Ray Lee

A Gift for Roberta

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WhenBridge Crosswords we moved into our winter home in Florida three years ago, we were surprised to find we already knew one of our neighbors. Roberta is a teacher on BIL (the BBO club where bridge students are connected with volunteer teachers for six months of mentoring), and had encountered Linda there. When we started our bridge classes down here, Roberta helped out and it was great to have her there when we couldn’t be at every table at the same time.

Roberta is also a crossword fan, so it’s easy to pick a gift for her: Jeff Chen’s Bridge Crosswords. Jeff is a constructor whose work has been published in the New York Times as well as the LA Times, and it was a lot of fun working with him on this project. The crosswords in the book are all bridge themed, and range in difficulty from NYT levels Monday through Thursday.

The best way to give you a flavor of the book is to let you try one of the puzzles. This one is a Tuesday level – so about average – and there are more challenging puzzles in the book. How many do you get? 52 of course!

 

[crossword]

A Gift for Papa

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Who is your favorite Menagerie character, outside the Hog and the Rabbit?  I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Papa the Greek – arguably as good a player as the Hog, technically brilliant, intuitive, yet he loses time and time again, because the Hog is always just one step ahead.  His obsession is winning, and he will use any (legal) means to do so – the Hog once described him as being capable of falsecarding with a singleton.  He always knows what everyone will do – except that the Hog usually does something else.

Falsecards (2nd edition)Papa needs more ammunition if he’s going to beat his porcine opponent, and maybe he’ll find it in Mike Lawrence’s new edition of his book on Falsecards.  Lawrence is a writer whom I recommend unhesitatingly to intermediate players.  It doesn’t matter which of his books you read, you’ll learn from it – every point he makes is explained so clearly, and so many examples are discussed in great detail to illustrate each idea.

I love the way Mike starts the Falsecards book, as follows:

Before getting into specific hands and circumstances, I would like to offer a bit of advice relating to falsecards.

A FALSECARD IS INTENDED TO FOOL DECLARER, NOT TO FOOL YOUR PARTNER.

In general, defense is the hardest part of bridge. It is difficult enough when you know what is going on. It’s nearly impossible when you have to guess. If you insist on sending out a bewildering array of signals, you will nail an occasional declarer or two. But you will also nail your partner.

Bridge is a partnership game. One or two or three successes will not compensate for a confused, embarrassed or upset partner.

In other words, now you’ve bought his book, he’s almost warning you about the dangers within – and saying, ‘Continue at your own risk’!

I could pick almost any section of this book to illustrate it, so fascinating are the nuances of cardplay that it contains, for both declarer and the defenders. I’ve picked this one because the opening paragraph contains my favorite passage in the entire book – the bit about subtlety being the key to success in falsecarding.

DISRUPTING THE DEFENDERS’ SIGNALS

Without exception, the most potent falsecards in bridge occur at Trick 1 when declarer plays from his hand. Some of these falsecards were discussed earlier, i.e. winning with an unusual card so as to misrepresent your strength. The most effective falsecards, however, are not the big, brazen ones. They are the subtle ones where you play a two instead of a four. Or a six instead of a three.

Take this situation from West’s point of view:

  4 3  
Q J 9 7   5
  6  

At notrump, you lead the queen and partner plays the five, declarer the six. Should you lead the suit again?

  4 3  
Q J 9 7   8 5
  A K 10 6 2  

If this is the setup, you’d best switch.

  4 3  
Q J 9 7   K 5 2
  A 10 8 6  

But, if this is the actual layout, it is correct to continue.

What West should do is not clear. What is clear is that declarer has created an illusion that is going to mislead the defenders rather frequently. What’s scary is that it was so easy to do. Declarer played a six instead of a two. Nothing fancy, nothing gaudy, but still effective.

Good defenders rely heavily on their communications and that usually means good signaling methods with their spot cards. As we’ve just seen, these signaling methods are not perfect.

The examples in this section are among the most important in the book. Their importance stems from many factors.

1. They work.
2. They are easy to execute.
3. They are common.
4. The things that make them work can be used in many other situations.

A Gift for my Son

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When Linda and I started our family, and managed to produce a girl and a boy, I know we both secretly thought, ‘Ah, a mixed team!’  It was not to be.  Jennifer worked briefly at a bridge club while in high school, decided bridge players were all very strange people, and wanted nothing more to do with the game. 

Colin took after us, though.  In the course of earning a degree in mathematics, he became part of the bridge crowd at Waterloo University, and went on to play in two World Junior Championships for Canada.  A career in software development and raising a family has left him little time to play seriously since those days, but Colin still takes a serious interest in the game.  He’s been very useful to me on several occasions when I was working on a book that involved bridge mathematics and probabilities.

Which brings me to David Bird.  David has written many books for us, but when he first mentioned the idea of two books on opening lead theory based on computer simulations, I really didn’t think it would fly.  He pressed his case, and eventually we agreed to make it part of our Honors Books series, where the author does most of the prepress , editing and proofreading work (and gets a much bigger royalty, of course).  I don’t mind admitting I was dead wrong about the project – Winning Notrump Leads and Winning Suit Contract Leads have both been very successful, proving that people will tolerate books with a mathematical basis as long as there’s a practical application for the math that they can take away.

Winning Duplicate TacticsWhich brings me to David’s latest book for us, Winning Duplicate Tactics. This is a book Linda has wanted to do for several years – she feels that many bridge players don’t really understand matchpointed pairs and how different the game is from IMPs (of course, she bases that on many years of playing with me, and I certainly don’t understand matchpoints).  This is the kind of technical intermediate-level book at which David excels, so I was delighted when a gap appeared in his hectic writing schedule and he agreed to do it.  What we didn’t expect when the project started, though, was that David would make extensive use of computer simulations as the basis for his advice in this book, which covers the right approach to matchpoints in every aspect of the game: bidding, opening leads, declarer play and defense.

Let me give you an example.  He has discussed the use of Stayman on 4333 hands, concluding that prevailing wisdom is correct, in that it is better simply to raise partner to 3NT with this shape even though you have a 4-card major.  However, he does note than when partner is not 4333, you are better to play in a 4-4 major fit at matchpoints, in the long run scoring 52.9% compared to the 47.1% that 3NT offers.  The book continues:

Was Terence Reese right?

Many experts decline to bid Stayman on 4-3-3-3 shape. Terence Reese went further. When watching top invitational events such as the Sunday Times Pairs, he would pour scorn on contestants who used Stayman on certain 4-4-3-2 hands. ‘Did you see that?’ he would exclaim, far too loudly because he was deaf in his later years. ‘Absurd! The man bid Stayman.’ Was this another of his famed eccentricities or was there some sense to it? Let’s find out. Partner opens a 15-17 point 1NT and you hold this hand as responder:

K 9 7 4    K J    Q 10 7 2    J 8 3

Should you raise to 3NT or use Stayman to seek a 4-4 spade fit? The fact that the heart doubleton contains two honors reduces the chance that a heart ruff will provide an extra trick. The presence of minor honors and the lack of an ace also tilt the odds towards notrump. These are the results from a simulation that evaluates 5000 deals where Stayman would locate a 4-4 spade fit:

3NT or 4, in a 4-4 spade fit with this responding hand?

Contract Makes Avg Tricks MP’s IMP’s (V) IMP’s (NV)
3NT 61.2% 8.8 48.9% +0.3 +0.2
4 55.5% 9.6 51.1% -0.3 -0.2

Ah, not so eccentric, then! 3NT is more likely to make and is the better contract at IMPs. 4 has a small advantage at matchpoints. The most common result, occurring on 21% of the deals, is a swing of +20 for 420 against 400, or 450 against 430 (or the matching scores when vulnerable). Now look at this responding hand:

Q 6 5    10 8 6 3    A Q   K 8 7 3

You have a strong doubleton, your major is weak and there may be too many trump losers in 4 . Should you make a Stayman response? Let’s see.

Playing in a 4-4 heart fit, with this responding hand

Contract Makes Avg Tricks MP’s IMP’s (V) IMP’s (NV)
3NT 76.4% 9.3 46.5% -0.4 -0.3
4 70.6% 10.0 53.5% -0.4 -0.3

As on the previous hand, 3NT is more likely to make and is better at IMPs. Playing pairs, you should still choose the suit game. On 33% of deals 4 will give you the matchpoints with a +20 advantage (620 against 600, for example).On 23% of the deals 3NT will give you a +10 advantage (630 against 620).

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I know this one is right for Colin!

Here’s one for Fred

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Fred is one of my oldest friends, in both senses. He was best man at my wedding forty-two years ago, and we have played bridge together many, many times over the years – as partners, as team-mates, and even as opponents.  Like me, he remembers the golden days of Toronto bridge – at least for us, that’s what they were.

When I arrived from England in 1969, I soon started playing at Kate Buckman’s Bridge Studio – or just ‘Kate’s’ as we all called it.  The characters there were many and varied, as was their bridge ability. Many of them had curious nicknames – the Moo Cow, the Jolly Green Giant, the Shoe, the Owl, the Bambino, the Fish, the Fowl, Black Cloud and so forth.  Many of us were, like me, very young, with an inflated idea of our own ability.  We loved to mess around with new bidding ideas, and play in silly ways just to prove that we could do things like use ‘No Peek’ (a system where you couldn’t look at your cards during the auction), or bid 3NT on every hand, and still win.

We weren’t as good as we thought we were, of course, but we were enough better than many of our opponents to get away with it. Eventually, of course, we encountered players who really could play the game, and most of us mended our ways, becoming interested in playing ‘properly’ and winning in legitimate ways against good opposition.  Several of our coterie back then were talented enough that they went on to play at the world level for Canada.

Bridge on a ShoestringFred was part of that scene forty-plus years ago, which is why he’s going to like Michael Schoenborn’s book, Bridge on a Shoestring. In this, Mike tells of his own adventures at Kate’s and the other bridge clubs in Toronto, and of his eventual epiphany and conversion to ‘proper bridge’.  In the end, he does achieve his goal of playing in the Bermuda Bowl, but you’ll have to read the book to see how that turned out.

The story is told in the third person by the Shoe’s favorite kibitzer, Bungalow Bill Miller.  Here’s an extract that will give you the flavor of it:

The Shoe was a superb natural card player, and like many in his circle, he had little use for textbook bids and plays. The objective was to win, and have fun doing it, rather than to slavishly follow well-trodden paths. Shoe’s inclinations prompted him to reinvent the game, rather than seeking assistance from experts. He particularly disdained the percentage play, reasoning that 52% for the drop against 50% for the finesse paid off one time in fifty, whereas any really good player, himself automatically included, could induce the opponents to make a mistake at least half the time. His goal was fittingly immodest: one day he would play in the Bermuda Bowl. What better place to begin such a journey than at the Hart House Bridge Club?

The first bridge hand that the Shoe ever submitted to The Kibitzer was rejected by its then editor, Sami Kehela, one of the few players who could legitimately lay claim to being possibly even better than Shorty. We have to presume that he considered the story too improbable to publish, or perhaps just not instructive. I can vouch for the hand because I watched it. Justice did not necessarily triumph. Shoe was directing the Hart House game sitting at his usual spot, South at Table 1. He claimed that he had learned from the newspaper bridge columns that South always got the good hands. He picked up, at favorable colors:

8 6   —   4   J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

The Shoe’s RHO opened four spades, and Shoe so desperately wanted to bid five clubs that he actually hesitated more than the required ten seconds before passing. His partner on this occasion had been introduced to me as Eric the Half Bee, and I had to wonder how he had ever met up with the Shoe. The Half Bee was an older, silver haired gentleman in a blue suit. Later, it transpired he was a successful engineer whose only shortcoming was a fanatic love of bridge. His success in life and intelligence had not, so far, been transferable to duplicate bridge.

The Half Bee would be bound to assume that a five club bid showed more than a jack. Worse than that from the Shoe’s point of view, if a five club bid proved unsuccessful, the Half Bee would be sure to win the post-mortem discussion. He’d have enough opportunity to do that when he treated the Shoe to another dinner. Reluctantly, the Shoe passed, as did LHO. The Half Bee doubled, RHO passed, and Shoe contributed a modest five clubs, confident that any blame had now safely been transferred to the Half Bee. The five club bid seemed to bring the table to life: LHO bid five diamonds, the Half Bee five hearts, RHO five spades. This was surely what bidding up the line was all about! Once again, the Shoe wanted to bid on, but even he could see no way to justify it. After a pass by LHO, the Half Bee came to the rescue with a bid of five notrump. This was all the excuse Shoe needed: he could win any argument that might possibly ensue. If the heart bid had not promised club tolerance, surely the five notrump bid did? Anyway, holding all the low clubs, where was his hand entry? Accordingly, six clubs by the Shoe, double by LHO, all pass.

 
N
Half Bee
KJ
KQJ10942
AK
KQ
 
W
West
8753
QJ1098652
A
 
E
East
AQ10975432
A6
73
 
S
South
86
4
J1098765432
 

 After the opening lead of the Q, Shoe was in a position to make the hand regardless of the location of the A: two rounds of diamonds pitching a spade, followed by a club lead, putting West in a position of yielding a heart trick or a ruff and discard at Trick 4! In case anyone had overlooked the beauty of this hand, the Shoe expressed disappointment with the other two +1090 scores, which probably only occurred because he had the misfortune to find the A with RHO. Shoe persisted with further analysis: even on a diamond lead, declarer in 6 would lose only four tricks for minus 800. Furthermore, 6 would not make from the Half Bee’s hand, as the A could be cashed. As far as I know, this was the first occasion when the Shoe noted that the hand would play at least a trick better from his side, an observation codified in Shoe’s Second Rule of Bridge.

A Gift for David

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David Silver and I met playing bridge, naturally, but then one day I was warming up on the squash court when the door opened and David poked his head in.  Having discovered this new mutual interest, we began playing regularly, and continued to do so for many years until David’s worsening eyesight made the proceedings a little too hazardous for us both.

David’s bridge is a product of his upbringing.  He is a fine natural card player, who became an expert player by the simple process of playing for stakes he could not afford.  That was many years ago, and the bidding was primitive by modern standards.  And today, David’s bidding is still primitive by modern standards.  But as any old-timer will tell you, that’s what made them all such great card players – they were usually in the wrong contract, and very often too high.  They often needed to make tricks appear out of thin air, or pull off some amazing swindle.

The Rodwell FilesI think David will appreciate a book on cardplay, and there’s no doubt what it should be: Eric Rodwell’s The Rodwell Files, certainly the best and most original book on play that has appeared in at least fifty years.  And don’t be misled by the ‘with Mark Horton’ on the cover.  This isn’t some celebrity putting his name on a ghost-written memoir – yes, Mark did a lot of research in coming up with example deals, but the ideas, the concepts and pretty much all the writing are Eric’s.  Given his tournament schedule, I have no idea how he found the time.  Even after we were well into production, Eric would send me half a dozen hands from every tournament he played, with the note like ‘Great example of XYZ’ or ‘We have to get this one in somewhere’, until I finally had to say ‘Stop! We have to finalize everything and go to press.’

Every aspect of cardplay is covered, both for declarer and defenders.  And while the book is mostly geared to advanced players, Eric thinks almost anyone can pick it up and get something out of the first few chapters.  As well as general principles, a great deal of space is devoted to describing specific maneuvers, many of which have never been in print before.  Eric strongly believes that giving things names, often the sillier the better, helps one remember them, so the book contains sections on such ideas as the Crossover Stopper, Cash and Thrash, the Shortshake, Gouging, Days of Thunder, Bait and Switch, and a host of others.

Here’s one of my favorites, which Eric calls

THE SPEED OF LIGHTNING PLAY

Now let’s move on to some general tactical ideas — some of them are legitimate, in the sense that the opposition can do nothing to counter them, while others depend on inducing an (often slight) error. The speed of lightning play is one of my favorites. As any fan of the band Queen will anticipate, it can be very, very frightening.

If RHO is the dangerous opponent, you can often lead away from a holding like AJx in dummy toward holdings in the closed hand headed by the ten, on the theory that RHO won’t go up with Qx(x). A common variation is where you lead low from KJx toward 109xxx in hand. Of course, you must be able to afford to lose a trick to RHO later on. This play is most valuable when you have something like Qx opposite AJx in hand in the suit they led (dummy’s queen having won Trick 1), where East can’t hurt you later, only now.

This play is so named because East will play low at the speed of lightning, as a matter of habit. In fact, if he knows that he is the dangerous opponent, there is every reason for him to play the queen (danger hand high!) since if he ducks, declarer will doubtless try some coverage ducking play.

Here’s a full deal showing the play in its purest form.

N
North
Q3
A942
KJ
8754
 
S
South
AJ5
K3
109654
AK3
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3NT
All Pass
 

West leads the 6 to dummy’s queen, East playing low. With only six top tricks you need to develop the diamonds. As long as East doesn’t get in on the first diamond lead, with the queen, you are safe. So your best shot is to lead the 3 from dummy at Trick 2, hoping East, dealt Qx, plays low at the speed of lightning.

The whole deal is:

 
N
North
Q3
A942
KJ3
8754
 
W
West
K10864
Q85
A82
106
 
E
East
972
J1076
Q7
QJ92
 
S
South
AJ5
K3
109654
AK3
 

This type of play can have some unforeseen consequences if we expand it to include other situations where players reflexively play low when they could play an honor to win a trick.

With this combination:

 
N
North
K865
 
W
West
A103
 
E
East
Q92
 
S
South
J74
 

declarer played low to the jack. When that held, he played low to the king and then a third heart — the suit splitting 3-3 for three tricks!

You might also get away with three tricks with something like:

K 7 3
J 8 6 2

You play low to the king, then low to the jack, hoping West has Axx and ducks twice (I have seen it happen!).

A Book for Cynthia

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My friend Cynthia is lucky enough to live in Sarasota full-time, not just half the year like us.  She and her husband Colin are fine tennis players, and I’ve enjoyed playing with them both.  Cynthia is also a good bridge player, but she gave up the game about a year ago because, even as a duplicate player, she couldn’t stand getting bad cards all the time.  Like most of us, she wants her side to win the auction, and not be at the mercy of the opponents’ erratic bidding – at least on her fair share of the boards.
Defensive Tips for Bad Card HoldersI’ve got the perfect gift for her, one that might even tempt her back to the bridge table:  Eddie Kantar’s Defensive Tips for Bad CardholdersEddie is one of my favorite people as well as one of my favorite bridge authors.  He is that rare kind of writer, a world champion who can understand and communicate with players who have far less talent for the game than he does himself – which is most of us.  And he dispenses his advice with a wonderfully gentle self-deprecating humor.
This book is what I call a ‘bathroom book’ – it consists of hundreds of short sections that can each stand on its own, so you can pick it up and open it anywhere, and read for five minutes, and get something out of it.  The topics run the gamut that you would expect, from opening leads to avoiding being endplayed, covering second- and third-hand play and of course counting (points, tricks and distribution) along the way.  Eddie designates some tips ‘advanced’, and also notes the ones which require partnership discussion and agreement if you are going to adopt them (like signaling methods, for example).
Here’s one tip that warns you not to try to be too clever (labeled ‘advanced’):
Do not take your eye off the ball by focusing all of your attention on one suit to the exclusion of the entire hand; a trap that is easy to fall into.

East-West vul.
Dealer South 

N
North
72
KJ63
A1075
943
 
 
E
You
864
AQ108
K3
Q1087

Opening lead:   2  (third and lowest)

W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

 

Declarer plays low from dummy, you win the king and declarer plays the queen. Now what?
Notice your club holding. Do you remember your surrounding plays? If so, you probably switched to the  10 hoping declarer had AJx and partner Kxx. Guess what? Declarer does have AJx and partner does have Kxx and you have just let declarer make the hand! You forgot to look at the whole hand.
Partner has apparently led from a five-card suit and declarer has un­blocked with Qx, preparatory to finessing the dx10 after drawing trumps. Your play is to kill the dummy at once by returning a diamond. With no side entry in dummy, declarer is forced to try to cash a top diamond at Trick 3. No luck, you ruff and your club and heart winners come later.
Declarer’s hand: A K Q 10 9 5 3  Q 8  A J 5
Partner’s hand:  J  9 7 5 4  J 9 6 4 2  K 6 2

If you return the cx10 at Trick 2, declarer wins the ace, draws trumps and leads a diamond to the ten; seven spades, two diamonds and a club comes to ten tricks.

Happy holidays, Cynthia, and take special note of Tip #575 – ‘If you get a run of lousy hands, don’t start feeling sorry for yourself.  You may be able to help partner out with accurate signaling, perhaps even an unblock here and there.’

Marshall Miles

milesIt is with sadness that I report the passing of Marshall Miles, at the age of 87.  Always an original thinker, he was still making contributions to bidding ideas and theory up to the end of his life.  His most recent book, More Accurate Bidding, was published only last year. Marshall won 5 North American Championships, most of them partnering Eddie Kantar, but his proudest achievement was winning the World Senior Teams in 2004, at the age of 78. His books include two that are classics of bridge literature: How to Win at Duplicate Bridge, and All 52 Cards.

Working with Marshall was always interesting — his ideas were often idiosyncratic and non-mainstream.  While editing It’s Your Call a couple of years ago I mentioned to Marshall that I had given several of the problems in the book to Linda, and each time she had chosen the same bid he recommended — in each case one that most of the bidding panel had not.  There was a pause. ‘Well’, he said, ‘She must be a very good player then.’  After that they played together a few times on BBO, but Linda told me that their styles were too dissimilar for them to mesh will as a partnership — and also that she felt somewhat intimidated playing with such an icon of the game.

The message I received this morning was from Marshall’s email address, and the first thing I noticed was that it had an attachment.  My immediate assumption was that Marshall was sending me a new manuscript (roughly an annual event), but sadly that was not the case on this occasion.

————————————————————

For more information on Marshall Miles please visit the Wikipedia page, a bio on the ACBL Hall of Fame, and his author page on eBooksBridge.com.

 

Happy Birthday, Eddie

Friday November 9th is a significant birthday for one of the good guys of the bridge world, Eddie Kantar.  I’m not going to tell you how old he will be — if you want to know, you can look him up in the Bridge Encyclopedia.  Besides, he doesn’t look or act his age — not too many years ago, I watched him take on the much younger Eddie Wold (a former Texas state champion) at table tennis, and lose a hard-fought match 3-1. Round about the same time, he played tennis against Britain’s Andy Robson, a match that ended politely after two sets with the score 1-1.  Both confessed afterwards it was the first time they had lost a set to a bridge player!

I well remember trying to talk Eddie into doing his first book for us, more than 15 years ago.  His ‘Big Red’ book on defense was renowned as a classic, but from my point of view, it could be improved  a lot.  Some of the material was outdated, the organization was poor, the design and layout was prehistoric, and the whole thing had been typeset on a typewriter — the publisher’s fault, not Eddie’s.  It would be big task, however, and Eddie was reluctant to undertake it.

“Don’t worry,” I said.  “I can do most of the work, and all you’ll have to do is give it a quick read and approve the final version.” 

“But it won’t sound like me,” said Eddie.

“Don’t worry, ” I said.  “I can make it sound like you.” 

I was wrong.

I did do the first pass on what eventually became two books: Modern Bridge Defense and Advanced Bridge Defense.  But when Eddie saw the manuscripts he must have been appalled at what I was proposing should be published under his name, and he proceeded to rewrite every word of them both.  Thank goodness.

We’ve gone on to do many books together, but never again did I have the hubris to claim that I could mimic Eddie’s style, which in every sense of the word is inimitable.  Eddie is a world-class bridge player who is able to write for those of us below that pinnacle — indeed, even for beginners.  And his sense of humor is legendary.  Indeed, if you haven’t read his book of humorous bridge anecdotes, Classic Kantar, you have seriously missed something.

These days, Linda and I attend NABC’s for reasons other than playing, and so do Eddie and his charming wife Yvonne.  So we’ve naturally ended up spending time together.  We’ve climbed mountains, dug up geocaches on beaches, gone on tours, visited art galleries, and eaten numerous breakfasts, lunches and dinners ensemble.  And of course, we’ve played bridge.  Eddie is never without a deck of cards (well, that’s not actually true — one time we had to nip across the road to buy a deck) so after we’ve ordered our meals, out they come, and suddenly we’re in the middle of Eddie’s infamous Home Game.

There have only been two ‘serious’ bridge games. One time Eddie had been asked by a friend to play in a 1-session Swiss, so he rounded up Linda and me  as team-mates.  We had a great time, losing only in the last round when our opponents bid a very low percentage game that rolled home.  The next day Eddie was still worried that he had let through an overtrick on defense on another (and completely irrelevant board). Eddie worries a lot, actually, especially about his books — he reads and rereads them, sending me little improvements and corrections long after the book is finally printed.

The other serious game was two or three years ago.  New York Times correspondent Phillip Alder was visiting and wanted to play casually one evening, so Eddie organized a set game against Linda and me.  Any time anything interesting came up, one or the other of them would dive for a notebook and write down the deal.  I didn’t dare read either of their columns for months after that (although I did manage to maneuver it so Linda played all the tough hands).  I hadn’t been so nervous since the time I was playing in an Open Pairs and Edgar Kaplan and Frank Stewart arrived at the table, with Freddie Sheinwold as their kibitzer!

Eddie doesn’t play much any more, but he’s still writing, as readers of many bridge magazines around the world know.  He’s still working on books, too:  some of them new projects, some of them updates of old ones (like the just released ‘Defensive Tips for Bad Cardholders’ – a classic Kantar title if ever I heard one). And he’s still one of the nicest guys you’ll ever come across, at the bridge table or away from it.

So happy birthday Eddie on Friday — and many, many more!

 

Marked Finesse

It is with sadness that I record the passing last month of Dr. Andrew Diosy, 88, the author of the second book ever published by Master Point Press back in 1994.

Andrew was born in Hungary, and came to Canada in 1957, like many of his countrymen, in the aftermath of the insurrection there against Soviet rule. He completed his medical training in his new country, and enjoyed a long and successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.  His hobbies were chess and, of course, bridge.

I remember very well receiving Andrew’s manuscript in the mail.  MPP didn’t really exist except on paper.  Linda and I both had full-time careers that had nothing to do with bridge, but on the side we were publishing a (roughly) quarterly national magazine, Canadian Master Point.  Our first book title was a collection of partnership questionnaires by Mary Paul which had appeared in CMP over a 2-3 year span. We had at that time no particular thoughts of doing more books. Then this package arrived, from someone who clearly didn’t know we weren’t for real.

It was hand written, perhaps a couple of hundred sheets of letter-size paper in a large manilla envelope, and comprised perhaps fifty or sixty short stories, each built around a bridge deal.  As we began to read, we were both struck by the quality of the deals — and we quickly began asking ourselves who the author could be.  It seemed inconceivable that someone in the Toronto area could construct problems of this quality and be unknown to us — indeed, I suspected for some time that ‘Andrew Diosy’ must be a pseudonym.

Not in the least.  When we finally met Andrew, I realized that he was one of those people more common in the chess world than that of bridge, someone who can construct brilliant problems without necessarily being a top-level performer themselves in competition. We decided to publish the book, and the next challenge was presenting the problems in a way that would do them justice, allowing the reader to appreciate all the nuances.  That was when Linda came up with the fundamental concept: the deals would be presented with no hidden hands — all 52 cards would be on view. The challenge to the reader would be to analyze the position and determine whether with best play the declarer or the defense should prevail. The second key was the idea of presenting a partial solution, and at the same time showing its flaws, keeping the final solution until later.  This allowed the reader to explore each problem in increasing depth, without being told the actual solution the first time around.

This was not a format that was (or indeed is) to everyone’s taste.  The book was titled There Must be a Way, and Jeff Rubens in The Bridge World rather snarkily commented ‘There must have been a better way to organize this book…’  But most readers liked the concept, and the deals themselves were brilliant.  Eddie Kantar loved them, and wrote a wonderful foreword for the book, and TMBAW went through three printings — not bad for a completely unknown author and a start-up hobby publisher!  A second book, You Have to See This, followed, and this time Linda got a deserved co-author credit.  One of the world’s top problem constructors, Julian Pottage, became a fan of the approach, and has used it in two books — indeed, his Play or Defend? won the IBPA Book of the Year award in 2004.

Entries were a favorite Diosy theme.  Here’s a typical deal from TMBAW, titled ‘Marked Finesse’. See how you fare:

 
N
North
K 7
K 5 4 2
5 4 2
10 9 4 3
 
W
West
J 9 6 4 3 2
Q 8 7
3
K 6 2
4
E
East
Q 10 8
A J 9 6 3
K 8
J 8 5
 
S
South
A 5
10
A Q J 10 9 7 6
A Q 7
 

The contract is 5.  Take your best shot before scrolling down to Part 1 of the solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLUTION PART 1

You have 4 potential losers – a heart, a diamond and two clubs.  However, with the K onside you do not have to lose a trump trick, and although theK is offside, you can hold your club losers to one since the J is onside. The problem is getting to dummy for all those finesses.  Say you win the spade lead in dummy and take the diamond finesse. After that wins you can draw trumps, but now what?  There doesn’t appear to be an endplay…

Is there another line, or will the defense prevail even with this lucky layout?  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOLUTION PART 2

The solution is to win the opening lead in the closed hand and play the Q!  West wins with the king and plays another spade.  Dummy’s king wins the trick and you lead the 10. It doesn’t matter whether or not East covers: you will either remain in dummy or return to it with a third club for a successful finesse against the K.

We still have a few copies left of both of Andrew Diosy’s books.  If you’ve never read either of them, you’re missing something!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sparkling aperitif

We’ve left Lille now that Canadian interest is no more, and have checked into a new hotel in Normandy for a few days sightseeing before heading home next Tuesday.  While killing time before going to dinner tonight, we logged into BBO and were lucky enough to catch this deal — the final one of today’s action.

 
48
E-W
West
N
North
10
8763
K54
Q9872
 
W
West
Q64
A2
AQJ10
AK105
8
E
East
AK98752
QJ10
98
4
 
S
South
J3
K954
7632
J63
 
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
2NT
Pass
4
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
5
Pass
5NT
Pass
6
Pass
7
Pass
7NT
All Pass
 
 

I had watched this board at a couple of other tables, and most pairs arrived safely in 6 .  One or two flirted with 7 , which gave rise to some discussion among the commentators as to the best line of play in that contract.  In the end, it comes down to guessing who has the K — you can either finesse in diamonds or pitch a diamond on a club and take the ruffing finesse — or taking a heart finesse followed by ruffing a heart in the short hand. There are some slight extra chances, but that’s basically it.

In the Italy-Poland match, however, Italy’s Duboin and Sementa were even more ambitious.  After a 2NT-4 (transfer) start, I don’t know precisely what their auction meant, since nothing was alerted or explained on BBO.  However, it seems to me that Sementa’s 7 was probably intended as a final transfer to 7. Duboin may have thought he was being asked to pick a final contract, or maybe he just thought they had plenty of tricks and notrump would be safer; but, whatever the reasoning, they came to rest not in 7 but in 7NT. 

North must have been looking for a safe lead, and was reluctant to lead a singleton spade, although I believe that Duboin had superaccepted spades, so leading one wasn’t likely to do much harm. On a spade lead, declarer really has no option but to finesse diamonds and hope for the best — which will not help him on this layout.  Even a diamond lead will probably do no harm — that’s only the twelfth trick, and declarer would surely never think North had led away from the king: he would just finesse in diamonds rather than in hearts.  However, this North chose an innocuous-looking, but ultimately fatal, heart.

Giorgio Duboin won this trick with the heart queen (South did not cover of course), and took stock: he now had twelve tricks, and options.  Time for some card-reading. It was easy to figure out that North probably had at least one club honor to protect, and after cashing the queen and king of spades, the singleton spade was revealed too.  Surely he had not underled the K, which gave rise to a ‘Restricted Choice’ inference that he could well have the K, else he might have led a diamond instead of a heart.  Other things being equal, North was roughly twice as likely to have the K as South.  

Perhaps North was unfortunate to be defending 7NT against one of the world’s best declarers.  In any event, Duboin read the position correctly, and proceeded to cash both red-suit aces — a double Vienna Coup — then run all the spades, executing a double squeeze with clubs as the central suit.  As one commentator remarked, God obviously gave East the ♦9 for a reason!

A pretty deal to end the session with.  We strolled across the road to a meal of Galettes Seguin followed by Crepes Normandie, washed down with local cider, and raised a glass to Signor Duboin for providing such a sparkling aperitif!

 

 

 

 

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