Today we have the pleasure of a guest post from world champion and acclaimed bridge author and teacher Mathew Granovetter. I have been helping him update his website, Bridge Today, a great site for learning more about the game of bridge.
The Kabbalah Approach to Bridge by Matthew Granovetter
Here is an excerpt from a new book I’m writing about my life, where I’ve had to mix my religion and bridge career to make both work. I’ve run into many unusual and funny situations.
Two Worlds It seems like I live in two different worlds at the same time. One is my profession, the game of bridge. The other is my religious affiliation, Chabad Lubavitch. It appears that the two worlds could not be farther apart. One is a game played with a deck of cards, while the other is a daily commitment to the Bible and G-d’s laws for the Jewish people.
Nevertheless, I have come to mix the two, not always in a good way. For example, often while praying, I lose focus because my mind is thinking about a bridge hand I misplayed last night. “Oy, how could I have been so stupid.”
Sometimes while I’m dummy at the bridge table, I start reading from a book of psalms and pull the wrong card. “I called a spade not a heart!” says partner.
During the World Mixed Pairs championships in Verona, Italy, on the very last hand I became dummy. I still had a few psalms to finish for my daily quota, so I picked up my book and started reading quietly. My partner made the contract and we won the championship. Afterwards a woman from France came over and said, “Monsieur Granovetter, I do wish my partner would pray for me when I declare the hand.”
You also may occasionally attend my talks on these same or more advanced subjects at Regionals. Did you know there are more detailed handouts in my downloads section which include problems to solve? The answers have been missing for a while but they are being uploaded again tonight, finally.
John Kranyak of Las Vegas, Nevada, playing on the Fireman team, USA2, used counting in the semi-finals of the recent world championships in India. On the first board of the final set he was declaring a spade game. He needed to lose only one trick in a side suit with this combination: K1086 opposite Q53. The normal play, taken at the other table, is to play to the ten, hoping the jack is onside.
Kranyak opted to count out the hand first, so he played off all his side winners. He was confident that the player in front of the king who had overcalled vulnerable at the two level held the ace. He also knew that the overcaller had six clubs, one spade, and at least three hearts. His judgement from the opponents’ carding was that hearts were four-four, which left only two diamonds in the overcaller’s hand. He backed that judgement by playing to the king and then ducking to the doubleton ace on the way back. He won ten imps for his fine play.
I give permission for any and all bridge teachers to use my published materials as long as they credit me and give the URL of this site.
Bridge is wonderful mental exercise and may even stave off dementia but we all fear the big A. It pleases me to see top bridge players donating their time to help raise money for Alzheimer’s research. So I am happy to be one of them.
You can buy me or even better players for this charity via an online auction.. You get to play 12 boards with your pro on BBO in an online bridge tournament with masterpoints. More details are at https://www.32auctions.com/PlaywiththePROS
I am listed on page three. You have until the end of June …
The bridge details are at the Bridge Winners web site in the first The Videos Speak article.
So how does this relate to bridge teaching? I think it is extremely important to bring up the topic of ethics when teaching people to play this wonderful game. There is so much inadvertent cheating among beginners that it is best to explain at the start what is expected.
I often begin by saying something like, “You are not allowed to know that your partner liked your lead because they smiled or that they hated it because they frowned; so learn how to signal with the cards you play, not how you play them.” I tell the tale of a player told her opponent that since her partner was leading with her left hand, it was a singleton. Obviously this is illegal and not part of the game.
Then I tell stories about famous past cheating scandals which brought about the use of screens in international play. Next there was a pair exchanging foot signals below the screens so that the screens had to be extended all the way to the floor.
Here is a play problem I had at the table in the Mixed Pairs. How do you make 13 tricks in notrump on the lead of the J from North who only knew that dummy had five or more hearts to one honor and three controls after our precision auction.
Clearly if spades break 3-3 you are home but if they do not should you play for the finesse in hearts or the squeeze: one hand with four spades and the K? You can play off all but one minor suit winner before deciding.
Most bridge players appreciate a good bridge book for Christmas. So here are my suggestions
One of everyone’s all time favorite bridge books is S.J. Simon’s Why You Lose At Bridge, so it is great to see that one of our favorite British authors, Julian Pottage, has written a sequel, Why You Still Lose At Bridge. He features the same delighful characters but highlights some newer concepts in modern bidding that many of us get wrong. The first half of the book discusses eleven common errors that hurt your game. The second half has some wonderful hands with Mrs. Guggenheim, Futile Willy, and company. A good read for all levels.
For the advancing player, Patty Tucker has written a number of books in a series called Winning Bridge Conventions. All are thorough, well-written, and enjoyable. Best of all, they each have many examples that are beautifully laid out on the page. A topic not well covered in the literature that she has done a particularly good job with is Competitive Doubles. This book is suitable for intermediate and better players as well. Get it for your partner for Christmas.
For your expert or aspiring expert friends, the yearly world championship book is always a good pick; but if you want the feel of being at the 2013 championships in Bali on an underdog team try Scotland’s Senior Moment. I am still reading it and am utterly delighted with it.
Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah to all our friends and bridge players everywhere.
One of my favorite things about the game of Bridge is that you can sit down and play against the greatest players in the game just by entering. That’s right, most of the National Championships do not require any pre qualification. You may need to be a Life Master or have some minimum number of points however. So the next best thing is to watch a great player. Ask a director for suggestions.
There are also many events for beginning and intermediate players. Playing against your peers might improve your winning chances.
Las Vegas, Nevada is a fabulous place for a bridge championship. There is so much to see and do, plus you can catch a show or a great meal after the evening session!
When the opponents have stopped in a part score at the two level, should you pass it out or bid? The answer depends on what contract they have stopped in and what kind of hand you have yourself. If they have stopped in two of a minor, that is not necessarily a good score for them since notrump might make more, so only balance when you have the perfect hand for it. However two of a major is almost always a great score for them, so don’t let them play there if at all possible.
And this is the key:
A golden rule of competitive bidding is not to let the opponents play in two of a major when they have an eight card fit. This means that we strain to reopen …
and where to go for more discussion of this concept.
Today would have been John Lowenthal’s 75th birthday. Google may not have done a doodle for him but I will do a blog post in his honor. Plus, with his widow Celia’s permission, I will rerelease the DOS version of his brilliant Borel hand generator (for the technically inclined only!) with instructions on how to use it on a modern PC in my online store Monday night. Proceeds will go to the ACBL Junior Fund (after my costs) as per his wishes.
John was always happy to talk about bridge, to discuss loser count, and his theories on opening leads. He was a mentor and a friend. And most importantly, he always knew where to get the best Chinese food.
He was a great captain for our 1995 Women’s team trials which we won. If he had been able to go to China with us we might have come back with gold rather than silver.
He never yelled and he had a wonderful humorous manner about him. He was an endless source of bridge stories. He originated the “stripe tailed ape” double. That is where in a competitive auction you double the opponents at the five level when they are cold for six since that is a smaller score. But if they redouble you run like stripe-tailed ape.