Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Have convention card, will travel

Kim and I love to travel. And one of the things that we like to do when traveling, inter alia, is to play bridge. Wherever we've visited and played, we've invariably received a very warm welcome – and we've met some very nice people. We've played in England, France, Iceland, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and in clubs around the United States, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Alaska, Ohio, California, and maybe a few other states.

We are fortunate to live in one of the hotbeds of Bridge excellence, with typically several Grand Life Masters at a club game and more at tournaments. So the rough-and-tumble of Boston area bridge generally serves us well enough to hold our own when we visit a less metropolitan setting. But one point of etiquette that we try to follow is that it's bad form to actually win when a guest at another club. It's OK to be second, though. I don't know how we manage it but, somehow, we usually end up in that position. Once at the Tenterden bridge club in England, we wanted to play on a night when they were having their Ladies' and Gentlemens' championships. The director welcomed us in, despite our misgivings that we were going to perturb their big event. It so happened that we made up a full table in the Ladies' event so I had the unique experience of playing bridge with three women on every round. It was run as a Howell movement with about 20 tables in order that there would be a single winning pair (and recognition for 2nd and 3rd). We managed to avoid raining on the parade by coming in fourth.

On this Memorial day weekend, as we did last year, we went with our dogs to a quiet spot we like up in the woods of Vermont. After we had made our plans, the date of the Vermont sectional was changed and so it appeared that we would be not be playing any bridge during our stay. But then we discovered that the Brattleboro Duplicate Bridge Club would be playing on Sunday afternoon. We were welcomed by owner Bob Claflin who told us the fascinating history of the club. It was founded by none other than Ely Culbertson, who retired to Brattleboro with his second wife, and died there in 1955 (who knew?). As a result of Culbertson's policy, still upheld by Claflin, visitors to the club play free the first time. Now, of course, we are looking forward to returning at some point and paying for our entry!

It turned out to be a small game (two-and-one-half tables) and scoring was by IMPs with one pair taking a six-board sit-out. They were also most accommodating in allowing us to take the last sit-out. We managed to bid a couple of hopeless slams and found the competition surprisingly tough so were certainly in no danger of running away with an easy win. Here's an example of a good defensive play that contributed to us losing an additional 2 imps:
The spots are approximate (and quite possibly more than just the spots). 1NT showed 15-17. I don't remember the play well enough to give a trick-by-trick account, suffice it to say that they led a diamond and later on, when West was in, he opened up the spade suit with the ♠K. When I finally got to dummy with a spade ruff in order to lead a trump the position of every outstanding honor was known except the ♠Q and the two heart honors. Assuming that West had the ♠Q to go with his K (although perhaps I should have asked myself why he didn't start out with the ♠K in that case) I placed the heart ace on my right. I ended up going down 2 (for 200) while our teammates for that round were down 1 in some spade contract presumably. [E/W can make 3♠ on this layout].

If you haven't played bridge at another club somewhere, then you're definitely missing a great experience! Our final position amongst the five pairs? We showed our usual courtesy as guests – second place.

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