The Whistling Stopped

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 08/03/2006
Level: Intermediate

The 2006 Rosenblum Teams in Verona started in disturbing fashion for my partner, David Berkowitz, and me. In the first round-robin match we faced a team from the Netherlands. They showed up at the table with a convention card bursting at the seams (and a confidence level to match). In the "special bids that may require a defense" section, there were 14 items listed! Some of them we could easily cope with (such as Multi-2?), but others were mysterious. Some weren't even legal. I'm not the litigious type, but I asked a director about the legality of this list, and after consultation with other directors, he determined that 2 of the items had to come off.

Of the remaining 12, one was "transfer overcalls". If we opened one diamond, and they overcalled one spade, it showed "hearts!" Beautiful. How do we cope with that? What is double? What does it mean if we bid two hearts? Two spades?

The match was supposed to be starting (the clock was running); David and I had to spend time and brain power dealing with all this nonsense. Could we have prepared in advance? No. The round-robin matchups were not posted until game time.

We had an abbreviated (not long enough) discussion about how to deal with all of these pre-alerts, but I was annoyed. My LHO was giving us a hard time. He didn't understand why we had to make such a fuss over this laundry list of conventions. "Don't they allow conventions in America?" he wanted to know. This was not a pleasant way to begin the event. Finally, the screen came down (all events in Verona were played with screens, bidding trays, etc.) and the first auction began. (Just my luck, that Mr. Obnoxious was on my side of the screen).

Our opponents had a great result on Board 1. They made several alertable bids, at which point, LHO (I'm going to call him OLHO from now on, for Obnoxious Left-Hand Opponent) told me he wouldn't alert any more. "Everything we bid is alertable, so I won't alert you, okay?" "No," I said. "Please follow normal procedure". He continued acting in obnoxious fashion (unusual, because in my past experience the Dutch players were always perfect gentlemen and a pleasure to play against).

On the second deal, my OLHO started whistling, yes--loud annoying whistling! I didn't recognize the tune. Vul against not, I opened a strong club (Precision). OLHO grabbed for our convention card. "What is your defense?" he demanded. "What are you talking about?" I asked. He wanted to know what my partner's bids would mean if he overcalled. "That depends on what your overcall is," I patiently answered. "But, I want to know your system over everything so I can decide what to bid." I asked him to just bid, and he'd find out. This wasn't good enough. I had to explain all the possibilities (in writing--this is how things are done behind screens).

Finally, he bid 3♠. He didn't alert it. I wrote: "What is 3♠?" He wrote "natural". What happened to "everything he bids is supposed to be alertable?" Oh well.

Three spades was passed around to me, and I bid 4?. OLHO, still whistling his merry tune, slammed a double card on the table (this meant he had a "special" preempt). In fact, his hand was:

♠ QJ10953  
♥ Q  
♦ A642  
♣ A10.

The tray went to the other side and when it came back, we saw that David had redoubled (business), and my RHO had passed.

I passed and looked at my OLHO. He didn't look so happy any more. He studied the auction and realized he was in big trouble. He could pass (if it made, the score would be 1080 since we were vulnerable). He could run.

He stopped whistling.

He studied and studied and finally chickened out and ran to 4♠. This was doubled, as was his partner's runout to 5♠. (His partner had six clubs to the jack, five hearts to the jack and two small singletons). The price was 1,100. Meanwhile, four hearts redoubled would have been two down for 1,000 to the OW (Obnoxious Whistler). His decision to run had swung 2,100 points. This was a humbling moment for my OLHO.

Two deals later, he again went for 1,100 and the rout was on. Several of my kibitzers were beaming from ear-to-ear (this is a family article, so I can't repeat what one of them whispered to me). OLHO behaved himself (shocked silence was more like it) the rest of the match. I'll never forget the moment that "the whistling stopped."

The auction that stopped the whistling:

Larry OLHO David RHO
1♠ (Prec) 3♠ Pass Pass
4? Double RDBL Pass
Pass 4♠ Double 5♠
Double Pass Pass Pass