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The Pyongyang Pairs & CP Dogma
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If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it....and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” - Joseph Goebbels

The Pyongyang Pairs

I am going to propose a thought experiment. In this scenario we are going to travel to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, to play in the Open Pairs. In our thought experiment we will question the very basis for CP dogma.

Before you panic and think I’ve gone ‘political’ on a bridge site, rest assured that ‘CP’ is not Communist Party. It stands for Convention Police. Though the abbreviation is appropriately similar. Perhaps this does relate to politics, since the CP exist because of bridge politics. My theoretical scenario is staged in North Korea only because I had to find a country where bridge players are actually free.

OK, not 100% free. You are not allowed to give that goofy kid with the really bad haircut a lousy board. (Well, lets just say you won’t have a chance to do it a second time.) But he isn’t playing.

Before we hightail it to the Far East, you need to answer the following question. Suppose you were a fairly new player. RHO opened “Multi” - it was alerted and explained - and in the subsequent auction your side managed to end up playing in 3 of opener’s major. On a scale of 1-10 do you think:

(1) = This convention needs to be banned

(10) = Wow, I need to learn this gadget and put it on my card!

There is no abstaining allowed. Your answer can be any point along the scale. There are no wrong answers. Just remember your 1 thru 10 response (it can even have decimal points) and later I will tell you what it means.

 

(This article wanders everywhere.  I originally never intended to post it, but given recurring topics this is my position on the subject.  Also, given CP dogma since the ACBL inception, there is a lot of territory to cover)

The Hermit Kingdom

You have traveled with some of the bridge world in a diplomatic ‘Bridge for Peace’ mission. Given some of the obvious rancor at the table between pairs and partners, ‘peace’ is a true overbid and it is unfortunate that the ultimate contract will probably not ever be made.

Your partner for this expedition north of the 38th parallel is Dennis Rodman. Being an unconventional guy, Dennis does not play a lot of those pesky conventions. Your competitive agreements are “low levels doubles are takeout, though possibly start of a strong hand”, “bids are natural”; and “cue bids are what makes sense: L/R,+ stopper showing or asking”. Dennis says his bridge judgment is as good as his basketball judgment. Which might not be saying an awful lot given his recent comments about Le Bron James. Your partner turns out to be able to take a lot of tricks. But you cannot help but wonder how much of that his due to a Linhart edge. Rodman is unsurpassed on the boards. He is not just a great board passer with those long arms, Dennis Rodman is the best board getter you ever saw. When the little old ladies are off in their own self-absorbed world and this huge, tattooed, muscled freak of nature with facial piercings asks for a board, they NEVER argue that there are two minutes left in the round.

In the heart of the Hermit Kingdom, you are free to play whatever system and agreements you want. The only requirement is alerting and full disclosure. There are copies of little red books everywhere. But there is no requirement to hand out silly yellow pamphlets and provide defenses.

You are looking forward to meeting people from other lands, but it turns out your first rounds will be against some familiar faces.

A Tale of Two Tables

The opposing dealer opens 2 and his partner alerts. Dennis turns to his LHO and says: “Your partner looks just like Kit Woolsey”.

“That would be because he is”, replies Fred.

“Really? Wow, that is amazing. He looks exactly like his picture on the Bridgewinners columns he writes.”

Fred pauses, “OK. And that is amazing because. . .”

“Because bridge authors normally use pictures from their graduation or prom.”

Dennis then inquires about the alert. Fred explains: “it is a weak two bid in one of the major suits. He has 5 or 6 cards in that unspecified major suit and usually 5 to 9 HCP. Our style is very aggressive and we are not shy about opening on five-cards”.

Table #2

The guy on your right in a baseball cap opens 2. His distinguished looking partner with grey hair (when did that happen?) alerts and explains: “exactly four spades, usually five but possibly six hearts and opening strength with about 11 to 16 HCP”

BTW - I really enjoyed Levin’s comments from the well. I don’t know Bobby except for playing some hands against him. Bobby always struck me as a grumpy, grousey guy at the table who plays really good bridge. Not that there is anything wrong with that. That would be me - except for the plays good bridge part. But one has to like a guy who loves his dog, hates politics and speaks his mind. He could even be my bridge idol now - except that he did need his wife to show him that Monaco was beatable. Though where would we guys be without our ladies? (In caves probably.)

What I want you to think about is that given your agreements, if you and Dennis need to compete for the contract, then all things considered, at which table are you at the greater disadvantage? Against Multi, or Flannery? Kit is well aware of the height differential and is guarding his hand closely so that Dennis cannot see Smile

Multi vs Flannery - Measuring ‘Harm’ to Opponents

Your side will need to compete more frequently against Multi than against the “F-bid”. This is because the bid is weaker, more common by definition and opener has just one of the major suits. But my question was not about frequency. It was about comparative disadvantage.

If I am faced with a decision of whether to compete, I’d much rather compete against Multi than the F-Bid. Steve loves Flannery. I do not. Or not enough to play it. But what I absolutely hate most about Flannery is when they open it against me and it isn’t their hand. I would never argue with Steve’s statement from his “I F” post:

“2 opening and the response preempts the opponents out of partscores, and surprisingly often out of 5 of a minor.”

I am not saying Multi isn’t effective. Preempts work. If preempts did not work, they would have been abandoned a long time ago. I am just saying I would rather have to face a decision of whether to come in over a Multi 2 opening than have to decide whether to come in after the F-Bid.

A Multi-two will wreck more total havoc compared to the F-bid simply because it comes up more frequently. However, I believe that a pair that playing the F-bid will have a much larger success % in competitive situations than the success rate of a Multi pair. Obviously the Multi pair has more cases. Which is why, when playing a match against Fred & Kit and they keep opening 2, one starts to think: “this f-ing bid again”. And it isn’t even the F-bid.

I find the CP people’s idea of a “crime” curious. The CP go after affable Fred and his version of 2 because he whacks people over the head with his 2 card a lot. The F-Bid might leave you with the bridge result equivalent of being stabbed in the heart and having your throat slashed. But the CP people are fine with Stevo committing occasional murders.

More than half the example hands from play in Bill Flannery’s book are low level obstructive sign-offs or competitive auctions where the ops got screwed.

Moving along, we find that everyone seems to be opening 2. . .

Table #3

The seeded pair is the world’s current #1. Your next 2 opening will come from Fantoni-Nunes.

Their 2 opening is natural and about opening bid strength. It is 10-13 HCP (or a good 9) 5+ diamonds and could have a side 4-card suit.

Table #4

The next table is Meckwell. Their 2 bid shows 10-15 HCP and a three suited hand with short diamonds. The hand could contain five clubs (4405 / (43)15) but not a five-card major.

Table #5

Is playing Mini-Roman. So 2 could be any three-suited hand with 10-15 HCP.

Table #6

Is playing an intermediate 2 opening. 10-15 HCP with six diamonds and it could have 4-cards in a rounded suit.

Competing Against Other 2 Openings

Eric Rodwell - who was also tossed in the well and did such a superb job that Bridgewinners should never have let him climb out - was asked about Fantunes. Part of his response:

“I will say that the two bids can make it very tough when the opponents have to decide whether to enter the auction and it has worked well for them when it has come up against us.”

This is from one of the other top pairs in the world. In another well post he was asked about a hand where he & Jeff bounced into 3S after a P-1D-P-3D; X-P-3S where 3S was the exact perfect spot. So yes, these guys are very good. And yet they have had a tough time competing against a NATURAL 2-bid.

In my view and experience, intermediate 2m-bids are a total beast for the opponents to deal with when they need to make competitive decisions. The 2 more so than 2. Yet they are totally natural and therefore legal.

I want to make it perfectly clear that my analysis is limited strictly to the degree of difficulty created when the opponents have to make potential competitive decisions. It is not a declaration of one being better. Other factors come into play. Conversely, the Fantunes natural 2 is the most difficult for the opening side to manage when the deal requires that they bid in an accurate constructive manner. But whether a bid is easy for the opening side is not an issue that concerns the Convention Police. Only the degree of difficulty for the ops.

My order of degree of difficulty to compete against, from easiest to hardest is:

  • Weak two bid in diamonds
  • Mini-Roman(*)
  • Multi
  • Precision 2
  • Fantunes or Other Intermediate 2
  • Flannery

(* In my experience Mini-Roman is easier to compete against because 3rd seat does not know opener’s shortness. In practice, it is not so easy for them to either hit you or figure their hands out if you jump in. However, this may not be systemic. My positive experience could be due to the fact that anyone who puts Mini-Roman on their card and is not playing a canape system has no judgment to begin with.)

State of Mind - The Answer.

What was your answer to my first question on the 1 to 10 scale? Here is what your answer indicates:

The closer your answer was to ‘10' (Wow, I gotta play this convention!) the younger your mind. If you answered ‘1' (Ban the B@st@rd!) then you have an old mind.

It is that simple.

And that is why so little has changed over the years. Because bridge is run and governed by the older players. Always has been. If you are offended because I deemed your mind ‘old’, tough. Facts are facts. And the fact is, any offense taken is your offense. You simply fell prey to “the big lie”. We live in a culture that worships youth. Young minds are also the same minds that think getting drunk and piling six kids into a Fiat and trying to hit 100 mph on Crow Hill Road is fun and challenging.

There was a time when my mind was young and it hoped the CP people would grow old and die and we would finally be free from their tyranny. Pascal once remarked (probably in French and this is only an approximation of his alleged quote) “One can never convince other people they are wrong. You can only wait for them to grow old and die and hope the new generation will be acquainted with the truth from the beginning.”

What my older mind has come to realize is that we will never be free from the CP. Because old people are against change. I still have a flip phone though I spent most of my working career in technology. Old people believe in the familiar. Old people believe in safety. It is the young people who believe in the new and the young who believe in change The only thing most people tacitly agree upon is that democracy is a process whereby the majority get to tell everyone else how to think.

Bridge has always been like that. Because people have always been like that. Go back and read old copies of The Bridge World with people railing against “Stayman” and artificial ideas like “Transfers”.

BTW, Rodwell from the well voiced tacit support for the multi ban. Yep, Eric is now officially an old fart. I can prove it:

This is the Eric Rodwell who played crazy stuff in West Lafayette: a forcing pass system with 3-card majors and the 1 opening showing any 0-7. (“Partner, if you have a Precision Club opening, I have a negative response.”) This is the Eric Rodwell who crafted RM Precision with a 10-13 1NT fav, a multi-2 and a 3-suited 2 bid.

The guy writing from the well is married and has four kids.

BTW, what do bridge parents tell their children? They can’t really say things like: “be sure to be home by 10 pm" Because how would the parents know? Mom and dad are out playing bridge until midnight. Then they go for drinks and they sleep until nearly noon the next day. Maybe the kids rebel by going to bed at 9:30 and getting up at sunrise.

Imagine that? Yelling at your kid to stop making noise. “But Dad, I am making my bed.”

“Leave it! And dammit, skip breakfast too. It’s not that important and I don’t want to hear you rattling around in the kitchen.”

“But I wont have time for a healthy meal after class because I have to get to work.”

“Grab a Whopper at the BK drive-thru. That has enough empty calories to hold you. You know, if you didn’t bother with school and jobs and just went to bridge club to play cards like your mom and dad, you’d have all sorts of snacks to pack away the pounds and you would also drink enough free coffee so that you would never be getting to bed early.”

Damn kids. We try to set an example for them. So why is the young mind important?

Survival

What does not change, dies. If you do not see a problem with trying to sell a “thinking game” to young people where grandma tells them how to think, then your brain is old to the point of having forgotten what it was like to be young.

A couple of years ago I was asked by a junior pair to arbitrate disagreements while they put together their system for the Jr World Championships. Elements they completely agreed upon before I was even asked were:

  • Weak NT throughout
  • Crazy Swedish Run-outs
  • Ekrens 2

If forcing pass were legal in WBF, they probably would not have bothered with me and just called Eric for a copy of “Regres” and his ideas to improve it.

During a Vandy match against Martel/Stansby, these juniors went for -250 at the two level when the crazy Swedish runouts got them to their 2-1 club fit. Both Chip and Lew had five cards in the suit but each passed figuring that if they doubled, the kids had a better spot to run to. Chip & Lew’s minds are still pretty young because they thought that their bad result was sort of funny.

Which is the other problem. Bridge is supposed to be fun. The ACBL caters to cranky old people who have forgotten how to have fun.

Maybe the old people need the world baby-proofed. I said when they originally created “Senior Pairs”- for the now and almost all gone old minds who could not handle “alerts” and weird stuff like transfers - that the ACBL was making a mistake. Instead of dividing along age lines, they should have divided into open and limited. Let people have a choice.

Now we have no choice because just about everyone is old. So bridge in the USA is not really changing. Just rotting away.

For the record, I thought red wk NTs were iffy.  (Used to play them all the time).  The crazy Swedish run-outs they actually got indirectly via me.  And my opinion on Ekrens was that all the kids from Europe probably knew it better than them.  But since it was going to be one of the few times they could play it, why not?

Real Bridge

In case no one noticed, the Vanderbilt was won because Stevo psyched a void. That, combined with a great jump to 6 by Bobby and a big pass of 5 at the other table by old-man Rodwell. Plus very good play over the other 63 boards and previous matches, since Nickell, Katz & Meckstroth all contributed too. Jill and Howard might have made beating Monaco look easy, but it sure ain’t.

Did H&H freak out and call for a recorder slip because Stevo psyched?

Because that is what happens these days in other ACBL events with the faux-players. The bridge players at the club stress board results with each press of the Bridgemate button. They play in their RR Swiss events and strata-flighted pairs. Clubs section off “pros” because too many old people think they need their world baby-proof.

Letting people play multi makes the game random??

Have you played at a club game recently? Or in a regional pairs event? These events are random. That is not the problem. The problem is it just isn’t fun. I get paid to show up and mostly, I just hate it.

Bridge is just doing to die in this country. Without a MAJOR change, its impending death will be an economic and structural inevitability.

Well, maybe not totally die. I suppose there are still Whist tournaments someplace

Randomness. . .

I think that the contention that “Multi” makes the game random is absurd. Forget about the fact that our game of bridge has already become random. The fact is people like random.

And if you don’t think so, when you are in Vegas this summer at the NABC, look around at the city that random built. Look at all the millions and millions of visitors who come to town who either do not play bridge or have NO IDEA what the game might be.

Poker has completely random elements. People like pushing their chips in the middle, flipping over a pocket pair against big slick and seeing what happens.

It was a huge, popular industry in this country until the US wiped out billions of dollars of shareholder equity by passing UIGEA.

Back to Multi - Blaming the Hammer

BTW, in interest of full disclosure, Andrew Robson banned Multi at his eponymous club in London. He said: “it was causing too many problems”. We thought that was strange and the real problems were with the clientele, but we did not discuss it with him further.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, after I told Andrew that the ACBL GCC does not allow transfers over 1C , his response was “how arcane”.

Preempts work. If I open 2S and the opponents run off the rails, they will blame each other or maybe themselves. Perhaps they will say: “that is why people preempt”. But they do not specifically blame the preempt because it is a natural bid..

When the preempt is artificial, they will complain. In a democracy, or at a capitalistic club, squeaky wheels get greased. If I can ever afford to visit Andrew given the BPS/USD, I will preempt all the time against those players. Because that is the heart of the problem.

What happens is that people who play Multi invariably play a more aggressive style of preempting than is fashionable with natural 2M bidders. It is my view that many players - and in particular the weaker ones - have difficulty coping with the aggressive style. When the bid is artificial, they blame the hammer for their bruised thumb. Not their aim.

I need to acknowledge that not blaming the ‘natural’ preempt was not always so. When Stauber, Bergen & McCallum came along, the CP spent a lot of time and energy trying to ban their aggressive natural weak-twos. The CP tried just about everything except trying to get Alan deported.  Or maybe they did and no other country would take him.  Perhaps North Korea, but we weren't on speaking terms.

Those old guard CP people who railed against Plumber & Co are pretty much no longer around. So those specific attempts at thought control have been abandoned.

I grew up in bridge playing against Allan Stauber and his psycho preempts. If the problem with Multi is that you don’t know what major opener has, all I can tell you is that after Allan opens 2, you still don’t know what major he holds. At least if the ACBL let him open 2, I could get a second bit at the apple.

Example:

At the club it was passed to me and I held something like K10xxx / Jxx / Qxxx / x. It looked like a 2 bid. My PH partner raised to 3 and I tried not to cringe. All pass. Partner said: “If I knew you were going to pass, I’d have bid four”. I was not sure why she thought I would ever bid again. West held a =2344 13 count and elected not to act opposite a passed partner. His partner had passed because she had “rules” about wk-2 opening bids and her hand did not fit her rules. She was then locked out after 3.

Super charitable defense let me make. It would not have mattered as down a couple was good bridge. The field was E/W in 4H making.

What this demonstrates is how easy it is to steal from weaker pairs. I doubt if the deal came up during the Trials anyone would have opened 2S. Just because no one would have passed East’s hand. I doubt anyone would have passed a working 13 count with TO shape either.

But lots of the players at the club actually passed RHO’s hand. No one other than myself ventured a 2S call. For the anal, our card is marked 5-9 HCP and 5 or 6-card suits.

So E/W blamed their result on having to be at my table. Had I opened with an artificial preempt, I am sure they’d be asking Chris if that was even legal.  Because the current players are born into a bridge world where the authorities told them conventions had to be regulated for their own good.

Here is another example from a BBO practice session.

West
A9852
AJ952
AQ
5
North
KQ764
J10872
J63
East
J
K107
K954
AK1082
South
103
Q8643
63
Q974
W
N
E
S
2
?
D

South was Cenk Tunçok and - especially playing with Karen McCallum - this is a routine 2 opening. The E/W were experienced players - if national titles count for anything. He doubled. Kate pulled to 2 which was doubled for TO and was left in.

Perception

Here is how human minds work. If the 2 opening is not your taste, you might think: E/W can make a slam in the weak two suit you opened. That N/S deserve their bad result for opening 2 on total junk like this.

But a funny thing happened on the way to E/W+a bazillion. They slipped a lot in the defense and did not even cover their missed game. But style is not the discussion. The point is how the human mind perceives outcomes. Suppose the opening bid on such a hand was Multi 2.

Possible outcome A) - E/W nail N/S for a bazillion.

Possible outcome B) - E/W end up in 3NT. Perhaps 2 - X - P* (Kit is right) - 3 and West either is worried 3 is NF, just shoots out 3NT, or starts with 2 and partner bids 3NT.

At the club, few pairs will reach 6 if S passes. (Though Kibs NEVER miss these slams). Taking 12 tricks is not that difficult because you just try to ruff losers and do not worry about trumps. A couple will slip or pooch the timing and make just 11 in hearts. Eleven are available in NT, but a pair in 3NT is likely to end with just ten.

The pair who got a good result against Multi do not complain. The pair who did not get a good result will blame ‘Multi’ for their confusion. (More like ‘choices’). Because if you don’t think people have a tendency to blame someone or anything but themselves, take up bridge sometime and see how people behave and think when things go wrong.

The upshot is the Convention Police - or Andrew the club owner - will only hear negative feedback about Multi. The data they feel the need to respond to is necessarily biased, because these squeaky wheels are biased about the outcomes.

This is exactly what happened back when players started with highly aggressive natural wk-2 definitions. The CP heard the complaints and tried to stop the practice of some people thinking there might be a better way. 

Yellow Pamphlets

The ACBL approved two defenses to Multi. They used to be called the “simple defense” (that was complex) and the “complex defense” (which was pretty easy to understand). Now we have “option 1" and “option 2".

These defenses can be found here: http://web2.acbl.org/defensedatabase/3b.htm

Assuming you can actually remember anything I wrote so far, or probably more appropriately assuming that you actually got this far, do you notice anything about the defenses to Multi?

Option #2 is my standard defensive agreements with Dennis Rodman.

  • Double is TO (or start of a strong hand)
  • Bids are Natural

I need a yellow pamphlet to tell me that?

Granted, 4m is “Leaping Michaels”. Dennis does not play gadgets, so I guess we do not play LM. But I find it strange that the CP think the solution to players who presumably cannot handle a call that shows an unspecified major with pass or correct implications, is to give these same players a defense whereby their bid shows an unspecified major with pass or correct implications.

Only in ACBL-land.

More on CP Guidelines

A Precision 2 opening is legal. An opening bid of 2 to show the same hand is not just mid-chart. It requires a pre-alert and that defenders are provided written defenses.

I am drawing a blank trying to come up with a good reason for this.

My first thought was that over 2, they are unlikely to play it there. So the benefit to the defenders is that you don’t have to act on marginal hands. You can pass and wait to see how the auction develops before you commit yourself. Whereas over 2, you are either in or out.

Sounds reasonable, but there is one problem. That reasoning would also suggest that 2 Multi should be legal and 2M weak two-bid should not. But I am sure the CP can nuance their way through this one, arguing one auction is constructive and the other preemptive. Not that it means anything. The CP basically assume “the children need to be protected”. It is the big lie they heard, over and over again. The one they assume is true. They need to protect the lie.

The reality is that the Prec 3-suited opening bid has an expectancy of about 2/3 of 1% (11-15). The next hand having say 6+D and 15+ HCP is about 1 in 90 2 openings. The prepared defense uses 3C for “good diamonds” and 3 for “normal diamonds”, so the “benefit” of the prepared defense is the ability to distinguish between these hands - and - presumably go down more often in 3-X by encouraging marginal 3 overcalls to the uninitiated the CP seek to protect..

If we sat against this pair for every board in every session for every day for the next year and a half and they were always the dealer, this strong diamond hand over the Precision 2 opening might come up. Or looking at it another way, the regulatory burden to this pair imposed by the Convention Police is that they pre-alert every single pair they sit against. So that every pair can presumably take the time to look at the suggested defense and discuss whether they want to play it, because SOMETIME in the next year or two, someone might actually want to make a 3 “strong diamond” overcall.

The children sleep better at night knowing the Convention Police are out there protecting them.

Of course, by the time this sequence actually comes up, Stevo’s body count from his F-bid murders will be alarmingly high.

 

I noticed that a 2 opening as an unspecified minor preempt is deemed to be Mid-Chart with required defenses.  If I ran things all of my opponents would be required to use that convention.

They Can’t Handle It!

A few months ago, my opponents had this auction at the club: 2NT - 3. All pass.

Dummy hit with with Axxx / Axxx / AQ / AKx. And they made seven. Yes, hearts. I was defending thinking they were yelling at each other because they had a spade fit. Silly me. Fortunately it made no difference.

It turns out my LHO does not play transfers. RHO thought 3H was forcing . I don’t know what LHO thought even if 3 was NF. Now before I get any cyber ink (OK, probably not because no one is still reading at this point), LHO has been playing forever. Hartes club is now the biggest brick & mortar club in the country. My crazy LHO is someone I would box to win. I checked her play scores through last week, dropping the decimal points: 66% /59% / 61% / 59% / 65% / 52%.

A couple of weeks ago, she was playing with a guy and they had this auction against us: 2 - 2NT; all pass. She got all huffy and said: “That asks for a feature! How could you pass?”. Ray said: “You don’t play any conventions! We are playing your card and it is not marked as feature. So I thought it was natural.”

The other week at the Bridge Deck, I got a 94% score across the common game when RHO opened 2NT and my LHO - a different player who also doesn’t play transfers - bid 3NT and they missed their 9-card spade fit.

What I found weird during the PM was that their forcing sequence would have been 3. Which was the NF sequence for the other player at Hartes. Proving that people who do not play any conventions still couldn’t play with each other.

So if these auctions cause trouble, how could we allow Multi?

The REAL Problem

The problem is the Convention Police and the ACBL keep making the game of bridge a reflection of themselves and what they want. As they get older and greyer, our game of bridge gets older and greyer.

The USA retired and 60+ population keeps increasing every year. Yet ACBL membership keeps declining. If bridge is a game for “old people” why is that so?

Because bridge isn’t just a game for “old people”. It is a game that every year becomes an increasing reflection of a smaller group of people who keep getting older. We do what “they want”.

This is absurd.

If you know anything about marketing, you know that someone has to think about what all those butts that are not sitting in chairs at the bridge table want. Someone has to vote for them. If the ACBL ran a restaurant, their menu would be only hamburgers, fries and Coke. Why?

“Because that is what they want”.

The ACBL restaurant would be out of business in no time. No one at the ACBL would ever wonder what all the people who do not dine there want to eat. Even McD’s offers some variety. But at our Golden-Age Arches, the CP offer only what the people eating there want.

And that is why bridge has no future. News Flash - when we get to my generation retiring, no one is taking up bridge. Here is why:

  • We never wanted to grow old
  • We never wanted to be our parents
  • We are too dumb for words and think we have a choice

We don’t have a choice. But that does not mean we will admit defeat and show up for bridge lessons so that grandma can tell us how to think.

The Enemy According to Pogo

People who suppose the solution to thinking is to ban the activity are not smart enough to find solutions that keep everyone happy. Or at least mollified. The Convention Police have been trying to stop bridge from progressing for over half a century. That they somewhat succeeded is a big part of the reason bridge has been crippled in the US.

Bridge stopped growing and changing long ago. When I started playing, one practically needed an act of Congress or divine intervention to get a convention approved for play. So only guys like CC Wei or George Rosenkrantz - the guys with millions of dollars - could get something new OK’d.

Not that I have anything against guys with money. Only that George didn’t invent a bridge system I wanted to play. CC Wei did. And because people were free to modify it, we changed the NT range, the 1 club responses, the 2C opening bid. Guys like Rodwell totally pimped it out.

Strong club offered something to younger players. It offered a chance to think for themselves. To find their own solutions. To test their own ideas.

Before CC Wei, Sontag & Rodwell, there was a guy named Robert Hamman.  He did not play Al Roth's stuff.  Nor Goren's stuff.  Hamman played a highly modified strong club canape system.  Even when I started, trying to play this system was kind of restricted.  One had to pre-alert.  I don't recall the details.  I do recall being annoyed to death and giving up trying it.  Probably when Hamman started there was blanket ban on anything with an accent aigu.  Some little old geezer complained to the CP that Hamman opened 1 and he had five spades.  His little old geezer son is still complaining that Fred opened 2 and has five spades.

The ACBL and bridge is probably past the point of no return. The old guard is too old and too entrenched to either change or accept change.

We made bridge a game for certain old people. And then we make excuses that young people do not see value in our activity. That is probably pretty close to a clinical definition of senile.

Yeah, no kids play cards anymore. Anyone (over 50) know who Wizards of The Coast is? They are the original publishers and still managers of a card game played by millions that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Hasbro. “Magic” is the most profitable game brand in the world. Most everyone who plays is under 30 years old.

Anyone heard of the poker boom? Kids will play cards. But you have to make the activity relevant.  You have to let the kids figure out how they want to play the game.  Lots of the old guard poker pros laughed at the young kids opening on "nothing".  If these old guard pros still have any money left, it is because they had to figure out many of these kids knew how to play.  Just because the kids played differently did not mean it was wrong.  In fact, if you look at the results, the kids play better.

In poker, kids could bet the way they wanted to.  In bridge, the kids have to bid the way the old geezers say you have to.

If we wanted to be told how to think, we would move to North Korea.

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