By Eddie Kantar
Courtesy of KantarBridge.com
To be a good bridge player you must be technically sound — but you must be psychologically sound as well. The latter is known as ‘reading the position’, or knowing something the cards don’t actually tell you. Knowing what’s going on is another way to put it. Along with others, I like to think that I can read my opponents — their mannerisms as well as their telltale hesitations. Once diagnosed, they can be put to good use during the play.
Not long ago my good friend John Szeps and I were looking for some tough competition so we decided to play in the mighty side game at a Torrance Sectional. I told John to fill out the convention card. Whatever he put down would be our system for the evening.
He returned his scratch marks to me and I noted we were playing strong two-bids! Strong two-bids? Oh well, I thought, they never come up, so what if I don’t remember the responses.
As luck would have it, one came up and we survived it. However, the experience was so unnerving that John suggested we go back to Weak Twos and Flannery. ‘Fine,’ I said, feeling a little more comfortable. But I did hear John muttering, ‘I hate Flannery.’
Things were going along smoothly (no revokes) until the next to last round when I picked up vul. vs not, this motley collection:
♠ Q8 ♥ 87 ♦ AJ4 ♣ Q97632
I heard John open 2♦ in the North seat. I immediately alerted. My RHO, PhyLLis* Cook, asked about the bid, received an explanation that it showed five hearts and four spades with about 12-15 HCP and passed.
[*PhyLLis with two l’s and one s. I was married to a Phyllis and misspelled it once. Not good.]
Anyway, I tried 2♥ which ended the auction. I did notice that PhyLLis passed slowly and John once again muttered, ‘I hate Flannery.’
My LHO, Audrey Ellis of Manhattan Beach, led the ♣K, at which time John asked if he was allowed to bid over 2♥. I said it would be unusual, but would he please put down the dummy so I could see what was bothering him so much. Finally he produced:
♠ A632 ♥ AJ1032 ♦ KQ6 ♣ 4
I told him he had done just fine… that his hand wasn’t worth another bid. He nodded, but I knew he wanted to bid again. And now on to the play — the memorable play.
North (Disgruntled John)
South (Reasonably contented Eddie)
At Trick 2 Audrey shifted to the ♦10. I decided to win this in dummy and lead a low spade –a play which met with universal approval from the players (two) I dared to show the hand afterwards.
What followed can hardly be described. PhyLLis won the ♠K and Audrey discarded a club. Very well, I thought, if they want to revoke, let them.
A spade came back, and Audrey ruffed and returned a diamond which PhyLLis ruffed and returned another spade. I decided to discard my now blank ♦A, a big play in a side game, and Audrey ruffed. Unhesitatingly she played a third diamond which PhyLLis ruffed with the nine, of course. A fourth spade was returned ruffed by Audrey with the king. She then played a fourth diamond allowing East (I won’t write her name again) to make her now blank ♥Q.
At this point both opponents cheerfully conceded (‘I don’t have any more trumps!’ ‘Neither do I.’) Dummy had all trumps and nothing else.
It was time to assess the debacle, but it was difficult because everybody (except South) was laughing hilariously. I mentally noted the following:
(1) I had taken five tricks.
(2) Trumps were 3-3, with the honors divided, and I had managed to lose six trump tricks
(3) Had I ruffed the third spade with the ♥7 I would have saved two tricks.
(4) I had probably set a record which I should submit to the Guinness Book of World Records for most trump tricks lost in a partscore contract.
(5) Drawing trumps immediately is a technique I will consider more carefully in the future.