Diary of a Bridge Pro #2

Diary of a Bridge Pro #2 by Brian Glubok


  The first nationals I attended was in Washington, DC, in July of 1973. I was a precocious 13 year old who loved bridge. We had a family friend, the young widow of a friend of my father’s from his day as a reporter on a Chicago newspaper. I spent the week caddying, playing backgammon, playing bridge, and staying up most nights until sunrise. I had the time of my life and my passion for sandlot baseball soon faded in deference to my early (and lifelong?) obsession with bridge.

  By the time I was out of college ten years later (actually, by the time I was in college, five years later), I was attending most of the nationals – two out of three every year, on average, certainly – most years, more.

  Yesterday I wrote my first bridge blog – triggered by two encounters I had just as I arrived at the tournament venue. First, with long-time ACBL employee Rich Oshlag, and then, minutes later, with the Maier family, owners and operators of the leading bridge book supply company, Baron – Barclay.

  Voila, blog!


  Department of Old Jokes, Volume I, #1:

  “ A guy says, to his wife, “Honey, I’m hungry. Make me a malted….

  “Poof!” she replies. “You’re a malted!”


  I arrived at the tournament in Louisville Thursday morning, thinking “I really should have a bridge blog one day. Then, I ran into Rich Oshlag, and then I passed by the Baron-Barclay book stand.”

  Poof! I’ve got a blog!


   For those of you who like bidding systems, here’s some elaboration on the methods employed by Mitch Dunitz and Iftikhar Baqui to reach 3NT on Board 7 – I kibitzed this hand at the tail end of the Thursday morning session.


  Their bidding sequence (Opponents Silent): 1C – 1D – 1H – 2C – 2S – 2NT – 3NT. 

  One Club Opening: Precision Club, Strong Forcing and Artificial. Promises 16 or more High Card Points, the distribution is totally unknown. 

  One Diamond Response: 0-7 HCP, an artificial negative. Again, any distribution is possible. When Precision was first invented in the 1970’s, the One Diamond Response was also the bid of choice with 8 or more points and 4-4-4-1 distribution – that agreement disappeared before the eight-track did, and has stayed equally defunct.

  One Heart Rebid: Natural, Forcing for 1 Round, may have only four cards – any of these hands would be suitable for that sequence: 

  A) AKx, KQTxx, KJxx, Q 

  B) KJ9x, AQTxxx, Ax, K 

  C) Kx, AKJxxx, AQTx, J 

  D) KQTx, Jxxx, A, AKJx 

  E) Jxx, AKTx, A, KQTxx 

  F) A, AQJxxxx, AKx, Qx

  G) AQx, AKQxx, AKJx, A

  Two Clubs at Responder’s Second Turn: This is played as an artificial bid. Here’s a typical scheme of rebids for responder after 1C – 1D – 1H: 

  This is described as “5-7 HCP, no four card spade suit, no four card hear fit. This is correct, but we might as well note here: You should probably play this bid as “No spade suit, fewer than three-card heart fit, at least a good five points up to seven – “

  In other words, it’s okay to treat five (HCP) as four.

  While Ifti’s hand called for a 2C re-bid, let’s look at responder’s other possible bids after this Strong Club start of 1C – 1D – 1H:

  One Spade: 4 or more spades, 0-7 points – not forcing 

  One Notrump: 0-5 points – denies a four card heart fit (may have three) and also denies four spades 

  Two Clubs: Artificial, showing six or seven HCP (good five) – denies four spades or a three card heart fit. 

  Two Diamonds: Three Card Heart Fit, 6-7 HCP. The invention of this bid is attributed to legendary bidding theorist Eric Rodwell – without it, handling these types of Strong Club sequences is much more difficult. In tribute, I named this Two Diamond bid “Indiana Drury” (Eric was originally from Indiana). 

  Two Hearts: This simple raise shows 0-5 HCP, and a four card heart fit. Since One Heart by opener was forcing, responder must bid something, even with 0 HCP – One Spade, One No Trump, and Two Hearts are all acceptable, and none of them promise any points at all. 

  Two Spades, Two No Trump, Three Clubs, Three Diamonds: Different partnerships play these bids differently. I’ll ask around and see how experts define these sequences these days. None of these bids are central to the general approach. 

  Three Hearts: Four card heart fit, 6-7 support points 


  If you are already playing a (Strong) Club System, this approach will almost certainly improve your partnership bidding accuracy in these auctions. If not, you might be interested to be more familiar with the methods your opponents may employ against you.


  Follow-up on Yesterday’s Featured Bidding Problem: 

  I consulted with a variety of friends and experts on how they might bid this pair of hands: AJT9x, KTx, ATx, Jx, opposite x, Jxx, Q8xxx, KQ8x – the results surprised me. 

  I was surprised that most, including Jeff Rubens of Bridge World Magazine (available direct from BW and possibly through Baron-Barclay’s as well) thought the hand suitable for a One No Trump opening, assuming a range of 14-16. This jibes with the general contemporary expert philosophy “Upgrade frequently, never downgrade.” I first heard this expressed by Geoff Hampson, a Canadian-born bridge superstar, now living in Las Vegas. He’s not alone in employing this “Never downgrade” approach. Alex Kolesnik of California likes the One No Trump opening too. 

  To subscribe to Bridge World magazine, or simply visit their website, click here:


  I thought the hand an automatic One Spade opening, but that’s just me. 

  If you start with One Spade, assuming a One No Trump response. Should opener take a second bid? Assume One No Trump is semi-forcing.

  My thoughts ran: Why bid? If I call 2 Diamonds, then if responder has a maximum, a true invitation, he will bid 2NT or 3S over 2 Diamonds. I will expect 11 or 12 HCP. In that case I will have a close decision whether to go on to game. The great majority of the time, partner will have a “more normal” hand, Pass 1NT, I thought.

  Of my patchwork panel, many thought the hand too good for One Spade in the first place. 

  American Bridge Superstar Joe Grue argued strongly for both a One No Trump opening, and a Two Diamond rebid. 

   On the question of whether Responder should raise, after 1S – 1NT – 2D – no consensus has emerged yet. American Superstar Joe Grue certainly wasn’t “going low” – he prefers a One No Trump opening, but if he opened in the suit (he can live with One Spade) then he would certainly bid 2 Diamonds over One No Trump.

  Jeff Rubens agrees with Joe about the One No Trump opening (he would upgrade this 13), but if he “went low” with One Spade, then he would probably pass Responder’s Semi-forcing no trump response.

  One day when polls are enabled here, responder’s hand here would be a good spot for one:

  What do you bid with x, Jxx, Qxxxx, KQxx, after 1S – 1NT – 2D – ? 

  A) Pass 

  B) Three Diamonds 

  C) Other 


  I mentioned yesterday that friends have been asking me who I’m playing with this week. Apparently I’m doing something of a reboot of my bridge career – I’m here to see old friends and maybe find some new partners. No burning desire to play. 

  I have discovered a substantial desire to launch this blog, so I’m happy about that. 

  Write to me directly at the email address listed at the end of the text if you’d like to encourage me to continue. I need to know if this is reaching anyone! 

  Also, feel free to send your bridge questions or other inquiries there, and I’ll be happy to answer in a future blog. 


    I mentioned in yesterday’s inaugural blog that I intend to partner Richard Oshlag in the first-ever Oshlag Fast Pairs in Toronto next summer: Richard, what method do you want to use? I’m happy to play your usual system. I’m also open to playing Precision, or Transfer Responses to One Club. Let’s use whatever will be most comfortable and fun for you.  


  I had a great time last night, after the game, relaxing in the West Tower bar with Mitch Dunitz, joined by a series of others. Ron Smith, Mike and Sylwia McNamera, Olin Hubert, Magnus and Disa (from Iceland by way of Alabama and NYC). Bart Bramley and Kitty Cooper were there too – it was great to socialize with old friends. Part of the reason I came without games was in the hope of doing exactly that. Other New York friends of many decades were visible nearby. The bar on the bridge between the two towers is clearly the natural gathering place at this tournament.

  I’m not much of a barfly, but I really enjoyed hanging out there last night. I hope I do that more often, at this and future nationals. 


  Don’t neglect to patronize the Baron Barclay book desk, and to visit Stefan at his “Intobridge” booth nearby.

  If you’re not in Louisville, you’re missing out on a fun tournament. Wherever you are, I hope that you are in good health and good spirits, and that you’ve enjoyed reading today’s “Diary of a Bridge Pro”. 

  – Brian 


  Postscript: I’d like to hear from you! Feel free to write to me with bridge bidding questions, bidding problems, comments on this new blog, or anything else at “Brianglubok@gmail.com” 

  Bye for now. 

  – b. 

Posted ByBrian Glubok

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