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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Wall

Late in a long tournament many participants will hit the wall. In marathon running, hitting the wall is a point when the runner experiences dramatic fatigue, often due to, literally, running out of stored energy. For the mind sports, hitting the wall is mental fatigue, and it often shows up in little glitches here and there. You may even still feel you are 100 percent effective, believing everything remains crystal clear, and it is only later you realize that mistakes were happened because something or other was missed due to mental tiredness.

Having done a regional bulletin for many years, mistakes crept into the later bulletins no matter how many checklists I prepared to catch them. Thus I understand how today's bulletin could repeat yesterday's team matches for the Spingold. In addition, like many mistakes, there is no real problem - we can see from the bracket sheet in the bulletin who is playing who today.

In the Wagar final yesterday we had a board (hand 57) where some of the vugraph commentators thought declarer missed the necessary line. Not really a problem as declarer is now pictured on page 1 of the bulletin, as part of the winning team.

However sometimes the mistakes can be killers. On this board Sementa-Duboin of the O'Rourke team quickly reached 4S:

As everybody can see declarer has 10 tricks if he uses clubs for transportation in drawing trumps, after the initial diamond lead. Instead he went down one, losing 10 IMPs and the match.

Did he hit the wall?

First, we are discussing one of the top Italian pro players, and these guys play a lot of bridge all of the time - he could get a touch tired after a few days, but not to the point of true fatigue.

Second, his line appears to be, for the first bit, in searching for a 10th trick, as if his trick count was wrong.

This may have been more a mechanical glitch. Often bridge pros glance at their hands, instead of staring at them. Perhaps a glance had told him he had only six spades, as K98752 looks much like K987532. The 4S bid would indicate he knew he had seven spades during the bidding, but at some point he lost focus, just long enough to lose the match.

It can happen to all of us, even the best of players. This is one more reason to eat well, rest well, and drink in moderation during a long event to maintain your stamina. However you will also need to unwind during a tournament, and donate a few of those precious brain cells to having some fun.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spingold 2009

Day 2 of the 2009 Spingold brings us the start of the online vugraph. Thanks to everybody who has arranged this - no more waiting until the finals to see the best players in the world.

Even though the Spingold wasn't online yesterday, we still lost one of the top teams to electronics - from today's bulletin:

A cell phone was the downfall of the No. 22 seed (Brian Glubok, James Rosenbloom, Bill Eisenberg, Connie Goldberg, John Sutherlin and Dan Gerstman). They incurred a 12-IMP penalty for having the phone in the playing area, and those IMPs were the deciding factor in their close loss.

I don't like this one bit but I don't make the rules or the penalties.

It's hard to pick a winner in this event as there is a lot of talent spread amongst many teams. If we don't consider the top 10 seeds, I like these three "underdogs":

11. John Diamond, Boca Raton FL; Brian Platnick, Evanston IL; Fred Gitelman - Geoff Hampson, Las Vegas NV; Brad Moss, San Anselmo CA; Eric Greco, Philadelphia

15. Jan Jansma, Malden Netherlands; Louk Verhees, 2215 SH Voorhou Netherlands; Ricco Van Prooijen, Nieuw Vennep Netherlands; Ron Rubin, Miami FL; Russell Ekeblad, Providence RI; Matt Granovetter, Cincinnati OH

19. Andrew Rosenthal - Aaron Silverstein, New York NY; Michael Rosenberg, New Rochelle NY; Mark Feldman, Hoboken NJ; David Gold, Reading R Great Britain; Tom Townsend, London W9 1sd England

That's some of the best world class talent but they can't get a top seed in this event. I look forward to a great week of watching the Vugraph on various electronic devices, and since I'm not at the event it doesn't cost me any IMPs at all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gladwell's Bad Bluff

I love the books by Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Tipping Point, Outliers). I love his writing style.

However it's a shame, though, that his latest well-articulated article in the New Yorker about Jimmy Cayne and Wall Street ends with a bunch of nonsense. His article (dated July 27) is at:

His supposition is that the collapse of Bear Stearns was in part a result of the overconfidence of Jimmy Cayne, the firm's former chairman and CEO. He suggests that the roots of the recent Wall Street crisis were in considerable part psychological.

Skipping over the selective quotes from Cayne to paint him in a Machiavellian light, and a dissertation on the British Empire military failure at Gallipoli in 1915, we wind ourselves into poker, without mentioning the game:

Winners know how to bluff. And who bluffs the best? The person who, instead of pretending to be stronger than he is, actually believes himself to be stronger than he is.
But Gladwell's target is the game of bridge. The co-respondent in Cayne's divorce was bridge we are told, and we move on to how Cayne got hired by bridge player Alan (Ace) Greenberg, and how later bridge expert Warren Spector ended up co-president of the firm.

Then the article goes completely off kilter. Gladwell states that "Bridge is Wall Street in miniature", but after concluding there is an affinity between the two, he does note that bridge is just a game. However at this point he is implying that bridge players good at the game might believe they are good at Wall Street.

He mentions that Cayne attended the "Spingold K.O. bridge tournament" in Nashville (actually the Summer 07 NABC, in which Cayne played in the Spingold event). Then his article descends to the equivalent of the beaches at Gallipoli:

Cayne must have come back from the Spingold bridge tournament fortified in his belief in his own infallibility.
At this point we know that Gladwell never talked to a serious tournament bridge player before writing his article.

Cayne played in Nashville with one of very best US pros (Seamon), and four world champions from Italy (Fantoni, Lauria, Nunes, Versace). This team was seeded second in the event, but lost in the round of 16. Cayne finished the tournament with only 70.19 masterpoints after assembling one of the best teams possible, and arranging for coaching and support of the team. The very last thing Cayne would think after Nashville was that he was infallible. From what I saw on BridgeBase afterwards, Cayne increased his online playing time, trying to improve his game by playing most days.

This leads to another criticism of Cayne in Gladwell's article, that I've seen repeated elsewhere. In Gladwell's article he notes that for the Nashville tournament, Cayne was out of the office for nearly half the month. Others have noted Cayne's attendance in the spring of 08 in Detroit (same team, out in the round of 16 in the Vanderbilt). These people mistakenly assume that Cayne was unavailable for work by attending the bridge tournament.

Cayne was on a six person team, and only played half the boards of their team matches. That means for most days, Cayne was only spending about 4 hours a day on bridge at Nashville and Detroit, not including any days he played in pairs events. For the other 20 hours a day available to Cayne, he had plenty of hours to devote to work, and we all know that technology makes remote work almost like being right at the office, for our better or worse.

In short, Gladwell's article is thinking in miniature.

As to Cayne, he is losing to Canada in a practice match as I write this - not exactly overconfident just yet.