one’s hand isn’t just reasonable, it’s tactical. For example, tonight in 3rd seat, both sides vulnerable, I picked up this:
A four loser hand, almost good enough for me to want to open it 2♣ but there’s a major flaw and that is the stiff king of spades, not only is it not worth 3 HCP, that singleton means that the opponents are very likely to have a spade fit. If I open this one heart and it gets passed out, I might be sick, but I don’t think it’s likely that it will get passed out because of the aforementioned spade fit. If I open this one heart and get a chance to jump shift into diamonds, my partner will have a good idea of what I have in my hand, but so will the opponents. Does an opening bid of 4♥ describe my hand to my partner? No. But 4♥ is where I want to play this hand. Yin’s a passed hand and while he could conceivably have two aces (and a third round diamond control) making us gin for six, chances are he does not and finding out about those two aces which he probably doesn’t have will come at the expense of not only describing my hand to the opponents, but giving them a chance to find their fit. So I opened the hand 4♥ and got to play it there. This was Yin’s hand:
I made six because of a favorable opening spade lead that gave me a chance to ditch my club loser and ruff my diamonds before letting them in with their ace of trump. Had I opened my hand 1♥, I almost certainly would have gotten a spade bid from my partner and now they will lead a club to hold me to five, four if they lead the club and switch to a trump. Sometimes what TMS calls “master-minding” is just good bridge.
And while we’re on the subject of me doing the right thing for a change, during the “no stress” duplicate game we played one of the boards out of order and entered the score before someone caught the error, not really a big deal since correcting the scores isn’t difficult, but the problem was that we all knew what the scores had been so far for the board we had yet to play. We discussed the issue and all swore to bid as if we didn’t know where the contract had ended up at the other tables, which in this case was 2♥ or 3♣ our way going down one or two.
My RHO opened 1♠, I had a very nice 14 HCP for a 2♥ overcall. My LHO passed. My partner passed. And now my RHO fiddled with a double card and joked, “I wish I could take advantage of knowing the scores.” I replied, “I’m not saying I’m the best player here, but if anyone here can make 2♥, it’s me.” Having said this, I became convinced I was about to go down three. She passed. I made two. The key to the hand was to stop pulling trump when the bad split came to light and then throw the opponents in a couple of times, “rendering unto Caesar” as the Mad Scientist would say. In a game with more experienced players, I would not have been the only person to find this line. Sometimes I’m cocky, but I’m only rarely delusional.