Archive for April, 2009

On the role of beauty and regret in bridge.

Does bridge meet art, and if so where?

I was recently reading a review of a book of chess games which was rather dismissive of The Evergreen Game, one of the classically famous games of the Romantic period.

Bridge doesn’t have periods, it doesn’t have famous hands or themes in the way chess does. Aesthetics don’t have the same weight in the bridge player’s mind, as far as I can tell. Coming to bridge from chess where beauty counted for so much – where one had an obligation to be aesthetically pleasing – this came to me as something of a surprise.

One of the things the reviewer had against this particular game (and presumably, therefore, the period) it was its simplicity. It has a famous sacrificial theme with attendant variations. Yet do not simplicity and beauty go hand in hand and do not we bridge players get our pleasure more of the simple moments than the complex ones? If you perform a backwash squeeze with a triple somersault and a forward tuck landing does that really stay with you the way a simple flip of a card onto the table might which is diabolically deceptive and subsequently wins you the hand?

I was wondering if the difference in part between these two scenarios that makes the latter aesthetically important and the former trivial is that the trivial, but complex one, is there for the taking. The cards lie a particular way, therefore…The simple act of deception, however, requires a creative interaction between you and the cards. Even if you don’t think of it the backwash squeeze is still there. But the one card deceptive play is only there because you create it in your mind.

That made me wonder if it affects the nature of regret in bridge. Because if you have an aesthetic duty to the game, then the regret that follows the errant path is really quite profound. You have disappointed the game as you might disappoint God. You have let down so much more than a mere partner or teammate, or a result.

Just so we have a clear understanding of what is meant by regret, I have in mind Gerald Abraham’s distinction between it and sorrow:

“Sorrow emphasises, by reluctant acceptance, the goneness of what has gone. Regret dwells on the persistent reality of what might have been…..The thought that what might have been has, in fact, not been, does not deprive the might have been of reality, in the way that the sorrowful acceptance of some present anguish exorcises the spectres of the past. Regret stays sadly and quietly with the mind; dwelling on unactual realities….

“To many chess players this experience is real – is at once acute and chronic. When the old campaigner Morry was asked by a spectator: ‘What is that player thinking about?’ he replied: ‘He’s not thinking, he’s regretting.’ But the person referred to was living in a real world: the world in which he moved the other Rook; the world in which he did not foolishly capture the Pawn, or foolishly refuse the Pawn, as the case may be….

“[The] chess player does not accept as valid a rigid distinction between the ‘actually is’ and the ‘never was.’ He does not accept, in other words, the unreality of possibility, including the possibilities of the past. To the logician the whole issue is too easy: true or false. It is just untrue to say: ‘I moved the King’s Rook,’ when in fact you moved the Queen’s Rook. And if you say: ‘But what if I feel as if I had moved the King’s Rook?’ he will reply, if he is a modern: ‘From a false proposition, all absurdities follow.’ But the chess player will not be convinced, for he has lived in a dimension of reality which professional philosophers ignore or pretend to ignore. His regrets accompany him in a dimension of thought which even the idealists find hard to recognise….

“Most taking of all words: it might have been. I do not know whether the philosopher Bergson was a chess player…..But if I ever meet Bergson in the shades, I’ll tell him that the chess players of the world know the real meaning of The Reality of Time. I do not refer to Zietnot, which is time mechanised and formalised, and only a clog to the creative spirit. I refer to the richness of time, with all its possible dimensions which are the dimensions of possibility.”

I’m off to Adelaide (as are some of those reading this) today. I’d really love to have everybody’s thoughts on this topic. And, if it comes to that, hands. Are there hands you’ve played which conjure up the sense of this post? Is there a point at which you think that art is more important than odds? Do you think that art can beat the odds, which after all, Seres most certainly did. If you have a hand in mind but laying it out is not your thing, email it to me: cathyc@pioneerbooks.com.au I’ll do the rest.

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April 30, 2009 at 8:34 am 48 comments

The Victorian Playoff continued

Sorry, the big question I was going to ask everybody has to wait til tomorrow, as I think this story and hand are relevant to the topics in hand.

Yesterday I put up two posts. If you didn’t see the second one, a ‘what do you bid?’ you might want to look at it first before reading on….

Jamie Ebery, who was on the ‘B’ Australian team last year and the ‘A’ Australian team this year, sent me the following story about Hayden Blakeman who is on the Victorian Open team this year, his first really exciting result in bridge, though he’s been keen enough for some time.

When I was playing in the under 5 master point section at Essendon congress event (and not doing well either) I noticed Hayden for the first time. They announced him as the winner of the under 25 master point section (playing with John Cox). Then Martin Jacobs got up and said this is the guy that Keith Kat wanted to get his hands on to train up. Boy,.. was I envious, here we have a guy who is 1) Younger than me 2) better than me, and to top it all off he is going to get special training from the best player in the state. At that point I knew that I would never be as good as Hayden. Hence I have always closely watched his progress from that day forward. Cheers, Jamie.

Great story, thanks Jamie. Of course we need a hand to go with that, and it does fit in rather neatly with the hands we have been looking at.

Board 25
Dlr North
EW Vul

NORTH

sK983
h1AQJ862
d1A2
c5

WEST

sQ652
h14
d1876543
cK7

EAST

sAJ107
h1K9
d19
cA109863

SOUTH

s4
h110753
d1KQJ10
cQJ42

When the losing Butler team sat EW, North opened 1H, East overcalled 2C and South’s 4H bid ended the auction. An interesting hand in the context of the ongoing discussion about 6-4s and how they should be bid and what a high level negative double opposite that should show…

In the other room Blakeman for the winners sat East. Over the 1H opening he overcalled 1S!!! Smart bid 4H, Dilks 4S and now what should North do?

1H…….1S…….4H……4S
?

I think it is a really tough decision. In the end Beale pushed on to 5H, one down when the heart finesse failed. The Pennant team had won the board anyway, simply by getting to 4S.

April 29, 2009 at 9:12 am 10 comments

Your bid. Victorian Playoff continued.

This is the second post for Tuesday

sK983
h1AQJ862
d1A2
c5

EW vul, you are first in hand, IMPs.
You open 1H, LHO overcalls 1S, partner bids 4H, RHO 4S What now?

April 28, 2009 at 7:30 pm 6 comments

Victorian team playoff

This post has been updated 6 hours after being first published. There is now an additional hand, see below.

Please all drop by tomorrow, I have a question to pose which I hope you find interesting. I’d love everybody’s thoughts.

This board was right near the end of a closely fought contest, so it was enough to swing the whole affair.

Board 28
Dlr West
NS Vul

NORTH

sK10
h154
d1Q8
cQJ108753

WEST

sJ853
h1KQJ102
d1104
cAK

EAST

s 9
h1A8763
d197652
c42

SOUTH

s AQ7642
h19
d1AKJ3
c96

At both tables the auction began:

1H….P…..4H…..4S
?

For the Trials team West now doubled, East had no reason to remove that and now, of course, declarer picked trumps, +790.

Dilks for the Pennant team passed on the West cards and Blakeman decided to take the push now that his shortage was less likely to be opposite values. One down and a good swing to the eventual winners.

Although it looks like Blakeman might also have passed out 4S for one down, I wonder how true that is? Is there any case in 4S undoubled for hooking the spade on the basis that East is likely to have a singleton, irrespective of whether there has been a double by partner?

Update

It seems relevant, given the theme and the discussion of it, to present this hand, which took place earlier in the playoff:

Board 17
Dealer North
Nil Vul

NORTH

sAQJ2
h1A9853
d14
c765

WEST

sK873
h14
d1KJ3
cKQ1093

EAST

s95
h176
d1AQ9865
cA42

SOUTH

s1064
h1KQJ102
d11072
cJ8

Yes, 4H certainly need not be a singleton:

Morgan….Smart…..Hinge…..Beale
1H……….2D………4H………5D
All Pass. -50

In the other room:

Hollands…..Wein…..Gold…..Ozenir
1H………….2D……..4H…….Dble
All Pass -690

Double turned out disastrously, but is it such a bad bid? Whatever it means, presumably partner has to pass.

April 28, 2009 at 8:40 am 10 comments

To preempt or not, continued.

Updated 28 April: I passed with the big hand, but did wonder if I should have been more optimistic about its potential, not least because I’d hate to go down in 3D with 3NT gin. Not to mention you might be making 6C with 3D and 3NT failing!

It’s a pity now as I ask what should be done with the hand opposite the preempt (or not) that your answers will not be independent of knowing the situation, but still,

All Vul your partner opens 3D in first seat. What should you do with:

sAK92
h1Q92
d1
cAQJ872

The Victorian Open team playoff was on the weekend, a thrilling encounter, neck and neck throughout, but won in the end by the Pennant team. Commiserations to the losers.

Simon HINGE, Michael DILKS, Brad WEIN, David MORGAN, Serhat OZENIR & Hayden BLAKEMAN  - VBA Poath Rd Murrumbeena - Interstate Playoff winners -  26 Apr 2009: Source SJ HINGE 2009

Simon HINGE, Michael DILKS, Brad WEIN, David MORGAN, Serhat OZENIR & Hayden BLAKEMAN - VBA Poath Rd Murrumbeena - Interstate Playoff winners - 26 Apr 2009: Source SJ HINGE 2009

April 27, 2009 at 7:14 am 2 comments

To preempt or not…

All vul, first in hand, IMPs scoring you pick up:

sQ93
h1K6
d1QJ98432
c5

You don’t have a two-level option available, (though I am curious to know if that would be exercised by those who do). What call do you take?

April 25, 2009 at 9:47 am 7 comments

Toxic assets continued.

s
h1 AQ95
d1 AK8632
c 1065

Nil vul, IMPs scoring: (explanation of auction in last post)

1D….2C….3D….3S
5D….5S….Pass…Pass
?

Doesn’t the spade void look good, once partner hasn’t doubled? But are those clubs a toxic asset? Hate bidding on with no chance of making, but it has to be possible, if partner has something…..and meanwhile, why shouldn’t they be making? At least it’s going to be cheap.

So, 6D, double on my left, SK opening lead and:

NORTH

s95
h1108
d1Q1097
cAJ984

WEST

sKQJ3
h1J73
d14
cKQ732

EAST

sA1087642
h1K642
d1J5
c

SOUTH

s
h1AQ95
d1AK8632
c1065

After the non-club lead 6D was gin. Maybe you all hate the opening lead, but isn’t the double more at fault? Passing it around to partner to double makes it easier to start with a club, doesn’t it?

Did I go unpunished for doing something bad? Should partner have thought about doubling on the basis of his club ace? By all means pick away….

As for the other hand:

s A4
h1 J107
d1 AJ109
c 8763

Your side is vul, RHO opens 2H, 5-5 in hearts and another. Partner doubles in passout and you bid 2NT which is forcing and typically no clear action to take, ie, likely to pass 3C/D, but might be intending something excitable instead.

2H….Pass…..Pass….Dble
Pass…2NT….3H….Dble

I chose the same path as Khokan at this point. The cue bid and corrected 4S to 5C. But I was somewhat concerned that this might imply longer clubs then diamonds. At the same time, however, I was more concerned that 4NT after 4S might be blackwood. What about a direct 4NT bid over the double? Is that blackwood or equal length minors? And will we be bidding enough if we take the cue bid and the correction to 5C?

The auction continued:

2H….Pass…..Pass….Dble
Pass…2NT….3H….Dble
Pass…4H…..Pass….4S
Pass…5C…..All Pass

The whole hand is:

Board 18
Dealer E
NS Vul

NORTH
sKJ103
h1Q
d1Q32
cAKQJ2
WEST
sQ9865
h1A865
d14
c1095
EAST
s72
h1K9432
d1K8765
c4
SOUTH
sA4
h1J107
d1AJ109
c8763

The ‘Double and lead a trump’-ers are doing ok…not well enough to be excited by taking this action rather than bidding a game….and not as well as 6C. Do we want to be in 6C? Has North got more than we can expect from the second double, not forgetting that several of his HCP are irrelevant? And if we should be in slam, how do we get there???

Tomorrow: to preempt or not to preempt….that is the question.

April 24, 2009 at 9:43 am 11 comments

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