November 24th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 1 Comment
As we are coming up to the Thanksgiving holiday I thought it might be a good time to think about some of my favorite bridge stories … things that happened to me.
Somehow it is the weird things that I remember most.
It all started when I was at university. I was playing in a competition with other students at a special game at the local bridge club, Kate Buckmans. My partner was Andy Altay (a friend of long-standing then and now). Andy was the best partner and you will agree with me after I tell you what happened.
Andy and I reached a grand slam in a trump suit. Dummy came down and I could see that I was missing the trump king (those were the days before keycard Blackwood). I led one up to dummy to take a finesse when my right hand opponent showed out. I shrugged my shoulders and played low and shortly thereafter claimed one down. The result was the same at the other table. Unlucky? Not really it was stupid. There was only one trump missing, the king. Both declarers finessed into the stiff king. And what did Andy say? Nothing. He did smile but it was an encouraging smile! Now you know why Andy is one of the best partners.
Moving ahead in time my husband Ray and I were playing at a sectional in a town not too far from where we lived. We were playing an Open Pairs and then the next day planned to play with our friends, Ray and Gail Jotcham, who were staying at the hotel. Anyway Ray and I had a terrible afternoon in the pairs and as they used to say “We qualified for the Consolation”. Things didn’t go much better in the Consolation but we had some really funny stories to tell the Jotchams. On one deal the opponents bid to a heart game while our side was bidding spades. Vulnerable against not, we took the push to 4♠ which was doubled. For some reason we redoubled, probably because “why not?”. On this hand my job was to find the trump queen. I had a two way finesse. Being a student of the game I decided to play some other suits first to try to deduce the opponents distribution and work out the best way to take the finesse. Unfortuantely on the way to “getting a count” one of the opponents ruffed in. So I went down without every taking a finesse (or even playing trump).
The next morning when we were back in the playing area the Jotchams came over to tell Ray and I that we had in fact won the event. And the 4♠ redoubled hand … it was a top. The field had sold out to 4♥ making for -420 while 4♠ redoubled done one was only -400!
Do you have some good stories to tell? Send them to me at email@example.com and I will post them or write them up as comments.
Im a lifetime of bridge I admit I have a lot more to tell myself.
November 8th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 3 Comments
I have started running. It all started with a walk-run program my daughter sent me last winter. I love the name of these programs C25K (which stands for couch potato to 5K). There are many such programs but the idea is that you can take a non-runner and get them to the point that they can run 3.1 miles through a program that combines walking and running and gradually increases the length of each run and the ratio of the running to the walking. I can say that I am now a runner, a beginning runner but still a runner.
I have done three races and this weekend I am planning to do a Remembrance Day run. I am not worried about finishing the 5K run. IIt is going to be very cold and windy and so I am worried it won’t be much fun.
So I was thinking about the difference between running and bridge as hobbies/sports.
Bridge: mental but there is some physical (stamina) required
Running: physical but there is a lot of mental (toughness) required. In fact I think running is as much in your head as in your body.
Bridge: Helps mental health in keeping your mind active; can build intuitive skills and memory skills.
Running: Helps your to keep your body healthy, reduces disease risks and also improves your mental health with improved blood flow to your brain – not to mention the willpower you develop
Bridge: Social – you have to have four although these days you can do it from your computer
Running: Can be solitary but running groups are popular too.
Bridge: Partnership game – this is good and bad.
Running: All by your lonesome – this is good and bad. And yes you can run with a buddy and I always talk to people before, during and after a race.
Bridge: Some programs to get started but learning to play can be a major hurdle .. we need to do this much better.
Running: Just put on your running shoes and you can start a walk run program.
Bridge: Could be for all ages but it seems to be mostly people over 40 these days
Running: Pretty much people of all ages can run.
Bridge: Winners and losers
Running: Finishing can be winning for many people. Doing a Personal Best is winning. Lots of winners.
Which all brings me to the need to come up with a C25K program for bridge .. we don’t need to teach bridge in 1 day but we do need to get people up and going very quickly. We need to find a way to make the game fun for people who will never be experts. People shouldn’t have to take the beginner course 5 times or more (as some people end up doing). We are definitely doing something wrong.
If I can learn to run in 10 weeks even though I am no longer young and feel that I can compete surely we ought to be able to help people to learn to play bring and have fun with it in a short period of time. And we need to find a way to let lots of people feel that they are winners.
November 7th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
Today Norm and I played on BBO against Suzie and Wayne. All of these players are players who I have mentored or am currently mentoring and all of them are good advanced players. Norm is from Israel, Suize a fellow Canadian and Wayne from Las Vegas.
Today Norm arrived in 4♥ in an uncontested auction after he opened 2NT in fourth chair. When you see my hand you may think I was a bit pushy to reach for a heart game after the 2NT opening. Let us just say that it represents my confidence in Norm’s card play skills.
The opening lead was the ♣K and this is what Norm had to work with:
I do appreciate it that Norm always has these supermax hands when I overbid mine.
The lead of the ♣K is a bit strange and I wouldn’t be surprised if the it was a singleton or maybe a doubleton. Ducking it is certainly an option. If clubs are continued the suit is breaking and you have no more losers. If it is not than it is probably a singleton and you can work from there.
Norm decided to win the trick and play trump. East showed out on the first round. How do you proceed?
You know that you have a spade loser and a diamond loser and at least one club loser. If the CK is indeed a singleton you are in danger of losing two clubs. One option might be to endplay somebody. The bad trump split has made this harder. If trump had split even 3-1 you might have been able to draw trump and force the defense to allow you to set up a diamond trick. East cannot lead clubs without giving up a winner.
So basically you can eliminate diamonds and spades and duck a club into East who will be forced to lead clubs back. Obviously it doesn’t help East to discard a club at any point.
But alas the trump are four-nothing. So what now? Norm decided to draw all the trump putting East under some pressure. She can’t throw any clubs so you know three of her last eight cards are clubs. If she holds the ♦ KQ you are still in business. Here is the position at this point.
You could start by ducking a spade. Suppose the defense continues a spade back. You win and lay down the DA. If East is down to two diamonds than an honor will fall and you can concede a diamond setting up the DJ as the game going trick. If both follow low then East has the top two diamonds but no more spades. You lead out a diamond. East wins and plays a third diamond. You ruff and duck a club to East who is endplayed.
As long as you are playing East for the KQ of diamonds and you know she has the last three clubs you can always find a way to endplay East in clubs.
Is there a better way – one that does not rely on East to have the DKQ? Is there some way we can force East to give up a club trick? Yes if you can read the ending.
Lets look at some positions where you decide that East has one diamond honor. East must hold at least two diamonds in the endgame (or your ace will drop her honor and you can set up a diamond winner as your game going trick). And of course East has to have three clubs.
You play ace and another diamond. East must win (or the diamond honors crash) and returns a spade. You ruff and duck a club into East. And you can see that if East holds three diamonds in the endgame and no spades, it really doesn’t change anything.
But if the diamond honors are split I believe in most cases perfect defense will defeat the contract at this stage.
Norm has just got back from Barcelona. He saw some of the most beautiful and complex architecture in the world. Here is a complex hand for you. You asked me to tell you if you could have made 4♠ . I said I would show you. On the lie of the cards this rather beautiful complex hand can be made.
The actual deal
Thanks Suzie and Wayne for another fun session. If any reader wants to add to the analysis I would be happy to see your comments.
September 29th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
USA 2 was like the little engine that could. They kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can” and by George they did it. They won the Venice Cup.
In the Semifinals they just beat out the Dutch ladies. Had a slightly antipercentage slam made towards the end of the match they would have been eliminated.
Going into the last few boards of the long final they were slightly behind but once again they pulled ahead and managed to win by 9.3 imps.
To win you need reasonable luck but you need to play solid and keep doing it. You need stamina and you need guts and they displayed both.
Congratulations to Hjordis Eythorsdottir, Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Janice Seamon-Molson, Jenny Wolpert, Migry Zur-Campanile and NPC Sue Picus. The Netherlands defeated CHina to take the Bronze medal.
In the Seniors USA2 lost narrowly to Germany 172 to 161 with Poland defeating France for the Bronze medal.
The finals of the Bermuda Bowl turned out to be a cakewalk for Italy They defeated the handpicked Monaco team 210 to 126. And in a heart-breaker for USA1 they missed out on third place when they just failed short of a comeback in the fourth and final segment losing 146.7 to 142.
Nevertheless special congratulations to Gavin Wolpert and Jenny Wolpert who will now have two new medals for the family trophy case.
September 25th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 3 Comments
“I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Sometimes you don’t just want to win, you want to win and be done with it.
Going into the fifth set of the quarterfinals Team Canada was feeling pretty good. They had made it through the first four segments with a virtual tie with Team USA 1. But this segment was all USA.
With the score still 119-118 for the US Weinstein took advantage of the vulnerability (white on red) to make an off-center 3♦ bid with
As a result the USA missed the 4-4 heart fit and played in 3NT while Canada played in 4♥. As the cards lie 3NT fails on a club lead with a 5-3 club break while 4H makes when hearts play for no losers missing QJ543.
It really isn’t clear to me which is the better contract. Even if clubs break 5-3 or worse you may not get that lead and 3NT will make.
At this point Canada led 129 to 119 but aside for 1 imp on Board 15 that was the last imps Canada would score.
USA not only didn’t give up any imps they scored big numbers on a lot of boards … they didn’t just want to take the lead they wanted to win big … enough already.
The biggest loss came on Board 16. Let’s start with Smith-Thurston in the Closed Room. They arrived in a slam that might have made on a good day.
Jeff Smith held this hand and opened 1♠ . Paul Thurston bid a game forcing 2♦ . Jeff bid 2♥ and Paul showed spade support with 2♠ .
After a series of cuebids Jeff bid keycard. Paul showed one keycard I presume and Jeff asked for the trump queen. Paul denied the trump queen. It seemed reasonable that missing a keycard and the trump queen Jeff would settle for five. But he went on to the slam. I am not sure why. Maybe in their auction Thurston could have had four spades although most players would bid a hand with good diamonds and four spades differently. Maybe he just wanted to play for a swing since he had good enough spades to pick up the queen onside to four. But today the queen was offside and he had no play.
Things were even worse for Canada in the Open Room. The auction started off the same. Korbel passed in first, Levin, North opened 1♠ and Weinstein responded 2♦ . Now West, Korbel entered the auction with 2♥ . I am sure he did this to get a heart lead. He figured at this vulnerability he might not go for too much into a vulnerable game even if they doubled him right there. He was soon to find out the size of that number. Levin doubled for penalty and that was passed out. Woops!
The defense was merciless. Levin started with two rounds of spades ruffed by Korbel. Korbel played a diamond trying for a ruff in dummy but Weinstein just led trump through. Eventually Levin was able to draw trump and the defence took all the tricks except for the trump ace and the spade ruff at trick two. Down 5. 1100. 16 imps. Ouch.
The segment ended with USA1 leading by 51 imps, 181 to 130. USA1 did everything right.
Good try Team Canada. And that leaves the fine USA1 team to represent North America’s hopes in the Bermuda Bowl. And I like their chances
September 24th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
At the midway point Canada and USA 1 are in a fairly close battle with USA 1 leading by 28 imps. Italy leads China by 53 and Monaco leads England by 37.
One interesting aspects of the Canada-USA 1 all North America match is that it features two brothers one on each team. With their mother Hazel as NPC of Team Canada.
As it happens both brothers were at the same table in their second round match. Darren for Canada sitting East and Gavin for USA 1 sitting South.
Going into Board 28 the USA led Canada by 7 imps, 45-38. Gavin does often make bold bids and most of them work. But not on this board. This was Gavin’s hand:
The auction had started with Darren showing a 3NT raise and a spade stopper.
Can you guess Gavin’s call?
Did you guess? Now I know he has 7-4 which in someways is better than 6-5 (and other ways not). And the auction suggests things are likely splitting not too badly for him. The problem is that partner’s spades are not all that likely to be helpful.
I think when Gavin looks back on it (whether he wins the match or not) he will agree that the vulnerability was wrong for being quite this aggressive. I imagine not much thought will be given to this flight of fancy if he wins and maybe more if by some chance Canada prevails in the end.
Gavin is an exciting and highly imaginative player with flair and technical excellence but even the great ones get it wrong some of the time.
Whatever happens in this match Captain Hazel is going to be proud of her boys.
September 23rd, 2013 ~ linda ~ 2 Comments
All of us at Master Point Press wanted to send our congratulations to the Canadian Open Team – a team that we sponsored this year.
Ray and I are heading off to Sarasota for tennis and wonderfully warm weather. But we will keep watching and I will try to post more tomorrow.
Congratulations to Nick Gartaganis, Judy Gartaganis, Daniel Korbel, Jeff Smith, Paul Thurston, Darren Wolpert and NPC Hazel Wolpert.
Congratulations to USA1 who won the Round Robin in the Bermuda Bowl.
Kevin Bathurst, Kevin Dwyer, John Kranyak, Bobby Levin, Steve Weinstein, Gavin Wolpert and NPC Shane Blanchard/
In the Women’s congratulations to a fine result by the Netherlands to win their round robin. And to both American womens teams who have qualified for the knockout.
USA 1: Lynn Deas, Irina Levitina, Beth Palmer, Judi Radin, Kerri Sandborn, Narnara Sonsinu, Rozanne Pollack (NPC) and Richard Bobilin (coach)
USA 2: Hyorodis Eythorsdottie, Jill Levin, Jill Meyers, Janice Seamon-Molson, Migry Zuir-Campanile, Sue Picus NPC and Jenny Wolpert (completing the Wolpert’s fine showing so far in the championship)
In the Seniors USA 2 has qualified behind France which had a big score to lead their group and as I write this it appears the USA 1 just missed out.
USA 2 Seniors: Roger Bates, Gary Hayden, Marc Jacobus, Carolyn Lynch, Mike Passell, Eddie Wold and NPC Donna Comptonn.
September 19th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
Enough already … At the end of Round 11 USA 1 was in eleventh spot, out of the qualifying. They had a challenging opponent in Round 12, the Netherlands who were fifth, roughly 20 victory points ahead of them. We expected better from this young and strong team.
One can find many excuses for a slow start – they really had played a lot of the top teams and Bali is very far from North America bringing jetlag …but enough already.
In the Open Room Weinstein and Levin were East-West against Drijver and Brink. In the Closed Room Kranyak-Wolpert were North-South with De Wijs and Muller as East-West.
USA started the imp fest on Board One and when it was over they had racked up a 35 imp victory 40-5 against one of the stronger teams in the field.
Board 1 is a good illustration of the type of aggressive style employed by Kranyak-Wolpert. It is effective even if it isn’t what we teach our students.
Let’s look at it from De Wijs point of view.
You are in fourth chair and by the time the auction gets to you the opponents have reached 3♠ .
Kranyak opens 3♦. Your partner passes and Wolpert bids 3♠. Your call?
Double I am pretty sure would be for takeout which isn’t so bad since you have hearts and clubs and it could be very nice if partner has the right hand to leave it in.
You could try 3NT. Wolpert should have a diamond tolerance for this bid and you are short a stopper there. You could just bid 4♥ and hope that is the right place. You have an excellent heart suit and your spades look well place.
Do you like having to guess at what amounts to the four-level? De Wijs bid 4♥ which was passed out. 3NT is the right offensive place but how do you ever get there?
If you could double for penalty (and maybe against this pair you should discuss things like that) USA does go for about 500 in 4♦ .
To get this swing Kranyak had to make an off-center (to me) 3♦ preempt and then Wolpert and to find the imaginative 3♠ call which at the very least is lead directing. 4♥ quickly went down on the spade ruffs.
You just sat down. You haven’t even had time to get your seat warm and this happens! I love watching Wolpert and Kranyak.
In the end USA 1 won this hard fought match 40-5. The 17.45 VP puts them in the eight and final qualifying spot. But there is no doubt in my mind that this team will not only qualify but move up the rankings before the end of the Round Robin.
And if you love bridge watch this exciting team on Vugraph if you can.
September 18th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
The fourth round match started at eleven o’clock and concluded at 1:30 AM or so my time. In my youth and even a couple of years ago this would not have been a problem for me. But running and spending the winters in Sarasota (and maybe being a bit older?) have changed my perspective. There is an early morning and there isn’t much doing after eleven P.M.
So as I write this I am a bit sleepy and please forgive the occasional typo.
In the Open Room Wolpert and Kranyak were East West for the USA. Dwyer and Bathurst were North South at my table in the Closed Room. North South for Indonesia was Tobing and Asbi. East West at my table was Karwur and George.
I was expecting the pair at my table to be somewhat conservative and the Americans at both tables to create action.
I actually was in the Open Room at the beginning of the match and saw this interesting bid and exceptional play by Gavin Wolpert. On Board 2 you have
Think about your possible choices… first, second and third choice. a weak 2♥ either one suited or two suited depending on your system might be first, 3♥ is certainly in the running at this vulnerability. Pass seems a bit feeble to me but maybe you have some plan for later in the auction. And then there is 4♥ . I wouldn’t have bid it as Wolpert did but I like it. It sets up the tone for the match. There are many ways this bid could go wrong but many ways that it could work well.
This was passed out and the ♣ A led.
Asbi now switches to the ♠ 2 you play the ♠K and Tobing wins the ♠ A and returns a club which you trump. You play two rounds of trump ending in your hand as both follow and when you play the third round North shows out throwing a club
If diamonds can be guessed and you guess them you can make this contract.
So you led the ♦ 5 South plays the ♦ 4 and it’s up to you. There are now three diamonds missing the A, Q and 8. It is up to you to decide how to play the suit.
Normally the percentage play in a vacuum is to play for the AQx(x) onside since that way you can pick up the suit. If you guess diamonds and they are two-two then both guesses (playing for South to have the Ax or Qx are equal) but South could have the AQx or even the AQxx in which case you need to play the J. So that gives the play of the ♦ J a higher percentage. But North is not all that likely to have a singleton small diamond since they might have returned that card at trick three. So basically the plays are even or near even. ♦ K or ♦ J.
What do you know? It appears the South has the ♣ AK and North is likely to have the ♠ AQ and probably to the ♠ AQJ as South would probably not have switched to spades otherwise.
At this point I usually try to visualize each possible hand and see which one is most consistent with the bidding and play to that point.
South has a hand something like this
and North has
It’s a slightly possible that Tobing might have doubled 4♥ with the ♦ A. But that seems a bit stretching to me. I can see no particular reason to play one card or the other.
If North did have a singleton ♦ Q he might have returned it I suppose but again that seems a bit likely.
When you are on, when you are at the table you get these things right. Wolpert played a diamond to the ♦ K and made 4♥ .
Wow! That is hot bridge. Indonesia had a winning tin – 34 imps to 32 at the end.
September 18th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
Good days and bad days:
In the Bermuda Bowl USA 1 and USA 2 are struggling. I did commentary on the match between USA 1 and Indonesia and will write a bit up about that later. USA 1 has played some of the tougher teams and few of the weaker ones. I could look for some excuses for their weak start. They have already played USA 2, Monaco, Brazil and Poland. I am looking for a stronger set today. USA 2 has had a difficult opening schedule. They have played Argentina (who is in fifth at the moment), USA 1, Italy China Brazil and Poland and their score shows it. They are very near the bottom of the field.
On the other hand the Canadian Open Team (sponsored by Master Point Press) moved down the track a bit. They ended Day 1 in second spot but slipped down to 9th spot with a couple of losses to England and Japan. So far Japan has been doing surprisingly well (to me at least) and our in second spot.
The standing in the women’s event will being a smile to North Americans. With USA 2 third USA 1 fourth and Canada fifth.The Canadian women had a good day moving way up the rankings.
The top teams in the womens events are a bit more predictable because there generally is a bigger difference from best to worst as you move down the field. Poland, Netherlands, France and China are in the top eight as you would expect.
The Canadian Seniors team is doing well and is in fourth place. With the USA teams in ninth and tenth spots.
Canada is doing as well as ever, a bit of a bridge backwater that produces some great players many of whom end up south of the border. But so far the American teams are a bit of a disappointment. Go USA! Go Canada! (You always knew where my loyalties lay).