Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not a success

The American Bridge Association, known as the ABA (no, not that group of lawyers -- we're talking bridge here), is a bridge league that is composed mostly of African-American bridge players. In the Thirties and Forties, during a shameful era in our country's history, blacks were not welcome in the ACBL. Because of this, they formed their own group.

African-American players have played in the ACBL for many decades now, but the ABA is still alive and well, so to speak. It held its Summer National Tournament here in Memphis recently. One of my black friends played, and reported this unusual deal.

Suppose your right-hand opponent opened a strong 1NT and you held: A J 7 4 A K 8 3 K Q 6 2 10.

What would you bid? Most conventions over 1NT cater to one- or two-suited hands, and they are easy to bid. But three-suiters, however, are awkward to describe.

The unknown player who held this hand passed. I have a lot of sympathy with that. If he had doubled, he could be in big trouble. Suppose his partner was broke with no long suit. He would likely pass, and hope for the best, and his opponents might make overtricks. Because of your club holding, often partner would have length there -- another reason not to bid.

So, the unknown player passed, and the person on his left (my friend) bid 2, Alerted as asking for size. It could have been many different types of hands including an invitational notrump hand, a signoff in either minor, or the beginning of a slam try in either minor. His RHO rebid 3, showing a maximum 1NT bid. The unknown player passed again, and found himself on lead.

Here are all four hands:

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

Do you notice anything? East-West can make 6 or 6. In fact, it looks like they can even make 6, and defending 3 was not a success.

Some fast facts: The ABA was formed in 1932 in Hampton VA by a group of black tournament tennis players. The original group had 20 members. The ABA held its first national tournament in Buckroe Beach VA in 1933. The first black ACBL Life Master was Marion Wildy (1956). The first ABA Life Master also to become an ACBL Life Master was Leo Benson (1962). One of the best players in the world is Ron Smith, a black man from San Francisco, who plays in both ABA and ACBL tournaments. (Ron is originally from St. Louis, and a former teammate of mine.)


  1. It isn't hard to believe that African Americans were kept out of a bridge league - just one more thing...

    And I don't know nuttin about bridge, either, but I sure do enjoy your tales from the table.

  2. beautiful roses. I just picked up a half price hibiscus bush and two mandevilla plants they are digging the hot weather. Ill have to pull them in for winter.

  3. @jacob: thanks for your kind words

    @irongirl: I used to grow Jackson & Perkins roses. Beautiful, but lots of work. Now, with knockouts, they're so easy. Sounds like you're into flower and have a green thumb!