Friday, January 25, 2013

Bridge Blog 638: Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament Day 1

            We like attending tournaments in the Main-Transit Fire Hall. It’s infinitely superior to the dimly-lit, irregularly heated social room in the Wick Center at Daemen College, which is where Unit 116 traditionally has held its winter sectional. It’s also incrementally better than the site of the fall tournament – the Father Justin Knights of Columbus Hall on Union Road in Cheektowaga – in that it’s brighter and newer.
            Plus there seems to be plenty of room for the number of players it attracts. Twenty-five and a half tables in the morning, split into two sections. Twenty-three and a half (or was it 24?) in the afternoon, also divided in two.
            Hospitality was agreeable too, as long as you didn’t pour yourself a cup of the coffee, which was wretched. I gave away a couple packets of Starbucks Via instant to disgruntled java-drinkers in the morning session. That’s what I was drinking. No complaints about the pastries, though. I heaped a couple slices of the blueberry bread and pumpkin-raisin bread on my plate for breakfast and they were delicious. I found out later that they were the work of Carol Bedell. Brava, Carol!
            The morning game, however, was so-so. Partner Celine Murray and I were alternately hot and cold on the hands, unable to match our stellar 62% game on Wednesday at the Airport Bridge Club. For every one of our finest hands – like the 4 Heart bid I shouldn’t have made – there was a disaster – like my down-two performance on another 4 Heart contract that would have succeeded with a couple makeable finesses. We pulled in at 50.80%, eighth in the B stratification, earning a fraction of a silver point – 0.26.
            The afternoon will be better, we vowed. But it wasn’t. We ran afoul of transfers over 1 No Trump bids, of all things. On one hand, where the opponents doubled over my 1 NT bid, Celine bid 2 Hearts, I transferred to 2 Spades and we wound up at 3 NT, going down two. We aren’t playing transfers, she contended. Yes, we are, I said. Everybody plays transfers. Later she bid 3 Hearts over my 1 NT and I’m wondering just what this is all about. Is it Hearts or what? She gives a little exclamation that provokes a director call from the opponents. I decide the honorable thing to do is give it a pass. No, she says as I lay my hand down as dummy, that was a transfer. Celine!!! Transfer on the 3 level??? Why not 2 Hearts??? She’s only got 9 high card points and a singleton Heart. Needless to say, it’s another disaster. It makes 4 Spades, but in Hearts we’re down two. We’re way worse than we were in the morning – 42.20% – dead last in our section. Next time Celine asks to fill out our convention card before the game, I’m going to take her up on the offer. Then maybe we’ll stay on the same page. Saturday shouldn’t see that kind of problem. I’m with Judy Kaprove for both sessions. Although we haven’t played together in a while, we should be better attuned.
            Problem hand of the day Friday was Board 7 in the morning session. We should have been in slam, but we messed up the bidding, winding up at 4 Hearts and taking 12 tricks, winning only 8.5 out of a possible 24 game points. Here are our hands:
            North (me)
            Spades: J-9-8; Hearts: A-J-8-6-3; Diamonds: A-Q-7; Clubs: 9-7
            South (Celine)
            Spades: Q; Hearts: K-Q-10-2; Diamonds: K-J-10-4; Clubs: A-K-J-5
            Celine’s the dealer and opens a Diamond. I bid a Heart. She bids 4 Hearts. Game. A shut-out bid as far as I’m concerned. She says later that she’s got 19-20 points and I should have gone for slam, because if she bids 4 Hearts, she’s strong enough to do that even if I have as few as 6 high card points for my response. I contend that she should have bid something else that didn’t suggest a shut-out bid. Two Clubs, for instance, would have drawn a 2 NT from me.
It would have been better if we used New Minor Forcing (which we don’t). She’d bid 1 NT and I’d respond 2 Clubs, the unbid minor suit, indicating five Hearts and 10 high card points. Then she could bid 4 NT, asking for Aces. It’s a bit of a gamble for slam, with 31 high card points between us, but the hand record says we can make 6 Hearts (as indeed we do, losing only the Ace of Spades) or, amazingly, 6 Diamonds. But only 5 NT.      
 (Bill Finkelstein informs me on Monday that I'm completely off base here. Celine is right. Her bid showed exactly what she was holding and I was too dim-witted to realize what was going down. New Minor Forcing would be totally inappropriate.)

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