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All comments by Jonathan Mestel
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In the UK, one can ask for a time monitor if opponents have been very slow, but I believe measurement takes place only from then onwards, closing the stable door after the horse has taken a leisurely stroll around the farm, eaten a few oats and trotted off gently.
Oct. 10, 2016
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Apologies. Actually, most chess-players are surprised that top-level bridge does not have clocks. If we all end up in separate rooms with a terminal, doubtless that will happen too.
Oct. 10, 2016
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I did not mean to imply that Bridge authorities were being negligent in this regard - I have no knowledge about this. I was merely attempting to illustrate how, in the chess world, well-intentioned measures can be detrimental if not properly thought through.
Oct. 10, 2016
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Perhaps I should have spelled out more of the background.

I'm afraid chess was hit by an electronic cheating scandal 6 years ago involving a Western national team. Not last year.

My negative attitudes refer to the haphazard and ill-thought-out manner in which the measures were introduced at this Olympiad. There are things which can and should be done, but not in this ineffective manner.
Searching the loos before play starts and having metal detectors on the loo doors is sensible, for example. Trying to accompany 1000 people to the loo as you suggest is not.
Sweeping people before a game is reasonable. Sweeping someone while they are at the board and short of time is ludicrous. (EDIT: In the incident I cited, the grandmaster in question was on his way back to the board, not actually sitting down at the time - apologies for giving the wrong impression.)

Chess players have always tried very hard to arrive on time, as their clocks are started. In the past, people have been defaulted under the “no tolerance” rule for being held-up by security police, or for being locked for a few minutes in the loos. Not for staying in bed till midday. Losing 15minutes thinking time is not something one would opt to do.
Oct. 10, 2016
Jonathan Mestel edited this comment Oct. 10, 2016
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It basically just needs a 3-2 break.

Give West xx AKQJ109 xx xxx say, or xx AKQJxxx xx xx and you have 11 tricks either by ruffing a on table or by a dummy reversal. For example, you ruff the , play a to the K and A, ruff a 2nd , cross to 10 and ruff a 3rd with the Ace and draw trumps, overtaking Q. This works even if RHO manages to duck K.

Whether making the contract is the only concern, depends on the form of scoring.
Oct. 7, 2016
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Michael - I agree with all that, but people for whom considering a -discard isn't 2nd nature, probably also play against people for whom “I couldn't decide whether to bid 2 or 4 so I bid 3” is plausible. That's why I mentioned “down the club”. At my club very few Easts will duck a to the K smoothly and I don't think we're in danger otherwise. Some may have A as West (I admit I didn't notice they were NV. I also didn't notice your 2713 example - that's neat; Thanks for pointing it out.)

My real point is that when dummy has a strong trump holding like KJ10 one should give some thought to accepting the force; often you end up with a high cross-ruff. From a pedagogical point-of-view, teaching about discarding is spot-on. Next you tell them to consider ruffing anyway. And then maybe you discard after all, if your opponents are reasonable….
Oct. 7, 2016
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Nice hand - I never find these “control” problems as easy as they first appear.

Discarding at trick 1 is a natural communication-cutting reflex, but it's not absolutely risk-free - if West has say x AKQxxxx Axx xx you go down if you let them have a heart trick as opposed to ruffing and leading a diamond. Or x AKQxxxx x xxxx, likewise.

At matchpoints, given the reasonable chance of 11 tricks, I imagine discarding is wrong, and even at Imps, I suspect ruffing and leading a diamond is best down at the club, where we're likely to be able to read the lie. The main difficulty is if they manage to duck the first diamond smoothly, as we won't be sure how to continue.
Oct. 7, 2016
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I don't play Precision, but if I did, I would want to be able to make a picture bid of 4 on this hand. So I will.
Oct. 6, 2016
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Louis - That must be it - many thanks.

The other phrase van der Wiel taught me was less repeatable (and less useful at the bridge table)…
Oct. 6, 2016
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In 1982 I was playing bridge with the strong Dutch chessplayers van der Wiel, van der Sterren and Ligterink. Once when dummy came down, declarer let out a cry which I was informed was an “angstschrijk”.

I thought this was a marvellous word - 8 consecutive consonants, tailing off into that despairing Dutch “ij”…is that not a perfect description of the muted shreak of angst with which one greets some dummies?

But looking online, I can't find this word - the closest I can see is angstkreet. Have I misremembered all these years?
Oct. 6, 2016
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That's better than “done himself in!”

Am I right that this article is only available to ACBL members? If so, the only contribution I can offer is linguistic piffle of this ilk.
Oct. 5, 2016
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I take it “topped himself” is a piece of UK slang which has not made it over the Atlantic…
Oct. 5, 2016
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I take your point. According to 15C the board should have been cancelled the moment the opening bid differed. I have no idea whether the rules have changed since then, or whether this was the director's (sensible, but possibly illegal) attempt to get as much normal bridge played as possible.

Incidentally, do the laws specify what one is supposed to do if the director instructs one to do something one thinks is illegal?
Sept. 30, 2016
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Yes sorry. It was the responsibility of both pairs to ensure they had the right opponents - we were waiting for a pair to turn up, and just assumed it was the right one.
Sept. 30, 2016
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Last millenium, you're playing in an event spread over a number of rooms in a Midlands hotel where both pairs move. You sit down EW and after a few minutes an international pair turns up, sits down confidently and swiftly bids 1-1NT;3NT-P.

You're about to lead when another pair turn up, looking late, lost and languid, and claim they should be playing you. The director instructs you to try to play the board unless you feel the UI makes it impossible.

Your new (weaker) opponents bid 1-1;1-P and you wonder whether to protect. You have a hand on which almost no sane person would bid 2, and yet you know that you would have considered it.
Rightly or wrongly, you tell the director you don't feel able to play the board, and you get an ave-, for trusting the original Mancunian miscreants to subtract 2 from 31 correctly.

So I think that follows Frances' criteria for active ethics - you would certainly have gained from and “got away” with not making a risky bid, even though the UI made it suicidal. But to qualify under David's more cynical criteria, you also have to brag about it…
Sept. 30, 2016
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Not to be confused with EEEC, which is Beethoven's 5th symphony.

David, you make me realise how old I am.
Sept. 28, 2016
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And all the world over, each nation's the same;
They've simply no notion of “playing the game”!
They argue with umpires, and cheer when they've won.
And they practice beforehand, which ruins the fun…
Sept. 28, 2016
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As she mentions Mathematics, I hope Frances won't mind me revealing that she achieved one of the best undergraduate Maths results in her year at one of the top UK universities before leaving academia for the Business & Bridge worlds.

Note that I did not have to qualify that with a “male or female”. It would be unthinkable to have gender-segregated examinations and degrees. It was in 1890 that a woman first came top of Mathematics at Cambridge, though she was not permitted to receive a degree. In a dynamic, truth-seeking academic environment rapid change is possible, and by 1948 (sic) women were finally permitted to graduate. And in the 1970s, the Swiss actually allowed them to vote. I'm straying off topic - the point is that even obvious social improvements can be painfully slow.

Even today, girls and women assuredly have extra obstacles to overcome in a Mathematical career. Expectations of family, schools and peers of both genders to start with. About 1/3 of Maths undergraduates are female, and the proportion declines as one looks up the scale with PhD students, post-doctoral researchers, lecturers and professors. Just as it does with top bridge (or chess) players.

Why is this? If the abilities of all groups of people are normally distributed about some mean, the extremely good (or bad) is an exponentially small proportion. Given two groups with the same mean the slightest difference in the variance of the distributions will have a massive effect in the relative number of each group at the top end. So to those who say “Oh come on, teenage boys being mean (for example) isn't going to put many girls off,” I would reply that at a later time such things really could have an enormous effect statistically at the top end. We don't really know - we only have one set of data, the real world over a short time-period. We make what improvements we can now, and hope for a better tomorrow.

30 years ago I remember two (otherwise basically decent, Western, male) chess grandmasters taunting others with “How does it feel to be beaten by a woman?” and “How can a grandmaster lose to a Chinaman?”
Neither of these questions would make any sense today. Chess has quite a good objective rating system, and such overt prejudice is suppressed. It will take longer in Bridge, because the partnership and random elements obscure objectivity. But role models such as Frances & Sabine, and uniform junior coaching will have their effects in time. There seems to be a spreading out of the female achievement distributions which bodes well for the future.

Incidentally, there is also such a thing as “women's chess”, for which the arguments pro & con are similar to Bridge. Even Mathematics has seen fit to introduce a “Girls Maths Olympiad” in an effort to encourage more female participation, but only at a junior level. I hope it doesn't prove retrogressive.
Sept. 27, 2016
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Is it even true? 3.25-3.25-3.25-3.25 or 4-4-3-2 I could understand.
Sept. 22, 2016
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Touché! I should have included “(sic)”.
Sept. 21, 2016
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