Al The Plumber


Ghostwritten by Casey Stengel with Assists by Yogi Berra

Doctored by Al, the Plumber of the Depths of Lunacy

This wasn’t one of the problems for which I rcvd an avalanche of answers. Perhaps a contributing factor was that unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for anyone who otherwise might have read my blog, was down from Monday on. I want to squelch rampant rumors that it was because they very recently had added that very same blog!

Apparently, the disaster was due to a huge ISP problem, but they stated that they now have a new, more reliable ISP. Of course, unless an H-Bomb hit the other one, it’s hard to imagine anything that wouldn’t be better! After my buddy, Al the Programmer, gets done raking Microsoft and their Windows henchpersons over the code (I mean coals) in a soon to be released diatribe, it appears that he should go after the offending ISP and many others that are also clueless about their most basic functions.

In any case, here are two replies from Jonathan Weinstein, followed by my politically incorrect, and, as usual, incoherent reply.

1. Mr. Stengel,

When I first read Mr. Cohen’s article, I noticed that declarer has an alternative 100% play — if you play a *high* spade from dummy at trick 2, you will always have the entries to ruff out the diamonds whether this is ducked or won. (Maybe the article actually mentioned this; I don’t remember.) Now that the plumber has stimulated a second look, this appears to be better than the other 100% play. If lefty wins trick 2, he may be tempted to play his partner for a diamond singleton, and then you’ll have a chance to make 5. Maybe unlikely, but it comes at no cost. You can afford to play either the Q or a middle spade from dummy, according to which you think conceals your holding best.

Is this the end of the story? It seems like a very small sliver of an edge, perhaps not enough to warrant the Plumber’s attention. What more is there? It ain’t over until you unclog the drain.


2. Another small chance

Playing a middle spade at trick 2 also creates the possibility that lefty, with stiff A of trumps, won’t know which suit is safe to exit and plays a heart. Now you have chances at an endplay to make 5, whether legitimately if lefty has KJ tight in clubs or the like, or illegitimately if he doesn’t unblock. I think this line is definitely superior to the ruff at trick 2.

We could also debate whether Joanna’s play is worth the risk: not if East-West believe their count signals.

Al the Plumber’s reply:

[First, I feel that I should make the following statement in the interest of full disclosure (sort of):

By an exhaustive study of Jonathan’s e-mail addr, I have discovered that he is a Professor of Business at Northwestern University. Furthermore, one of his specialties is “testing supposed experts who make probabilistic forecasts that may be strategically motivated”.

By a strange intersection of bridge and many other lunacies, it happens that some associates of mine, have also been communing with Perfessor Stengel re supposed experts in numerous fields besides bridge. One of them, Al the Trader, is working on “The Second Annual Running of the Bulls(hit)”. In the invaluable First Edition, Al took on Harvard, Warren Buffett, and Monkeys Throwing Darts. Naturally, the Monkeys had no trouble going bananas and beating Harvard. Of course, Al is known for being bananas 24/7, i.e., out-banana-ing even the Monkeys.

This year, the performance of the endowment funds at other universities with “highly rated” business schools will be included in the contest. Shouldn’t they do particularly well? It goes without saying, or if you prefer, with saying, that nothing Jonathan or any other member of academia states in my blog will be used to further deduct from the evaluation of any business school, including Northwestern if they are included in the study.

There – now I’m sure Jonathan and everyone else is greatly relieved.]


Hi Jonathan,

Now let me see if I understand this. You claim that the 5 experts (Rodwell, Moll, Woolsey, Armstrong, and Prescott) who supposedly played this “trivial” 4S deal “correctly” actually mangled it! Unbelievable!!!

According to my high level calculations, that means that 5 + 5 = 10 out of 10 (kibitzed by Larry) butchered it! In addition (or other arithmetic), I believe that means that [(10 – 10) / 10] * 100% = 0% got it right!

I will try to have Surely patch me in to Casey’s channel and get back to you. In the meantime, if you or anyone else would like to further expound, expunge, or exfoliate anything to help “unclog the drain”, please do so. Many folks know that I need all the help I can get.


alias The Plumber of the Depths of Lunacy

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