Andre Asbury

Do You Go to NABC’s Just for the Discounted Marriott Rate?

Chris Moll is one of the pros I like the most. He is pleasant to his partners, jokes around at the table, knows a little about all walks of life, and actually has good advice, not just about the technicalities of playing cards but about life. Last weekend, I was more of an observer in a conversation between Chris Moll and the Jengs’ parents about bridge. He was saying how years ago when he had a job in the financial industry, he would have to be careful about when he took off for bridge tournaments. It would be irresponsible to take off for a week and a half at the end of the month when things in his office were busy, but as long as he made sure to get his work done and get it done on time, they would let him go away to bridge tournaments whenever he wanted. That’s the way things should be, at least with people in professional jobs until proven to be abusing the system. Most of us don’t have that sort of flexibility with our jobs. Most of us have to show up at the office unless we’re on vacation and then only have a limited amount of vacation each year. But if you’re a lucky one that gets flexibility to work your own hours, don’t abuse the privilege – keep work a priority.

He had another take on bridge that I appreciated hearing. It can be a wonderful game and you can meet all kinds of wonderful and fascinating people and there’s something in it for everyone. Just find the part you like and enjoy it. Some people go to tournaments for the intense competition, some people go for the social aspects, some people go because it’s how they get paid, some people go for post mortem at the bar, and some people go as an excuse to travel. I’d say I go to tournaments more for the social aspects than ever before. That probably has to do with the fact that I am playing with more young people now and that I don’t have as much of a social life at home now. Lots of people attend national tournaments just to be part of the group but spend the whole time playing side games and regional events. Some sightsee and kibitz the whole time. Some play mornings while some struggle to get up for the afternoon games. But whatever you like about bridge, even if it’s just the discounted hotel rates at the Marriott in cool cities, go for it.

Some people get irritated with Moll’s table talk and dry sense of humor, something I generally appreciate but in day one of the Wernher Open Pairs, his table talk got to me a bit. We came to his table and I was in a pissy mood from the previous round and I apparently didn’t put it behind me soon enough. On the first hand, he ended up in 5D doubled and I held something like void, Axxxx, 9xxx, Qxxx. Anyway, partner led the K of spades and a couple of seconds after dummy came down with a heart void and a few small spades, Moll suggested that I ruff. Honestly, I had not decided yet and I tried to ignore the comment but he had that look of “let’s go ahead and get this hand over with”. I had 4 trumps and I know I would be ruffing a loser. If I discard, maybe partner will get in with the something and be able to cash a spade. That was my first thought, actually, but upon a more in depth look, it is clear that my trumps aren’t going to take tricks and the only important thing is to cut down on ruffs, so ruffing and leading a trump is the clear winner. I felt rushed and discarded before I was actually ready so he scored all 4 ruffs in dummy, enough for 11 tricks via 9 ruffs and 2 aces. It was maybe partly an ego thing of trying not to look like my dad who might actually need a long time to think about the situation. I should be able to know that ruffing and leading a trump is right within 2 seconds and Moll thought so too or else he wouldn’t have made that comment. I know he respects me a lot as a player and a person and I’ve never known him to be give bad advice or deliberately comment to steer me in the wrong direction, so next time, maybe I should just follow his advice blindly. If it’s not optimal, maybe I can call the director and get an adjustment.

Normally I don’t have a problem letting go of hands and moving on to another one. I may not be very pleasant at the table for a round or two after something really annoying happens but my mind is usually still on the current bridge hand. And me being intimidated is unheard of. Fortunately, since that hand got over quickly and the next one was short and boring, I got to take a nice long walk around the hotel to come back and make the previously-blogged-about 4S against Howard and Dari and finished up the session strongly.

Bottom line: Don’t let yourself be intimidated or rushed by someone who is better or thinks he is better than you. You are entitled to think unless it’s the fast pairs or midnight game, then yes, you deserve to be rushed a bit and the intimidating people aren’t so intimidating when they’re drunk. And don’t comment about the current deal in a serious game unless you’re claiming. It’s just impolite.

1 Comment

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 4th, 2010 at 10:31 pm


I found your commentary about the conflict between work and bridge very stimulating. Perhaps it is because my late husband, Norman Kay, lived the part.

Norman was an Account Executive (and VP) with Merrill Lynch for 37 years until he retired in 1987. We met and married in the early sixties and I couldn’t believe that such a world class bridge player could have total control over his devotion to his job and his love of the game and not be devoured by his passion for bridge. However, it was not the least bit of a challenge for him. He was in total control (which shocked me — as I, like others of my day, were total degenerates).

He usually arranged to play on five man teams (with Edgar) and I remember many an afternoon after the market closed, we would hop on a Metroliner headed for New York to arrive in time for the evening session (and then take the 12:05 a.m. back to Philly so he would be there in time for the opening bell the next day. It CAN be done. I was an eye witness.

When he attended the Nationals, the first thing he did when we arrived at the hotel (as I unpacked) was to call the local ML office, introduce himself and arrange to meet with the manager and have the use of an empty office to follow the market, call his office and arrange with his fellow co-worker to do what needed to be done for his clents — a ritual from Monday through Friday while at a tournament). The host manager was always very accommodating and many knew of Norman by name as well which made it less cumbersome.

I even recall a frustrating trip involving the above which ocurred on our way to Taipei in the early ’70s. We arrived at a local hotel as a stopover in Japan en route to the world championship. Being zealous to catch up on the last day that Norman missed while over the Pacific, we took a cab to the ML office about an hour away — only to find it was one of the two annual legal holidays observed and made a 360 degree turn back to the hotel. Funny the things one remembers.

Norman was one of the few top plays of his era who had a normal life (as normal as any bridge player can sustain) which included family, non-bridge playing friends, neighbors, close business associates and clients At one point in time, I believe Norman was the only one of the top ten master-point holders who did not depend on bridge for a livelihood.

Today’s experts, for the most part, are not faced with such mundane conflicts as few hold nine to five jobs and are acccountable to no one but their clients. Bridge does make the world go round!

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