Archive for December, 2010

Norma Borin

I spent just a couple of seasons playing with Norma around 1990 and our team dominated the national events as well as winning The Far East from a China that was already almost unbeatable within our zone. I’m not often proud of winning a women’s event, but that result was pleasing. Norma and I were dedicated chain-smokers and when we got to Singapore we discovered to our horror that smoking in the venue was not allowed. Our first thought was to go right back home, but. We rolled up our sleeves and played the meanest, quickest bridge you could imagine. Then we’d smoke a packet of cigarettes outside while waiting for our teammates. We had an amazing data record for the event, something like plus 20 a match from memory with our teammates being square and negative. You can see why I was so pleased we won.

During the last round against China, with everything in the balance, something quite bizarre happened. In the middle of the auction we were told to stop playing. In the closed room the players were sitting the wrong direction. We’d already played a lot of boards, but only a couple had to be cancelled including the one we were playing. This was pleasing to say the least, as we were in the middle of one of those horrible Precision auctions where the opener has 11-12 balanced and you are drifting about, getting too high and – saved by the bell! On one other hand, the Chinese girl to the left of me bared smoothly down to a singleton king as she was squeezed and I picked that to make a game…unfortunately I no longer have the hand.

Norma had a reputation on the odd occasion she tried the women’s of reducing her partners to quivering wrecks almost as soon as play began. A reputation which was quite backed up by the facts, so the inevitable jokes were made when I agreed to play with her for a bit. In fact she was utterly on my side and never a cross word was spoke. I think this must be a matter of temperaments gelling. I was always silent and irritated with myself when I did something wrong. She was consoling. Most girls playing with her went for the twittery approach to their errors and she SO didn’t want to have to deal with that.

I had played almost no women’s bridge at that stage apart from accidentally getting onto the 1988 Australian team and my first reaction, as well as my next few were to say ‘no’ and I did, to the idea. But how could that be right? This was one of Australia’s very best players asking me for a game. She resolutely played Open bridge, she’d come third in two Open world championships. And I was saying ‘thanks, but no’? It wasn’t really very bright of me. I was playing bridge all day every day at the time, mostly the $10 game in Double Bay and wanted to do anything that would improve my game. How could this not, even if it would mostly be against weak opposition.

Indeed, I learnt a lot. Two things stand out.

(1) We played her version of Precision and it was the first time I’d played that system properly. If you ever get the chance to read her ‘Precision Our Style’ do. It is a very nice system. We played a very souped up version – occasionally too souped up, but still.

(2) She was a fantastic world class defender, better than any I played with excepting Tim. Her opening leads were consistently the best or thereabouts. She taught me a lot in this regard. I used to underlead aces a lot when I played at the time, but after getting the ‘n’th one wrong, she said to me – and I have to say very nicely, since it must have irritated the daylights out of her – ‘if you are going to lead from those suits, cash it, don’t put me on the spot’. That turned out to be so, so true. Cashing them works a treat.

She was also, and I’d really like to make this statement in public for reasons which will be obvious to many if left unsaid, scrupulously ethical. I never felt the least discomfort in this regard.

There is a lot one could say of Norma that is best said by a Victorian of longer standing. However, it is obvious that one sees her influence far and wide here. The fantastic BBC club was the love of her life and it broke her heart to see its steady decline over the last few years. Now it’s under the new proprietorship of Ishmael Delmonte and I can only hope that it becomes the thriving institution of Victorian bridge that it was for decades.

One of the BBC’s most popular events was always the turn of the year congress. I see the new team are keeping up the tradition. Go to Kings and Queens for more.


December 31, 2010 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

Norma is dead.

I would like to write about Norma. Please come back tomorrow for that.

Oh, and nb: I’m not really sure what tomorrow means because I’m half a day behind as far as Australian readers go. I think I mean when you get up in the morning and I’ll write it tonight.

December 30, 2010 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

How do you play when sick?

Not long ago I was having a discussion with a chess player about one’s capacity to play while sick. I’ve always considered that something like a serious dose of the flu or even something like food poisoning doesn’t preclude playing well. Optimally well? Maybe. Maybe not having the energy to be bothered with extraneous considerations makes for more dedicated application to the job at hand.

I did expect, however, compared with chess and bridge, that speed chess would be an exception. It is quite a physical game and one has to be really switched on the whole time. As it happens a few Sundays ago I went to hospital with a very serious condition that had already made me ill for a couple of weeks. The day before, however, I played a speed chess competition and got a result that would have greatly pleased me even if I’d been 100% well, let alone close to dying, as I discovered was the case the next day when I became an emergency. I had many pulmonary embolisms as well as the flu, so I could scarcely breathe and had very little oxygen in my blood. I also had very little energy. Yet I had a performance rating of 2011, lost only to the winner and one other top player, and generally did not look like a person who had last played an event like that 25 years ago.

I should point out that I had certain advantages, nobody ‘knew’ me and being female afforded a presumption that I would be weaker than I was. But still, one might just as well argue that I gained nothing out of any of the players being ‘scared’ of me, something from which one can expect to receive an advantage now and then.

All in all, I’d say in bridge I’ve had some of my best results with serious doses of the flu.

I’m curious to know what other people think about this.


December 30, 2010 at 3:45 am 10 comments

My life at the moment

Right now I’m in Geneva.

When I added my last post during the Grand Nationals, I was expecting to start doing this regularly again. But I was sick and how sick transpired when I took myself off to hospital Sunday 5th December. I was very close to death it turned out, with – to quote the head doctor on my case – ‘many, many’ pulmonary embolisms covering my lungs. It was a couple of days before I was pronounced safe.

So, quite sick and although I’m out, I’m also needing to recover and at the moment have no energy. I’m ridiculously tired all the time! Still, at least I have oxygen in my blood now and that is really quite handy. I am still updating here and will do so over the next couple of days. But meanwhile, I have added feed updates on the links on the right, so you can subscribe and be advised when posts and drafts are updated. Hope that helps while I am being so irregular.

Season’s best to everybody. Have a great Christmas and New Year.


December 21, 2010 at 6:23 am 1 comment

December 2010
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