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The Dummy Speaks

By Barbara Duer
Carolyn Riegle and I agreed on a periodic column on a variety of bridge issues.  She also named this column.  Make of that what you may. I will be addressing etiquette and other non-system or play issues.  If you want to discuss or see something on an issue, let me know.

  The Dummy Speaks - Directors are Human

Directors are Human Too

Yesterday I was called to a relatively simple director’s call and I made the wrong decision.  I am human.  All directors are human although there are one or two of them of which we have our doubts.  What can you do if you believe the director made the wrong decision?

First - don’t tell them they are wrong because they are human and it does no one any good to devolve into an adversarial relationship.  If you are familiar with this situation, you can say, can I… giving the director a chance to change the ruling.  If the director does not take the opportunity to adjust then

Second – tell the director that you would like to discuss it further after the game (or if the director is not playing and you have a sit out then during your sitout) You should have enough time for both of you to fully and calmly discuss the issue.

Third – there are  no official appeals of director rulings.  But we want to get it right. Sometimes we need to consult other players, other directors or the ACBL. 

In my Wednesday game there are frequently five directors playing in addition to me.  Directors tend to call the director more than other players because they realize the role of directors in keeping the game going and in keeping the game fair for all.  

 When I first started directing in Virginia Beach I had a director call.  I had the rule book in my hands and made the ruling which did not seem right even to me.  The players who called me over strenuously objected.  I said I would research further and get back to them but play on for the moment.  I read and read and read.  Four times I read the pertinent section and came up with the same seemingly twisted answer.  The fifth time I read the section, it said something different.  This answer made sense.  Why did I read something wrong four times in a row?  I hate to admit I might be human.

In summary call the director whenever it is appropriate.  Do not make a ruling at the table to save the director effort.  Do not just accept the ruling if you do not believe it is correct.  But, do not make comments as to the director’s character.  It will not help.

I have had numerous what I believe were incorrect director rulings, even in the Nationals.  One of my partners never questioned a ruling and did not want me to.  I disagree, but question it politely and calmly and at the appropriate time. Remember the director is a human being like you and you are well on the way to a productive director/player experience.


Last updated : May 2, 2024 09:58 EDT
  The Dummy Speaks - Evolution

The Dummy Speaks - Evolution

Judy suggested I write regarding opening 1nt with a 5 card major.  I responded I don’t write about conventions.  BUT this topic is a good one to discuss evolution in bridge over time and evolution in your own bridge game over time.

Most of us had a bridge teacher when we were starting out and we thought he/or she was the absolute best.  And they were.  But as we evolve, we must assess what our teacher was good at.  Our teacher was good at getting us so that we liked to play bridge and people liked to partner with us.  Beginning players and partners hate to go down.  Thus teachers teach us what to do with an edge to safety.  This will seldom, if ever, be the best bridge move, but you are much less likely to get depressed or be lambasted by your partner.

Back to opening 1nt with a 5 card major.  In the stone age no one would contemplate opening 1nt with a 5 card major.  All from the newest newbie to the top masterpoint winner in the land would state that no one should ever open 1nt if one had a 5 card major.  People experiment, people make unintended errors that work, so over time, especially in match points where the extra 10 points for NT can be so valuable, players found it beneficial to open some hands 1nt with a 5 card major under certain circumstances.  Was our bridge teacher wrong?  No, but what is right has changed with our skill level and environment.  If no one is opening 5 card major NT’s it does not matter if its better.  If 60%of the field are opening 5 card major NT’s, you had better be opening them also, if they work.

In my experience, they work.  There have been a number of articles about this lately.  Basically, no matter the hand, look at it and decide on your opening bid and your first rebid at the same time.  Do not make a call until you see the way through at least one rebid.  Ok, I know partners and especially opponents shatter our plans but we should have them anyway because the one time we don’t we will need that plan.  So if you have a hand that is 5/4 and not hearts (5) and spades (4) then go ahead and bid the major first and then bid the minor.  If you are 5332 go ahead and open 1nt.  How else can you tell your story?

To me, this choice was made long ago but the same evolution is now happening in 2/1.  Just remember bridge is evolving and you are too.  That is one of the reason bridge remains fresh.  Embrace both.


Last updated : Apr 4, 2024 22:21 EDT
  The Dummy Speaks - Percentages

The Dummy Speaks   

  Getting the most out of your Results on Bridgewebs and/or our website

I was asked the other day what the heck (or some other word) the Declarer and Defender percentages mean and why I think one should always be interested in them.

First, the what.  Bridge webs averages all the boards that you declared for a particular game.  That is your declarer percentage.  While I want 58% or higher, anything over 55% is great.  If you have over 51% over a few games, then disregard declarer play as a problem you need to work on now.

 Recently I had one partner who had 100% and one who had 0% for a game.  Does this mean the first one is perfect and the second one should be discarded?  No on both.  But on the second one I looked at the contracts and why he had such a terrible percentage.  I believe he was in reasonable contracts and played them fine.  A combination of factors contributed, but not any we could do anything about.  I have problems with one partner who is over- confident in my ability and it shows in my percentages in our games.  Not my fault.  And we are working on being more realistic.  Note my poorer declarer percentages highlighted the problem. 

  The defender (Noted as Lead in the tables) percentages are even more problematic as the percentages are based on who was the opening leader. 

If one has a poor percentage, is it the fault of the leader? Or is it that partner cannot execute the rest of the defense.  One partner consistently had a 35% defender percentage while mine were fine playing with him.  I was sure it was me as I found his defense very confusing.  We changed some signaling agreements and his defender percentage improved dramatically.  So was it his leads?  Was it I could now better understand what was going on? Was it that the discussion made us both more careful with defense?  I do not know and do not care.  Our defense is markedly improved.

I note that of the two games I played this past week, my partner and I had great  Lead percentages in both games.  One we won, one we were last.  In both cases the lead percentages were significantly affected by our aggressiveness  both getting the opponents into contracts they cannot make and in their dumping us in contracts we cannot make. Thus great lead percentages and terrible declarer percentages.  What you want is for both to be consistently good.

So to the why  -  these percentages can highlight what area you need to work on.  Those of you who have multiple partnerships can use the percentages to see what each partnership does well and what they don’t.  Then you can figure out why an aspect of play is so much better with partner A than with partner B perhaps leading to an improvement with partner B.  And most significantly of all, it reminds us to think about the whys.

Finally for those of you whose partner believes he can do no wrong, use it any way that helps your case.  There is no player who does no wrong.

There are other tools on the website for those of you so inclined, while on a page with your game results, click on the chart symbol in the upper left corner and explore.

Last updated : Nov 10, 2023 21:15 EST
  Game Time

There seem to have been a plethora of late arrivals recently.  All players are reminded that the posted game time is the time the game is to start, not the time you should arrive at the door.

You should be in your seat, having hung up your coat, said hello to whomever you wish, gotten your coffee and a snack or two by 5 of start time.  Thus, the director can figure out how many tables, what kind of movement, pass out boards and start the Bridgemates at the appropriate time.

You should know what sort of hold ups will occur on your route.  If there frequently is construction, plan that into your schedule.  You have a much easier time figuring this than I did when commuting from the Eastern Shore; where weather, farm equipment, deer, and accidents in the tunnel were all possibilities, and all occurred.  Fortunately, I never had to deal with the Steer determined it would not let one of my students make lessons on time – nor as it turned out - at all that day.

If you have been late more than once in the last year, please think about all the bridge players you are impacting and be more considerate.  Leaving 5 minutes sooner will allow all to finish 5 minutes or more earlier thus saving 40x5 = 200 – your 5 minutes = 195 minutes total time saved.

Last updated : Nov 23, 2019 18:31 EST
  Strata for Regular and Special Games

Thursday Jennifer had a NAP qualifying game.  I spent considerable time explaining why a pair were B players when they had never been anything but C players in a Thursday game.  Saturday morning I got another phone call regarding strata for that game so here goes.

In a regular game the director usually tries to balance the strata as best he can and makes sure there are at least three pairs in the lowest strata.  So some days you may be C – I have played in games where Wrus and I were in the C strata.  Some days you may be B or once or twice A.  The strata depends solely on who is playing.  Many times strata are determined by the average of the two members of a pair or team.

In some special games the strata is set by the ACBL.  In those games – NAP or GNT qualifying games or STAC games for example, the strata is determined in advance by the ACBL.  In the Thursday NAP game, A was over 2,500, C was under 500 and B was all the way from 500 to 2,500.  Thus my partner and I were in the same strata as a new LM and a NLM.  Strata determination is based by the highest ranking player in a pair.  In these games the strata cannot be adjusted because you are qualifying for entry in the next round of the competition.  You cannot qualify for a strata in which you cannot play.  On the other hand, one can qualify at the lower levels without the usual required number of pairs in that strata.

Now that it is clear as mud, come play, qualify, and if you and your partner are doing really well, compete in the District 6 competition later in the year and if you do really well there, they help you pay to go to the Nationals to play in the National level competition.  We have some C level teams who I would bet would do well in the next level.

Last updated : Sep 18, 2019 16:15 EST
  Convention Charts

New Charts - What is legal and what is not.

Effective the first day of the Hawaii National the Convention Charts will be replaced – that’s November 22, 2018.     The three current charts will be replaced by four new ones. The new charts have two charts for non-life master games; one for open games; and one for more advanced contests.

People like me find all this very interesting, but for you normal people, don’t worry.  Everything that was legal today in our club games will be legal afterwards.  For those of you who decide to try something new, just ask your director whether it is legal in that game.  If you play in non-life master games and open games, there may be different answers.

Your convention cards say what you play and must reflect what you play.  The Convention Charts tell you what it is legal for you to play at any particular level.  It is your choice what you play of the legal options.

Last updated : Sep 18, 2019 18:19 EST
  Sush I can hear you

Sush I can hear you

“All those points and no slam makes” comes blasting into my ears.  The quite good player at the table next to me shouts.  Or so it seems to me.  There are times when I rue my excellent hearing.  I am playing those boards next. Even if I do not consciously take the comment into account, does my sub-conscious?  This occasion was so loud and obvious my sub-conscious did not get a chance.  I bid my hand and landed in the same unmakable slam as the prior table.   But what if I had not quite so obviously heard it, would that nagging subthought have affected my bidding?  Or what if I were more ethically challenged?

This column is about talking at the table. Do not discuss the hand at the table.  Do not do this for a number of reasons.

  1. It disturbs your partner and you game will suffer
  2. It irritates your opponents because you are explaining why they let you make it, or how brilliant you are.
  3. It provides unauthorized information to the rest of the room.

If your opponents or partner, ask you a question and you can answer it without broadcasting unauthorized information go ahead and answer the question but if not, suggest you talk after the game.  Most questions are easily answered without concern.  But, you should always consider what the next table is hearing.

Do not announce the score aloud.  This should be obvious but I hear it all the time.  170 means some one did not bid a makeable game.  Knowing this again is unauthorized information.  If your partner wants to know the score, pass the Bridgemate over to them or give them your score sheet.

Do not berate your partner at the table.  This irritates the entire room affecting the mood of the game.  It may or may not broadcast unauthorized information but it definitely broadcasts that you are a …..

And just because you can’t hear does not mean your voice can’t be heard – all the way across the room.

So chit chat quietly all you want – until time to move. But leave the hand discussion until after the game, please.

Last updated : Sep 18, 2019 16:17 EST
  Bridge is a timed event

Bridge is a timed event

As I started to write about this I went on the ACBL website to find some wording to back me up.  I had already had a discussion with two other directors – one claiming it was in the rule book and the other quickly getting the rule book and of course we could not find anything definitive.  All I could find on the website is that the timing is set by the organizer and that usually at tournaments pairs games are set at 7 ½ minutes per board.  And people kept bringing up knockouts which can be very short or excruciatingly long.  I wanted to find the YOU MUST.  There is not a you must.  But it still a timed event and we all want it to be.  A director could set the pace at 10 minutes per board.  That is 2 ½ minutes slower than normal.  Doesn’t sound like much until you realize that the entire game would be an hour longer for the shortest game.

What is important is that each pair be given the same amount of time.  If I get 3 minutes and you get 10, then I am not likely to do very well.  But things happen – perhaps a very long director call, a lost card, a unplanned bathroom run – and we want the game to go smoothly for all. How can we balance these competing forces?

My favorite tool and quite underused in Virginia Beach is the Late Play

With a late play the pairs unable to finish a round in a timely manner – no matter the cause – are given a late play on the unplayed board and move on to the next round.  Thus all are caught up and able to move forward.  They then play the skipped board at the end.  Being given a late play is not a punishment.  It is a tool the director can use to keep the game running smoothly.  The first time I gave a late play in the Tuesday night game, you would have thought I had utilized my entire unvocalized cuss word vocabulary on those involved.  In that game, as there is an absolute you must exit by time, it meant that the entire field got to play 28 boards and those two pairs got to play 27 (no time for the late play).  Otherwise all would have only played 24 boards (no time for the last round).

Other things that really speed up the game

  1.  Lead before you do your bookkeeping.  And while you are at it, think about what you are going to lead while the bidding progresses.  Most of the time you should know what you are going to lead well before the end of the bidding.  A quick review, card on the table, face down, and then enter information in your score card.  It is amazing how much time this saves. 
  2. East West, having finished playing a round should exit the table in a timely manner.  Not a game goes by that someone tells me they cannot move because the pair they are following are still sitting.  If all waited for the next before moving, would they sit until we all turn to skeletons?  I like to chat as well as the next but at about the 2 minute warning, chat should finish up.
Last updated : Sep 18, 2019 16:18 EST
  Convention Cards

The Dummy Speaks - Barbara Duer


Carolyn Riegle and I agreed on a periodic column on a variety of bridge issues.  She also named this column.  Make of that what you may. I will be addressing etiquette and other non-system or play issues.  If you want to discuss or see something on an issue, let me know.

Convention Cards

Within one week I had the following experiences.  First I asked to see a player’s card and was told he did not have one so I asked to see his partner’s.  His partner showed me his card and said that it reflected what they play.  Afterwards the cardless player emphatically stated that his partner knew he did not play the system specified on the partner’s card. 

Then two experienced players appeared at my table.  I wanted to look at their card.  No card.  They offered to answer any questions.   But verbally explaining also tells the opponent’s partner a lot.  Perhaps waking him up.  Perhaps making him realize his partner has it wrong.  Opponents are barred from acting on this information but why possibly cause a problem.  Much better to look at the card if that will suffice.

Third was a pair one of whom was learning a new system and this was his first venture out.  Wonderful.  But no card.  The more experienced player offered a card he plays with someone else with the comment that of course they aren’t playing all on the card because his partner is new.  Normal.  But, what they are playing is what I was interested in, not what they might be playing in a year.

This is a pet peeve of mine and complaining about current practices is what got me roped into this project. The ACBL requires each pair have two identical convention cards available on the table for  the opponents to view during the game.  Remember the card is for the opponents, not yourself.  If you left yours on the kitchen table but your partner has one; that will get you through the day.  But as the purpose is for the opponents to read; it must be readable. And if it looks like you retrieved it from the dog after he took a bite out of it, you get an A for effort, but unreadable is unreadable.

Other benefits of Convention Cards.  There is nothing that will help your partnership more than periodic review of the convention card you play with each partner.  Make sure that each of you know what the other means with each item on the card.  I was playing with someone I knew but had never played with at a tournament in Montreal.  He did not want to bother going over the card.  But ….. thank goodness we did.  He had a totally different idea of what the Unusual NT and a couple of other conventions were.  It does not matter who was right, we took them off the card and did OK.  Disaster averted.

A well filled out and readable convention card is required and if it is understood by both you and your partner a great aid in improving your game.  What more could you ask?

Last updated : Sep 18, 2019 16:18 EST
  Feeling Charitable

Feeling Charitable ???

I have gotten several questions regarding whether to donate to the Bridge Center or the Unit.  That depends on your purpose. 

If your choice of recipients is driven by whether the donation is tax deductible then the choice is simple – the Bridge Center of Hampton Roads is a 501c3 and thus donations are deductible.

If your desire is to further bridge in the Unit 146 area and the tax deductibility is a minor issue, then donating to the Unit is better.  The Unit is a 501c7 (Social Club).  The reason for this is that the Unit can under most circumstances give money to the Bridge Center but the Bridge Center can only give money to the Unit for very specific purposes.  Further, should the Bridge Center corporation dissolve, the fund would neither go back to the Unit nor to its members.

As always consult your tax advisor about your specific situation.

No matter your decision we appreciate your desire to further bridge in Unit 146.

Last updated : Jan 10, 2019 19:39 EST
  The Dummy Speaks

The Dummy Speaks

One Sunday a few years ago, Wrus and I had just a terrible time. We played in 4 or 5 -4/2 fits - in one game. We laughed and laughed because we knew we were coming in last. We dubbed it our lesson in learning to appreciate Moysian (4/3) fits. All were shocked when we won. I was reminded of this after my game with Fred today.

8 boards in we have our first oops – 4s doubled down 3 for minus 800. Fred says its only one hand. Our 14th board we have a bidding misunderstanding. 5d down 2 for minus 200. Its only one board. A few boards later 6c down 5 for 500. We change our mantra to its only one game. Then to top it off 3nt down SEVEN for minus 700. We change our mantra to its only one week or two since we can’t play next week. But we played as hard on the last board as on the first, even knowing we will be last. We nearly fainted when we were 3rd – 0.5 matchpoints out of 1st. Two lessons for those of you who want to seriously play duplicate.

The first lesson is never give up. I mean even if it looks like you are slated for a 28% average – keep fighting. You will end up doing better than all those who give up. And every once in a while you will do better than you expect. The second lesson is that if you are having trouble with the boards, most likely others are also. Someone else was in 6c but they went down 6. 😊

Last updated : Jun 7, 2021 16:17 EDT
  The Dummy Speaks


Encouraging Beginners, Social Bridge Players
and Non-Life Masters


We all want to encourage non-duplicate bridge players to join our ranks.  We all know the mantra – be nice, don’t criticize but try to be helpful, etc.  I was surprised to realize that in the game I ran on the Eastern Shore some of my most enthusiastic players were also our worst ambassadors.  I hope that you will not recognize yourselves in the examples below, but if you do, please adjust.  Your enthusiasm is a given.

Spreading the knowledge  We had the nicest most generous woman, totally enthused about bridge in any form.  And she was quite knowledgeable.  She thought she was doing a service to mankind by spreading her knowledge.  I heard from many social bridge players that as she played duplicate, they were unwilling to try because a) there was no way they could match her knowledge and b) they did not want to hear all that claptrap while playing.  Remember playing bridge is challenging and fun.  If you fear it will only be challenging, why try?

Putting oneself on a pedestal   Overheard more than once.  “I love duplicate but I don’t think you are up to it”.  Usually by a player that definitely was not up to it.  Encourage, don’t disparage potential players.

Being too invested in a new player  So you bring a new to duplicate to the game.  Will the new player embarrass you?  Who cares.  If they play and all have a good time, all the better.  What I heard is “You can’t talk”  “Quiet”  “We can’t talk” “We don’t do it that way” etc.  This from someone who definitely found the few seconds of quiet while bidding difficult to handle.  But what was the message the new person took away?  No no no  what should they have heard  so glad  so glad  glad to see you  etc.  The rest of us will be thrilled that you brought someone new.

What will help?  Positive reinforcement, understanding of the mechanical and mental challenges of switching from social bridge to duplicate and a friendly, positive, and fun atmosphere.


Last updated : Jun 12, 2022 20:17 EDT