Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Heaven of Bridge

Do you think there is a heaven of bridge?

Do you believe bridge gods exist somewhere?

I, for one, think yes.

But not a heaven with a single God: first of all, that God would surely be a man, a real macho not funny at all, who would spend his time bragging. No, I am thinking more of a heaven like the Greeks had, with many gods, men, women, all happy and very interested in... you know, a heaven where the gods would cheerfully cheat on their spouse. Zeus was the master in that domain, seducing all women, mortal or divine.

So, in my bridge heaven, the most prestigious God, and the less understood, is certainly God Squeeze.

Squeeze is a bit like Zeus in that he slept with everyone and has produced innumerable bastards: Simplesqueeze, Doublesqueeze, Triplesqueeze, Non-simultaneous-squeeze (rather twisted, you don't think?), Squeeze-without-the-count, Trumpsqueeze, CompoundSqueeze, Crisscrosssqueeze, etc.

The immense majority of players don't hang out with the Squeeze family; they find them too complicated. You have all these conditions before you can begin: Do this, don't do that, duck this, rectify the count, etc. It is hell.

In the emphatic gibberish of today's psychologists, Squeezes would surely be identified as a dysfunctional family.

Please note that squeezes are a bit like those rare diseases that you learn about in medical schools: they rarely happen. Bridge is the same thing: squeezes are rare.

The only thing you have to do at bridge is to count to... 13.

Another God is called Elimination.

He is not funny: you're always on diet, you always have to eliminate, eliminate, eliminate, it's... drastic. Elimination might be necessary anytime during a hand, at the beginning, in the middle or at the end. This God is very useful and easy to understand: all you have to do is to cash your tricks, one after the other, no finesse, no ducking, Ace, King, Queen, bang, bang, bang, that's all.

Next is a Goddess that nobody, but nobody, understands: Goddess Lead.

She is so complicated, you always go wrong with her. You try to be really careful, but it is never the right moment, never the right suit, never the right card, etc., so much that some people say she is the patron saint of women (I just repeat what I heard here, don't kill the messenger). Several people have tried to write books about her, the best ones, the worst ones, but sometimes the best is the worst, and the worst is the best. In a word, Goddess Lead is unpredictable, capricious, always changing:

"No, not there!"
"... "
"Not there either!"
"... "
"That you've already done yesterday."
"Yes, but you liked it yesterday."
"Well, I do not like it today!"

If you ask me, we men also could write a catalogue, and it would be very, very thick.

To sum it all, Goddess Lead is simply unbearable. Indeed the majority of players want so much to avoid her that they bid one more: they would rather play the contract and go one down than having to find Miss Lead. In fact, she is the point L of bridge. And she is so pretentious, she thinks she's a star, a prima donna, because she is always the first to be seen. As soon as she appears, she begins to hop around and wave and shout:

"It's me, it's me, look at me!"

Isn't that REALLY annoying? It is so tiring that majority of players have settled the matter: they do not even look at her. That will teach her!

Another God is called Endplay.

The vast majority of players avoid him, as they have only one objective: to keep the hand.

They do not understand that they can use the opponents to play suits in their place.

Losing the hand is equivalent for them as to lose their honour. If they have to make 9 tricks, they want to make them 9 in a row. They are the over-eaters of bridge. They don't understand that a bridge hand is like a meal with 3, 4 or 5 services, with pauses to digest, reflect.

They are bulimic: the first 4 or 5 tricks go quickly, like at McDonald's. At trick 6, they begin to slow down, 7 is more difficult and 8 marks the end. They lose the hand and go down.

Endplay's name says he arrives only at the end of the hand, but sometimes he appears at the first trick. When that happens, we have Endplay-on-Lead. Well, that is a sight. Can you imagine that ? Take the kids out of the room, hurry.

There is another God, very quiet, not spectacular at all, very discreet, not snob, not complicated, called Count, much more practical than Squeeze. In fact, you need him all the time. Sometimes you hear players talking about him.

"Why did you play spades? Count was telling you to play clubs."

There you have it: Count talks to you, he is there, at your service, always ready to help and, if you don't use him, well, it's your fault. If your make friend with this God, bridge becomes almost a child's game. Counting requires a little effort, but its assistance is invaluable.

In the sky of bridge, you see, there are several gods, and most of them do nothing (that is the definition of a God job: having nothing to do) except Lead with a full-time job. As for the others, you can see it day after day at the bridge table, the majority of players do not use them.

There is one last God, a Goddess in fact, extremely popular, so popular she is the Celine Dion of Olympus.

Everyone sings her songs, everyone buys magazines to hear about her life.

Do you have an idea, do you know who she is? But the Goddess Finesse, of course.

Finesse is really the most popular, the more attractive, alluring, charming, attractive, you could use the entire dictionary to describe her.

The vast majority of players spend their time running after Finesse, everybody loves her, they never have enough of her: Finesse here, Finesse there. They do not understand that Finesse should not be relied upon.

The good players are doing everything not to ask for her help, because she is not reliable: she gives you a chance out of two, 50% ( sometimes less), and that is understandable: she must be exhausted, poor Finesse, running everywhere and without judgement. For my part, I think she suffers of a chronic burn-out.

Other gods offer much higher chances of success: Count can offer 65%, 80%, even 100% sometimes; Endplay can assure you of 100%. But we must face the brutal fact: bad players believe they love to win but, basically, they would rather lose. Finesse is so beautiful, so exciting, so sexy...

You are playing 6. Lead is ♣K

A loser in spades, one in clubs and at least one at heart, but nothing is lost.

You win the club Ace in your hand. What is the first God who must enlist? Goddess Finesse, of course, in hearts.

Not for pleasure, a mandatory finesse is not the same as an avoidable finesse, here you have no choice. You play, therefore, a small diamond to the King, and a heart from dummy. Small, Jack from you and small on your left. Phew!

Goddess Finesse is very nice this time. You now play the Ace of heart and everyone follows. Re-phew! Voila.

After these 4 tricks, this contract is 100%, you cannot fail. The spade finesse, you say, may miss? What finesse in spades? Send Goddess Finesse home, we no longer need her. By the way, good players do not like to be seen too often with her, she has a bad reputation and they might be accused of bad dating.

After Goddess Finesse, you should now call God Elimination. Indeed you have already started, you have eliminated the hearts of enemy hands. Now you have to remove the diamonds from your hand. Go ahead, therefore: Ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond. Here's what remains:

Finesse in spades ? Didn't we send her home ? I told you, she cannot help you, she can only harm you. She will tell you that you have to guess who has the Queen of Spades. Do you believe that it is really helpful? In fact, she could make you fail.

You should rather use Endplay. First he will be pleased you called for him in the middle of the hand.

Think about it: if you play clubs, eliminating that suit your hands, opponents will have no more heart, you will have no more diamonds, no more clubs, and opponents will have to play spades for you or they will give you Ruff and Sluff, frequent accomplice of Endplay.

Why guess spades when opponents can do it for you? That's what the God Endplay can do for you: he will force West to play spades for you. If West plays a diamond or a club, you will ruff in dummy, discard the spade loser from your hand and register + 1430.

You give one trick to win 5. If this is not a good return on investment!

Speaking of investment, I'll give you a tip: my wife and I have invested for years in the same stocks and we have never lost a penny. At the end of the month, our statement is always higher than what we anticipated. Have you guessed what we invest in? It's easy, it's Visa and MasterCard!

Do not be afraid to invoke all the gods of the bridge, forget about the beautiful goddess Finesse, do not use her unless you're really, REALLY, in need. Rather ask help from everyone else, they are kind and understanding, and they are there to help you really.

As for Goddess Lead (and stocks), do like me... endure.

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