Sunday, November 10, 2013

BRIDGE: Pre-emptors Who Bid Again Should Be Shot

[Do NOT click on ANY LINK found in the comment section of this blog. No matter how innocuous the link MIGHT appear to be, it is MOST LIKELY SPAM or a link to MALWARE. I am disheartened by the need to do this, which accounts for the sparsity of posts this year.]

I live my Bridge life vicariously. I haven't seen live action since the North American Summer Championships two years ago, the first time this century Danny Ioannidis and I had a below 50 percent session (and actually had two of them). Made me want to retire. Which I have. Mostly.

BUT, and it's a big but, that means all my friends in Bridge take quite a delight in calling me with hands. And naturally, I get most of them right because [A] I'm a decent enough player to actually get them right on my own, and [B] just about every hand has some trick to it and I know that going in. Makes being 'brilliant' really pretty easy.

Occasionally, the phone call will be from somebody who tells some variation of the "Can you BELIEVE what my partner did to me?" tale. The phone call I just finished was one of those. Well, it was a two-hand phone call. On the first hand, my caller proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE's crazy. Successful. But certifiable. (and the reason I'm not identifying the curmudgeonly guy). But then his tale swung the other way with the following bidding on the first hand of the quarter-final:

  His partner, a reluctant user of weak two bids, opened the bidding with 2S in second chair, everybody vulnerable. The partnership had agreed to disciplined weak two's, thus this hand showed six spades with two of the top three honours and 6-11 high card points. This is the kind of bid I wish weak two's meant all the time. But it's a bit old-fashioned (and the ones I play also prohibit a side four-card major or a void, thus making me truly a creature of the last century). At any rate, reluctant or not, the enemy across the table uttered two spades. The next hand, held by one of a team of LOL's (little old ladies - dreaded by any good Bridge player) doubled. And finally we got to the hand held by my caller.

[S] 10 9 2  [H] 6 4  [D] Q J 10 9 3  [C] Q2

  I chuckled. I told him I'd think about 2NT to see how much mischief that would cause. And similarly, I wouldn't hate 3H. But playing with a putz, I'd probably settle for 3S. Pass simply wasn't in consideration. But I wouldn't insult the intelligence of somebody who did pass. It's just not in my genes not to operate a little here. After all, partner is barred from bidding and we have at LEAST five tricks in three spades.

  The bidding proceeded 4D after some thought and then partner, who's hand is completely and utterly meaningless in this harangue, somehow discovered he'd paid for the privilege of playing and bid 4S. Now, this bid is an affront to any and all Bridge players. It's brainless, unwarranted and I'd be embarrassed to do something like that in a pairs game where I would only have to fend off the attack of my partner. This was a TEAM game. Indeed, the quarter-finals of a Regional Tournament knockout. To call this bid inexcusable is the minimize the damage a call after pre-empting does to a partnership. (Ends it in this case). It's so horrible that I screamed for ten solid minutes at the caller for PLAYING with this baboon in the first place. Oh, the doubler doubled again for -1100 and a win in the round. Without the gift double opportunity, the next hand might very well have bid 6D, with a maximum of 11 tricks available (but not in diamonds) and a big win for my caller's side. Instead, it was 17 imps away and the match.

  But it gets worse. And here is the hubris of stupidity made blatant. The idiot, and I apologize to idiots the world over by lumping him in with them, then pointed a finger at my caller and said, "My partner didn't have his bid, that is why we lost," or approximately those words. Now, in civilized society, we don't let mental incompetents demonstrate so clearly their lack of mental acumen AND complete and utter cluelessness without somebody there to guard them from having fingers around their throat trying to choke the stupidity out of them. That's a fool's errand. The oaf then responded to one of his other teammates asking about what possessed him to bid again after pre-empting with, "Oh so you're an expert now."

  Because, after all, he's a LIFE MASTER with more points than the rest of his team combined.

  And therein lies the rub. Bridge was an activity where becoming a Life Master was something of an accomplishment. You had to fight and scratch for the points to become a Life Master and for a long time, Life Masters were all good to great to the best there ever was. No more. You can become a Life Master by spending your money playing frequently ... the LIFE part of Life Master. It's been decades since Life Master meant MASTER. And of late, it's gotten so bad that arboreal microbes like this brainless excuse for a card-pusher have become a Life Master. And far too many then thrust that title into any conversation with the great unwashed who have yet to pay their dues and join the unexalted ranks as some sign of expertise. The mere thought that having described his hand accurately with his initial bid barred him from TELLING THE SAME STORY later, at the expense of his team winning, prompted his boorish behaviour.

  I would not have had the strength to wait until the event's conclusion to tell this uninformed bozo that I couldn't stomach playing with him anymore. I'd have quit on the spot, suspecting him of being in cahoots with the opposition. I might have talked to a lawyer to see if I could sue him for non-support. For mental cruelty. But my caller is a far nicer man than I and bided his time. Chewing at the insides of his mouth. Not wanting to explode because he's civilized (and I am most definitely not).

  Before it's brought up as some sort of an excuse, some partnerships DO allow pre-emptors to bid again. By agreement, those partnerships allow for pre-emptor to have as many as six cards in a side suit. To NOT be disciplined. To take their chances because they will get into some pickles and depend on their stellar card-play to mitigate their gambling at the table. But this was NOT such an occasion with such an agreement by such a pair. This was directly the opposite. Unstated, but just as cast in stone as the requirements for opening two spades, was the rule that prevented the opener from bidding again unless forced to by partner.

  I typed in "bridge bidding again after a preempt" into Google and returned a long list, most of which had snippets like this: Once you preempt do not bid again unless you are forced to do so by your partner. That was from the VERY FIRST ENTRY, a link to one of Richard Pavlicek's teaching pages. Pavlicek is one of the best teachers (and players) in the American Contract Bridge League. He calls the prohibition against bidding again a Universal Rule. And he highlights the rule in a big, hard-to-miss pink box. And similarly statements can be read in ANY of the first 100 links Google conjures up. 

  No Bridge partner is perfect. Even me [G]. But to actually try your damnedest to futz up your partner and your team is revolting at best, a capital crime in the making. If it was me who allowed this goofball to ruin my tournament for me, I'd be taking out full-page ads in the local newspapers and in the Bridge magazines warning other players just how completely clueless and feckless this pseudo-intellectual is. He should be run out of town, tarred and feathered, and sent off to play tiddly-winks with his mental peer group. 

  Insulting my friend is MY job. I take ownership of that seriously. I'd name names here, but I wasn't given it. Maybe you've met the man and can give him my regards. It would involve a slap across the face or a right upper-cut depending on your proclivities for boxing. Just let me know where to send the Get Well Later card. 

  I'm coming out of retirement as soon as my most recent bout of illness is over with. You've been warned.

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