Bob Mackinnon

Betsy in Turmoil

James Woolwich had just that morning received another letter from Heidi Heinz, the billionaire’s daughter who was promoting a woman’s professional bridge team with a view to winning a world’s championship for the USA in 1970. The newest member of the team was the vivacious and inventive Princess Elizabeth von Stollenberg, known to her friends as Betsy.

Dear James:

Hello from New York. I loved you last letter more than all the rest. More please. This time I have exciting news: Daddy has asked Betsy to marry him. Wow! That would mean my mother would be younger than myself. Sounds like a miracle, doesn’t it, but I bet it’s happened before, lots of times. Marrying Betsy would make Daddy happy as a clam as he has a bad case of l’Amour à la Papa, as the French call it. He says that children can wait as she pursues her ambition to be a world champion. Guess what? – I approve. We can continue to be just like sisters – my inheritance is already locked up and my fashion businesses are doing great.

The trouble is that Betsy is involved with Guido Amoroso, a Beat poet she met in Greenwich Village. He says he doesn’t believe in marriage although he is already married to his high school sweetheart whom he knocked up in grade 10. More accurately one might say he doesn’t believe in marriage and she doesn’t believe in divorce, especially since she is postgraduately pregnant again. Guido calls Betsy ‘my Nazi bitch’ and wants her to quit bridge and spend more time with him expanding their consciousness with LSD. So naturally poor Betsy, madly in love, is in crisis mode and doesn’t know what to do. What does your guru say? I will pass it on.

James read this passage to Hisashi-san, his flatmate and spiritual advisor who, as usual on a Sunday morning, was knelling on the floor writing with an ink brush large black Japanese characters on a sheet of paper spread out before him. He continued to write in silence until a long wiggle had been completed, then straightened up and gave a sigh of satisfaction before replying.

‘James-san, everyone knows, better a rich man’s toy than a poor man’s doormat. Now let’s enjoy the silence together.’

‘Sensei, the poor woman needs help. We can’t just remain silent.’

‘This Betsy will do what she wants to do. We see the same at the bridge table. Bridge players repeat their mistakes many times – it defines who they are. They take advice as personal criticism. However, if you must reply, tell her this, “Noise hides the Truth,” or “Seek Truth in Silence, the Great Teacher,” or “A life engulfed in noise is a life lived with confusion.” Take your choice.’

‘“Seek Truth in Silence, the Great Teacher,”’ repeated James as he wrote it down. ‘Very good, I’ll go with that.’

As Sensei obviously wanted to get on with his morning calligraphy, James proceeded to read the rest of Heidi’s letter without further comment. It went as follows.

With regard to our bridge, things are going well and we continue to win the women’s events with some ease – but not without some scary moments. With Betsy I have learned to take the triumphs with the disasters, the one following the other in quick succession.

Here is a recent example of a triumph.

 
Both
East
N
Audrey
62
J9853
K1064
109
 
W
Me
AQ9
K4
AJ875
A73
 
E
Betsy
108543
106
J86542
 
S
Rhonda
KJ7
AQ72
Q932
KQ
 
W
Me
N
Audrey
E
Betsy
S
Rhonda
Pass
1NT
Pass
2♦→♥
3
3
4
Pass
5
All Pass

Rhonda opened a strong 1NT. We play Landy and I didn’t have the majors, so I thought that we didn’t have enough to make a game. I passed. Wrong. Audrey expected her hand would play better in hearts, so she transferred. Betsy made a crazy overcall with only 1 HCP in her hand. Support with support, they say, so Rhonda and I did our duty and guess what, Betsy bid game! The lead was the K, won in dummy. A heart was discarded on the A and a club played to Rhonda’s Q. She switched to the K! Crazy, wasn’t it, making 12 tricks on a spade finesse. The funny thing was that Betsy’s hand was the only one that had a singleton or a void, and she had both. I guess that’s pretty unusual.

I have found when Betsy does something crazy, well maybe not crazy, but outside an opponent’s normal expectation, the opponent gets confused and often can’t cope. It’s like they are running back into a burning building because they forgot to turn out the lights. Of course, it works both ways as I am often confused as to what’s going on. So I asked Mel what I should do about it.

‘Don’t do anything, Heidi,’ he advised, ‘Just keep putting down those great dummies. Betsy’s wild guess it often better that a normal player’s reasoned deduction.’

‘I think I should have doubled 3,’ I observed.

‘Could be,‘ he agreed, ‘that might have gotten you to 4 , a better contract. But tell you what, as you are reluctant to double 1NT with an equivalent hand, why not play Brozel over 1NT where double shows a one-suited hand? So you will pass 1NT systematically and when Audrey shows hearts, Betsy can bid 2 to show a black 2-suiter. That way you will easily find your spade fit.’

That makes sense to me: fit your methods to your natural tendencies, mine to pass, and Betsy’s to bid. Now everyone is comfortable and we don’t stumble over our own constructions.

Often we go out to play high stakes Chicago against Wall Street hotshots. The old guys are nice enough, and try to teach us things, but I don’t know what puts me off more: their gold wrist watches, or their gold teeth. Gross. There are two younger guys, gorgeously dressed in matching paisley pink shirts, canary yellow ties, and Aegean blue suits, who we would like to get to know better, if only they weren’t so uptight. (I would send you one of those ties, James, if I thought you’d ever wear it.) Rather than be nice and friendly, maybe going for refreshments after to discuss the hands or whatever, they treat us like we’re the enemy. They open light and stretch to 3NT on inadequate values in an attempt to dominate. Why can’t they be cool, like you, James? We won’t bite (or maybe we will!) I sorta go into my shell, but they can’t push Betsy without getting pushed back. She fits right into the New York scene, where pushy is the norm, even for waiters.

Betsy says that the spade suit is the key to most auctions.

‘If you’ve got ‘em, you have to bid ‘em. If I jump to 2 it’s all about what they’ve got, but if I jump higher it’s about what I’ve got.’

Here is an example of the mysterious single jump from an early board.

 
N-S
South
N
Rex
J9
KQ97
AJ103
J43
 
W
Me
73
4
7542
KQ10852
 
E
Betsy
AQ10862
J10653
K9
 
S
Greg
K54
A82
Q86
A976
 
W
Me
N
Rex
E
Betsy
S
Greg
1
Pass
1
2
Dbl
Pass
3
Pass
3NT

Greg: what does that 2 tell you?

Me: It’s a preempt.

Greg: I know that. What does it tell you?

Me: It tells me she is offering to buy you out cheap.

Greg: Right. 3NT.

He won the second round of spades and started the hearts with A and low to the dummy. Surprised that I showed out early, he tried the clubs leading from dummy. When Betsy showed out he went into shock. He tried to endplay me in clubs, hoping I would have to lead away from the K. That way he managed to go down 300.

‘Some preempt,’ he commented sourly, ‘6-5 in the majors.’

‘With 7-7-7-5 you should have taken my generous offer,’ suggested Betsy sweetly.

She ended the match in typical fashion by making a game she shouldn’t have bid.

 
E-W
West
N
Rex
AK762
J6
942
Q76
 
W
Me
J1083
7
K763
AJ103
 
E
Betsy
Q5
AK10952
A10
K42
 
S
Greg
96
Q843
QJ98
985
 
W
Me
N
Rex
E
Betsy
S
Greg
Pass
1
Dbl
Pass
1NT
Pass
4
Dbl
Pass
Pass
Pass

I bid 1NT to show my spade stopper and point range thinking I might get to play this one, but Betsy had other plans. 3NT would have been best (I would get the clubs right) with 4 down 1 on good defence. Greg led the 9, Rex winning the AK and leading a third one. Betsy ruffed with the T, over-ruffed by Greg with the Q. Sometimes it’s not good to get your wish. He got his ruff but it was a big mistake. Betsy won the Q exit with the K in dummy and led my heart, finessing the 9 successfully. After drawing trumps she could discard her losing club on the established J. As Betsy says, if you want to win more often, you can’t afford to wait for the cards to be right – you have to give the opponents chances to go wrong, which is frequent.

‘Nice finish, Ladies,’ said Rex graciously, ‘I think you can afford to buy us a drink.’

‘We don’t drink,’ replied Betsy, ‘we smoke.’

‘I bet you do,’ observed Greg with a big smile.

Now that was more like it, but too little too late, as they say.

LYFH

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