Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.  This is an expression that Kim often consoles me with after I've had a bad session or two of bridge (or, for example, when England loses to Germany).  It's something that bridge players have to live with.  Because bridge is essentially a game of incomplete information for all four players at the table, almost anything can happen.  Add to that the varying skill levels of the players, the different bidding and defensive systems of the partnerships, the different states of emotion and readiness of the individuals.  And the fact that in duplicate bridge, there is always at least one other table in play over which "we" at our table no control whatsoever.

The only other time I played with Peter in a serious event, we were tied for second.  In yesterday's A/X pairs we might have been tied for second again, but this time counting from the bottom!  Whereas in our first effort, we got lucky with some of our actions and received a good number of gifts, yesterday it was the reverse.  I played badly.  No question about that.  Especially in the evening session where I couldn't concentrate to save my life.  Having had a mediocre first session, there was essentially nothing to play for.  We both could have used a good nap.

One board stands out as being particularly exasperating.  I was declaring a perfectly normal 4-of-a-major contract against a pair I didn't know.  I had a combination in a side suit that cried out for an elimination (in hopes of an overtrick).  Watching the carding of the opponents (playing standard carding) it appeared that one of the suits to be eliminated was dividing 3-4.  It was a totally normal situation where defenders would normally show count in a side suit early in the hand (this was trick 2).  However, I was aware that one, or both, players might "lie" about the count.  Yet their carding appeared consistent.  So, I made a play that depended on the location of the 9 of trumps being right (50%), and the opponents' carding.  In other words, there was significantly better than a 87.5% chance of my play being safe.  Both opponents had to be "lying" for no good reason and the 9 had to be wrong.  You guessed it.  I'm sure I was the only person in the room going down in what was a claimer for 10 tricks at trick 1.  And with the actual layout, it turned out that no overtrick was ever possible.  The dumb things we sometimes do at matchpoints!  [postcript: in my defense, it turns out that 420 was worth 5.5 while 450 was worth 15 matchpoints, so that on the unfavorable lead I received, I was risking 5 mps to gain 10, that's to say odds of 2:1].

Jan and I did enjoy winning the single-session Swiss (euphemism for "wooden spoon") with a score of 64.  I also enjoyed, with Peter, our losing knockout match against the #2 seed.  As everyone says, if you want to improve, you have to play the best teams.  One thing about playing good teams is that table manners are, at least in my experience, universally impeccable.  That really adds to the enjoyment of getting crushed!

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