The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

Where have they gone?

What’s happening to tournaments? Doesn’t anyone want to go anymore? Tired of seeing the same faces from across the state and the country all the time (most of whom are not very sociable anyway)? Apart from a few die-hard pros intent on beating each other’s brains out in knockouts and the souls desperate for ranking points in the gold rush, nobody seems to go anymore. Across the country, attendance at Regionals and Sectionals is down. The only types of tournaments still growing are Regionals at Sea on cruise ships. Why? Well, we are dealing with an aging population less and less able to travel. Card fees have gone up. At most Regionals they’re $15 per person now. At some clubs you can play three times for that money – and not be embarrassed by the pros trolling the A/X/Y pairs games. And … [Read More...]

Mr. Ping’s Thing

Last week my partner Christine and I closely followed the Daily Bulletins from the Florida Southeasterns Regional bridge tournament in Coral Springs. Due to her teaching and my directing commitments, we’d be able to play there only one day, Saturday [4-13-2019] Bracketed Swiss Teams with our South Florida friends, Sandy Weinger and Michael Siegendorf (once again: Sandy is the “he” and Michael is a “she”). About mid-week, we got a notice that for all team games, entries had to be submitted with every team member’s name and American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) membership number, and we wondered what that was about. Team competitions, between knock-outs, bracketed, stratified and single-session Swiss events, are most popular at Regionals and Nationals; it’s where most of the big boys and … [Read More...]

Doping

The news that the top bridge player in the world, Geir Helgemo, a Norwegian competing for Monaco, has been banned from the game for six months for doping at last fall’s world championships in Orlando has sent shock waves through the game. Helgemo, a 49-year-old man, admitted taking a synthetic testosterone and a female fertility drug – both can stimulate muscle growth and are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, an arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The World Bridge Federation, which sponsored the Orlando event, is affiliated with the IOC and abides by its rules on doping. The officials who announced Helgemo’s suspension said the stuff he illegally and knowingly took did not fall into the category of “performance-enhancing drugs,” but gave no explanation why he took … [Read More...]

The Bermuda Triangle

The annual world championship of bridge is called the Bermuda Bowl because the event started out there in 1950 – and returned to the island twice more for the 25th and 50th anniversaries in 1975 and 2000. But all other years, it has been staged somewhere else around the world, from China to India to Tunisia and any number of European resorts. Bermuda does have a big annual tournament, the Bermuda Regional, held the last week of January, not to be confused with the Bermuda Bowl. This year I decided to give my partner Christine a trip to the Bermuda Regional as her birthday present, and fortunately for me, she loved her present. The British colony is a charming island with its pastel-colored houses on the hillsides, and the tournament is pretty special among all the Regionals we have … [Read More...]

The Partnership Desk

At last week’s Orlando Winter Regional, as a member of the board of the Central Florida Unit (240) that stages the tournament, I felt it was my duty to volunteer any needed services and I was asked, along with my partner Christine, to staff the Partnership Desk for the last three days, which gave us an interesting perspective on how the bridge “meat market” works. First of all, here’s how it does NOT work. The desk does NOT play matchmaker to line up big pros with sugar mommies and daddies who pay them to play – those deals are made privately behind the scenes. I’ve read that the Partnership Desk is the worst place to find a partner, and there may be some truth to this, although if you go by yourself to a Regional and you don’t know anyone there, what else are you supposed to do? … [Read More...]

The Know-It-Alls

One of the surprises I got when I started directing duplicate games was how little some of the better players actually know about the rules and the laws of bridge – or maybe they do know the rules, but they try to bend them to their favor, intimidating everyone with their reputation as good players, so people will assume they know the rules, too. My partner Christine and I had such an experience on Black Friday (11-23-2018) when I was playing, not directing, and we came up against the Canadian snowbird Rob Colton, a solid A player, partnering with Jan Ward, a former president of the Vero Beach Bridge Club and an A player herself. I landed in a 2 Hearts part-score contract and after I had already lost three tricks, with everyone having four cards left, I claimed, putting down three trumps … [Read More...]

Of Slams and Captains

In all the time we’ve been playing bridge, my partner Christine and I can’t recall ever having had a stretch of games like this. At a club pairs game on Tuesday of this past week, we bid and made no fewer than five Slams on pre-dealt boards, more than anyone else in the field across three sections – the next closest competitors bid and made only four Slams and most pairs had only one. Then on Saturday in an 8-is-enough team game with our friends Gary B. Smith and Nancy Faigen, with hands we shuffled and dealt ourselves, we bid and made another five Slams, while our opponents playing the same hands at the other table found only one of them. Actually, at The Common Game on Tuesday (10-30-2018), there were a total of eight Slams to be had for East-West, but one of them was on a board … [Read More...]

No fear!

  A friend of mine once said that he likes bridge so much because anyone has a chance. If a decent club tennis player got on the court with Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, he wouldn’t win a single point; he’d lose every game 0-40 and the match 6-0, 6-0. However, in bridge, some hands just happen to be cold for 3 No-Trump (or whatever) and a decent club player can bid and play it just as well as a world champion, so you should be able to hold most people to at least 50% on many boards. A case in point was this past weekend’s Susan Rowley Memorial Sectional bridge tournament in North Orlando, Perry Poole’s new club that sprang up a few years ago as a result of his spat with the Orlando Metropolitan Bridge Center. Poole, who had his games taken away from him at OMBC which … [Read More...]

The 70% Club

My partner Christine and I had the second 70-plus percent game of our bridge careers (8-30-2018) and we’re still sort of scratching our heads as to what lifted us to such exalted status. We got a special mention at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Club, and we’ll be listed in next month’s issue of the Gazette, our club’s newsletter, while we’ll also get our names in the next issue of the Sunshine Bridge News of District 9 (Florida). Ironically, I’ll have to submit it myself because it just so happens that I am the SBN liaison for our Central Florida Unit 240. We had a 71.31% game, good enough for first overall and 2.30 MasterPoints in a 13-table, one-section game where 11 of 26 pairs were A players (we’re only Bs). Director Arnie Summers said we consistently stayed at over 70% … [Read More...]

Down for the Count

My partner Christine and I don’t mind getting a bad score once in a while as long as we come away with a lesson – something that will help us avoid similar disasters in the future. Such was the case at the Palm Beach Gardens Regional tournament when we came away with a mediocre 1.09 Red MasterPoints from the tough A/X/Y pairs double session event (8-21-2018) that was littered with some of the country’s top pros. We got a low board (a score of only 1.5 out of a possible 23) on one board when we failed to get a ruff that seemingly everyone else got, allowing our opponents to make an overtrick. The problem was that I didn’t have an accurate count on my partner’s holding in my suit, not knowing whether she had two or three cards in it. So when we got home, we studied books on … [Read More...]