Guest Blog — By Invitation

Giving Back to Bridge: Sally Rewbotham on Volunteering at Tournaments

Don’t you just love the bridge tournament trail? One weekend you play in this city and next weekend you’re somewhere else. You have a chance to play against your peers whether they be flight “A” players or “Newcomers”. When the event finishes there is a chance to mingle with all of the other players as you enjoy the hospitality provided. It’s lots of fun! But it doesn’t just materialize out of thin air.

Tournaments are fun at and around the bridge tables, but are a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Volunteers, often invisible and unrecognized, are responsible for taking an idea and giving it life.

The Tournament Chair’s list of tasks looks something like this:

  • Apply for the sanction
  • Negotiate a contract with the hotel and arrange for playing space
  • Get a Partnership Chair, Caddies, Hospitality Chair, volunteers to handle registration and work the prize desk (don’t forget to order the gifts and prizes)
  • Finalize a schedule of events
  • Submit ads to the ACBL and the Kibitzer and have one posted on the website
  • Correspond with the ACBL re: Directors and book their hotel rooms
  • Book rooms for other officials as needed
  • Arrange for an education program if desired
  • Print and arrange for distribution of the schedule
  • Arrange signage, and restaurant discounts
  • Arrange for tables if necessary (luckily most places have chairs!)
  • And FINALLY determine the setup and arrangement of tables, events, sales tables, partnership area etc.

It looks like an impressive and daunting task, but as any leader knows, the best thing you can do is surround yourself with good people. All of the other volunteers involved help to make the task manageable.

Interested in volunteering? Offer to help with the registration desk, partnerships, hospitality, or work on the prize desk. You may not be thanked by many, but you’ll deserve the thanks of all. And you’ll know that the success of the tournament is partly due to your efforts.

If you’re interested in helping with the upcoming NABC in Toronto, e-mail Louise McNeely. If you’d like to start with a smaller event, check the Kibitzer or website and contact one of the Board members for your unit. We’d love to have you join us.

If I forget to say it later ….. Thanks!

Giving Back to Bridge: Judy Kay-Wolff on Blogging

When Bobby and I finished the editing of The Lone Wolff with Ray Lee at Masterpoint Press almost three years ago, Ray and Linda asked me if I wanted to blog. Please don’t laugh at me, but I did not know what they were talking about. I looked it up in my dictionary and the word was not there.

Embarrassed, I asked one of my knowledgeable computer friends and she explained the process. And, even today, when I employ spellcheck on my computer, the words blog and blogging appear in red as they are still not recognized words. However, despite the “non-acceptance” of their use, today blogging is as much a part of my life as eating, drinking, sleeping (and playing bridge, of course).

Blogging is a great innovation to the world of communication — enabling one to reach bridge players all over the universe at no cost other than the normal usage of the computer. We actually have three venues (Bobby’s syndicated bridge column from United Media called Aces on Bridge), Bobby’s personal column (under Bobby Wolff — both of which he faithfully answers) and of course my own Judy Kay-Wolff blog. Bobby does little personal blogging but he does engage in responding to dozens of bridge players who are always seeking advice. Feel free to write in and expect an answer.

I am one of the most active bloggers on You know how women are. They always seem to have something on their mind. After I got to know Ray and Linda, I was asked (with my bridge background being married to Norman Kay till his death in 2002 and then marrying Bobby on Pearl Harbor Day in 2003) if I would like to write my memoirs. It was a flattering offer, but after laboring over TLW with Bobby for five years, I decided I had served my time and declined.

I do have my own blog site and promised I would, among other current topics, take trips down memory lane and recount my stories and experiences from days of yore, or else I will carry them to the grave with me. Thus, I am now in the processing of writing up a lot of the old timers whom I knew personally — with a few anecdotes of note plus other topical issues.

However, it does not stop with celebrity memoirs of earlier years. Bobby and I both feel very strongly about the turnabout in the game caused by professionalism, personal agendas, politics, unholy alliances, cheating, convention disruption, alerts, rules, laws, directing flaws, etc. and speak out loud and clear and often in an effort to turn the ship around, as we feel the original majesty of the game is long since gone.

Blogging is for everyone. If you have something to say, blog it! However, bear in mind bridgeblogging is pro bono, and it is not only fun to express yourself but even more rewarding when you receive comments from readers (either agreeing, disagreeing or offering other points of view). You get to meet interesting people from all over the atlas with a common interest, and to my knowledge, the only restriction is the use of profanity. So, give it some thought, button your lip and if you are interested, contact

Giving Back to Bridge: Maureen Hall on BIL Mentoring


Mentoring Beginning Bridge Students Online

The Beginner/Intermediate Lounge, affectionately known as the BIL, is the center of learning on Bridge Base Online (BBO).

The expert teachers in this international club provide students with a range of learning events including weekly teaching tournaments, and open classrooms on specific aspects of the game, such as bidding and conventions.  Special demonstrations and mini-courses are offered by world champion players, some of the most recent being Mike Lawrence’s workshops on doubles.  BIL also offers courses like the 56-hour program developed by Sandy Suttle  (TwstofLime).  Available to “just starting” players, the course begins with how to take tricks, and continues through lessons in basic defense.

The most far-reaching learning opportunity offered by the BIL is its Volunteer Mentoring Programme. Mentors are needed NOW to help beginning and intermediate skill-level students improve their game.  If you are interested in mentoring an individual student or perhaps a small group of students, you can learn more about the programme at this page. Your time and expertise is greatly needed — so many students want to learn!

Please Note:  At this time teachers are needed to conduct 16-week courses for both beginners and intermediates on defensive strategies—from leads through counting and signals.

If you have any queries, or if further information is required, please contact the BIL Mentor Programme Liaison Officer Dave Taylor.

About the BIL Mentoring Programme —

People who join the BIL are Starter, Beginner, and Intermediate level players eager to improve their ability to play the game. 

BIL Mentors are volunteers who provide in-depth instruction to individuals or very small groups one or more times per week for a suggested period of six months.

Classroom-style learning is wonderful, but we all know that the most effective bridge teaching happens in a one-on-one setting or coaching a pair of students playing as partners—that is what the Mentor Programme is all about.  We (you!) give those students who are serious about working their way to an advanced skill level the training and knowledge they need.

Mentors of all nationalities/languages/time zones teaching all systems of modern bridge are greatly in need.  Some of our mentors teach every aspect of the game, others prefer to focus on specific bidding systems or playing styles. Through our evaluation of student need and mentor expertise we make every attempt to develop good learner/mentor partnerships. 

How To Get Started as a BIL Mentor

Those interested in joining the BIL Mentoring Team can register using this form.

Maureen Hall (hallway on BBO), BIL Founder/Manager will enable an Honorary Membership for you and will send you the Honorary Membership Guidelines.  Honorary Members have access to the BIL on BBO and to BIL’s full on-line Library.  There is an extensive collection of resources available to you as a Mentor as well as materials for your students.

As a mentor, you are expected to spend an hour or two with your student(s) at least once a week (more often should it suit you/them).  You may work with your student in whatever method that suits you both.  This also depends on the areas of the game where the student requires most assistance.

Students and Mentors . . .

  • Study together at a “Teaching Table” in the BIL on BBO, where prepared hands may be downloaded.
  • Practice bidding using the Partnership Bidding Rooms.
  • Set up hands / bidding sequences to go through in a Chat Room.
  • Exchange assigned exercises / answers after lessons in the areas you feel the student needs to focus.  Your student is expected to do all homework set for them and to practice diligently between your sessions.
  • Openly exchange information about the student’s progress and what online teaching methods are working best for you. Every student learns differently, and our goal is continuous improvement in the mentor/student partnership!

Being a MENTOR requires dedication, time, excellent teaching skills, volumes of patience, and a solid working knowledge of Bridge Base Online (BBO) software.

We hope to welcome you to our team!  For more information, please contact the BIL Founder/Manager Maureen Hall,or our Mentor Program Liaison Officer Dave Taylor.

To Apply: BIL Application Form

To Learn More: Mentor Programme Introduction

BIL Mentors know—

A teacher affects eternity; one can never tell where the influence stops. – Anon

OnlyyumanBIL Mentor commented – “Mentoring on BBO is very enjoyable and rewarding.  The students are truly eager to learn and so appreciative. It is so great to see the friendships made around the world!“

Deb   – Aspiring BIL Mentor commented – “It gives me great pleasure to graduate jpb1130 Joyce to advanced skill level.  She is in her late 80’s and has worked so hard to achieve this level.  Her play of hand and defense has improved 100% since we started working together.  She has learnt to count the trumps cards.  She has a good understanding of all the basic conventions.

No other student of mine has worked so hard or so long and I know that she will continue to learn and grow as a player.  She is enthusiastic about learning new things, which is really a huge credit to her.  So many of us are set in our ways and at her age she is amazing.”

Giving Back to Bridge for the Holidays: Fred Gitelman on Commentating

I have always thought that watching BBO commentary is defined as entertainment, and so commentators should be entertaining, but also informative. What do you see as the role of the commentator?

The role of the commentator is to provide commentary that the audience finds interesting or stimulating, but since a typical audience consists of a very broad range of bridge player types and personality types, that covers a lot of ground. For example, I agree with you completely that being entertained is important for a lot of audience members, but this could mean any number of things because different people find different things to be entertaining. Some may enjoy jokes, while others may enjoy stories, and some probably find it amusing when the commentators disagree with each other.

A lot of audience members are watching to try to learn something about bridge, but they range in skill level from complete beginners to world-class players. Also, some bridge players are very interested in bidding systems or conventions, while others delight in card play, bidding theory, defensive signaling, or opening leads. 

I believe that those commentators who try to explain the thinking process behind the experts’ decisions are highly appreciated. Sometimes a discussion of wider bridge-related issues arises during a Vugraph broadcast, such as: what systems should be allowed, breaks in tempo, appeals committees, professional, and sponsors, etc. I suspect there are many in the audience who are interested in hearing the commentators’ views on such matters.

Some audience members are interested in things like the history and nature of the event, the venue itself, and the personalities and accomplishments of the players. If the event in question is part of a larger tournament, there will be members of the audience who will be interested in hearing about the results of other matches or events in that tournament.

To summarize, there is no simple answer to your question because different audience members have widely different wants and needs. There are a wide variety of potential roles for our commentators that will be appreciated by various segments of the Vugraph audience.

As somebody who does commentary, I am never quite sure of what is expected of me. I think it is important that at least one person on the panel can understand the bidding system and explain the auction, but it isn’t always easy to do that, especially if you don’t know in advance whom you will be watching. What are the expectations you have of your commentators?

BBO has very few expectations. The way we see it, the commentators are unpaid volunteers who donate their time and skills in the interest of doing something good for bridge. We are extremely grateful for this and we do not think it would be appropriate or reasonable for us to have detailed expectations of these fine people. Of course we do hope the commentators will be courteous to one another and to try to refrain from offending the audience members, tournament organizers, or players, but that’s about as far as our expectations go.

I certainly agree that the commentary holds added value for the audience if the commentators are familiar with the bidding systems being used, are able to provide biographical information about the players, etc. Sometimes Roland Wald (our Vugraph Coordinator) is in a position to assign commentators that he knows are familiar with such things, but usually this is not realistically possible.

Naturally, we appreciate it when a commentator goes the extra mile and studies the players’ systems before a session, but this is certainly not something that we expect from these volunteers – as I said above, we are grateful that they are there in the first place and I suspect that the number of volunteers would shrink dramatically if we started to impose necessary qualifications on them.

Are there any other ways you expect commentators to prepare themselves?

Nothing more than showing up with the right attitude. It is probably only a matter of (not very much) time until voice-based (as opposed to the current chat-based) commentary is available. So in addition to that, and if and when the time comes that we start paying commentators for their service, we would likely reconsider the expectations we have of them.

Sometimes the players we are watching are not really “stars” especially in the lesser events. How far should commentators go in pointing out players’ mistakes, especially the clear-cut ones?

That’s a good question for which there are no easy answers. We certainly don’t want the commentators going out of their way to make the players look stupid, but the fact of the matter is that even the best players in the world sometimes make mistakes. The commentators might remind the audience of a few simple facts to help to put criticism in its proper perspective:

  • How much easier bridge is when you can see all 52 cards!
  • That playing in major tournaments can be an exhausting experience (physically, mentally, and emotionally).

  • That there are sometimes factors which are not immediately obvious (jet lag or illness for example) that cause good players to sometimes play badly.
  • That the event in question is not (say) the Spingold Final and it would not be realistic to expect the vast majority of players to get a given hand right.

The notion of “clear-cut” is important in my view. For example, there are some commentators who seem to consider just about every bidding decision to be clear-cut, whereas in my view the exact opposite is closer to being the truth. It drives me crazy to read comments like “no bridge player would overcall at the 2-level on that hand”. The tone of such a comment not only sounds condescending, but in my view such comments display remarkable ignorance – nobody really knows things like what the “best” range is for 2-level overcalls and highly-successful players have widely differing opinions on such matters.

The bottom line is that matters of judgment and style should not be seen as clear-cut. It is fine to say “It is not my style of overcall at the 2-level with that hand” or “my judgment suggests that a 2-level overcall on that hand is not a winning action”, but that is very different from saying “it is WRONG to overcall at the 2-level on that hand” or (even worse because it is also insulting as opposed to being simply ignorant) “only a beginner would overcall at the 2-level with that hand”.

Extenuating the positive can help make up for well-deserved criticism of a player who is having a bad day.

Is there anything you shouldn’t do when you are commentating on BBO?

In addition to the things I have mentioned already, here are some more pointers:

  • Remember that you are there for the audience, not for the purposes of stroking your own ego.
  • Try not to monopolize the conversation. Make sure that the other commentators have a chance to have their say.
 Most importantly, don’t insult groups like the ACBL and WBF who organize tournaments and who pay the not insignificant expenses associated with broadcasting Vugraph. These organizations are far from perfect, but BBO Vugraph is not the right venue for complaining about their shortcomings.

I feel strongly that all bridge players should appreciate the fact that tournament organizers are willing to provide them with free Vugraph of their events to bridge fans all over the world. It shows a distinct lack of class in my view to embarrass tournament organizers through a medium that would not exist without their support. Vugraph costs BBO a lot of money. Many people are under the (completely wrong) impression that vugraph is a source of profit for our company.

Have you considered any way to keep commentators informed about issues, expectations, and even the number of assignments coming up?

We (actually Roland Wald) do this already.

Roland maintains an e-mail list consisting of several hundred volunteer commentators. When a new commentator is added to the list, Roland provides that person with a document that is a guideline for commentators (much of its contents is reflected in my answers your questions). This document has also been made available to the general public through BBO Forums.

A week or so before a given Vugraph broadcast, Roland will let everyone on his list know about the event in an effort to sign up volunteers. Occasionally Roland uses his e-mail list to inform commentators of things like new polices, software changes, etc.

I know that BBO is always looking for some new help. What kind of people are you looking for to provide commentary? What are the qualifications people should have? What kind of commitment are you looking for?

Aside from having good manners, the ability to think and type at a reasonable pace are probably the most important qualities for a Vugraph commentator to have!

Anyone who does not have a history of bad behavior on BBO is welcome to volunteer. Roland believes in giving anyone who volunteers a chance to show their stuff. I believe that this is a wise policy as there are some excellent commentators who are not super-expert players. Typically these people are good because they realize they are not super-expert players. They focus their commentary on subjects that they can speak on with authority. That is a good thing because there are a lot more audience members who are interested in things like “how to respond to a negative double” or “why declarer should take a 2-way finesse into the safe hand” then there are players who are ready for “how declarer should time the play in order to arrive at a compound squeeze”.

It does not take a super-expert to be able to offer analysis that will be of interest to the non-experts in the audience – strong teaching skills are much more important. In fact, many super-experts have a lot of trouble offering comments that do not go over the heads of most of the members of the audience. It is not so easy to articulate subjects that are beyond obvious to you (or to even recognize that trying to articulate such subjects will have value to much of the audience).

Roland will typically assign roughly 4 commentators per table. In some cases he has the luxury of flexibility and, when that happens, he will try to put together a good mix of commentators who rate to appeal to various levels of players (and ideally include commentators who are strong in terms of things like entertainment value, ability to provide human interest stories, and knowledge of the players in question).

Are there any other useful roles people can play to help out? Sometimes I think that additional coordinators might be a good idea with the huge increase in events.

Since the very first days of BBO Vugraph (back in 2003) Roland has been our one and only Vugraph Coordinator. He puts in a massive number of hours and you are correct that the huge increase in events has made his task all the more demanding. Although Roland may seem super-human to some, he is in fact human and occasionally he needs to take a break. When that happens, we typically assign a very competent member of our staff to take over his duties (which reminds us every single time just how difficult these duties can be!).

As far as I can tell tell, our Vugraph program is in very good hands, but anyone who thinks they might be able to contribute is welcome to volunteer. Roland is definitely the man to talk to about this – as far as Vugraph is concerned, BBO itself does little more than provide the software.

What is involved with getting your event on BBO? I have noticed that Canada doesn’t have very many events broadcast.

Any event is welcome to use BBO for Vugraph purposes. We do not charge any fee for providing these services, but tournament organizers will have to pay their own expenses (things like operator salaries if volunteers are not available and the cost of Internet connection at the playing site). Event organizers who are interested should contact Roland Wald. He will provide them with all the information they need to produce a Vugraph broadcast on BBO.

New ePub eBooks

New ePub versions of the following ebooks have recently been added to our eBook store, As of the writing of this blog, there are 18 ePUB-format ebooks available for download at More are being added every week! Until the end of September, ALL ebooks with a newly added ePUB format are discounted an additional 10% off. For a complete list, see the “New Products” section.

To Bid Or Not To Bid


by Larry Cohen

Since its publication in 1992, To Bid or Not to Bid has sold over 50,000 copies in English alone and has been published in several other languages. Undoubtedly the best-selling bridge book of the 1990s, its lucid exposition of the empirical Law of Total Tricks (a simple guide to making the right decisions in competitive bridge auctions) has made it a book that literally every serious bridge player just has to read.

Critics’ Viewpoint

“Practical information you’ll use the next time you play, and every time you play”

– Eric Rodwell

“Your gurus think this book will be a classic”

– Alfred Sheinwold & Frank Stewart, L.A. Times

“The gap in bridge literature on the LAW has now been filled, and filled brilliantly.”

– Alan Truscott, New York Times

“Finally, Larry tells us how he won all those tournaments! “

– Zia Mahmood

Countdown to Winning Bridge


by Tim Bourke and Marc Smith

Did you ever notice how the bridge experts always seem to know where every card is? How their finesses always seem to succeed? How their guesses are nearly always perfect? This book won’t teach you to play quite that well, but it will introduce you to some very simple techniques that the experts use on play and defense.

As declarer or defender, counting the hand is the one thing that will help you the most. But how do you keep track of all those cards? This book will show you how — explaining the tricks of the trade, and helping anyone who can count to thirteen to become a much better player. Full of practical examples of how to apply the information you get from counting, this book is sure to improve your game.

Critics’ Viewpoint

“If you have been playing bridge without counting the hand, perhaps for many years, you are about to enter a new world!”

— — David Bird

Bridge Behind Bars

BBBarsby Julian Pottage and Nick Smith

“There was a loud metallic thud as the outside door closed behind Timothy Newman. So this is my new home then, he thought. Prison. Clink. The slammer. Prison is no place for an ordinary, law-abiding, middle-class guy like me, he reflected. Not even Great Yarborough Prison.”

But it turns out that prison life in Great Yarborough has a silver lining for Tim – bridge. An expert player, he finds that his ability earns him unlooked-for respect amongst his fellow-prisoners, many of whom pass their ‘time’ at the card table. This is a bridge novel filled with unusual characters and great deals — and a bridge game that gives new meaning to the term ‘cut-throat’!

Critics’ Viewpoint

“… fantastic hands, and the way the cast of characters twist and bend all existing and even non-existing bridge rules and etiquette, makes this book a real treat!”

— Jon Sveindahl, Norway

“A lively and unusual title.”

— MidWest Book review

The Bridge Technique series

BTSABy David Bird and Marc Smith

Volumes 1, 2, 3, 10, J and Q are now available in ePub format (more from this series will come in the next few weeks)

Short and full of practical examples, each book in the ‘Bridge Technique Series’ takes the reader through the most important aspects of card-play technique at bridge. Where appropriate, play is examined from the point of view both of declarer and defenders. Full of quizzes and chapter reviews, these award-winning books will also reinforce the bridge concepts you learn. At this price, what bridge player could stand not to have all twelve?

Critics’ Viewpoint

“Good quality material and good value.”

– BRIDGE PLUS magazine

“Inexpensive, attractive and well-organized”

– The Toronto Star

“A host of valuable tips.”

– The Toronto Star

“The series will not disappoint.”

– Bridge Plus

“Highly readable, and students will not find reading assignments burdensome.”

– ABTA Quarterly

Elimination Plays, from the Test Your Bridge Technique series

(more in this series coming soon).

tybt1by David Bird and Tim Bourke

Test your elimination play! This book is designed to accompany Eliminations and Throw-ins, Book 4 in the Bridge Technique series.

Why should you want to polish your elimination play technique? There are two very good reasons. The first is that it is a relatively easy play to perform. Often you will not even need to keep track of which cards have been played! The second reason is that the opportunities to use this technique, or to defend against it, will arise in nearly every bridge session you play. So the rewards to be gained are considerable.

The basic principles of elimination play are straightforward, but applying them is not always so easy. Rest assured that some serious challenges await you in these pages!

Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club

FrankStewartFrank Stewart’s Bridge Club is no ordinary place. It is the regular haunt of a cast of somehow familiar players: Unlucky Louie, against whom no one ever makes a wrong bid or play; Grapefruit, a man with an unnaturally sour disposition; Cy the Cynic, who knows that the Fates will conspire against him whatever he does; Minnie Bottoms, who tends to mix up jacks and kings but always somehow finds the killing play by mistake; Will Rogers, who never met a hand he didn’t like; Frank himself, whose dry wit will keep you coming back for more; and many others. Pick up bridge pointers, try the quizzes, and have a great time while you do it.

Critics’ Viewpoint:

“Certainly a ‘Bridge Club’ that will provide hours of good fun – and without having to leave the comfort of your own home.”

– The National Post

‘Anyone familiar with Frank Stewart’s bridge column will appreciate his cleverness in packing so much bridge insight into a small space. Even those who do not see it regularly are sure to find his new book, “Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club”, delightful. It is a collection of ninety-six quizzes, overwhelmingly on declarer play, based on material published in his syndicated column. A book for bridge aficionados who like a good read as well as some challenges.’

– ACBL Bulletin


– New York Times

MORE about Amazon Kindle:

Incidentally, I recently discovered a little tidbit about Amazon that was not known to me before.  Apparently, their document conversion process (which is available to customers in the US) only works with PDF documents.  So these wonderful .epub files we’ve been so hard at producing which look FABULOUS on other eReaders that we have tested, if I do say so myself, cannot be directly added to Kindle using Amazon’s service. HOWEVER, fear not, for I believe I found a work-around for this issue.  I tried converting a sample .epub file BACK to a pdf (because the hand diagrams in the .epub file are IMAGES, not text, the formatting with this conversion is not lost in the bridge diagrams) and tried to get Amazon to convert the document to a Kindle format that way.  I believe that this process will retain all of the formatting of the bridge hands, and I am anxiously awaiting the results from Amazon.  I’ll update this blog with more news when I learn the results.

Canadian Team Trials

The Canadian Bridge Championships concluded in Toronto in early June. In the three team events (Open, Women and Seniors) teams competed to earn the right to be named “Team Canada” in the upcoming world championships, an honour that also includes a small subsidy.

How we determine our representatives in world championships is often a subject of great debate. This is not unique to Canada as when it comes to choosing their representatives, countries generally follow one of two methods; a selection process, or a “winner takes all” style team trials (the autocratic and democratic methods as John Carruthers called them).

In the autocratic selection method, a committee or an individual is elected or appointed to select the team. This method is utilised by countries such as Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Israel and Japan. Since players/pairs have to demonstrate consistent high performance over a significant period of time, serious partnerships are motivated to participate in as many high level events as they can to build a resume of achievements. This in turn elevates their game and increases their experience level against top competition. A major  advantage of the autocratic method is that it provides for team stability as the core of the team stays the same from one year to the next, thus allowing a small group of players to accumulate valuable experience at the world championships. On the other hand, this method relies heavily on the subjective judgement of an individual or a committee, and many safeguards have to be implemented to avoid possible conflicts of interest which can arise when prospective players are also involved in the selection process.

The democratic team trials method is used by several countries including the US, Canada, India and South Africa. It relies on the assumption that in a sufficiently long contest usually the best team emerges as the victor. Therefore this method selects the best performing team at the time of the trials. However, that does not mean that the team consists of the country’s best pairs as stronger partnerships may have been members of other teams. To overcome such deficiency, some countries use pair trials instead of team trials. The main argument against pair trials is that they create teams with no chemistry or where pairs may not get along.

I personally favour our current team trials approach, especially after the Canadian Bridge Federation eliminated the geographic restrictions on team composition (previously teams qualified to the national final as representatives of one of the six CBF zones, and the majority of the team members had to be residents of the zone they represented). The current trials are open, fair and rigorous. They avoid conflicts of interest, favouritism and politics. Having said that, I would like to see us try pair trials at least in one or two of the 4 year WBF cycle (e.g. for the World Knockout Teams also known as the Rosenblum, McConnell and Rand Cups). A sufficiently long pair trial would adequately minimize the luck factor that is inherent in IMP pair events. For example, if we replace the 8-day open team competition with an 8-day IMP pair event (with elimination after the 3rd and 6th days), the top three pairs at the end would have truly earned their position, largely on ability, having passed a test of 400-500 boards against their peers.

My First Post


CNTC Semis Janicki vs Gartaganis

This is a story in two parts. A disastrous 3rd quarter, followed by a 4th quarter with enough potential for a comeback.

Part One – I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

It is funny how the downfall starts. The first slip-up of the second half came on hand #3. It was a lowly 1NT defense, but it set the tone for the quarter:





West East
T953 K76
KJ984 763
K7 T86


NS bid 1 (ambiguous) Diamond, 1S – 1NT. Note the system weakness, not allowing them to find a possible 4-4 minor-suit fit. (Our partners bid and made 2D). The 3 of Clubs was led, which was ducked to the Queen. The King of Hearts return was won by the Ace, pinning the Queen in dummy. The Diamond finesse lost, and the original 4th best Heart eight was played back. Declarer could not quite read the position, so he ducked. He could have won and played a Club to the King for his 7th trick, losing only 3H, 1D & 2C. With no more entries, West went back to Clubs, ducked around to the King. Now Declarer ran his Diamonds, and threw East in with a Club. In the 4 Card end position, Declarer is squeezed on the Ace of Clubs lead:





West East
Tx K7
J9 7



He has no good pitch.. He opted for the Spade Queen, but East did not read it and came back a Heart, setting up the 7th trick. This was a bad sign, if not a big loss.

Hand #2 was strange, and we need only look at the NS cards:







East Deals and passes. I understand this South hand was not opened at the other table, and subsequently ran into trouble handling the opponents’ Polish club sequence. IMHO, although I know some people don’t open,  I think you are better placed to open this hand. Our opponents opened 1S, heard a 2C overcall, and North made a limit-raise-or-better 3C cue bid. The opener rejected the invitation! This, too, seems to me to be a misjudgment. Give partner any hand with as little as four spades to the Ace, and any other 9 cards, and game has a play. You will lose two diamonds, and it doesn’t matter if he has 1,2,3 or 4 hearts – you must have a chance to play the suit for one loser. Place partner with the right couple of scraps and slam may have a play. In fact, he has shown a limit-raise or better, so he does not own just one high card. A six/five is a BIG hand with the high cards in the long suits, particularly if a fit is uncovered. Certainly, the hand must at least bid 3H to see how the hands mesh.

In any case, we lost a vulnerable game swing 680 to 230. 

On #6 the opponents bid to 3NT with scant values, 10 facing 12, and it can’t be beaten. On the next hand, they opened a weak NT, and found us with 1453 eleven HCP opposite 4333 thirteen, so we defended and beat it 3 vulnerable tricks, and we lost a vulnerable game. Perhaps this hand should have overcalled 2D (vulnerable, natural), over the weak NT – T, K982, KQ982, K93 ? It is not our style to balance with the other hand: A953, Q65, J54, AQ6

What would you do with: AKQTx, xx, AJ9, QJx? The opponents start a Big Club (16+) on your right, you overcall 1S, LHO passes, and partner boosts you to 4S, Red Vs White. Opener now bids 5H. I know we just bid a game, but is there any reason that pass must be forcing? Assuming it is not, what is your action?. In practice, the only real losing action is pass, which is what this hand did. Double can get 800, while 680 is yours for bidding (assuming you disdain bidding the slam on the diamond finesse through the big clubber).

As a technical point, playing standard leads, the correct spade to lead is the Queen. Partner signals encouragement holding the Jack, and you can cross over to his hand for leads through declarer.




Anyway I am more interested in talking about the approach to trying to overcome a 63 IMP deficit, and not so much in how we got there in the first place, which was through a bit of bad luck and even more poor team play.

Playing in a Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament, you sometimes find yourself running low on chips. Meanwhile, the blinds and antes are increasing, and you are running out of time. You are compelled to risk your remaining stack on somewhat less than ideal tickets. We found ourselves similarly placed – Our opponents had a tall stack of our IMP’s sitting on the table in front of them, and we were running out of chances to win them back.

When I was young, I used to think you had to psyche and go wild in such dire circumstances. I’m no longer young. I will try to illustrate what I think gives you the best chances…

Here is an example of swinging in declarer’s play:






West East
Q96 543
54 KJ932
K65 97
AT843 K65


g in 3NT after the opponents have played three rounds of cubs. Declarer runs 5 Spade tricks, and then must decide which red suit finesse to take. You might take your shot at reading the carding and table action, of course. But usually, you will try the Diamond play, because if that works, you make all the rest, while the Heart finesse gives you just your contract.

When you are down 63, I think it is a good shot to try to do the opposite of what the other table would do. Here, the heart finesse was taken, and there was a game swing. (Should the other declarer also do “the opposite” of what he would normally do to try to duplicate YOUR action? Is he George Costanza from Seinfeld? He wants pushes; you want swings. This reasoning could make you dizzy; If you know his strategy and he knows yours,…).

(I heard how it was played in the other Semi, (by Darren Wolpert, I think); He tried the Jack of Diamonds early on, before running the Spades, to see if he would get a cover. Maybe he would get a hitch, although that may be harder to guage, depending on whether you share the same side of the  screen. When it was ducked smoothly, he went up Ace and later hooked the Heart. I like his play better than mine, but I was intentionally playing for a swing, so that adds a layer of intrigue.

This next one has tactical issues at both tables






West East
94 T53
KQ82 AT7
T65 982
KT87 A963


At our table, we bid 1S-1N-2N-3N and they must cash out fast to beat it. They led Club to the ace and a low club back, and found the switch to the Heart King. Declarer played the 6 to try to make their signal seem high (discouraging) but they saw through it. Would the 9 have been more convincing, perhaps portraying AJ9 ? In any case, they cashed out.

At the other table East was on lead against 4S on a similar unrevealing auction. East opted for the 9 of Diamonds, the very definition of a “passive” lead. I do not question the bridge judgment, but I do raise the MATCH judgment. Down 63 is not the time to be passive. They WANT us to be passive. Which Ace to lead ? How about underleading one of them? That does works sometimes, and you are trying to create swings in a sane manner. I think this qualifies. Or lead one, prepared to underlead the other if it looks right.

Similarly: KJ4, 952, J87, A962. Partner opens 1NT. This hand passed, I believe. I think it should bid 3NT. One table made 4 I think, and one made 2…

KQ5, KJ865, AK3, K5. 2C on your right, natural 11-15, 2NT on your right, some noise. You double, Opener rebids 3C and partner competes with 3D. This hand made the calculated conservative pass, and was plus 110. However, bid 3H and partner raises you. It is a lucky make. Isn’t that precisely what we are looking for? (I may show this hand some time: #30. It is very elegant make of 4H; Win the Spade lead, in hand, play two more rounds of spades ending in dummy, and hook the heart Jack. They win, and must play a Diamond) That is covered twice, and you exit a club for the final endplay)

742, KJ, 72, AKT863. Partner opens Flannery (Do we really need to play that?). At the table, the hand signed off in 2H, without exploring. Certainly various games loom large – 4H, 3NT, 5C. More importantly, SIX clubs has a good play with suitable hands facing. The hand must explore. And when it finds three clubs with opener, the methods should permit a slam exploration. In practice, 6C is cold. This is exactly the kind of hand we need down 63, not to hope that the hand is some horrible misfit with 2H being the limit. It’s too good a fitter for that anyway – it’s an opening bid in my book, facing an opening. Open + Open = Game.

AK92, J8, J7542, 54. Partner opens 1NT. Even this hand may just want to respond 3NT at this score of the match. Don’t invite. Don’t show them any info. Just try for a game. We need swings. I can understand 2C, intending to raise 2S to 4. With the actual layout, the only winning call is 3NT. Opening leader must be given the full chance to make the losing heart lead from AKxx as oppposed to the winning club lead from Kxxx. If you bid 2C, partner bids 2H and you negate the heart lead. But 1N-3N is hard to lead against. Did I mention, we were down 63?

Notice these are not wild flyers. I am suggesting bidding 3NT with NO EXPLORATION to help the top-flight opponents, with hands in the 24-26 HCP range and two balanced hands. This is not exactly off-the-wall bidding; it is just not scientific. And it is a little pushy. It puts us in a position to get lucky, which is what we need. We need to help luck along.

KQJ76, K5, JT9x, A6 Partner opens 1D. You bid 1S, he bids 2D. How about Blackwood ? Do you play 4H kickback ? This one is a little more pushy, but minimal exploration, minimal revelations to them. Check for controls if can be done cheaply enough. Slam depended on picking up Qxx of Diamonds onside (missing 4). Not ideal, and the lead could damage, (her, opene had Q of clubs, and opening leader had the kIng) but are we looking for some good shots, or trying to keep the loss respectable?

Late in the 3rd quarter, with no precise score but likely down a big load, this hand came up: 7, AQ8432, J965, A4. Partner opens 1S. If you are trying to be precise, you can bid 1NT, and bid a constructive 2H over his 2C. Then you can pass his 2S rebid. Of course, he may not bid 2C. This hand is an opening bid. Making a 2/1 GF with it may be a bit of an overbid due to the stiff Spade, but if you strike a fit it should help pave the way to the best game or slam. We ended up in 3NT down 3, winning 2 IMP’s against 3NT down 4. 2S was the limit

A good chunk of the possible comeback was available through better technical, analytical judgment in the bidding and play which I will not explore now. But these are my thoughts on tactical ideas.

That’s it for now.