Buzz for May 2009
First, some good news and bad news about our demographics, a snapshot from the ACBL as of March 31, 2009. As of that date, ACBL membership was 158,199. New England (District 25) had 7440 members, making us the sixth largest of the 25 districts. The largest district was Florida (District 9), with 17508 members, and the second largest was Georgia and the Carolinas (District 7), with 11522. America is an aging country, life expectancy is increasing, and bridge is doing well among seniors. Even with increases in table fees and other costs, bridge remains an inexpensive form of entertainment. The result is the good news that membership and attendance have been slowly increasing for several years, after prior years of decline.
The bad news is that the average age of ACBL members has risen to 68. District 25 is younger, averaging 67, and Florida is older, averaging 72. We're attracting retirees, but we aren't doing as well among the young. Beginner classes and top flight knockout fields are both filled with gray-haired people.
New England's 7440 members were distributed as follows among our eight units:
Eastern MA 2982 CT 2044 ME 531 RI 501 NH 497 VT 423 Western MA 257 Central MA 205
Here's a breakdown of our 7440 members by masterpoints:
Rookie 0-4 1247 Junior Master 5-19 795 Club Master 20-49 1093 Sectional Master 50-99 919 Regional Master 100-199 840 NABC Master 200-299 461 Life Master 300-499 281 Bronze Life Master 500-999 819 Silver Life Master 1000-2499 747 Gold Life Master 2500-4999 171 Diamond Life Master 5000-7499 42 Emerald Life Master 7500-9999 7 Platinum Life Master 10000+ 6 Grand Life Master 10000+ 12 (Grand Life Masters have won at least one national championship)Note that 2083 of our District's members have attained life master status, and 5357 haven't yet.
I hope these facts dispel some myths. Contrary to gloomsters, bridge isn't going away any time soon. It remains a fascinating game, with endless variations unearthed by each shuffle, but it's time-consuming, so perhaps we are doomed to be most popular among retirees. Bridge is for those who play it, and I hope decision makers don't lose sight of the main goal - providing attractive entertainment for the players.
Buzz from North Falmouth
As usual, New England held its five-day Senior Regional at the excellent Seacrest Resort in North Falmouth, from April 29 through May 3, 2009. Also as usual, the two four-session knockouts drew the strongest fields. I had the pleasure of losing the final of the first one by eight imps. Both teams had opening lead chances here:
North S-A872 West H-104 East S-QJ6 D-KQ63 S-943 H-K83 C-1052 H-J97652 D-1092 D-975 C-J863 South C-9 S-K105 H-AQ D-AJ4 C-AKQ74 South West North East - - - P 2C P 2S P 3C P 4C P 6C P P P - - - 1H Double 2C 3S P 6S P P PAt table one, 2S was a control response showing an ace and a king. West had a tough lead - a heart or club would be immediately fatal. West tried the spade queen, which looks OK, but wasn't. Declarer won his SK, cashed the CAKQ and DKAJ, then tossed West back in with the CJ, forcing him to either lead away from either the HK or SJ. Only a diamond opening lead defeats 6C - there's no squeeze.
At the other table, after East's feeble psychic 1H, West's 2C showed a constructive raise to 2H. East led his singleton club, but declarer won in dummy and played three rounds of trump. When they broke three-three, the last trump was available to ruff the clubs good. Only a heart lead would defeat 6S.In the second knockout, my team lost in the semis. The winners were Bob Casey and Harris Jacobs of Worcester MA and Burton and Janet Gischner of Niantic CT. The Gischners won a big swing with this auction:
North S-K752 H- D-AQJ C-AQ10732 South S-AQ63 H-8543 D-K10762 C- South West North East - 1H Double 3H Double P 4S P 5C P 6C P 6S P P PSouth did well to use a responsive double and then make a slam try over 4S. Declarer scored 4 spades, 5 diamonds, a club, and two heart ruffs in dummy for 12 tricks. There was no defense with the trumps three-two. The other table stopped in game.
The majority of bridge deals require bread and butter good bids and plays, but during almost any session, there is a hidden gem. Ever the squeeze hound, I'll conclude with two deals from Falmouth I didn't play, both featuring variations of the trump squeeze. The key technique in trump squeezes is to run all the trumps but one, and very carefully count the cards, then decide which suit the defenders have left open to attack. Sometimes there's a guess at the end. The first deal was reported to me from an early round of one of the knockouts. Both sides were vul.
North S-A7 H-AKJ954 D-4 C-8743 South S-KJ86542 H-62 D-AK73 C- South West North East - - - P 1S 3D 3H P 4S P 6S P P PWest led the DQ, East playing the D6, and declarer won her DA. Without a diamond ruff in dummy, there appear to be only 11 tricks even if the the trumps can be picked up. South could hope the diamonds were 6-2 and try ruffing one low in dummy. Or, she could try ruffing a diamond with the SA, then finessing the SJ. Both those lines are exceedingly risky. Nobody bid clubs, suggesting that West has secondary clubs along with six or seven diamonds, giving East most of the major suit cards. Suppose that any diamond ruff in dummy must fail, because West holds something like S-Q H- D-QJ109xxx C-Kxxxx. Can you see the trump squeeze?
Don't risk that diamond ruff. Instead, try to run all the trumps but one (if all follow low on the first and second spades, I recommend finessing the SJ), cash the DK, and keep top hearts and one club in dummy. Note the spade and diamond splits, and count the cards very carefully. Your last five cards are S-2 H-62 D-73 C-, and dummy has S- H-AKJ9 D- C-8. If East has kept only three hearts, duck a heart, ruff the club return, and run hearts. If East has kept four or more hearts, cross the the HA, ruff the club, and duck a heart, endplaying East. In most cases, this final guess will be easy to judge from the bidding and your careful counting. It's a much better line than any diamond ruff in dummy.
The second deal was from the Thursday morning pair game.
North S-A7 H-K1053 D-K1097 C-753 South S-6543 H- D-QJ4 C-AKQ1098 South West North East - - P 2D 3C 3H 4C 4H 5C P P PEast's 2D was Flannery, showing five hearts and four spades. The opponents' bidding was revealing, but so was yours, and West gets off to a good trump lead. You win and duck a spade. Your RHO wins and returns a second trump, West discarding a diamond. It looks as if East has 4513 shape with the singleton DA. If so, it can't work to take a spade ruff before knocking out the DA, as then East will cash the fourth spade when he wins the DA, before you can pitch it on dummy's fourth diamond. So you knock out the DA first, but East wins and plays his last trump, denying you any spade ruff.
You're a trick short, but can you see the possible trump squeeze? Run all your trumps but one, then three diamonds ending in dummy, counting the cards very carefully. When you lead dummy's fourth diamond, discarding a spade, you hope the position will be something like:
S-A H-K10 S-J10 D-10 S-KQ H-QJ C- H-A9 D- D- C- S-654 C- H- D- C-8You know the opposing shapes, and if the heart honors are as shown, as they actually were, the opponents have no winning defense. If East throws a heart, you can trump out his HA. If West throws a heart, you can call for dummy's HK. If both throw spades, cash the SA, ruff a heart, and your spade will be good.
Now don't go looking for trump squeezes on every bread and butter deal, or you'll descend to the depths of squeeze hound depravity like me. Just tuck the technique in your bag, for when it comes up, as it did on these two deals from Falmouth. Run all the trumps but one, and count the cards.