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By: Sheri Winestock

Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, October, 1995

Most Canadian bridge players know John Gowdy, not only because he has done well at the table or has probably tried to tell them some old bridge story, but because he does a lot of community services for bridge -- from playing with youngsters in the Bridge Buddy league to writing articles for the Master Point. Gowdy doesn't expect a lot of credit for his generosity, he thinks of it simply as "Giving something back" to the game he loves. I've always admired this attitude and would like to give him some credit for his most recent endeavour to give something back.

This summer John organized a league where 12 juniors received the opportunity to play with 12 more experienced players over a six week period. John has a way of getting others to give something back too! The twelve original "experts" or "seniors" were John, Ron Bishop, Brad Boyle, David Caplan, Mark Caplan, Steve Cooper, Roy Dalton, Fred Gitelman, Marty Kirr, Chuck Messinger, George Mittelman, and myself. However, there were many substitutions when people couldn't make it, so the list also includes Gerry Charney, Dianna Gordon, Chris Hough, Linda Lee, Fred Lerner, David Lindop, Irving Litvack, Gloria Silverman, Jonathon Steinberg, and David Turner. One week, Eric Sutherland, not able to fulfill his position in the junior roster, was commandeered into the rank of senior to complete the movement. The juniors were Jeremy Goldman, David Halasi, Colin Lee, Eric Lee, Dan Nadler, Mike Nadler, Alexander Nicholson, Jared Riley, Darren Wolpert, Gavin Wolpert, Christopher Yeung, and Ben Zeidenberg, with Sam Leung and Jason Manso as substitutes.

The format was that each junior played with each expert in an 8 or 12 board IMP match, comparing scores with randomly drawn team-mates. Juniors always sat North and East while the seniors were South and West. Each week's IMPs were added together to determine the final standings. Although this league was meant to offer the benefit of playing with more experienced players, the spirit soon turned competitive when Irving Litvack (also giving something back) made the generous offer to fund the four top finishers to play in an inter-city IMP league match in Montreal. Irving also offered his club at the reduced rate of $1.00 per junior and $6.00 per senior. Our representatives are (in order of finish): Jared Riley, Colin Lee, Dan Nadler, and David Halasi. As there was a tremendous amount of substitution among the experts (some playing only twice), these final standings will be withheld!

After the initial week, the first order of business was clear -- restrict the conventions! Like all young and upcoming bridge players, these juniors were afflicted with excessive use and abuse of conventions. For example, one junior holding

10xxxx Ax AKQxxx --

chose to use a Michael's cuebid after a 1 opening on his right. He was boxed in when the auction proceeded 4 on his left, 4 by partner, pass, to him. Since partner would bid with most hands containing any four or five spades, there was little safety in going on. Given the disparity between the two suits and the high-card value of the hand, as well as the club void, the Michael's convention should be repressed in favor of a 2 overcall. In this particular case, a 2 bid would engender an auction that would allow you to bid the lay-down 6 with confidence (partner bids spades freely!).

John and Fred Gitelman worked out a standard convention card for everyone that, while not simplistic, was back to basics. The juniors were not impressed that their only weapon after a 1NT (15-17) opening was Landy. Ultimately, I think the juniors benefited from learning how to best describe a hand naturally. One fellow was unsure of how to bid a hand containing 5 hearts and 4 spades and 11 HCP after his partner had opened 1NT -- what did they do before Smolen?! As Roy Dalton pointed out, after the 2 response to Stayman, one could jump in their five card suit rather than in their four card suit.

On the whole the juniors were very impressive and the future looks quite bright. Mike Nadler played this 6 hand well.

After ruffing the second spade, he drew trumps and proceeded to run his diamonds. With one diamond left to play, this was the position:

On the play of the last diamond, West was squeezed. He correctly discarded a heart, baring his K. This would defeat the slam if East held the Q. Mike also discarded a heart and then crossed to the A, felling the K. He returned to the A, cashed the Q, and finessed the J at trick 12 to land his slam.

If organizing this group wasn't enough, John invited everyone to his house for a barbecue before the bridge of the last week. Here, though, most of the credit for a great meal goes to Jo-Ann Lang. Thanks for everything, Jo-Ann, Irving, -- and John.

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