The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Showing off

I had a private lesson with multiple World Champion Mike Lawrence. I have nothing (a Jack) and my partner opens 1S. RHO bids 2C, and it gets passed to my partner, who tries 2D. RHO bids 2N and it’s clear that my partner and RHO can make at least a small slam, but since they are opponents, 2N buys it. I lead my small spade (small from xxx) and see the following dummy.

                S: Jx
                H: Qxxx
                D: xxxx
                C: Txx

S: 9xx
H: Jxx
D: 7xx
C: 5432

Partner plays the Ace (slowly), then the Queen, which declarer ducks (slowly). I’m eager to show off, so I announce to Mike (we’re on a first name basis, now) “Declarer is 3=3=2=5.” I could probably have worked this out by the end of trick one, but I’m slow. In fact I’m sure I know everything except a) which player has the Heart Ace and which has the King  (they are certainly split) b) same for diamonds, and c) which club declarer is missing (not that it matters. It won’t be the A or K).

Of course I’m right. (Declarer was Kxx/ATx/Kx/AKQ9x) And of course this hand didn’t happen during my lesson with Mike Lawrence. No, just a bunch of routine mistakes and mental lapses for those few hours. This hand was during a pro-am … I could have impressed the amateurs if I’d actually blurted out my insight, but where’s the fun in that? So I’m showing off here. Pathetic.

For an added bonus, seeing the entire hand in my mind’s eye wasn’t even useful. And people wonder why bridge is dying.

Update — D’oh. Typo on the hands.


Written by taogaming

June 14, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Bridge

9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. If you want to show off your bridge thinking, it would help if you gave dummy 13 cards instead of 12.


    June 15, 2010 at 12:31 am

  2. Dummy does have 13, his hand has 12 after leading the small spade.


    June 15, 2010 at 6:41 am

    • I’m eager to hear more about the lesson with Mike Lawrence. Approximately how much did it cost? Did you feel you learned things it would have been hard to learn any other way? I’ve been tempted to take bridge lessons, but don’t know anyone who’s done so.

      Michael Tsuk

      June 15, 2010 at 8:39 am

  3. Well, it was a fun experience, although I think it was very inefficient. It was expensive. I’m not sure of the exact amount, but he normally gets several hundred dollars an hour. (So for lectures where he expects a few dozen people, he charged $25/person. This was a private lesson for 3 people for an evening). Since I was invited as a guest, I’m not exactly sure. But I do know that for the same amount of money, you could get all of his books and all of his CDs, and get a ton of instruction.

    For the basics, this is a better deal. I learn pretty well from books and CDs, and it’s not customized. I do think that seeing his hand evaluation live was beneficial, and arguing the points of borderline hands was the high point.

    Another issue (not Mike’s fault, of course) — the three of us varied widely in ability. So in our discussion on reverses, I was anxious to skip the basics and go directly to followups.

    The format: deal out hands and address issues as they came up. This has the nice effect that the things that we deal with are likely to be common everyday issues. (We rotate playing with Mike).

    I wouldn’t suggest this for a beginner, but I do think that I’d probably gain quite a bit on playing a session with Mike (or any expert, really) and having him go over my mistakes. It’s probably a bit nuts for me to do it with a World class player. I’m sure I could learn quite a bit from local experts.

    I should also say that Mike is good at explaining points (as you’d hope from someone whose been teaching the same subject for 4 decades)…


    June 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    • BTW, the “Deal cards, and show them to the expert when you have an issue” is basically how I learned to play in college. (Then, after I was hooked, a lot of books). Any reasonable player (with patience) can do that with 3 novices.


      June 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm

  4. I’m not sure about your last paragraph.

    The good thing about bridge is that this sort of logic puzzle is available on almost every hand. I don’t think it matters that you can’t do anything about it, especially since you don’t know when it will matter. The second part of the challenge is to figure out if (or when) the information you’ve derived is important. That’s why I think so many gamers would enjoy bridge if they gave it a chance.

    The problem is that this is just too much work for most people (not gamers, but people in general who might play). The long learning curve doesn’t help either.

    BTW, the missing card from dummy is unlikely to be a spade. Spades should be 3-2-5-3 around the table after opener showed 5.


    June 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    • The last paragraph was a joke … one of the earliest books on counting (not sure if it’s Lawrence or Karpin) that I read had a hand where you got a complete count but couldn’t use the information, just to remind you that it wasn’t always useful.

      The missing card was a diamond.

      The real insight (such as it was) is that partner would have bid 2 hearts if he had four hearts and declarer probably would have doubled 2D (or bid 2H) with 4 hearts, so that hearts are almost certainly 3-3 in the unseen hands.

      It’s really not a great insight (as I mentioned), but its one of those things that seems like Magic.

      (What was particularly impressive about Mike Lawrence was the SPEED with which he could rattle off your shape, high cards, etc).


      June 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm

      • I’d have a much harder time reconstructing the hands than you did. If declarer is 3325, then partner is 5341 and forgot to reopen with a totally obvious double. Did that happen, or does partner have a more normal 5350, giving declarer 3316 with a stiff diamond ace and running clubs? There’s also the issue of massive amounts of missing high cards…one of South or East appears to have his underbidding shoes on.


        June 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

  5. Many experts give two types of lessons: group lessons (what Brian experienced) and personal lessons. Personal lessons pretty much entail playing a session with the expert and (maybe) going over the hands. The latter is far more common than the former, simply because it comes with masterpoint awards for the client. Yeah, what a surprise: people are more interested in winning than learning.

    It is uncommon for group lessons to be pitched beyond an intermediate level. Brian noticed the exact reason; once clients become decent players, their understanding and needs vary sufficiently that it is inefficient to try to cater to a group of them at once. On the other hand, it is fun for a group to invite in a big name for a once-a-year bash or the like, and at that rate, the cost is not too much to bear, so some groups do that for birthday parties or the like.


    June 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: