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BBO Interviews Fred (Fred Gitelman)

A week after leaving for the grueling United States Bridge Championship 2012, Fred (Fred Gitelman) is finally home. Today, he shares his thoughts about this year»s championship and on placing 2nd yet again.

1) What are your thoughts about this USBC? (Location, security, format, cost, etc)
As usual, the USBC was a first class event in terms of both the bridge and the organization. I have no complaints in any of the areas you mention.

There have been recent debates about changing various aspects of the USBC or the method by which the USA selects its teams. I am personally more than satisfied with how the USBF has been doing things. It is hard for me to imagine being in favor of any major changes in the near future.

2) Team diamond was the favorite. Any stress going in and throughout the finals?
No stress going in, but actually playing serious bridge for a serious prize is always stressful, especially when the match is close.

I suppose that when you are «supposed to win» that can increase the level of stress, but I suspect that a lot of people would disagree with your statement that Team Diamond was the favorite!

3) John Diamond and Nick Nickell were not behaving like usual sponsors – Don»t they usually sit in the same seats?
I am not sure that the «sitting in same seat» thing is a factor at all, especially when the sponsors are strong players. To tell you the truth, this is the first I have heard of the practice!

4) Were you trying to swing at all at the end by doubling on close hands?
I think it would be more accurate to say that we were looking for opportunities – we were down only 30 IMPs or so going into the last segment so there was no need for desperate swinging.

Close penalty doubles often represent good opportunities in these circumstances because your opponents are trying to protect their lead. They will often bid aggressively at your table (to avoid the possibility of losing a game swing for example) and sometimes get overboard or get unlucky. Meanwhile your opponent in your seat at the other table is likely to avoid the risk of making a close double. Brad has an unusually good nose for this sort of thing.

5) Can you talk us through the appeal?
Brad was playing a vulnerable 3NT and at one point Eric Rodwell took a long time when signalling. His partner, Jeff Meckstroth, subsequently defended in such a way as to basically ignore Eric»s slow signal and the contract was thereby defeated. Had Jeff followed Eric»s signal, the contract would have made.

If that was all there was to it then then the TD would have adjusted the score in our favor. Jeff»s main argument was that he had already planned a clever defense and that Eric»s signal and the length of time he took to make it were not relevant. Apparently he convinced both the TD and the Appeals Committee (who both ruled against us).

The hand in question was complicated and took a long time to play. When I am the dummy I try not to pay close attention things like the details of the play or the tempo or mannerisms of the players on the theory that to do so is a waste of energy and focus. As such, other than showing up, I wasn»t really involved in the process of this particular Appeal.

I generally try to avoid public discussions regarding my opinions as to the quality of rulings that Appeals Committees make so I would rather not comment on that matter.

In general, I am not a fan of Appeals Committees – I would be happy if the system was abolished and the TDs» rulings were declared final (especially for events like the USBC where the TDs are the best of the best).

6) There has been some recent discussion about charging for vugraph so that commentators/operators can be better compensated. Any opinion?
It costs money to produce vugraph. Historically tournament organizers have covered vugraph expenses, but tournaments are frequently on tight budgets.

If some other means of funding vugraph were to be found, tournaments would appreciate it and be able to spend more money on the players. In addition, outside funding would also improve the quality of vugraph and allow for the many volunteers who make vugraph possible to be adequately compensated for their hard work

In a perfect world, corporate sponsors would provide the funding for vugraph (and presumably receive advertising rights and good will from many bridge players in return), but attracting such sponsors is not easy.

Some have suggested charging the audience for admission as a source of funding vugraph. I am very much against this idea as are my business partners. As long as I have a voice in this matter, I will argue for keeping basic access to vugraph free.

BBO sees its main role here as a provider of software (and advertising real estate for those tournaments that can find sponsors). But as bridge players ourselves, the people who own BBO are interested in what is good for bridge. We believe free vugraph falls into that category.

7) What»s coming for BBO?
You read it here first: we soon hope to release a BBO app that will run on various mobile devices (including the iPad). The app will be free of course!

The initial app will be somewhat basic in terms of functionality, but I think it is likely that we will aggressively move forward in terms of its development.

In an attempt to avoid the likely flood of e-mails asking about the BBO app, I promise we will make an announcement as soon as we are willing and able to provide more information!

We will soon be offering players a new way to play in the Main Bridge Club that I suspect will be popular. You should be able to read about how this works within the next couple of weeks.

It is probably safe to expect more of the same in terms of our commitment to continuing to improve both our robots and the web-based version of our software.

8) Some BBOers want to take this opportunity to ask about Deal of the Week (DOTW) – they really missed DOTW.
I enjoyed writing about bridge, especially at an advanced nbso online casino reviews level, but after almost 8 years of writing The Deal of the Week it started to feel like a real burden. Between that, the fact that there are only 24 hours in each day, and the fact that the demands on my time for both BBO and bridge were increasing, putting the DOTW on hold (perhaps forever) was necessary at the time.

It wouldn»t surprise me if I were to some day do some more writing about bridge, but I doubt that this will happen on a serious scale any time soon.

9) Thoughts about finishing as runner-up for the 4th time (2006, 2007, 2011, 2012). Be honest Fred…how can you bring yourself to always congratulate your opponents when you came so close?
2010 too and it feels like Brad and I have had at least one other second! We actually managed to win in 2005.

Honestly I rarely find it difficult to congratulate my opponents regardless of the margin of my loss. It was certainly easy to congratulate the Nickell Team this year. They played great and, besides that, they are my friends. I will certainly be cheering for them to win the World Championship in a few months.

10) Team Diamond – With all the recent upheavals that we»ll see starting summer (Hamman/Zia breaking up and gone from Nickell, Martel/Stansby breaking up etc), is Diamond/Fred/Brad going to stick together for a while still? Why do you think you guys make a good team?
We will be sticking together at least through next year»s USBC. Beyond that we have no plans and I am not really in a position to make any predictions.

One of the reason that we are a good team is because we all grew up together as bridge players – we have all been friends for 20 years. Liking your teammates may not be necessary for success, but it certainly can»t hurt!

Something else we have going for us is that any of the three pairs is capable of getting hot at any time and winning a lot of IMPs. Of course we are all capable of having bad sets as well, but often when that happens our teammates will have our backs. I think that all of our wins have been real team efforts with all three partnerships making important contributions.

11) Who do you think was MVP in this entire USBC?
Hard to say especially since I am really only aware of the boards that happened at my table.

I guess you have to pick someone from the winning team. I didn»t play much against Hamman and Zia in the Finals. Meckstroth and Rodwell were at the top of their game against me and Brad and it really showed in the results. That being said, in my opinion they are clearly the world»s best pair so it is hardly surprising to see them playing such great bridge – they do that a lot! I was super-impressed by Ralph Katz in the boards we played against him and Nick Nickell (who was solid as usual).

12) Last words?
I would like to thank all of the people who sent me good wishes for the USBC by e-mail and BBO mail. It is nice to know there are people out there cheering for you – sorry to disappoint you once again. 🙂

Thanks to the USBF and everyone who was involved in running an excellent tournament. Congratulations to the Nickell Team for their well-deserved win. 

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