Friday, May 6, 2016

Bridging to Normalcy

Here's what I penned yesterday:

I know it's Cinco de Mayo, when people's thoughts naturally drift toward Mexican liberation and Mexican libations (not necessarily in that order), but I'm thinking about bridge. This evening, for the first time since settling in Duluth, I'll join Susan in a group playing bridge, and I'm looking forward to it.

The trick for me will be keeping myself appropriate. It's a beginners class that meets every Thursday evening, and Susan participates as a student. She spoke last week with the instructor about my situation, and I've been invited to join them this evening as a guest.

The thing is, I'll be a ringer. I've been playing duplicate since 1999 and would like to get involved with in the duplicate scene in Duluth. Fortunately, Duluth is a large enough city that they have two games per week. One is on Mondays (which runs smack into a regular infusion therapy appointment I have for treating my cancer). The other is Wed evenings at 6 pm, which might work fine.

Tonight I expect to just observe—playing only if they have an odd number of participants (as opposed to a number of odd participants). It's all together possible that I'll have learned some different responses than the instructor over the last 17 years and it would be gauche for me to start teaching heresy (does a negative double in the sequence: one club, one diamond, double promise both four-card majors or only one?), so I'll need to be quick on my feet and not so quick with my tongue (not exactly my forte).

Hopefully there is enough flow among the local bridge players that I'll be able to manifest a partner for the Thursday evening game. We'll see.

While I was already pumped up for card playing after getting in a few casual bridge hands on Saturday, when Susan and I were visiting Ray & Elsie at their cabin in Stone Lake WI, my friend Cecil added another log to the fire last night when he suggested trying to set up a visit in the coming months where we could combine camaraderie with a sectional bridge tournament.

Cecil used to live at Dancing Rabbit before moving to Manhattan in 2007, and we had become regular partners for the once weekly duplicate game in Kirksville MO. We enjoyed good chemistry together and I was sad losing him as my partner. As he started playing duplicate a good bit after I had, he was behind in accumulating master points en route to becoming a Life Master, and we lost momentum when he moved east.

Since then we have managed to get together once (in 2011) for a regional tournament in Saratoga Springs NY, where we had enough success in two days to secure the remaining gold points Cecil needed to reach Life Master. Now he only needs silver points, which are available only at sectional tournaments. So my interest was immediately piqued by his suggestion that we try to line up his prospective visit to coincide with a three-day sectional in the land of 10,000 lakes. We can do this!

Meanwhile, I need to knock the rust off my game—it is not enough reading Frank Stewart's daily bridge column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I need to actually play cards.

Much as I enjoy margaritas, chips, and salsa—and I do—for today's Cinco de Mayo I expect to enjoy the piquancy of bidding and making small slams and vulnerable games even more.

• • •
OK, now it's the morning after. It turned out that I got to play last night after all. My presence gave us just enough to fill three tables.

The featured lesson last night was negative doubles, and I had sympathy for the students. With a very limited vocabulary, the modern bridge world freights the term "double" with an amazing array of meanings, and it's bewildering for neophytes trying to keep them all straight. While negative doubles are a highly serviceable concept and well worth adding to one's bidding repertoire, it's towered atop employing doubles for penalty or take out, which concepts had already been introduced to the class.

Just to frame this well, there was no mention last night about how the concept of double can mushroom to include responsive, lead directing, balancing, reopening, support, snapdragon, stolen bid, and striped tailed ape. It can get confusing.

The main thing though, was that I was playing cards. Yippee! I met briefly after the class with the instructor, Steve, and he encouraged me to drop by the regular duplicate games Monday afternoon and Wed evening. He said the group is good about finding everyone a partner (which I'll need), so all I need to do is show up. It won't be until the end of the month that I'll have a free Wed, but I'll get there.

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