Tino’s Bridge Corner

Nicholas Valentino Mori

Wait! Don’t stop reading just because you saw the word “bridge,” as in the card game, rather than the product of structural engineering used to cross bodies of water. No matter who you are, I promise I have something to offer you.

My name is Nicholas Valentino Mori, but I go by Tino because the excessive inflection I put on my t’s already makes me sound plenty pretentious without going by Nicholas Valentino. I’d introduce myself as your weekly bridge guru, but that would imply a certain amount of expertise, which I do not (yet) possess.

I am a bridge player. I’ve played for about ten years, but I only started hitting up the club scene – not what you’re thinking – after coming to college. In May I earned my very first Master Point in a sectional match with my partner, Emily “the Destroyer of Worlds” Carrick, where several people of advanced lifespans informed me, “it’s so nice to see young people playing bridge.”

And you know what? It’s true. It’s GREAT to see young people playing bridge – we are a small but delightful group of people. We don’t have sixty plus years of experience, but we have pizzazz and spunk, and are not entirely devoid of gumption either!

Let’s clear something up right away: This column will be an absolute frustration to Life Masters (no, it is meant to be capitalized, bridge players really like their proper nouns). It’s meant for the casual player or the reader with a modicum of interest, who’d like to know a little more. I’m here for the beginners and intermediates, as long as you consider the word “intermediate” to be a noun that can be pluralized.

How is this going to work? Every two weeks I’ll start with a little bridge lingo, then I’ll post two bridge conundrums – one for beginners, one for intermediates. I’ll explain the beginner problem in the post, and give my solution to the intermediate one the following week.

For those of you who are completely new but still curious about the game, you can visit ACBL.org or Wikipedia, where the rules will present themselves. Please investigate and return, ready for a bridge enigma!

Why have a section on bridge lingo? If you want to blend in with a crowd of experienced bridge masters, you will need to understand the strange way they express themselves, and the many terms used in bridge discussion.
For example:

The Beer Card:

If you’re the Declarer and you win your last trick with the seven of diamonds, and you make your contract (as long as diamonds were not trump), your partner has to buy you a beer? If your contract was doubled, they owe you two beers.
Isn’t that a weirdly specific piece of information you never needed to know, but you’re glad you know now?

I’ll start every column with a definition, so you can impress your grandparents and blend in at your local bridge club. Anyway, let’s get started!

For all intents and purpose the following letters will serve as suit symbols:
S – Spades
H – Hearts
D – Diamonds
C – Clubs

For the Neophytes:
You’re sitting South and you’re holding:
S: K Q 10 6
H: 7 2
D: A K Q
C: 9 8 7 2
East passes and it’s your bid. What do you call?

If you slogged your way through my basic explanation to the rules of bridge, this problem should not be a challenge. Whenever you pick up your hand, sort your hand, count your points and judge the length of your suits. With a solid 14 points here, you owe it to your partner to bid. Passing is not an option.

The correct bid is 1S. Yes, you want to mention those spades, but you can’t open them. Unless you have five cards in that suit, don’t open the bidding on a major! I’ll stop repeating myself on that point eventually, I promise.

What about diamonds? Those are some very pretty diamonds. But always head the adage: length before strength. With only three diamonds, you can’t mention them, no matter how gorgeous they are.

So, in conclusion, bid 1C. If you get the chance, mention those spades. Simple as that.

For the Intermediates:
This is a hand from a sectional tournament I played at in May. You’re sitting East. The bidding has gone:

North East South West
Pass 1NT Pass
2C Pass 2S Pass
5C Pass 6C Pass
Pass Pass

You’re holding:
S: 8 7 6 5 4
H: J 10 3 2
D: A J
C: 8 5

North/South were a little ambitious in their bidding. What do you lead to stop the contract?
Find out my thoughts into two weeks!

That does it for the first installment of Tino’s Snazzy Bridge Corner. Questions? Comments? Vaguely unsettling invectives like “you succulent fool”? Contact me. See you in two weeks time!