June 1st, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
Watching the Canadian Women’s Team Trial championship (CWTC) brought back a lot of memories and some new thoughts.
First congratulations to the winners. I thought that the two finalists were very evenly matched and that the winner would be the team who was “in the zone” and of course a bit of luck wouldn’t hurt. Pretty much all the players in both of the final two teams had won this event previously. So well done to the winners
Ina Demme, Karen Cumpstone, Joan Eaton, Sondra Blank, Sylvia Caley and Katie Thorpe
and my commiserations to the runnersup
Sharyn Reus, Sandra Fraser, Isabelle Smith, Sam Nystrom, Francine Cimon and Dianna Gordon.
I have been on both sides of the finals and I know the feeling you get when you have worked very hard to prepare and then you lose narrowly. Unfortunately while there is a huge prize for winning there is nothing at all for being second.
I plan to write up some deals and also to congratulate winners in other events but I have my own event to deal with this weekend. I am walking in the Niagara Falls 1/2 marathon. Something a little different!
May 10th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 3 Comments
Ray is fond of this old joke: “There are 3 kinds of people. Those who can count and those who can’t”.
Unfortunately for the latter kind we have to count all sorts of things when playing bridge. Here is a hand where South failed to count everything he needed to.
After three passes West opened with 1♠ and North (who was me) doubled. When East continued with 2♠ it was passed back to me and I doubled again. South bid 3♥ and was finally left in peace.
The opening lead was the ♠ 4. East put up the ♠ J and you won the ♠ K. It appears that West underled the SA because it would be a very strange for East to duck it when his partner was quite likely to hold the SK. This suggests that West didn’t have another more attractive lead.
Let’s count losers. I am going to use the North hand as a base for now. I have a spade loser, a possible heart loser, two diamond losers and up to three club losers. Three too many.
If the CA is onside then one club loser has vanished. Beyond that I may be able to hold my trump losers to none or my diamond losers or club losers to one .
With so few hand entries I better use the ones I have to play up to the clubs. South played a club to dummy and the CQ held the trick. He crossed back to his hand with the HK and West dropped the HQ (good news and bad news).
He continued with his plan leading a club towards dummy and West rises with the CA and returns a diamond. Who has the DK? I think that East is more likely than West to have it. The only missing high cards are the SQJ, DKJ and CJ. I guess East might have bid two spades with three spades to the QJ, the two minor jacks. It is pretty ugly though. If you think that East has the DK then you might duck the diamond to you D10. And as a bonus you still can take the diamond finesse later. I think that is the right play. But our South decided to put in the DQ which lost to the DK. (Back to this later).
East played a spade back and West won the SK and returned a club. Since West could have safely returned a spade we have a pretty complete picture of the deal (assuming the HQ was not a falsecard).
We have taken three tricks and the enemy has taken three tricks. We need six more. It looks like we have a heart losers and a diamond loser for sure. But let’s look at the deal a different way. Sometimes you just have to take your tricks before they take theirs. So let’s count winners. Besides the three tricks taken with can make the DA, the CQ, the top two hearts, a club ruff and a spade ruff. Hey that’s nine tricks!
At the table South played the C10 covered and ruffed. Now all South has to do do is ruff a spade and cash the HA if he wants. In the unlikely circumstances that the suits splits he draws trump and concedes a diamond at the end. And when the suit doesn’t split. He leaves the trump out and cashed his winners and East-West get their diamond trick and trump trick all at once.
At the table South failed to ruff a spade when he was in dummy with the club ruff but led a trump instead. Now nine tricks were no longer possible and South conceded the contract.
South did count his losers, he did make a plan, but he missed the line that led to nine tricks.
April 2nd, 2013 ~ linda ~ 1 Comment
John Wood left an interesting comment on my blog on restricted choice. He gave an example of a false card:
Here it is
Suppose you have
KQ2 opposite A9863
You cash the King (or Queen) in dummy and the person on your right(East) plays the Jack.
Do you run the 9 next time, based on restricted choice (if they had had the 10 they might have played it)?
If you started life with J10x and declarer cashes the King in this suit then it can’t hurt to play an honor (the jack or the ten). But in the example given here declarer will soon find out about the false card since their next play would be to cash the Queen and you have no reply to that one. So let’s change John’s example a little bit.
K2 opposite AQ9863 and you need all the tricks in this suit. You cash the king and the jack drops. Should you play for the finesse on the next round or should you play for the drop. Here you are deciding if the jack is singleton or if East had the J10 or if East started with the J10x and was falsecarding. Suppose you know that East is a novice who would never think of falsecarding or East was the honest sort that thought falsecarding was “wrong” so you discounted that possibility. Then you would be in a restricted choice situation. East would be known to have the singleton jack or the J10 doubleton and since from the J10 doubleton he could play either card equally the singleton jack is more likely. But it is very rare that we are playing in this very special game where nobody ever falsecards.
So in most games the jack could also be from J10x. So East could now have the singleton jack, the jack ten doubleton or the J10x. Even after west has played the x could still be one or two missing cards. But experience does tell us that even expert players do not always think of false carding so experience tells us that the J10x is less likely than it should be in a perfect mathematical world. I suppose that in a high quality game I would probably not finesse but in many games I would.
There are a lot of wonderful things to talk about when we introduce falsecards in the game. I must make sure never to tell my students about them. Too confusing for we experienced players!
March 10th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 13 Comments
Peter Clarke from Australia emailed me to ask me the following question:
Why don’t Americans play forcing club systems? He plays Blue Team Club which he describes as an old-fashioned big club systems. He asks if the majority of “world-class” players play Standard American and why.
Actually I think the majority of people who play in world championships play many different systems and even if they play “Standard American” it is really nothing like what most people would call Standard American.
So let me answer that question another way. In North America the majority of players do play Standard American with lots of variations. Standard American has evolved over the years and now is based on 5 card majors, 15-17 notrump openers, two clubs as the strong bid with other 2 level suit openers as weak. Over 1NT transfers are usually played. Over one of a suit 1NT is not forcing and 2 level responses such an invitation hand or better.
But now quite a number of North Americans who would describe themselves as advance or better play 2 over 1. The main difference being that the 1NT response is forcing and that 2 level responses in a new suit are game forcing.
Most players doctor their system with all sorts of conventions and treatments. So bidding methods are not as uniform as it seems.
One reason these type of systems are popular in North America is that most teacher do start out their students on Standard American. One good reason is that is what their friends will play and that is what they will meet in the games they will play at the bridge club.
The ACBL promoted Standard American with a series of subsidized text books and some free how to play material that is based on Standard American. Not only that but players are expected to know Standard when they play in tournaments.
So it is only later in your career that players who want to become experts or better start to think about other systems. The first thing they will encounter is 2/1 which has some advantages and isn’t too much of a departure.
Only the more adventurous will venture into forcing club systems which require more change.
In other countries for other reasons forcing club systems are popular. Players in China are taught Precision. C.C. Wei and Kathy Wei introduced Precision and bridge to China.
As you travel around the world you find Acol (England) Polish Club, SEF (France) and so on.
It would be fun to have some challenges matches to pit one system against the other but in the end at the top level the caliber of the players will lead to the outcome not the system they play. For one thing at this level partnerships have put a lot of work into their system and it doesn’t resemble what is taught to beginners.
Anyone else have any thoughts about this?
March 7th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 2 Comments
At the end of the last beginners’ tennis clinic, Joe our pro, had us gather round and gave some very sound advice. He told us that when we missed a shot or did something we weren’t happy about we frowned, shook our head and generally looked quite unhappy. But when we did something good we didn’t seem to be pleased or excited. He said that we needed to celebrate our successes.
Now I was thinking about what happened when Ray and I used to play duplicate. After the game I would take out the hand records and look at each result. When we had a poor score I would try to figure out what we did wrong and I admit (shudder) access blame. I would notice the good results, I might comment on them, but except in very rare circumstances I would pass right over them.
Even when we did really well, even when we won, I wouldn’t really celebrate most of the time.
Joe was right – I focus on the mistakes. I do not focus on what I do right. I notice the same thing in my students. What we need is more high fives!
March 6th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 1 Comment
At my last tennis clinic Joe gave us a lecture on the need to think when we played tennis. We need to think about where the ball was coming, what kind of shot we would play, how to position ourselves, where we wanted our shot to go and so on. As he put it we needed to always be thinking.
Ray has also made comments like this to me. If the wind is blowing towards you then your opponents shot needs will go farther. Start working out where the ball will go when you see what your opponent is doing etc.
Today it was windy and I was having a little trouble hitting the ball in my lesson. So Joe asked me to decide how high the ball was coming in and whether it would be long or short. Suddenly I was hitting every ball. Joe explained that all he was trying to do was to get me thinking and concentrating.
The same is true in bridge. The winners are the people who can concentrate deeply and who are focused on what is happening at the table. Focus. All winners have it. It is easy to drift when you are playing. “I wonder how I did on that last board. How many people will play in notrump?” “Who is that player at the other table?” “I wonder where we will go for dinner!”
I always knew concentration was important at bridge and one of my stronger traits when playing seriously is the ability to narrowly focus on the game and the issue at hand. But I have never really discussed this with any of my students. I should.
And yes Joe I wil work harder at concentrating when I am playing tennis. I do need to learn more about what to think about and how to interpret conditions and so on but I realize the importance of concentrating or thinking as you put it in both bridge and tennis.
February 27th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 1 Comment
I was saddened to hear about the death of Julie Fajgelzon, a Canadian womens bridge internationalist. Last year Julie was scheduled to play in the Canadian Womens Team Championship. She had cancer and was too ill to play and so at the last minute I substituted for her playing with Barbara Saltman, her partner. I was a poor substitute.
I remember visiting and talking about the plan, if we won she would be better and she would go to Lisle and play. I think both of us knew that was unlikely to happen but we did share that fantasy.
I last played with her on a team in the 2011 Toronto NABC. She was ill but she still gave the event her all.
Julie Toronto 2011
Our last international event together was a team in Shanghai in 2007. It was fun to visit China and our team did quite well.
She was always giving, always cheerful, never critical. She was a wonderful person, a very good bridge teacher a loving and giving mother and grandmother. Julie always had a way of placing the other person first. She did that even now when she managed to make it to her daughter’s wedding just before she died.
February 8th, 2013 ~ linda ~ 7 Comments
On Wednesday, against my advice Ray, whose turn it was to teach the intermediate class, decided to teach them “restricted choice”. This is based on the “Monty Hall” principle from Let’s Make A Deal. The contestant gets to pick one of three doors (A, B, or C). Only one has a prize.
Let’s call the door selected by the contestant Door A.
Monty then reveals one of the doors which will always be a loser (he can’t reveal the prize door or the game would end). Say he picks Door B.
Now the contestant must is given a chance to switch doors. He can hold onto Door A or switch to Door B. What should he do?
Restricted choice says its 2 to 1 to switch.
In the beginning each door has a 1 in 3 chance of being right. So the contestants Door A is 1 in 3 and Monty’s 2 Doors B and C are have 2 in 3 chance of bring the prize. When Monty removes a loser that whole 2 in 3 chance is invested in that remaining door/
And in theory this applies in certain situations in bridge. The most common one used is this one:
You are missing five cards including the Q and J in a suit. You have a holding like say, A1084 opposite K972. You lay down one of your top honors, say the king planning to lead towards the ace-ten combination. The offiside hand drops the queen. Do you finesse through the A108 or do you play for the drop.
Theoretically it is twice as good to play for the finesse (in the absence of other significant information) because if the offside hand held the Queen and the Jack they could drop either. And theoretically even if they ALWAYS drop the queen from queen-jack doubleton you should finesse when they drop the queen. (Of course you would comfortably finesse if they dropped the jack since our predictable opponent would never have the queen).
I know most of you know this – but do you really believe it in your heart? I am not sure I do especially in the case where they would always drop the queen. Is this really the SAME as the Monty Hall Principle?
I think he probably bewildered most of the students. My friend who has a mathematical bent was still thinking about it the next day.
Okay, okay as the Monkees used to say “I’m a Believer” (I think).
If you’d like to read a great response on Restricted Choice check out Bob MacKinnon’s post Restricted Choice: What Lies Behind It on Bridgeblogging.com.
February 4th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
Ray and I loke this old joke. A woman is wandering around in New York City and looks a but lost. She stops and asks a passerby, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The passerby looks back at her quite seriously and says, “Practice, practice, practice.”
When I was a child my parents organized piano lessons which I took from when I was about six years old and until when I was around fourteen. I liked the lessons; I liked playing; but I didn’t really like practising.
My dad would put a clock on top of the piano. He would set a timer for half an hour. I was not allowed to leave the piano until the stop watch reached the appointed time. You can imagine how I felt about that.
Somehow I learned to play the piano anyway. But as I learn tennis I have a very different attitude. I want to practice every day. Practice isn’t always fun. I have attempted hundreds of serves and mostly failed at getting anything that remotely resembles one. But it is the only way to a good tennis game. Joe has commented on questions from students (or their parents) who have not improved after many tennis lessons. When he asks them he finds out that they have not practiced the new ideas at all between lessons (or maybe even played.) You can’t improve that way.
My bridge students all like to play if they can find a game. A few play at home and fewer still on BBO. There are other ways to practice too: Watching other people play and thinking about what they do, working through a bridge book and trying the exercises and examples, practice bidding with your favorite partner, writing down notes about what bids mean. Of course playing is great too, especially if you discuss and walk-through the hands after the game.
I have a friend at The Landings called Cynthia. She brings hands to show me after her duplicate games. We discuss them together. This is another way to learn. Think about what you did right and wrong.
You never really bmaster the game of bridge – there is always something new to think about and learn. That is part of why it is so much fun.
Do I like writing long notes about my bidding system? Do I like practising bidding with a partner? Do I like going through my mistakes and thinking about them? As I think about it I like it a lot more than I used to like practising the piano when I was a kid. I need to help my students to find good ways to practice and to like it too!
January 30th, 2013 ~ linda ~ No Comments
I made it through my first tennis game. I was pretty awful but the group was supportive and I did make one terrific forehand that surprised them and me. I also saw that each of them had their own challenges. This helped me to remember that just like at tennis, at all level of the game of bridge players have challenges. The type of challenges may be different. But in a way they are not!
No matter whether you are an expert or a novice, you make mistakes, you have triumphs, and when you play in a game with your peers you feel the competition.
But the very first game that is different. You don’t know the rules. You don’t know where to stand or where to move (in tennis); you face unknown rules and conventions (in bridge). You are nervous. But you are determined. You will make it through!
I was very grateful for the support of my friends and I am even more aware of the need to be supportive of newcomers at bridge. It is easy to be impatient – PLAY FASTER, or to be critical or to look for infractions. But in the end, it is much better to be helpful, friendly and patient.
Joe, my tennis pro, asked me how I did. When I explained that I had got some of my serves in, he congratulated me and encouraged me. When I told him I didn’t know where to stand or what I was supposed to do a lot of the time. He simply said, “How could you? Don’t worry about it.” And then instead of the usual lesson he worked on the problems I had in the game. We worked on how to get to the ball and position to hit it when it came, knowing I had a lot of time because the other players generally didn’t hit the ball hard.
As a bridge teacher I realized it was important to make my students feel comfortable in the games they would participate in. They need to be prepared to play with partners who were at there level. I needed to help them to be more comfortable at the table. I need to ask them what problems they were having and help them with those problems.
As a bridge player I vowed to try to be more patient with new players.
And the best part of my experience. The other woman asked me if I wanted to play every Monday afternoon in a regular game. I feel as if I am starting to belong.