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All comments by Jonathan Campbell
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And, for those who may be interested, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel was where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their North American “Bed-In for Peace” in 1969 and recorded “Give Peace a Chance”. According to Wikipedia it was in rooms 1738-40-42-44. Maybe there's a historical plaque up there.

And for foodies: it has been said that you cannot have a bad meal in Montreal at any price. That may be a slight exaggeration, but look around and you'll find some fantastic restaurants at all price points.

There's a place called Gibby's in Old Montreal (for the Europeans, “Old” means 17th-century) which is pretty close to the playing site. It's been around for about 50 years, my ex-pat Montrealer wife and I go there from time to time when we feel like splashing out and making our visit an overnighter instead of a day trip. It's a very meat-heavy menu (but a cut above a “steakhouse”), and if you ask really nicely they might even serve you the Lobster Newberg that's no longer officially on the menu.
Jan. 16
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The British CAB system included the King of trumps in the Blackwood response count in situations where the trump suit had been explicitly set in the preceding auction by sometime in the 1950s. They didn't change the standard Blackwood responses, though, so there was no provision for the respondent having all five of the cards (maybe not unreasonable). It is mentioned without attribution in the 1959 system book “The Quintessence of CAB”.
Oct. 24, 2019
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The Culbertson 4-5 NT convention was included in the updated 1933 edition of the Culbertson Blue Book and documented in newspaper articles as early as December 1932 (Culbertson made headline news whatever he did in those days, he made sure of it).

I think that 1933 was when Culbertson made the first round of really major changes to the system. The next one was in 1936 for the Gold Book which revamped the system substantially. There were smaller revisions in new editions in 1938, 1941, 1945, 1949, and 1952 (and possibly other years, too).

Every time Culbertson made changes to his system they were discussed in syndicated columns of the time (Culbertson's own and William E. McKenney's were two major ones that typically did so). The minor updates were usually things like little tweaks to the honour-trick tables (such as whether you counted two stray queens as a half trick, or whether KQ10 was worth 1+ or 1-1/2), trying to refine/simplify the yardstick for strong twos (this was done several times to try to get to a definition that would be workable for the general public), or the definition of “biddable” or “rebiddable” suits. The major updates included significant method changes such as the 4-5 convention (1933), making simple new-suit responses one-round forces (1936), asking bids (1936), the “two-way three bid” (1938), etc.
Oct. 24, 2019
Jonathan Campbell edited this comment Oct. 24, 2019
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That was the range for the Baron 1NT, counting a 10 as 1/2 point IIRC. But there were a lot of hands that would be a weak 1NT opener today that Baron wouldn't treat that way due to honour location and rebidding considerations. As if point count didn't already carry things too far…
Aug. 22, 2019
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I don’t know whether McKenney ever physically went to the UK, or if his writings detailing the suit preference signal just happened to be the first published there and led some to name the technique after him. He was the bridge columnist for the NEA syndicate for over 20 years (a post assumed by Oswald Jacoby after McKenney’s death in 1950, the column lives on today written by Philip Alder). McKenney didn’t have his own pet system like Culbertson so he frequently wrote articles about different methods.
Aug. 7, 2019
Jonathan Campbell edited this comment Aug. 7, 2019
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For what it's worth, here's an excerpt from an article by William E. McKenney published in 1931. This was part of a long series he wrote surveying bidding methods you might find at the time, at least in the Eastern United States, including various artificial one-club and two-club systems (I have all the articles if anyone is interested):

“Bidding of Four-Card Suits Ahead of Longer Suits

”The writer has long advocated the bidding of four-card suits ahead of five or even six-card suits; e.g. you hold the king and queen and two small diamonds and the ace and king and three small spades. The writer prefers to start the bidding with one diamond and then on the second round of bidding to show the spade suit. In this manner your partner can easily read that your hand contains four diamonds and five spades.

“Under this system of bidding, the second suit shown almost always contains five or six cards. While it is quite true that in some cases you must bid four-card suits, the majority of hands arise where the distribution is four-five.

”The most important reason for bidding the four-card suit first is that while the size of the contract is small the four-card suit can be shown. When the size of the contract is increased, we show the suit containing the longer number. Often when you start off with the five-card suit first, the bidding becomes so high that it is impossible to show the second suit, and it may be that only in the short suit is there game."
Aug. 7, 2019
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I answered the first one, which is why I think people aren't taking up bridge, and “other” to account for the fact that people who do play bridge are participating less because of advancing age/health issues more than anything else. The bracketing/stratification issues debated here may influence what some people decide to play (different events or maybe staying at the club instead of playing tournaments), but I don't think it drives them away from the game.

When bridge flourished, it was very different from the ecosystem that we have now. People learned and played socially. Of course, there wasn't as much to do. Many married women were home during the day, kids were just turned loose outside and told to be back for dinner. In the evenings you could play bridge with your neighbours, listen to the radio, read, sit on the front porch, or get on a streetcar to go someplace.

As I've read about it I found that clubs of the day catered to this type of bridge, too. The top bridge clubs in the golden age had good food, bars, and you could play other games besides bridge (pinochle, gin rummy, backgammon, whatever). Basically an urban country club without a golf course. And the bridge on offer included cut-in rubber or Chicago so you could come in and play as much as you wanted for whatever stake you were willing to pay, then leave when you'd had enough (or not).

Playing that type of bridge had a different technical standard that wouldn't be satisfying to a lot of dedicated tournament players. If you had read Goren's “Contract Bridge in a Nutshell” or even a free booklet you got with a tank of gas or pack of cigarettes, you had enough reference material to get “in the swim”. Duplicates were relatively rare; many of the leading clubs in big cities in the US and the UK still spoken of now (the Regency or Lederer's, for example) had maybe a weekly evening duplicate and masterpoint games were even rarer (sometimes only once a month). Tournaments were not as big a part of the scene.

How many legendary bridge careers started by learning “on the fly” at a young age because a social game needed a “fourth”? (Two examples off the top of my head: Charles Goren and Dorothy Hayden Truscott).
July 12, 2019
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The Four Aces in the US started doing something very similar somewhere in the late thirties or early forties. It wasn't in the system book they published in 1935 but Goren mentioned it as one of four “expert variations” on standard bidding methods in his 1944 “Standard Book of Bidding”. Goren attributed it to the Aces, but I wonder whether they picked it up from Kempson either by reading his book or meeting him when they travelled to Europe in the thirties.
May 24, 2019
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Mike: a groomsman is to a bridesmaid as the best man is to the maid of honour i.e. additional male attendants. You have to suit up, but you don't have responsibility for not losing the rings. Numbers vary according to how big a wedding party is planned. I was one of seven groomsmen at a wedding 28 years ago, I was the best man at my brother's wedding with 3 other groomsmen opposite a maid of honour and three bridesmaids, but when I got married we only each had one attendant so there was a maid of honour and a best man and that was it.
May 23, 2019
Jonathan Campbell edited this comment May 23, 2019
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Goren did the four aces +1 adjustment for NT bids as well, it was the only adjustment he applied in those cases. It's on the first page of the chapter on point count for NT bidding of his “Point Count Bidding in Contract Bridge”.
May 9, 2019
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After the first commercial break in Jeopardy, there is (is there still? I haven't watched in years) a “human interest” segment where Alex Trebek talks to each contestant about something personal to them like hobbies or achievements (they must have to provide this sort of information when they become contestants). Having to come up with a lot of these little talks with James Holzhauer, have they managed to ask him about playing bridge yet? That might be the best publicity the bridge community could hope for out of this…
May 9, 2019
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Goren's distributional count had a lot of little adjustment rules that codify hand evaluation principles better players apply subconsciously.

On this hand I don't think I would open 2NT but I'm not offended by the thought.

I doubt many people apply them anymore because Goren is no longer the “primer”/“bible” that most North Americans learn from/refer to when in doubt.

Other than being a lot of memory work, when properly applied (Goren spent much of his later career warning against abuses of them) they do a decent job for people who need the help.

(An alternate view: Richard Pavlicek's teachings are to upgrade 1 point when holding 4+ aces and tens combined).
May 9, 2019
Jonathan Campbell edited this comment May 9, 2019
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Or that it has a safety factor of two (one in aerospace).
May 1, 2019
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I've typed in and erased two lengthy responses/commentaries, but I'm sure nobody wants to read a long one.

I think the quote under discussion may be about Goren in earlier, better times than his last Nationals appearance in 1967. If you keep reading Mr. Wolff's book, there is much more detail immediately following:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=FksZwNVP56oC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA26#v=onepage&q&f=false">https://books.google.ca/books?id=FksZwNVP56oC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA26#v=onepage&q&f=false

It's a sad story, to say the least. Alan Truscott speculated in the NY Times Bridge Book that Goren developed Alzheimer's and that forced his retirement from public life. I'm not aware that this was ever published or confirmed elsewhere.

I also think that there's a sort of “Three Faces of Goren”: there's the Goren the Book that people love to cite, Goren the Public Image, and, lastly, Goren the Man. We know the least about that last one, and probably never will know a lot.
April 17, 2019
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If you want a rabbit hole to go down, I think that all of Life magazine's back issues are readable on Google Books.
April 15, 2019
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Not that I would never do it or consider doing it, but with my luck opening 1NT would either (1) end in the wrong contract where the right one could only be found after 1, or (2) find partner with 5-5 majors expecting a fit in one of them (maybe not a problem for certain methods).

Hypothetically if I chose 1NT, I would preemptively mix a diamond in with my hearts in case I needed to act sheepish later.

And it helps, I have found, to be willing to apologise for things like this.
April 13, 2019
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Here's a Goren story from Sports Illustrated about him playing with the Dodgers (using a trunk in the locker room as a table) as they were leaving Brooklyn:

https://www.si.com/vault/1958/04/14/668675/you-cant-beat-the-cards
March 14, 2019
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IIRC, only Vitamin Flintheart (anyone remember that character?) ever called him “Richard”.
March 10, 2019
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Yes, Richard is Oswald Jacoby. And I'd be willing to bet that his teammate in some of his thirties triumphs in the database right now “Bruce Chester” is actually David Burnstine/Bruce, and “Elizabeth Hopkins” is Michael Gottlieb.

Howard Schenken doesn't show up if you search for him either. A conspiracy theorist might think that someone was trying to erase the Four Aces from bridge history ;)
March 10, 2019
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And all on top of an illustrious career as a crimefighter…

(Edit: Somebody in ACBL IT is having us on with a made-up name while they're detecting (see what they did there?) why many people are not showing up in the winners database.)
March 10, 2019
Jonathan Campbell edited this comment March 10, 2019
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