The Light was Dim

I have never had particularly good night vision. Or day vision, for that matter, but I have particularly severe difficulties seeing in the dark. I know it has nothing to do with me, but recently it seems that ACBL tournaments are being held in bar lighting. At Bridge Week in Pasadena, it was so bad that I tripped over a table and over a chair in separate incidents. I simply didn't see them. I wasn't the only sufferer; the opponents averaged more than one revoke per session at my table. An amazing number of three-card suits were bid. At the Summer Nationals in Washington, DC, the main room wasn't quite that bad, but tables near the edge of the room had players struggling. We even had an appeal where a player confused the D:Q and the H:Q and revoked. I'd've liked to rule "tournament organizers' error," but that's not an option. I just don't understand why the ACBL doesn't make lighting the playing site a priority. Are bridge players well-known for their sharp visual acuity? Are they generally young people with great vision? I'm sure I've never seen anyone wearing glasses at a bridge table.

Playing in the finals of the open Swiss, we have a stationary table near the side of the room. It's not one of the worst, but I expect at least one revoke today.

The opponents are playing a big club system, and RHO opens one. I hold

 S:J975 H:K95 D:A5 C:J1095
I'm glad I'm not playing odd-even discards. At both red, I have nothing to say. LHO bids a negative diamond. Partner acts studious for a few seconds and emerges with 2C:. We play CRASH, so assuming he remembers, either he has spades and diamonds, or he has hearts and clubs. RHO passes. I'd like to play either 2S: or 3C:, depending on which suits he has, so I try 2S:. Perhaps I ought to be sure of playing at the two-level and bid only 2H:, but this partner is not prone to flights of fancy, so 3C: shouldn't be too awful. Partner alerts, they ask, and apparently, they don't care enough about it to do anything but pass.

The opening lead is the S:6, and I buy a moderate dummy.

S: A432
D: QJ10976
C: 2
S: J975
H: K95
D: A5
C: J1095
1C:*Pass 1D:*2C:*
Pass2S:* All Pass
Heh, every bid was alerted! It looks as if trumps are 4-1, so I'm in trouble. If I win the trump ace at trick one, as soon as I lose a trick, they will clear trumps, and I won't take many tricks. I'm not so keen on ducking and having dummy tapped, but at least I won't be in danger of going down four or five, so I duck the first trick. I may regret that, but we'll see.

RHO wins the S:Q and thinks for a little while. He continues with two high clubs, forcing me to ruff. It looks like he has nine HCP in clubs and five in spades. He has to have one or both of the D:K and H:A. If he has both, he might have opened 2NT, so he's either unbalanced or has only one. In any case, I don't see how I can make this unless the D:K is onside, so I take the diamond finesse. It loses. Worse still, LHO continues a club. I could duck this, but I'd be sure to lose two clubs, a heart, a diamond, and two trumps, so I ruff it with dummy's last small trump. It gets worse. When I try to cash the D:A, RHO ruffs with the S:8, cashes the H:A and continues with a high club. I sure didn't get that right. I suspect I might have been making this hand if I had played the D:A on the first round.

But things aren't too bad. RHO is clearly 4315, so I'm playing double-dummy. The position is

H: Q
D: J1097
H: xxx
D: xx
S: K10
H: xx
C: x
S: J97
H: K9
I'm not going to make the contract, but down one isn't so bad. There's a trap, though. If I continue diamonds from the top, RHO will just pitch his hearts and will come to two trump tricks. Instead, I have to ruff a diamond in hand to shorten myself to RHO's trump length, then cross back to the dummy and then lead diamonds to neutralize RHO's S:10. So I ruff a diamond with the S:7 (a Grand Coup, though I don't think they count as very grand when they are for down one in a cold contract), and play the H:9 to dummy.

Horrors! The S:9 appears on the table instead of the H:9. RHO looks at me funny, then shrugs, draws trump, and cashes a club. I'm a pathetic down three. And yes, if I'd judged that the H:A and D:K were reversed, I could have made the contract.

Copyright © 2009 Jeff Goldsmith