Paul Cronin

The State Of The Union

When one talks about “the health of our game”, it’s good to keep in mind that a significant number of people do not see bridge as a “game” at all. When wandering into a bridge tournament and seeing the hundreds of books on sale, or looking at the masses of exotica a number of players have scrawled on their convention cards, it would seem to the non-bridge playing observer that it would be easier to take up nuclear physics than it would be to take up bridge. It’s all very intimidating to the neophyte, especially in this modern age when the really popular games are those that are easy to understand, can be learned quickly, and where the average person can actually picture themselves (perhaps unrealistically) taking part. A case in point would be the popularity enjoyed by Texas hold-em poker. Back in the day when tens of millions of people did play bridge, nobody took lessons or pored over stacks of books….they just sat down and played, because at that time bridge actually was a game….simple, quickly learned, and easy for the average person to picture themselves taking part. A cynical person might also observe that a lot of bridge today is driven by money, as in the number of courses being offered to teach new systems and conventions. You can’t make much money teaching something old, so you always have to have something new to offer. When everyone has learned to play 2/1 then it will be time to introduce 3/1. When everyone has mastered transfer over-calls, it will then be time to move on to upside-down over-calls. Eventually there will be a few dozen theorists left playing on the internet, who will announce from time to time that they have invented a 146th. way to use a double, or that an opening bid of one heart can be any one of 75 different hands. Stir into this the issue of hired professionals playing for money, and the concomitant cheating that this has resulted in, and one has to take a close look at the meaning of “health” as well as the meaning of “game”.

Curiouser & Curiouser

A couple of interesting results from two recent club games:

(a) coming second in a 13 table open game paid  0.91 master-points

(b) coming second in a 2 1/2 table game the next day paid 1.25 master-points 

It’s easy to forget how sacred master-points are, and good that events like the above

bring us back to earth.

On a unrelated note, the Hawaii NABC looks like it will come in at slightly over 6,000

tables……for a loss of over $600,000. Combine that with the $2,000,000 Score fiasco

loss, and the subsequent IBM software incompatibility loss, and I wonder if fees will be

going up.  Maybe the committees could stop working on  CDR changes, or bringing

in new allowable convention charts, for a while and concentrate on getting the financial

house in order. 

On a more positive note, there can’t be many headquarters people left to fire….stability

is good! 

Going….Going……Gone !

A club game recently paid 2.63 master-points for a 4 table game, albeit some kind of club “championship” or club “appreciation” or other “special” game. The average master-point holding of the 14 players who didn’t win was 723 and the winning pair had an average  of 5,512 master-points apiece. Aside from the issue of selling master-points, there is a “quality of field” issue here that should be addressed. It occurs as well in  tournaments where winning “A” players receive large master-point awards for supposedly beating their peers, when in fact they play very few of their peers and a lot of “X” players who are forced to “play up” because of the stratification limits, and are nothing but cannon fodder for the “A” players. Maybe tournament attendance would stop falling if the 5000+ players had their own section (it would be very small), the 2500-4999 players had their own section(s), and so on for the “B” and “C” players. Then base the master-point awards on the number of tables in each section. Maybe the “C” level would have the most tables and get the biggest master-point award. Am I hearing the shrieks of anguish already, crying “But you can’t give the larger master-point award to the lowest level players!” ? Oh yeah….I forgot…..master-points are sacred.

Robot Weekend World Cup Geo Day 2

On Board 1 South holds

KJ9532     Q     AQ86     AQ

After passes by N and E, what is your opening bid?

This particular S opened 1C.

West passes, and N bids 1H.

East passes, and it’s back to S….what would your call be?

S’s actual rebid was 3NT  (why would you want to mention a 6 card spade suit ?) ,

making 5, for a score of 99.62%

On to Board 2, where there are again two passes to South, who holds

AQ82     K964     5     A1082     and you would open ???

This time our intrepid S opens 1D.

West passes and N bids 2D, which E passes. Back to S, and your rebid is ??

S’s actual bid was….2H…..I guess you don’t play reverses with a robot partner.

W passes, and N bids 3D, which E passes.

Back to you as S, and you bid ??

S’s actual rebid was……what else?…….3NT…….making 3 for a score of 99.6%.

Does this have any relation to bridge?

Out of the 8 boards played, S played 3NT six times, and 4 S once.

Six of the eight N-S results scored over 90%, and S is BBO’s top master-point holder.

Not the grand and majestic game that Judy so often brings back memories of !

Missing Posts??

Have been putting off new posts until my 2017 posts were restored, but…..been almost 5 months now and still hasn’t happened. Hmmmmmm…………

Dis & Dat

Dis: my posts from 2017 have disappeared – hope this isn’t tied into the emails the DOJ can’t find 🙂

Dat: what to make of the upcoming “Reach” game – a Regional that will be played at clubs February 3, 5-9, with gold points being awarded. And the 3 day online game that will be held again this year with robots as partner and opponents….with the winner being awarded a national championship. Maybe the next steps should be an NABC at clubs, and then an NABC online with three robots? Come to think of it….why not a totally robot NABC where you hire a robot to play for you? A little hyperbole above to make a point, but…..where on earth are we headed, and why? Maybe to find out why we should heed the advice Deep Throat gave Bob Woodward about Watergate, which was “Follow the money”. Just my opinion, but much of the above detracts greatly from the beauty and majesty of a game which is very near and dear to me. 

Our grand old game!

Through July 23-26 at the Toronto NABC, the ACBL will offer an online, national-rated event on BBO. The 4 session game ($10 per session) will offer a limited National Championship and up to 48 gold/red MPs. However, this will not be your regular game, because your partner will be a robot, and you will be playing against robots. Additionally, all players will not play the same boards. The robots are well known to have significant bidding idiosyncrasies, and knowing those will be a great help to those who are familiar with the robots, and a great hindrance to those who don’t. The human player always gets the hand with the most HCPs – this does not represent bridge as we know it, and changes the frequency of being on defence, etc. The whole concept simply boggles my mind – and makes me worry even more about the future of our grand old game.

The selling of master points!

In session 1 of a recent 7 1/2 table – 28 board B/C/D Sectional pairs the MP award for coming first was 1.72 silver.

At a recent “Grass Roots Fund Month” 3 1/2 table 24 board open game the MP award for coming first was 2.04 black.

Leaving aside the colour of the awards, is paying an extra dollar to play in the “Grass Roots Fund Month” game a better deal than going to the expense of attending the Sectional?

In the past, the accumulation of master points was, in a number of cases, simply a matter of “attending” a lot of club games. Now it’s a combination of attendance and paying an extra dollar or two for some special “cause” that increases the master point award.

Lots of you will remember getting .26 MPs for winning the Wednesday night game some decades ago at your local club – must make you wonder about getting 2.04 for winning a 3 1/2 table game.

Home sweet home!

With over 4 months to go until the Summer NABC in Toronto, hotel room availability at the three ACBL booked hotels has just been updated from completely “Unavailable” to “Up to 95 rooms” available at the Fairmont Royal York. The “Intercontinental Toronto Centre” and the “Westin Harbour Castle” remain “unavailable”. Rooms at all three were listed at $164 per night. Parking at the Fairmont Royal York is $53 per night. Entry fees range from $19 to $32.50 per session. Add to this the cost of meals, and you’re looking at over $300 per day. Visitors from the USA will receive a premium on their $US, with $20 US = $25 CDN. The unavailability of rooms seems to apply to the KC Spring NABC as well, as when reservations were opened on January 16, 2017, all the rooms at the host hotels were already sold out. Hopefully people will have found other accommodations, and attendance will meet expectations. In any event, tournament bridge now seems to be priced out of the range of the “common man”, and into the range of the well-off or rich. Add to this the ever-increasing average ACBL player age, and the disinclination of older people to drive at night or in bad weather and… the future of tournament bridge does not look bright. Except perhaps for “Regionals At Sea”, where you can play for 7 days for $1400 US, get three great meals a day, and see interesting places.

Oh the tangled web we weave !

In Wednesday’s “Bulletin” from the Orlando NABC the following hand was written up:





       Q107                                                                        AKJ3

       1095                                                                         A3

       QJ4                                                                          9652

       AK92                                                                        J105





The auction went     N     E     S     W

                                 1H    X     P    2S     All Pass

North led one of the top diamonds, and declarer proceeded to take 11 tricks.

To quote part of the article “Naturally, Joel bid the “obvious” 2S”.

Can’t argue with the result, but is this the kind of hand that should be given the official imprimatur of being printed in the daily bulletin?

What would someone learning the game make of West bidding 2S rather than some number of clubs? Does East’s double of 1H show preference for the other major? Would East still have doubled with  AK3   AJ   9652    J1054 ?  If so, wouldn’t 3NT be the best landing place rather than a 3-3 spade fit?  

Oh the tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.