Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss

Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss
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About Me

H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Play When You are Sick

This happened yesterday. My partner and I were playing in a club game, sitting east-west. When we came to the third table my RHO, wheezing and sniffing said, "Welcome to the sick table." My partner, Gail, a registered nurse, and I looked at each other. I asked, "you're both sick?" My RHO replied, yes.

Gail and I looked at each other again, and we were both unhappy. We both know that one of the best ways to spread a cold is to play cards when you are sick. I said, "This is very upsetting. You should not play when you are sick. You expose everybody in the room to your illness. I don't want to get sick for two weeks just because you want to play bridge. Playing bridge when you are ill is selfish and inconsiderate."

Gail added, "Please cover your mouths with your hands when you cough."

Both of our comments were met with embarrassed silence. My LHO is an experienced player and should have known better. He was sicker and quieter at our reaction. Let me say here that these are both very nice people and Gail and I like them.

One of the best ways a cold is spread is by ill people playing cards. Since they were sitting north-south and we were sitting east-west, we were only exposed to their coughing their germs over us for the 20 minutes we were at their table. However, the people sitting north-south, the same direction that our ill opponents were sitting, will touch their cards, not knowing that they have been handled by people with a communicable illness. They will then put their hands to their face, maybe pick up something to eat, do a lot of things that can expose them to the germs that been left on the cards.

Whenever I learn before a bridge game that there is somebody in the game with a communicable illness, most often a cold, I decline to participate and go home. But when the people who are ill don't tell anybody and the game starts, you're stuck. Similarly, I won't play if I am ill with a cold, not because I don't feel like it, but because I don't want to expose anyone else to my cold. I'll only play if people are aware of my cold and still urge me to play.

After the dialogue Gail and I were seething that we were being exposed to these people's illnesses simply because they selfishly wanted to play bridge and didn't care about exposing everybody else to their colds. We discussed it with other east-west players after the game and they all commented that they were irritated by being exposed, kept as far away from them as they could and left the table as quickly as possible.

The game progressed and we picked up our hands. Here is the layout:

Dealer: South
                        ♠ K8652
                        ♥ AJ
                        ♦ 874
                        ♣ A63

Tony                                        Gail
♠ Q7                                        ♠ AJT94
♥ 74                                        ♥ KQ65
♦ KJ962                                   ♦ QT
♣ Q874                                    ♣ T9

                        ♠ 3
                        ♥ T9832
                        ♦ A53
                        ♣ KJ52

West (Tony)   North     East (Gail)  South
P                1S             P               1N
P                P               D               P
P                P
Bidding: Gail and I have an established partnership, so our bidding is a little different than what might be standard for most people. As I have indicated in prior columns I strive to defend 1N doubled. Here, North opened in third seat and Gail passed. This does not mean that she is a  "passed hand." As her partner, I recognize that she could have an opening hand but no bid. With 12 HCP, she has 4 hearts, but she cannot double because she cannot support any suit that I bid, and she is not strong enough to double and then bid her own suit which, when she bids a major suit, promises at least 17 HCP. So she must pass here. 

However, when 1N is passed around to her, she is strong enough to double because of our partnership agreement. Our partnership agreement is that if opponents' bidding shows weakness and you are in the passout seat you should double 1N with 10 HCP. Here, a third seat opening (often less than an opening hand) followed by a 1N response and a pass by opening bidder, couldn't be weaker. So Gail doubled, asking me to pass if I had a hand with defensive values. 

Although I only had eight HCP, I had a fairly good five card diamond suit headed by two honors and Queens in 2 other suits. From the bidding I assumed that Gail probably had an opening hand, so I passed for penalty. We wanted to get a top board, but equally persuasive, we wanted our opponents to remember this for a long time.

Play: Normally there are rules for what the double of a No Trump bid calls for in terms of lead. Here, when neither of us has made a bid, a double would generally call for the lead of dummy's first bid suit, a spade. 

However there are things that mitigate against this. The first is that Gail is sitting behind spade bidder so after she takes the first trick what she leads back is strictly a guess. I, of course, don't know that she has such a wonderful running spade suit. If I lead the queen, if declarer covers with the king Gail takes 4 spades off the top. If the queen isn't covered, she takes 3 spades, but in the meantime I will probably have to jettison some of my diamonds on her spade leads, so even if I knew about the high quality of Gail's suit, I don't think a spade lead is as good as my diamond lead. 

As I have said in a prior column, the rules for opening lead against a doubled 1N contract are subservient if you have a better lead in your hand. I already knew that Gail liked spades. She knew nothing about my hand. Since I had a pretty good five card suit I can tell her about it now, and this might be the only chance I have to tell her about it because it's unlikely I'm going to get in any time soon. 

So I led the six of diamonds, fourth from longest and strongest. Gail played the Queen, which held, and returned the 10, which declarer took with her ace. After that, it was brutal. Declarer only took 4 tricks, losing 3 diamonds, 2 clubs, 2 hearts, and 2 spades. I got in with the club queen to make my two diamonds which had set up (I had had to sluff one of my diamonds while hearts were being played). And then I returned the Queen of spades through the King on the board, so Gail got two spade tricks. If you're interested, you can play the hand yourself, but the result was that we took nine tricks for down three doubled, +800 for us. Everybody else in the room set 1N, but we were the only ones who doubled.

So the moral here is, if you're sick and aren't the least bit considerate about infecting your opponents, there is karma in this world and you might find yourself down 800. Don't play when you're sick.

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