Mark Blumenthal

Tales of the Giant Crab – 2

Walt always had his own distictive approach to bidding and defense. . When he first evidenced some competence in declarer play, and defense I started to play with him. I mistakenly assumed That like most promising players, his overall skills would gradually develop. I did have reason to question that assumption. One time One local club ran a team game championship in which I played the first session on the assumption I would play the second and final one the next week. I had very good teammates, and we easily led at the end of the first session

Unexpectedly, I had to work that evening and called Walt to fill in for me with Reuben Alexander who was a pretty good player. I explained the situation to Walt and told him unless he did crazy things we figured to win. We won, but one hand should have allowed me to predict the future.

Walt in first seat picked up, xxxxx, xx, xxx, xxx. As he was playing five card majors, Walt opened 1 spade! The bidding proceeded pass, pass, double. Walt reasoned the opponents must have at least a small slam. Not content with having opened the bidding, Walt now bid four spades! His left hand opponent thought for a while and vntured forth with five hearts. After some thought by the doubler that became the final contract. Rueben had no reason to question the bidding until dummy came down with twenty to high card points including the A10x of spades, and declarer ducked the opening spade lead to win  with the queen and claimed.

Really bad hands seemed to stimulate Walt’s imagination to work overtime. Once playing with Steve Parker he held, xxx, xxx, Qxxx, xxx. The opponents were vulnerable and he was not. That situation was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Seeing he had the requisite distribution, Walt opened what was supposed to be a strong no trump. With the opponents refraining from taking any action, Steve bid a transfer of two hearts. Walt dutifully bid two spades. Steve then invited to slam with four no trump. Feeling his hand might have been better, Walt passed. That became the final contract. After extremely bad defense Walt went down one. That score didn’t seem too terrible when he figured out his opponents were cold for five hearts

Walt also had successes when he merely preempted. He opened three hearts with no hearts, and his opponents wound up in six clubs. Walt only had seven of those Another time, looking at xxx, Kxx, xxx, xxxx he decided to open three spades, and his partner, with a good hand bid three no trump . The opening leader, holding KQJxxx of spades and an ace, feared leading the suit because he felt that would help set up dummy. With a non-spade lead Walt’s partnership was the only one to make three no trump.

However, his unique style didn’t always result in a triumph. Once he reached six spades off the AKQJ of trumps. He didn’t consider that a complete systemic disaster. He pointed out if the four highest trumps had been singleton he would have made the hand. Another bidding failure resulted when he and his partner, playing Roman Blackwood, reached seven no trump and Walt lost all held it to down thirteen tricks. Walt said he could have lost only eleven or twelve tricks, but he lost interest as the hand progressed and lost them all .

His many unusual contracts required him to plan novel lines of play. Finding himself playing in six no trump he reasoned his only hope to make his contract was to execute a squeeze. To do this he had to lose a trick. The only suit in which he could easily do this was spades in which he had Kx in his hand and xxx in dummy. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a convenient entry in the dummy to lead up to his king. So thinking, he resolutely played the king from his hand.

“Gee” said said the opponent on his right who won the ace and the queen jack, “I never thought I’d get these.” Walt was fortunate that the suit was blocked so he only went down two.

Even though  it was erratic, Walt’s constructive bidding often showed imagination an daring. Once when he was vulnerable and the opponents weren’t he held AQ10xxx, Ajx, Kjx–. He opened one spade. It went pass. And and his partner bid a limit three spades. . To his right he heard three no trump. Walt reasoned this person must have Kx of spades and seven or eight solid clubs, and his partner must have everything else. Knowing the spade finesse must work, he acordingly bid seven spades. His logic was irrefutable, and if three no trump had been to play, it would have been brilliant. Unfortunately, it was meant as unusual, and Walt went down one.

Another time he bid six spades knowing he was in a three three fit because he didn’t think he would have enough tricks in six no trump. He went down one, but he was cold for two other slams.

Sometimes Walt’s logic triumphed. Not vulnerable against vulnerable Walt held, Qxxxxx,—____ AJxxxxx___. The bidding went one spade, pass to Walt. He felt the oppponents were trapping, so he bid six spades.With the lead of the ace of hearts Walt’s partner made the contract with a total of fifteen high card points. Walt boasted that he was plus 980 when he could have been minus 1660.


Judy-Kay WolffDecember 14th, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Your Tales of the Crab have been an entertaining revelation to me. I am now discovering a fun loving, adventuresome prankster with a devilish bent who thrived on being different and deceptive. When I met Wally back in the Sixties, he was the Rock of Gibralter and never stepped out of line at the table — an ideal partner and a perfect gentleman. Maybe he was on good behavior with me. I was a rather unsavvy novice and Norman’s bride of one year –pregnant with child. Perhaps he felt if he threw me a curve, he would induce an early delivery of my yet unborn offspring. The tournament directors had enough problems of their own and I doubt if obstetrics was one of their long suits!

Mark BlumenthalDecember 14th, 2008 at 8:55 pm

There are many more stories. Sue Picus Rigal and Kate had trouble believing the very dignified and respectable person they knew is the same person as from the one from my stories He told me recently he met a stranger who knew a lot of the stories including the best one that he has asked me not to tell.

Pink PigDecember 17th, 2008 at 6:57 am

I never knew the Crab when he was dignified. I’m wondering what that means. The Crab?

Don SmolenFebruary 4th, 2009 at 4:55 am

Would that story involve a person with the initials S.T.O?

Leave a comment

Your comment