Just like your birthday is supposed to be a preview of the upcoming year, I suspect that sometimes the first hand of the day can presage the rest of the game. So it was with great pleasure that I counted up the high card points in the following collection of cards to start my partnership Friday with Alicia Kolipinski at the Airport Bridge Club.
Spades: A-Q; Hearts: J-9-4; Diamonds: A-K-9-7-3; Clubs: A-K-6
Yup, 21 high card points. Add another point for the five-card Diamond suit. After Alicia and the player sitting North passed, I had no qualms at all about opening with a 2 No Trump bid. Pass-pass-pass. Alicia’s pass was ominous. “Well, OK, down two,” I chirped in the face of what was starting to feel like disaster. And sure enough, I was able to take only six tricks. Down two, vulnerable. Here’s Alicia’s hand:
Spades: J-9-8-5; Hearts: Q-5-3-2; Diamonds: 10-4; Clubs 9-5-2
South led the 5 of Diamonds and I let North’s Queen take the trick, figuring that this would be the safety play that would allow me to scoop up the other four Diamond tricks. Add to that the two high Clubs and either a successful finesse of the King of Spades or the emergence of a Heart trick down the line.
Wrong. South had five Diamonds. The winning Queen was a singleton. The Club finesse didn’t work. And before I could make the long Hearts good, the opponents had taken seven tricks – three Diamonds, two Hearts and two Clubs. Here are the other two hands:
Spades: 10-6-4-3; Hearts: A-K-10-8; Diamond: Q; Club: 10-8-4-3
Spades: K-7-2; Hearts: 7-6; Diamonds: J-8-6-5-2; Clubs: Q-J-7
Checking the scores after the game, I discovered that East was declarer at all 9 tables. In No Trump. Five times at 2 NT. Four times at 3 NT. One of the 2 NT bidders actually made the bid. Everybody else went down. Of the 3 NT bidders, one took 6 tricks, like I did; two took 7 and one took 8. Among the three other unsuccessful 2 NT bidders, one took 6 tricks, two took 7.
While it wasn’t a bottom board, it gave us only 2.5 match points out of a possible 8. And it began a stunning string of reverses. When we got to our final table, Jim Mathis looked over at Alicia’s score sheet and remarked something about how one column had nothing but negative scores (every board from 1 to 16). I told Alicia we’d be lucky to finish over 30%. Thanks to three good hands against Mathis and his partner, Judi Marshall, we were able to lift ourselves up to 40.22%. Although Mathis and Marshall claimed they were doing poorly, they weren’t. They were first overall with more than 60%.