The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

My Blue Suede Shoes

My partner Christine and I had just finished touring Graceland and we had not yet been able to clear our heads of all the Elvis songs when it was time to play bridge in the afternoon game of the M.A. Lightman club in Memphis. Elvis recorded over 600 songs, and he never played bridge, but at least 20 of those titles seemed to be appropriate for our afternoon bridge game. "It's Now Or Never," I said to Christine. "It's our only chance to play bridge in Tennessee before we get to the Regional in Gatlinburg." "That's All Right," said Christine, even though it appeared to her that the neighborhood of the bridge club, near the University of Memphis, had seen better days. We came in second with a 55% game and got .35 MasterPoints, coming in only behind the director and his partner, who had … [Read More...]

Peace in the Middle East?

The last couple of times my partner Christine and I played bridge in South Florida, we noticed something peculiar. Every time you play in South Florida, the game always has a number of professionals with their clients, who pay them a minimum of $200 per club game – more for Sectional tournaments. Even more curiously, the pros always include a handful of Arabs – and most of their clients are rich old Jewish ladies. The Arabs and the Jews seem to get along just fine in South Florida at the bridge table. “Yes, it’s true,” said one Jewish lady whose friends often hire an Arab pro. “We get along quite well here. They’re nice boys. They’re Egyptians. They’re different from most of the other Arabs. Between Israel and Egypt, we have no problems.” True enough, Egypt’s long bridge culture has … [Read More...]

Mel’s Rule of 2

My partner Christine and I have made it something of a priority to try and qualify for the North American Bridge Championships this summer in Toronto, Canada, in the B classification of the Grand National Teams (GNT) competition. This past weekend (2-25-2017) we took the first step toward that goal by qualifying for Florida’s District 9 playoffs in Palm Beach Gardens April 28-29 with our friends Pam and Frank “Monty” Page at the Wickham Park Senior Center club in Melbourne. If we place first, second or third in April, we qualify for the Nationals at the end of July in Toronto, we earn lots of MasterPoints and we get paid some stipends by both the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and by District 9, so that the costs of the trip are basically covered. (If we place fourth, I believe … [Read More...]

Bring it on, Jeff

Our palms were getting sweaty, the knees felt a little weak and the butterflies in the stomach were going crazy. Jeff Meckstroth was approaching our table with his wife Sally, and he brought a whole fan club of kibitzers with him following him from table to table. This was the highest-ranked bridge player in the world, with over 85,000 MasterPoints to his credit, multiple time national world champion. My partner Christine and I had seen him many times at tournaments. Often, we got to the final round of a lower-bracket knockout competition and he'd be playing at the next table. But we'd never faced him directly and played against him at the same table – until last Thursday night (1-5-2017) at the Orlando Winter Regional when our teammates for a knockout backed out and the only thing … [Read More...]

Magic in Orlando

My partner Christine and I just returned from a successful, but exhausting seven straight days of competition at the fall North American Bridge Championships at Disney’s Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. We played on various teams and in pairs competitions, in double sessions most days, and got at least some points every day. In retrospect, we probably chewed off too much, and we paid for it in disturbed sleep patterns and digestive systems. We should have known better because we wind up exhausted when we play every session of a three-day Sectional, and we’ve never played more than three or four days at week-long Regionals, either. So why did we decide to do a whole week at the 10-day Nationals? We’d played a few sporadic rounds when the Nationals were in Philadelphia a few years ago, and we … [Read More...]

Silver…at last

Well, I finally did it. I went over the 1,000-point mark and I am now officially a Silver Life Master. It seems like only yesterday that I had just 100 or so points and I looked up to people who had around 800 points as if that was an impossible mountain to climb. I thought I’d never get there, but now it’s happened. A while ago, my partner Christine and I (she’s about 200 points ahead of me and since we play almost exclusively with each, that’s the way it’ll probably stay) thought that I’d be a cinch to make Silver Life Master by the end of October, but then we hit a dry patch and got shut out a couple of times. It seemed like I’d never get those last four points or so I would need to get to 1,000. I got frustrated and we were probably putting too much pressure on ourselves to … [Read More...]

BYOB – that means ‘box,’ not booze

Homer said to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Poker players know to be wary of anyone bringing his own deck to the table. But in Canada, no one has to be scared of any bridge player bringing his own bidding box to a tournament. They're just from Quebec City, the only place in Canada where for some unknown reason, the clubs don't provide bidding boxes and everyone brings his or her own box that you have to lug from table to table if you’re playing East-West (although, fortunately for us, most clubs do have a few extras for visitors and people who forgot theirs). So when someone shows up elsewhere in Canada carrying his or her own bidding box, people just laugh and say, "Oh, you must be from Quebec City." That's just one of the peculiarities we learned when my partner Christine and I … [Read More...]

Breaking the Rules

The Melbourne, Florida, bridge club that plays at the Wickham Park Senior Center has become the second club away from home for my partner Christine and me. In the days when at least one of us was still working and we were limited to night and weekend games, we often made the 50-minute drive up to Melbourne from our home in Vero Beach for their Thursday night game and made many friends there. The Melbourne Sectional, traditionally held over the Labor Day weekend, was the first Sectional we attended after our move to Florida three years ago. In those days we were still “C” players and we won a bottle of wine there for placing first among the C's in one session. So when we heard Melbourne wasn’t going to have its Sectional this year because of declining attendance and the same people … [Read More...]

Lighten Up!!!

My partner Christine and I have been browsing through a terrific bridge book, “50 Winning Duplicate Tips,” by Australian expert Ron Klinger. The nice thing about his “tips” is that they don’t require you to adapt a whole new bidding system – for the most part you can just incorporate them into whatever you’re already doing. I instantly liked one of his very first tips, super-light third-seat opening bids, but ever since we decided to try it, for weeks no such opportunities seemed to come up to try it. But when it rains, it pours. Then it happened two days in a row at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center. And – I am very happy to report – in both cases it worked like a charm and got us excellent board scores. Klinger advocates opening super-light in third seat after two passes even … [Read More...]

A Visit to ACOL

What does ACOL stand for? When you mention "bridge" and "Europe" in the same breath, the term ACOL always seems to come up and it's often surrounded with an aura of awe and mystery. It's supposed to be the oldest bridge club in London – and since everything in England is so old and since bridge was invented there, maybe the oldest in the world – and it's the place where the ACOL bidding system with weak One No-Trump openers and four-card majors was invented. We had been told that if you play there, you are forced to bid ACOL as well. That's not true. My partner Christine and I played at ACOL last week (6-27-2016) during our UK holiday and even though most of our opponents did play ACOL, no one had any problem with us using our Standard American system. But all that reverence of ACOL we … [Read More...]