Archive for February, 2011

International standards

One of the things I don’t understand about the discussions we are having here at the moment is this idea that it is meaningful to compare Australia’s ranking at chess with its ranking at bridge. I would have thought it was obvious that because chess is attractive to play due to the structure of international tournaments and titles which permit something between expenses and a living to be made, depending on one’s standard, this has increased both the interest in chess competitively and the standard. This is not exactly a rocket science observation. The same happens in all sports that become professionalised.

Bridge is not. It is amateur. You can’t afford to play bridge at a high level unless you have a substantial disposable income to devote to it. This cuts out many individuals and whole countries from a meaningful relationship with the game.

I am suggesting that the point is that the standard of bridge is weak compared with chess around the world and this combined with far less players and less countries competing, eg at world championships, means that Australia holds its own relatively well in bridge. It will be interesting to see what happens to the standard of bridge if it ever does become a sport with prize money, but for now that is not even on the horizon.


February 26, 2011 at 3:23 am 20 comments

Plan the play answer

The problem was this making 3S on the NS cards:









West North East South
All Pass

Contract: 3S
Opening lead: S3

I read this in bed a few nights ago (yes, that’s what life is like, reading bridge books in bed, sigh), I gather it’s from Bridge with a Feminine Touch. I thought the answer given was cute. Win in hand, play diamonds and at the point where West covers, you then play the C10, East has to cover and you’ve made when clubs are 3-3 and the 4-2 break for which you can cater. If you win the first spade in dummy and play the C10, West will be able to exit with the diamond king. Hence you have to win in hand to maintain the entry that can’t be damaged.

Isn’t this nice?

February 24, 2011 at 7:20 am 3 comments

I should have stayed in bed.

What a crap start to the day.

Nobody cares to comment on the hand I posted yesterday – so that’s what happens when you put bridge content on your bridge blog.

And I discover that the chess community all around the world is fighting about everything and nothing. It’s odd that they seem so much better off: prize money, publicity, part of the education system, a household name and yet they argue nonetheless.

Much of the argument was about what the administration should do for them. I confess that I’m not a big fan of criticising administration. If you aren’t prepared to do it, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of manoevering space for complaint. I don’t understand why any individual player of either game can’t help themselves to be better. The idea that we rely on others for this doesn’t make any sense to me.

I don’t think that anybody is disagreeing, for example, that we need to play stronger opposition – so go out there into the world and do so. What’s stopping you? I do love the idea that the ABF brings teams to Australia, but it really isn’t the sensible answer. If you care, go overseas and play. If you don’t care, don’t!

Speaking of administration, the details for the ANOT are available now. Make your plans!

I’m leaving the hand today, just in case somebody has a go at it….

February 22, 2011 at 11:25 pm 5 comments

Plan the play

Sorry, comments suppressed for a bit in case anybody wants a go at this one. I don’t know how to suppress comments for one post only and as you know I’m in bed while a lot of you are awake at the moment, so apologies for delays in approving comments on other posts…I’ll try to get up in the middle of the night in case (!)

Well…we could have some bridge, just for a change. Not that the arguments won’t continue, I hope.





West North East South
All Pass

Contract: 3S
Opening lead: S3

February 22, 2011 at 2:14 am 4 comments

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top IX

Much as it is obviously important to get bridge into schools and into homes, at both of which bridge has so far failed dismally, this doesn’t explain what Australians can do compared with the rest of the world: after all, bridge is non-existent in the home and school elsewhere too.

It IS all about distance and isolation, that seems obvious. Yet that can’t be the only issue. After all, Indonesia has had a world class group at the top – not yet managing to win a world championship, but that may only be because of habit – while we don’t. And it is resting on a base of hardly any registered players. How much of their experience is the result of money and how much and how spent? Certainly they used to support our tournaments much as most of the matches must have been a ‘waste of time’ for them, if we are to use the argument that you need to play against stronger players. Yet presumably they did get something out of that, I don’t think it was frivilously done, so presumably they saw playing in a weak tournament against mostly weaker players nonetheless beneficial. Maybe it is simply that it is so much cheaper to come here.

One of the things that strikes me is a continuing theme of what the ABF should do for us. What about what we can do for ourselves? Although the world is getting smaller, which is good for Australia, it seems to be even better for everybody else. We DO need to access stronger competition. Having said that, the internet is way better than nothing. I don’t really understand why a lot of top Australian players eschewed playing against Cayne teams. This is fabulous practise. I dearly wish that Garozzo was still on the team, but all the same. One of the things learnt from these games is that the real top players respect the game and their opponents in exemplary fashion. When I play against Garozzo or Versace or others of their ilk, I Ifeel like they are playing a world championship final.

I continue to beg to differ with those that think this is not important. It IS important to think that all bridge is the same. This attitude that now we are playing a patzer so – SO??? – is wrong.

It isn’t easy to play properly on BBO. You have to turn everything else off – not just your email and twitter – but day to day life too. Dinner, washing up, family, whatever else wouldn’t be in your face if you were playing in a tournament. You have to value every hand equally, not have an attitude that this hand doesn’t count, not really, and therefore you don’t have to try. I’m finding it even worse at the moment. Since I’m in Europe, Cayne matches start at 1am for me. I’ve played some since I got here and try as I might to be a human being at that hour, I’ve never really made it. Still, the fact is that we are often playing Italians and other Europeans who also have to start at that hour and they manage, so I guess I should be able to as well.

Maybe there are other ways of approaching our individual budgets. I felt like I made such a saving not going to Canberra this year. It covered not just my return airfare to Europe but some left over too. It doesn’t take much thinking along those lines to see that it has to be possible to take the savings from withdrawing from the tournament scene in Australia for a year to make a trip – carefully planned – to make the most out of strong tournaments elsewhere.

Still, sorry, I’ve forgotten who has already made this point: if the ABF could spend money bringing top teams here from overseas for our players to compete against in meaningful ways that would be great. But I don’t know if it comes close to replacing playing overseas ourselves.

February 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm Leave a comment

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top VIII

This is my second post for today. We seem to be discussing all sorts of different things that I hope we can turn into something more coherent and structured at some point. But for now, let’s go where things take us.


Sartaj made this comment recently:

Playing against weak players helps reinforce our prejudices.

There are some situations a player will get right 95 percent of the time in his career. 19 times out of 20 times, he will make the winning play or bid. The one time he gets it wrong, he kicks himself “How could I be so stupid ?”

The impact of nervous tension on the breakdown in process and developing self-awareness for our own delivery mechanism is what we need to understand. And address. Playing tough opponents simulates some sense of pressure and discomfort.

Or otherwise we can stick with our machoistic notions and get hands right in pubs, telephone conversations and internet forums; and lose every knock-out match we play

Prompting these thoughts:

(1) I wonder how many world championships Australia has come back from crying that we did alright against the good teams, it’s the patzers we don’t score enough again.

(2) There must be good teams out there ruing the idea that they don’t get enough against the patzers…meaning Australia, of course.

So, the point is that it is wrong to think of the opposition as being weak or strong. They are the opposition, full stop. The patzer might play well against us. Might not. A ‘good’ player, whatever we think that is, might play well against us and might not. You look at your cards, you try to do the right thing with them, full stop.

If Australian players respected all their opponents, as good sportsmen do in professional sports, they would win more against the ‘weak’ players.

February 21, 2011 at 4:17 am 3 comments

Issues about how to better our bridge at the top VII

Please refer to Ben’s lengthy comment yesterday before reading this!

I’m sorry, it would never cross my mind to compare titles in bridge and chess. At local level everybody is a grandmaster in bridge, right? Do you KNOW anybody who isn’t? In chess the title is only international and anybody can get it by competing in appropriately graded international events and performing as required. Not only that, but along the way you’ve picked up prize money. In bridge you can only become a grandmaster, talking of the international title now, by playing in world championships. That’s it! That means almost nobody can ever think of becoming a grandmaster. Chess, by the way, ranks grandmasters in meaningful ways, so that there are expressions such as ‘super grandmasters.’ A spade may be a spade, but a grandmaster is not a grandmaster.

The difficulty of becoming a bridge grandmaster certainly makes it more elitist, but it also makes it obviously unfair. You could be the best player in the world and never get the chance at this title because you play for the wrong country or you simply can’t afford to set about playing. Because there is no prize money in bridge and because you only get any expenses at the level where you are playing internationally – if then – it costs a fortune to play bridge at the top level. In Australia you have to play probably at least several national events, then a playoff. At that point you have spent lots of money, you’ve spent most of your leave and you still have the world championships to go. Only wealthy people can think about playing bridge ‘seriously’. Bruce yesterday said that bridge sucks and that the ABF should put money into prizes, but it’s a catch 22, isn’t it? The players who are there are wealthy and don’t want prize money. The people who can’t afford to play an amateur game have already taken up chess or golf or….Correct me if I’m wrong, but by international standards in bridge I rather think that the ABF is doing a splendid job of getting people to play. Since the players themselves don’t care if there is prize money, one can hardly blame the ABF altogether, if at all, for the situation. It is a democracy we live in. The ABF is us. What the ABF does, however, to attract what we might call ‘bums on seats’ is to dumb bridge down. At the moment, for example, they are giving subsidies to weak players to play in Canberra. Weak players who get their own national championship and title!!! Easy game, huh.

The bottom line is that while we treat bridge like that – and the TOP of bridge like that – it will be looked down upon by society at large for good reason. We will never get sponsorship because even when we did have sponsorship irresponsible things was done with it. Take a Blue Ribbon Pairs years ago, early eighties, which had sponsorship in the form of Club Med holidays. It was announced AFTER the qualifying that it would go to the winner of the bottom (or thereabouts) consolation. What sponsor is going to put up with that? How does it look when the media come to report on the event and we proudly announce ‘oh, no, the WINNERS don’t get anything. We couldn’t have that. But one of the worst pairs in the event, they get a good prize.’ End of sponsorship, end of media interest, end of looking even remotely legitimate.

So, coming back to the beginning of this, the average non-chess player out there knows that being a grandmaster is amazing – and it really is a fine feat, even though there are more grand masters than there used to be. We could also point out that at national level there are more grandmasters in bridge than there used to be. In that sense, I expect it means rather less than it used to. Perhaps somebody could correct me on this if appropriate. The average non-bridge player knows that their aunt is a grandmaster. It is quite clear that that average person knows that the one means something and one doesn’t. They have a hazy idea that this doesn’t make their aunt a rocket scientist and an equally vague idea that anybody who is bright enough to be a chess GM is some sort of genius. Writing this makes me wonder how at a national level we can even have titles such as grandmaster when they are international titles too…

Chess players in Australia have exactly the same problem as bridge players of not playing nearly enough against good players and they never all click at Olympiads. However, individuals do, therefore we have individuals who have won board prizes at chess Olympiads, which I consider to be something of a feat…..

The net consequence of treating bridge as something for rich people to play, with prizes and important sounding titles for weak players is that it makes the job of selling it in the places important to do so, much harder. How can you sell it to the education system, for example? For obvious reasons bridge is behind the eight ball in terms of how it looks, but the bridge community itself only makes that worse.

February 21, 2011 at 4:05 am 2 comments

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