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Pay Attention, Padawan!

When I was a younger player, I had a lot of fun playing bridge. Had I done today what I did in my misguided youth, I’m sure there would have been more than a few upset with my actions. The director call surely would have been made with much ado. I would have been admonished severely and even those of you with a more polished decorum would have chastised me in your tweets. However, back in the day, there was no internet, thus, no social media. No action was taken, certainly not the summoning of a director. Ah, those were the days.

It all started when, as declarer, I failed to follow suit at trick one. No, you are correct, the director would not have been called for my action. There is no penalty for declarer failing to follow suit as long as he corrects the play in a timely manner. He just picks the card up, replaces it in his hand, and places a card of the led suit on the table. LHO, RHO, and my partner all caught the error immediately and I reluctantly corrected my play. However, as you might hazard a guess, my failure to play correctly at trick one was the catalyst for what was to come. I can only hope that I was eventually forgiven for my irreverence when I directed blame for the misplay that was to occur at a later point in the hand. On second thought, I’m sure there was no forgiveness issued and admittedly, none deserved. So, I place blame on the devil sitting on my shoulder. I can only surmise that he possessed a louder voice than the angel perched on the other side. See? Not my fault.

The time: late 70’s. The setting: the regional in Waterloo, Iowa. The event: the qualifying session of the open pairs. The opponents: well-known experts with loads and loads of master points. (My partner and I were lesser known.) I knew LHO well having competed against her several times over the years. This was my first time playing against my RHO, knowing him only by reputation. They were not, to my knowledge, a regular partnership.

The board: both red. I picked up in first seat x, Axx, xxxxxx, xxx. I opened 2D. We had, by agreement (and fully marked on our card) decided that two diamonds would be undisciplined in all chairs. LHO passed and partner forced with 2NT. Before I could even begin thinking about whether or not to lie about my “feature,” RHO doubled and I passed in tempo. This brought the bid around to LHO. It did not take her long to pass, though I assume she gave due consideration to other actions. My partner corrected to 3D and RHO again doubled. I passed and LHO once more decided that she had no call.

With the contract set at 3D doubled, my LHO led the ace of trump. Dummy hit with xxx, xxxxxx, xxx, x. Surprise! Partner had never bid 2NT before without at least a game try. Time to analyze. Looks like the opponents have a slam here. Gotta hold this one to down five for -1400. If trump split evenly, I can get four diamonds, a heart and a ruff. That’s down three for 800. Heck, even if diamonds split 3/1 and the opponents draw dummy’s trump, this should be a good board at down five!

I played a diamond from dummy and RHO showed out! Well, I guess that explains why my LHO passed her partner’s doubles of 2N and 3D. Time to do a little revising. Now, let’s see. I’m down to two diamond tricks and one heart for…let’s see…three from nine equals…six…and that means I’m going for…2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 1700. Not good. Maybe I can trick ‘em. I followed RHO’s pitch with a pitch of my own! I played my small spade.

This brought out the mandatory, “No diamonds, partner?” accompanied by the strangest of looks from everyone at the table. “Hey,” I said, “I’m trying to save a few trump, here!” I reluctantly put the card back in my hand and played a low trump. The ace of diamonds was followed in succession by the king, queen, and jack of diamonds. I pitched a spade from dummy on the fourth round while RHO played four cards that were not trump. After a bit of thought, LHO led the heart king. I played low from dummy, RHO followed, and I ducked smoothly in hand. A light had just appeared at the end of the tunnel! A tiny glimmer of hope! Maybe all was not lost after all! If hearts were 2/2 and the opponents made an error, up to three of my remaining black cards could go away on the heart suit!

Sadly, it was not to be…or so it seemed. After much thought, LHO read her partner’s heart correctly and realized I held the ace. She switched to a club. RHO won the trick, then played two additional rounds of the suit before going into a protracted huddle with himself. Finally, after much internal…and apparently painful…deliberation, he tabled another club. I ruffed, and, with hearts indeed splitting 2/2, quickly claimed for five down, minus 1400!

RHO was demonstrably unhappy. As we were putting the hands back into the board, he voiced his displeasure to his partner. “I thought we were playing upside down count.” To which his partner responded, “I thought that was only in no trump.” “No,” replied RHO, “we’re playing it in suit contracts as well.”

Now comes the part when most caring people would look askance at me for uttering what I did. And, as I wrote earlier in this article, I most certainly deserve any and all disparaging comments directed my way for the one that escaped my lips. I just couldn’t help myself.

I addressed my RHO in a very quiet voice (For those who know me well, softness of voice is not one of my recognized attributes.) and said, “I can understand you being upset with your partner for not discarding as per your agreement, but you really don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.” At which point he responded, and I paraphrase, “What in the heck are you talking about?” I replied, “You know that black card you couldn’t find? I showed it to you at trick one.”

Pay attention, Padawan!

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