Join Bridge Winners
Hilda and Ellen
(Page of 4)

Day 1, Stage 1, Match 5 of the Australian Playoffs and to date the event has been close. None of your opponents have given away imps and when you do a clever thing that would normally earn you some imps it turns out everyone has done that same clever thing and all you manage is not to lose any imps.

Maybe it is just you but it feels like the field is playing tight. "Squirreling" - making some timid attempts to collect a few nuts but mostly making sure the nuts they have are well looked after. Its not really your game but so far you have been playing along with adequate results.

As the first board of this match hits the table you can't see your right hand opponent because of the big wooden screen that fits diagonally across the table but having played him many times before you know he is wearing his "Captain Serious" face. Your screen mate you don't know all that well and as you smile and greet him you get a short, polite response that indicates he is totally focused on his nuts too.

Board 11.

West
KQJ82
72
74
9654
North
965
A1053
J963
103
East
10
K96
AKQ1052
KQJ
South
A743
QJ84
8
A872
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
3
P
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Because of the big wooden screen a tray containing the bidding cards gets pushed back and forth under the screen to conduct the auction. You are North and when the tray gets pushed back under the screen with partners 3D bid your screen mate asks what the bid shows. You shrug and whisper "Good - Diamonds". 

You are a bit shocked when your screen mate thinks for a really long time and then bids 3NT. The tray comes back and you ponder a double but that just seems greedy so you pass. Partner leads the 4 of hearts and dummy reveals a fatuous 1S overcall. Life is pretty good but you have to work out the best way to capitalize. You are not too sure what is going on this hand but eventually you decide that partner is maybe leading a singleton heart to get you on lead to put the fatal diamond switch through declarer. Following through with this plan you rise with the ace of hearts and try the jack of diamonds. Declarer wins the ace of diamonds and then plays the king of clubs which partner wins and suddenly declarer is leaning forward showing you his cards and alleging he has 9 tricks.

You are confused. Partner is returning his cards to the board as are your opponents a near certain sign that declarer has made a good claim so you go along with it. As you sort your cards for the next hand you recall declarer saying he had 6 diamond tricks for his 9 tricks but that can't be right because you are sure you had J9xx. You feel confident enough to quiz your screen mate about the legitimacy of this statement. He looks at you blankly and explains that he started with AKQ10xx and you had played the Jack. You remember playing the Jack now so probably he is right.

Still not sure you bother partner by asking "You had diamonds right ?". Partner explains that he thought his 3D bid showed 0/1 diamonds and 4 hearts. 

Next board. 

Maybe making 9 tricks in 3NT is just the usual thing but you have that uncomfortable feeling that someone has been at your nuts.      

Day 2, Stage 1, Match 7.

Board 9.

West
843
Q106
973
Q532
North
AKQ1095
J7
QJ104
4
East
J
AK
AK862
KJ1076
South
762
985432
5
A98
W
N
E
S
1
2NT
3
4
4
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

You are North again and this match has been going well. Your opponents have been bullied on some of the early hands and eventually a big bag of nuts came your way. It is just a matter of finishing the job as you contemplate cheese and salami at the lunch break. This auction has a promising sound about it. If partner is doubling 5C's then it is going off and they are vulnerable.

You start with a club and declarer wins and plays another club which partner wins with the ace to lead a spade.  You win the spade and exit with a passive heart. Declarer wins the heart and plays another trump and then leads the 3 of diamonds from hand as you play low. It has all happened in a rush. Declarer seems despondent and you are correspondingly happy.

Declarer stops for a while before choosing a diamond from dummy and it occurs to you that probably you could of afforded to play a bigger diamond. As this thought goes through your head declarer asks dummy to play the 6 and partner follows with the 5. This is bad. Declarer is showing you his cards and saying he has 11 tricks. 

Sudden and severe pain as you realize the score is -750. Your stock pile of nuts could of had an addition but instead hours of earnest foraging have been wasted. Partner wants to discuss the hand and you want to kill partner. You don't enjoy lunch.  

Day 5, Stage 2, Match 7.

It is the home stretch on the 5th and final day and although you try and not look at your nut pile partner loves to contemplate his nuts. He tells you that with just 3 matches to go your pile is the biggest with a few to spare. That feels good but inevitably just causes you anxiety about protecting your stash.

This match starts really well. These opponents are spewing nuts and you have collected a heap. Partner has done a dumb thing mid match but even that doesn't deflect you from the comforting thought that you will have plenty to last the winter. You want to just hang on to what you have when this board hits the table.

Board 8.

West
A3
K
K10752
A8653
North
KQJ
10976
64
J1072
East
8762
Q843
AQJ83
South
10954
AJ52
9
KQ94
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
5
P
P
P
D
5 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

You are East. You have an exciting sort of hand but you know that partners 2C rebid is bad news so you slow down with a non forcing 3D's. You congratulate yourself when the bidding tray comes back under the screen and partner has bid 3NT because you had expected and planned for that. It can't be right to play 3NT with a void and so many diamonds so you happily correct to 5D's thinking this has been a good auction and at worst no nuts will be exchanging hands and you will be a step closer to registering a nut deposit.

You like to think that you are a great dummy. The plan is to be meticulous about arranging the dummy and the played cards so partner is never in doubt about the state of the contract. In addition you have practised the art of not paying attention to what partner does. You are a dummy. Your job is not to mess with the vibe by worrying about what is happening.

Despite your efforts you notice that the play of this hand is peculiar. Unfortunately 3 tricks are pointing the opponents way early so the contract is not making but it might still be fine because, as you previously figured, it is surely a normal no nut exchange contract.

With about 8 tricks to go partner plays a trump for the first time and after 2 rounds of trumps your opponents don't have any left but he continues to play a couple more rounds to check. Weirdly more tricks get pointed towards your opponents and as trick 13 is played it is 8 tricks to you and 5 to them. You check the vulnerability and see that it is just 50's.

Both you and your left hand opponent say "3 off ?" at the same time to confirm the score. Partner looks surprised and says "No, 1 off !". A kerfuffle ensues. Partner is adamant that he is just 1 off and being a great dummy you remove yourself from the debate and just listen. Eventually left hand opponent points out that the final contract was 5D's to which partner responds "Ohhh, I thought I was playing 3NT".

This is more than your attempts at Zen perfection can tolerate. You regret partners birth and wonder why you are so unlucky as to be inflicted with him. Partner is slowly understanding that he has simply failed to notice the correction to 5D's. How is that even possible ? He unhelpfully observes that 5D's was cold as you see nuts flying everywhere. Partner calls the police but they are uninterested in partner being an idiot. You are going to say something you will regret but you remember Hilda and Ellen just in time.   

    

It was about the 3rd or 4th time you ever played a session of competitive bridge and you had just finished a 3 board round against two pleasant elderly ladies. You had taken all the nuts. Your right hand lady had been free and easy with her nuts but was at least good enough to know that she had been bad and during the few minutes between rounds she was stating her sins and spiralling further and further into depression. "I am so sorry Hilda, I can't believe I did that". That sort of thing. Left hand lady, Hilda, sympathized at first. Right hand lady went on and on and was perhaps finishing with "I am not sure why I play bridge Hilda, I am just terrible at it. Maybe I should give it away ?". 

Hilda had heard enough and impatiently responded "Ellen if you gave up bridge what else would you do for misery?".

One advantage of playing behind screens is that you don't see partner and your not supposed to talk to him. This brings you comfort during the last 2 matches. In between the finish  of a match and the start of the next match you rush outside the venue to walk and smoke and surprisingly partner sniffs the breeze and leaves you alone. Both the last two matches pass without serious incident. With 2 boards left you goose some part-score hand. Probably because you are on your 17th coffee for the day and forgot to eat. Generally you and partner do solid things and whilst the scoreboard later reveals you lost a couple of nuts nothing bad happens.

You finish the last board of the last match and annoyingly you know that you have a big pile of nuts but you don't know if it is the biggest pile. You ask someone and they say it is close. You see partner rushing about checking your nut pile with other players. Its close. You return to walking and smoking.

You ring she who must be obeyed in an effort to distract yourself. She answers and you ask after the dog. She doesn't discuss Linguine and instead asks if you won. You tell her you just finished and you don't know. She says your an idiot and you should find out. You obediently walk back into the venue and partner offers you a high five. Bridge buddies walk up to shake your hand. You have the biggest nut pile with no nuts to spare.

You hit the beers.

Probably you will forgive partner. That is the usual thing but you are not sure yet.

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