This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is it all gold?

I had a chance to hold an Olympic gold medal last week and I was impressed by how heavy it is - I thought it would be some trinket but instead it is a solid circle of metal. I was told that it was pure gold, but the Internet says it is approximately 244 grams of silver covered by 6 grams of gold (that is some cover-up - the last gold medals made of all gold were for the 1912 games). That still is a nice take-home prize for winning an event at the 2008 Mind Sport Games, if they used the same medals - or for the 2002 Grand Prix in Salt Lake, won by Canada, if they handed out Olympic medals.

The first modern Olympics were in Athens (1896), and recently there was some more Gold in victories there - not Olympic Gold but ETM Gold, the bidding system. The pair of Nikos Delimpaltadakis & Dimosthenis Dionysopoulos were part of the winning team of the Greek National Teams Championship, and they also won, as a pair, the Athens Matchpoints Championship, and came in third in the National Matchpoints Championship. Given they were in a process of converting to ETM Gold just this fall, these are solid gold results!

If you read Greek you can read the results here:

Let's take a look at how you can look at those results when you don't know the language. First do a search on the web page you are interested - in this link I've used the main page of the above site:

Now Click on "translate this page" and the page is no longer seemingly mathematical formulas.

Here is an example of translation already done, with a picture of the winners:

At this point you might want to switch to ETM Gold but hold your horses!

Last weekend an Icelandic Teams championship was won with one pair, Sveinn Eiriksson & Hrannar Erlingsson, using the ETM Spry system.

If Google would translate the Icelandic language, you could read it here:

Swan has the final boards and IMP exchanges here:

This summer Nikos Delimpaltadakis will be playing with Sveinn Eiriksson in the Washington NABC's - this again demonstrates that the NABCs are no longer a North American only Bridge Championship, but a world event hosted by the ACBL, albeit without gold/silver metals.

Should they play Gold or Spry?

Spry is faster to pick up, but now requires a small adjustment to play in ACBL general events. 1D as a "catch-all" opening is allowed in ACBL events, but they no longer want "catch-all" to end up just catching one defined suit - in Spry 1D shows spades. Thus it is necessary to incorporate other hand types into 1D so that it catches more that just spades. One adjustment is to play 1D as it is in Spry, or having an eight card minor with 13-14 points. Please note that Spry does met the ACBL regulations as written, and this adjustment is only necessary as there has been a selective interpretation of the regulations that appears not to have used Google translate on "catch-all".

Gold is more sophisticated, and provides more depth in agreements - this can be counter-productive for a new partnership: do you both remember what is on page 82 and agree with it?

The key success factor is how comfortable both players will be with the system picked. That seems simple, except here we have one partner who needs to adapt to a new system, while the other has to teach them how they want the system played. This teaching aspect is very important too, since how a system is portrayed on paper is often not how it is actually used by a skilled partnership.

For other partnerships reading this post, you might think: "Great, we just pick Gold or Spry, which ever we feel most comfortable with, and it's off to the races".

Not so fast.

Systems assist partnerships in doing well in events, but they are not key factors in themselves. The events noted above were won by very strong expert players. If the players were not very strong experts, the system would not have been enough to put them in a winning position.

If I was given Lance Armstrong's best bike, sadly I still could not compete in any serious bike race, even with the aid of this marvelous technology (Armstrong accidently twittered his email address this week to 700k of us, so I could email him about his bike). The bike assists Lance Armstrong in winning events, but it requires a very strong cyclist to use it to win.

Playing any particular system does not make you instantly competitive in every event. To use a system effectively, first you must be already competitive in the event, able to play well against the participants, and then the system can assist you in winning. Use systems like Gold and Spry to give you an edge, but don't never expect a system to take you from last to first.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Jeff Smith and Ross Taylor won last Saturday's top flight Open Pairs in Toronto, as reported by Linda here:

A hand that Ross Taylor played many years ago had a profound effect on me, even though I wasn't there to see it played and it was never published.

I was in a school cafeteria when my regular partner shows up to give me this hand, saying "Ross Taylor made six hearts on this on a trump lead, guess how?"

He had just seen Ross play the hand in a money game at the university student association. We were both bridge neophytes and watching the experts play the game was one way we tried to get better.

I studied the hand but I kept seeing two club losers. Finally I gave up and said how?

Simple I was told - draw trumps, cash club ace, eliminate spades and diamonds. The opponent with Kx of clubs had not unblocked, so when Ross played a second club, the opponent had to win, and give both a ruff-n-sluff and dollars.

This was magic to me - obvious losers could be made to disappear by sleight of hand. Spurred by Ross's play, I spend many hours reading books on advanced declarer play and the magic secrets that are now so engrained it's as if I always knew them. Even though at the time I should have been studying for my courses, that knowledge no longer remains useful. Instead it turns out the hours seemingly misspend were worthwhile, as almost every day for years I have used the magic of our game, as first shown to me by Ross Taylor.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Great Week

It was a great week for bridge blogging. I'm thrilled when articulate and talented bridge players start blogging, especially if they are relatively young since that means they may continue to bridge blog and/or publish for many decades.

One new blog is by 30-something Sartaj Hans:

He already has a masterpiece of a posting:

Playing a $15K hand against Meckwell and then discussing it with Versace! Wow!

Returning to active blogging is 22 year old Justin Lall:

A terrific feature of Justin's new site is you can ask him questions, and the following post on matchpoints tops n' bottoms is a must read:

At the Masterpoints Press site, Linda and Ray Lee continue to assemble a wealth of content. They have now added the "Aces on Bridge" column as a blog, and Linda has added a "Best of the Blogs" section ( One expects that we may see more "curation" happening in the world of online bridge content.
Separating the wheat from the chaff, assigning editorial weight, and -- most importantly - giving folks who don't want to spend their lives looking for an editorial needle in a haystack a high-quality collection of content that is contextual and coherent.

Before curation can save media, original content needs to save media, and this last week was a great one for the bridge community. An added, cough-cough, plus for me was that I had bronchitis and reading was more worthwhile than nothing-to-sneeze-at writing.

Curation editor: please insert seamless segue here to transition to the next part (and please give me bonus points for using transition as an intransitive verb).

One of my favorite holdings in notrump contracts is Jxx opposite xx.

Yes, that is not much of a stopper, but if they don't lead that suit it can function as a virtual stopper.

Here's a hand I played a while back in 1NT (14-17) as West at matchpoints.








The lead was a small heart - I won the heart king and played a spade to the jack. North continued hearts, and I drove out the club ace. The opponents played hearts again, and I ran the clubs. Now I still had the same seven tricks I started with (3 hearts, 3 clubs, diamond ace), but the early spade play had left the opponents with the wrong impression of what was necessary to keep, allowing me to score an overtrick for a 90+% score.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Twit for a day

The New Liskeard regional committee is having an emergency meeting as I blog this.

In the Stratiflighted (A/X/Z) pairs yesterday, after the first round in the evening a player twittered "I made 6S on board 18". Even worse the player was using software that automatically posted status updates to Facebook from twitter.

The next three rounds proceeded as expected, all three pairs making 6S, two just opening the bidding there, while the third pair, the "2unders", decided to test their system before landing there (for you system fans, the bidding was: 1D-1NT;-2D-2H;-3D-3H;-4C-4D;-4NT-5C;-5NT-6C;-6D-6H;-6S and neither player was sure of what the bids meant).

Meanwhile the popular BridgeBuoys blog examined the hand, and posted a rebuttal, noting the slam is down on the lead of the jack from KJ9 of diamonds.

Thus in the next round 6S went down, and the aggrieved pair called the TD, claiming misinformation: 6S was obviously not making. When their opponents mentioned the latest RSS feed, they were loudly accused of not pre-alerting the opponents to this. This immediately produced a "war of twits" about the issue, and things got so heated (i.e. tweated) that some team arrangements got cancelled.

Now all this is usual for a bridge tournament, but this time the TD was fed up! He called for everybody's attention, said that all the TDs were tired of being called to the table, and announced that starting tomorrow (today), TDs calls must be made with a twitter for "td pls". You can imagine the subsequent uproar on Facebook! Even the player stuck on Myspace got upset, and several others made lengthy pleads on YouTube, set to music of course. An email to Memphis got the opinion that if regionals just stuck with Bracketed KOs, the problem would not have arisen in the first place.

The regional committee is now in a bind: today they had planned to switch to the new TD app on the iphone (the one that uses the GPS to determine table location of the call, and not the one that turns the iphone into an orange card), but may have to delay it.