Souper Sundae Visited by Cruel Bridge Gods
by Pieter VanBennekom
John Walston’s wife Eileen was in Dallas Sunday to shoot pictures at the SuperBowl for USAToday, so John found the perfect venue for something to do before the Big Game started: the Souper Sundae double pairs bridge party at the Delaware Bridge Studio with Pieter VanBennekom as his partner.
The homemade soups served for lunch in between the two sessions, one containing meat lasagna and the other only vegetarian ingredients, were so delicious that a spontaneous applause went up from the sizable crowd (24 full tables) at the announcement that the recipes would be posted this week on the Studio’s website: recipes.
Our play wasn’t quite as delectable. We did manage to earn an additional .25 MasterPoints each for placing 4th in the “C” category for players with less than 300 MPs (we have less than 100 between us, so we were among the lowest-ranked teams in the competition), in the morning session. But we finished out of the money and the points in the afternoon session when we had significant bidding and playing problems. We let our opponents make overtricks when they shouldn’t have; we doubled when we shouldn’t have, and we wound up in the wrong contract several times.
All bridge players were also invited to hazard their guesses at the final SuperBowl score, but John and Pieter sort of hoped they wouldn’t win that contest because the prize was to play for free the whole week at the Studio. Neither one of us could afford to take vacation to be able to claim the prize for the day games if we won. (I picked Pittsburgh, 24-21, and when Green Bay was leading 21-17, but the Steelers were driving for a touchdown in the second half, I was scared I'd win -- the Mendenhall fumble saved me from winning.)
Bob McHarness managed to give his partner Kathleen Baer a nice birthday present by winning the morning session with an incredible 76.38% score, which may have been the highest score ever recorded at the Studio. They won 3.97 MasterPoints for that performance. Nillis and Efrain Rozovsky placed first overall in the afternoon with a 66.11% score, also from the East-West side.
The leaders of the Studio, which is trying to stem a tide of declining attendance by attracting new players like us, had exhorted all regulars, both on the Studio’s website and in person prior to the start of play, to be nice to newcomers and avoid ticky-tack frivolous Director’s calls over hesitations and the like, so this time we didn’t see any of those, as we had on other occasions at the same venue – all players were mostly nice and sporting throughout.
One of the most interesting hands occurred during the afternoon session on a board that neither John nor I bid very well, but I think I can get a column out of it.
On the diagrammed deal, John was North and I was South. After I answered one Heart to John’s one Diamond opening, John made a pretty bad mistake by passing. He said later he didn’t think he could count on me for more than 6 points, which is of course wrong. He could have said one No-Trump or 2 Hearts – anything but pass.
But I don’t think I’m completely blameless, either, and I’m kicking myself for missing a Small Slam in Diamonds. I knew we had a good fit in Diamonds, and I almost jumped straight to 4 No-Trump to ask for Aces, which certainly would have prevented my partner from passing. John would have given me zero Aces, but with my void and with the knowledge that John’s opening points had to be mostly in Kings, I would have confidently bid 6 Diamonds – and made it. The only reason I bid a Heart was to try and get the additional points from a Slam in the higher Hearts suit over one in Diamonds.
That’s the kind of greed that gets punished by the bridge gods, because in Hearts, on this computer-dealt hand you’re going to find a 5-0 trump split which means you lose control of the trumps. I actually played the hand better than the Deep Finesse software program said I should have done, making 5 Hearts instead of just 4, but of course we were only in a One contract and we missed the Game bonus.
For my attempted greed in the effort to grab the bigger Slam, I’ll turn myself into Flustered Flo, the anti-hero of my column. And in my column (which is fiction anyway, although the hand is real) we’ll have John as my partner support my Hearts as he might well have done.
- - -
The cruel bridge gods
West Dealer; both sides vulnerable
Spades K 8 5
Hearts Q 10 6
Diamonds K 9 6 3
Clubs K Q 3
Spades Q 7 Spades J 10 9 6 2
Hearts A 8 7 4 3 Hearts ---
Diamonds 10 5 Diamonds J 2
Clubs J 10 6 5 Clubs A 9 8 7 4 2
Spades A 4 3
Hearts K J 9 5 2
Diamonds A Q 8 7 4
West North East South
Pass 1 Diamond Pass 1 Heart
Pass 2 Hearts Pass 4 No-Trump
Pass 5 Clubs Double 6 Hearts
Double All pass
Opening lead: Jack of Clubs
Many bridge players have some pairs among the regular crowds at their clubs that they have a hard time beating in duplicate games. That’s the way it is with Flustered Flo and her partner, Loyal Larry. Her nemesis is Smug Sam, who usually plays with Shy Shem.
When Flo, playing South on the diagrammed deal, came up against Smug Sam with the West hand, she knew she had to bid aggressively if she was to get a good score on the board. After her partner Larry opened with a Diamond, Flo knew they'd have a Diamond fit and she was thinking Slam already because of the likely combined point count.
But she reminded herself to be aggressive and try to find another possible fit in a higher suit. She’d lost too many boards to Sam when she’d settled for a Game or even a Small Slam in a minor suit, when others, especially Sam, would find a Game or Slam in a higher suit or in No-Trump.
Not this time, she thought to herself so she bid a Heart in response to the Diamond opener. She was overjoyed to hear partner Larry’s support for her suit so she jumped to asking for Aces. She wasn’t too worried when Larry showed zero, since she had the void in Clubs and Larry’s opening points had to be mainly in Kings, so she bid 6 Hearts.
Flo even liked the opening Club lead, which allowed her drive out the East’s Ace with her King and ruff, thus setting up dummy's Queen as a good trick. But her heart sank and she became flustered again when she started drawing trumps on the next trick and discovered the 5-0 split. Since Flo had now lost control of the trumps, eventually she had to lose two trump tricks and a Spade, for Down 2 and a minus-500 score, which was big fat bottom on the board – and gave Smug Sam and his partner yet another top at her expense.
She was even more distraught when she opened up the board's traveler scoresheet and found out that several other pairs had made a Small Slam in Diamonds, losing only the Ace of Hearts since East would have the opening lead (some others had been content to stay in 4 Hearts, which made despite the bad split).
“Why, oh, why didn’t I settle for that Small Slam in Diamonds?” Flo asked rhetorically about her misfortune. “I wanted to try for the bigger Slam in the higher suit. How could I have known that I’d have a perfect split in Diamonds, but a horrid 5-0 in Hearts?”
“There’s only one way you could have known,” answered Sam, smug as always – even though Flo’s question was rhetorical and no answer was required. “You knew these were computer-dealt hands, and that’s when the bridge gods usually punish the kind of greed that you showed.”