Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why guess?

There's an excellent Junior bridge program offered on Bridge Base Online. It's for for players 26 years old and younger. The program has flourished after lots of hard work by vdoubleu and JuniorsBBO (BBO user names).

On Tuesdays, the Juniors play a 10 board mini-tournament paired with more advanced players. Afterwards, there is a directed-play lesson.

On Wednesdays, the program offers what is called a "Teaching Table." The Juniors play 10 deals, and, after each, they pause and open it up for questions and discussion by various well-known bridge experts (such as Mike Passell, Steve Robinson or Curtis Cheek).

On Thursdays, five-time world-champion Lynn Deas offers a coaching program (except when she is on the road playing at tournaments). If you want to read a NY Times article about Lynn, click here. Four Juniors sit and play a random deal. Afterwards, they discuss various aspects of it, guided by Lynn.

I watched the 10-board tournament yesterday. They had 17 tables -- a good turnout. Players were there from all over the world. I saw Junior players from Germany, China, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Poland, Canada and the U.S. There were other countries represented too -- these are just the ones that came to the table where I was a spectator. Vdoubleu tells me that they believe they have at least 1500 Juniors who play and they think 600 are Americans.

This was board #1 (hands rotated):

Q 10 6
K 8 7 4 3
K Q 5
K 10
A 8 5 J 2
10 9 5 2 Q J 6
7 6 A 10 4 3 2
J 9 5 3 Q 7 4
K 9 7 4 3
J 9 8
A 8 6 2

At the table I watched, South opened 1, North bid 2 and South rebid 2. North bid 4 to end the auction.

The 3 was led to the 10, queen and ace. Declarer advanced a low spade and played the 10 from dummy, losing to the jack. Apparently South hoped to guess the J and win four spades, and two in each of the other three suits to get to 10 tricks. The defense eventually led two more rounds of spades and declarer lost two spades, one club and one diamond -- down one for a score of minus 9.50 IMPs.

At another table, declarer won the low club lead with dummy's K, played another to his ace and unblocked the A. He ruffed a club in dummy, discarded his last club on the K and now led a trump. He didn't have to guess anything, and, in fact, when the J fell doubleton, he made five for a score of plus 450 and a gain of 2.25 IMPs.

After the tournament, I checked the traveller, and 14 (out of 17) pairs bid 4 and made either four or five. This says to me that the quality of bridge is fairly good, do you agree?

Juniors are welcome to come and play. The hours are (Eastern time) 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 a.m. on Wednesday and 11 a.m. (but subject to change) on Thursdays. Spectators are welcome, too. Participants have to download the BBO software, but the price is right -- it's free. If you don't want to download anything, I believe there is a web-based version that you can navigate to from the BBO home page. When you enter the playing area, find the names vdoubleu or juniorsbbo and right-click on either. Then click on the option to join their table.

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