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All comments by John Swanson
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Excerpt from the Western Conference Forum, December 2018 bidding forum (which I moderate):

4. North-South vulnerable, IMP scoring, West is dealer, you are South holding:

South West North East
3D Pass 3H*
* Forcing, not conventional.

J.S.: I firmly believe that a double of any new-suit response to a preempt should be takeout of the preempted suit, ignoring the response. It is primarily a matter of frequency. When you hold enough high cards to enter the auction, you will invariably be short in opener’s suit while it is random whether or not you hold length in responder’s suit. Also, is much safer to enter the auction on this round rather than later. And sometimes the preemptor, with a minimum (i.e., pitiful) hand and no fit will simply pass the supposedly forcing bid. There is also the advantage that when RHO unexpectedly bids your suit, you don’t have to ask whether it is forcing or not.

Regardless of how you treat an immediate double, as always the truly important aspect of competitive bidding situations is to have an agreement with partner. In the recent World Championships, North-South failed in this regard. South doubled and North, thinking it was takeout of the red suits, bid spades holding: KQ8, J985, 75, Q642. South carried on to a hopeless three-three 4S while 6H was in the offing.
Dec. 10
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At the Boston Nationals of 1970, a redoubled 1NT contract was played, declarer taking all the tricks. After the session, someone came up to Al Roth and asked, “Al, what’s 3110?” In tempo Al replied, “That Stoney’s score when 4000 is average.”
Oct. 28
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Sometimes opponents make deceptive leads. If you are unwilling to make an assumption about the layout of the spade suit based on the spade ten lead, then please note how it affects your play of the hand. The reason for this post was to analyze what the best play from dummy is at trick one, taking all factors into consideration.
Oct. 13
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Stats adjusted in the text.
Oct. 12
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From a Fred Turner letter to me, March 22, 1992:

“… you said you talked to a bridge player who ‘believed’ The Grosvenor yarn. I’m enclosing a copy of a letter I received recently. The sender was a director of our lab* between the late 1950’s and 1960’s, a distinguished scholar and man of medicine. Also, I came to believe, a man of quality, honesty, and humor. When I was young I couldn’t imagine attempting to ‘befriend’ him because he was so far above me. Now, retired, in his 80’s and in marginal health, he seemed a lot more approachable. And I wanted to tell him personally how much I’d respected his administration of our laboratory, and his efforts to support our ecologically oriented research (which was viewed with disdain by most of the Medical School). So we had lunch a month or so ago, during the course of which I told him I was probably a better bridge player than scientist, and that if I’d been able to play really well I might have made a ‘career’ of it. Then I told him about some of my writing, commenting that one article had turned out very well – capturing the imagination of people all over the world, etc. And I told him that if I’d written just one scientific article that had done as well I’d have retired a happier man. He acknowledged that he knew very little about bridge, but asked me to send him a copy of the story. I did. His reply startled me…”

* Laboratory of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Biology University of California, Los Angeles

The reply (in part):

“… I am enthralled by your letter relative to the ‘Grosvenor Gambit’. I confess I know so little about bridge that I hope sometime you will explain to me why it so infuriated some of the people who had it pulled on them. I certainly can’t see how that could justify murdering a man! Neither can I understand with what you tell me about the findings on this man’s corpse that the coroner could find it as a case of suicide! It shows that coroners are frail and probably susceptible to pressure and other unfortunate attributes of the human species…”

What a tribute to Fred’s writing! Fred never did tell his colleague that the article was a fictional creation.
Aug. 9
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Assuming it is worthwhile to give up a natural 3NT opening (whatever that would be) to be able to differentiate between a good four-of-a-major opening and a preemptive one (as I do), it seems better in theory to use 3NT to show the good majors (as Rosalind does) and leave 4 and 4 as natural. 4 and 4 are more preemptive than 3NT and one gets another couple bids to investigate slam after a good major opening of 3NT.

I have been using the ‘traditional’ Namyats since having heard of it. (Maybe from Ivan Erdos and Kelsey Petterson.) I would like to switch but fear than either my partner or I would forget.

Unfortunately this does nothing to help Gregory with the question of how to investigate slams after an artificial 3NT.
July 4
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I have received several buy offers. These items have been listed for auction and won't be sold until the 7 day auction period expires. Please bid if you are interested, but please don't waste your time and my time by emailing an offer.
July 2
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That's what the post office charges. If you buy more than one, there is no additional postal charge (by me).
July 2
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George Jacobs might have some suggestions.
June 8
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Regarding checking scores with one’s opponents:

At the 1971 “All-Western Championships” the well-attended annual Regional in San Francisco, the schedule provided for the knock-out semi-finals to be played in half-sessions of 14 boards, to be played on successive days in the late morning. My team, headed by Leslie Tsou, would play the Don Oakie team. (Both of those names bring back fond memories; they were such great gentlemen.)

After the first day we were up by 42. We checked with our opponents; their comparison had them down only 40. The afternoon session was about to start and we had only a few minutes to grab a bite to eat so we didn’t check the results. After all, there was no way they would win that back the next morning.

The second session didn’t go so well for us. After comparing results we found that we had lost 41, and confirmed that with our opponents. It would be necessary to go over the results from the previous day. Our team still had the old scorecard; our opponents didn’t. Then Oakie remembered he had just thrown out his card from the previous day in his hotel room. Fortunately he was staying in the same hotel, so he rushed up to his room; it hadn’t been cleaned yet. We anxiously went over the scores from the previous day. Remarkably, we each had a one IMP error; our match was tied.

There was just enough time to get in a seven-board playoff before the afternoon pair game started – no lunch. I wonder if my partner Mike Lawrence remembers that morning.
May 30
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These are my thoughts and suggested format for duplicate poker.


Poker has become an extremely popular game, both to players and to spectators watching television. The attraction can be increased further by incorporating the feature of being able to directly compare results by having players play exactly duplicated deals. The appeal of this form of play has been demonstrated over the past 100 years by its application to the games of whist, auction bridge, and contract bridge.

Structure of Play

In order to achieve exact comparison Duplicate Poker must be restricted to heads-up play. The exact hand would be played at two tables. Two teams of two players would compete against each other, one teammate playing the ‘North’ cards (borrowing bridge terminology) at one table, the other playing the ‘South’ cards at the other table. The other team would, of course, be playing the deal at the two tables with direction reversed.

In order to achieve an exactly duplicate situation on each hand the starting amount of money must be the same for each hand. The money won (or lost) on each hand would be registered as a score. For the next hand the amount available to bet for all players would be restored to the original amount.

The match would consist of a fixed number of hands. At the halfway point in the match the teams could interchange opponents. The winning team is the one with the greatest combined score (money won/lost) after all hands have been complete.

These matches could be tournament type elimination matches or could be cash games.

Multiple Players

The teams could be composed of more than two players but would require an even number so that the same number of team members are playing each direction. Also, multiple teams could compete at the same time.

Individual events could be held using the same principles. There would be a set of ‘North’ players and an equal number of ‘South’ players. A small number of deals could be played and then the ‘South’ players would rotate to successive tables to meet different ‘North’ players. At the end of the tournament all ‘North’ results would be compared against each other; likewise the ‘South’ results.

Tournament Management

Any problems regarding duplicating deals have been solved in tournament bridge play. The integrity of the match would probably be easier to manage if the deals were played essentially simultaneously. The two tables would be in different areas so information would not be inferred by a player from reactions and comments at another table. With more than two tables in play, especially with a large number associated with an individual event, this could be a significant management problem.

In this electronic age there is no need for poker chips or even actual cards. Both could be managed with a computer screen. However, a setup such as that is not likely to appeal to either players or an audience, live or TV. Chips need not be pushed into the center so can be easily restored after each deal. Electronic scoring entered by an official would not be a problem.


Players can no longer complain about not getting good cards. Their results would be compared against other who hold exactly the same cards. Fans will be eager to see how different players bet identical deal.

Play will be improved. There is a teammate to answer to. No one will be giving up. Overly aggressive ‘all in’ play because a chip stack is getting low will not be necessary. Silly reactions by players when they get a fortunate card will not be so prevalent because another player will be getting the same opportunity.

April 13
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“It is also hard for me to believe that the American players went back to the Bermuda Bowl year after year, despite their strong belief that they were being cheated. My gosh, if I am being cheated, I sure as heck am not just going back for more year after year. They needed to do SOMETHING…”

After two members of the vaunted Blue Team were observed kicking under the table by multiple officials of the WBF and then allowed to continue playing, the U.S. team lodged an immediate protest. The result was that the team and captain were vilified by the ACBL hierarchy. The entire disgraceful episode is documented in Avon’s book.

Complaints based on evidence even slightly less convincing from previous years had been brushed aside by officials. Now, thanks to Avon’s comprehensive collection of deals, the blatant cleating by all members of the Blue team has been exposed.

What should a player aspiring to play in a World Championship have done? Reading the
thread shows that this is still a difficult questions for players and that there is little consensus.
Feb. 24
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Dorothy Sims, a weak player, made a silly bid (I believe in the Culbertson – Sims match, which can likely be verified somewhere in the literature), which happened to lead to a good result. When asked why she made the bid, she replied, “I’m psychic.” A spur-of-the-moment excuse for a poor bid became a fixture in our bridge lexicon.
Jan. 3
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Good try, but Forquet’s line was more obscure.

After the auction:

Pass – 2 – Pass – Pass
2 - Pass – Pass – 3
All Pass

From the World Championship book (published by the ACBL):

“East opened the diamond king. Declarer ruffed East’s diamond continuation and led a heart to dummy’s king. A spade was returned from dummy, declarer putting up the king and losing to East’s ace. East led another diamond. Declarer ruffed and played the heart ace, ruffed by West, then led the club ten. Declarer won the ace and gave up a heart trick to East’s jack. East continued with the heart queen, which West ruffed with the club queen. Declarer won the rest with high trumps, going down three.”

Forquet could have made 3 if he had inserted the 10 from dummy at trick three (when Ogust erred by not splitting his honors), picked up trump, and later endplayed East.
Sept. 21, 2018
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To become informed regarding bandwagon jumping, I suggest you read my book “Inside the Bermuda Bowl” published in 1998.

To help comprehend what a loser is it to double 3 with Belladonna’s hand, give South a weak 1 opening: 42, Q9764, Q32, KQJ. Yes, 3 can be defeated – but not with a silly heart play at trick two. And if the South hand were any stronger, there would be no defense.
Sept. 20, 2018
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For those interested in systemic psychic bids by US players during the 1957 Bermuda Bowl, I have just published an article “Psychic Bids by US Players during the 1957 Bermuda Bowl and Related Deals”.
Sept. 17, 2018
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From my book “Inside the Bermuda Bowl”:

The Aces, known originally as the Dallas Aces, was a professional team sponsored by Ira Corn, a successful Dallas businessman. He had been inspired by watching the 1964 Bridge Olympiad in New York City. Although Ira had been introduced to bridge only few years before, he had become an enthusiastic player. The Italian Blue Team had run roughshod over the field and had demonstrated a team spirit which was seemingly lacking in the other entrants. Why couldn’t the U.S. produce such a team? Ira had an idea. Bring together a group of young, superior bridge players, work hard, and defeat the Italians. He had the financial resources to put the idea into being. There were already U.S. teams composed of professional players plus a sponsor who played on the team. These groups changed composition from year to year, making it difficult to maintain a team spirit. More important, the players didn’t work on their partnerships to a degree which was necessary to defeat the Blue Team.

The idea fermented for three years until Ira was introduced to Bobby Wolff at the 1967 Pittsburgh Summer Nationals. Bobby was already one of the top players in the country and was also from Dallas. It was natural that Ira discussed the idea of a sponsored team with Bobby. He was talking to the right person. In addition to his other capabilities Wolff, was and is an unrivaled bridge enthusiast and sound administrator. He proved this by becoming an officer in Michigan General, Ira’s holding company. He also has recently completed a successful term as President of the World Bridge Federation. Wolff immediately enrolled Jim Jacoby, son of bridge legend Oswald Jacoby, and a top player in his own right. Together they drew up a list of players who might be interested in forming the team Ira had in mind. The candidates must already be among the best in the country or have shown the potential of becoming the best. They must also be willing to move to Dallas and work hard. In addition to the prospect of being on what was planned to be the best team in the world, as incentive they would be paid a salary, up to $1000 a month. That amount may seem minuscule today, but in 1967 it was a livable income for an aspiring bridge professional.

Bob Hamman and Eddie Kantar of Los Angeles were approached by Corn and Wolff. Kantar, already a very successful player and writer, was not willing to leave the Los Angeles area. He didn’t need help from Corn. Hamman thought the idea intriguing, but was not impressed with some of the players Corn had already enlisted. For the first year, 1968, the team consisted of Wolff, Jacoby, Mike Lawrence, Bobby Goldman, and Billy Eisenberg. Corn had envisioned himself as a possible sixth member but realized quickly that he was far short of the experience and bridge talent needed to win at the top level. Hamman was impressed with the early results of the new team and agreed to join the Aces before the year ended, moving to Dallas with his family.

The Aces began to enjoy the success which Ira had envisioned, winning a number of national team titles and the Bermuda Bowl in both 1970 and 1971. However, the Italian Blue team did not compete for the title in either of those two years. When the Blue Team reentered the World Championship arena, they defeated the Aces in the 1972 Team Olympiad and the Bermuda Bowl Championships in both 1973 and 1974. The greatest successes of the Aces came in those first few years, although they remained the team to beat until they disbanded. The composition of the team changed beginning with Eisenberg’s departure after the 1971 Bermuda Bowl. He wanted to leave Dallas and had a number of other opportunities to make a living in the world of bridge. Eisenberg was replaced with Paul Soloway for the remainder of 1971, but Paul also left after the 1972 Olympiad. He was replaced with Mark Blumenthal. About this time Corn, due to financial reverses, decided he could no longer afford the luxury of paying a salary. This resulted in the departure of Jacoby, then Lawrence, and finally Goldman and Blumenthal, all of whom needed bridge as a revenue source.

Eric Murray and Sami Kehela, Canada’s leading pair, were added in 1974. Soloway and I were added for 1975 replacing Goldman and Blumenthal. The partnership of Hamman and Wolff had become the anchor pair, the only original members remaining on the team. It is noteworthy that although Soloway and I played as members of the Aces for three national team events that year, the Bermuda Bowl team of 1975 was not connected with Corn or the Aces in any manner. Soloway and I, together with Kantar and Eisenberg had won the Grand National Teams and then the trials. We added Hamman and Wolff as a third pair for the Bermuda Bowl. The identical situation occurred in 1977, although then Hamman and Wolff were added before the trials.

The Aces were dissolved after the 1977 Summer Nationals but were reformed one year later, this time as a four man team, Hamman-Wolff playing with Fred Hamilton and Ira Rubin. This foursome performed quite well and in 1979 they were back in the team trials with Mike Passell added to play with Hamilton and Paul Soloway added to play with Rubin. This was Soloway’s third time to join the team. They won the trials easily but lost to the French in the 1980 Team Olympiad. 1981 was the last hurrah for the Aces. It was a good one. With Alan Sontag, Peter Weichsel, Michael Becker, Ron Rubin and, of course, Hamman and Wolff, they again won the trials and this time finally defeated the Italian Blue Team. Sadly, Ira Corn passed away before the victory. It was the end of an era.

There was another, similar team formed in 1970 by C. C. Wei to play his new Precision System and thereby garner publicity. This team was second only to the Aces in the U.S. while they were in existence, demonstrating the soundness of Corn’s concept. Steve Altman, Tom Smith, Joel Stuart, Peter Weichsel, and David Strasberg, all relatively unknown at the time, won the Spingold in 1970. With Gene Neiger replacing Strasberg they successfully defended the title in 1971. Alan Sontag was added to the team in 1972 and they won the Vanderbilt.

The Precision team was dissolved by Wei in 1973, possibly because they had been unsuccessful in the team trials. Instead, Wei sponsored the Italian Blue Team on the condition that they switch from their home grown systems to the Precision System. Three years of continued Blue Team triumphs did absolutely nothing to prove the effectiveness of the Precision System. The youthful U.S. players had already demonstrated that. What it did prove was that the Blue Team superiority was not based on a bidding system.
May 6, 2018
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Timo, will you please provide the details of how the deals for a session can be automatically downloaded to my computer?
Nov. 4, 2016
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Thanks to Phil Clayton who did all the formatting work (which was not insignificant) for this posting. Also, thanks to all readers for your comments. I hope that the article can serve as a basis for partnership discussion, and that you were entertained. I fear the best feature is the title.

It was Leo Bell, not Alan Bell whose comment on problem 9 is quoted.
Oct. 27, 2016
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