Friday, September 12, 2014

Eight is enough

My young partner Alexander and I couldn't get our teammates from the most recent Eight is Enough at the Watertown, MA sectional (which we had won), but we got another very good pair: Steve and Vincent. We began the evening in a three-way whence we emerged with the disheartening total of 9 victory points. One of these teams ended up in second place, but that's small consolation. So, now we had only two more rounds—we would need blitzes in both matches in order to finish in the overalls.

One rather odd aspect of this event was that every single board in the first two rounds was played (at our table) in a no-trump contract: eleven at 3NT, one at 1NT. The first board of the next set was also a notrump contract. Together with three more in the final set, we ended up playing 2/3 of all contracts without the benefit of a trump suit.

Things turned around for us in the third round: we won by 39 IMPs. There were three pushes and three swings in our direction. Two of these were grand slams bid by our teammates but not by our opponents. We can't take any credit there. But here is a hand that merits some comment: my hand was ♠JTxxx Kxx x ♣QTxx. We were at favorable vulnerability and I passed as dealer. The next player also passed. Alexander opened 1♠ and the next player doubled. One of my favorite tactics is to feign strength. I could perhaps have jumped to 4♠ but who knows whether they might successfully reach 5 or 5? Instead I splintered with 4. The next player passed and Alexander signed off in 4♠. We were not doubled and drifted off two tricks for -100. Meanwhile, our teammates were able to bid a comfortable 3NT on their combined 25 hcp. Here's the whole hand...

This is thinking out of the box, for sure. Third-hand bidding is an art in itself. If prospects for your own game look dim, and the vulnerability is favorable, it's reasonable to try to get in the way of their game. So far, spades hadn't been claimed and, if I was to end up on lead, a spade out might be quite helpful, thus the 1♠ bidding card. I was as surprised as anyone to find out that declarer had only three. And I will have to be careful if this becomes a habit ("Alert: at least three spades, may have a really bad hand"). But coming as it did with three boards still to play,  it was a great shot across the bows of the opponents.

Oh yes, we added 38 VPs in our last two rounds and ended up tied for fourth place.


  1. Be careful! In today's ACBL rules, you can't have a partnership agreement that allows for a psych. Opponents have to learn how to protect themselves in these cases. For more on the topic, I recommend the late Mike Cappelletti's book:

    Also West has no pulse for not doubling that contract.

    1. Indeed. That's why I mentioned it. Obviously, my "explanation" was not serious.

      Agreed, though on a bad day he might have only three actual tricks (his aces). Even if he does though, we win 8 on the board and it's still a blitz.