The Bridge Burglar’s latest adventure

Life is Beautiful

In the week leading up to the Oscars there was a lot of talk about movies and dramatic performances. Unfortunately, my partner Christine and I were unable to turn in any kind of Titanic performance in two outings at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center. We couldn’t crack 50% either time we played, and we got no points, so we were definitely more like Les Miserables than like Rocky. What makes movies great are often dramatic displays of emotion but those don’t go well with duplicate bridge anyway. I remember getting called out for too many histrionics by one of our opponents when I involuntarily made faces because I didn’t like my partner’s bids. You’re better off biting your tongue and your lips, showing True Grit, and not letting any feelings show. The trouble with showing … [Read More...]

Virus hits Bridge, too

The coronavirus pandemic has altered life as we know it for the foreseeable future and the bridge world is no exception. The biggest blow to the top of the game is the cancelation of the Spring Nationals, the North American Bridge Championships (NABC) later this week in Columbus, OH, that will probably cost the American Contract Bridge League hundreds of thousands of dollars. My partner Christine and I had been scheduled to compete in the North American Pairs event as B qualifiers from Florida (District 9). We got a credit for future airline travel and the hotel refunded our deposit, and at this point no one knows if the NAPs will be rescheduled for a later NABC, like during the summer Nationals in Montreal. We also canceled a trip to the World Village of Golf near St. Augustine for … [Read More...]

We Are The Champions

Nobody wins every time at bridge and nobody loses all the time, either, so what makes you more successful one time over another? My partner Christine and I had our most successful tournament ever this past weekend at the two-day Sectional at our home club, the Vero Beach Bridge Center, coming in first overall in the morning pairs session with a 66% game that earned us 8.25 Silver points, and then getting 66% again in the afternoon session, which was good enough for second place overall (first in our direction) that netted us another 5.16 MasterPoints. We didn’t do as well in the Sunday Swiss teams competition with teammates Lorie Heiberger and Glenn McBride, when we had a tough draw, having to face top-ranked teams in the first and the last round, and we finished up with a 3-3 … [Read More...]

Goodbye & Hello

Goodbye, Columbus! That was the title of a popular Philip Roth collection of short stories of the late 1950s, with Goodbye, Columbus! being the lead novelette. The title of the book is derived from a song by the class of graduating seniors from Ohio State University as they leave the Ohio capital forever. Except that this past weekend (10/5/2019), my partner Christine and I found ourselves shaving to sing the song without ever having made it to Columbus. But it was sooooo close … Last Saturday we competed, as we have done for the past several years, in the District 9 Flight B playoffs for the North American Pairs (NAP), in which the top four teams would qualify for next spring’s North American Bridge Championships, which happen to be in Columbus. The top three pairs would get travel … [Read More...]

Bridge According to the Stars

The bridge players’ horoscope for the month of September, 2019: Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) – This is your lucky month! Your astrological sign is star-crossed and you’ll consistently get below-average hands in point count. So when you complain about never getting any cards, at least this time it’ll actually be true! Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) – If your partner is a Cancer, you’ll be able to blame him or her for all your disasters. This is not a good month for teaming up with Cancers. If you do, you’ll be at loggerheads all the time. Scorpio (Oct. 24-Nov. 21) – If you make one more lead out of turn, that cute director might start suspecting that you just want to see him once again up close at the table and hear his dulcet voice as he recites the five options. Sagittarius (Nov. … [Read More...]

Bridge with the Billionaires

My partner Christine and I decided to check out the Nebraska Regional bridge tournament this year (August 2019) because we had heard good things about it. Here are three reasons why it’s such a unique tournament. First, the tournament is actually held in Iowa, in Council Bluffs across the Missouri River from Omaha, so it’s kind of curious that the event isn’t held in the state whose name is attached to it. (Apparently years ago it was actually in Omaha, but they found a cheaper venue at the Mid-America Center in Iowa next to the gigantic Horseshoe Casino run by Caesars.) Second, the tournament has very decent hospitality with free lunches every day and ice cream at night — plus a daily drawing for a free shipment of the famous Omaha Steaks. But the real reason the Nebraska … [Read More...]

Crossing Borders

Crossing international borders for bridge events can result in some odd conversations with customs and immigration officials since they rarely play bridge and don’t know much about the game. A case in point was my partner Christine’s and my recent attendance at the Penticton, British Columbia, Canada, Regional tournament, which we reached via rental car from Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. On the way into Canada, the Canadian border guard asked us where we were going in Canada and why. So we told him we were headed for Canada’s biggest bridge tournament of the year in Penticton. His next question seemed like a total non-sequitur. “Are you carrying any guns?” he asked. It’s what they always ask any Americans crossing the border, because gun-loving and -toting Americans are often … [Read More...]

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...]