Jun 26 2009

Nice Hand, Partner

Well, I finally played bridge with real-live people recently.  I didn’t feel like I was ready yet after only a year of study and practice, but some friends set it up, so I went along somewhat reluctantly.  As it turned out, I was fine on the mechanics of the game itself, but unsure about a lot of the little side issues that don’t come into it on the computer—who shuffles the deck for the next deal, who cuts the cards, what do you do if someone misdeals, etc.  The other players were really nice, though, and broke me in gently.  The hardest part of the evening was refusing all the tasty-looking desserts and snacks they’d made.  All in all, it was a really good time.

The first hand didn’t bode well, though.  My partner and I weren’t quite speaking the same language, and ended up going down two tricks.  That was exactly what I was worried about:  in a game where there are many different bidding “systems,” how do you know what a person’s bids mean when you’ve never played with her before?

In this hand, here’s how the bidding went (and what I thought it meant):

  • Her: 1 Spade   (I have 13-21 points and at least five spades.)
  • Me: 2 Diamonds (I have at least 10 points, and may have a few spades, but I want you to know I have a good diamond suit with at least 4 diamonds.)
  • Her: 3 Diamonds (I don’t have anything else to say about my spades or any other suit, but I too have some diamonds.)
  • Me: 3 Spades (I have 3 spades, so with your 5 spades and our combined 23+ points, we should be safe at 3 Spades and may be able to make 4.  What do you think?)
  • Her: Pass (I have a minimum 13 point hand, so we’d better stop where we’re safe.)

Unfortunately, she wasn’t playing 5-card majors like the computer does, so here’s what she thought the bidding meant:

  • Her: 1 Spade (I have 13-21 points and at least four spades.)
  • Me: 2 Diamonds (I have at least 10 points and my best suit is diamonds.)
  • Her: 3 Diamonds (That’s a relief; my spades aren’t very good, but I have diamonds too.  Let’s go with that.)
  • Me: 3 Spades (I am clinically insane and can’t make decisions.)
  • Her: Pass (Holy crap.  I’d better stop before we get in any deeper.)

That was the only hand that got that confused, though.  It turned out they were all pretty relaxed about letting people explain their bids somewhat, so I could have just asked if she was playing 5-card majors.  That’s something the books never mentioned; they stress how strict the rules are about not doing that kind of thing.  I know it would be much different if I went to a tournament or even a bridge club, but in a friendly group like this, it saves the trouble of trying to work out bidding systems and conventions in advance.

As it turned out, I had the most points on the evening, so I “won,” although I didn’t realize we were really competing that way.  That was kind of embarrassing since I was supposed to be the newbie, but I did have pretty good luck after that first hand.  I picked up one 800-point hand when my right-hand opponent preempted with 3 Clubs and I was sitting there with KJ7 of clubs and a couple other high cards.  That was sweet, but plain luck.

My best hand was a 3NT where I had a long suit in hearts but was missing the Queen.  On my first lead of hearts, one opponent showed out of hearts, so I was able to pinch the queen out of the other opponent’s hand with repeated finesses.  That’s a pretty basic bridge play for a good player, but it’s the kind of thing that seems daunting at first.  You have to recognize the situation, go after it right away, and preserve your entries to get back across to the finessing hand, so there are a variety of ways to screw it up.  I had to take my time, but I was pretty pleased with my play on that one.  Felt like I really knew what I was doing.

I don’t know how soon it’ll be, but I’ll definitely play again.  I’d still like to get to a real bridge club sometime and just watch for a while, to see how different it is and whether I’m ready to tackle a tournament.

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