Dear Xebon

Hello Bridge Chums!

Apologies, once again, for the long hiatus. I was in Central America researching my forthcoming book, The Belmopan Club: An Unbelizeable New System. I have kept in contact with my colleagues at pb.com though, and have tried to answer all questions emailed to me. Never forget that I am here for you: a shoulder to cry on when times get tough; a rock to be strong for you. Although I'm not both at the same time or you'll be quite uncomfortable. Feel free to contact me whenever, at the usual address.

Your ever-loving,

Playing Badly

Dear Xebon,

In Mike Lawrence's books, he frequently says that you have to make bad bids to do well at pairs. This seems rather incongruous to me. Care to enlighten us as to what he means?

Robert Vaughan (no relation)

Dear Robert,

You would do well to listen to what Mike has to say — he's a very bright chap. Years ago I faced him in a top American pairs event and, while I'm sure he had the concept in his mind already, I'd like to think that I may have contributed slightly. It was early on in the event and I held, with neither side vulnerable, SQ 10 3 2 HA K 4 2 DK 4 2 C9 3. I opened 1S in first seat. Mike, on my left, overcalled 2D, partner passed and right-hand opponent bid 2NT. Then 3H from me which was doubled and passed out. To the untrained eye this may look like a bad bid, but don't forget the method of scoring and look what happened:

S9 5
HQ 10 9 6
CJ 8 7 5 4 2
SA 6 4
H8 7
DA Q 10 8 6 3
CA 10
SK J 8 7
H J 5 3
DJ 9 5
CK Q 6
SQ 10 3 2
HA K 4 2
DK 4 2
C9 3

The defence didn't get round to forcing me to ruff on table, so I lost two spades, two clubs and a diamond. -100 with lots of things making their way. To win at pairs you have to go against the grain a little. It may be risky, but it will often pay off.

Have fun!

Not Seven but Seven Times Seven

Dear Xebon,

My partner is in the habit of criticising my play at the bridge table, usually by throwing his cards at me and calling me ----ing stupid, before storming out. This seems to have raised a few eyebrows at the local club. Though I am persuaded that my play and views on what is right and wrong probably deserve such censure, I would like to know your opinions on what normal, appropriate, criticism at the bridge table is.

Name and address suppressed

Dear correspondent,

I think we all know that feeling when partner makes a really poor switch, no-play declarer line, or misunderstands our own ever-so-clever bidding — me more than most. A bit of rage is best expressed rather then pent up, after all. Last week I myself told partner (in a slightly cross tone!) that if he couldn't remember my system we should just play something simple, after he misunderstood my normal bidding. I mean, who doesn't play 2NT — 5C as Exclusion Blackwood? So totally standard!

And is throwing cards at your partner while swearing a lot really so different from a cross tone, once we have started down the road of getting annoyed with partner? I think a small degree of Christian forgiveness on your part should easily overlook these minor discretions. After all, if everyone stopped playing with their partner just because they were being verbally abused and humiliated, repeatedly, in public, no-one would have a partner!


Foster Leads?

Dear Xebon,

Last night, a nice blue lady led the Jack from KJxx, through Axx in dummy to my Q109 in hand. It reminded me of my partner's lead against 7NT, the critical lead, of the 9 from J97x, through dummy's A86x, to my Qx, and into declarer's K10x, when declarer needed four club tricks to make the grand.

This sounds like something you might have heard of. Is this some new Australian lead approach?

Ken Rexford
Lima, Ohio, USA

Dear Ken,

But what if the suit had been laid out as follows?

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

Now the Jack is the only lead to give the defence four tricks! And on your second hand, perhaps opening leader was worried about blocking the suit?

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

A fourth-highest lead would only yield four tricks, I'm afraid. It's very easy to criticise abnormal plays, but I find it pays to first assume correctness and only after you have shown the reverse can we all have a good laugh.



Dear Xebon,


Brad from North Carolina — go Tar Heels!

Hi Chad,

I no longer do, I'm afraid. I now play Landy because my partners prefer its simplicity.


Sleepless in Whitby

Dear Xebon,

While out on a fish and chip eating binge with my boyfriend and parents, enjoying that extra large cod and chips, smothered in salt and vinegar, lovingly battered and deep fat fried by a gourmet chip shop chef, we noticed a sign that stated: No sleeping in cars. We were wondering if you had every been to Whitby and if you know if there was a reason for needing such a sign. Are the beds of Whitby of so low a standard that the townsfolk want to sleep by the side of the road in their cars?

WJN (via email)

Hi there WJN,

Whitby has a reputation for having some of the best fish and chips in the country and you are quite right to point out and enthuse about the quality of their distinction. I have often felt that the local tourist board should do more in this endeavour. Unfortunately, I have some suspicion that the local population might well over-indulge in their speciality and become obese. Can the beds made by local craftsmen support their bulging owners? And is a car a better place to sleep for a morbidly obese man?

Well, being a bridge player, there are more that a few pie-boys in my address book, so it was a simple matter of making a few calls to find out if fat people prefer sleeping in cars. My first call was to a man who I shall call Mr. Multi. After the usual enquiries about how things were going he asked me the following: You hold: SA K J 7 HQ 9 8 6 4 D7 CQ 8 5. RHO opens 1D — do you double or bid 1H?

Well, I thought for a moment and suggested a Bacon Torpedo 2S call — what else? He thought for a while and said: "That would work well on this hand as you find partner with just the right cards to make 2S, while shutting out oppo. But how can you sleep at night Xebon?"

I took this to mean Mr. Multi didn't sleep well at night and I subtly suggested that I slept just fine in my car. Mr. Multi said that he couldn't really fit in the back of his car as he had long legs. Success! One vote for the bed over the car.

Next I phoned a lady I'll call Miss Mini No-Trump. After some polite enquiries about mutual friends in —shire, she brought up the following hand:

You hold: SQ J 8 4 HA 7 D8 7 CK J 8 5 3 and naturally you open 1NT (10-12). RHO doubles (values), and partner bids 2D showing that suit and a higher one. Do you pass or try for spades?

Now I'm a big fan of the mini no-trump, but sometimes it does leave you with your manhood in your hands, especially when a lack of discipline can lead you to this very situation. But being more interested — for once — with a problem other than bridge, I suggested that "I'd bid a confident 2S, though this could lead to you sleeping in your car." "Oh that's OK," replied Miss Mini, "I'm quite used to that! I bid 2S but this wasn't a success — partner's five diamonds work well opposite my hand." A vote for car over bed, I thought.

Finally I rang my old friend, my very old friend, who I'll call Mr. Traditional Acol. After agreeing with him that it really is a shame that people don't have grape scissors anymore, he presented me with the sort of hand that traditional Acol players must be dealt a lot more often than me, given their continued use of Strong Twos:

SA 3
HK 8
DA K J 8 7 3 2
CA 3

What do you open?

Interesting problem, and no doubt my Acol loving friend opened this with a strong 2D. But what would I do with it? After finding out the game was match-pointed pairs, I ventured 2NT. "That's not a vehicle to get you to the best contract, Xebon!" replied Mr. T.A., and I jumped on my chance. "Well, it's not like your Bentley, for sure: that's the kind of machine you could live and sleep in!" "Sleep in?! In a Bentley? That would be most improper! Those leather seats might grace the finest lady's virtue, were I younger, but you can't just sleep on them!"

So there you have it — a clear indication that, while depriving young ladies of their virtue is a reasonable activity in the back of one's car, sleeping there is a mistake. And I rather suspect that this is a truth that the townsfolk of Whitby wish to suppress with a roadside sign. Ironically this seems to have had the reverse effect, at least in this column.

Take care,

A votre attention

A votre attention:
Appel d'offre pour une assistance conseil d'affaire Je me nomme MLLE ESTELLE BAMBA j'ai 20 ans et j'aimerais demander conseil auprès de vous pour investir dans les produits manufacturés ou autres investissements dans votre pays.J'ai à -mon actif $4 500 000 (quatre millions cinq cents mille dollars)que mon défunt père m'a laissé comme héritage suite à son assassinat par l'actuel gouvernement de mon pays(COTE D'IVOIRE).

Je voudrais votre assistance pour transférer cette somme dans votre compte et vous aurez en contre partie 15% de la totalité de cette somme en guise de part pour votre assistance.Aussi continuée mes études dans votre pays. Veuillez me contacter urgemment par ma boîte électronique (estelle_bb03@yahoo.fr). Je suis logé actuellement dans un hôtel où je me cache pour ma propre sécurité parce que je ne sais pas où se trouve les assassins de mon défunt père. Que Dieu vous benisse. J'attend avec impatience votre assistance.

Estelle Bamba.

Oh mon cher! Je sens pour vous Estelle. Les assassins ont tué mon amoureux d'enfance aussi. Elle est partie en vacances avec son patron et je ne l'ai jamais revue. Je maudis toujours les porcs dégoûtants qui ont pris mon petit anacarde loin de moi. $67,500 est une coupe la plus généreuse et je serais très heureux de vous offrir mon aide dans ce temps difficile. Veuillez m'envoyer toute l'information sur la façon dont procéder. J'espère que mes ennuis courants avec la banque n'empécheront pas ce qui pourrait être une belle amitié et je vous souhaite tout le succès avec vos études. Quel sujet faites-vous? Vous avez un nom très joli.

Jusqu'à ce que nous nous réunissions.