Friday, April 20, 2012

Bridge Blog 522: Spring Sectional Day 1

            What are you going to write about this, partner Judie Bailey was wondering in the Friday morning session of the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament in the Main-Transit Fire Hall social room. I’m feeling low to begin with, fighting a stubborn sinus infection that I’ve had since Tuesday, and as things kept getting worse and worse, I realized that even the Prophet Job could find no reasonable way to rail about it.
            Bad sacrifices, poor pitches on squeeze plays, overbids, failure to return partner’s lead-off suit, you name it, we did it. It seemed like every hand was designed to suck us in, chew us up and spit us on the floor – a succession of tempting three-suiters or crazy unbalanced holdings with seven- and eight-card suits. When the preliminary results were posted, our names were on the bottom with a 33% score. Believe it or not, it got better when the final tally came around. 38.38%. Last North-South, but not last overall. The final couple we played gave us 42.68 points out of a possible 50 and that brought us up.
            Yes, top score for a hand in the morning session was 25. There were two sections – 27½ tables – with a fair representation from Rochester and St. Catharines, Ont., even a couple guys from Erie and Meadville, Pa. Things seemed to run smoothly enough under director Mike Roberts, whom we’ve seen working with the retired Dick Rasmus for several  years. The coffee cake and cookies in the morning, and the cookies and fruit in the afternoon, seemed sufficient. Under the guidance of first-time chairwoman Judy Kaprove, it seemed just like the last sectional at Main-Transit Fire Hall, which is to say, just fine, although the morning session needed air conditioning and, once it was turned on in the afternoon, it got frigid.
            As usual, the field shrank for the afternoon session. 21 tables this time. Judie Bailey and I were North-South again, and the cards seemed more agreeable now. (Everybody in the morning session seemed to think East-West got the better cards.) We noticed the difference immediately. In the first four rounds, 12 hands, we were playing a 66% game. With success, however, comes boldness, which is not always such a good idea. When Jim Madan and Mark Pascale came to our table, the boldness was in full boil on this, our first hand. It was Board 4 and another apparent bonanza for North-South. Both sides are vulnerable. West, Madan, is dealer. He passes. Judie, sitting North, bids a Heart. Pascale, passes. Opposite Judie’s opener, here’s what I’m holding:
Spades: A-K-5-2; Hearts: A-7-5; Diamonds: A-8-3; Clubs: A-8-7.
            All the Aces, five instant tricks, support for my partner’s five-card Heart suit. Is this not slam? I bid it. Six Hearts. Madan doubles. Pascale leads a Spade and I put down the dummy.  Judie’s distressed. She loses two Heart tricks and I think a Spade at the end for a minus 500. It was an absolute bottom board. Here are the other hands:
Spades: Q-10; Hearts: J-9-8-4-2; Diamonds: K-J-10-4; Clubs: K-Q.
Spades: J-8-7-6-3; Hearts: 6-3; Diamonds: 9-6-5; Clubs: 9-4-3.
Spades: 9-4; Hearts: K-Q-10; Diamonds: Q-7-2; Clubs: J-10-6-5-2.
            So was 4 Hearts the good score here? Not hardly. Many pairs got 4 Hearts with an overtrick. Some bid the slam and made it. And some went down at slam, but not doubled. According to the hand records, North-South should make 5 Hearts, but South also can make 6 No Trump. That’s what I shoulda bid.
            My bidding passion was hardly cooled by this setback, though. I went to 4 Spades vulnerable on the next hand, which Madan doubled again. This time it was down only one and we kept them out of a slam in Hearts. On the third and final hand of the round, I was back at 4 Spades, keeping them out of Hearts again, vulnerability in our favor, with Judie bidding Clubs (I have Q-J-10) and supporting my Spades on the rebid (I have six of them, A-10-9-8-x-x). Madan doubles a third time. I’m down two, pretty much what I expected. What I also expected was that they’d make a vulnerable game in Hearts. As it turns out, they can only make 2 Hearts. I shoulda quit while I was ahead.
            Despite all this, when Judie goes to look for our names on the preliminary results, she can’t find us on the bottom. She has to search all the way up to third place North-South. We’re still there in the final reckoning with 56.86%. Fifth overall, third North-South, first in the B stratification overall – 3.80 silver master points.

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