Monday, October 18, 2010

R.I.P. Norbert

I don't get to play very often with my favorite partner, Kim. For some reason we don't always play our best together. Not because we argue at the table or anything like that, but there is something indefinable which seems to get in the way. I know other married couples have similar issues. Still, we each have a reasonable idea of how to play bridge and we often do well on a team, playing at different tables.

So, it was particularly satisfying to have a good game together in Bangor, ME on Saturday. We like to combine some family time with bridge and we always enjoy the Maine sectionals. They have great snacks, and the other players are invariably friendly and pleasant to play against. The games are run by Horace and Sonya and they do an absolutely fantastic job.

Our results up there vary but we always have fun. On this occasion, there were two sections of 11 tables (one section actually had 12 tables in the afternoon). We managed to go "North of 60" in both sessions, each time winning our "section". That was good for 2nd overall behind the perennial winners, Dick and Dottie. We were just slightly over a board adrift which could so easily have been made up. For example, we managed to start the day with only 1 matchpoint out of 16 on the first two boards: on the second of these, we were defending 3X and my hand was ♠J8 Q54396542 ♣A7. Unfortunately, I don't recall the auction for sure, but I think it went something like this, starting with my RHO: 1♣ p 1 1♠; X p 2 2♠; p p 3 p; p X. After the J lead, declarer won in hand with the K and led a small diamond to dummy's ♠T752 A76AK ♣T962. Partner ruffed this with the deuce and led the ♣K. This is where I fell from grace. What would you do? Well, if you do any thinking at all you'll overtake with the Ace and shoot back a spade for +200 and 7/8 matchpoints (we might even get 500 but it wouldn't change the score). I played low, declarer ruffed the next club and then was able to pitch all of dummy's spades on good diamonds while I was forced to follow suit: -730.

But, we have really taken to heart the advice, dispensed by all the experts, on recovering from adversity: get over it and forget it. Unfortunately, in the early days of playing together I was sometimes replaced at the table by my sinister alter ego, "Norbert". On suffering a bad board, I would take on an expression "like my dog had died" and generally make my partner feel miserable. But several years ago, Norbert showed signs of ailing.

An example will be illustrative. Kim and I were playing at the Augusta sectional about three years ago. The afternoon session was going fairly well until we reached Dick and Dottie's table. On one hand they ended up in 6 which I doubled after Kim had made a very unusual (but incredibly effective) notrump overcall of 4NT (immediately over the opening bid). When 6 came around to me, I felt that the suits were not breaking favorably (and I was very short in partner's suits) so I doubled despite having no high cards at all. Exactly what I was trying to achieve is unclear. +50 would likely be a top on this hand. Anyway, partner laid down the A and it didn't matter whether she continued diamonds, switched to a club or played a trump. All roads led to down at least one. Well, not quite all. Unfortunately, Kim inferred, very reasonably, that my double actually showed some values and reasoned that those values must be in spades. The resulting spade switch caused us to go from an 8 on the board to a zero. If ever there was a hand that might invoke bitter feuding it was this one. But, the actual arguing was all by our opponents. We stepped away to await the next round and didn't say a word. That hand really was the turning point (and the beginning of Norbert's end). We went on to win the event.

Finally, I think that this week we can safely declare Norbert's demise to be final and irrevocable. And not a moment too soon, I might add. Rest in peace.

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