Pretty much most of us play bridge because of the game itself. Fascinating, intriguing, never-able-to-be-mastered, confounding ... All that and more is why we play.
Yet, the game itself is not the only reason we keep on returning - year after year - decade after decade!
It's the friendships and the partnerships that we develop. And sometimes - for half a century!
Bill Voedisch tells his own personal tale of partnership and bridge. Thanks so much, Bill!
“Bridge with Denny” … A 50-Year Partnership
I played my first hand of bridge with Denny Cerkvenik in the summer of 1967. We were newly hired computer programmers at Cargill in Mpls, and it started with just a casual lunchtime game with Denny and I paired against two other programmers. Although we had all played the game for a few years, we knew one thing; there must be way more to bridge than the game we were playing.
Our first duplicate game
Denny and I played our first duplicate game in the fall of ‘67 in the Minneapolis Industrial League. I recall two teams from Honeywell, one featuring Stoop Chamberlain. By 1968 two partnerships were forming; Denny began playing with college friend Arnie Ullevig as I formed a partnership with Kurt Dahl of Cargill. But we would also mix the partnerships up, and starting in ’68, Denny and I would occasionally try the Bridge Studio on Nicollet in Mpls.
We formed a team … Denny and Arnie, Kurt and I … for the first Swiss event ever played in Minnesota, held at the Calhoun Beach Hotel as I recall, in the fall of 1968. We were ecstatic to finish 5-3 in this open event, holding about 10 total master points among us. I remember the chaos of the event, perhaps only a person or two in the room who knew how to organize the thing, trying to explain IMP scoring to the uninformed mob. In talking to Ron DeHarpporte and Larry Oakey this past year, both confirmed they were there.
The early players
Some of the players and pairs of the day: Dorothy Kanter and Hugh McLean, David Clarren and Newt Dochman, Morrie Freier and Ethyl Dayboch, Essie Mersky with Larry Oakey or Arlene Hill, Jack Rhatigan with two Mike’s ... Myers or Hoffman, Beulah Schockett and Margarite Grue, Irv and Roz Steinfeldt, the “Rangers” (Dave Lehman and Dick Melson, Howie Weinstein and Steve Garner), Dave Nicklasson with Jim Leary or Chuck Stegeman, C. Milton Shefchek and Dorene King, Jon Voedisch and Terry Beckman, John Larson and Gary Krook, Ron and Joyce DeHarpporte, and Jim Hall who paired with many top players.. You knew John Larson was in the room if you pulled Braille cards out of the board.
In the early 70’s we added Roger Heimke and Jim Sundlin as Dahl moved out of state. We hired Howie Weinstein to teach us the Montreal Relay system. We all adopted that system allowing us to interchange pairings. As a team we were known as “the Polish Army,” a tag given to us by Oakey. While Denny and Arnie dabbled in Precision, Denny and I stuck to “Standard Howie.” We would travel to a few local tournaments and one National, Chicago in ’72, which is an insane story on its own.
Along the way we earned enough points for Life Master, Denny in ’78, me in ’80. In those days our gold points often came playing against the top players, who we would beat occasionally. Over time Arnie moved West, Roger moved South and Sundlin sort of vanished. Denny and I continued to play but in the early ‘80’s I pulled away from the game and played very little as Denny continued to play with others. My occasional games were with Denny.
Sometime in the ‘90’s he said I needed to get serious and start playing more, and we did. I am grateful to this day for his prodding.
Neither of us has ever been a frequent player. Family and other priorities were a factor for both of us. We don’t travel to tournaments or go to Nationals unless we are there representing District 14 in the NAP or GNT, something we have been proud to do seven times. Our biggest wins were five District Championships in those “grass roots” events. Alas, our best finishes at the national finals were 6th in the NAP and 5-8 in the GNT.
If you get a chance to play with Denny, count yourself fortunate. An excellent and steady player, his decorum at the table is exceptional. Never critical of partner or opponent, and hands are discussed away from the table. Sometimes his golf shirts are so loud they blind me, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
So thank you Denny, for a half century of modest success yet total enjoyment at the bridge table.
Diane Henson does a marvelous job with an "Upcoming Events" schedule for Minnesota. Please see below for the wide variety of bridge activities that are available in the coming months.
Of particular importance is qualifying for North American Pairs. The NAP is held at every Spring NABC. In 2018, this will be Philadelphia; a fine site for a nationals.
NAP presents a super opportunity to compete at the national level, in your own flight against your peers. You receive a subsidized trip in addition to the opportunity to win a national title!
Please note that there are still many dates available for games, and in different locations. But - the qualifying period ends at the end of August! If you want to play and have not yet qualified, you need to do so soon!
This is a great event and loads of fun!
Of course, many other excellent bridge events coming up, too. Avail yourself of as many as possible!
In the olden days, excellent teams making it out of the first day of the Spingold was the proverbial piece of cake.
But; that was then. This is now.
In 2017's world, even the best of the best don't have a guarantee of getting to Day #2 of a major team event.
Three Minnesotans proved that their team had the Right Stuff to make it to the Round of 64.
Keith Connolly, along with teammates Pamela Nisbet, John Laufer, and Dennis Ryan, earned the right to play the tough Jacek Pszczola "Pepsi" team.
Mike Cassel also made it through to the round of 64, with teammates Howard Kahlenberg, Andy Kaufman and Donna Morgen. Mike & Company also had to face a star studded Mahaffey team on Day 2.
While Keith and Mike's teams did not survive to Day #3 - believe me, some pretty impressive teams failed to survive more than one day.
In yet another match, Duluth resident, junior Ben Kristensen played with partner and teammates Kevin Rosenberg, Adam Kaplan and Christian Jolly, the original 93 seed. And they faced one of the top teams in the world: Monaco.
At the end of the day? It turned out that it was Monaco who got the tough draw; the Jolly team moved on and Monaco was on the sidelines!
Jolly, too, did not survive to the Round of 32. Yet, beating such a world class team was a huge accomplishment and a great thrill for all these young players.
Congratulations to all these Minnesotan players who did us proud in Toronto!
(And my apologies as Webmaster for tardiness in posting. Having the Nebraska Regional following the Summer NABC so rapidly presents its own challenges!)
HARDLY!!! I know my serious followers will agree!
Bobby has always heralded the numerous areas of our lives, outlooks and achievements (logic, reasoning, predicability, etc.) which have strengthened our thinking trends! I wanted to share with you the following tribute to the many assets of bridge learning with those who do not read Bobby’s daily Internet Column Aces on Bridge which appears on the same bridgeblogging.com site as mine (courtesy of Master Point Press).
The following was his thinking and reflections upon the learning process.
…. While some people feel that card playing is, at best a waste of time, in truth and at least as far as bridge is concerned, becomes a tremendous exercise in psychology; it delves deep into what adversaries (whether it be cards, business or even love) are thinking and so (in old times during wartime) hastened the building of walls, moats, mined areas and barbed wire fences as well as developing whatever amounted to counter espionage during those time periods.
I believe what he is alluding to is .. one must consider the many possibilities in bidding, declaring and defending! Bridge is an all-consuming game if we want to succeed!
It was an exhilarating well-played, grueling week-long national Championship that was contested to the bitter end! The popular victors were Captain John Diamond and longtime partner, Brian Platnick with world renowned Norwegian celebrities Boye Brogeland and Espen Lindqvist. You might enjoy getting your hands on a copy of “The Lone Wolff” and checking out page 259. The chapter is entitled “What’s to Become of America’s Talented Youth.” You will see some familiar names that Bobby spotted back in 1991. A true bridge Clairvoyant!
|One of the large playing areas|
The ABTA convention Awards banquet is a wrap for another year. It was a particularly exciting one for me, as a Master Point Press book won this year’s ABTA Book of the Year award for best Beginner/intermediate book.
First, check out the amazing decorations for the night, all planned and executed by Barbara Seagram. Her team transformed the pub at the Strathcona Hotel into a bridge-themed fancy dining room. The food was amazing and the staff incredible. Here are some photos of the decor:
By far the best part of the evening for me was when we were able to surprise author Bill Treble with the news that he’d won this year’s ABTA Book of the Year award for his book, Defending at Bridge: A first course. He had driven to Toronto from Winnipeg, just arriving this afternoon, to play in the NABC. With some help from his wife Sue, we had convinced him to come a day early and to attend the banquet and meet some of the teachers. He and Sue are teachers themselves. His friend Michael Leighton, also a bridge teacher, had driven up with him, and Sue had to stay behind in Winnipeg to run the games Bill was missing.
When the award was announced, the look on Bill’s face was priceless. I was sitting right beside him, so of course I took a photo.
He was happy to accept his plaque and though mostly speechless, he thanked the committee, Sue and Mike.
The event was followed by great food and a wonderful panel of teachers and experts, moderated by John Rayner, and including Haig Tchamitch, Andy Stark, Barbara Seagram and Bob Morris. A wonderful end to a special night.
Here’s the cover of the winning book, look for it in bookstores!
This year’s American Bridge Teachers’ Association Convention is happening right now in Toronto, Ontario, my home town. Over 100 teachers (I think the actual number is 107) are here, the largest turnout in a few years! It was a very hot day yesterday, not usual for us, but today has brought cooler weather, thank goodness!
I had the pleasure this morning of attending the presentation of the 2017 ABTA Teacher of the Year award, sponsored by Master Point Press. Here’s my photo gallery of the events as they unfolded.
Joyce Penn introduced each of the nine finalists for this year’s award:
Robert Barrington, New York, NY
Joann Glasson, Pennington, NJ
Bruce Greenspan, Bonita Springs, FL
Josee Hammill, Toronto, Canada
Henry Meguid, Durham, NC
Jim Ricker, Knoxville, TN
Kathy Rolfe, Lake Winnebago, MO
Enid Roitman, Toronto, Canada
Grant Robinson, Dublin, CA
Each nominee had provided a short video clip, so we got to see their teaching in action! Then… the big announcement. This year’s winner is Enid Roitman from Toronto! We’re so happy to see a Canadian teacher recognized this year, and one from Toronto at that!
Enid was overjoyed and happily thanked her fellow nominees, the committee and sponsors, particularly Barbara Seagram, Josee Hammill and other local Toronto bridge teachers.
Congratulations to Enid and all this year’s nominees.
Now I’m off to the Awards Banquet, so more to come from Toronto later.
No doubt, the world has fallen from grace. It is obvious from the downtrodden state of the universal economy with skyrocketing pricing everywhere, homeless people .. and even more frightening .. the threat of terrorism .. any time/any place.
There are many venues in life that contribute to fear, danger, disappointment, doom and gloom, sadness and serious concern .. but absolutely minuscule in relation to the above.
Moving on to a much lighter subject (sometimes) .. no one can argue that the scene is soooo different when we old timers were captivated and intrigued when introduced to a challenging game and fascinating enterprise known simply as ‘bridge.’ It opened an intriguing horizon. How little we knew about the unexpected realms of frustration, disappointment, aggravation, glumness and doom and gloom, until the light began to shine. Few are born ‘naturals.’ Most of us struggled at a first. No one ever said it was a ‘piece of cake’! We worked hard until we reached the point where we derived pleasure and satisfaction of recognizing improvement!
For me, that is all history. I will be forever grateful for my exposure to the game and treasure my memories of over fifty years of making treasured friends, attending countless NABCs and World Championships and traversing the globe, seeing many of the wonders of the world with Norman and Bobby. I am one lucky girl!!!
Life in Vegas is good and I am more than content with local duplicates and tournaments. Best of all .. NO airplanes (direct or indirect flights), mandatory security checks, mail or newspaper temporary holds, packing and unpacking et al. Old age is not as bad as one would suspect!
The above interlude was triggered after reading the problems being faced (and reportedly well-handled by the tons of capable volunteers) for the upcoming Toronto Nationals. Believe me, these events don’t just happen on their own. I was active in Philadelphia for forty years and can testify it is an all-consuming job (and more)! I feel for them and hope they will be rewarded by tremendous success! Aces all the way!
Five days of pair games at the Aquatennial Sectional resulted in loads of fun - and masterpoints for some!
Brian Crossley's photo should appear here!
Sorry I missed you, Brian!
At the top of the masterpoint winners list, a name that more than occasionally is there appears yet again. Congratulations to Terry Beckman for earning 32.57 points - less than half a point ahead of Barry Purrington, who also went over 32 points for the week, with 32.07. Robert Schacter and Brian Crossley were close behind these two, with 31.51 and 30.19 respectively. The full list of event finishes is here.
Our thanks to Tony Ames for fine directing, and Teri and Chip Blu for their TCBC hospitality (that black streak behind Tony is Teri, btw!)
And - of course - we thank all the players who competed throughout the week!
One of our competitors wanted her photo to appear on the front page of the Pioneer Press. That task was not within my power - but - here is her smiling face at MN Bridge!
Lots more shots below!
Sue Greenberg contacted MN Bridge with the exciting news that Pat Burrows went over 5,000 masterpoints, thus achieving the rank of Diamond Life Master!
Friends celebrated this fine achievement with a party and - the "traveling diamond". Carol Cummings was the previous most recent player to have it - and - it gets passed on to the next competitor who achieves the status.
Pat is a great friend, mentor, teacher - and - (of course!) player extraordinaire.
Well done, Pat!
I have admired Canadian bridge internationalist Paul Thurston and his sound advice about bidding ever since I attended a lecture he gave at an Ottawa tournament. He was talking about “reverses” – an area of bridge bidding that I had never got right. Paul’s ideas and methods were perfect for me and they formed the core of that part of my bidding notes for years.
When I got a chance to read his new 2/1 book I was impressed with his new ideas and methods for bidding. And I was pleased to have an opportunity to ask him a few questions.
Does this book stand alone or do you expect that the reader has already read your original 2/1 book or is at least familiar with the 2/1 system?
I do believe the new book can almost stand alone but a familiarity with 2/1 methods (as written about in the first book and elsewhere) will certainly be helpful as a basis for possible change and an understanding of how the total system can work for a partnership – it’s not an attempt to do piecemeal changes or additions/subtractions but to end with a unified whole. Can the reader do some tinkering? For sure but not to the fundamental structures.
For example, 1♠ -2♦ needs to be kept as a 100% game force and the 2♦ bidder should deliver a decent diamond suit.
Removing ambiguity right at the outset is what 2/1 does best – we all know bidding will always be a lot of guesswork but a solid foundation can help.
Who should read this book? Is it for low intermediates and above or do you expect more bridge experience as a starting point?
I do think this new book has something to offer for players and partnerships of all levels of experience and expertise, if only to serve as a comparison to what you might be using instead. These methods have been tried and tested at the table and proven to work very well and are not all that difficult to assimilate once certain basic philosophies are grasped.
At a recent regional, I opened 2NT with ♠ Ax ♥ KJ ♦ Kx ♣ AKJ10xxx (a slight upgrade in HCP due to the source of tricks and all suits stopped) and nothing bad happened! The auction was simplified and the normal 3NT was reached but the opponents were aghast at the end of play when they saw my hand. “Why wouldn’t you open 1♣x?” they asked. “Because I’m a firm believer in the systemic adoption of the Extended Notrump Family – to make life easier for partner” was my answer and the more they thought about, the more they agreed.
Note that I wasn’t claiming perfection for this approach, just hoping that the opening would simplify matters, help partner and get us to a decent contract – and that’s the entire crux of the methods advocated in this book as well as in 25 Steps.
You seem to put a lot of emphasis on hand evaluation. Do you think intermediate players are prone to overvalue their hand?
Of course hand evaluation is a critical component of judgment and merely counting HCP isn’t the end-all and be-all of hand evaluation but it is a perfectly practical place to start. All the many “Rules” (Rule of 20, Rule of 22, and so on) and alternative evaluation methods (Losing Trick Count, ZAR points, K-R points, etc. aren’t wrong, they’re just unnecessary baggage without necessarily conferring any useful benefits to their users – put the pocket calculators away, hone your evaluation judgment and enjoy the game more – without sacrificing accuracy.
When I read your book I think that while I have been loafing around bidding has got a lot more sophisticated for intermediates. For example, I like your structure over one of a major but I wonder, what is the right time in one’s bridge career to adopt some of these ideas? Is this something the partnership should consider together?
The text expands on methods that will work for partnerships partially by decluttering the possible systems at work. For example, there’s no great need to totally change the system of responding to 1M simply because an opponent intervenes with a takeout double – all this business of Jordan (aka Dormer) 2NT, transfer responses, preemptive new suit bids and so on – brings an extra memory load and doesn’t really seem to offer any real or potential benefits, so why do it?
You wrote the first 2 /1 book some time ago. Have your general thoughts about 2/1 changed even for beginners? Is there something you would like to change in the first book?
25 Steps has stood on its own merits for over a decade now but there are things in it that I wouldn’t favor today (even though there’s nothing unplayable about the original approach). Most notable: I really believe the XYZ structure has far more to offer than either version (Game Forcing or Game Invitational) of New Minor Force.
New ideas in bidding come along all the time but some very, very good ideas aren’t all that new at all. For example, Two-Way Stayman as presented in the new book has been in use by small pockets of enthusiasts for a long time but it’s never really become mainstream. Why not? Not because of a lack of proven effectiveness but I do think a lot of teachers, authors and theorists have missed the boat by not advancing these methods to their students, a lack I hope I’ve at least partially remedied.
Perhaps one of your more controversial suggestions here is the idea of using two-way Stayman over a strong notrump. I think the approach is great and allows a lot of flexibility. This structure might be a big change for some readers. Any advice on how to make this change easier?
I do believe the traditional Stayman/Transfer approach has been inculcated in so many largely because of inertia: It’s a good idea to do this because we’ve always done this so let’s keep doing it! And because it’s relatively easy to teach and learn, even though the effectiveness of said learning and teaching is open to question.
For example, teachers of Standard American conducted this auction during a recent match:
The meaning in Standard Jacoby Transfer language:
2♥ = I have 5+ spades
2♠ = Ok, I’m doing as I’m told
3♦ = 4+ diamonds and a game force
3♥ = an “advance cuebid” saying a heart control and a diamond fit.
Sometimes a spade fit but that’s unusual.
3NT = Ok
Except their hands didn’t conform at all to the bidding in this simple sequence:
|♠ Q x||♠ K J x x x|
|♥ A J x x x||♥ x|
|♦ K x x||♦ Q x x x x|
|♣ A J x||♣ Q x|
Too high, and the wrong strain, because responder didn’t have a game-forcing hand in the first place.
Our simple two-way Stayman sequence:
2♣ = was game invitational Stayman
2♥ = 4+ cards, possibly 4 spades
2♠ = 5 cards, game invitational
Pass = no game looks good so let’s quit while we can
And this showcases the main feature of two-way Stayman that I firmly believe 2/1 enthusiasts who give it a try will really love: the 2♣ response to 1NT announces, “we’re in a game invitational sequence” while 2♦ says, “we’re going to game, let’s explore” . In this respect it’s philosophically aligned with the forcing 1NT response (usually no more than game-invitational) to 1♥ or 1♠ and the 2/1 response that says, “we are 100% committed to game – somewhere.”
I have always liked bid ’em ups and you are less likely to argue with your partner about the practice auction afterwards when the book already provides the answer. Besides using the examples in the book, do you have any suggestions about the best way to practice with your partner?
There are several very good websites where you can find Bid ‘Em Up deals, some with scoring attached – get your Google on and have some fun! If you do decide to give two-way Stayman a try, Bid ‘Em Ups are a great way to practice these or any other new or old methods.
What are the possible pitfalls of changing to your methods?
One thing to be careful about: adding or changing bits of pieces of your existing bidding approach without an eye to how you’ll affect the whole structure can be dangerous – give changes a lot of pre-adoption thought.
This is especially true in the area of Reverses and nowhere more so than in the case of Reverses after a 2/1 response.
A pair I know recently changed to 2/1 methods but decided that since a 2/1 already set up a game force, they didn’t need to be concerned about having “extra” values when rebidding after a 2/1 response.
And then along came this deal:
|♠ Q 5||♠ A J 8|
|♥ A Q J 5||♥ 9 2|
|♦ K J 6 4||♦ A 7 5|
|♣ 7 5 3||♣ A Q 10 6 3|
After the 2♣, opener didn’t want to raise clubs with such paltry support and couldn’t stomach 2NT without a spade stopper so he decided to show his good hearts since “we’re going to game anyway”. Except when the 3NT raise came back to Responder he still wasn’t sure whether or not Opener had extras for his reverse so he made one more try and, wouldn’t you just know it – with a spade lead through the ♠Qx and a mildly unfriendly lie, nine tricks was the limit.
My recommended 2/1 Auction:
2♣ sets up a game force and Opener prefers not to raise clubs or rebid 2NT for the same reasons as the other Opener but chooses instead a default rebid of 2♦ without necessarily promising (or denying) extra length in diamonds. Responder raises diamonds and Opener shows his hearts for notrump purposes even though he might also be on a slam hunt for diamonds.
3NT = I have something good in spades and maybe we want to play there.
Pass = sounds good!
If you are attending the Toronto NABC, come and meet Paul Thurston, signing his new book at the Baron Barclay table at 6:30pm Sunday, July 23rd.
You can visit ebooksbridge.com to see Paul Thurston’s ebooks and more.
My duty to report sad news in our bridge community again. We have lost a long time player, great guy and excellent bridge player: Tom Holzer.
Tom's visitation and funeral service information can be found in this beautiful obituary. Our deepest condolences to Tom's family and to all his friends.
James was happy to partner various older ladies who were willing to pay the table fees in return for a pleasant, sometimes rewarding, session. One of James’ frequent partners was Madame Nora Fanshaw, then long retired, one of those worthy Canadian performers who dot the musical landscapes in Northern climes: too emotional for the Germans, not hare-brained enough for the Italians, too intelligent for Americans, not intellectual enough for the French, so just right for London, one would think, ‘dependable, unassuming, and can sing comprehensibly in English.’ Her story went something like this:
‘I had hopes for the Metropolitan when Eddie Johnson took over in 1935, and we were invited to come to New York, but the war intervened, and I lost my chance. I had hesitated because Tauber wanted me for one of his productions, but he ran out of money before it was staged. During the War I stayed in the countryside on my late husband’s estate, learned bridge, and bore my dear daughter. One must never regret giving life to others, but by the time the War ended my operatic career was beyond recovery. Foolishly I had kept myself out of the picture, so I was condemned to oratorios in the Midlands.’
That was the story she told, but there were other versions, many including scandalous details. On the night of which we write, it was James and Nora’s good fortune to score 56.4 % which was sufficient to top the field East-West. Here was one board played on defence against the Reverend Reginald Forsythe, a pessimistic Presbyterian.
Nora led the ♠7. James won his ♠K and pondered the significance of this lead. He could read it as a singleton. Thus their holdings in the majors were marked as being 6-6. There was a good possibility that the division of sides was 7-7-6-6 with Madame having the winning high cards otherwise given to the partnership. She might later be called upon to make a critical decision. It was matchpoints, not IMPs, so James thoughts were focused on how to protect his partner from a tough decision. That objective might best be served if he returned a heart, just in case she had a problem when a heart was led towards the dummy where the diamond tricks lay. An immediate heart might give declarer problems in communication, and without full knowledge of the distribution he might even be tempted later in a matchpoint context to take a losing club finesse himself rather than play safely for 9 tricks. Given the uncertainty of the situation he decided that to protect his partner from a later decision was the top priority, so he immediately returned the ♥7.
Nora could win the ♥K and return a heart without giving away a trick in the suit with her winning clubs intact. Squirm as he might declarer could manage just 8 tricks. The timing was all wrong. ‘Why?’ he asked himself, ‘do women always give me problems. What have I ever done to deserve this?’ Of course he did not include his dear wife, Margaret, in the general condemnation – it was just his eternal misfortune.
Out of kindness James offered to escort the obviously delighted Madame Nora back to her rooms located in the vicinity of Albert Hall for a celebratory nightcap. Her living room was small, poorly lighted, but richly decorated. Prominently featured was a huge red velvet sofa facing a tapestry of an oriental theme with a dragon that looked out threateningly with smoke coming out of its nostrils. On an end table were framed black-and-white photographs of her in costume with legendary performers of the past.
Madame soon returned with two glasses of wine in her hands. She had changed to something more comfortable, a long, silk dressing gown embroidered with a floral design. It made her look much younger than her sixtysomething years.
‘Je viens celebrer la victorie,’ she trilled in a rich contralto as she handed James a glass of port before sinking softly beside him on the sofa. ‘Do you know that tune?’ she asked after sipping the vintage wine.
‘Yes, I believe it is from Samson and Delilah. My father had a record of that with Caruso, I believe.’
‘Marvelous. Delilah was a favourite role of mine. I sang it with Jobin in Montreal before the war. I wore a black body stocking in the first scene, quite the scandal at the time. Ebe Stignani had the voice, but I had the body and most of all, the temperament. I can only imagine her luring Samson into her tent with the words, ‘come and try my chicken soup’. Ha-ha. Raoul was a bit stiff, having been taught by Jesuits, but we sold out the house on every performance. Montrealers try so hard to be sophisticated, but really they love their hockey more than opera. Caruso was well before my time, but I did sing with the great Chaliapin when I was very young. Shall I tell you a naughty story about Feodor Ivanovich and myself?’
James nodded enthusiastically, realizing there would be no way to stop her short of walking out. The port was delicious.
‘In the days before radio I toured America in The Barber of Seville where I played a very young Berta and Chaliapin played Don Basilio. Although his was a small part, he was the main attraction and he ran the whole show. One night after a performance in Cleveland that went particularly well, he came up to me and suggested, more a command really, that we should rehearse next day. We had little to do together on stage, so I said, ‘I know my part backwards,’ and he said, ‘I assure you that won’t be necessary. I shall call on you shortly before noon.’ Of course the whole company knew what that meant, and they all urged me to keep the master in a good mood for the rest of the tour. I was easily persuaded, for in those days I was up for anything.
‘The next day before noon he appeared at my hotel room in this elaborately decorated dressing gown with the grey hairs on his chest peeking through and a dozen pink roses in his huge fist. By noon he was on top of me naked in bed making beautiful manly sounds.
‘You are as big as a horse,’ I commented over the noise meaning it as a compliment to his prodigious manhood. His English was poor and he misheard what I had said.
‘You tink I was a bit hoarse?’ he replied, stopping what he was doing. ‘I thought so, too. I fear I am getting a cold.’
‘What about me?’ I asked, startled, because every singer fears catching a cold on tour.
‘You? You are always flat.’
‘I’m flat certainly, just the way you like me,’ I replied, ‘flat on my back.’
He roared with laughter, and we instantly became great friends. The tour became a tour of love: the baritone loved the soprano, the soprano loved the conductor, the conductor loved the harpist, the harpist loved the first violin, the first violin loved the tenor, the tenor loved the audience and the audiences loved everybody. Of course, with Chaliapin even his wives knew you could never hope to be his one and only. He was a giant, certainly, but a baby as well, a baby who sucked on vile black cigarettes.‘
James laughed politely, a bit apprehensive about where this might be leading.
‘Indeed? I know you can still buy Chaliapin blend cigarettes in the Burlington Arcade,’ he observed lamely. ‘Well, as it is getting late maybe I should….’
“Yes, you should go as I still have what remains of my reputation to protect, and you must have some pretty young thing wondering what is taking you so long, but first let me ask you a question about one of the hands we played tonight. You will remember when I led a spade and you, dear, dear boy, returned a heart defeating Forsythe and his mousy wife in 3NT. Yes? Well, I must ask you why did you return a heart?’
James remembered his thought process, but he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so he replied evasively, ‘I can’t say actually, except it seemed a good move at the time. I was thinking about a spade, or maybe a club…’
‘Exactly! But you chose a heart. All the time you were thinking, I was saying to myself, without moving my lips, “heart, heart, heart…” and your brain received my brain waves. I do this quite often – I lead a card in a suit I don’t want returned and then I concentrate as hard as I can on the suit I want partner to lead back, and very often that’s the suit he or she returns. Of course, one must be playing with a compatible and sympathetic partner who is ready to receive such a message. It’s the same mental power that makes the Ouija Board work. Think about it, and tell me what you conclude, while I fetch a tiny goodnight glass of port.’
James did not protest. Foolishly he remained seated on the sofa waiting obediently almost against his will for what would come next. He would really prefer a cold lager as he was feeling quite warm facing the snorting dragon. Was it possible, he wondered, that his decisions were being guided subconsciously, like the movements of a planchette on a Ouija Board, by some Invisible Hand?
For nearly two weeks in 1968 James had been living in a young man’s paradise: Chicago in the evenings with two lovely princesses, love making at night with the very same, and afternoons to rest while the young women went shopping (what stamina!) all at the expense of billionaire Howard Heinz, the father of Heidi and the sponsor of Betsy. There was one cloud on the horizon: James was supposed to be writing a newspaper feature on international women’s bridge, but he hadn’t yet had the time or the energy to produce even a single line. The idyll came to an abrupt end shortly after lunch at the Savoy Grill, where the girls received many admiring looks from the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Charlie Chaplin, who at 80 years of age still entertained romantic notions.
Howard Heinz and James had had a full lunch while Heidi and Betsy ate a light salad as was their wont. (How do they do it?) Howard rose from the table stating he felt a walk along The Embankment and a cigar would be good for his health. His young companions demurred saying they would best stay in the suite and work on the interview, which, they said, was near completion. Five minutes later Howard was on his way to Cleopatra’s Needle while the three young people were rolling around naked in Heidi’s huge bed.
Five minutes after that Howard was back in the suite, calling out, ‘Yoo-hoo, has anybody seen my cigar case?’
‘Good God! Daddy!’ exclaimed Heidi, who at that moment was on the top of the pile. It was a quick jump, hop, and skip within Olympic qualification time before she reached the bathroom just as Howard was turning the doorknob to her bedroom.
‘James! Princess! What do you think you are doing?’ asked Heinz purely rhetorically.
‘Hello, Sir, my apologies, we were feeling a bid fatigued after lunch, so we thought we would have a little rest, and, well, one thing led to another. ‘
‘I see you are not the English gentleman I thought you were, taking advantage of this young woman’s fragile state of mind. She’s not a party girl, she’s a princess. Your Highness, please gather your clothes and go to the bathroom while I finish this, because what I have to say may not be fit for your ears.’
Betsy did as she was told with as much dignity as her position allowed, but without a modesty one would normally expect.
‘Did I see a tattoo?’ asked Heinz as the bathroom door closed behind a finely decorated posterior.
‘I understand it is a depiction of the Rearing White Stallion, ancient emblem of the House of Saxony.’
‘I revere loyalty in its many guises,’ announced Heinz. ‘Poor Elizabeth, the Russians confiscated everything, but they couldn’t rob her of her sense of identity. That’s obvious. Now, where’s my daughter?’
‘Gone shopping for new shoes in Carnaby Street, I believe,‘ said James gambling this was the most believable lie.
‘That’s ridiculous! She has only two feet, but already she’s got shoes to match shoes. Thank heaven she was spared this…this… debaculousness. I am disappointed in you, Woolwich. Obviously you are a man of the world, but I see you are not even wearing protection. Get dressed while I call the maid to come and clean up this mess before Heidi gets back. I don’t want even a hint any of this to get out, so how much will it cost me to keep your article out of the papers? Here, take this £200, it’s all I have on me.’
‘Sir, no money, you have my word,’ replied James who had yet to produce a word.
‘I don’t trust a man who refuses money. How about £300? That’s my final offer.’
‘That would more than compensate for lost revenue,’ conceded James reluctantly.
‘Here, take this,’ Heinz said retrieving £100 notes from an inside pocket. ‘Now get dressed and get out. I don’t want to see you ever again. Remember I have friends who carry weapons.’
James was thus expelled from his Garden of Eden. £300 was manna from heaven, but James complained, Adam wasn’t sent off all by himself – he got to keep Eve. He eventually told the whole story to his Japanese flatmate and spiritual adviser, Hisashi-san.
‘Is there as lesson in all this, Sensei?’
‘Yes, James-san. What you experienced was Firefly Love (Hotaru-Koi). Geishas sing a song of a love that burns bright throughout one night before dying with the dawn. So sad, so beautiful, but now it is best to move on and look for wife. Man needs family and family needs wife.’
To relieve James’ melancholy, the priest proposed resuming their regular game of duplicate at the Southwark Lawn Bowling and Bridge Club. Before play began, James observed the faces gathered about the tables in the greenish light reflected from the walls of the underground playing area. Were others also experiencing private agonies behind their impassive faces? Of course, it was unlikely that any had just lost 2 lovers in the same afternoon, but might they not be also suffering behind the mask? Perhaps that old dear was hiding grief at the unexpected passing of a beloved canary. Perhaps behind that stern patriarchal façade lurked fear over a pain in the chest that had arisen after a favourite meal of bangers, mash, canned peas, and fried onions. Maybe for a few brief hours, bridge would temporarily dispel all hidden concerns. These weren’t Italians. Emotions wouldn’t be allowed to slop over and affect card play.
Luckily Hisashi got to declare most of the hands, including this one where the art of the exit was on full display.
In theory Angus MacGregor was no racist, but he couldn’t help trying a bit harder when playing against former enemies. A dyed-in-the-wool conservative he stretched his normal limits to overcall where today such action would be considered automatic by most players. The way the evening had been progressing, Hisashi thought it best to keep things simple, so he bid game, but then found James with 5 losers looking for a slam in a minor.
John Wilson avoided responsibility for any ensuing disaster by leading his partner’s suit, and Hisashi took the time to form a plan. There is a saying conveying begrudging respect, ‘give a Japanese a lemon and he’ll make lemonade.’ Here declarer was thinking of ways to squeeze the lemon for 11 tricks. From his experience playing against MacGregor he could count on the heart finesse being right, but one more trick was needed.
Hoping for 5 tricks in clubs Hisashi began with the ♣A from dummy and the ♣K from hand, discovering a loser in that suit. Losing a club early would make the defender’s job easier, so he made a strange play, a passive exit of the ♠Q from his hand, won by MacGregor with the ♠K. The Scot considered cashing the ♠J at this point, but that would give up a trick to declarer’s ♠T. As it was obvious that this was what declarer was aiming at, MacGregor, being the stubborn, frugal sort for whom his countrymen are esteemed, exited with the ♦6 giving nothing away. (In Scotland toilet paper in a gas station lavatory came at a price. It was left to those in need to decide whether it was worth the extra expense. The Scots had learned to bring their own or do without – it was all part of the Scottish economic theory of how to increase goods for the rich by slashing services for the poor. Today’s airline executives wish they could fully implement that same principle.)
With the defender’s communications severed, it was safe for the priest to set up a fourth trick in clubs, ending in dummy in this ending:
Select (you can triple-click it) and over-write this text below the diagram.
MacGregor, stingy to the end, would not give up his ♠J on the play of the winning club, so declarer could discard his losing spade and finesse in hearts to gather 3 heart tricks raising his total to the required 11, making 4 clubs, 3 diamonds, 3 hearts and 1 spade.
Coming first at the local duplicate largely as a consequence of misplays by the opponents doesn’t compensate for losing two firefly lovers on the same day, but it helps immensely in easing the pain. A warm beer at a crowded pub provides further comfort. James had a question on the play of the hand.
‘Hisashi-san, what would have happened if MacGregor had taken his 2 spade tricks? Wouldn’t that prove awkward?’
‘No, James-san, if he cashes 2 spade tricks, no need to lose club as I have a spade trick to compensate. So MacGregor-san gets squeezed no matter what he does. He didn’t follow the advice of Sakamoto Ryoma, “Before entrance, plan exit,” but in the end neither did Sakamoto. He was assassinated in a hotel room with no back exit. That was careless. Believe in actions more than in words, James-san.’
Not everything was doom and gloom last week. Bobby and I just learned that one of our favorite friends and teammates, Jack Hibbs, enjoyed a banner week at the Regional — winning 86.49 MPs (with frequent partner and classy gentleman, Dennis Scholl, close behind with 82.24).
Jack was raised in Northern New York (along the St. Lawrence River), attended University of Arizona, served in the USAF (and is too modest to discuss being awarded The Silver Star)… so forget I mentioned it! He has indeed enjoyed a many-faceted life; after moving to Vegas, became a stockbroker with a major company, worked in the retail computer industry for several years… but since 1999 has devoted his time to enjoying his golden years as a Realtor (when not at the bridge table) and continuing to be a loving husband, proud dad and grand-dad!
In a darkened bedroom James lay in a double bed looking at the ceiling and wondering what he had done to deserve his current state of bliss. When he was a schoolboy his mother had told him to do his homework, because, ‘in this world you only get what you deserve.’ He hadn’t believed it then and he didn’t believe it now. Millions in the Third World were starving while here he lay well nourished with his left hand on the bare bum of the beautiful brunette on his left and his right hand on the bare bum of an equally beautiful blonde on his right. Homework missed or completed had nothing to do with it.
His first encounter with a beautiful bare bum had been during a school excursion to Warwick Castle. While the other boys were in the Grand Gallery enthusiastically viewing swords and suits of armour, he had wandered past a closed door to a room containing a statue of a reclining nude in the naturalistic style of Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850), the original work (and the model herself) having once been in the possession of Napoleon III. Boyhood curiosity drew him near. The buttocks were smooth, but cold and hard to the touch. The buttocks he was now feeling were smooth, warm, and soft.
‘Betsy, are you awake?’ said a voice on his right, muffled by a pillow. ‘I just realized I could have made that damn 3NT if I had led a low club from dummy before cashing the ace.’
The person on the left turned over, put her hand on James’ stomach and replied, ‘Ja, it was obviously the only choice. Your Papa would always go up with the kink.’
‘I just wanted you to know that I know.’
‘OK, so now I know you know and I am wide awake. James is wide awake, too, because for the past 5 minutes he has been kneading my ass like it was a loaf of bread.’
‘Tee-hee, mine, too.’
‘So how about it, James? As we say in Chermany, “if you strike the match, you have to tend the fire.”’
It had begun a week earlier and all James did to deserve his good fortune was to write a letter pretending to be a journalist with an interest in women’s bridge. This led to an invitation to meet Heidi Heinz whose billionaire father was sponsoring a woman’s team in the upcoming 1968 Olympiad. That encounter led to a second invitation to their Savoy suite, this time to dine, and thereafter to complete the interview which actually he hadn’t even begun to write. The other dinner guest was to be the young German Princess Elizabeth von Stollenberg, a prospective member of Heidi’s team of women internationals who were to challenge men’s teams in a series of contests with cash prizes donated by Howard Heinz himself, albeit through one of his charities.
The previous evening he had been met at the door by the great man himself who ushered him into the sitting room where stood his gorgeous daughter, Heidi, and an equally gorgeous brunette. Their images cast in bronze would make superb bookends.
‘James Woolwich, may I introduce Princess Elizabeth von Stollenberg’ said his host inappropriately.
‘Is that with two double – u’s as in “Vow”?’ she said in a slightly German accent, offering her hand.
The woman thus introduced made an unforgettable first impression that blew James’ mind. She wore a sleeveless black dress, was slim and tall, but amply provisioned in the upper stories. Her face conveyed determination – a firm jaw line, glistening white teeth encircled by bright crimson lips. Her winsome smile and the steady, inquisitive gaze emanating from deep blue eyes gave the impression of a woman who not only knew what she wanted, but also, despite her young years, knew exactly where to get it.
‘She’s a descendent of Queen Victoria,’ informed Heidi with pride of possession.
‘I’ve got cousins who resemble Victoria closely, but, thanks to my vater I’ve got nice, long legs. He is tall and handsome – too tall to be a U-boat commander which is what he vanted always to be.’
‘I can see that would be a disappointment, your Highness, but perhaps it was rather lucky for us all he didn’t get his wish,’ commented James dryly.
‘Betsy, remember, call me Betsy. I was born on the wrong side of the Neisse, so you could say today I am Polish, but I vant to be an American champion like Dorothy Hayden and live in San Francisco with the Chinamen.’
‘The Chinese community keep pretty much to themselves,’ commented Heinz in a rare understatement. ‘We’re working on a visa, Princess. It takes time to heal old wounds.’
‘Ja, my father made a foolish mistake. In 1936 he joined the Nazi Party because he thought wrongly it would help him settle a land dispute. He was never political.’
‘Yes, land claims are tricky – it takes a lot of money and influence to get them right,’ noted Heinz. ‘Most Germans were in the same boat. They are a greatly misunderstood people. General John J. Pershing, like me a German-American, had a tank named after him, a great honour; President Eisenhower is Pennsylvanian German, Werner von Braun is pure German, now living in America, Marlene Dietrich, of course, she did great work during the war entertaining our GI’s, the von Trapp singers, a wonderful family and so melodious, …. I could go on.’
Heinz continued speaking superficially on a variety of subjects, the paragraphs arriving like waves pounding an unresisting beach. He didn’t realize that to please an audience, rather than telling them what you think they don’t know but might, it is better to embellish what you think they think they already know, but don’t. The tide peaked during dinner served in the suite by the hotel staff.
‘You know, James, the Germans and the Brits should never have fought each other in the first place. They are blood-related, although a big difference is that German roads are wide and straight while yours are narrow and crooked, so maybe that tells us something. The Krauts are working hard to rebuild their country, but look at the French. They act as if they won the war, but they are quitters who couldn’t even handle the Viet Cong. They’re too lazy to learn English. Ever try to buy an air-mail stamp in Paris? You can’t do business with the French.’
‘Be fair, Daddy,’ interjected Heidi. ‘Every woman I know would like to own at least one dress made in Paris, isn’t that so, Betsy? Your lovely dress, it’s a Chanel, is it not?’
‘Maybe so, I made it myself from a photo in a fashion magazine. This one was easy to do, except it’s a bit tight across the chest. I’ll show you how sometime, although I don’t think I could copy your beautiful dress with all its frills.’
‘You both look smashing,’ interjected James, to whose eyes the tightness across the chest represented the outstanding feature of an otherwise plain dress.
‘You men are so lucky, you look good in anything,’ said Betsy, and she meant it. ‘I vant to go to America and learn expert bridge, but I need a man to teach me.’
‘Come to New York, join my team, and we’ll have lots of men flocking around willing to teach us. We’ll go on tour and play against men’s teams. We’ve already made plans for Boston, St Louis, and Minneapolis,’ offered Heidi.
‘I am serious – only a man will do and he has to be a real man.’
‘Good luck on that one,’ blurted out Heidi, laughingly.
‘Heidi!’ admonished her father severely, ‘you shouldn’t talk about things about which you have no knowledge – it gives the wrong impression.’
That was rich. Based on his recent encounters with Heidi, James concluded that the daughter probably had more qualification in that regard than her father would like to think. On one topic at least Howard spoke with real qualification.
‘When I built Skyreach, everybody wanted a piece of the action: contractors, lawyers, union bosses, criminal organizations, police, politicians, and even judges. We spread it around, all part of the cost, and together we got the job done with no hard feelings. The project was a common cause in which everyone was invested. And what was the result? The people got a great building in the middle of Manhattan that wasn’t there before, and which will remain for their lifetimes and longer, if that matters to them. New Yorkers are the long-term benefactors and it didn’t cost them a dime – taxes get spent regardless. Think of the pyramids, hard work at the time, sure, poorly paid, sure, but a legacy still drawing revenue after thousands of years. We couldn’t afford to build them today, except maybe in a multi-purpose environment.’
James couldn’t help recalling the famous poem by Shelly about the works of Ozymandias, and was about to recite it, but he was saved from this indiscretion by the appearance of the master carver, a short but stout, moustachioed fellow dwarfed by his enormous toque blanche, summoned to gravely serve the roast lamb, during which ceremony the negative thoughts of the vegetarian dissenter were expunged completely from James’ brain as he struggled with the eternal dilemma – ‘rare or well-done?’
After the pudding Howard insisted they play Chicago and drink champagne, so they did in an atmosphere of increasingly good spirits. Unlike the wine the bridge was not of the highest quality. Here is the deal on which later Heidi regretted not making 3NT.
Heidi was a cautious bidder when playing against her domineering father. The fear of making a mistake acted as an inhibitor of initiative, thus causing mistakes of omission. James bid out his shape forcing a reluctant partner into a normal 3NT on 25 HCP on an 8-7-6-5 distribution of cards. Betsy took in the implications of the bidding and chose to lead the ♥3, covered by the Q-K-A. The ♠9 was run to the ♠Q and the ♥T was returned, ducked. The ♥9 followed, taken with the ♥J. The principle of restricted choice held out the promise that a second spade finesse would succeed, so a losing spade finesse was duly repeated. A return of a spade to dummy was an embarrassment. Declarer had 8 tricks established but she couldn’t play off the spades without squeezing her own hand in the process. Hoping for an endplay, she created a pseudo-squeeze matrix by playing off the spades, discarding 2 clubs from her hand leaving 3 clubs and 2 diamonds in dummy. She cashed the ♣A and followed with a small club to her father’s ♣K. Howard could cash the ♣T, setting the contract with a diamond still to come.
James could see that even this flawed approach would have worked if his partner had ducked the first heart and near the end played a low club off dummy keeping the club position flexible. Heidi hadn’t planned ahead, sometimes an endearing feature on a warm, starlight night in the Caribbean, but not at the bridge table. The spade suit gave a promise of 4 tricks, but, failing that, a club trick needed to be established and better sooner than later. Timing is everything.
On the last hand of the evening Betsy, a raw talent, showed her potential.
Howard had the strongly held belief that spades are like money: the pair that owns the most spades owns the hand. With the aggression for which her Prussian ancestors were famous, the Princess went directly to game with 3 queens and the ace in her partner’s presumed suit. James saw no better start than to attack with the ace of his host’s suit followed by the ♠9. As the club suit was key, Betsy was in no hurry to broach the suit. Instead she began by playing top hearts from the dummy, Howard playing his spades up-the-line, by way of a belated apology for his rash action. On the ♣2 from dummy he played what he hoped was a deceptive ♣Q, but the princess read this correctly, playing off the ♣AK dropping the ♣J. This resulted in 11 tricks made on a deal where an unopposed 3NT might have been defeated on a diamond lead.
‘You should have finessed on the second round of clubs,’ advised the billionaire, annoyed by the turn of events, ‘Reese would tell you that the play of the queen allows the assumption I didn’t have the jack.’
‘Well, this Reese, whoever he is, is mad,’ asserted the princess. ‘If you have a doubleton club, you only play the queen when you have the jack behind it, so it’s just the opposite.’
‘But how did you know Daddy had a doubleton?’ asked Heidi.
‘Well, with 6-5-1-1, surely your father would have made a Roman jump overcall.’
‘I never heard of it,’ claimed Howard. ‘In America there is no way I can show spades and diamonds after 1♣, and I am certainly not going to overcall 1♦.’
With that Heinz took his leave, going off to get fleeced by Reese and his crowd, leaving James to complete his interviews with Heidi and Betsy. Little did James guess how much progress he would make that night, nevertheless, in the coming week even more extensive research would be needed before pen touched paper.
Never before (over a sixty year span) do I recall ever vacating a bridge locale before the planned checkout day. It is a gross understatement to note the world has changed drastically and in many aspects it has been reflected in the bridge atmosphere.
Most people (especially locals like ourselves with post time at 10:00 a.m.) opted for the convenience of staying at the on-site LV hotel as the rates appeared quite fair (and free parking to locals). To ‘old folks’ like ourselves, the thought of commuting for six days was far from ideal.
No specific major complaints about the administrative staff, room service, elevator convenience, etc… but I must recount my own experience.
In recent years, I’ve requested a handicapped room considering our tender ages for bathing facilities and safety access. However, this one was minus a bathtub, so I ventured into the shower which had a bench, curtain and totally level floor and drain. Somehow, unaccustomed as I am to mobile shower heads with attachments, the water came gushing out in torrents… and to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge… “Water, Water everywhere…”. Luckily no damage or injury… just a scene reminiscent of Lake Tahoe. Fortunately a plethora of towels saved the day!
Excepting Monday, when we met an early demise, we played the next three days on six-man teams… and when sitting out routinely descended from the 18th floor followed by a tiring trek to the playing site rooting for good results. Our teammates were delightful gentlemen and we all got a kick out of beating two celebrated superstar teams in a row. However, in the third event we were in contention but finished 2nd overall in the W/Th KO Finals losing by two IMPS. I found it very frustrating as it involved an opponent’s cue bid purportedly non alertable by the the powers on high and we might have reached a better contract which may or may not have made. The opponents did nothing wrong and even if they had alerted, I would have made the identical bid. As they say… so close and yet so far! Enough belly-aching… coincidentally apropos to my next issue: Dining.
People were complaining vociferously about food price gouging. In fact, I thought someone was joshing when they stated the cost of a banana was four bucks. If so, it should be repeeled! Another negative aspect that was during crucial hours for bridge players, many of the hotel restaurants often had long lines and were enormously understaffed. This applied to both morning and evening.
At the start of the week, after unpacking, getting settled, playing and having an early dinner… we retired to our room, plopped onto the bed, activated our Sleep Apnea Machines and slept twelve straight hours. In a rush to not be late for the morning session, we hustled to the Food Court on the hotel concourse level to grab a quick breakfast. Surprise, surprise… thirty-four bucks for so-so omelettes, a piece of toast each and two cups of coffee! Akin to walking away with egg on one’s face!
We did dine at The Thai Experience three times for dinner as I adored one of their chicken dishes with peanut sauce. Bobby has always enjoyed wine with his evening meal and with so many excellent competitive restaurants in Summerlin, wine and other liquor are reasonably priced. Not so at the hotel. It was $17 the first night for a rather small portion and when we returned the following evening, they were sold out. Bobby agreed to the $21 upgrade which was good but tasted the same. It is not about money, believe me! Restaurants have to do these things to keep their heads above water.
After moving to Vegas, Bobby and I would on occasion visit the local casinos half hour before dinner and play Blackjack where we have held our own. However, quite by chance we learned of an intriguing version called Blackjack Switch and it immediately became our favorite; by coincidence it was offered at The Paris… approximately two blocks away from Bally’s and convenient to reach by an enclosed passageway between the hotels! But (and most shaggy dog stories start with ‘but’)… the area was adorned on both sides by countless stores and a variety of unusual eateries. The dining spots (whether buffets, fast foods or exclusive restaurants drew their clientele without solicitation). Unfortunately you could not walk five steps without being hustled by a specialty store ‘hawker’ who did not understand a negative nod or the words ‘No thank you!’ They did not give up until you outdistanced them.
In closing, let me add the bridge staff did all they could. However, I did have a personal gripe. Bobby was one of several asked to give a thirty-minute lecture between sessions and, as always, he was delighted to accommodate them. I was with him when approached and explained he needed a table and chair, a microphone and a chalkboard. A chalkboard is a no-brainer at a bridge lecture. The mike provided was a hand mike and much harder to use than a free standing one… but what was inexcusable was… no chalkboard or anything similar. Those in charge immediately hustled to remedy the problem but it was being used by another lecturer the floor above. The only alternative was to rent a second one from the hotel for one hundred bucks. Obviously, that was not an option and time was of the essence as well.
Since we have not attended a National in several years, it was marvelous seeing longtime friends and reminiscing about the countless fun times we shared, but I must confess I am still in the process of catching my breath and recovering from my zombie-like state — but well worth every moment of it!!!!
Atypically on this particular morning in 1968 bright sunshine backlit the bedroom curtains of James Woolwich’s Lambeth flat where the young man lay in bed reading the Sunday papers, smoking a Turkish cigarette and drinking creamy Blue Mountain coffee. He was not alone, for in a far corner quietly sitting on a mat was a man with a shaved head wearing a black robe apparently doing nothing. We say apparently, but the man, James’ flatmate Hisashi-san, a Zen monk on leave in London to learn English, was hard at work trying to sweep from his mind the comments the other man was making concerning newspaper items he had found of interest. The frequent interruptions served as tests of the monk’s powers of mediation, and it was with some pride that the practitioner found that with time it was becoming easier and easier to forget what was being said and to return to a state of perfect indifference.
‘You know, Sensei, these American women are absolutely fabulous; I would like to get to know more of them.’
‘Maybe move to New York, James-san,’ suggested the Master.
‘No need, they are flocking here in droves this spring. Must be a migratory mating instinct of some sort.’
‘Be careful, happy woman stays at home.’
‘Look at this picture. The caption reads, “Miss Heidi Heinz, daughter of American billionaire real estate tycoon, Howard Heinz, arriving at Heathrow to join her father and promote women’s participation in the upcoming World Bridge Olympiad to be held in France where a strong representation from Great Britain is expected.”’
‘Belly interesting,’ acknowledged Sensei, successfully forgetting everything said.
James held up the newspaper for inspection. A photo showed a beautiful twentysomething woman descending the steps of a TWA Boeing 707 with her right hand raised behind her head to keep her broad brimmed hat from flying off her head at the same time revealing a nicely formed body clothed in a clinging white dress.
‘I wouldn’t mind meeting this one, in fact I think I shall.’
With a rare sense of purpose James sprang from his bed, put on his robe, went to his desk, and proceeded to write a letter. Thanks to a friendship with the Atticus columnist for the Sunday Times, James was a sometimes contributor to the social pages in matters of bridge. His contribution might be a caption reading: ‘The Hon. Leslie Townsend with Lady Rowenda Rowley who recently bid and made a grand slam at the Chelsea Bridge Charity Event.’ In his letter he requested an interview with Miss Heinz on the subject of the increasingly important role of women in the realm of international competition. He dropped in the name of Fritzi Gordon who he knew to be out of town.
Surprisingly his letter was answered in short order and he was invited to meet the lady at 8 pm on that same Wednesday in the suite at the Savoy where she and her father were staying.
‘Really, so soon,’ James remarked.
‘Not busy,’ observed Sensei.
James was met at the door by Howard Heinz himself, an after-dinner cigar protruding from between his lips. His hand shake was very firm, a test of some sort. James squeezed back. The great man was stocky of build with blue eyes and a full head of golden hair. James was reminded of Auric Goldfinger. He was best known as the owner of the Manhattan skyscraper known as The Heinz Skyreach whose tapered shape some snide critics likened to a ketchup bottle. This was unfair as they didn’t compare the Kellogg Building to a box of corn flakes. Howard was also known as a sponsor of professional bridge teams featuring himself as a playing member.
‘So you’re the bridge columnist. I expected someone more seasoned.’
‘Actually I appear on mainly on the social pages as my interests are mainly sociological.’
‘Are you a communist? You don’t look like a communist.’
‘Hardly! I’m a capitalist through and through. My South African mining shares are doing quite well, thank you, since the rioting has been stopped.’
‘Just kidding hyperbolically; you know ‘columnist’ and ‘communist’ sound the same and sometimes they are the same. Anyway, come on in. Here’s a tip: to become rich, and I mean really rich like me, you have to utilize other people’s money as well as your own. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Your letter mentioned Fritzi but she’s in Deauville with Martin Hoffman. It’s really great that these days Jews are allowed in everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jews. They’re great bridge players, really great some of them – the best. Oh, here comes my daughter. Isn’t she lovely?’
Indeed she was, much more beautiful than her photo had revealed. She was dressed in a white flowing silk pants suit featuring an unsuppressed floral design. The bright smile was as advertised, her hand, warm and soft. James had to resist the temptation to reach out to touch her long, blonde, luminous tresses that resembled a cascade of gold falling from the sky onto a multi-coloured garden filled with flowers. Her father’s monologue had carried them in to a sitting room decorated in Buckingham Palace style, strangely plush and drab at the same time. In the center was huge bridge table.
‘Isn’t that a beauty? Solid walnut – I had it brought in especially. You know, James, I admire you Brits immensely – Winston Churchill, Max Beaverbrook – they were great wartime leaders and great historians to boot. . I don’t think much of Anthony Eden. He let you down, in my opinion. What’s the point of having overwhelming military superiority if you’re caving in to Egyptians and the like? I plan someday to write the history of the United States myself starting with Andrew Jackson, a great general and a great president. You know, he was the last president to fully pay off the government’s debt and he did it without income tax.’
At that moment there appeared from the interior of the suite a quiet middle-aged man, sharp-eyed, but paunchy with unruly grey-streaked hair and stooped shoulders.
‘Mel, come in here and meet our guest, James Woolcroft. Meet the famous Mel Sanford, the greatest partner a man ever had. He could tell you some stories. We’re going off shortly to play against Reese and Flint at their club. Say, Mel, what say we take on these young kids as a sort of a warm-up rubber. How about it, James, a pound a point to make it interesting?’
‘Oh, Daddy, that’s not fair. We’ve never played together before. What if James can’t afford to play for high stakes?’
‘What do you say, James, make you nervous? If you can’t pay, we’ll take it out of my daughter’s clothing allowance.’
‘Sir, I’m sure that won’t be necessary. Even if I were to lose the rubber it would be well worth the price to have played against a world famous pair, such as yourself and Mr Sanford, not to say, to have partnered such a lovely lady as your daughter.’
‘Careful now, we don’t know you, but I can tell you’re trustworthy. Shake hands on it.’
Fortune somehow favours the bold especially those who have nothing to lose. Heidi made 3NT on the first hand after a favourable lead. As dummy James could sit and admire her frowning face at leisure. The next hand gave the opponents an opportunity to tie the rubber with a 3NT contract of their own.
The auction began slowly with all four suits bid. Sanford resisted the temptation to jump to 3NT and 3♣ seemed inadequate. Experience had taught him that if final decisions were to be made it was best to let his employer make them, so he temporized with 2NT, assuring he would play the contract, regardless. Maybe a part score would pay off at rubber bridge by putting pressure on the vulnerable opponents to save the game. As it happened Howard had more than enough to raise to 3NT. Warned against a heart lead into declarer’s hand Heidi led a fourth highest spade through strength. When dummy came down, Sanford saw a possible 11 tricks.
From James’ side the lead of the ♠4 did not at first glance inspire confidence that the contract could be defeated, but closer inspection gave some hope which lay not in high card points but in distribution and timing. His long holdings in the minors would make establishment of tricks difficult there. It appeared that his partner had 6 hearts but didn’t lead them, hence they had gaps. She could have the ♦A which would help neutralize the dummy. Putting it all together, and adding a reluctance to be left on lead later with his singleton ♥K, James went up with the ♠A and exited the ♥K.
Sanford studied this card for a full minute, then folded his cards, conceding down 1.
‘What are you doing. Mel? Look at all the tricks sitting here.’
‘Good defence, Howard, there was nothing I could do,’ was all that the professional offered in explanation.
The next hand put an unexpected end to their brief rubber.
Expecting Howard to be well-supplied in the spade suit for his double, Mel led an informative ♠Q, won by James with the ♠A. A diamond to the ♦K and a low trump to the jack gathered the ♥Q from Mel who led a low spade expecting his partner to win the ♠K and give him a ruff with the ♥8. It was not to be. James won the ♠J in dummy and led a second heart. Howard could imagine an endplay where he would be trapped into leading a club, so he went up with the ♥A and gave his partner a spade ruff with the high trump. A club was dutifully returned but the defence was limited to 2 clubs and 3 hearts, 2♥* making 2, game, set, and rubber.
‘Mel, I think my double called for a club lead,’ Howard claimed.
‘Yeah, I had a good sequence, 9-8-7. I’ll make a note of it.’ replied the professional.
‘And don’t we lead queen from king-queen doubleton?’ asked Howard.
‘Yes we do, but I had only queen-deuce. I sure wish I had had the king.’
‘Anyway, Lisa, good raise. Isn’t she wonderful; she’s learning to play like Rixi, maybe even better.’
‘Actually, Howard, it’s no tragedy if you don’t double,’ continued Mel who appeared to have had a few after dinner.
‘Mel, I gotta double.’
Heinz got out his chequebook and wrote down a large sum.
‘Well done, James…W-o-o-l-w-i-c-h… make sure I spelled it right – the oldest trick in the book. I added £10 for a taxi. Don’t stay up late, Princess, I’ll be back soon.’
Closing the door behind them, Heidi turned to James with a smile.
“Don’t believe Daddy, he’ll be out all night.’
‘Well, I guess I had better be going as well.’
‘James, what about our interview?’
‘I don’t think it’s proper for us to stay alone together in a hotel room, even if it’s in the respectable Savoy. Your father indicated as much’
‘Don’t I have a say?’
‘Your father thinks it could be dangerous for you.’
‘Maybe I like danger. And if I need it, the Savoy is known for its security… as well as its discretion. Let’s go into the kitchen and see if we can find some champagne. You drink champagne, don’t you? Do you have any other bad habits? Tell me about them.’
She took his hand and led him to the kitchen area where they found two empty Bollinger bottles in the tiny sink.
‘Oh, damn, Mel has drunk them both. There’s only Daddy’s beer left.’
‘We can order more.’
‘That will take time….can we wait?’
Heidi came to him and kissed him passionately.
‘I was thinking, I should give back this cheque.’
‘Are you kidding me? Daddy would suspect something for sure.’
‘I see what you mean,’ said James wondering where the bedrooms were located.
Our story takes us to London in 1968, a the time when Harold Wilson was pulling down the shutters on the British Empire having realized that the Gnomes of Zurich had got it right all along: it is better to own a bank than to run a meat shoppe. The location is the infamous Hall of Inquiry which served as a place for officially sanctioned torture during the time of the Reformation. It is said that Thomas Cromwell’s father, a blacksmith from Putney, provided inmates with leg irons of exceptional quality: comfortable, cheap, and long-wearing. The location was taken over centuries later by The Southwark Lawn Bowling and Bridge Club. Within the seasick green walls of the cold, damp basement bridge players happily preserved the ancient traditions of accusation, inquisition, and insistence on a strict adherence to articles of faith. In the bright spectrum of first impression those of Abigail Abercrombie, an American tourist of middle age, tended more towards repugnance than delight, unaccustomed as she was to British taste in the interior decoration of public places. It was with some hope of improvement in her prospects that the widow spied a handsome young man in a blue Hardy Amies suit sitting alone at one of the tables.
Let us now introduce ourselves to this tall, lithe young man with a winning smile and an abundance of unruly sandy hair. He is James Woolwich, ‘Wooly’ to his former university chums, a regular player and a favourite of many of the old ladies of the club. A onetime student of philosophy, he was greatly influence by Aristotle, especially the wise man’s observation that nothing dulls the mind so much as regular employment. He decided that occasional studies in a variety of disciplines combined with bridge playing was a good way to develop his mind, in which pursuits he was aided and abetted by a rich uncle who allowed James to occupy his Lambeth flat while the old gentleman, reversing the current trend in immigration, pursued fulfilment in sunny Jamaica seeking something bright, brown, and beautiful….and finding it.
In his cooler, cloudier clime James was having less success with regards to fulfilment. His relationships usually got off to a good start, but petered out once the female component realized he was impervious to improvement. He looked to the Sunday newspapers for enlightenment especially with regard to curious observations such that in Cambodia the recent decrease in the water buffalo population had drastically increased the price of brides, putting them out of reach of many young framers, thereby causing an alarming rise in the rural crime rate. No mention of any bombing. It was his habit of remaining in bed on a Sunday morning drinking Blue Mountain coffee, smoking Turkish cigarettes, while going through the Sunday Times page by page seeking interesting items, un-heedful of the suggestion that it was a good time to finally tidy up (Jane), or to go for an overdue hike in the fresh air of the countryside (Alice), or make a long postponed visit to the BM (Cynthia). The girls just didn’t realize that for James this was the highlight of his week, surpassing all previous, more strenuous activities.
Then one day James went to a free, sparsely attended lecture by a Japanese Zen priest who gave out the promise of a better organized way of life. Much impressed by the monk’s quiet demeanour, James felt someone should ask a question from the floor.
‘What are your views on death, Sensei?’
‘End of cares and hardships. Death is Happy Hour with ancestors, who gather to celebrate many family duties performed… happy time for all.’
After the lecture James found Hisashi-san was staying for a year in a hostel at the end of the Northern Line learning English and perfecting his bridge playing skills. Perfect, thought James, and invited him to come stay in his Lambeth flat free of charge, lessons in English in return for lessons in Zen with a bit of housekeeping tossed in to create a balance. At a low point in that regard he committed to no female distractions for the duration, a promise he was later to regret. Hisashi bowed his appreciation of the offer. His expressionless face hid his extreme delight at the assignment of the cooking duties, for most English had never heard of seaweed and tofu soup and couldn’t even chop onions properly. There was much to learn and much to teach while gaining a regular bridge partner with qualification.
James looked up from his perusal of the yesterday’s game slips to see two women standing at the entrance, one middle aged, one not, wearing matching red outfits that would not be entirely out of place in a parade of Chelsea pensioners. The older woman was of uniform rotundity with a brightness of aspect typical of duplicate players throughout the world, whereas her stunning companion appeared be seen to be aloof and undulatory. Even at a fair distance James could assess the undulations as genuine, and the aloofness merely as a symptom of a short-sighted girl who refused to wear glasses in public – the so-called Myrna Loy look. In the twinkling of an eye James was at their side.
‘Pardon my intrusion, but you are Americans are you not?’
‘Thank God,’ replied the matron, ‘your intrusion is most welcome. I am Abigail Abercrombie from San Francisco this is my niece, Gloria. We have been we have been walking about enjoying the sights, but now my feet are killing me and I would like to sit down for a few hours and exercise the grey cells in a game a bridge. I am a Life Master, but Gloria is a novice. Do you think you could fit us in?’
“I am not the director, Heaven forbid, but I’m sure you’d be most welcome. In fact, a player of your accomplishment might consider playing with someone at your expert level. You see that man standing beside the notice board with his eyes closed – he is very good. Don’t be alarmed, he is not blind – he is probably imagining a tranquil pool with multi-coloured carp as a way of calming his mind for the upcoming contest.’
‘Oooo..I just adore short, bald men, they are so virile.’
‘Errr, well, I must warn you he is a monk on leave here in London learning to speak English.’
‘Better and better still. We learned in Italy that language is no barrier to having a good time. In these modern times everyone understands 5-card majors. But what about Gloria? She needs someone who is not too serious.’
‘Well, I have no game this evening, so I would be happy to fill in.’
‘Would you now? Wonderful. Be gentle, as she’s inexperienced.’
“Oh, Aunt Abbie, I’m no dummy, you know,’ said the niece with a most alluring pout.
James introduced them to Hisashi-san.
‘This is Mrs Abercromie from America. Like you she is a life master many times over, and I was wondering if you might be her partner for this evening. I would then play with her niece, Gloria.’
‘Ah, so’ replied the Master with a deep bow of understanding.
When the monk went to fetch convention cards, Abigail remarked that he looked extremely fit.
‘ Oh, yes, an integral part of his religious practice is to maintain himself at the peak of his mental and physical capabilities,‘ explained James, trying hard not to monitor Gloria’s rhythmic breathing. ‘Sensei has nerves of steel and muscles of iron.’
“I’ll drink to that,’ said Mrs Abercrombie cheerfully.
On the first hand Aunt Abigail reached 3NT. Gloria missed the killing lead, which would have been obvious from James’ hand, and later missed an even-more-obvious compensatory switch, so it appeared that it was going to be a long evening, not that the young man didn’t feel the longer it stretched, the better.
James found he was having difficulty getting his beautiful partner to warm to his attentions. This is often the way with goddesses – like cats they become immune to abject idolization. It was with some sense of satisfaction that James was able to lay before her as a token of his devotion a neat play on the third board of the evening.
Gloria had opened 1♣ to which James replied with as strong Baron 2NT, one of the foundations of the ACOL system. To the young goddess this signified a weak minor-suit orientated hand, 11-12 HCP, a popular treatment in Oyster Bay, Maine, whence she had emerged. Gloria signed off in 5♣, a puzzling development, but one fielded to perfection by the Englishman with a confident bid of 6NT. Mrs Abercrombie began the defence with a fourth highest ♦3 and James could see at a glance that he had missed an easy grand slam in spades, not that the crowd at the Tuesday Evening Charity Pairs would bid it lacking a 9+card fit, but the 12 tricks which were evident in a no trump contract would not suffice even for an average score.
When Americans refer to their country as The Land of the Free, they are speaking metaphorically. Generous as they may be at giving their opinions or even briefly lending their affections, they are unaccustomed to acting charitably at the bridge table, so James was disinclined to accept the offer of a free finesse. He went up with the ♦A and ran off winners to reach a 2-card ending in dummy with ♥4 and ♦T opposite ♥AT in hand, the result being that Hisashi was happily squeezed between the red suits.
‘Golly, who would have thought it. You must have been potent,’ exclaimed Gloria. From the strange silence at the table she sensed she might become the subject of criticism.
‘He plays his cards very well, Dear. You are lucky to have him,’ explained her aunt.
Later in the game James again found himself in 6NT with 13 tricks available, this time in a diamond slam. Many played in 6♦ making an overtrick, but a few played in 6NT making 6 when West failed to find the killing club lead.
Most players can handle two rounds of bidding, but the third round brings trouble. On this auction a great deal of optimism was being expressed on both sides, so James took matters into hand with a 5-loser hand using the method of hand evaluation advocated by the great Maurice Harrison-Gray in a recent issue of Country Life.
The bearded Frederick Snodgrass led the ♦7 in the British style of third worst from four bad. After 2 rounds of diamonds James could see that a contract of 6♦ would result in 13 tricks if played probably. With shortness on his right and his club communication still intact, there might be some advantage to be had from running off the diamonds to put pressure on Howard Botts, a building inspector with whom he had often crossed swords, not always to James’ advantage. At present Botts was leering over his spectacles admiring the obviously sound structure of an oblivious Gloria. Perhaps the distraction would prove beneficial. After the diamonds were played off ending in hand, James ducked a heart to the ♥7.Winning the ♣T return in hand, the young man found himself in a 7-card configuration of which he was only vaguely aware. There would be a great deal of satisfaction to be had from changing that leer to a frown, but how?
Botts had discarded 3 small spades in upward order giving an indication that Snodgrass held the guards in the spade suit, so a spade finesse in dummy might effect a squeeze in clubs, which could have been split 3-3 all along. Distrusting Botts disinterest in the spade suit James led the ♠Q, covered by the ♠K, pinning the ♠J thus turning the ♠T into a winner and the squeeze card to which Botts had no answer. Gloria was slow to realize 12 tricks in 6NT represented a very good score as many were playing in 6♦ making a lesser 1390 on 13 tricks.
The only West not leading a trump to cut down on the presumed ruffs in 6♦ was Mrs Abercrombie for whom leading trumps was an anathema. Her choice was a deceptive ♠9. The Reverend Forsythe, recently returned from Africa, was professionally obliged to assume that Man’s, and especially Woman’s, nature was in grievous need of restitution, but he did not, could not, accept this glum view, having been companioned for 35 years through innocence and health by the angelic Mrs Forsythe who was sitting North with a hopeful smile of encouragement on her lips. After calling for the ♠A in dummy, he became alarmed when on the lead of a small diamond from dummy the ♦J appeared from his fellow hierophant in the East. Without doubt this was an affliction, but afflictions are given us to be overcome. With an essential entry removed from dummy it would require a minor miracle to bring home this slam. With nothing apparently better the old fellow marked time by playing off the ♣KQ, to get the count, cashing the ♥AK pitching a club, and ruffing a heart to his hand to this 6-card ending.
On the play of the ♣A Abigail had to ruff to prevent the discard of the ♠T. Forsythe was well pleased with this development as he could overruff and lead towards his hand to promote the ♠Q as his 12th trick. It was a great shock when the ♠T was covered by the ♠J, the ♠Q and the ♠K from the scarlet Jezebel on his left.
A trump return was won in dummy, but a heart ruff with the ♦Q returned declarer to his hand. He played the ♠8, West following, and paused to reassess his chances. Could it be? Yes! His spade must have been promoted to a winning card, he was sure of it! So after passing the ♠8 he could take the last trick with his wife’s remaining top trump. Thank you, Lord, justice is served, thought the churchman, unaware that innocence being a condition, not a virtue, merits no reward. Scoring 1370 garnered a disappointingly meagre return given his brilliant recovery. Ah well, his experiences in Africa had taught him not to expect too much. Good health and a warm cocoa at bedtime were rewards aplenty in this world.
As a special concession to his American guests the director with rare good grace posted the scores soon after the finish. The names of A. Abercrombie and H. Hashimoto were listed at the top with a score of 68.3%. James and his friend had a few moments alone while their erstwhile partners retreated to the Ladies for emergency repairs. For James all dreams of romance had evaporated as he could not imagine himself making love to a woman, even a goddess, convulsing with hiccups.
‘Perhaps we can see the ladies to their hotel, then drop in on the way home at the Horns and Antlers for a lager and lime,’ he suggested.
‘So sorry, but Abbie-san has invited me to go to Ronnie Scott’s to listen to Ben Webster. His saasphone has rich sound like wet rice patty at planting time.’
I know what you mean, it’s earthy.’
‘ I admire her belly much – she has great Ka. You must look under the clothes to find the true person – remember that, James-san.’
‘Good point, Sensei,’ conceded James wistfully.
St. Cloud's beautiful summer Granite City Sectional has concluded; results are in!
Three players tied for top masterpoint winners: Wendy Turk and Chris Champion of Colorado Springs, along with John Koch. Each earned 26.61 masterpoints. Well done!
This was, however, a bit of an oddity. Wendy and Chris partnered one another in various events; John played with others. Yet at the end of the tournament, their masterpoints matched!
Carole Miner and Terry Beckman also scored over 20 masterpoints. The rest of the Granite results can be viewed here.
Our thanks to co-chairs Kory Solarz and Jean Leighton - plus our directors, caddies, other volunteers and of course - all our competitors! Congratulations to all who placed and did well at the sectional!
The best part of bridge is the people who love it ... and the saddest part is reporting when we lose one of our members. Today, I regret to report that we suddenly lost Tom Hammond this week.
Kim Hayward, Club Manager at The Bridge Center of St. Paul - and good friend of Tom's - was kind enough to write this beautiful remembrance of our good friend, competitor and marvelous teacher. Thank you so much, Kim.
We also have a link to Tom's obituary here. A Celebration of Life for Tom will be from 4 to 7 PM on Friday, June 23rd.
Our thanks to Linda Brammer for sending us Unit 178's April minutes and the upcoming agenda for the Board meeting this coming Saturday.
Thanks to all for their continuing efforts for the betterment of bridge!
Although MONDAY starting time corrections were made earlier (FROM 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) TO 1 p.m. And 7:30 p.m. — many participants are/were not aware of it.
ALL OTHER DAYS REMAIN AS ORIGINALLY ANNOUNCED.
See you there!
We appreciate that Minnesota Bridge has already had a wealth of remembrances and stories about Larry Oakey. Yet, TGLO was an extraordinary individual in our bridge world. And - as stories continue to be submitted to us, we believe they must be shared.
This story arrives via Ron DeHarpporte. It's from a player whose name was unfamiliar to me: Brian Pauls of Canada.
Ron notes that Brian was one of the best bridge players with whom Larry ever played. Indeed, Ron thinks that Larry was of the opinion that Brian was the most talented partner he'd ever had. The famed Eric Murray told Ron that Brian was "the best player in Western Canada." And, Eric Kokish, another elite Canadian player and "Koach" to the stars shared similar sentiments.
Brian saw Ron's name in Larry's obituary; the two then renewed a friendship that had been on hold for 50 years.
Brian and Ron played on many teams together, often with Larry as a teammate and usually in Winnipeg - but on occasion, the team would travel Down South to the Gopher during the 60's.
Brian virtually gave up bridge in the early 70's to become one of Canada's most successful attorneys. Another top Canadian player, Hersh Wolch, became an important Canadian official. Recently, however, Brian has begun to play a bit again, yet he states "not seriously." He still works as a full time, successful attorney.
Brian's TGLO story is below. We thank Brian for sending to us and Harpo for sharing it.
If you knew Oakey at all - it will put a smile on your face!
In 1967 Canada celebrated its 100th birthday. The ACBL awarded what were then still called the Summer Nationals to the city of Montreal, which at the same time was hosting Expo 67 (whence came the name of its short-lived major league baseball team) and had built a giant theme park called La Ronde.
Hersh Wolch and I drove (just the two of us) to Montreal. We were both red-blooded 27 year olds for whom bridge was only our second favorite activity. Just leaving Ottawa, we spotted two attractive girls (late teens, early twenties, as i recollect) who were hitching rides. Naturally enough, we stopped.
They told us that they were headed to Quebec City. We told them we could only offer to drive them as far as downtown Montreal. We gave them our names and told them where we were staying ( the two of us sharing a room, of course, since we were still impoverished young lawyers)--the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and that we were playing bridge, but only in the daytime, and would love to take them out to La Ronde. Their response was that they planned to take a bus on to Quebec City, stay there a couple of days and then, maybe, call us when they returned to Montreal.
Ho hum, right.
Flash forward. Larry the Great arrives a day or two later, pleads poverty, and asks us if he can sleep on the floor in our room. Pals are pals, so we said OK. He promised not to snore.
About 5 days later, we came in to the room about 6:30 p.m. Bridge was finished for the day. Larry, it turned out, had been happily napping there until his dreams were interrupted by the annoyance of a phone call. Well, he told the female caller to forget for whatever reason she was calling. Hersh and I were not there, he told her, and he reported further to us that he got rid of her ( a true kindness, in his view) by explaining carefully that Hersh and I were much too busy playing bridge to have any free evenings.
Good old Larry! We never heard from the girls again, but are certain that they have gone on to make productive contributions to Canada's economy.
As for us, it is now the year of Canada's 150th anniversary. The Nationals ( correction, the NABCs) are back in my country but even if we decide to embark on another road trip to seek bridge stardom, I greatly doubt that the granddaughters of those girls will be out on the Trans Canada Highway hitch hiking and waiting for us to show up).
As for Hersh and myself, well the past is prologue, it is said. 50 uneventful years have passed, with nothing except wives, children, grandchildren, a few professional successes, a few grey hairs and extra pounds. How unexciting, compared to what might have been! Ah well. Pals are forever and Larry will always remain on my list of Aces and Kings in a deck full of lesser cards.
On behalf of all the Winnipeggers who knew Larry, we would like our friends, old and new, in the Twin Cities, to be aware that we miss him too. Very much.
This past weekend, three dozen Twin City bridge players experienced a most special treat. They attended the Mike Lawrence seminar on Saturday and Sunday, affording them the opportunity to learn from one of the top players in bridge history.
Mike has an extraordinary record of accomplishment. In ACBL competition, Mike has an amazing array of championship wins and runner-ups in the toughest events on the calendar. Plus he's a three time world champion. Plus Mike played on the world reknown Dallas Aces.
And - as if that were not enough, Mike is one of the most prolific, successful and revered bridge authors. Mike has written more than 23 bridge books (with more on the way), bridge CD's, and articles of his have been published in both the ACBL Bulletin and The Bridge World. Many, including your webmaster, found Mike's books invaluable tools to learning the game. His ability to describe not only what to do, but why you should be doing it, gives players deep insight into how to be a successful player.
During the two day seminar, attendees were given the scoop on how best to respond to takeout doubles and, an age old problem: what to do after an opponent preempts. Following lectures, players were able to go through Mike's problem hands, ask questions and gain much insight. Lunch was also enjoyed both days; those participating got to learn more about Mike and our fascinating game.
In addition to his wealth of bridge wisdom, Mike brought along his lovely wife, Karen. Our thanks to Diane and Larry Henson, who were instrumental in putting together the seminar and providing hospitality to Mike and Karen while they were visiting.
As you can tell from the smiles from our seminar participants, the Mike Lawrence visit was a tremendous hit. If more of our players wish that they could have attended, then perhaps Mike will grace us down the road with a repeat performance. Here's hoping!
More photos below of this fun, exciting and educational weekend!
Just six days from today, on Thursday, June 15th, the Granite City Sectional in St. Cloud begins. Enjoy bridge Thursday, Friday and Saturday - with Sunday free! Enjoy teams or pairs; your choice!
The flyer for Granite City can be found here; all the info about the events, schedule and places to stay if you're not a local.
Have fun in St. Cloud - and do well!