Sunday, June 3, 2012

First time at a knockout

I played my first-ever knockout on Saturday at the OKC sectional.  Partner and I have been avoiding knockouts because they seem to be a lot of risk for very little reward.  We can play in a pairs game and even a 53% game will be good enough to get us a few master points (it's all about the master points!).  But playing 24 boards and not getting anything ... that seems awful.

Anyway, we decided to play the knockout and were surprised to win all four matches.  10 silver points for a day of bridge. Not bad. Even better was that all but one of the teams were stronger than us, and towards the end, we had handicaps as high as 20 points (partner and I average 100 master points; our team mates average about 750; our opponents averaged 5000 each).  The handicaps turned out to be unnecessary though, though unless ... perhaps it induced our opponents to play erratically to pick up the imps. We won our matches straight up (except for one team that we merely tied before the handicap came into play).

So, what did I not anticipate about team games?
  1. It was nice to be playing 24 consecutive boards with opponents who were better than we were -- I can see why there are so many people who play teams but don't care much for pairs.  The bridge is a lot more consistent at teams.
  2. Part scores were what put us over the top.  Team strategy, we are told again and again, is about bidding and making close games and slams, especially vulnerable ones.  Against each of the teams, we had six to eight boards where we picked up 6 imps per board. But these were not slam or game hands - mostly we bid our games, as did they. Instead, it was simply our team-mates making 2H their way and us making 3C our way.  A double positive part score is worth half a game swing! Fortunately, there were no slam swings -- I'm sure that's where the strong players would have whipped us inside-out.
  3. If you are lucky enough to get the right kind of cards (mostly flat hands without any slams), a quartet of intermediate players can hold their own against experts in a 24-board match.
  4. Experts bicker.  A lot.  Whereas partner and I mostly played our boards and promptly forgot them, the experts couldn't seem to let go.  I'm amazed that there aren't more fist fights at bridge. One opponent told her partner to wake up. Three opponents berated their teammate for nearly 10 minutes (for taking what is probably the percentage play; it happened to not work on the particular hand).  A third opponent kept shaking his head after every contract we made to the point that his partner started spreading out her cards and asking after every deal: "what would you have led from my hand?"  In pairs games, you face a new set of opponents every 3 boards, so I think it makes it easier for people to move on.  Whereas, playing 24 boards, it's harder.  Once they fall behind to a bunch of hobbyists, the experienced folk get ugly.

As for my game, there were (of course) a lots of mishaps today, but nothing I remember anymore.  Wait. Here's a hand where I opened the bidding at 1D:

♠ x
♥ Qx
♦ KJxxx
♣ KQxxx

P -3NT-X-4S
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator

5H doubled went down 4 for 1100.  I misunderstood what partner's double of 3NT was. Since the 3NT bid was conventional, I thought partner's double was takeout for the minors.  It turned out that partner simply thought it wouldn't make.  Fortunately, we had enough pickups on the other boards to counteract the 1100.

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