Mark Blumenthal

The Mole

This story was told to me by Ron Anderson many years ago. A group of bridge players from Minneapolis were driving home  from a tournament that had been held far from their homes.  Ron was driving. Among the passengers was a blind player, who typical of the sick humor usually employed in bridge, was called the Mole. After they had been driving for quite a while The Mole said that he had to go to the bathroom. Ron said that he couldn’t see anything ahead, but that he  would stop at the first   place they came to that had a rest room. They continued to drive.  After about twenty minutes  The Mole said, “I can’t hold it anymore.” Ron said,  “I still don’t see anything. I’ll pull over to the side so you can go.” When The Mole was reluctant to do that, Ron reassured him, saying, “Don’t worry. There’s nobody around.Ron helped The Mole onto the grass, and The Mole relieved himself on his own front lawn!

Give Him the Collar

Early one afternoon in the sixties four  bridge players had started  in Philadelphia and were going  to a tournament by  driving north   on the New Jersey Turnpike.    The driver, whose identity is unknown to me,  Ethel Silver and Annie Gittelman  were in the front seat of the car.  In the back seat was a priest dressed in casual attire.   He who is still living and has asked that his identity not be revealed.   After they had been driving only for a short time,  they heard a police siren behind them. The priest said, “Wait a minute.”  He   started rummaging through the contents  of   his suitcase He found his clerical collar and put it on. A police car caught up with their car, and the trooper driving it motioned for them to pull over. He stopped , and got out of his car  and walked to theirs. The priest asked, ”  What seems to be the problem, officer?” The policeman looked and saw the priest wearing his collar. He said, “” No problem Father, have a safe trip.”  He walked back to his cruiser and drove off.

Bridge Tip # 31

When you feel you should be  splitting honors,  you should be consistent if it will help your partner and not declarer.  Say declarer is in four spades and dummy is to your right.  Declarer calls for a small heart from three little on dummy.  It is your play,  holding KQJ2 of hearts.  You should have an agreement with your partner to always play the lowest, which I prefer, denying the ten, or the highest, denying the ace, but not the queen which would leave your partner in the dark as to the possession of the other honors. Obviously, this only applies if you know your partner will need to know the information, but unless you are trying to deceive declarer it  will assist your partner to defend as well as possible if you are  consistent.  Related to this, if you have KQ doubleton of a suit, have reason to believe your partner has the ace, and are leading through declarer, you should first lead the queen followed by the king.  This alerts your partner that you only have two of the suit in case she would have to overtake for some reason.

If you  a singleton high high honor, you obviously have no choice. It is up to your partner to work out what is  the true situation.


I was  staying in the main tournament hotel for the nationals being held in  Portland, Oregon in 1970.  I was walking  back to the  hotel after having been to a  big  bookstore that now is  called  Powells.  I  saw Vic Mitchell , who later was elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame,  walking in the other direction.
He saw me and came up to me and said, ” At last, someone I know. Which way is the hotel?”  I gave him directions which meant he had to  reverse the  direction way he had been walking.

I think if he hadn’t seen me he may have kept going until he hit the Pacific.

In 1972 he was the only bridge player to tell me that I was  making a mistake by joining the Aces.  Being born in New York City  and having lived there for almost all his life, I believe that he thought it was the only place  anyone should live. Moving so far from  New York  city  to  the near wilderness of Dallas, as I was prepared to do, was something he would never contemplate. 

Bridge Tip #30

There is such a thing called an action double. Assume you happened to opened  three hearts hoiding this  hand,     3, AQJ10875 7, K862, non vulnerable  against vulnerable . LHO bids three spades.  Your partner bids four hearts. It goes  four spades to your right. Although  the preempter is not supposed to bid after his initial call, you could now double. You  probably have a trick on defense and more playing strength than you figured to have from made   your initial bid . With good defense( such as one trump trick and an  outside trick. )  your   partner could leave it in or,  save in five hearts  if it seems your partnership has  with little chance   to beat the contract. These doubles   are used  in  competitive auctions in which you   are not sure whose hand it is.  I would not use an  action double unless I were playing with a partner I was sure would fully understood what I am doing.

Tales of the Giant Crab – 11

During most of the time I’ve written about Walt being in  

Washington. he  was going to law school. He finally graduated and  had to

take the District of Columbia bar exam. To ensure he wouldn’t be late for it,  he

rented a hotel room very close to the exam site and  stayed in it studying .

He  called the hotel switchboard and  asked the person at the desk

to make sure that his room  would get  a wake up call early enough so

that he  would have plenty of time to get to the exam.  When he

woke up the following day ,he realized he  had never received the call, and he was very late.  The exam had already started.  He hurriedly dressed. By the time he actually arrived

at the bar exam,  it was half over. He wound up having to take it again many months afterwards  which was   the next time it was it was given.

Bridge Tip #29

This  may  not apply if you play a specialized defense when your opponents

open a big club. However,  sometimes it is not  their hand.  It may be yours.

Suppose the opponent opens a big club and your partner overcalls ( probably to obstruct the opponents auction) it’s impossible for you to force easily.

 It is difficult for your side to have a constructive auction. I have found if my  partner makes a one suit overcall of a big club my partner and I  don’t have a forcing bid, so I arbitrarily play two clubs (or three clubs if responder bids on the two level) as a cue bid in this

situation, forcing one round, and saying nothing about clubs. You lose a

natural club bid, but that is usually unimportant versus the ability to have  a forcing bid available for the overcaller’s partner. It also may help the

overcaller if she happens to have a very good hand.   The alternative of using  jump shifts forcing  to accomplish this, precludes either partner from

preempting. If the bidding reaches a very high level rapidly, it’s up to

each defender to  decide how high to bid , as they  would normally have to

if the opponents had managed to get that high in some other way.


I was getting a ride to a tournament from my apartment in  Philadelphia.  In the front of the car were Adele and Bernie Kotzen.  Adele was one of the more successful female players in Philadelphia in the sixties.  Her husband, Bernie, was a salesman who liked liked to brag about his family.  As we were well underway Bernie turned to me. He boasted that his son in law, who was very wealthy, was a self made man.  Bernie kept on telling how his son in law had made all of his money all by himself.

Finally, Adele, who must have heard this speech many times, broke in.  She drily said, “Of course, his being left a million dollars didn’t hurt.”   We didn’t hear about their son in law for the rest of the trip.

Bridge Tip # 28

The game of Contract Bridge is not all percentages and technical ability. It also involves the interaction of two personalities.  The type of rapport you have with your partner is important also. Be  especially wary if you and your partner are romantically involved. I have  seen experts who are considered unflappable no matter how badly their  partner plays, become enraged if that partner is their spouse or significant other. I think it is  especially likely to happen if there is a great difference  in skill between the two players. My  theory is that the better partner feels betrayed and thinks  ‘How could he/she do this when I have taught him/her better?’   People to whom this description could  apply  should discuss the possibility  this occurring   before they begin to play with each other. Often it will require the better  player to reduce his/  her expectations  to ensure  and  neither  individual will view the other’s mistakes as a  threat to  either person’s ego.

A Peek is as Good as a Finesse

Most bridge players know they have to conceal their hands so an opponent will not be able to see what cards they have, but many are often lax. Reuben Alexander  was the first local good player  in Philadelphia who  didn’t go to the University of Pennsylvania  to ask me to play with him. After that ,  I  often played with him in Philadelphia.
Reuben was very aware   of which players  had the proclivity of peeking at  the opponents’ cards. He  would tell me, “breast your cards” when we were about to play  a person. He felt very strongly about some  local players such as  as  Alex Danilenko, who was known to often look look  at the opponents’ cards.  Reuben and Alex knew each other well. Once when we were playing against Alex, and Alex was the declarer,  Reuben  had his cards so well  concealed under his capacious chest that he   could barely see them  himself.  As Reuben was thinking about what to lead, Alex asked him. ” are you going to lead from the king fourth of spades?”,  and he  continued calling all of Reuben’s hand.
We sometimes would play a local pair, Jack and Matilda,  who did very well in local games.  When we were about to play against them Reuben would tell me to stare at one while he watched the other.