Sleeping on the Couch

The continuing misadventures of Dave playing bridge with his wife, Anne

By Dave Caprera
Denver, Colorado

“Clocking” a Hand

I recently set a personal record for the highest scoring game that resulted in my sleeping on the couch. Annie and I played in a local 17 table Saturday afternoon club game and posted a score of 75.62%. You might have thought that with a score that big I couldn’t possibly have done anything so egregious that I would fall out of Annie’s good graces. You would be wrong.
First board out of the box we scored one-half match point on a twelve top. This is not the way to get a 75% game. I picked up ♠AK2 ♥AQ985 ♦Q93 ♣K3. Playing Precision, I opened a strong 1♣ and, with the opponents passing throughout, we had the following auction:

Me                                Annie
1♣ (16+ HCP)          1♠ (8+ HCP, 5+ spades)
1NT (tell me more)   3♣ (8-11 HCP, 5+ clubs)
3♠ (setting trump)     4♦ (control bid, good  hand in context)
4NT (keycard BW)   5♦ (1 or 4 keycards)
5♥ (asking for ♠Q)   5NT (yes, but no outside kings)
6♠ (hope it makes)   Pass (I’ll try my best)

Here is what Annie faced:



Not a great slam, but one that would appear to have play. On a trump lead, declarer would have a choice of going after the heart suit or the club suit, perhaps advancing the ♥J early to induce a cover. But at the table, the opening lead was a club to East’s ♣A and an immediate club ruff. Down one. Annie and I both knew that “the field” in a Saturday club game wasn’t going to be bidding to 6♠ and one-half match point proved to be our just reward. Ananie expressed her strong opinion that I had been too aggressive, and I was in the doghouse before I had even started.
But that wasn’t what put me on the couch. Midway through the session we knew we were having a big game, although in a club game you can never tell how big. Here is the deal that got me in trouble:



With Annie, South, as dealer and the opponents passing, we bid:

Annie Me
1♦ (11-15 HCP,  2+ diamonds)            2♦ (10+ HCP, 4+  diamonds, forcin one round) 
2♥ (artificial, a  weak notrump)           2♠ (artificial, please bid 2NT)               
2NT (doing as told)                             3♠ (spade shortness game forcing)
3NT (spades stopped)                         Pass

We had bid to a pretty good contract. The opening lead was the sneak attack of a small heart to East’s ♥K, a heart back to the ♥J, the ♥A, and a fourth heart. When the diamonds behaved (the ♦J being doubleton onside), Annie had nine tricks and a decent score.
All well and good, but then I did something bad. Annie sorts her hand by suits, red-black red-black, and she has a habit of not adjusting her hand as cards are played. Trick one she played the fourth card from the left and trick two she played the third card from the left, leaving a noticeable gap between her two cards on the left and the nine cards on the right. As dummy, I know I am supposed to keep my mouth shut, but seeing the gap I said to the table, “You started with four hearts.” This time it didn’t matter to the play or the defense, but in other circumstances the opponents might have taken advantage of “clocking her hand.”
Under the “Laws of Duplicate Bridge,” in particular Law 74.C.5, it is a procedural violation to look intently at another player’s hand for the purpose of observing the place from which a card is drawn (but it is not inappropriate to act on information acquired by unintentionally seeing an opponent’s card.)
This rule is sometimes referred to as, “You are allowed to see but you are not allowed to look.” While the rule in principle makes sense, it is virtually impossible to enforce in all but the most blatant of situations.
My real problem isn’t really that Annie may be giving information to the opponents, rather it is the ethical position she puts me in when she gaps her cards. While an opponent can act on information gained by seeing but not looking, a partner cannot. When I look up and see a gap in her hand it drives me nuts. This is one of the reasons I prefer to play with Annie behind screens.
At the table, she folded her hand, took her nine tricks and we went onto the next board. At that point I am still sleeping in a bed. But at dinner that evening, I chose to relive the event, including being critical of the practice both because of it potentially aiding the opponents and because of the ethical problem she creates for me. It was because of the heavy-handed way I delivered my criticism that I found myself “sleeping on the couch.”

The Long Sleep

I have been writing “Sleeping on the Couch” for five years. I have enjoyed doing so immensely, but I had been thinking for some time that I needed a break. With ScoreCard going to a new format as an electronic publication, it is now a convenient time for me to take that break. I would like to thank Steve and Kitty Cooper, as my editors, for all the work they have put in to make my column better. And just because you aren’t seeing it in print, don’t assume that, in the future, I am not sleeping on the couch.

[Editors:We appreciate Dave’s kudos and return them; it’s been fun for us as well.] [Publisher: Ditto.]
Goodnight, David.