Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pre-empting the cold, Foiling our opponents
by Jim Kaplan

A Ph.D candidate in urban geography and a teaching assistant to my stepson-in-law Byron Miller at the University of Calgary, Geoff Ghitter uses terms like “remote sensing” and lives on a farm powered by solar panels and wind turbines. He and his wife Bonnie, a weaver and retired mathematician, also stay warm by playing what I’d call power Chicago: some 48 hands over four hours for two cents a point. “I like it much more than duplicate because you can play far more hands,” says Ghitter. “On a good night, you can make $100.”

On a cold Calgary day, Ghitter and I played in a pairs game at the ironically named Martinique Bridge Club. Roaring through 27 hands in barely three hours, we enjoyed the terse, understated humor that Canadians are known for:

“You’re pair seven?”

“We are.”

“You can stay then.”

Ghitter uses few newfangled bidding conventions, but he has great card sense and extraordinary recall. When I wasn’t dolting away hands, we played some good bridge to finish at a respectable (for a new partnership) 50 percent. On a board I remember with pleasure, we were sitting North-South, with East dealing and no one vulnerable:

NORTH (Kaplan)
S Q J 9 6
H Q 10 6 2
D 10 8 4
C Q 7
WEST EAST
S 8 7 S K 2
H A J 8 7 4 3 H K
D Q 9 6 D K J 7 5 3
C K 10 C A J 9 6 5
SOUTH (Ghitter)
S A 10 5 4 3
H 9 5
D A 2
C 8 4 3 2

The bidding proceeded as follows:

East South West North
1D 1S 2H 3S
All Pass

Opening lead: diamond 6

Most players know how to open with pre-empts but not how to bid them in competition. Over interference, jump raises are pre-emptive in modern bridge. To show a limit raise or better, you should cue-bid an opponent’s suit. Here’s a strong raise showing at least four-card support and 10+ points:

SOUTH WEST NORTH
1S 2C 3C

Here’s a weak, pre-emptive raise showing four-card support and 0-9 points:

SOUTH WEST NORTH
1S 2C 3S


Therefore, my 3S raise was pre-emptive. With 25 points, East-West should have doubled us or bid on. Because we owned the boss suit, they were intimidated and never reached the logical diamond contract that would have made four. Our down-one score of -50 was better than average.

Incidentally, remote sensing is the use of satellite imagery for environmental work. You learn something every time you play bridge, eh?

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