Musings on Duplicate Bridge

The Duplicate Bridge ‘Blame’ Chip

Posted 6/17/2015.

A favorite topic among duplicate bridge players is just who’s to blame for a particular screw-up.  Bridge is a somewhate unique sport in that it requires two players per side, and both players in a partnership contribute to success or failure.  A really good player can make up for many (but not all) mistakes by a weaker player, but winning partnerships require that both players minimize their mistakes. Most established (and all successful) partnerships have developed a way of handling the blame issue in a way that doesn’t degrade or destroy the partnership.  One pair that I know describes this process as ‘blame management’.  The idea, so they say (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) is to bid in a way that ensures that any blame for mistakes will fall on one’s partner rather than oneself.  This incentivizes each partner to bid as correctly as possible given the partnership agreement (their convention card) and the particular circumstances at the time.  Having ‘a bright idea’ and ‘going off piste’ might work, but if it doesn’t the blame will fall squarely on the errant partner (and even if it does work, it might incur significant blame for not adhering strictly to the partnership agreement).

I liked this idea of ‘blame management’ so much that I have tried to incorporate it into my own partnerships; I try to get the idea of blame management out in the open early on, so my partner is (hopefully) comfortable with the idea of assigning blame in an open and humorous way, rather than letting issues fester.  Lately I have started describing this as ‘moving the blame chip from one side of the table to the other’, and that got me thinking that maybe I could use my engineering and 3D printing capabilities to fabricate an actual, physical ‘Blame Chip’.

I started this project as I do almost all my new projects – researching on the internet with Google.  I found card and pip images, and then I found a set of zip files with 3D models of all the various card elements.  From this I extracted the 4 pips I needed (clubs, hearts, spades, diamonds), and arranged them circularly around the word ‘BLAME’, as shown in the following screenshot.

TinkerCad design for the Duplicate Bridge Blame Chip

TinkerCad design for the Duplicate Bridge Blame Chip

Then I printed it on my MicroCenter 3D Pro 3D printer, using blue and white (the two colors I had on the machine at the time).  Here are some photos of the result.

3D printed version of the 'Duplicate Bridge Blame Chip'.  The chip laying on the pen is actually two chips glued together to form a 2-sided chip.

3D printed version of the ‘Duplicate Bridge Blame Chip’. The chip laying on the pen is actually two chips glued together to form a 2-sided chip.

The items that come off the printer are blank on the reverse side, so to get a real 2-sided ‘poker chip’ style item, I simply printed two chips and glued them together.  In the photo above, the chip leaning on the pen is a 2-sided version, while the others are single-sided.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, as the sudden appearance of a real, physical ‘blame’ chip at the table may have unintended (read ‘disastrous’) consequences.  My wife has suggested these might make great bridge party favors, and I may try giving some of these away to established partnerships before I get too ambitious. Also, I will probably try printing some with white pips on a red background to see how they look.

Frank

 

Gatlinburg, Tn NABC Regional, Postscript

April 18, 2015

I’m writing this from home on Saturday, after travelling back from Gatlinburg.  I got up this morning, had a last big breakfast at the Pancake Cabin, was on the road about 8:30 am, and was back here by 3:30 pm.  Got another 4-5 hours of prime book-listening time on ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’, and home in plenty of time to catch up on email and write this post.  I also was treated to another ‘alternate reality’ experience as I left the Gatlinburg area.  When I came off the mountain road back into civilization, (if you can call that strip ‘civilized’), I saw mile after mile of antique cars lining the road on both sides of this big 4-lane highway, with people sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk as if they were watching a parade!  Evidently I had stumbled through some sort of regular antique car show/sales event.  I mean, they sometimes have something like this in the parking lot of our local DQ restaurant, but this went on for miles!

Just to round out my partnership desk experiences, my morning session partner never showed, so I was left with nothing to do until Mary and I played the Friday afternoon and evening 299 pairs.  We did OK in the afternoon (52%, 0.46 MP red), but we really hit the jackpot in the evening pairs/team game, with a 61% for 3.81 MP red.  Mary was ecstatic (I was pretty happy too!), and it was a wonderful way to end my first Gatlinburg experience.

Mary and I managed a 61% game, taking 1st overall and 3.81 red

Mary and I managed a 61% game, taking 1st overall and 3.81 red

Gatlinburg Regional Mug/Pencil Holder

Gatlinburg Regional Mug/Pencil Holder

All in all, I had a wonderful time, got to meet and play with some tremendously nice folks, and even got a few points in the bargain (no gold though, drat!).  I’ll be back there next year, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise!

Frank

 

Gatlinburg, Tn NABC Regional, Part II

Posted 04/17/15

I’m writing this from my hotel room Friday morning, killing time before the afternoon pairs sessions start at 1pm.  This is my last day here at the Gatlinburg tournament, and I must say I’ve gotten my money’s worth (not in points, unfortunately, but in fun and experience).  I was told that this was a great regional to play in, and I certainly agree with that assessment now.  The organization was superb, the facilities great, and the people uniformly pleasant and helpful; doesn’t get any better than that (well, I could have played a lot better, but that’s not their fault;-) ).

Hugh, Judy, Dee and I played in a Knockout (KO) game Monday afternoon, as we had been told this was the best route to gold points.  In the KO format, teams of 4 compete against other teams in a 12-board Swiss Team game, and the losing team is ‘knocked out’ of the competition.  If you win a couple of rounds of this, you are pretty much assured of getting some gold points.   However, the downside is if you lose, you are out of the game entirely.  Well, we basically got our rear ends kicked, so our hopes for gold points were dashed  pretty soundly.  Being the persistent sorts, Hugh and I tried again the next day with a pickup team, and this time we got through one round before being KO’d, and we even tried a 3rd KO game the next day with another pickup pair, and again got KO’d on the first round.  This was pretty disappointing, as we thought we were bringing a pretty decent game to the party.  In retrospect it looks more like we brought knives to a gunfight! ;-).

After that, Hugh and I decided we would try our luck at the partnership desk, and I got hooked up with a ‘young’ (30 pts) player from Marrietta Ga, named Mary.  She and I were able to put together a 40% for the first session of a two session ‘Gold Rush’ pairs game, and a 57% for the second one. We got some red points for the 57% game, but because we hadn’t done well in the first session, we missed out on the gold. :-(.  We did, however, have a lot of fun, so that was it’s own sort of ‘gold’.  The next day (Thursday), Mary and I played in another Gold Rush 2-session game, but were unable to get out of the 40’s for either session.  After that, Mary suggested we try the stratified 2-session game for Friday, thinking that the non Gold Rush fever types might be a little bit easier for her, and I agreed.

So, Mary and I will play these last two sessions today, and then I’ll be on my way back home again tomorrow morning, in my red Ford F-150 with ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ on the CD player again.  I won’t be taking any gold back with me, but I will be taking memories of some really great bridge played with some really great people, in a very interesting setting.  Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back here again next year! ;-).

Frank

 

Gatlinburg, Tn NABC Regional, Part I

Posted 04/12/15

I’m writing this from my room in the Le Conte View Motor Lodge, right across the street from the Gatlinburg Convention Center, site of the 2015 Gatlilnburg NABC Regional Tournament.  I’m down here with Hugh, Trish, Judy and Dee from the Columbus Bridge Center, hunting for gold “in them there hills” ;-).

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this adventure – I just wanted to come down here and play some bridge, maybe earn a few points and experience a regional tournament.  I drove myself in my trusty Ford F-150 pickup (not your normal bridge vehicle, that’s for sure!).  I put the hotel address into my Tom Tom GPS, and ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ by David NIven into my CD player, and hit the road, expecting to arrive in some sleepy town in southeastern Tennessee.  What I did not expect was the abrupt transition from suburban Knoxville to some sort of combination of alternate-reality,  fun-house carnival, beach resort, and mountain hideaway!  I first realized something strange was going on when  I started passing Hollywood-themed establishments packed side-by-side with each other; King Kong clinging to a skyscraper on this side, the Titanic complete with water rushing by its bow on the other, and a 3-story upside-down courthouse, complete with upside-down lawn and trees!  Then there was another abrupt transition from all the fun-house madness to an idyllic mountain road (albeit a modern 4-lane one) by an idyllic mountain stream, with no human habitations in sight.  This continued up into the Smoky Mountains right into the city limits of Gatlinburg.  In fact, I had begun to wonder whether I had missed a turn or something, when, with no warning at all, I was deposited back into the fun-house/beach resort alternate reality.  Ripley’s Museum, a quickie marriage chapel, a ‘Space Needle’ (how did I get from Tennessee to Washington state?), and everything else a person might dream of (in a nightmare about being lost on the boardwalk of a beach resort).  People everywhere, walking along the one main street.  Cars everywhere, driving at 5mph.  Long lines of motorcycles, also driving 5 mph, most with two riders.  Pickup trucks filled with hillbillies with the confederate flag prominently displayed.  Buildings crammed together check-by-jowl as if every square inch of real estate was more precious than gold (and I suspect it is!).  I found my hotel without any problem, because it, like every other hotel/motel in Gatlinburg, fronts on the one main street.  As I pulled into the hotel parking lot, I noticed that the hotel buildings (there are three, I think) are all oriented perpendicular to the street, reinforcing the impression that street frontage is hugely expensive.

Rooftops looking southeast from my hotel room

Rooftops looking southeast from my hotel room

Looking east from my room.  The convention center can be seen in the background, just across the street from the hotel

Looking east from my room. The convention center can be seen in the background, just across the street from the hotel

Looking northeast from my hotel room, the Gatlinburg 'Space Needle'

Looking northeast from my hotel room, the Gatlinburg ‘Space Needle’

Le Conte View Motor Lodge, seen from the steps of the convention center

Le Conte View Motor Lodge, seen from the convention center

I got checked into my room and decided to walk around a bit and get myself oriented for tomorrows tournament start.  I found the convention center OK (right across the street, hard to miss), and wandered around inside a bit.  I peeked into the main playing area on the first floor, and was in for another shock.  The main room is at least 100 yards long and at lest 50 yards wide, completely full from edge to edge with bridge tables.  Down the middle of this huge room was a line of bridge tables with a single chair sitting on top of the table; For a while I thought this was maybe a setup mistake, but there were too many of them for that.  Then I realized there was one such table for every column of tables – they must be game section boundaries of some sort.  Later, after taking the phtograph below, I realized that it showed only one half of the main playing area – there’s another entire section beyond the far wall!

The main playing hall.  There is another complete playing area behind the far room divider

The main playing hall. There is another complete playing area behind the far room divider

After this I walked from the convention center to what I think was the southern edge of town – maybe 1/2 mile – no more.  And each foot of the way was crowded hotels, restaurants, the fore-mentioned quickie marriage chapel, a real church right next to it, tatoo parlors, tee-shirt/gift shops, and everything else imaginable.  The other way from the hotel was the same – every imaginable themed entertainment/fun ride establishment, plus lots of themed restaurants (Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, for one), plus a few ‘normal’ franchises like Dunkin Donuts, Five Guys Hamburgers, and TGI Friday thrown in for good measure.

All this incredible variety of tourist-oriented businesses crammed into such a tight area stoked my curiosity, so I spent some time reviewing the town’s history on Wikipedia.  Turns out it’s location at the entrance to the Smokey Mountain National Park made it a natural tourist stop. From Wikipedia: in 1912, the town consisted of about 6 houses, a Baptist church, and a blacksmith’s shop.  In 1934 (the first year the park was opened), 40,000 tourists visited the town, with that number swelling exponentially to 500,000 within a year!  In 1992 an entire city block burned to the ground and was subsequently rebuilt (that explains the strange new/old character of the place, I guess).  Now the place is all hotels, motels, restaurants, and arcade-style game places of all descriptions, but no houses at all (or at least I never found any).

All for now – its late and I want to get some sleep before the opening day tomorrow.

Frank