Friday, January 13, 2012

Bridge Blog 498: Wooly bully

          So tell me, is there such a thing in bridge as a director call for bullying? The reason I ask is because of what happened on Board 12 Friday at the Bridge Center of Buffalo. I’m North. Mike Silverman’s my partner. Our opponents: sitting East, Bud Seidenberg, husband of Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun; sitting West, Jay Costello. In terms of total master points – 5568 and 3961, respectively – they’re the best pair in the room, since Jim Mathis and Bev Cohen are with less experienced partners.
          Anyway, Board 12. North-South vulnerable. West is dealer. Jay either passes or opens a Club. At any rate, I pass and Bud bids a Diamond. Mike passes. Jay definitely bids at his second opportunity, 2 Clubs. I pass again. Bud goes 2 Spades. Whereupon Mike bids 3 Hearts. Here’s my hand:
          Spades: K-Q-8-6. Hearts: 9-7-5-3.
          Diamonds: J-9. Clubs: Q-5-3.
          Jay bids 4 Diamonds and, being perplexed at Mike’s bid and our vulnerability, I pause to ponder what I should do next. Whereupon Jay exclaims something like “Sheesh!” and calls the director. Too long a pause, he contends. And South had paused too long before his first passing bid. No matter that I hadn’t picked up on Mike’s pause. (We’d been having a run of particularly bad hands all day long – we played offense on only 7 out of 24.) I’m not inclined to take a chance, especially with an indifferent vulnerable hand against guys as good as Bud and Jay. So, with director Kathy Pollock looking on, I throw down another Pass card. Bud passes. Mike doubles. Pass-pass-pass.
We play it out and East-West go down one. Looking at the traveling scorecard, we discover that it’s totally a North-South hand, making 3 No Trump or 4 Hearts with an overtrick. We get a bottom board and I’m quietly annoyed. Were we bamboozled? Could I claim bullying against our opponents? After all, this is not the first time an expert player took a sure contract away from my side with a director call (Christine Urbanek, Winter Sectional a couple years ago, a call which, I was told later, was incorrectly adjudicated by the director – see one of my old Myspace bridge blogs from January 2009 or 2010, if your computer can bring it up).
Of course, all this is moot if Mike overcalls 2 or 3 Hearts on his first bid instead of passing. He says he was waiting to see which major suit the opponents were going to bid. Here’s his hand:
Spades: 4. Hearts: A-K-J-10-8-6-4.
Diamonds: A-5. Clubs: A-10-4.
Here are the opponents’ hands:
Spades: 9-7-5-3-2. Hearts: None.
Diamonds: K-8-7-6-4-3. Clubs: J-9.

Spades: A-J-10. Hearts: Q-2.

        Diamonds: Q-10-2. Clubs: K-8-7-6-2. 

        That top board helps fatten a truly incredible win by Bud and Jay. They run away from the pack in this 4½ table Howell game with a score of 75% even. If we play it in 4 Hearts, we get two game points instead of a zero but it won’t boost us in the final standings – 50.52% or 52.39%, we're still third in the B strat, still second in C, still winning .32 of a master point.
The field includes my Wednesday partner, Celine Murray, playing with Bob Olin. I was paired with Bob Thursday after I showed up without a partner – I think it was our first-ever game together – and we had a delightful time, although our 47.02% game was well out of point range. Since Celine and I have done so poorly lately, I wondered what our curse would do to a third player. Looks like Celine is more salubratory. They didn’t get points, but they did better than Bob and me Thursday – 48.96%.

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