Diary of a Bridge Pro #1

Diary of a Bridge Pro #1 by Brian Glubok

And so we begin.
By the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, Howard Schenken, Waldemar von Zedtwitz, Oswald Jacoby, Edgar Kaplan, Alvin Leon Roth, and finally, Alvin’s unrelated (as far as I know) namesake, novelist Phillip Roth, I vow to make a sincere and heartfelt effort to inform and entertain my readers (if any). Let’s start with a Steely Dan lyric, this came into my head right away as I began this.
Steely Dan is sometimes known as “The Thinking Man’s Rock Group”. For a deconstruction of the lyrics to “Deacon Blues”, click on the link above.
For a live version of the song, click on this:
This is the lyric I can’t shake: “I cried when I wrote this song – sue me if I play too long.”
Writer’s Note: My blog entries may feel long at times – you’ve been warned!

Triggers, one event leading to another. They’re a thing. Here’s one – the event that triggered me to write this now: When I arrived at the tournament this morning (The Nationals in Louisville, I mean) – I saw dozens of people, eventually hundreds, many of whom I have known well for decades.
One of the very first was Richard Oshlag – he greeted me warmly and asked, “What are you doing the last weekend of Toronto?”
Seasoned (tournament) bridge players have their (our) own dialect – “last weekend of Toronto” refers, of course, to the last weekend of the forthcoming Summer Nationals…
There at the Galt House, in that broad corridor between the coffee stand and the playing rooms (National Events in that right-hand tower, I see zillions of people from my present and past.
Nick Nickell crosses into the playing room. The Platinum Pairs will begin in this room shortly – “How’s my favorite tycoon?” I ask him.
He chuckles, gracious.
I don’t ask him if he’s still a billionaire, or if he’s surged past that by now. It is not the sort of thing one asks of a long-time friend, employer, partner, opponent. It is the sort of thing people with a few hundred million dollars or more wonder about one another.
My web-search for Nick (plus “Kelso Corp”) leads to a pleasant profile picture, including modest mention of his staggering tournament bridge achievements (20 National Championships, represented the US internationally in 18 of 23 years) – He really is my favorite tycoon.

Speaking of Nick, I’d love to describe the epic elevator encounter I had with him in the autumn of 2018 – we’d had in that building at 130-something East 58th Street – Honors Bridge Club leased space there for years, and Nick and Woody Allen both patronized an elite physical therapist on a middle floor.
My conversation with Woody had me so engaged that it was several floors before I was like, “WTF? Nick?” But I digress.

The question arises: Brian, why aren’t you playing? Or, returning to the “Diary” format, naturally I’ve been asked, “Who are your games this week?” I had two appealing offers for the Platinum Pairs – Alex Kolesnik and Michael Xu. I let both those slide, and I’m writing this instead. I’m fine with that. I’m loving writing this. I’d told occasional partner Ed Zuckerberg, an avid bridge enthusiast and father of Facebook’s Mark, that I would keep the first Thursday open for him. He didn’t arrive until late last night, so that was a no-go. On the plus side, when NC pro Peter Boyd-Bowman asked, “Who are your games this week?”, I was able to reply, “I was supposed to play with Ed Zuckerberg today, but I’m not sure he’ll be here in time….”
Peter, no slouch at bridge or at Improvisational Comedy (the real game many of us are involved in here) countered, “Isn’t he busy helping Mark prepare for his wrestling match with Elon Musk?”
Peter is happy to take a break from running his bridge club in North Carolina and play professionally in tournaments, especially those on the east coast. Contact Peter directly at: his Triad Bridge Club in Greensboro. If you’re looking for an ACBL bridge club in North Carolina, or to hire Peter for a tournament (an excellent idea, I heartily recommend this), you can find a club directory and Peter’s contact information here:

Oshlag, Nick, and here are two other long-time friends I saw in those few minutes before the game started today:
Bronia Jenkins (our new CEO of the ACBL)
“Congratulations on breaching the castle walls,” I told her. Bronia is so well-liked among the touring pros and other industry people that there is a broad feeling that “one of our own” had finally been admitted to a position of power.
Paul Lewis surged past on a beeline to the coffee stand. I’ve known Paul since the seventies.
Back then I was a teen-age bridge phenom and he was in his twenties, recently graduated from MIT. Much more recently, when I played against him at the regional in Jersey last June, he suggested I write something on my experience in bridge, some sort of memoir, perhaps. The following month, during last summer’s Chicago nationals, Paul and I had dinner at the same restaurant. Paul was there with Kitty (Munson Bethe Cooper) and Bart (Bramley). Along with Paul, Kitty and Bart were both in Boston during that golden era – Kitty at Harvard and Bart at MIT (Class of ’69, Bart wants you to be clear on this).
We all rose to leave at the same time, and Paul gave me a big grin as he threw this thought at
me: “Diary of a Bridge Pro!”
Note to Paul: It looks like there’s some truth to that old adage that speaking a thought may cause it to become manifest.

Same as last June in Jersey, Paul is partnering Jill Marshall here – I have a favorite Jill Marshall hand to share, I’ll write that up soon. If you want to hire Jazzy Jill to play bridge, you can contact her here: Jazzyjill0641@gmail.com
Speaking of bridge hands, here are a pair that I kibitzed yesterday (Finals of the Baldwin NAOP).

Against the New England representative, a pair I didn’t recognize had these two hands facing each other:
xxxx, KQTxx, Ax, AK – This, opposite, ATxx, Axx, xxx, QJx –
The astute reader will note that declarer will probably make an easy 11 tricks in either eight-card major suit fit – 4H or 4S for plus 450 should be an almost universal result. In the year 2024, however, the bidding is more likely to go 1NT – 3NT (as it did at the table where I was kibitzing). The lead of the king of spades (from KQx) was very helpful to declarer, but there was still plenty of time to shift to diamonds when the defense was in with the second round of spades. Had declarer ducked the opening lead he would have had a fair chance to make an eleventh trick – the opening leader might not find the diamond shift from King-fourth, but what kind of player thinks it normal and auto to open a 14-16 range One No Trump with this hand? Four-five in the majors and too strong as well. Don’t get me started.

I found this meat-and-potatoes deal riveting as well: AJT9x, KTx, ATx, Jx opposite x, Jxx, Qxxxx, KQ8x –
I can easily imagine a player up-grading this hand to fourteen, but our hero, in this case, chose to open One Spade. His partner responded One No Trump, which was alerted as semi-forcing. As Opener, in deciding whether to pass or take a second bid with this hand, I would reason thus:
If I bid Two Diamonds, and then partner bids Two No Trump, will I go to game?
If the answer to this is, “No, I will pass Two No Trump”, then I might as well pass One No Trump (Who put the semi-in the semi-forcing bing-bong?)
Supplemental Note:
If you replace the lyrics to the chorus above (“Ooh ee ooh ah ah, Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing – Bang – ting tang walla walla bing bang” with, “….Who put the semi in the semi-forcing no trump?” it scans almost identically.

If I re-bid 2 Diamonds with this hand, what will I bid if partner jumps to 3S (showing the classic “three-card limit raise” type hand, dontcha know)?
Answer: I would probably pass 3 Spades – the doubleton jack of clubs is a downgrade, so basically I have a 5-3-3-2 12-count – why would I take a third bid?
Let’s swing around and look at responder’s problem:
x, Jxx, Qxxxx, KQ8x – Partner opens One Spade, you respond One No Trump, partner bids Two Diamonds. What now? Well, pass and Three Diamonds seem like the only two possibilities. Convention Phreaks (more on this tribe as we go along) might use the 3C bid here as some sort of artificial diamond
raise). At the table where I saw the deal played, responder had the good (lucky) judgement to pass 2D – since eight tricks were the limit, this decision to “Go Low” was the winner, and he duly brought in +90.
On a different day, Opener has Axxxx, A, AKxxx, xx and you make four overtricks in Two Diamonds for Plus 170. Partner, the opening bidder, asks, snide: “You didn’t want to keep it open for me?” I think I’ll pause shortly (in another 500 words or so?) and pose those two hands as problems: As Opener, do you bid over 1NT (assuming “semi-forcing”)? As Responder, do you bid over 2D?
I’ll ask Marty (Bergen) and Larry (Cohen) for sure – Jeff Rubens, Frank Stewart – maybe some other good players who are here in Louisville, like Vince Demuy or John Hurd, I bumped into them yesterday, saw Vince twice even, the first time with his lovely wife, as the two of them were walking along the Louisville riverfront yesterday afternoon. Joe Grue for sure. Almost immediately, perhaps inevitably, Vince and I soon found ourselves engaged in that endlessly engaging, popular parlor game of contemporary bridge pros, “Name the recently deceased major client.”
“Sylvia Moss,” I began.
“Josef (Blass),” Vince countered.
“Gary Donner,” I didn’t think to say, but might have.
:”Both Richies,” :Vince played, casual but decisive. Game over.
We both understood, when Vince said, “Both Richies”, he meant Richie Coren and Richie Schwartz – Vince and I played for both of those clients, transplanted Floridians originally from the northeast – Schwartz from Queens and Coren from suburban Philadelphia. They both died around the start of lockdown, Schwartz just before and Coren just after. At that point, I ceded the match to Vince – he was already two up, and I lacked an obvious reply. But I do know what I’m going to say to him next time I see him, probably later today:
:Barbara Sonsini!

I’m reminded of the old Village Voice feature, “Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies: (All dialogue guaranteed verbatim)”. To learn more of Stan Mack and see some of his work, click here:

I’d like to recommend the Baron Barclay Bridge Supply stand just opposite the playing area in the East Tower of the host Galt House.
When Oshlag asked me earlier today what I was doing the last weekend of Toronto this summer, the subtext was: Would you like to partner me (Richard) in the “Fast Pairs” – or, more specifically, the inaugural “Richard Oshlag Fast Pairs”. Earlier this year, to honor Richard, who has served the ACBL for decades now, the event, which he has won twice already, was named in his honor. When the announcement appeared in a post on BridgeWinners, I posted my “Oshlag story” and suggested that I would be likely to accept if Richard were to ask me to play.
After all, I love playing fast, and how often does one get an opportunity like this? If von Zedwitz had asked me to partner up in the first LM Pairs after they named it for him, would I have replied, “Sorry, Baron, not really a good fit for me….”
Richard: I accept.
Furthermore, I promise to report here, in a future blog entry, on my experience with Oshlag in that event this summer. Subject, of course, to prevailing conditions, and the unlikely onset of writer’s block (“Writer’s Glu-block?”) If I neglect to write for this medium on that occasion, Richard himself can do a fine job of it.
He’s not only an excellent bridge player, but a very capable writer as well (though his command of obscure Steely Dan lyrics may or may not rival my own). To Richard and all my other friends and acquaintances at this tournament here in Louisville and throughout our bridge world:
Thanks for the validation.
Running Word Count, Estimated:

– Glubok

Posted ByBrian Glubok

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