Diary of a Bridge Pro #3 & #4

Diary of a Bridge Pro #3 by Brian Glubok

The experts have spoken. In our inaugural column, we looked closely at this deal: (Board #24):


  I asked a handful of star players and other friends which opening bid they would prefer with this hand: AJT9x, KTx, ATx, Jx:

  By a decisive margin, the feeling was that this 13-point hand should be upgraded to be treated as 14 HCP – playing a 14 to 16 point no trump range, this hand, the experts concur, should be opened 1NT, not One Spade.

  Marty Bergen, the prolific and popular bidding theorist, replied promptly from Florida. Similar thoughts were expressed by Jeff Rubens, Joe Grue, Alex Kolesnik.

  Paraphrasing, Marty said: If the hand isn’t strong enough for a one no trump opening (whether you start your no trump range at 14 or 15), then – Pass responder’s semi-forcing no trump response.

  With this approach, Opener might begin with One Spade with KJxxx, Qx, KQx, KTx, and might then pass Responder’s semi-forcing no trump response.

  If you play that way, then you’ll almost no need to ever bid a three card suit over 1NT.

  Marty makes that point specifically, asserting that he would only bid a three card suit as opener with an awkward hand like Axxxxx, AKx, Axx, x.

Incidentally, if you ever re-bid 2D after 1S – 1NT with a hand like Marty’s example, you’re hoping for partner to have a hand like x, Qxxxxxx, xx, Axx – The type of hand that will bid 2 Hearts over 1S – 1NT – 2D, or pass after 1S – 1NT – 2S.

  Joe Grue was playing with his usual partner, the perky and popular Gillian Miniter of New York. I discussed the hand at some length with him between rounds of the pair game. Joe plays very fast, more often than not he has time between rounds.

  “If my range starts as low as 14, I’d open 1NT even without the good spade spots,” Joe told me. “If I did open 1S and partner invited (with a forcing no trump followed by 2NT or 3S over 2D), then I’d definitely bid a game.”

Our panel felt less strongly about responder’s second bid – with x, Jxx, Qxxxx, KQxx, I got the sense that after 1S – 1NT – 2D – ?, they expressed a slight preference for a raise to 3D rather than Pass. Since a perfect hand opposite, with opener, might produce a slam (AJxxx, x, AKxxx, Ax) we can see why responder would want to keep the bidding alive. But since a raise could lead to a minus score with a plus available in Two Diamonds (Partner might take a third bid over our raise to 3D and go down at a higher level, or he might just go down in 3D with a solid minimum opening hand like KQxxx, xxx, KJxx, A (lose three heart tricks and two aces).


   This is a rare week at a tournament where I have minimal plans to play – I just wanted to see people, maybe strike up a new partnership or two, mine for new clients, network a little. I did play yesterday – that morning I ran into Ellie Feigenbaum, a club-owner from Southern California (by way of England, Israel, and Canada), and we entered the new national pair game scheduled for the “first weekend”. 

  Ellis and I had a marvelous time, though the bridge was from hunger – here are some interesting deals:

  Against Lynn Baker and Olivia Schireson, I held Jxx, xxxx, Jxx, Qxx – Partner Opened Two Clubs, I responded Two Diamonds, and Ellie rebid Two Spades.

  We hadn’t taken the trouble to agree to play “Cheapest Minor Double Negative”, so I didn’t want to invent a 3C bid here – instead, I tried to “slow things down” with a 2NT bid – if partner raised me to 3NT, I intended to “put him back” in 4S. My thinking ran:

  If I raise 2S to 3S (2C – 2D – 2S – 3S), partner is likely to think I have a good hand in support of spades – perhaps a four card fit and as much as seven or eight points – (with nine/ten or more, I’d probably drive past the four level myself if opener tries to settle for game). 

  This hand is nowhere near that good.

  If I raise to 4 Spades, partner may accept that I am trying to show weakness, but my own feeling about this sequence is that I don’t mind having a bad hand for the raise to 4 Spades (at one time this jump-raise denied an “outside ace or king”), I prefer that my bad hand include a) maybe a little something - 3 to 5 HCP, maybe a king), and, more important, a four card (not three card) fit.

  The method behind this madness manifested when my 2NT re-bid triggered a 3H bid by Ellie, making the sequence to date 2C-2D-2S-2NT-3H-?

  I had intended to preference spades on the second round – certainly I would have done so had Opener bid a minor at his third turn. But when partner showed a second suit of hearts, matching my four card holding, I switched horses midstream and raised Three Hearts to Four.

  Ellis, held AKQxx, AKQxx, Ax, x – He bid Blackwood and settled for 5 Hearts. Since slam is nearly cold (Declarer discards dummy’s two diamond losers on his fourth and fifth-round spade winners), you might think we would get a bad board for plus 680. 

  Think again. Board 16 on the “link beneath the link” below:


  If you thought that missing this nearly-cold slam in a national pair game would get you a poor result, think again. While Plus 1430 would have garnered well north of 90% of the match-points, so few pairs found hearts as a trump suit that even plus 680 was worth 87% of the available MP’s.

  This represented something of a “fix” for Lynn Baker and young Olivia – as she reminded me in the lobby tonight, very few pairs were able to find the heart fit (I’m not sure why, I guess most responders raised spades after the bidding began 2C – 2D – 2S).

  Before the round began, I was able to make Olivia aware of Lynn’s achievement as a crew star, rowing for Yale for their legendary national champion crew team in the late 1970’s. So that was a highlight for me.

  And while I could write an entire blog about the bidding problems that arose during my session with Ellie yesterday (and I very well may do that shortly), I prefer to write mostly on the human element – for example:

  David Caprera, retired Colorado lawyer with pony-tail, has been partnering bridge legend Bob Hamman here. He will be working with Bob on a second volume of Bob’s auto-biography, and they are partnering up as part of the package deal.

  As players settled into a new round, David was standing away from the playing tables, twisting his torso to relieve some of his obvious discomfort. 

  The ubiquitous Mitch Dunitz (ubiquitous to me, at least – I’ve kibitzed him, lounged at the bar with him, and played against him too, already this week) is involved in that book project as well, I believe. So it’s appropriate that he threw a wisecrack in Caprera’s direction, some reference to the stress Dave appeared to be suffering under…

  “The Bob Hamman Experience!” I called out, as loud as I could get away with – “Sounds like a ride at Disneyland!”

  “Definitely an E-Ticket,” Mitch called out in reply.

  My satisfaction with this exchange wasn’t lessened by the need for me to explain to Ellie and our European opponents what an “E-Ticket” is/was: the ultimate thrill.


  This feels like a good place to pause – it does compel me to offer a good slogan for the League to use when promoting these national tournaments, though:

  “National Events at the NABC’s: The Ultimate E-Ticket”

Final thought: I’m always happy to get your feedback, comments, and questions at brianglubok@gmail.com.

  – BG

Diary of a Bridge Pro #4 by Brian Glubok

Play These (Louisville) Hands With Me

Terence Reese was a bridge superstar from England, considered by many to be the Greatest of All Time in the category of “Player-Writer”. Clearly he was among the best ever both as a player and as a bridge writer.

  Among the many books that he published, there was a compilation titled, Over My Shoulder. The format he used in that work, inevitably mimicked by others, consisted of a series of single deals, presented in story form, each with a dramatically different setting: this sort of thing:

  1)  “I arrive in Heathersford for a country congress with an enthusiastic but untutored student from the East End – her recently deceased husband made a fortune in the rag trade, and she has determined to mitigate her pain by playing as much bridge as possible….”

  2) “Playing high-stakes rubber bridge at London’s Crockfords Club, you are pleased to cut the best (other) player in the club, against two of your favorite opponents….”

  3) “Representing England in the European Championships in Stockholm, you find yourself facing a strong French Team in the Grand Final….”

  I read the book as a teen, and loved it. I don’t recall many of the specific deals, but I remember that the book in general was wildly entertaining, with tons of solid bridge advice as well.

  I do recall this one deal that Reese featured, who wouldn’t? The problem he posed placed you with a 13 (!) card suit. His presentation ran something like this: 

  “Playing for medium-high stakes at the second best bridge club in London, you deal yourself this (entirely apocryphal) collection, no one vulnerable: Void, Void, Void, AKQJT98765432 – “

  Reese went on to write a brilliant essay on why the “correct” opening bid with this hand was Four Clubs.

  I’d like to try something similar today, and write up some of the hands I played with the format Reese made famous..Let’s call upon some deals from the second qualifying session of the Inaugural Spring Nationals Saturday-Sunday NABC Pairs.

  Here’s a link to my results from the session, including diagrams of the various hands

  Try these boards with me:


  “You sit down for the second session of the new Saturday – Sunday national pair game with a cynical but enthusiastic partner from California by way of London, Israel, Canada, and Goulburn. His accent is still British, and his outlook Australian.

  Board One, you hold:

  KJTxxx, Txx, Axx, x – 

  With no one vulnerable, partner passes, then: One Club on your right. The recurring theme from this session was: “Do you make a weak jump-overcall in spades?” 

  I did, maybe you bid One or Three (I hope you wouldn’t pass or bid four).

  After my Two Spade bid the auction continued: (1C) – 2S – (3H) – 3S – (P) – P – (P)

  Partner is a bit bewildered but essentially pleased as punch when he tables: AQxx, Qx, xxx, xxxx – it doesn’t take a Mensa membership (Reese wouldn’t use that phrase, but I can) to deduce that the opponents can make four or five hearts – conceivably even a slam in that suit, if we don’t have a spade trick on defense.

  The opening leader cashes the ace – king of hearts, dropping his partner’s doubleton jack, and then shifts to a club.

  Instead of a great board for – minus 50 against their cold game – you score what you expect to be at least 90% of the matchpoints: Plus 140 in 3 Spades, as your heart ten provides a discard for dummy’s third diamond.

  Key Takeaway: You can often get huge results by bidding normally.


  Continuing with the session’s theme of: Preempt in Spades or don’t preempt in Spades?:

  On Board Four I held KQxxxxx, x, xxx, Ax: Both Vul – After a One Heart opening on your right, how many spades would you bid?

  Board Six: We suffered the kind of annoying situation one often confronts in tournaments: The opponents had a lengthy bidding sequence, some of it artificial, some of it ambiguous, something like 1NT – 3D – 3S – 3NT – 4C-5C – P – there was some commentary with the bidding, here’s what I recall:

  1NT (range may have been announced)

  3D (“I think I’m supposed to alert that – but I don’t remember what it means”)

  3S (after a long pause)

  3NT (after another long pause)

  Now, another gratuitous comment, this one by the responder: “I want to alert 3 Spades”.

  Obviously, alerts of this kind, which occur long after the bid in question has been made, are not, what phrase shall we use? “By the book”.

  This sort of thing happens all the time in tournaments, expect this to happen occasionally against you if you participate in congresses here or in the UK (or in most any other country, for that matter).

  Board Seven: Partner holds K98, Qxx, Kxx, QTxx – As a passed hand, I overcalled One Spade after a fourth position One Club opening by Debbie Rosenberg. My LHO, Max Shireson, passes – Ellie does too.

  Note to Self: Check Ellie for a pulse, who would pass Partner’s One Spade overcall with that hand?

  His thinking, I assume, ran: Partner couldn’t open the bidding, so why should I go any higher than One Spade unless I’m pushed?

  That kind of thinking is what I call a bankrupt ideology. Failing to raise partner’s One Spade overcall to two with this hand is just bad bridge.

– BG

Posted ByBrian Glubok

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