Happy Birthday John Lowenthal!! Rerelease of Borel

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.

My favorite funny story about him is how when playing with his first wife in a club game he held 19 points and five diamonds so when she opened 1 he passed that because he knew she could make it but his LHO balanced so he had to bid 2. But when they balanced again he had a new problem, what could he make? After all she had never taken nine tricks in her life … Here it is in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/16/arts/bridge-humor-isn-t-really-the-point-but-it-sometimes-creeps-in.html

If you google “John Lowenthal bridge” you will find many more stories. I love this bridge hand and story about him that his long time partner Phil Martin published https://sites.google.com/site/psmartinsite/Home/bridge-articles/remembering-john-lowenthal

John I miss you!

Now for more about Borel

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Why Bridge Players Would Feel at Home Around Poker Tables

Subtle similarities of bridge and poker

Poker and bridge are two different card games that have much in common. Both share a unique history and unwavering patronage that still make them popular today. From their list of enthusiasts to their present online setting, the trick-taking game and the “bluff” game are almost mirror images. Before I became a serious tournament Bridge player, I supplemented my income in college at the poker table! Here are the top three areas where both games are alike:

1. Mental Exercise gets you ahead in life

Business Insider reported that the best bridge players are often the Wall Street guys, which includes business tycoons like Warren Buffet and David Einhorn. When they are not studying patterns in the stock market, these people look to bridge to test their analytical skills. The article goes on to expound the analytic side of the bridge. You see, the card game deals heavily with pattern recognition and quick decision making skills and so it’s not surprising they turn to bridge which employs the same skills. In the political arena we have many poker players. Betfair has a list of Top Five Poker Playing Presidents  – a list that includes Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower (Ike was also an avid Bridge player). From these sample participants, we might say that both card games attract intelligent people whose professions involve careful planning and strategies. When I taught Bridge back in New York City I would always ask my class why they were taking up the game. One student who worked in the financial sector said, “Career advancement.” His big bosses played both games and he already knew how to play poker.
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Come and hear me talk about Opening Leads in Phoenix

The ACBL Fall National Championships are being held in Phoeniz, AZ starting the day after Thanksgiving.

Kitty in Blue Ribbon finals photo by Peg Kaplan

Kitty in Blue Ribbon finals photo by Peg Kaplan


There are many events for newer players including two celebrity lectures a day. See the list of speakers at the ACBL.


My talk on opening leads will take place Tuesday December 3 at 6:45 p.m. Get ahead by reading my handout in the downloads section here.

World Championships are being played now in Bali

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The vugraph starts every night at 8pm California time (they are 15 hours ahead of us so it is 11:00 am the next morning there). See my previous post on watching vugraph for information on how to watch.

There are three main events, Open (Bermuda Bowl), Women’s (Venice Cup) and Seniors (D’Orsi Bowl). For beginning bridge players I recommend watching the Seniors as they tend to play fewer fancy conventions. This clickable list of the world’s top grandmasters copied from the WBF site might give you an idea of who to watch:

Rank Name Country MPs PPs
Fulvio FANTONI Monaco 4859 41
Claudio NUNES Monaco 4671 39
Giorgio DUBOIN Italy 4004 42
Alfredo VERSACE Italy 3865 46
Lorenzo LAURIA Italy 3628 50.5
Jeff MECKSTROTH U.S.A. 3583 61.25
Bob HAMMAN U.S.A. 3502 109.25
Eric RODWELL U.S.A. 3391 60.75
Geir HELGEMO Monaco 3092 34.5
Tor HELNESS Monaco 3031 36
Zia MAHMOOD U.S.A. 2942 31.75
Norberto BOCCHI Italy 2842 34
Nick NICKELL U.S.A. 2821 38.25
Cezary BALICKI Poland 2542 29
Ralph KATZ U.S.A. 2373 22.25
Bauke MULLER Netherlands 2363 18
Louk VERHEES Jr Netherlands 2345 11
Sjoert BRINK Netherlands 2332 12.5
Antonio SEMENTA Italy 2320 18
Robert (Bobby) LEVIN U.S.A. 2306 21
Bas DRIJVER Netherlands 2291 12.5
Adam ZMUDZINSKI Poland 2264 29
Ricco VAN PROOIJEN Netherlands 2204 10.5
Simon DE WIJS Netherlands 2187 10
Franck MULTON Monaco 2184 21
Peter BERTHEAU Sweden 2130 11.5
Steve WEINSTEIN U.S.A. 2101 13
Fredrik NYSTROM Sweden 2064 11.5

My favorite to watch in the Senior event is Bob Hamman. Zia and Levin play less complicated systems and are great to watch in the Open. Kerri Shuman is wonderful to watch in the Women’s event.

Click the read more for some URLs about these championships.

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Improve Your Game: Watch the Greats Play It

Bridge may not play well on TV but you can find all recent major championships in stored online movies and you can watch online with expert commentary as they are played, using the BBO vugraph interface. The term for watching bridge is “kibitzing,” although a bridge kibitzer is expected to remain silent at all times.


These are not movies with people’s faces but screens which show all four hands, the bidding, and the cards played in order by clicking next.

If you do not have an id at BBO sign up now! The USBF senior and women’s championships start tomorrow, Friday July 12, in Florida and they will be vugraphed starting Saturday. Click here for the vugraph schedule. Of course you can also play bridge at the BBO site …

To find old play records as “movies” you can go to the BBO archives or you can go to the USBF site and look at results of recent tournaments.

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Husband and Wife Bridge: A Special Thanks to Coach Matthew

It is both difficult and rewarding to play with your spouse. Difficult because the emotions and anger tend to be overwhelming. “If you loved me you would have given me my ruff!” One tends to take partner’s errors personally when you are married to him. The rewarding part of playing with your spouse is having a great bidding system because you can talk about bridge any time of day or night and bid the monthly Bulletin and Bridge World hands together. “Did you see that article on the Lebensohl variation, shall we play it?”

Steve and I  were so angry at each other after the last regional we played that we were ready to quit playing with each other. So I contacted good friend Matthew Granovetter of Bridge Today and asked him for some coaching help. Who better than the author with his wife Pam of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin bridge column showing both sides of an issue?

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Tournament Game Times, What’s Your Opinion?

The use of morning and afternoon game times instead of the traditional afternoon and evening game times at the recent Philadelphia Nationals generated a heated debate on the Bridge Winners website at http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/philadelphia-schedule/ as well as many comments on Facebook and other social media.

Please contribute your opinion if you have ever played in a tournament to our online survey on our polls page. Warning, the survey does not work properly in Safari (on an Ipad or mac) where it will tell you that you have already done the survey.