Am I getting Older, or Wiser?
I get a chuckle when people complain about getting old. "The alternative," I tell them, "is much worse." We are all getting older, of course, but with that is supposed to come wisdom.
In bridge, we also get wiser with age. Youthfulness is usually equated with wildness in the bidding. I used to be a reckless preempter. Now, I am more disciplined. (More on that in Part II of this article). When it comes to opening the bidding, I am also moderating my ways. No, I'm not going into one of those ultra-sound shells (a la the "Roth-Stone school"). I still believe that striking the first blow is the way to go--I hope I never become a stodgy opening bidder. Still, there is room to learn. Recently, I dealt with this hand:
Q J 4 2
A K 10
J 10 7 6 5
In the past, I wouldn't have asked "am I vulnerable?" I wouldn't have cared if it was matchpoints or IMPs. I would have just opened the bidding 1, and gone on with my life. I have 11 HCP plus 1 for this, 1 for that--good enough. Alternatively, the Rule of 20 would dictate opening this hand (11 HCP 5 4 in the longest suits).
However, a new and more mature guideline has entered my brain. I look ahead to the future. I ask myself, "What will happen if I open 1 with this borderline hand?" The answers are mostly negative. For one, partner might lead a club (from, say, Kxx, or Axx). That wouldn't be so good. Even worse, it might be our hand. What do you think partner will respond? You know how partners are. Surely, you can look forward to the pleasure of his 1 response. Now what? The death rebid. You can't rebid notrump with a singleton, can't rebid your 5-card suit, and can't reverse into 2. You can't pass, so you have to make one of those lovely rebids. Yuk! So, why not show a little maturity and just pass? I gave it a try. (It hurt a little, but I got over it).
What happened next? I actually got to have a good auction. LHO opened the bidding 1, and my partner overcalled 2. RHO passed, and I got to make a splinter bid of 3. The hand was off my chest. I had painted a nice picture of my shape and strength, and I managed this all without opening the bidding. Had the opponents bid and raised spades, I could have entered the auction with a takeout double, again providing a good description.
Anyway, I'm still opening light, but when awkward hands arise, I have become emotionally capable of passing. I hope it doesn't ruin my reputation.