Archive for January, 2011

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top part II

Bridge has one advantage lacked by chess: financial security. Chess survives on almost no money. But this goes hand in hand with the reason why the one has money and the other doesn’t and this in turn affects issues to do with what the games are like at the top.

Chess has a meaningful ratings system and no money. Bridge sells ratings and has lots of money because people are more than happy to purchase them. The long and the short of it is that chess takes rating points away and bridge doesn’t. It can’t really, having worked out that it is the difference between having money and not.

The other way of making money is through tournaments. Chess runs tournaments in order to reward the players, bridge in order to make money. Part of the logic of that, once one is into the money-making business is to hold more and more tournaments and make them as popular as possible. This is most likely to work against the integrity of the tournament.

These factors add up to the following: a chess rating is earned by hard work and is an accurate reflection of one’s playing strength, a bridge rating is meaningless; a chess title is earned by hard work – to be the Australian champion has a real meaning and significance – while bridge titles, which are a dime a dozen simply cannot hold the same gravitas.

These are not the only, but are certainly important reasons why chess is seen in the community as something weighty while bridge is seen as trivial. Ie bridge sells itself as being trivial, chess as important. As a consequence, bridge has the money, chess the influence. Thus, while chess can gain sponsorship for its top tournaments, including amounts up to millions for world championships, bridge can virtually not attract a cent. Not that bridge wants to, since it sees money as something it wants to keep out of the game. But still, for society at large these are important issues. Society thinks money matters, that professionalism in sport matters. Chess is professionalised and bridge isn’t. BIG difference.

Above all we see this reflected in the school system. I have been given the following as merely ball park figures, but they are from one of the successful chess teaching businesses in Australia. There are going on for a hundred schools in Australia where chess is a curriculum subject and 2000 or so more where it is taught as an extra-curriculum subject. Bridge? I expect the figures are pretty much none and none. The reason is that chess is seen as activity of gravitas and bridge is not. In my opinion bridge will never be seen differently by society at large until IT sees itself as different, ie the administrations from world championship level downwards.

A few thoughts for now, more tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

January 20, 2011 at 6:53 am 12 comments

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top part I

Khokan yesterday raised big questions which I think will take a while to answer and right now I’m waiting for information to add to the discussion. Not to mention, I’m on anti-blood clotting drugs at the moment and I’ve cut my finger which is going to take hours to stop bleeding. So, we’ll do this in parts and start off with something that I started writing earlier in the day.

Yesterday Khokan wrote this:

On that subject (i.e., how to raise the prominence of Australia as a bridge-playing nation), IMO about the only time that Australia had any world profile was around 1986-1989, when Marston-Burgess came third in the World Pairs, Marston was nominated as the IBPA Player of the Year and Australia made the semis of the Bermuda Bowl.

Before and since then, it’s been pretty lean pickings, with some seconds and thirds at the PABF, and some OK performances at invitationals (e.g. Cavendish and NEC).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about the situation with Australian chess, so maybe a strategic approach to bridge administration in Australia can be developed.

Khokan, I think you are dead right that the mid-eighties were the last time Australia had a profile in bridge that meant something.

To be fair, that had something to do with system as well. We had ‘our own’ system in Australia and NZ: Symmetric Relay and in its more extreme form, ie forcing pass relay, it acquired an enormous amount of attention around the world. When you have a notorious system in the hands of people who are getting flashy results, that is bound to give you a profile when the result itself might not.

Unfortunately I suspect that the system itself became the victim of a process that happens often in bridge. One starts off with a fabulous, simple system that does the job and you tweak it and refine it and meddle with it until it becomes untenable. My first experience of this was Precision as played by the Borins. If you’ve read Norma’s book on it and given it a go, it is a wonderful system and incredibly simple. But it went throught that process systems often do where its practitioners started introducing double-dummy solutions into it. By that I mean, getting a result which could be blamed on system and changing system or adding to it in order to rectify the situation. This is a complete disaster for bidding methods generally. I can’t think of a more important thing to do to system than NOT change it until one has done a profound investigation of the implications. Even doing no more than adding to a system, rather than changing it, may have effects that are far-reaching without one realising at the time. I played with Norma for some time and the tweaking was relentless. It meant, however, in the end there were perfectly normal hands one no longer had a bid for. It became a nightmare.

I feel like this happened to Symmetric Relay as well. There was a period where it was like backroom. You could sit down with anybody and say ‘SR, 5 card majors’ or ‘SR, 4 card majors’ or ‘SR FPR’ and you didn’t need to have one moment of bidding discussion past that. But more and more, people started interfering with it so that in the end this was no longer possible. A great, great pity. It also made the methods inferior. And before you know it, the whole era is dead.

It was an era. The system made it an era. Marston and Burgess made it an era. However many nice results the odd Australian has overseas these days, nothing will compare because it was more than just results. It was a methodology, a philosophy, an approach. These two believed with complete conviction in what they were doing and they did it SO well. And because they believed in it, so did the rest of us. The odd thing, writing this now Khokan, in terms of the connection between chess and bridge that you raise, is that these were the first people who made me think that bridge could be like chess, that players worked hard and treated it in a professional way. All aspiring chess players do that, even if they are never going to be professional. Later as I became involved in Double Bay, I realised that Tim was the real professional, unsurpassed, but still. Marston and Burgess were utterly inspirational.

More tomorrow!

January 19, 2011 at 4:50 am 11 comments

How chess players think: opening lead continued.

You pick up:

s97
h1942
d1832
cAJ1054

You are on lead after this auction:

1NT……2C
2D……..2H
All Pass

Over the years I’ve wished I’ve kept data on how chess players think when they play bridge. One area that has consistently struck me as a fork in the road between them and non-chess players is that they are less dogmatic. This comes out particularly in leading away from aces against suit contracts. I had a hand in a GNOT against Ron Cooper, who was a classy chess player, where he underlead an ace against my major suit game – only lead that could work – and I rose king – only way to make, playing him to have done that. I don’t know if I would have played any non-chess player to have done so, irrespective of their ability. It wasn’t the first time this has happened, it won’t be the last.

So, here is my brother in action, holding that rubbishy collection with the badly placed CA. What can a chess player do? He led the CJ and followed with a low one when that held. Holding 2H to eight tricks was worth an IMP or so.

Dealer East
All Vul

NORTH 

sK1053
h1J8765
d1QJ6
c9

WEST 

sQJ42
h1KQ
d1K1054
cQ73

EAST 

s97
h1942
d1832
cAJ1054

SOUTH 

sA86
h1A103
d1A97
cK862

January 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm 3 comments

Another lead

You pick up:

s97
h1942
d1832
cAJ1054

You are on lead after this auction:

1NT……2C
2D……..2H
All Pass

See you tomorrow.

January 16, 2011 at 6:00 am 4 comments

What do you lead? Continued

You are on lead with the East hand against 6D, South launching into Roman Keycard en route, thus making him likely to hold second-round heart control….See yesterday’s post for a couple of comments on the possibilities here.

NORTH
Howe
sQ5
h1873
d1AKQ1086
cK9
WEST
Depasquale
sJ1094
h1Q5
d1J92
cQ743
EAST
Chua
s872
h1A9642
d17
cJ862
SOUTH
Ewart
sAK63
h1KJ10
d1543
cA105

As you can see, a low one is the only chance. Ben, I was with you and tried the ace. Well done Memphis Mojo who went for the low one, even though, as he says, partner never gets it.

Indeed, I rather recall a notorious example from the Brisbane Expo tournament – was that 1990 or thereabouts? Seamus Browne underled his ace against a slam and his partner was Zia who declined to put his queen in. So, yes, Memphis….it would appear you need some sort of genius partner to get this right!

Another opening lead tomorrow.

January 15, 2011 at 2:07 am 4 comments

What do you lead?

You find yourself on lead to 6D holding these:

s872
h1A9642
d17
cJ864

after this auction:

1D……..1S
2D……..4D RKC
5C……..6D Opener has two with the DQ

What do you think?

January 14, 2011 at 7:22 am 2 comments

The Man from Takapuna

So you pick up:

sKJ1084
h110
d1J4
cAQJ94

Second in hand, nil vul, teams, what do you do? I know, I know. It’s just a 1S opening, isn’t it? Not really. In the other room this hand opened 1S and when 4H was passed back to him, he continued 5C. You don’t want to, but what else can chickenman do? That went for 300.

About 99 times out of a hundred, I open this 1C and expect to comfortably bid most of my hand at a lower level. But I was playing with my little brother and trying to make him feel warm and safe. So I opened 1S, not considering for one moment that I have the Man from Takapuna on my left. I don’t know exactly what he does for a living. He’s a spy. Or he has bank accounts in Switzerland. He’s a slippery creature who never has what he should. The Man from Takapuna is as devious as they come.

He overcalled 1NT, partner raised my spades, a prompt 3NT from RHO, partner whips out a spade, declarer claims. This is the layout.

NORTH
Howe

sA52
h1876
d1AQ1065
c62

WEST
Depasquale

sQ763
h154
d1K72
cK753

EAST
Chua

sKJ1084
h110
d1J4
cAQJ94

SOUTH
Ewart

s9
h1AKQJ932
d1983
c108

I guess I could have bid 4C on the way out. It seems to me, however, that playing 5 card majors my partner is good enough for 3S over 1NT and that makes life easier for me. If we don’t have any points a nine card fit is probably essential.

As for the 1NT overcall, did it get what it deserved? Ie a big potential downside for a gain of 3 IMPs when it worked. In the other room the normal 4H bid by Hinge forced EW to bid at the five level….

January 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm 1 comment

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