Andre Bovee-Begun

Eric Rodwell in Conversation


Last week, Toronto had the privilege of hosting the 2011 Summer NABC, where world champions, rising stars, and bridge enthusiasts from across North America converged on our city. Of course, for Toronto to suddenly become the epicenter of the bridge world made for an exciting week at Master Point Press. Not a day went by when we weren’t honoring the Teacher of the Year, convening book signings with our most popular authors, and of course watching the unfolding tournament.

But one of our favorite moments happened early one morning, in a quiet corner of the Royal York hotel, when multiple world champion Eric Rodwell sat down with us and bridge journalist Mark Horton to talk about the philosophy underlying his groundbreaking new cardplay book, The Rodwell Files. The book, which has been nominated for the IBPA Book of the Year, has been flying off the shelves faster than it can be restocked, so it’s safe to say that it’s generated a lot of excitement in the bridge community. Rodwell sat down to talk to us about what players he envisioned the book for, how he thinks it will change the way people play and talk about bridge, and what else you can do to improve your game. You can watch the full interview below.



This year’s ABTA/MASTER POINT PRESS Teacher of the Year was announced today at the 2011 Summer NABC in Toronto. The honor goes to KATHIE WALSH! Above, last year’s top teacher Tina Radding joined Walsh, a fellow South Carolinian, to give her congratulations.


Above: Master Point Press’s Linda Lee (center, holding poster) with all eight 2011 finalists. (Back row, left to right) Richard Early, Jill McKormick, Gerry LaChance, and Dave Glandorf (Front row) Mary Jane Orock, Kathie Walsh, Linda King, and Lyde McReynolds.

The announcement capped off a morning of tributes to all eight of this year’s finalists. Anticipation grew palpable as the ABTA’s Marilyn Kalbfleisch read glowing testimonials from the nominees’ students. Many students came in person to support their teachers, and one in particular even had his own dedicated squad of cheerleaders:


Ever-popular (and all smiles), finalist Dave Glandorf came up from Texas and was joined by a trio of enthusiastic supporters who waved pom-poms and stirred up the crowd when Dave’s tribute came around.

Just before announcing the recipient of this year’s award, Marilyn paused to honor all the nominees. “All of them are winners,” she said.



The 2011 Summer NABC in Toronto

* Following the NABC? Have you checked the latest Daily Bulletins? *

500844631_28ee38b1d8WELCOME TO TORONTO!

Master Point Press is pleased to welcome the 2011 Summer NABC to our hometown of Toronto, Ontario. We hope you’ll join us all week long for awards and events, signings with top author, prizes, and of course lots of bridge.

First time in Toronto? Here’s Linda Lee’s take: “Toronto … my kind of town

Following the PATH

The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes it as the world’s largest underground shopping complex, but it’s much more than that. The “Underground City” comprises of 16 miles of air-conditioned walkways for getting around Toronto’s bustling downtown — perfect for getting out of the sun. Stretching from Dundas Street and the Eaton’s Centre on the north, it winds all the way down to a stone’s throw from the waterfront, in a web of well-kept underground passages lined with restaurants, boutiques, and premium services. Not only is the PATH a unique and fascinating part of Toronto, it also connects directly to the Sheraton Hotel and numerous shops and attractions downtown. These include the CN Tower and Roy Thompson Hall (home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the heart of the theatre district). Make a point of taking a stroll down the PATH — just bring a map, because it really is a city in its own right!

>> PATH Map (Printable PDF)


The authors of many of our most popular books will be here to say hello and sign copies of their books. Stop by all week long for book signings!

Signing Flyer

Announcing the Winner of the 2nd Annual ABTA/Master Point Press Teacher of the Year Award

The winner will be announced by Marilyn Kalbfleish and Linda Lee on Wednesday, July 20th in the Royal York Hotel at 9:45 a.m.

Articles on the Teacher of the Year Award

What makes a great teacher?

And a heartfelt Congratulations to all 2011 Nominees and Finalists!

ABTA poster

Read Rodwell, Take More Tricks



If you heard that Eric Rodwell, known for his cerebral approach to bidding, had written a book, you might assume that it was all about how to reach the best contract on every deal.

You would be wrong.

The Rodwell Files, published by Master Point Press, focuses almost exclusively on card play. Rodwell is in Poznan to play in the Open Teams, and he took some time out to talk about the book.

The project, Rodwell says, had its genesis in the Eighties, when he started making notes on the computer. “I felt things should have names,” he says, “so I used to put names to lots of plays.” Doing so, Rodwell says, makes the concepts easier to remember – and recall at the table.

In the days when he was first collecting notes, Rodwell was a semi-regular visitor to Toronto – his son and daughter were living there with his ex-wife. On one visit, Rodwell showed his notes to Canadian star Fred Gitelman, who showed them to Ray Lee, owner of Master Point Press.

Rodwell declined Lee’s invitation to make the notes into a book. “I didn’t think there was enough there,” he says.

In 2009, Lee suggested to Rodwell that the project could get off the ground by involving Mark Horton, editor of Bridge magazine in England. In fact, the book is listed as by Eric Rodwell with Mark Horton.

Horton approached the project with enthusiasm. “Forty years ago,” Horton says, “I read Reese on Play, a book that changed the way I though about bridge forever. Having just finished working on The Rodwell Files, I believe we have another book in the same mold that will revolutionize the way we think about play and defence and influence generations of players for years to come.”

With Horton supplying some of the illustrative deals and Rodwell having added to his collection over the years, the book grew from the original 40 pages of notes to more than 400 pages.

Rodwell estimates that deals from actual play make up about 40% of the contents. There are nearly 300 deals in the book. He and Horton worked hard on categorizing various situations, such as when to lead an unsupported honor or when to duck a winner.

The goal, he adds, is to make advanced card play concepts understandable to average players. “Most books target bidding because it’s easy,” Rodwell says, “but if you learn bidding and not card play, you’re not going to get very far.”

Here’s an example of a play named by Rodwell. It’s the “Knockout or Entry Fly.”

Say you are in a notrump contract with your right-hand opponent having overcalled 1. Dummy has J 5 4 and you have A 10 6. LHO leads the 8. You have some work to do on your contract, and you know your RHO is good enough to play the 9 if you play low from dummy. His plan is to make you win cheaply at trick one, then let his partner get in and play another spade, on which he will play the queen, forcing your ace then or at the next trick. His suit will then be set up.

Rodwell’s view of this play is that putting up the jack from dummy will force the queen from RHO, allowing you to duck and thereby cut communication between your opponents in the spade suit or – if RHO plays low on the J – provide a potentially useful dummy entry at trick one.

There are many others – “Cash and Thrash,” involving the trump suit, is another – and Rodwell feels that the book hits its target in illustrating important concepts and “helping the average player by explaining things in a way they can understand.”

Here is an excerpt from the book:


Now let’s move on to some general tactical ideas — some of them are legitimate, in the sense that the opposition can do nothing to counter them, while others depend on inducing an (often slight) error. The speed of lightning play is one of my favorites. As any fan of the band Queen will anticipate, it can be very, very frightening.

If RHO is the dangerous opponent, you can often lead away from a holding like AJx in dummy toward holdings in the closed hand headed by the ten, on the theory that RHO won’t go up with Q x (x). A common variation is where you lead low from K J x toward 10 9 x x x in hand. Of course, you must be able to afford to lose a trick to RHO later on. This play is most valuable when you have something like Qx opposite AJx in hand in the suit they led (dummy’s queen having won Trick 1), where East can’t hurt you later, only now.

This play is so named because East will play low at the speed of lightning, as a matter of habit. In fact, if he knows that he is the dangerous opponent, there is every reason for him to play the queen (danger hand high!) since if he ducks, declarer will doubtless try some coverage ducking play.

Here’s a full deal showing the play in its purest form:


Q 3

A 9 4 2

K J 3

8 7 5 4


A J 5

K 3

10 9 6 5 4

A K 3

West North East South

West leads the 6 to dummy’s queen, East playing low. With only six top tricks you need to develop the diamonds. As long as East doesn’t get in on the first diamond lead, with the queen, you are safe. So your best shot is to lead the 3 from dummy at Trick 2, hoping East, dealt Q x, plays low at the speed of lightning. The whole deal is:


Q 3

A 9 4 2

K J 3

8 7 5 4


K 10 8 6 4

Q 8 5

A 8 2

10 6


9 7 2

J 10 7 6

Q 7

Q J 9 2


A J 5

K 3

10 9 6 5 4

A K 3

Rodwell’s newest book is not his first. He and Audrey Grant collaborated on four books, one of them on the 2/1 game force bidding system. He has consistently resisted suggestions to put RM Precision – the bidding system he and partner Jeff Meckstroth use – into book form.

As for The Rodwell Files, the author says it’s a matter of sharing what he has learned over the years. “If I have discovered some things,” he says, “at some point I should put them out there.”

If the book helps his opponents play better, Rodwell adds, at least he will know that “my opponents’ opponents will play better, too.”

Opening the Rodwell Files

To say that we’re excited about Eric Rodwell’s upcoming book, The Rodwell Files, might be the understatement of the year. Perhaps the best — and certainly one of the most accomplished — players in the world, Rodwell is as formidable a teacher as he is an opponent. His original “Rodwell Files” were little more than a loose set of notes, passed from hand to lucky hand, outlining Rodwell’s groundbreaking style of card play. After over twenty years, those rough notes are now yielding to a definitive treatment, fleshed out and expanded by Rodwell himself, with countless illuminating examples from top-level play. Almost any reader is guaranteed to encounter ideas and techniques they have never seen before.

The Rodwell Files, already shortlisted for the IBPA Book of the Year, will be available in print and as an eBook in a matter of weeks, but for readers who can’t wait we’re divulging a sneak-preview sample (download it here) and sharing our thoughts on the biggest bridge book of the year (literally as well as figuratively: the finished tome weighs in at a hefty 400 pages).

Here are our “The Rodwell Files“-Files:

The Rodwell Files — an editor’s perspective: Editor Ray Lee on how The Rodwell Files came to be, and the roles he, Rodwell, and BRIDGE Magazine publisher Mark Horton played in wrestling the insights of a groundbreaking career into a single cohesive, enlightening volume.

Eric Rodwell … bridge champion and now bridge author: Linda Lee gives some personal background on the book, and on why she is so excited to see Rodwell’s “secrets” spreading through the bridge world.

The Lone Wolff-ess: Getting to know Judy Kay-Wolff

It’s safe to say that Judy Kay-Wolff is a pillar of the community. Her blog runs the gamut of bridge topics, and doesn’t shy away from touching the occasional nerve. As someone who’s spent her life at the center of the bridge world, Judy has seen a lot, and has a lot to say about it all. Not only that, but she has a confirmed talent for sparking vigorous discussions as readers pile on to have their say.

In the past, we’ve interviewed and profiled the authors of new or upcoming bridge books. To shake things up a little, we thought it was high time to start taking an in-depth look at the bloggers who make up Whether for new visitors or long-time readers, it’s practically impossible to imagine Bridgeblogging without Judy in the middle of things — right where she’s been for over fifty years. So we sat down with Judy and asked her to take a break from blogging about all things bridge, and instead to tell us a little about herself. Here’s what she had to say:

Read the rest of this entry »

Bridge Base Online Turns 10!

Happy birthday, Bridge Base Online! Saturday, April 23rd marks the much-loved online bridge website’s 10th anniversary. A decade of bringing bridge online is the latest milestone in BBO’s already impressive history, which also includes introducing robots to the bridge table and helping to bring the VuGraph/PenderGraph to a wide audience. Needless to say, this is all thanks to its hard-working, bridge-loving partners.

What better time than the present to take a look back at the story of how BBO became a favorite destination of bridge players on the internet?

The Founder

While BBO has always been a team effort, it would never have been possible without Fred’s ongoing work. The site was Fred’s brainchild, helped along by countless others. Along with his tireless partner Uday, his wife Sheri, and new partners Bill Gates, Sharon Osberg, and David Smith, Fred has built BBO into a tremendous success. But none of it might ever have happened if it weren’t for a lucky coincidence.

One Game-Changing Phone Call

Fred tells the story of how, back in 1994, a fateful phone call from Warren Buffet set off the chain of events that led to BBO as we know it. At the time, Bridge Base was a CD-ROM-based program and Fred was just beginning to consider the possibilities of transmitting bridge data over a computer network. And then the Sage of Omaha called to place an order, and Fred leapt at the chance to ask him for some business advice. Before long, this led to an introduction to Bill Gates, who was also interested in the future of bridge online. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Hitting the Big Time

Like Master Point Press, Fred has his roots in Toronto, Ontario. But these days, he spends his time in Las Vegas — when he’s not travelling to play in bridge tournaments. In addition to founding BBO, Fred has become a leading bridge player in world-class competitions, winning one World Bridge Championship, five North American Bridge Championships, and a gold medal in the World Bridge Federation’s IOC Grand Prix. You may have also know him as Bill Gates’s bridge coach.

You might be able to glean some insight into Fred’s winning technique by tracking him down at BBO (user name: fred), or by reading some of the books and articles he’s written about the game. In addition, Fred has written a book about the hands, partners, and opponents he’s faced in world-level competition, including Gates and Buffet. Intrigued? You can read all about it in Master Class: Lessons from the Bridge Table. Fred is also featured in Marc Smith’s book World Class: Conversations with the Bridge Masters.

From the Master Point Press archives

Fred Gitelman has published numerous articles in Master Point Magazine, which are available for free download, including his three-part series on 2/1 bidding, which is now available in its entirety for the first time in 17 years!

Presenting a “lost” Fred Gitelman article: Improving 2/1 auctions — the sequel

Back in 1993, in the pages of Canadian Master Point Magazine, Bridge Base founder Fred Gitelman began a three-part series on improving 2/1 bidding. BBO fans should recognize that system as the specialty of BBO’s bridge “robot,” GIB, and so they might be very interested to hear Fred’s thoughts on the subject.

However, to their dismay, only the issues containing Part 1 and Part 3 of the series are available as free downloads. Part 2 of the series simply vanished down the digital memory hole for 17 long years. But, just in time for Bridge Base Online’s upcoming 10th anniversary, I was going through the archives and I came across the missing “long-lost” second installment of the series. So here it is, republished for the first time in nearly two decades. As much a historical curiosity as an insightful technical article, this piece has Fred plunging his readers into the details of complex bidding structures and wrinkles in the system. It’s not for the faint of heart, but you may find it well worth a careful reading.

One word of warning: rescuing this article from obscurity required a fair amount of digital archaeology, and it’s entirely possible that I’ve introduced errors into it. If you do come across any mistakes a player of Fred Gitelman’s caliber is unlikely to make, let me know so I can repair any unintended damage!

Improving 2/1 Auctions — The Sequel

By Fred Gitelman

I have written an article for each and every issue of Canadian Master Point since it began, but it was only in the last issue (November 1993) that I wrote my first article about bidding, specifically on improving the way that most people play 2/1 game force. Much to my surprise, I received far more fan-mail than usual, and many people requested a follow-up article. Well, readers, you asked for it! I recommend that you (re-)read the November 1993 article (and make some coffee) before reading this one. I have tried to keep things as simple as possible, but unfortunately, the subject is complex. As a result, what follows is at times technical in the extreme.

“Last Train to Clarksville”

“Last Train to Clarksville” (LTTC) is a convention I mentioned at the end of my last article, claiming that it was necessary to make the method of cue-bidding that I recommend effective. The definition is simple:

The bid by either partner of the step immediately below 4 of our agreed major (4 if hearts agreed, 4♥ if spades agreed) is LTTC, asking partner for more information.

Despite its apparent simplicity, LTTC is not an easy convention to understand, not least because it carries different meanings depending on exactly how the auction has gone. However, before I attempt to tell you how LTTC is used, I first want to define what I mean when I use the term “Blackwood” in this discussion.

It is assumed that we play some sort of Roman Keycard Blackwood. This means that the king of the agreed trump suit counts as a fifth ace and that it is also possible to find out about the trump queen. However, in this structure, by bidding Blackwood, we are committing the hand to the six level unless more than one of these six cards is missing. You cannot use Blackwood and sign off when you discover that only one is missing. Since people seem to do this all the time against me, perhaps it is an acceptable practice in some schools of bidding theory. It is not an acceptable practice in the methods I am discussing. I think you will gain some insight into why this is so as you read on.

I shall also refer to a convention called “Lackwood”. As you will realize, if you are playing LTTC, you may no longer be able to cue-bid the LTTC suit (diamonds if hearts is agreed, hearts if spades is agreed). Lackwood is a bid of 5 of the agreed major, and bidding Lackwood always denies control of the LTTC suit. It is either bid immediately after LTTC or as a direct raise of 4 of the agreed major. Bidding Lackwood is a last resort. It is a convention you should go out of your way not to use. Most of the time you can infer the presence or absence of a control in the LTTC suit and simply bid Blackwood. Lackwood can, however, be used to resolve any problems of missing controls in the LTTC suit while retaining the possibility of bidding grand slams.

The responses to Lackwood are:

Pass No control in LTTC suit
1st step 1st round control of LTTC suit & 0/3 kc
2nd step 1st round control of LTTC suit & 1/4 kc
3rd step 1st round control of LTTC suit, 2 kc, no Q
4th step 1st round control of LTTC suit, 2 kc & Q
6 of our major     2nd round control of LTTC suit

(If you prefer to play 1430 RKCB feel free to invert the 1st and 2nd steps.)

LTTC in action — basic sequences

  • When is a bid LTTC and not a cue-bid? There are a number of simple rules:
  • We have an agreed 8+ card major suit fit at the 3-level and the bidding is forced to game.
  • We have embarked upon a cue-bidding auction of the type discussed in the last article.
  • One hand has shown serious slam interest. There are two ways to show serious slam interest. One way is by bidding Serious 3NT; the other way is by continuing to try for slam despite the fact that partner has denied serious slam interest by bypassing Serious 3NT.

If all the above apply, then a bid of 4 of the suit immediately below the trump suit is LTTC

However, there is no simple rule for what the LTTC bid itself means, since it doesn’t always mean the same thing. Assuming that we have agreed a major suit at the 3-level, there are sixteen possible LTTC sequences. In four of these sequences, which are shown below, LTTC has a very specific meaning. In each case, the first couple of rounds of the auction have been omitted, the first bid in each case being assumed to set the trump suit.

Auction 1     3♠     3NT
4 4♥ (LTTC)

In Auction 1, 3NT is Serious. 4 shows a control in diamonds and denies a control in clubs (see last article); 4♥ is LTTC. In this example LTTC means:

“Partner, I have forced you to cue-bid and I do not know how good your hand is. If I were to bid 4♠ it would be an absolute signoff, a statement that we have at least two club losers. I have the club control that you are lacking, but my hand is flawed in some way so that I cannot bid Blackwood. Perhaps you have sufficient strength to move towards slam (by bidding Blackwood or Lackwood depending on the heart situation).”

Auction 2     3♥     3NT
4 (LTTC)

In Auction 2, 3NT is Serious but it denies a spade control (else 3♠ would have been bid); 4 is LTTC (denying a club control). In this example LTTC means:

“Partner, you have shown a strong hand with no control in spades. If I also had no spade control, I would bid 4♥ as an absolute signoff. I cannot bid 4♣ (showing both spades and clubs controlled), nor can I bid above 4♥ because I do not have a club control; therefore, I am bidding LTTC. Since my hand is still unlimited, you are expected to continue (Blackwood or Lackwood, depending on the diamond situation) any time you have a club control.”

Auction 3      3♠     3NT
4♣ 4♥ (LTTC)

In Auction 3, 3NT is serious and 4♣ is a cue-bid; 4♥ is LTTC, denying a diamond control. In this example, LTTC means:

“Partner, I have taken control of the auction, but I am lacking a diamond control. If you do not have a diamond control either, please sign off. Otherwise, please bid Blackwood (or Lackwood, depending on the heart situation).”

The message conveyed by bidding 4♠ instead of 4♥ (LTTC) in this sequence would be:

“Partner, I have shown extra values, but I am lacking a diamond control. If you have a diamond control, please use your own judgement as to whether you should pass or bid Blackwood (or Lackwood, depending on the heart situation).”

Auction 4      3♠     4♣
4♥ (LTTC)    

In Auction 4, 4♣ is a cue-bid denying serious slam interest (else 3NT); 4♥ is LTTC. In this example, LTTC means:

“Partner, you have told me that you have a minimum hand, but I am still interested in slam; however, I am lacking a diamond control. If you also have no control of diamonds, please sign off; otherwise, please bid Blackwood (or Lackwood, depending on the heart situation).”

In the first two auctions, LTTC is a statement that a control exists in a particular suit. In the last two auctions, LTTC is a question that asks for a control in a particular suit. In all of these auctions, LTTC is completely artificial, saying nothing about the suit mentioned.

LTTC in action — complex sequences

These four LTTC auctions are straightforward enough, if complex. However, there are twelve more LTTC auctions in which there are several possible meanings for the LTTC bid, and you must establish partnership agreements. Here are some examples:3

Auction 5     3♠     4

4 is a cue-bid denying serious slam interest and denying a club control. What does 4♥ mean? It must show extra values and a club control, since without either of these, you would signoff in 4♠. What else does it show or ask? There are three possibilities, from which you and your partner must select one:

  1. It shows a heart control, but in a hand with not quite enough strength to bid Blackwood. The message is that the other hand should use its judgement as to whether or not to bid Blackwood.
  2. It denies a heart control. The message is that the other hand must bid Blackwood with a heart control and bid 4♠ otherwise.
  3. It says nothing about a heart control: the message here is that the 4♥ bidder is still interested in slam, but needs help somewhere. Partner can choose to bid Blackwood with a heart control (or Lackwood without one).
Auction 6      3♥     4?

4 clearly denies spade and club controls as well as serious slam interest. This time there are only two possible additional messages to choose from:

  1. It shows a diamond control; bidding 4 instead would deny a diamond control.
  2. It says nothing about a diamond control but shows a good hand given what has been denied already (you should have a good minimum with no control in spades or clubs – chances are you do have a diamond control if you still have slam interest). This interpretation implies that you could sometimes bid 4♥ with a really bad hand even if it includes a diamond control. With a really good hand with controls in spades and clubs, the 3♥ bidder can still choose to bid either Blackwood (or Lackwood, depending on the diamond situation).

I prefer to play interpretation c) in Auction 5 and interpretation b) in Auction 6, even though these interpretations cause there to be a little bit of murkiness in an otherwise highly structured cue-bidding style. In my experience, however, the partner of the LTTC bidder can almost always figure out when to go on. Therefore, I am going to propose the following interpretation of LTTC for auctions other than the first four examples:

Bidding LTTC means that you are still interested in slam, but do not have sufficient values or controls to bid Blackwood. You would like to involve your partner’s judgement.

If your hand is suitable for Blackwood, but you lack a control in the LTTC suit, then bid LTTC, not Lackwood. You hope that partner will take over and bid Blackwood, but if partner signs off you can still judge to use Lackwood if you want.

Bidding 4 of the agreed major instead of LTTC is an absolute signoff when:

  1. Partner is known to be missing a control.
  2. Partner has denied serious slam interest and you have not yet limited your hand.

Bidding 4 of the agreed major instead of LTTC shows a lesser hand than bidding LTTC but does not preclude slam when:

You or your partner have made a serious slam try and there are no suits (besides the LTTC suit) with unresolved control problems.

Slam bidding summary

Here is a summary of the slam-bidding structure I have described in these two articles:

When an 8+ card major suit fit is agreed at the three-level and the bidding is forced to game (as in 2/1 auctions):

  • Cue-bidding starts one step above 3 of the agreed major. Cue-bidding is done “up-the-line”. Bypassing a suit denies that control.
  • A cue-bid in an unbid suit shows any first- or second-round control (ace, king, singleton, or void).
  • A cue-bid in the first suit you have bid shows two of the top three honours. A cue-bid in a suit your partner has bid shows one of the top three honours.
  • 4NT is always some form of Roman Keycard Blackwood. RKCB is forcing to slam if only one keycard or the trump queen is absent.
  • 3NT shows “serious slam interest”. A better description is that it assumes the captaincy, forcing partner to cue-bid. By bidding Serious 3NT you also force yourself to show your (unlimited) partner any controls he has denied (possibly via LTTC — see Auction 1 above).
  • Bypassing 3NT to cue-bid denies “serious slam interest”. A better description is that such a bid relinquishes captaincy; that is, you will respect your partner’s signoff, but respond appropriately to his slam try having already got the minimum nature of your hand off your chest.
  • Bidding the last step below 4 of our major (4 for Hearts, 4♥ for Spades) is Last Train to Clarksville. Bidding LTTC versus bidding 4 of our major can carry different messages; depending on the exact auction, LTTC means either:
  1. I have a specific control that you denied.
  2. Please tell me if you have a specific control.
  3. I want you to use your judgement.
  4. Some combination of 1, 2, and 3.

Other wrinkles

There are a few other aspects of these methods that I recommend:

1. Play 1430 RKCB instead of 0314.

I shall not go into the rationale for this here.

2. If hearts is the agreed suit, play that a bid of 4♠ is a “transfer to Blackwood”.

This is an especially useful bid if you want to bid RKCB but fear a response of 5♠ (2 kc with the queen) will get you too high; having your partner bid Blackwood will solve the problem. You should also bid 4♠ instead of 4NT if your own RKCB response would be 5♣ and you lack the trump queen (you can figure out why).

3. Whenever a major suit is agreed, a bid of five of any other suit is “Exclusion RKCB”.

This means that you have a void in the bid suit and you want to know how many keycards your partner has, not counting the ace of your void. Before you make this sort of bid, make sure none of the possible responses will get you too high if you are off two keycards.

Note that suggestions 2. and 3. are agreements that have serious disaster potential, so use them with care. Always remember we never cue-bid at the five level.

In conclusion

If you and your partner feel that you thoroughly understand this both article and my last one, you are probably ready to try these methods. However, I suggest that you practice bidding with computer-generated hands (I sell them) before you actually try playing the structure I have described.

One final point: the rules are not clear in this area, but I think it is best not to alert Serious 3NT, LTTC, or your cue-bids, since it will probably help you more than your opponents to do so. Instead, inform the opponents of the nature of your auction before the opening lead is made.

Every Fred Gitelman article in Canadian Master Point Magazine is a free download

Just in time for BBO’s big tenth anniversary (congratulations!) we wanted to take a moment to recall that a trove of BBO founder Fred Gitelman’s articles for Canadian Master Point Magazine are available as free downloads from

Turning back the clock to a time before BBO took shape — and before Fred launched his world-class bridge career — these articles give a fascinating window into his development as a player and a bridge innovator.

In light of the tremendous impact BBO has had, on especially interesting read is his 1992 article “Computers and Bridge,” which offers an intriguingly candid look at the strengths and weaknesses of bridge-playing programs, and the unique ways in which humans and computers can contribute to the game.

For the technically minded, Fred’s three-part series on Improved 2/1 Bidding is now available in its complete form for the first time in 17 years! As BBO users familiar with the site’s bridge “robot” know, 2/1 is the bidding system it is programmed to use, making Gitelman’s 2/1 series especially eye-catching. Parts 1 and 3 have long been available for download as part of their original issues of CMP magazine, but the middle installment had vanished into obscurity — until today, when we rediscovered Part 2 and published it in its entirety.

And then of course there are Fred’s many observations of competitions around the world, with recaps like the star-studded Politiken World Pairs inaugural tournament, where he shared the field with the likes of Omar Sharif and Sabine Auken.

Here’s the full list:

Computers and Bridge. January, 1992.

CNTC 94. September, 1994.

Deja vu again… and again. July, 1995.

Hands from here and there. October, 1995.

Wonderful Copenhagen. January, 1996.

A suitable study. April, 1996.

Canadians at the Cavendish. July, 1996.

Miami highlights. October, 1996.

Better 2/1 Auctions: Three-Part Series 

Improving 2/1 auctions (Part 1). November, 1993.

Improving 2/1 Auctions (Part 2). January, 1994. — New online!

Better 2/1 auctions (Part 3). June, 1994.

Doctor Without Borders for Japan Disaster Relief


Hello everyone,

It’s a little-known fact that, before I joined Master Point Press and Bridgeblogging, I was an English teacher living and working in  Japan. I lived in the city of Kobe, the site of the last major earthquake to hit Japan prior to this current disaster.  I saw evidence every day of Japan’s ability to recover from these large-scale disasters and developed a hearty respect and love for the Japanese people and culture.


The minute I heard about the earthquake on March 11, I started frantically writing letters to my friends and former coworkers still living in Japan. I’m relieved to say that they all wrote back to say they were unhurt. One friend even sent me a picture of his baby daughter, who was just weeks old when the quake hit.


While my friends are thankfully safe and sound, I’ve spent the last 10 days reeling from reports of the damage and upheaval caused by the earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear emergencies, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and so on. It’s been hard to watch at times, all the more so because I was in Japan just six months ago and still have so many friends there.


I am sure that you are being bombarded by appeals to donate to the relief efforts and are wondering if your donation will truly reach those in need.  After much research, my partner Andra and I have set up a link to Doctors Without Borders through the website. Any funds that are donated via their secure funds transfer are immediately transferred to Doctors Without Borders and put to work in Japan.

While it is true that Japan is a highly developed country, well prepared for this kind of horrific event, no one could have anticipated the scale and complications of this disaster.  Your donation will really help.

Here is the link to donate:

No donation is too small. With people around the world showing their support for disaster recovery, the generosity on display has been humbling. According to Doctors Without Borders, $35 provides 2 meals a day for around 200 children. $100 buys antibiotics for 40 wounded people. So far, the amount we’ve raised is enough for emergency medical supplies for 5,000 disaster victims for an entire month.

I’m proud and grateful to say that Master Point Press is making a donation. I know many of us have friends or connections to Japan, and that we’ve all been moved by these horrible events and want to help in any way we can.


Thank you!