Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bridge hiatus?

Summer 2015 is approaching and lifestyle changes are coming. It seems about once a year there’s a significant life change, but none too big because I’ve lived and worked in the same place now for 7 years. I haven’t posted a lot on here lately and I still don’t have any bridge hands to write about but they will come as I’m probably going to be playing more bridge again. My life has been all over the place. I’ve been involved in so many things outside of work, and trying to schedule time for everything has been crazy: bridge, Bob, other Atlanta friends, Alexandra, my parents, my dog, directing bridge club games, the D7 News, tournament flyers, freelance writing, ALTA tennis, USTA tennis, T2 tennis, trying to find a woman for me, and trying to understand women. You’d think I would know a lot about women and be able to read their minds pretty well given that I have a lot of female friends I talk to on a regular basis, but they still baffle me and drive me crazy, but that’s for a different blog. I think I’m going to resurrect my old blog that used to be mostly about travel, but it’ll have more of a male-female relationship theme to it.

Back to bridge. I played a lot of bridge in late Feb through mid-March with, I think, tournaments in 5 out of 6 weekends but have not been to a tournament in the last 8 weeks, skipping Gatlinburg for the first time in probably a decade. This may well be the longest I've gone without a bridge tournament since I was serious with Hillery in 2008. Weekend getaways to sectionals no longer appeal to me as something to do to keep from being lonely. Regionals have even lost some their luster except when they’re either financially beneficial or with someone I really like in a place I like.

Summer typically has more tournaments that I like going to, but all I have scheduled is three days in Las Vegas in June, and nine days in Chicago for the NABC in August (half with Cristal and half with Sean). Memorial Day weekend is now unexpectedly open. Last year is the first time I did not attend a Memorial Day regional in a long time because I was at my good friend Brian’s wedding in Lexington, and I didn’t miss bridge that weekend at all. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip and wedding. I had planned on a more traditional relaxing beach/water park vacation for Memorial Day, but various circumstances have made those plans dissolve. It bothers me slightly to have a holiday weekend right around the corner with no real plans. Then again I’m often slightly bothered by things that probably shouldn't bother me. Anyway, I'm open to playing somewhere over Memorial Day, playing in Greenville June 12-14, in Jacksonville over July 4th, or Pasadena or Nashville or Reston July 10-12 if there's a good offer. Suggestions?

Monday, December 15, 2014

The trip to Providence a couple of weeks ago was quite a pleasant trip. It was low on stress and low on drama, much unlike the previous two. The quality of bridge at my table was acceptable. Cristal and I qualified for the second day of the LM Pairs, had one decent session in the final and then collapsed. It was a real struggle – we didn’t really get any gifts the whole two days and I was pretty pleased with how both of us played. In the two-day BAM, Sean and I played with Cristal and Igor. On the first day, Sean and I got lots of gifts and stole a few boards as well, enough to carry the team into day 2. On day 2, we didn’t get so many gifts, had a couple more than our share of bad boards, but Cristal and Igor did just enough to get us into the extremely low overalls.

Here’s one of our best boards that wasn’t a gift.
QJTx, AK, x, AKTxxx
AKx, Jxx, AKxxx, xx
11 - 22
23 - 24
34 - 45
4NT6 – 6NT7
78 – P

1 – 15+, balanced or natural
2 – 0-7 w/ 6+, or game forcing w/ 5+
3 – happy playing 2 if responder has the weaker hand
4 – natural-ish, but possibly just a concentration of values
5 – cue bid
6 – RKC for spades
7 – might be off the rails but this is what I think we can make
8 – probably a Moysian but I think this will make

The contract rolled home when spades split 4-2 and clubs split 3-2.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GT-FSU this weekend

I haven’t posted my college football rankings at all this season. Frankly, I’ve been too busy to even bother looking at it until last week. I got caught up on all the games and stuff before Thanksgiving and now heading into conference championship week, I’ll post the rankings.

1. Alabama (11-1)
2. Oregon (11-1)
3. Ohio State (11-1)
4. TCU (10-1)
5. Mississippi (9-3)
6. Florida State (12-0)
7. Arizona (10-2)
8. Georgia Tech (10-2)
9. Michigan State (10-2)
10. Boise State (10-2)
11. Georgia (9-3)
12. Wisconsin (10-2)
13. UCLA (9-3)
14. Mississippi State (10-2)
15. Missouri (10-2)

Yep, my computer dislikes FSU even more than the people. How is Mississippi #5 at 9-3? Does my algorithm have some sort of bias toward Ole Miss for some reason? That's the only ranking that I see as being inappropriate.
Predictions for conference championship games:
Georgia Tech (a 3 point underdog) to win 31-27 in Charlotte on Saturday
Alabama (a 14 point favorite) to win 30-24 against Missouri
Ohio State over Wisconsin 34-31
Oregon over Arizona 37-31
I’ll be at the Tech-FSU game rooting for the Yellow Jackets. I’ve actually put in some theoretical results for this weekend’s games and the computer has the winner of GT-FSU moving up to #3 or 4 pretty much regardless of what else happens. I think it’s almost impossible for the selection committee to put GT in the playoff (top 4) even with a convincing win but would be worth considering especially if a couple of the 10-1/11-1 teams lose.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Over the years, I’ve been accused of not sharing enough information and being vague about my plans, but I also am often the one trying to plan activities in advance more than other people. A few times I’ve been accused of giving too much information or being too persistent in getting other people to commit to things, so I don’t quite know where the happy medium is. I guess it's different for everyone. Regardless of the specific situation, I aim to encourage other people to think and reach their own conclusions rather than feed them information, even when it is on a subject that I am an expert on.

When I was a teaching assistant at Georgia Tech, I asked people to explain things rather than simply look at the result and checking the work as done. College, especially in engineering, is about learning how to solve problems more than anything else. In presentations, I asked tough questions like why they chose a particular algorithm for controlling their robot. All too often, teachers give a formula and say it applies in these circumstances so all they have to do is plug in numbers into a formula (or in the case of non-math based classes, recall facts that they memorized). In the real world, things rarely if ever fit that mold - we'll generally have time to look up the formulas or facts but what is critical is knowing how to use that information. Essay questions, particularly those that get students to put their thoughts into coherent sentences and articulate rather than regurgitate what was in the book are great and help create a strong level of understanding.

As a bridge teacher, I try to teach people what to think about during a bridge deal rather give them formulas for what to bid and what to lead. Of course, students always like the plug and chug methods because they are easier and require less brain power. When a beginning student asks if he should open 1H with a particular hand, I ask “What does 1H show? Does your hand fit that description?” When a beginning bridge student asks which card he should play, I ask “why do you want to play that card or that suit” and remind him of the few general guidelines (like leading top of sequences, leading partner’s suit, etc) and “what might happen if you play that card”. Even beginners can intuitively figure out the right plays when forced to think about the right things and visualize potential outcomes. The problem is many people were never taught a proper thought process, particularly for defense. When he asks if he should bid again, I ask whether he has already shown and whether he has something close to that, and whether his partner made a forcing bid. In bridge, what you can assume from the student varies widely depending on their level, but everyone should have some base from which you should assume they know or can figure out something and work toward something more.

As a friend, I also apparently want to try to make others think and connect the dots by leaving out bits of information. This probably isn’t quite as good a quality as being friends isn’t supposed to be exercise of the mind like school and work and bridge are. Basically, I don’t like telling people how to get places or trying to give them directions or telling them what time they need to leave to get somewhere on time, in much the same way you probably don’t like having a back seat driver or your mom nagging you to clean your room and brush your teeth. We all have smartphones and GPS now so we can fend for ourselves if you give us an address, right? We’ll meet at X time ay Y place. The end. I will assume you can handle all the intermediate steps like planning your day to meet the schedule, making arrangements with whoever else is needed, driving, parking, taking toilet breaks, and calling if you’ll be late or need help with something. Time and time again I get bitten by this because some people just need the details spelled out.

While playing bridge when, it is assumed that my partner is already thinking plenty, I like to do what I can to guide him to the right decision. Similar to the other examples, he still has to think and process the information and form his own conclusion. I often times hear other people say “well, I told you to lead hearts when I discarded a high heart.” I think that is fundamentally a bad way to look at signaling. Giving an encouraging heart signal more appropriately is saying, “I have a preference for hearts (possibly because I have good hearts, because I want to trump hearts, or because I have nothing useful anywhere but this looks lease detrimental)”. Regardless, partner has the right and obligation to think and decide for himself, based on his hand and other clues, whether to agree to your suggestion or take an alternate defense. I would rather partner take time, think, and come up with some reason for his play, whether right or wrong, than to play quickly not considering the options. Anyone who plays bridge with me can tell you that the errors that bother me way more than the other are ones that come as a result of not taking time to think about a play that would be clear if you took a few seconds to analyze the situation. If you think, then you must have some rationale and if you have rationale, all is good. The logic used to get there may be flawed but it's a heck of a lot better than having no logic.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Memorable Atlanta regional

The Atlanta regional last week was one of the most memorable tournaments. Emory was inducted to the Georgia Bridge Hall of Fame, and Bryan and I teamed with Emory and Olin for a respectable showing - 2nd in a KO, 3rd in Sunday Swiss, and just missed overalls in the Monday Swiss. We ended up being the only team to beat Meckwell all week (in the semis of a KO). In addition to the bridge and the ceremony, I had a ton of fun hanging out with some really awesome friends.
A critical deal in that match was when Levin and Weinstein had the uncontested auction 1C-1H; 1S-5C; P. What do you think he should have for this 5C call? Basically, is it exclusion or natural? I believe it's exclusion, that's what I thought at the table, and that's what Levin intended. I'd be interested in hearing their post mortem about this. Meanwhile a bunch of good players were pretty much split on the issue but many said they wouldn't bid it without having previously discussed it. Tim Crank had the interesting idea that it should be exclusion but for hearts instead of spades. For spades, you can splinter and then bid exclusion; there are lots of ways to bid clubs (and 5C natural here is a rather unilateral decision especially when the opponents aren't in the auction); but there's not really any way to set hearts and then exclusion for hearts with a club void. You'd have to go through 4th suit forcing and then bid hearts and a 5C bid over that would still be very nebulous.
Yesterday I finished up the September D7 News as well so like will be kind of calm for awhile for 3 weeks. After that, the fall looks busy again. I'll probably make to 8 tournaments with 4 or 5 different partners between Sept 26 and the end of the year - all just weekend trips except the Charleston regional at the end of the year.
I don't particularly like my column this time. There are a couple of other things I wanted to write about - relationships in bridge including drama with the youth programs/international teams, reasons people quit bridge, the bridge rating/mp system as compared to tennis/chess/scrabble - but couldn't organize my thoughts in a coherent manner.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Vegas Wrap Up

The verdict is in: 21 days at bridge tournaments in a 25 day span is too much. However, it's not so much the bridge that is exhausting but all the other stuff that goes along with bridge that makes for many very late nights. No other time of the year are there so many good friends in such close proximity. Even three people I normally spend a lot of time with at bridge tournaments (Joel, Alli, Mikey), I hardly saw in Vegas.

At the Las Vegas NABC, Sean and I peaked in the Wernher Open Pairs in the middle of the tournament, putting together four fairly solid sessions for 20th place in that event. The day before the Wernher, I won B in a regional pairs with Mila, good for 16 points. The rest was really not very good. We stumbled through the LM Pairs and just missed qualifying for day 3 to start the tournament and weren't close to qualifying in the fast pairs or Open Swiss at the end of the tournament. Given three missed Q's and Monday that was already a planned day off, Sean and I didn't play a whole lot of bridge together. I enjoyed reconnecting with Mila for the first time in awhile, and on two of the off days I played with her. On the other off days I played a lot of poker and wandered up and down the strip taking in the sights and sounds.

I had intentions of actually resting and catching up on sleep while in Vegas and staying out of a lot of the casino/bar/social scenes because I was pretty exhausted at the beginning of the tournament, right on the heels of the Columbia regional. Two days early in the week, I did go to the pool in the mornings and get to bed around 1 am, but then I realized that gambling can be fun and enjoyed reconnecting with Mila who I hadn't really interacted with in a couple years. The casino atmosphere with bars that don't close encourages staying up much later than a normal city. It was clearly getting to us by the end of the tournament. I think I might have to start imposing a 2 am curfew or myself and my partner. That still leaves a solid three hours for socialization after the evening session which ought to be plenty.
So, upon taking a redeye flight home and going straight to work, I'm supposed to be super exhausted and sleep a ton for a couple of days. That strangely hasn't happened. I'm still been sleeping only about 5 hours per night, waking up before my alarm each morning. Weird. Maybe it's because for a change I have actually missed my home life and have been looking forward to this weekend, which should include a pool party at my condo in Atlanta, and catching up with Elena and sharing stories of our long vacations.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jack Doubletons in Columbia

One more day left in the Columbia regional. We have amassed 45 points somehow, but this is the story of the jack doubletons.

In the first KO, in which we finished 3rd/4th, I went down in a slam when I finessed for the HJ holding Qx opposite AKTxx. I knew that clubs split 6-2 and in another side suit each opponent had at least two but that's as much of a count as I could get before having to decide on the heart suit. Apparently the odds still didn't sway in favor of taking the hook, but that one didn't really matter in the outcome of the match - we won anyway.

The next one comes from the second round of the second KO and cost us another date with Joyce Hill's team in the semis.



We were white and they were red, and lho opened 2S in 3rd seat. This pair plays weak twos 3-7 often with a five card suit.

She led a low club, ruffed in dummy, I played a heart to my hand to ruff another spade and seeing no ace decided she opened a five card suit. She then showed three hearts. Now the question is how to play diamonds. If she was somewhat sane, she wouldnt be 5332 so that rules out 5-3-3-2. A 5-3-1-4 hand would be much more suitable to a preempt.

Alas, the lady had Jx of diamonds and I finessed into her. It was a 26 imp swing and we lost that match by 9 (and lost the other match in the three-way by 4).

Thursday in the Swiss I was put to the test again.



We reached 4S. LHO had overcalled 2D, and the hand eventually came down to getting the heart suit right for no losers. He had dropped the J under the HA and I knew from the play he started with exactly 5 diamonds and 2 spades. This one was pretty easy to work out to drop the QJ doubleton rather than play him for a singleton J and finesse through RHO. The main inference is from  the fact that he did not make an unusual 2NT overcall. with 2-1-5-5 distribution he may well have done that instead of overcalling 2D: Kx, QJ, QJxxx, AJxx is more consistent with the bidding than Kx, J, QJxxx, AJxxx. It was just funny seeing Sean's reaction and being worried that I was going to finesse and lose to yet another jack doubleton.

Winter has had a good time here. The DoubleTree is pet friendly, making this one of my favorite regionals, even if it is a bit on the small side. I really like Columbia. The Riverwalk along the Broad River and Bush River has been a place Winter and I have been almost every day to walk/jog. The final table count will probably be around 1650, substantially down from 2010, but that was kind of expected given its position right between an Atlanta supersectional and the Las Vegas NABC and a Raleigh regional just over a month ago.