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What Could Go Wrong in 1 Hour?

In my state of comfortable retirement from playing, I haven’t made a wrong bid or wrong play in months. Recently, I was dragged away from that shield of safety for a mere 10 deals. “Just one hour for the kids,” is what was requested from me. I entered the Wednesday morning Junior Instructional Game (ably run by Paula Mittelman and Valerie Westheimer) on BBO. Two experts take turns partnering juniors for two deals a round. My fellow expert opponent was Italian legend Benito Garozzo. I made it through the first 9 deals without doing anything to show signs of rust. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Added to the challenge is that Benito (in what seemed to be “hunt-and-peck English”) and I (flying fingers with many typos) constantly give advice and answer questions. Several hundred people kibitz and get to read the back and forth. Every time it is Benito’s turn to bid or play, he is still pecking out an answer and it seems like every action takes 2 minutes. I had just one deal to go before I could slink back into the safety of teaching and writing about the game I love. This was my hand for the final deal of the session:

A4 KQ10932 J43 K4

With both vulnerable, my junior partner dealt and passed. The Italian legend with the slow typing opened 1. One of my favorite theories is that it is right to make wide-range preempts opposite a passed-partner. For me,2(“weak”) was the clear call. Everyone passed and I would have to play the deal (while still typing answers/comments to the previous deal). The Junior player on my left led the Kand I saw:

North
KQ1097
64
52
J765
South
A4
KQ10932
J43
K4

My brain at this point was on sensory overload. I had too many thoughts which I had to cram into 60 seconds (I didn’t want to sit there thinking while live on-line with many kibitzers). LHO’s Kheld the trick and he switched smartly to a low trump. In no time at all, Benito inserted the J(the first time all morning his computer was on time). I won the Kand thought some of these thoughts:

1) If spades are 3-3, I can play three rounds now (throwing a diamond) and lead a club towards my king for an overtrick (it was IMP scoring, so I didn’t really care about the overtrick).

2) If one opponent (presumably RHO) started with Jx in spades and remained with abare A, I could also make the contract by playing three rounds of spades at once.

3) If spades were not behaving, I could play back a high heart. This would force the defense to cash exactly the right number of diamonds and then play a club through my king to make me guess.

4) If spades were not behaving, I could also play the Jout of my hand and maybe get misdefense (such as no more trumps or not proper cashing and clubbing).Notice how hard it is to program a computer to play bridge. The key consideration was how likely the opponents were to defend correctly. This is not something that computers easily take into account.

I decided on Option 4. Maybe I could read the table if it came to that dreaded club guess (surely both the Aand Qweren’t wrong). On my J, LHO won the Qand played a low heart to Benito’s A(so much for ruffing a diamond in dummy). At the speed of light (the second time all morning Benito’s computer didn’t cause a human rain delay), a low club came back. Ugh. Just what I didn’t want to see. In a few more tricks, my bridge playing would all be over. Meanwhile, should I play the king or low?

Benito had the AJand presumably the A. LHO had the KQ. The missing points were the Jand the AQ. With the A, LHO might have taken action. If Benito didn’t have the A, he would have opened vulnerable with only AJ, Aand the Q(and probably the J). Accordingly, I put up the K. Would I be writing about this if I had made the contract? LHO won the ace (of course) and returned a club. Benito won and made no mistake. He cashed the third diamond for down one. Nice defense.

How were the spades? I still have enough bridge-player’s blood in my veins that I needed to torture myself by looking at the full deal:

West
862
75
KQ98
A982
North
KQ1097
64
52
J765
East
J53
AJ8
A1076
Q103
South
A4
KQ10932
J43
K4
D

Yup – playing spades first would have worked. Guessing clubs would have worked. Back into hibernation.

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