Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Wagar Musings

Lots of things happened in Washington, so many that writing them in one blog is impossible.  So I will be writing a few blogs over the next few days about my time in Washington.  Let’s start with the Wagar Women’s KO Teams.  What I am about to write is bound to get me in trouble but I can’t help telling it like I see it.  There were 14 teams entered in the Wagar.  The Spingold had 83 teams and then there was the Mini Spingold with 59 teams and the Mini Spingold II with 61 teams.  The Wagar is not a serious national event of the same caliber as the Spingold even ignoring the quality of the teams in each event.  Let’s look at why.

In the Spingold the weaker teams have a chance to enter the large and good secondary events.  This means that in most cases only very good teams enter the main event.  With the large entry in the main event most of the lesser teams will be gone very quickly since they will have to play a high seed.   Because all players can enter the Spingold events it is fairly easy to form a team of players of equivalent level to yours.   In the Wagar you have to pick from the small number of women who want to play this event.

Eight out of fourteen teams who enter are in the quarterfinals the next day in the Wagar.  In the Spingold on Day 2 you are in the Round of 64.  I wonder what would happen if you compared the quality of the bridge played between Spingold II and the Wagar what the result would be. 

Why do so few teams play in the Wagar?   Did the elimination of the “Men’s” events get us here?  If there ever was an argument about ending women only events this might be it.

Now let’s look at some of the teams that played in this event and you will notice something quite interesting.

The top five seeds were all American teams although a lot of top European women players were in the event.  I believe the seeding rules are completely unfair to the Europeans.  As a result our team had a fairly easy draw playing the number five seed.  While we did lose to them by a very small margin I will still say that even in this tiny event this team should not have been the number five seed.

  1. Lynn Baker, Karen McCallum,  Beth Palmer,  Lynn Deas, Kerri Sanborn and Irina Levitina. 
  2. Shawn Quinn,  Renee Mancuso, Pam Wittes, Cheri Bjerkan,  Rozanne Pollack, Peggy Sutherlin
  3. Tobi Sokolow, Debbie Rosenberg, Janice Seamon-Molson, Jill Meyers, Jill Levin
  4. Lisa Berkowitz,  Joann Glasson,  Linda Lewis, Val Covalciuc, Betty Ann Kennedy, Cindy Bernstein,
  5. Joan Jackson, Sylvia Moss Linda Perlman Jayne Thomas Abby Heitner,  Georgiana Gates

Let’s look at some of the other teams.

Joyce Hampton, Sabine Auken,  Daniela von Arnim,; Jenny Wolpert, Benedicte Cronier and Sylvie Willard, pictured below.

. image

This team includes two excellent European pairs.  Sabine and Daniela need no introduction but Cronier and Willard won the Venice Cup in Estoril among many other achievements.

The seventh seeded team was one that was put together by Stacy Jacobs and included

Judi Radin, Stacy Jacobs, Catherine D’Ovidio, Danielle Gaviard, Victoria Gromova, Tatiana Ponomareva,
D’Ovidio and Gaviard are perhaps the strongest pair on the French Women’s team and Catherine is eighth on the WBF ranking just below Daniela von Armin who is seventh.

By the way, I did get to meet Stacy very briefly in Washington and you can read a short discussion about her time in the Wagar in this blog: Stacy at the Wagar.

The eighth seeded team was Phyllis Fireman, Shannon Cappelletti,  Migry Zur Campanile,  Mildred Breed, Heather Dhondy and Nevena Senior

While most of this team was American they were certainly strengthened by the addition of the British pair Dhondy and Senior who are the current women’s world champions.

So it just seems to me that the seeding did not consider the European event and World event finishes of some of these players.  This just meant that some teams had a much easier draw then others.

It is interesting to me that the Europeans didn’t really change the result.  The final two teams were both two of the top four seeds with Lisa Berkowitz playing Quinn.  This means that the lower seeded teams were not able to improve sufficiently by adding a strong European pair. 

Why did my team lose its match by 3 imps?  When you lose by such a small margin any one player could find the imps to win.  I can think of many things I did wrong including overbidding to a slam, finding a bad lead against a game etc.  But the most disastrous deals were boards 20-22 in the evening when our partners got to three slams in a row that were off two keycards (one was actually off an ace and most of the trump suit).  I don’t know why this happened but I do know that if they recorded such things it might set a record in an NABC event.

I am not blaming our partners.  As I said any of us could have won it.  While I don’t think this event should have the importance that seems to surround it, nevertheless the top four teams are all strong women’s teams.  I wish we had a chance to play one of them.  

If you don’t agree with what I have written I would be interested in hearing you opinion. 

I am going to watch some of the final which is just starting now on BBO.


I did get a little bit of feedback about the small number of teams in the Wagner.  At least for some people they prefer to play in a larger event with fewer sponsors and pros.  I can understand that.  As the event gets smaller and smaller you end up with teams that only fall into that category.  Is there an issue with teams like that?  Perhaps the problem with having so many teams in that category is that some of the pro teams are very aggressive in their behavior from trying to get rulings, to intimidation, to plain “bitchiness”.  That wasn’t the case in our match although one of our opponents was aggressive in that way.  In the end for most of us bridge is about having fun.  If it gets too “unfun” then in the end the event will effectively disappear and that would be a shame.

I did some commentary on the first round of the final on BBO. 

This interesting deal came up.  The question is how should you best play 3NT.   Here is the deal.


♠ KQJ64

♥ K6
♦ AQ106
♣ J5

♠ A10

♥ J1075
♦ 53
♣ K9876


The opening lead was the ♥3.  North won the ♥A and returned the ♥2.  South followed with the ♥8 and the ♥K won in dummy.  What now?

I see that I have a total of five spade tricks a diamond and a heart.  I need two more tricks.  I could make one trick by force by conceding the ♥J and then another with either a successful guess in the diamond suit or perhaps a club trick.  Another approach might be to double hook the diamonds.  If this works I have nine tricks right there.  If not I might still come to a heart trick or a club trick. 

Another line is to run the ♣J.  If that is covered by the ♣Q I am probably well placed.  They might return a diamond and then play a heart if I lose the diamond finesse.  I could lose two clubs, two hearts and a diamond if things are nasty.  If the ♣J loses to the ♣Q offside I still have lots of chances.  I will usually make the hand when both diamonds are onside even if I don’t play diamonds right away.  This is probably the best shot.

At the table Wittes played a spade to the ♠10 and then a diamond to the ten.  When it lost to the diamond queen a club came back.  Wittes was very well placed now if she could guess clubs.  If the  ♣A is onside she can claim so she played for that.  If she decides to play low and play for the ♣Q onside she make it if spades are not 5-1 by throwing the ♠A away eventually on the third diamond.  So this is really not  a terrible line at all.

As it turns out on the actual lie of the cards the hand has no chance at all since pretty well everything is wrong so this is strictly a hypothetical discussion.


Paul GipsonJuly 30th, 2009 at 9:42 pm

What larger event is available with fewer sponsors and pros? I didn’t see many more women playing in the Spingold, although that is still packed with sponsors and pros most of the way down.

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your insightful blog about the Wagar. Rather than get into what could turn out to be a very sensitive subject, let me just list some caveats to think about:

1. Your discussion of the top European players is right on with the ones discussed, plus others who were not at the tournament, right up there with our top ladies players and partnerships. Note: there were no Chinese pairs mentioned since apparently there were no female Chinese partnerships here. Could it be that the vicious outcry less than one year ago about the alledged “cheating” by various Chinese ladies at recent Nationals, in spite of, at least as far as I know, no corroborating evidence, took its toll on their attendance? If so, shouldn’t we be ashamed of that and where is our leadership to keep it from happening?

2. In the name of what too many of us worship, Objectivity, we have diminished the seeding to nothing short of ridiculous. I remember the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when Al Sobel, the legendary chief tournament director, polled who he considered the “right sources” in order to establish proper seeding at many Regionals in the KO’s. Subjectivity, of course, Accuracy, of course!!! Obviously I am saying (in case one has any doubt) that some of those foreign teams should have been higher seeded, making them intermingled with the top four (or five) actual seeds. Note: It was Uncle Al’s supreme self-confidence which allowed him to make the decision to seed HIS way, a method which has sadly gone by the boards today. Professionalism is a VERY important factor and the particular skill (or lack thereof) of the sponsor comes into great play in the determination.

3. Edgar Kaplans famous remark (at least to me) is now quite evidently in existence when it was first determined about 20+ years ago to have only Womens and Open events. “The women are now celebrating what they think is a great occasion, the ability for them to play amongst themselves and therefore claim the rights to their own more meaningful National Championships and World Championships (Venice Cups started about 30+ years ago)”. The truth of this event is that they have forever put a ceiling on women’s abilities, beyond which they will never rise above, until they see the error of their ways of not competing with the men, in which they would eventually, if not sooner, hold their own. Helen Sobel, Edith Seligman (Kemp), Agnes Gordon and many others, too numerous to mention, removed all doubt, at least to me, that there is no real differences among the sexes as to what should be the level of talent.

4. Sadly, as long as Professionalism continues to adversely affect our administrative progress, instead of recognizing the obvious and great positive of its existence enabling our top pros which sponsors bring with them, we might never be able to accomplish a just balance for the bridge future. If, however, somehow that eventually happens, and long after I will have no doubt checked out, those still involved should shout from the rafters, “Hallelujeh, bridge is really a great game after all, well worth playing, and now having the right direction for us to go sailing off to green lights and blue skies”.

Linda LeeJuly 31st, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I think people are picking knockouts, Swiss and various versions of the Spingold. I agree sponsors are everywhere. I do find that some are more irritating than others in seeking advantages through intimidation, working the system etc. but that is not peculiar among women.

But, I do think that there is a problem with the Wagar. It is ridiculous to run a national event and have only 14 teams show up. I don’t know why so few women are able to compete on equal terms with the best men players, but I do know it to be true. Would more women play better if there were no women only events or does that give women a reason to try to compete seriously? I don’t know the answer. I have enjoyed playing internationally in women’s events and I never felt what I was doing wasn’t worth doing. Maybe the best thing to do is to run women’s events but to encourage them to play mostly open events. If much higher seeding points were given for placement in open events towards the women’s team trials and very few for placement in events like the Wagar that might help. Seeding points and master points should be based on the number of teams you defeat and the quality of the teams not just a flat rate because it is a “national” event.

There must be other ways to develop good women players. I know that there have been some efforts to do so but they have mostly focused on more women’s events with an emphasis on average players.

PamelaJuly 31st, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Now, I am not really keen on sticking my neck out with my comments, but as someone who eventually wishes to start playing in the open event I wish to share with you what happened in my NZ competitive days. We had a situation where the women at my club were probably among the stronger players and so when we held our ‘Interprovincial championship trials” in each province, my province ran the womens events before the open events so that the women could compete in both. ( the losers) One year I lost the ladies event but won the open. I know this sounds like having your cake and eating it to.. but it got the women into open teams. It was quite funny to arrive at the main event to have people say ” I hear you won the booby prize” As to the discontinuing of womens events- I personally think that we have to be able to field a team from Canada to compete against whatever the world throws at us… WOMENS: SENIORS: UNDER 28: UNDER 26: YOUTH we match whatever the world does it seems to me. The day everyone stops and it is just open- then that is all we field. I would like to suggest that there should be the opportunity for women to attend funded coaching weekends to play against top men to bring about a confidence in ability being the pre requisite to play in an open event. It is a known fact if a partnership is a man and a woman, or two owmen, it is difficult to put a good team together there does remain that stigma against woman in open events.. Maybe some of the top players should start by adding a woman.

Linda LeeAugust 2nd, 2009 at 7:20 pm

I am not suggesting that we discontinue women’s events. I am just suggesting that the Wagar as it stands does not deserve to be a national event. It is too small and too weak. One problem is that in the US the women have to compete in the Wagar to get seeding points for the trials. I think it would be better if they could get seeding points from Open play, perhaps in addition to some women’s events. The seeding points should be based on the size and strength of the event. It just doesn’t seem comparable to me to play in a 14 table event with several quite weak teams and play in even the Mini Spingold with more than 64 teams most of a reasonable strength.

For Canada, if we want to strengthen our ability to compete in women’s events I would like to see an effort to bring together promising women who are interested in working and competing and providing them with opportunities to play both online and in person against very strong opposition. I would also provide coaching although the funds right now are so limited it seems impossible to do so unless it is volunteer. So perhaps the best approach is to get some volunteers. There needs to be a coordinated effort. And yes, we should encourage our women to play in open events as well as compete in the women’s trials.

I think it is exciting to have a chance to represent your country. Very few women will not have that chance in open events unless they are playing sponsors. The very fact of having a Women’s Event should be used to help women who want to compete to improve their game.

I don’t think that the Open Teams should add a women just because she is a women. As Brian Senior once said I play with someone for three reasons: they are very good, they pay may or for … (you can guess). Women should earn their place on open teams because they are very good. Over the years a very few have.

In Canada the CWTC and CNTC used to be at different times so that you could compete in both. It is the advent of bridge week that meant that they were in parallel. While I still like bridge week I wish there was some way to play in both.

PamelaAugust 3rd, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Well said Linda. I like the part about the three reasons a woman is added to a open team lol I think I will have moe chance if I keep studying and learning the game to be chosen for the first reason 🙂 –Maybe

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