Ray Lee

Viva Las Vegas

Here we are at the Summer Nationals, which is probably going to set another attendance record, and I have to start by confessing that LV isn’t one of my favorite places to spend a week.  I don’t gamble, and the constant in-your-face slot machines and pseudo glitz really get to me, not mention external temperatures in three figures and humidity not far off.  But tonight was a lot of fun, I admit.

We’d been looking forward to the evening, because we’d splurged seriously on tickets to see Bette Midler’s show at Caesar’s Palace (my all-too-wise daughter once asked me, ‘Dad, do you want to spend your money on things or experiences?’, and we both agreed we preferred the latter).  Eddie and Yvonne Kantar had Midler tickets too, so we decided to make up a foursome for dinner before the show.

Dinner was at the nearby Hofbrauhaus (Eddie’s choice), a Munich biergarten somehow transported to LV.  We were offered seats in the main hall (with the oom-pah band and the big tables of serious drinkers) and or the garden, which we were told was quieter.  We went for the garden, which was just as big as the hall, but empty other than ourselves.  However, we’d allowed a lot of time for dinner, to be safe, and after the main course was done, we realized we had at least an hour to kill before we needed to head for the show.  Now Eddie can usually be relied on to be carrying a deck of cards, but not today.  So despite the fact that Linda and I had a dozen decks in our room, and the ACBL doubtless thousands back at the Hilton, he had to nip across the road to the pharmacy to purchase cards.

He returned with a handsome deck with a back design of $100 bills — somehow appropriate here, we thought.  And suddenly, here we were in the middle of an impromptu version of Eddie’s famous Home Game.  Yvonne shuffled and dealt, and then dessert and coffee arrived.  There was a ten-minute pause while the strudel was consumed, after which Linda and Eddie bid their hands quickly and confidently to 7 hearts, Linda somewhat relieved to have negotiated the keycard sequence correctly.  Yvonne led something, and Eddie deposited a 4441 26-count on the table as dummy. The play lasted only one trick.  Eddie confessed he had been in agonies during the dessert course — he knew he had this hand and had been terrified that something would happen to prevent its being played out!  Perhaps the waitress would clear away somebody’s hand, or spill coffee on it.  But all was well.

The next hand Eddie dealt, and the (unopposed) bidding was interesting: I diamond – 1heart – 2 clubs – 2 spades – 3 diamonds – 4 diamonds – 4 spades.  Linda thought for a while, then for the second hand in a row launched into 4NT.  But this was a friendly game, and I felt I had to say something before this sequence got more convoluted — I was pretty sure that both of them were trying to use Keycard in the same auction!

It so happens that the last thing I did before leaving for LV was finish editing Eddie’s final draft of the 5th edition of his book on Keycard (coming this Fall from your favorite bridge publisher). Perhaps half the book is dedicated to discussing minor-suit agreement auctions, which are the toughest.  The reason for this is that 4NT is desperately uneconomical as a keycard ask in minor-suit auctions, since there’s rarely any chance to do much before committing to slam.  For this reason, Eddie recommends using other asks, but what the ask is exactly depends on the suit you have agreed, what level you’ve agreed it at, and what the prior auction has been. (I did say half of the book is dedicated to this!)

The worst auctions, according to Eddie, are the ones involving diamond agreement at the four-level.  And in those auctions, he recommends using the lowest unbid major (i.e. not a first-bid suit) as the keycard ask.  Now, if you go back to our auction, you’ll see that since hearts was a first-bid suit, then 4 spades was the keycard ask — and since Linda had forgotten that, having not read this stuff quite as recently as I had, her 4NT was also intended as Keycard.

As I said, it was nothing if not a friendly game, so we rolled back the auction to 4 spades, Linda made the correct response, Eddie bid 7 diamonds, and again the play lasted exactly one trick.  Two deals, two grands bid and made.  Lucky we weren’t playing for money.

Two deals later, Yvonne and I had our own slam auction, in which I got tangled up, but this time Eddie and Linda rescued me.  Yvonne opened 2NT, and I wanted to transfer to spades (my 5-bagger) and then ask her to choose between 6 spades and 6 notrump.   I knew that 2NT-3H-3S-4NT was invitational.  However 2NT-5NT is forcing to 6 and invitational to 7, so it seemed to me (I don’t play transfers a lot as you can tell) that 2NT-3H-3S-5NT would also be forcing to 6 and invite to a grand. So I didn’t know how to do what I wanted to do.

After some discussion, the table decided that this sequence actually asks partner to pick a slam, so I used it.  Yvonne duly bid 6NT, and she too claimed at Trick 1.  Which leaves me wondering, how do you force to a slam, and invite to a grand, while offering partner a choice between spades and notrump?  Anyone know?

We played half a dozen more hands, but the newness of the deck had worn off, and there were no more blockbuster deals.  But knowing that Eddie writes about his Home Game a lot, I decided I had better get a version out there before he could, so here I am back at the Hilton blogging away.

And the show?  Miss M. was divine.  Nuff said.


EwelinaNovember 26th, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Maybe even better than 65%, Bob. A trump lead vesrus a grand slam is quite popular, especially when the opponents have such good methods for checking solidity. It is not so popular when the opening leader has the queen! Perhaps George had this in mind.I had a hand long ago in Wisconsin where my lady partner conducted a similar auction to a similar destination. As she put down the dummy, she instructed me, Find it!

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