Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The ZZZ effect

I am fortunate, I guess, that I get to play with, amongst and against some of the best players in Australia. I see firsthand some of their errors, some actions that a club player would be embarrassed to admit to. At one point, I considered writing a post listing some of our top players and a "memorable" hand featuring each one of them. There was no shortage of good data.

I decided against that write-up because other than the hands being obvious delivery issues, there was no unifying thread between them.

Now consider these three defensive exhibits.

Hand 1

North played 4S on the lead of a diamond to the ace and back won in dummy. Declarer finessed the spade, cashed SA,unblocked the DK and played a third spade. East won and returned a diamond, declarer pitching a club. Declarer played the heart ace and claimed as east ruffed.
A club return upon winning the third spade sets the contract.

Hand 2

South played 3NT after West opened 1H and led the SK. Declarer won the second spade and played a club to the jack. East ducked. And nine tricks rolled in.

Hand 3

North played 4H on a club lead won by the Ace. Declarer called for a heart and West played the ace of diamonds, which became a major penalty card. Soon declarer wrote down +620.

These three hands occurred in the last couple of weeks. The culprits on defence were players who have represented Australia on numerous occassions. For all these hands there was an underlying similarity which, to my mind, was the definitive cause for their error.

In each case, declarer took a disproportionate amount of time playing the hand. Over various periods, at least five minutes were taken by declarer just "thinking".

The cause of the delivery failure for the defence was a simple one :
Declarer put them to sleep !


  1. It does happen, and my old partner Ian McCance has a story from a World Pairs about 30 years ago where a near-world-class American deliberately (Ian claims) did it to him. Effected the Sominex Coup.

    There are many solutions, but the straightest in my view is to simply insist on reconnecting in your own time. Call the cops if you have to, to register any time problem, then simply state that you have to take some time to reconnect with what's going on because of the time taken.

    The reverse is the hurry-up. Every so often, I get deeply stuck into a card play problem and one of the oppos feels the need to hurry me up. Interestingly, it's usually a strong player at an important moment trying it on. Question to ask yourself in these moments - who is feeling tense?

    Here's my solution: I'm going to take as long as I take. You've interrupted me and I have to start again. You can interrupt me again if you like, but I'm going to keep on going back to the start.

    They very rarely speak again, and if they do, the monitor is looking at their behaviour, not my problem.

    My point is that pressure is almost entirely self-inflicted. If you refuse to accept external pressure, it turns out that there isn't any. Except against me :)

  2. This happened at a tournament I attended: Late in the hand, declarer could make it if he led a card from the board, but he was in his hand with no entry. He called for the card. His RHO said you're in your hand.

    He thought for a very long time, and again called for the card. Again, his RHO said you're in your hand.

    Now they were five minutes late into the next round. The tournament director showed up and said you're late, let's get cauaght up. Declarer called for the card from dummy and RHO followed!!!

  3. Sartaj, if what you say is true, then the most successful Aussie players recently would be people like Arjuna De Livera and Peter Gill, Matt Granovetter would be winning the Spingold while the Daily Bulletin reports his suspended sentence for slow play,Norway would be leading the Bermuda Bowl on a decimal score due to a slow play fine, and Fantunes would be 4th in the BB datums despite their slow play fine. :))

    Peter Gill

  4. ha ha Peter. Tony and I are very pleased to have you and Martin on our team for the NOT for it means we would never play against you two :)