By: Fred Gitelman
Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, October,
I do not have much good news to report about the recent NABC in Miami.
From a Canadian point of view, the highlight of the tournament was the
trials for the 1997 World Junior Championships. Canadians Mike Roberts-
Eric Sutherland, Jeff Blond-David Levy, Darren Wolpert-Fred
Pollack completely dominated this event. Canada has been a major power
in junior bridge during the 1990s and this team is perhaps our strongest
junior team ever. I was not only impressed by the results, but by the collective
maturity of this team - maturity is a very rare trait for talented young
bridge players. I believe this team has an excellent chance of winning
the Gold Medal next year.
John Carruthers (JC) has done an excellent job in the past as
non-playing captain (NPC) of the Canadian Junior Team. JC will not be available
as NPC for the 1997 event. This is due to the fact that the event will
be held in Hamilton, Ontario and JC will have his hands full as the tournament
chairman. The juniors gave me the honour of selecting me as their NPC.
I was somewhat concerned that I lacked the organizational skills to do
this job properly and asked Sheri Winestock to assist me in captaining
As Canada will be the host country for the 1997 World Juniors we are
allowed to enter two teams in this event. Colin Lee-Barry Piafsky,
David Halasi-Ben Zeidenberg, Mike Nadle -Dan Nadler will
be our other junior team. This team did fairly well at the trials and also
has an excellent chance of doing well next year in Hamilton. John Gowdy
will be their NPC.
Canadian bridge players should be very proud of our teams. Having a
strong junior program is very important to the future of bridge in this
country. Please make plans to come to Hamilton next summer to cheer for
our teams. Also, the CBF is doing the best it can to provide money for
the training of our teams but funds are sadly lacking. Any financial contributions
to our junior program would be greatly appreciated.
From a bridge point of view, the best thing that happened to me in Miami
was the chance to play with Mike Lawrence in the National IMP Pairs.
Mike was one of the original Dallas Aces. He has won two World Championships
and many National events. In addition Mike is one of the most popular and
talented bridge authors in the world. Mike and I recently collaborated
on a new software product, Counting at Bridge. I knew I had impressed
Mike with my computer skills but I was somewhat surprised when he asked
me to play with him in the IMP pairs. We did not do particularly well,
finishing 39th . This result was more due to our opponents' good play than
any mistakes we made. Mike was a pleasure to play with. His unique sense
of humour, one of the reasons he is such a good writer, also comes across
at the table - regardless of the results.
There were four particularly memorable hands I had with Mike. The lesson
of the first two hands is "beware of Greeks bearing gifts":
I led my singleton heart to declarer's A.
South tried a low spade towards the J
and I hopped up with my K. I wanted
to get Mike on lead to play more hearts and had to decide which minor suit
to play. Fortunately, Mike and I had decided to adopt the defensive carding
strategy of "trying to tell partner what they need to know".
I have always preferred this philosophy to "always count", "always
attitude", or "trying to make agreements about every possible
defensive situation". Mike had told me what I needed to know at trick
one when he followed with the 3
- a suit preference signal for clubs.
Thus, I shifted to the Q. Declarer,
giving me a great deal of credit, covered with the K.
Mike won the A and played back the
8, another suit preference signal
for clubs. Declarer ruffed with the 9
and I over-ruffed with the 10.
I cashed the J as Mike discarded
his lowest remaining heart. Mike's carding and South's bidding made it
pretty clear that declarer had both the A
and K. I had a complete count
on the hand and I knew that declarer would soon have one as well. I knew
that if I exited safely in clubs, declarer would have no choice but to
play diamonds from the top. With my QJ
about to drop, I could see the contract was going to make. It was time
for a Greek gift. I got out with the J!
South took the bait. After winning the diamond shift, he crossed to
the J and finessed Mike for the
Q. I won the Q
to defeat the contract. I was quite surprised that South, a strong player,
would play me to make the horrible play of switching to the J
The next Greek gift I offered was more difficult to refuse:
I led the 2, which was won
in dummy as Mike played a neutral middle diamond. Declarer played a heart
to the K and I had to decide what
to do. It would often be right to duck in this situation, but I saw a chance
to offer another declarer a Greek gift. I won the A
and returned a heart. South welcomed the chance to take a "free finesse"
and played the 9 from dummy. The
finesse turned out not to be free as Mike's 10
forced the J. When neither hearts
nor spades divided the contract was down one.
If I had continued diamonds, establishing Mike's suit, the contract
would have made. After winning the A,
declarer would have played a heart to the Q,
felling Mike's 10, and cashed the
9. The K
would be an entry to cash the J,
and the A and Q
would bring South up to eight tricks. When declarer accepted my Greek gift
eight tricks became seven. Once again the declarer should have asked himself,
"why is this supposedly good player helping me by returning a heart
from the 10?".
I have extensive memories of my favorite tournaments, events, matches,
and hands from my bridge career. I do not generally remember favorite rounds
from pairs events. Mike and I had a round in Miami that I will never forget.
The unfortunate victims of this round, Toronto's Fred and Margaret
Lerner, are far too nice to deserve what happened to them on these
On the first board I held:
A very nice hand that got considerably nicer when Mike opened the bidding
1! As Mike and I had no way to
make an immediate forcing diamond raise nor was a strong jump shift to
3 available, I was forced to start
with 2. Auctions that begin with
are extremely difficult in standard bidding, especially for a new partnership
with few agreements, and the rest of the auction is not suitable for printing
in a family publication. Eventually Margaret found herself on lead against
6 with a very attractive heart
sequence (J109xx). All she knew from our auction is that we had lots of
diamonds and no idea what we were doing. She reasonably led a heart. Mike
The K was onside and Mike made
seven. The A was offside so our
slam would have gone down on a spade lead. A massive swing at IMP pairs.
Fred Lerner's sense of humor is perhaps not as well known worldwide
as Mike's, but it is quite famous in Canada. Typical of Fred (and atypical
of most bridge players), he said something very funny (which also is not
suitable for printing in a family publication). After I introduced Mike
to my ex-friends, the Lerners, we got on to the second board.
This time I held even more cards in the minors:
Once again Mike opened 1!
This time Margaret overcalled 1.
What to bid? I have always thought it wrong to try to be delicate on freak
hands in what is sure to be a highly competitive auction. In these circumstances,
tactics and "bidding what you think you can make" are more important
I realized that this hand might not play well in diamonds if Mike held
only four (or three!) cards in that suit. I tried 5.
Fred raised to 5. When Mike didn't
double this, I was delighted to try 5NT, offering a choice of minors at
the six-level. I was certain that having strongly emphasized clubs already,
Mike would choose the right suit. Mike bid 6,
doubled by Margaret.
Fred, interpreting the double as Lightner, led a diamond. Dummy tabled:
I won the K and played the
K, covered by the A
and ruffed. A club to the A dropped
Margaret's offside K and my heart
loser went on the Q, making seven
again. As we were doubled and vulnerable this time the swing was even bigger.
Note that on a heart lead there is no reason to reject the percentage finesse
in clubs and the slam would, therefore, fail. At the end of the most memorable
two board round of my bridge career, Fred was still smiling and laughing,
as usual. Margaret was still completely pleasant, as usual. As they say,
"It couldn't happen to a nicer pair!"