1. Too Many Conventions
Playing with a stranger on OKbridge, I agree to Standard American, plus Cappelletti and some other gadgets she insists on. The way I see it, who cares what you play with pickup partners. Better to just humor them so they can concentrate on judgment and reasoning, which are ten times more important.
So lo and behold, I find myself with a good one-suiter after the opponents open 1NT. Dutifully I bid 2C (an artificial relay to 2D). Partner bypasses the relay and we wind up in a horrible spot for some horrible result. Confused, I ask her if we are playing Cappelletti. "Yes," she replied, "but I thought you forgot."
2. Too Little Judgment
In an instant matchpoint game with a novice friend, I pass on one of the boards as dealer. LHO opens 1H and partner overcalls 1S, and with some sort of goodish hand I eventually push us to 4S. This however, does not satisfy partner, who after several moments' thought brandishes the 4NT bidding card (Blackwood). After finding me with one ace, he signs off in 5S. Now, this winds up making, but only because the opponents duck one of their THREE aces. Dear God, partner made a slam try needing three aces from a passed hand! After the session, I try to explain to him the fallacy of his logic, and he nods understandingly. To this day, I'm pretty sure he still doesn't get it.
3. No Judgment at All
This is utterly ridiculous, but I've seen it now three times. RHO opens a 5-card major and ends up with a trump guess with this layout:
Blindly adhering to Zia's rule, "If they don't cover, they don't have it," declarer leads the jack, expecting me to cover with the queen. When I don't cover, declarer cleverly puts up the king and finesses into my queen-doubleton. Think about it. Unless declarer is missing the A10 and is trying a Chinese finesse, what on earth does covering the jack accomplish? If you cover, declarer's guess is ALWAYS solved. In each of the three instances declarer guessed wrong, a game swing was generated. One woman even complained to her husband, "Well, I tried your little rule, but it didn't work...."
4. The Fifth Suit
Playing with another OKbridge pickup partner (of supposedly advanced caliber), I hear RHO open 1NT (15-17), and with a weak hand I pass. Partner doubles in the balancing seat, and after the contract makes two overtricks my partner asks why I didn't bid. "My double was takeout," he accuses.
5. If You Can't Beat Them
Neill Currie told me of the time he was playing in a regional and one of his little bidding concoctions, a 2D preempt showing 4-4 in the majors, came up. Of course, one of his opponents asked about the alert, and Neill had to explain. Not three months later Neill runs into the same opponents, except that one of them has the 2D preempt listed on her convention card, with her last name attributed to it! The sincerest form of flattery, I guess.
5. Thank You, Legislators
I must relate a good story given to me by Dan Molnar a couple years ago at the Nationals. On the subject of skip bids:
"RHO pulls out the skip bid card and bids 2S. I've got nothing, so I'm counting to 10 and then I pass. Next thing I know, RHO is calling, "Director! There was a hesitation."