Tonight we had some very contrasting styles colliding at Allston Manor. We have Lane’s do-or-die, shit-lucky bidding style, Thurston’s kamikaze attitude, Kent’s no-nonsense strategy, and Smith’s anti-bidding art. Not only that, we have the top three players, the only players above .600, playing against Kelly Kent, who is in the middle of a three-game winning streak after the horrific end to last weekend’s events and the start of August 1st’s event.
Lane’s final thoughts in his website column previewing this event stressed how important where the jacks land is going to be. We have several interesting match-ups ahead of us. First, we will get to see Lane and Thurston, formerly the NEA45s version of the Bulls, against the untested tandem of Kent and Smith. We will see last year’s most dominant team, Kent and Lane, against Smith and Thurston, a duo with a drastic lack of chemistry. And finally we will see this season’s most versatile couple, Kent and Thurston, take on Lane and Smith, a surprisingly confident team.
The Jesuses (or Jesai, as some have liked to call them) matched Lane and Thurston against Kent and Smith to start. This game turned out to be a perfect example of how the Bulls may not be the best team in the Academy, but they may be the most fun. Six hands in, with the score tied at 75, Lane bids 20 in clubs. Smith was going 15 on just the 5 of clubs. The Bulls get set. Thurston looked quizzically at Smith after the hand and said, “You had the five?! Why didn’t you go 25?!”
The Bulls make a comeback on a shit-lucky Lane 20-bid and a shit-lucky set of a Kent 20-bid. This puts them up 95-75. So Lane bids 20 again, this time in spades, and guess who has the five? And guess who was going 15 on the five? Smith throws the five academically on the last trick to secure a set and help regain the lead for her and Kent. So Thurston decides to pull a Lane and get shit-lucky; he bids 20 in hearts and is ecstatic to see that Lane had been thinking of doing the same thing. They make 25 and go up 100-95.
So you would think that this next hand would be the last of the game? How wrong you would be. This is Lane/Thurston we’re talking about here. Lane goes 20 in Spades; Thurston is booked. So you would think the buck would be imminent… but Tara was going 15 on the ace and queen of spades… and she draws the 5. That’s a set and the Bulls are in big trouble. Hand 12, the score tight at 110-80 in favor of Kent/Smith: Thurston goes 25 ‘cause he has to and finds the ace of hearts in the kitty; this complements his jack/ace combo very well. The five sleeps and he and Lane magically make 25. The comeback is alive and the score is now Kent/Smith 115-105. Last hand, Lane bids twenty, Kent passes to allow Smith to shoulder the bullshit 25 bid, but Smith doesn’t bite. Now Lane has to go 20 on nothing. But Thurston draws the jack, the five sleeps, and the Bulls finish the game out with a quick made-20-bid and end the 13-hand, 4-set marathon by saying, “Was there any doubt?”
Thurston and Kent blow out Lane and Smith in the following game, setting Lane handily on a 20 and then a 15. This puts Thurston at 2-0 and Smith at 0-2, dropping her out of contention for first place. Kent and Smith then avenge their earlier loss to the Bulls by dismantling Lane and Thurston with very intelligent throws. Despite their five sets (including three to end the game), Lane and Thurston still proclaim they’re good.
Game 4 starts out with Thurston a bidding powerhouse. He and Kent make two straight bucks but then Lane and Smith come up with 5 and Ace of Hearts to set and cut the score to 40-20. Lane squeaks out a 20-bid and Thurston comes through with another convincing buck and a 20, making the score 100-50. So Lane buckles down, makes two straight bucks, and we have a 110-100 game, in favor of Lane/Smith.
Last hand… Kent bids 20 out of the box. Lane shows Thurston his cards – the cards he has to bid 25 on – and even Thurston is shocked and dismayed. Lane is holding the 6 and 9 of Spades, the 3 of Diamonds, the 2 of Hearts, and the 9 of Clubs. That’s right, the 6 of spades is his high card. He passes. Thurston has better cards, but he’s not grotesquely stupid. He passes. Lane convinces Tara to go 25. Thurston talks her out of it. So Kelly has to go 20. She goes in Diamonds on just the 5… and the trump jack and the ace of hearts are in the kitty. The buck is an afterthought, and Kent and Thurston win, *-110. Thurston is 3-1. Lane is 1-3. So Lane buckles down. He makes all 3 of his bids in the following game and he and Smith defeat Kent and Thurston in 7 quick hands, *-55.
The Jesai fall again and it’s the deciding game between Lane/Thurston and Kent/Smith. The first two games totaled 24 hands and 10 sets. And we are about to witness a sure contender for Game of the Season. Lane starts off on the right foot by allowing Kent and Smith to get 25 on his 20-bid and the Bulls are already deep in the hole. But Lane makes up for it two hands later by scoring a buck and cutting the lead to 45-20, Kent/Smith. Thurston scores a lucky 25 on his 20-bid and the Bulls are within five.
Smith then bids 15 in Spades, she and Kent play their cards right, but their cards suck. The Bulls set and go up 65-35. Two hands later, Kent is set on a 20, the score is 85-40, and Lane and Thurston are in a prime position to close it out soon. But we’re only halfway through this game. Smith takes a rare 25-bid and scores a quick buck to bring her team to within 15. And then Thurston and Lane start bidding. First, Thurston gets slammed on a ridiculous 25-bid. Two hands later, Kent is booked on Lane’s 20-bid and the score is suddenly 110-60 in favor of Kent and Smith.
So Lane bids 20. He is holding the 5, 3 of hearts and the 5, 3 of diamonds. He instinctively picks diamonds… and he gets the jack, 7, 2 in the kitty. The buck brings the score to 110-90. He then bids 20 on just the Ace of Diamonds. Thurston has J, 9, 7. They make 25 and tie the game at 115. Can they complete the 50-point comeback?
The 14th and final hand. Lane has first-bid and goes 15. Kent goes 20. Thurston goes 25. What they don’t know is that they are all going in clubs. Smith does the unthinkable and bids 30… just the 2nd 30-bid in NEA45s history. And she goes in clubs. Thurston has the Ace of Hearts and King of Clubs. He draws the jack. He and Lane make ten and finish the comeback. (The three games between the two teams lasted a total of 38 hands and showcased 30 20-bids [27 by Lane and Thurston], 3 25-bids, and the climactic 30-bid, not to mention 16 sets, 11 by Lane and Thurston.)
The Jesai then pit Smith and Thurston against last season’s tournament winners, Kent and Lane. Kent comes out strong by bidding 20 on the first four hands. Trouble was, she got set on the last three. So Lane bids twenty the next two hands, gets lucky on the first when Kent draws the jack, ace, and king, and cuts the deficit to 55 points. Thurston then has a first-bid 15, Lane has three fives and lets him go, and Thurston is destroyed. The score is now 50-35 in favor of Smith/Thurston. Two hands later, Smith is set on a 15 and Kent/Lane go up by 30.
After Thurston makes a 20, the score is Kent/Lane up 85-65. Lane is dealing and accidentally drops one of Kent’s cards face-up. It is the 5 of clubs. Stupidly, Smith and Thurston don’t call a misdeal. Kent goes 20 in clubs… and draws the jack. Kent and Lane win, *-90, and Lane has won 3 straight. Kent and Thurston both sit at 4-3 and Smith is in trouble at 2-5.
The last two games have Kent and Thurston make short order of Lane and Smith. The final tallies are Thurston and Kent at 6-3, Lane at 4-5, and Smith at 2-7. Thurston remains at the top, Lane drops a little farther behind in 2nd, Kent hops up into 5th, and Smith falls all the way from 3rd to 6th.