Wednesday, March 15, 2023

2023 Platinum Pairs Final - The Long Session

Having a couple of days rest from the NABC, I'm resuming my occasional Bridge Veritée" series, where I write about every deal from the late round of a top event. Here it's the first session of the final of the Platinum Pairs, played in New Orleans this past Sunday.

My partner was Ron Gerard.

The boards start here:

I suggest you open a second window or tab to follow along. 

The event was played barometer style, so every pair played boards 1-18 in order.


S   W   N   E

        1c 1H

Dbl 1S  2c

Ron took one more trick than the eight he was entitled to.



S   W   N   E

    1d  P   3c!

3c was invitational.

Ron led the normal spade. Our declarer decided to take 10 tricks instead of either 9 or 13. Declarers in NT had a similar decision to make.



S   W   N   E 

1d  P   1S  P

2c  P   2H! P

3d  P   3S  P


2H was described as natural and non-forcing. I wonder how light they open!

Knowing that declarer was likely short in spades I led a spade. Declarer hooked, cashed the ace, and played a third one, Ron discarding a discouraging club. I led a heart to the queen and Ron returned a heart to my king. Declarer ducked for some reason, and I neglected to give him a kind of a guess with a third heart.

-400 was 88% since most pairs made 420 in spades.


S   W   N   E

    P   1c  P

1d  P   1N

Ron led a normal heart, giving up the 7th trick. His hand does not quite meet our standard for a vulnerable overcall.



S   W   N   E

        1N  P

2H  P   2S  P

P   3d  3S  

I tried to drive the opponents into the cold game but I was unsuccessful.

Would you get there? I'd have invited with the South hand opposite a 15-17 1N.



S   W   N   E


1c  P   1H  1S

2H  2S  

Our opponents reached 3H and took 9 tricks.



S   W   N   E

P   1N      2c

    2S      3H!

    3S!     4H!

    4N      5c!

    5d!     6c!

X   P       6d



3H was a spade slam try with shortness.

3H asked where.

4H showed short hearts.

4N asked for key cards.

5d asked for the trump queen.

6c showed the trump queen and the club king while denying the diamond king.

Double was ill-advised, since a trump lead would always have been safe.

I bid 7S thinking Ron had shown the dQ.

North led a club and I saw that I had play and that I likely needed trump 3-2 plus a diamond hook through North. I played ace and a heart, queen of spades and spade to the ace. With 4-1 trump I could have changed tack and take my finesses through South. As was I trumped a heart high and South threw a diamond! This made his shape likely exactly as it was, so I cashed the cK, played a diamond to the J, and cashed the last two trump to squeeze South in the minors. This was not best. There was no reason to cash the cK first - it could have waited until trump were drawn. But all's well that ends well.

100%, the same score we'd have had for +1460.


My opponents miscounted key cards, or something like that. 

A lucky 73% for -480. Two pairs went down in NT contracts by North, a bit unluckily.


EW Vul

S   W   N   E

        P   P

3S  X   P   3N

Ron ducked the spade lead and a spade came back to the Ace. Mikael Rimstedt now did well to shift to the H9. Ron made the normal guess of the Ace and played on clubs to make 3. 8 tables played 3NT. Only one other was held to three. Four EW pairs defeated 3S doubled 2 tricks and two made part-scores.



S   W   N   E


P   P   1N

Ron led a diamond to the king and my ace. Declarer led a spade to the Q and I made the mistake of winning. This was not fatal but made the subsequent defense more difficult and I faltered. 

Our -90 was entered as +90 and I only noticed on Wednesday as I was writing this. I submitted a correction, but it was too late.

Curiously, the swing from plus to minus would have been small: 58% to 42%.


S   W   N   E

P   P   1c  P

P   X   P   1H

P   P   P

I passed the double planning to double diamonds at my next turn but timidly passed out 1H.



S   W   N   E

    1c  Dbl 1H

3S  P   4S

Down one. Normal enough. Four pairs took the phantom save in 5c.



S   W   N   E



After winning the spade lead, Ron cashed the cA and played a small club for eight tricks.

All the declarers in 3N went down, as did some in 2N.



Our auction was something like this:

S   W   N   E

1d  3S  4H

East led the SA and his diamond shift was won by the king. A club came back and Ron ended up down three, not playing West to be 1-1 in the red suits.



S   W   N   E

1d      2c

2H      2S

3d      3S


In our methods, my 2d would have denied 4H.

I was favored with a diamond lead. West won the second round of clubs and did not play a spade.



Our auction against this Precision pair was something like:

S   W   N   E

    1d  2c  X

3c  P   P   X

P   3S

I won Ron's heart lead and shifted to the c9. -140.

A few pairs reached 4S or NT contracts or sold to undoubled club part-scores. Two EW pairs were +300 against 3cX.



S   W   N   E

        2H  X

3H  X   4S

Ron played this awkward contract well to take 10 tricks. It turned out to be cold on the lie of the cards.

HA x x x

Hx Q K ruff

dx K x x

Hx x x ruff

Dx x Q x

Sx x Q x

SA x x K

Now South can score only his long trump.


S   W   N   E


    2c      2H

    2N      3N

I won the diamond lead in hand and led the cJ, then a club to the Q, cA. Now a spade, and the defense cashed their three heart tricks. +400.

Not at all flat. Some pairs stayed out of game, others made overtricks in 3N.



I don't remember the auction. Our opponents sniffed at slam but did well to stay at the four level.

12% for -420.


S   W   N   E

    1N      2c

    2d      3H!

    4S!     4S

3H showed 5S and 4H. 4S showed good trump.

Our opponents managed to score both their aces.



S   W   N   E

        P   P

1d  1S  P   2d

P   2H  P   2S

North led a diamond to the Ace and south returned a heart after some thought. I decided to duck and was happy to win the 9 in dummy. It was difficult to go wrong now. I played the K and A of trump and led a heart from the dummy. When North got in with his trump he had to give me a trick, an entry, or both.



S   W   N   E


1S  X   P   2d

P   3d

Ron won the HK lead, played a diamond to the ace and a club to the ace. Something good must have happened now, because we ended up +130. Other declarers took 9 or 11 tricks.


S   W   N   E

1N  2c! P   2H

P   P   3c

I was West and showed both majors. North's 3c turned out to trade +100 for -100. How to tell?



S   W   N   E

    3d  P   4d

X   P   5c

Six pairs were in 5c, presumably on similar auctions. Five reached the slam, one played 7c, and one defended 4dX.



We played this against the pair who finished a close second. They reached the normal spot of 4H. It's better than 3N if and only if the defenders will lead a club against 3N. On most auctions that lead would be far from obvious.



East opened 1N and took the normal seven tricks on a spade lead. Two declarers were set, or set themselves, while one made an overtrick.

Two pairs competed our way and went down one in a black suit. That would have shown a profit NV but cost them here.



S   W   N   E

1S      2c

3S      3N



6N is above par. It will make with 3-3 clubs or the SJ falling or an unlikely squeeze. Ignoring the squeeze that's 36% + (64% * ( (3/7) * 62% + (2/7) * 31% + (1/7) * 7% )) ~= 59%. On a heart lead declarer must be careful to put up the K.

3 other pairs played NT games, four bid and made 6NT, five played in spade games. The pairs playing in spades tilt the matchpoint odds against bidding the slam, even though it will make more often than not.



S   W   N   E

    1c  P   1S

X   XX! 2d  2S

2N  P   3c  P


Ron lost two aces for +150.


We ended up with 56.73%. An average carryover placed us third going into the final session.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The 2018 Goldman Pairs in NYC

Steve Nellissen and I were regular partners from the late '80s through the early '90s. We could be found most Wednesday nights at the IMP pair game at the old Cavendish club on the East Side. Our highest NABC finish was 5-8 in the Spingold in Salt Lake City in 1988. Steve stopped playing as much after he and his wife Amy had their first daughter, and I went on to a succession of other partners.

Steve's children are now both out of college and he's started playing more, as well as teaching at The Bridge Table in Bergen County, a club Amy started and they now both run. Steve and I have been playing on BBO for a year or so in Jimmy Cayne's practice matches and we managed to win the Truscott BAM at the Kaplan Regional in December, though as teammates rather than partners.

We made a date to play in the Goldman Pairs in May. Started in 1929, this was for a time the most prestigious pair game in the country. Oswald Jacoby was a member of the winning pair in the inaugural event, apparently playing in his first duplicate.

Also playing in that 1929 Goldman were Johnny Rau and Billy Barrett. They caused a sensation with their use of what they termed "psychic bidding." The tactic remains controversial. Johnny became one of the ACBL's first life masters and was a regular on the Culbertson teams in the '30s. He retired from bridge in 1940 to concentrate on the insurance business. Rau returned to bridge in the mid-70s after a succesful insurance career. My early bridge mentor Richard Lessler introduced me to Johnny at the Oakland Bridge Center. We played a few club games and Regionals. As best I recall, though, he never psyched with me!

Steve and I got off to a rocky start in the Goldmans this year. Our opponents played better than we did on Saturday and we were lucky to finish 25th with 26 pairs qualifying. One thing I've learned over the years, though, is that one cannot win without reaching the final!

We played better on Sunday than we had on Saturday, and our opponents played worse. One of our good results in the morning session was
 10 9 K Q 7 6 9 A J 10 7 6 2
 Q 7 6 3 J 8 5 2 10 2 K 9 3
 J 4 2 10 9 3 K Q J 8 7 5 4
 A K 8 5 A 4 A 6 4 3 Q 8 5

Our auction (I was South):

N  E  S   W
1c 2d Dbl P
2H P  3d  P
3H P  6c

I could have probed further with 3S but 6c seemed the most likely spot for us so I blasted. I thought at the time that this was a routine result, but perhaps playing weak notrumps helped us. I knew Steve would not hold a balanced hand with 12-14 HCP. With the club king onside we scored all the tricks and 11 matchpoints on a 12 top.

We had a 60% game in the first session, 187 on a 256 top for anyone who remembers those! We also did well in the afternoon. I thought we'd be in the running in spite of a poor last board where we opened a weak NT and scored +90 with two or three spades cold our way in a 4-4 fit. When the scores were posted, though, we were second to Peter Trenka and Magnus Olafsson.

I didn't think much more about it but an hour later I got a call from Allen Kahn, one of our Spingold teammates from 1988. He asked whether we had noticed the scoring error during our round. We had not – it turned out that our two plusses had been scored as two minuses. We held most of the high cards and that gave us two zeros. Correcting the errors gave us an additional 9.5 matchpoints on an 11 top, enough to improve our session score to 65% and move us from second to first. Thanks for the game, Steve!

Friday, July 13, 2018

More on the ban

A few bridge friends have asked me to post more of the context leading to the ban. Here’s what happened, along with my thoughts at the time.

On Wednesday, June 27, John McAllister posted an article on BridgeWinners regarding his podcast interview with me. BridgeWinners chooses to make it a “featured” article and helps him edit it before posting. Besides a link to the podcast and one to my Keller convention it contains these two links – I’ve pasted in John’s text:
The first article which we discuss by John Hodgman: 
The second, an article penned by Adam himself which helped me to appreciate Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism:
John's article attracted a dozen or more critical comments, some complaining that a discussion of Objectivism is out of place on a bridge site, and BridgeWinners pulled it pending review. I noticed some of the comments before the article was taken down and, having seen how these things can proceed on BridgeWinners and other sites, send them a short note with an offer:
BridgeWinners has set itself a challenging task by resolving to adjudicate the suitability of any post that attracts too many negative votes. Before you hid John's "Setting Trick" feature article I was going to post the following, but I was too slow. Perhaps you can use it to good effect: 
"Ayn Rand often evokes powerful feelings, both positive and negative. I know from experience that a BridgeWinners forum may not be the best place to debate her philosophy, even in terms of how it relates to bridge. I'll be happy to discuss it with anyone via email, private message here, or on my blog."
BridgeWinners replied, noting that the site is intended for bridge-related topics only and asking me not to bring up Objectivism again on their site. They seemed to believe that I had used their site for some nefarious purpose. I wrote back:

I am confused. I have not mentioned Objectivism on BridgeWinners, certainly not lately. I did not even post to the thread in question!
BridgeWinners replied, asking me not to post about how I’d be happy to talk about Ayn Rand. They also note that there’s something about her in my profile, but that it’s not objectionable in and of itself. I understand from this that I should not mention Ayn Rand or her philosophy in a post. I respond:
I could word it differently, so as to have no mention of philosophy or philosophers! My intent is to try to satisfy those BW users who want to discuss further and BW itself which prefers that such discussion not happen on the site.
In posting this now, I realize that I should have clarified that I meant "discuss the interview further" and not "discuss Ayn Rand further." BridgeWinners likely assumed I meant the latter.

BridgeWinners replied “Sorry, no.” and noted that my views on Ayn Rand are well-known and that anyone who wanted could send me a private message. I remain puzzled. I cannot figure out what they object to. But I know I should post only links related to bridge.

By now it’s Friday morning, June 29. Seeking clarification I write:
BridgeWinners users have no way to know that I'd be willing to correspond, for a couple reasons. One is that John's post is no longer visible – I don't know whether you plan to restore it. Another is that they don't know that you've asked me not to respond publicly. 
Have you considered posting a list of topics that are considered off-limits?
I could post something like this: (post elided…)
BridgeWinners had not responded by Friday evening. I took the lack of reply to mean that they had no objection to my proposed post. In any case, I could not imagine what they might object to. They had requested no comments or links unrelated to Bridge. While they had not identified any such unrelated links in John's post I presumed that a link to an episode of a bridge podcast was so clearly related to bridge that it had to fit within the BW community guidelines. I still think so.

I do not make a regular practice of asking for permission before posting, and BW would not be tenable if such permission were required on a routine basis, but I knew that this was a sensitive topic for them. I ran the post by them so that they would have a chance to object and explain how it would violate their guidelines. Their subsequent take was that I ought to have waited to hear from them before posting. In retrospect, it seems likely that I would never have heard from them.

My further thoughts

BW is a wonderful service. Its attempts to promote civil discourse, though, seem likely to me to lead to the opposite. In effect, they provide a "heckler's veto."

BridgeWinners' moderator indicated that he did not wish to discuss the matter further and that there was no avenue for appeal. Subsequent correspondence with BridgeWinners' principals indicated that they believed that John’s original post generated bad will and that reposting a link to the interview could cause "negative associations". This I at least understood, though I don’t think it’s a sound approach.

We seem to live in a society where anything anyone claims to be offended by is automatically deemed offensive, and we are urged to bend over backward to avoid the possibility of giving offense. This is analogous to what would be known as a “chilling effect” were the government involved. By my lights, BW as a private entity has the right to do as it pleases, but I find their policy shortsighted and I will have no part of it.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Slam play problem from the Transnational in Chennai in 2015


2♠ showed 3-10 HCP. North leads the 10. Plan the play. If you lead a round of trump everyone follows.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

How to get banned on BridgeWinners

On Friday I posted the following at Something about it must be truly offensive since it was deleted and I was barred from any further posts. The ban is not permanent, but I can see no reason I'd want to post in the future.
John McAllister recently interviewed me on his podcast "The Setting Trick." You can find the episode here:
Given John's other guest I was pleased to receive top billing! 
BridgeWinners has deemed some of the content too racy (or something) for public discussion, but I'll be happy to answer any questions via private message or on my blog.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

My first podcast interview, on John McAllister's podcast "The Setting Trick." I got top billing!