The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

Good Garbage

To find the best contract after a One No-Trump opening bid, most duplicate bridge players play transfers with five-card Heart or Spade holdings to keep the big hand hidden from the opponents. They also use the 2 Clubs Stayman convention bid to ask for a four-card major and possibly find a 4-4 fit in either Hearts or Spades. But fewer people play the so-called “Garbage Stayman” convention, in which the responder to the One No-Trump opener also bids 2 Clubs, but then plans to pass whatever rebid the opener makes. The garbage Stayman bidder has few points (hence the name “garbage”) but it just so happens that he or she can support either Spades or Hearts. And just in case the No-Trump opener bids 2 Diamonds denying a four-card major, he can also pass that bid. If the No-Trump opener has … [Read More...]

Director, please!

In a month or so I’ll get a letter in the mail from the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) telling me if I’ve passed the test to become a club director. I took it this past Monday (1/29/2018) just before the start of the Lone Star Regional bridge tournament in Houston, TX, and I guess I can say with some degree of confidence that I do expect to have passed. Of the 30 people in my class, I was the first to finish the 113 questions, taking just over half the three hours allotted for the open-book test. And although I’m sure I didn’t get every question correct, I only needed about 60-odd right answers to pass. Although it was pretty intense, it was a good experience participating in two full days of study classes for the test and then taking the three-hour exam. Our class included a … [Read More...]

2-Day Monkey Business

Our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, this past weekend experimented with a two-day Sectional tournament, instead of the usual three-day format. According to the club’s managers, they made just as much money off a two-day Sectional on Saturday and Sunday only as they used to earn off a three-day event. How can that be? Well, for a three-day Sectional starting on Friday, the club would have had to cancel a 0-20 MasterPoint student game, a 0-299 limited Non-Life Master game, as well as a lesson, and all those events are well attended in winter, so the club would have lost a lot of revenue there. But in the end, whether to hold a two- or a three-day Sectional wasn’t a question of money – the finances were pretty much a wash. The deciding factor was that the Vero club wanted to be … [Read More...]

What a Gem!

She did it! My partner Christine made Ruby Life Master in the rankings of the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL), going over the 1,500 MasterPoints mark. She did it at the first Sunday (11/5/2017) game of the winter season at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center. In Vero, where we have 1,100 members and we’re by table count the 8th largest bridge club in the country, it’s difficult to get people to come out on a Sunday, and we had only four tables for the game. Going in, Christine needed 1.04 points to reach 1,500 points, and normally such a small game doesn’t offer enough points, but it was a special membership game with extra points so we gave it a try. Not only did we reach the goal – at first we thought we’d blown it away, coming in first with a 58% game, beating three A … [Read More...]

Planet of the Bots

Anyone playing bridge in South Florida beware: The St. Cat’s club in West Palm Beach has a couple of new players named B.B. O’Saint and B.B. O’Catherine who always come in first. They’re not very sociable; they never say anything, never smile or growl, and they don’t even partake of the quite decent lunch that Julie Jawor, the director, puts out every day. That’s because BBOSaint and BBOCatherine aren’t human. They’re robots that fill in whenever there’s an odd number of pairs, so nobody will have to suffer through a sitout, which everyone hates. When my partner Christine and I dropped in at the St. Cat’s club last Friday (9-1-2017), the “bots”were needed because there was a half table. Since they’re robots and presumably don’t make mistakes – more on that later – they did come in … [Read More...]

Bridge and Bacalhau

My partner Christine and I like to check out historical and cultural oddities as we travel around the country (and a bit of the world) to attend either bridge tournaments or sporting events. When we were in Boise, Idaho, for a Davis Cup tennis match a few years ago, we discovered that Boise was home to the largest Basque community in the U.S. – and of course we had dinner at Gernika, the Basque spelling of Guernica, the town from the Spanish Civil War made immortal by Pablo Picasso’s painting. The Basques flocked to Idaho around the turn of the last century because they were excellent shepherds and could withstand the loneliness of weeks on end living on the desolate Western ranges. This past weekend (8/18-8/19/2017) while attending a Sectional duplicate bridge tournament in Palm … [Read More...]

Remember the Alamo

T.J. Singer, one of the regular tournament directors in South Florida employed by the American Contract Bridge League, had told us that he was going to the 4th of July Regional in San Antonio, TX, under a new ACBL “directors exchange” program to let them see how things are done in different parts of the country – and perhaps improve their own procedures if they see something they like. T.J. was the only person we knew when my partner Christine and I arrived in San Antonio. He liked the exchange, although he wasn’t quite sure yet what specific changes he would recommend to chief Florida tournament director Harry Falk. He said in some ways at Texas tournaments there is more paperwork for directors, and in other ways, there is less, and things are a little more loosey-goosey. From a … [Read More...]

North of the Border

There are two major impressions my partner Christine and I took away from spending almost a week at the 2017 summer North American Bridge Championships in Toronto, Canada. On one hand, it was great to see so many friends from Florida, Canada, as well as from our former haunts in the Philadelphia-Delaware area, and even newfound friends from places like Texas where we’ve gone for other tournaments. Bridge players may sometimes be a bit strange, but they are a real community. On the other, it was distressing to see that at major tournaments, perhaps due to increased competitive pressures, not enough has been done to enforce the zero-tolerance policy to guarantee everyone a pleasant experience. We did notice several incidents of bullying, intimidation or just plain bad behavior. One … [Read More...]

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...]