Monday, April 1, 2013

A Man about Universe

Bernard Marcoux won the BOLS Bridge Press Award in 1996 for this article featuring BBO's founder and President Fred Gitelman. Enjoy!

There are no child prodigies at bridge. Why?
Because a bridge player needs certain qualities that belong to an adult. The most needed quality: the agility to think globally, to collect all pertinent clues and to process them in order to obtain an answer covering all bases --- all of them.
The great John Crawford once found himself playing a grand slam, with trumps AKQTxxx facing a singleton, and no losers anywhere else.
While he was pondering (yes, even with 18 tricks, great players make a plan; do you!?) he noticed that no kibitzer was moving away --- everyone was following play intensely. Crawford reasoned that if nobody was leaving there was a reason.
Looking at his cards, he found out the only suit with a possible loser was trumps. That's why the kibitzers were not leaving ---there might be a problems in trump. Otherwise people, if able to count to 13 tricks, would have left. So he played a trump to his 10 for 13 tricks, RHO having started with Jxxx. That's really collecting and using all the evidence.
You know the French expression 'homme du monde' (man about universe), the former being superficial and shallow, but the latter sagacious, penetrating, intelligent, visionary. Valéry also said that daily events (which attract the socialite) are like the surf on the sea; the really important events run deep and only a man about universe, a visionary, a poet, can see them.
You open 1 in fourth seat and find yourself eventually in 4 without interference. West leads the ♣A.

Fred Gitelman of Toronto shows us here all the qualities of a man about universe. After the ♣A, West shifted to the ♠Q.
Fred ducked and West continued spades to East's king and Fred's ace. A, heart to the queen, everyone following. Club ruff to see what's happening. Nothing. Really nothing?
Let's follow the thoughts of a real bridge player, and if this trip doesn't leave you in awe, you're missing life itself.
West has passed in first seat (first technical step) and you know he should have 10 points:  ♣AK and  ♠QJ (second step). So he should not have the Q, for he would have opened (third step). If East has the Q, you are going down (fourth step). But, to make 10 tricks, you need three diamond tricks, without losing to the queen (fifth step).
Fred concluded that, in order to make 10 tricks, the Q had to be second. Every good technician would have thought along the same lines. But Fred, man about universe, a poet indeed, saw much further, much further, and it is here that bridge becomes poetry.
Do you see a finesse in diamonds (sixth step)? Read again, do you see a finesse in diamonds when you know that the queen is sitting behind AKJ7? How can you take a losing finesse and still win? The majority of bridge players, 'hommes du monde' who live at the surface of things, would have taken the finesse anyway and complained afterwards of their bad luck.
Fred pulled the last trump, pitching a spade, and played the  AK (seventh step). East's queen fell, as it had to, but Fred unblocked the 10 and 8 (first step of superior order exclusive to men about universe, poets, real bridge players)!!! Fred ruffed a club back to his hand and played the precious  2 to the ever so precious 7 (ninth step) for +450.
You see, you needed a diamond finesse all right and every socialite can finesse a jack; that's a daily event, obvious on the surf. But only 'un homme d'universe', A Man About Universe, can see so deep as to envision finessing the 7, just for the beauty of it.
Just bidding 4 would have given Fred an average; +450 translated into 99% of the matchpoints. Why can't we obtain 100% when we play perfectly? Even Fred will tell you that 99% is quite all right, because as every man about universe will tell you, the 1% left is a reminder that the game is always greater than the players.
Do you know of a more beautiful game, of a game that shows us so clearly the fathomless power of the human brain?

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