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Win One for the Zipper

If you visit a certain San Francisco bridge club, you may encounter Seymour Long. Blessed with good bridge skills, strong opinions, and a mordant wit, Seymour is known for slow and deliberate play, a conservative bidding philosophy, and an appreciation for partnership that approaches a fetish. Seymour has a large table presence, possessing both the impassive manner and the well-rounded shape of the Buddha.

Over the years, Seymour has played with many partners, including several bridge legends. He initiates each new partnership with a lecture on his basic bidding theories. While this may be helpful to some, Seymour delivers the same lecture to tyro and legend alike. Not all bridge legends appreciate a bidding lesson, and the occasional blow-up does occur. Nevertheless Seymour retains his enlightened smile, and remains firmly convinced he knows best.

His determination never to lose a debate has also been known to annoy. Holding the hand below, Seymour sat in fourth chair after the auction: (1)–P– (1)–?

AKx, xxxx, xx, xxxx

Ordinary players would pass without thought, but Seymour looked more deeply into the hand. He made a lead-directing overcall of 1, an action normally reserved for the weakest of partners. His partner, a multiple world champion and famously moody bridge author, raised to 3 which was doubled for a sizable penalty. Years later, the world champion is still angry. I am not sure which was more insulting, the overcall on AKx or Seymour's insouciant refusal to apologize.

My story begins the day Seymour played a local tournament with Gerald, a player of the second rank. Gerald is a man of high intelligence but rudimentary social skills. Gerald is so legendary for his ability to annoy, that Indians tell tales about him in the mountains. When a hand is over, he offers an instant and unsolicited post-mortem, always correct within his four-trick margin of error. During the play he chatters incessantly, stopping only to take the longest and most pointless tanks on record.

On one hand Gerald declared a 2NT contract. The opening lead was the J, which triggered the usual tank from Gerald. After an eternity, Gerald asked RHO, "Standard leads?" RHO nodded solemnly. Gerald went back into the tank. After another eternity, he looked up and then asked, quizzically, "What are standard leads?"

Seymour is patient regarding personality tics, and prides himself on his own ability to irritate, so he was not bothered by Gerald's talk. However Gerald’s occasional panic-stricken bidding was another matter. The word "double" has a strange effect on Gerald. When his hand is weak, he begins to look nervously for an exit, usually into a previously unmentioned suit at the four level.

Seymour holds strong views on many topics, but two that are nearest to his heart are sound preempts and robust penalty doubles. Seymour has not made a questionable preempt since his carefree student days among the hippies at UC Berkeley. And the last time he failed to beat a doubled contract three tricks, well, I don't think that has ever happened.Seymour's habitual lecture placed special emphasis on these topics, but Gerald's penchant for debate soon caused the lecture to devolve into a frank exchange of views on the merits of virtually every modern convention except those two topics. With prep time running out, the two sat to play.

The mood began to sour the first time Gerald removed Seymour's penalty double. Seymour firmly expressed his desire that Geraldleave inhis penalty doubles. Unfortunately, berating Gerald only increased his anxiety. A few hands later, Gerald made an irritatingly unsound preempt and then he pulled a second penalty double, prompting more cutting sarcasm from Seymour. But the final straw did not occur until Seymour made a typical (for him) preempt of 3 holding 8 hearts, K-Q-J-10 and an outside king. The auction continued:


Gerald began his usual agonizing tank. Seymour stared at his 7½ tricks, his temperature rising as the tank stretched on into eternity. At length, wearing a learned expression, Gerald produced 4—on a broken six-card suit, of course.

"Double," said RHO.

For once in his life, Seymour lost his Zen master's calm. In a rage, he passed to punish Gerald. After tabling dummy, he stood, unzipped his fly and inquired if Gerald would also like to ummm… errr… remove his male appendage.

The director was called, and while the full ruling has been lost in the mists of time, he may have sympathized, since Seymour was allowed to complete the event. Sadly, the Seymour-Gerald partnership dissolved that day leaving only this incident to report that I have dubbed,

"Win one for the Zipper."

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