Paul Cronin

Is this bridge ?

In the recent world bridge championships in Wroclaw, Poland an auction went

P     P     1H

where opener’s hand was

J984     Q5432     J     Q107

Another auction went

P     P     1D     where opener’s hand was

A982     65     KJ953     97

Still another was

P     P     1S   opener’s hand being

108432     J63     QJ52     6

In each case the opening bidder was non-vulnerable.

Is this what bridge is now about? Or is it some new game, perhaps a combination of poker & bridge, called porridge? If so, then we have, IMO, reached a truly sad state of affairs.


Howard bigot JohnsonSeptember 21st, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Are these bids identified on their system cards or are they all psyches. If the former then bridge authorities need to stamp down on systems which fail to meet the rule of 16 non vulnerable. If psyches these two must be flagged up as a feature on their system card which is permitted if there is no fielding and very infrequent ….ie no pattern or prediction
In my opinion this kind of bidding borders on soft cheating which is often the start of a slippery slope to anything goes.

paul croninSeptember 21st, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Hello HBJ,

As far as I know, the only thing on the CC is “light 3rd seat NV openings”.


Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 12:58 am

Hi Paul,

So much in bridge and its high-level judgment is based on what to expect from various opponents.

When different countries from all around the globe compete against each other and through no one’s fault, the convention card played should emphasize tendencies (with examples) in order to make every effort to create a fair playing field.

While this will never come close to perfection, it needs to be attempted since the motto of the World Bridge Federation is simply “Bridge For Peace”.

The above, at least to me, should at least suggest an honest effort to not take advantage by unusual means (commonly called poison gas labs) wherein, although no one can be sure of the technical bridge advantage, the methods chosen should concentrate on proving a technical bridge advantage instead of a previously undisclosed sneak attack.

The very word Terrorism, as I think it does, strikes a negative cord in warring factions and, to my way of thinking is borderline acceptable with each case in bridge, considered on its own merit.

The above will be, at the very least, difficult to enforce, but without it, confirms an attempt to win in a not so honorable way.

Having played against many out and out bridge cheats in my life, from all around the globe (certainly including my good old USA), obviously it has been both a horrible and weird experience. Different systems or treatments are nowhere in the same league as dirty filthy cheating, but in the long run I think it best to not allow anything which only tends to horribly disrupt the opponents without any redeeming positive constructive effort.

For example, preempts in bridge have long been part of the game as has been bidding to the vulnerability, but when it comes to only destruction — IMO it should, at the very least be closely monitored making sure that partnership is not going over an invisible line, which, if so, should incur a rather severe penalty if, in fact it is determined that the reason that partnership is playing it, is only to
throw tacks in the road. That should be followed by another mature judgment made as to whether or not the reason for playing that questionable convention or system is positive for bridge or the other extreme just attempting to make the game unplayable for their opponents.

Many will not agree with me, but as far as the original rules of our game are concerned, we need to require stricter adherence to moderation; otherwise we will turn our heretofore beautiful game into an out-of-shape
unplayable monster.

Psyches should, of course, still be allowed, but not planned mayhem. No awards should be given to any player, pair, or team which has had to distort what our game has represented for years … a logical partnership mind game requiring great talent to succeed.

paul croninSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 3:10 am

As always, Bobby, you say it best ! Your “tacks in the road” analogy is perfect – no effort made to describe the hand, just an effort to make the deal un-biddable in a logical fashion. It is hard to believe that those employing these methods don’t have some kind of “control” mechanism to prevent their side from getting too high which is not not immediately known to the opponents. The fact that their partner has already passed is of course one factor, but what does the passed partner do with
Axx KQxx Jxxx xx
when opener’s hand might be
Kx AJxxxx KQx Qx
xx AJxxxx xxx xx ?

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 5:26 am

Hi Paul,

From my vantage point, the game we once loved has turned into a crapshoot .. and the majesty is slowly departing the scene. These issues must be faced head on and we must NOT keep our heads in the sand! I appreciate your blogging on the subject so openly!


Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Hi Judy and again Paul,

To be fair, many of the younger players (in reality meaning middle age) are merely interested in making bridge (at least to them) a more exciting exercise, while at the same time and in order to do so, creating new hazards for opponents to have to deal.

While IMO that theory is OK, except when it takes away the fluidity of the game we all love and as Judy says, makes it a crapshoot.

No doubt by doing such, the game itself loses luster, adds immense luck, lessens grand technique, and, no doubt to me, causes many more ethical problems concerning tendencies, disclosure, and excessive preparation, equivalent to approving poison gas in wars and for that matter allowing the violation of the Geneva convention.

However, at least to me, it is not really the perpetrators fault, but rather the capitulation of the experienced bridge players and administrators who are too wimpy to fight this disappointing and hurtful change which in time, (not long), will do significant damage to the image of our heretofore beautiful game.

What if, in the late 1980’s if we would have allowed the “strong pass” with accompanying “fertilizer” (well named) to flourish worldwide?

My opinion is that our international game would not now exist, if only because of the original game of contract bridge and its magical allure, will by now, have vanished from view.

The world has learned, or, at least, should have, that any positive endeavor worth keeping is also then worth protecting, otherwise it will be destined for extinction.

The time to speak up is now, for even the tomorrows which follow will probably be too late.

paul croninSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Hi Bobby & Judy,

I think in the past players like Bobby, after winning an event, could walk away from the table with a really good feeling that they had honorably outplayed their opponents. But now, if players frequently employ destructive methods in order to win, what kind of pride can they take in knowing that their deceptions have carried the day? To me, it’s all very sad.

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Hi Paul,

First, much thanks for your progressive, protective and very sensible attitude for the future of bridge, long after many of us have already checked out, but before doing that, remain fiercely optimistic that we will join most of the civilized world in promoting our sensational game, especially having it taught in our regular schools, above all honoring our game for it being played enthusiastically. logically and without ANY shady tactics.

By doing so, like a schoolboy or girl, also being graded by keeping it pristine and away from gimmicks which take away from its dignity and overall reflection.

No doubt the ethics of the game are just as important as the playing rules governing it, without which with either, we, in fact, have no real game at all.

Second, a sincere thank you for all your kind words directed toward me. Without you creating this sensitive subject, there would be no way for me or anyone else to get our message across, the specifics always subject to argument, but the overall final objective hopefully exactly the same.

It is only an objective appraisal of what should be expected of all worldwide aspiring players, which then could branch off to what the majority of us would love to see happen with our beloved game’s long term future.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 25th, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Paul: when it comes to a ‘low life’, it matters not as they will stop at nothing. After the exposure of some of Norman’s and Bobby’s overseas opponents, it is obvious they should have been (pardon the expression) ‘booted’ out of there half a century earlier.

Jeff LehmanOctober 3rd, 2016 at 11:16 am

I think, in a world championship team event, opponents should be free to use any methods they choose, so long as: (1) the chosen methods are legal under the event’s Conditions of Contest; and (2) the chosen methods are fully disclosed. (Psychs are, of course, a different matter. Distinguishing psychs from methods can be difficult, probably involving a review of both frequency of similar psychs and, importantly, assessment of whether seems as fooled as the opponents.)

At any rate, my understanding — based upon the long threads in Bridge Winners website — is that some contend that the tendency toward such super-light third seat one-level openings was both illegal and not properly disclosed. If the contention is true, then whether such openings are “just bridge” or should be understood based upon other disclosed aspects of the opponents’ bidding methods, is irrelevant. I am not in a position to opine on whether the contention is or is not true.

Jeff LehmanOctober 3rd, 2016 at 11:18 am

Above is missing a key word: parenthetic at end of first paragraph should read ” … whether partner seems as fooled as the opponents”.

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