One of my favorite partners asked if I wanted to play in the unit's Christmas game. We don't play together too often because, to play with him, I'd have to play at the Oklahoma City club, which is a 80-mile round-trip from Norman. So, the last time we played together was about six months ago. Luckily, permission to play on Saturday evening was forthcoming, and I played in my first Christmas party game.
The club was jam-packed. Good food, good bridge, and (spiked) egg nog to follow. What's not to like? There were three sections of 14 tables each. This is, by far, the largest club game I have ever been to.
I started the game in a stupor. Maybe it was the tryptophan. In a clear-cut auction, after partner had signed off in 5S, I pushed to 6S on the strength of a void. It turned out that we were off two cashing aces. The next board, I bid 4S over the opponents' 1H, tempted by the favorable vulnerability. I got doubled, down 2, when they had nothing their way. And so on. The first six boards, I estimated that my decisions had gotten us six zeroes (the hand records show that we were 33% on those boards).
"Sorry," I told partner after the sixth board, "that I am playing so poorly. I hope you didn't have any expectations for this evening."
"Don't worry," he said, "I have seen experts take a view on hands with voids. There's a fellow in California who recommends that you take a leap in that position. It just didn't work this time." Did I mention that he is a favorite partner? This is why. Of course, he knew that I knew that one doesn't take "views" at matchpoints. You want to be in field contracts and win on cardplay. But, it was still nice of him to say that. One of the things about having a good, supportive partner is that it allows you to settle down.
The seventh and eighth boards were against one of the best pairs in the area. We got two average boards against them. Those average boards on a table we knew everyone was getting clobbered were the turning point.
On the back half, the opponents gifted us eight tops and near-tops more than making up for the slow start. We finished with a 61% game, good enough for second overall (missing first by just half a board).
All but two of our tops were on defense -- a measure of how important it was that partner (rather than berating me for my boneheaded decisions) calmed me down. Here's an example of a cold-top (click Next to see the play; I was west):
Yes, declarer can keep this to down 1, and 2H can even make. Tops in matchpoints are often opponents' gifts, and this was no exception.
So, what do you do when your partner is being an all-around idiot? Calm him down with some cockamamie story about a Californian expert.
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