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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Multi/mega vitamins - are they good for you?

There are many people in the world who swear by multivitamins. Mega-vitamins is a megabuck industry, and are credited with improving your health, your love life and fixing everything from falling chins to falling arches.
As we get older, we tend to become more and more desperate about our bodies. I admit to getting angry with my own physical frame that it is letting me down as I get older. I don’t want these sun cancers on my skin and I don’t like the groans from the joints. Perhaps I need a top-up of some vitamin?
The latest trend is to take daily doses of antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin A and C or selenium to protect yourself against cancer, heart disease or signs of premature ageing. There is some scientific ‘proof’ that has found that people who have a high level of antioxidants in their diet have a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. That is why the nutritionists say we should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. However, studies also seem to suggest that taking those same antioxidants in pill form may not have the same effect and may even be harmful. Horrors!
“There’s still conflicting evidence about whether taking certain vitamin supplements can affect a person’s risk of cancer,” says Dr Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK. “These products don’t seem to give the same benefits as vitamins that naturally occur in our food.”
The British Heart Foundation agrees. A spokesman saying, “Research does not support the claim that taking extra antioxidants in the form of supplements will benefit the heart.”
But surely, if this were the case, why do so many people pop the multivitamin pills? We know we need vitamins, and many of us have poor diets. Replenishing the stores is then surely ‘good medicine’. I remember reading that a breakfast cereal had one third of your daily dietary vitamin requirements. Three plates and you can’t go wrong!
Let us begin to listen to some experts in the field, and not the back of the cereal box. Catherine Collins, chief dietitian at St George’s Hospital in London is reported as saying “The whole idea that you must meet some vitamin and mineral target every day of your life is a marketing myth. You can eat lots of fruit and veg one day and not much the next but over a week you will still get the right amount of nutrients. There is very little scientific evidence of any benefit whatsoever in taking a daily multivitamin - even in old people. You cannot exist on a poor diet then shore yourself up with a multivitamin. The idea that taking high quantities of vitamins will give you a health boost - like putting premium petrol in your car - is complete nonsense.”
Dr Toni Steer, nutritionist with the British Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, supplements cannot compete with real food because when we eat fruits and vegetables the vitamins and nutrients interact with other chemicals to produce positive effects on the body. “If these same vitamins are pulled out and isolated in pill form, there is no guarantee at all that they will have the same effect.”
Another nail in the multivitamin coffin came from the US journal of the National Cancer Institute which found that men with prostate cancer who took more than seven multivitamins a week were 30 percent more likely to get an advanced and fatal form of the disease. This came after a large, though hotly contested, review published in the journal of the American Medical Association in February which found that people who took antioxidant vitamin tablets (particularly vitamins A and E, and beta-carotene) were more likely to die earlier than those who did not. Oops! That isn’t something you will read on the back of the multivitamin bottle.
Let’s look at the megadose Vitamin C to ward off the common cold, as claimed by Linus Pauling. This has been disproved by the scientific community. Also, it does not slow cancer. In fact, Linus Pauling died from prostate cancer. Oops!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Oh Hillary,
Your answer (11th July edition) to Unsure from USA when he posed his question; “Surely some of the bar girls are different?” was so sad. If it is OK to apply the British Standard (BS) Duck Test, “If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck” to the Bar Girls, then it is probably just as pertinent to apply it to all women. If one was to ask the question; ‘Are all women the same, will my wife rip me off when our relationship ends?’ Ask Greg Norman ($103m), Paul McCartney ($48.7m), Prince Charles ($45.2m), etc., etc. I can only say thank god for the 0.01 percent and hope that your correspondent Unsure has found, or does find, a lady from amongst that small group. Bless you Hillary for trying to protect the uninitiated or na´ve from the rapacious amongst the gentler sex. Do please qualify the advice though by saying, that a Thai Bar Girl is really no different from many other ladies, bar girls or not.
Your admirer and regular reader,
David, Western Australia
Dear David,
Why is it that I feel I should add the name “David” after Greg Norman ($103m), Paul McCartney ($48.7m) and Prince Charles ($45.2m)? How much did you get ripped off for? Unfortunately, while there is inequality between the sexes and the male is looked upon as the breadwinner and the female as homemaker, then in the split the male has the most to lose financially. If both contributed equally, the split would be much more (financially) equitable. And you should also remember the hardships that the wives go through. Polishing a golfer’s balls, stomping on beetles with one leg and polishing crowns is not easy for a young woman. Thank you for your kind words and keep drinking the Margaret River Verdelho!

Hi Hillary,
Why do I have a problem with the girls in the bars? Everyone seems to be able to get one except me. I can’t understand it. They do come over to speak with me but within one minute they have disappeared. They say to me in their broken English ‘Hello handsome man, are you alone?’ I ask them where they come from and often it is Isaan so I reply in Thai-Laos as I can speak this quite fluently. Using English text as I have no Thai keyboard, “Man U, Koi U poodio, bor me poosouw.” If they are from elsewhere in Thailand I respond in Thai, as I can also speak this. Maybe something like “Khrap pom, U kondio khrap, pom ben-sod.” All very polite but they just turn around and walk off, maybe my accent or tones are suspect except that I am told by other Thai people that I speak their language very clearly. Any ideas? I wonder what one should infer from all this?
‘I aint bovvered’
Dear ‘I aint bovvered’,
What a conundrum! But easily explained, my Petal. I get the more than sneaking feeling that you are just a little too full of yourself. Thai speaker with perfect intonation, fluent in Laos, and also just so modest about it. And this is while they speak what you denigratingly call “broken English” (never mind, it was a great song from Marianne Faithfull, remember it?). That’s where you are going wrong. You are showing off in the bar, just as you are showing off to me (and the readers). Thais are not impressed with self-promotion and that is one reason you are left holding your own as company. The second reason is that they want to be able to talk amongst themselves and don’t want the customers (you) understanding that they are really saying, “I’ll get 5,000 baht out of this idiot. Watch me.” The third reason might be that you forgot your deodorant? So the answer is to play dumb, enjoy their company and you can always show your linguistic prowess later (speaking in tongues, if you get my drift).

Dear Hillary,
I saw my neighbor’s husband cuddling some woman in a bar the other evening. I had stopped outside to answer the phone, and there he was. I did not get out of the car, but I think maybe I should have. Should I tell his wife, whom I get along very well with, or should I tell him not to do it? I really don’t know what to do, but feel I should be doing something. But what?
Dear Estelle,
Or is that “tell all”? It is extremely dangerous to become involved in the affairs of your neighbors. If he comes to ask you what he should do, then answer him with your opinion. If she comes to you requesting advice, then give it. Otherwise, stay well clear. Unsolicited advice is never appreciated, by either party, in a marriage relationship. There may be a perfectly innocent reason behind his behavior, but you are ready to believe the worst. Don’t be a tell tale and let your neighbors work out their problems (if indeed one exists) on their own.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Frame to frame with Harry

Over the years, the questions I receive tend to be about the same subjects, but I did get something new the other day. The reader (Darcy) went on to write “Bought the D 40 X. Lovely bit of equipment suitable for my needs. I will ask a little advice now and then as I work my way through all its tricks if you don’t mind. I have already picked up a neat infrared remote shutter control and have tested it out to 30 meters. I also picked up a twin battery pack that should give me plenty of backup power. I will look for an AFS VR 200 mm zoom in a couple of months. A question though, I know most of the time it is power economical to leave the LCD off but occasionally it is needed for viewing. I have trawled through the book and menus for both turning it on and also extending the viewing time of the menus but I’m damned if I can find anything about either items. Any suggestions?”
Darcy is of course correct that the LCD is certainly a power drain with any digital camera, be that compact or D SLR, and this is why the manufacturers will suggest you use the optical viewfinder. Personally I like the optical viewfinder and have mine set up with a grid pattern on it so I can check horizons and verticals before releasing the shutter. With the Nikon D 40 X, you should be able to turn the screen on and off at will by using the “Info” button which is near the shutter release button should do the trick. Remember too that most D SLR cameras only view through the eyepiece, unless they have a “live view” function, which the D 40 does not. The LCD is therefore for reviewing an image after it is shot, and setting your menu options. Finally, if you can’t find what you need in the destruction manual, then go directly to Nikon HQ and they will be able to assist. Sorry I cannot be more specific, but each camera brand and each camera model can have individual characteristics that the factory sales representatives know intimately.
One frequent problem that photographers have with Auto-Focus (AF) is getting out of focus results when photographing couples. They frame up well, hear the focus set ‘beep’ and yet the people are not in focus in the final rendition. Geoff wrote “I have a Pentax (model not given) Autofocus SLR and am generally happy with it and its performance, other than when I am taking people shots. Many times the print comes back and the people in the shot are soft and blurry. I have even used a tripod, in case I was getting camera shake. Any ideas on this? Is it a usual problem with the Pentax?”
Geoff’s problem is easy to fix. AF cameras have a central spot in the viewfinder to find the focusing point in the picture. That AF point is not very large, and obviously does not cover the entire image in the viewfi nder. What happens is that when photographing two people, the AF beam goes through between the people and the camera is then auto-focussed on the background, not on the couple in the foreground. Check your images Geoff and I am sure you will find you have a crisp background and the soft foreground.
What has to be done is to employ the ‘focus lock’ capabilities of the camera. Set up your shot as usual, positioning the two people as you want. Now swing the camera away until one of the people is now central in the viewfinder and depress the shutter release half way. As the camera focuses on the one person, keep the shutter release half depressed to ‘lock’ the focus and now swing the camera back to recompose the shot and then fully depress the shutter release. The focus point is now at the same distance as the subjects so you will get correctly focused prints. This is much easier than reverting to manual focusing.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

What are prudent investment strategies these days?

The short term answer is to hold cash, cash and more cash. We’re happy to do just that - holding high levels of cash within our Guernsey regulated protected cell client portfolios, conserving capital while looking for the next opportunities.
The longer term answer is, of course, that cash is only one of multi-asset classes and that smart contrarians will always unearth opportunities. What we preach for our clients has been practised by Scott Campbell and the Midas/MitonOptimal team and by the large US endowments. Scott himself noted last week that this approach, in the hands of the ten largest US endowments, has considerably outperformed the median institutional fund, retail funds, indices and also the smaller endowment funds.
Scott took time out to take a look at how they’ve managed this and how they are positioning now for a very different investment backdrop in the 10 years ahead. Recently the big 10 endowments have entrusted 32% to hedge funds - compare this to 13% in smaller endowments and nothing in retail funds. The “big boys” have achieved this by cutting back listed equity exposure to just 33% as opposed to 56% for smaller endowments and anything up to 100% for most institutional and retail investment funds. The “top 10” have also invested much more aggressively in real estate, natural resources, venture capital and private equity - more than double the rate of small endowments and beyond comparison with funds which often have zero or negligible exposure to these areas that have yielded strong returns of late.
However, that still amounts to a snapshot of where everyone should have been allocating their assets - what can we expect going forwards? Scott cited a recent article in the FT which claimed that, following the collapse of the credit bubble, many, if not all, endowments are looking at the opportunities in distressed debt. This may be a very good time to announce that this week MBMG is publishing a research paper on the distressed opportunities afforded by current market conditions. Scott makes the important point that although the endowments have examined several opportunities to buy distressed loans, they are tending to remain on the sidelines as they don’t yet consider that the terms are favourable enough and they believe that in the distressed sector things will get worse (for sellers) and by implication much better for buyers. This backs up the results of our own research where we conclude that the pricing on leveraged loans has blown out way more than that of distressed and therefore the opportunities are in the leveraged loan sector currently as Scott recently highlighted during his visit to Bangkok.
Concern over climate change is another big area of interest to the super-endowments and Scott notes that they are also looking to exploit opportunities in energy and other real assets. Like Scott, they’re not looking to make a major move just yet into listed equities generally, although ‘Frontier Markets’ (the second tier of emerging markets, which have not yet significantly emerged) such as the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa are interesting to them as they are largely uncorrelated with the West and have good growth prospects.
Finally super-endowment managers are apparently spending a great deal of time on the receiving end of presentations about farmland (particularly in emerging markets) as agricultural commodity prices are rising sharply due to the increase in developing world demand. Increased supply can only be affected by cultivating new land or by radically improving productivity of existing farmland. The closer that the land is located to the big emerging economies (read Chindia mainly), thereby reducing transport costs, so much the better. This is the ultimate play on the commodity theme and because most western world farmers already operate at full production capacity; farm land in Africa, South America and Asia at a fraction of the price may turn out to be a good politically risk adjusted bet.
What if the stagflation that we fear turns out to be ‘just’ inflation?
Scott points out that traditional bonds tend to “have a shocker in inflationary times” although inflation linked bonds do have much better defensive qualities. We remain underweight fixed interest although any interest rate spike could be a short term buying opportunity. Gold and other commodities have an inflation hedge element to them and there will be opportunities in both physical commodities and commodity equities at different times.
In general, equities suffer during inflationary periods because of rising input costs causing reduced margins. Profit margins and earnings outlooks depend heavily on a business’s PR sector’s ability to pass on costs - identifying price takers vs. price makers helps stock pickers outperform the general market significantly. Within our portfolios our major stock pickers are Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and William Gray of Orbis. We remain confident in their ability to outperform. Overall, PE ratios tend to trend significantly lower when inflation is higher than 3-5% (and also indeed when it’s below 0%) and, therefore, the PE sweet spot of recent disinflationary high growth times is most likely over and stocks are likely to correct until more appropriate PERs for the prevailing conditions are in place. This could imply a Dow closer to 8,000 than its current level of 11,000+ and a long time until we regain last November’s 14,000+ levels.
Scott notes that Real Estate, both housing and commercial property, was a great inflation hedge during the period of runaway inflation in the 1970s, partly because commercial property offsets inflation with rent increases (many contracts are automatically inflation adjusted) effectively ensuring that commercial property performs like inflation-linked bonds. Also, there can be a comfort factor that causes a flight to real rather than paper assets in uncertain times, but this time around that effect has been seriously undermined by the extent to which the commercial property sector in the US, Europe, Australasia and UK is significantly overvalued.
Hedge Funds overall have no performance correlation to higher inflation, deflation or stagflation. However, certain hedge styles are more correlated with bonds or equities and it goes without saying that it would be a good idea to avoid these and instead to overweight global macro plays, CTA funds, equity market neutral approaches and some arbitrage strategies. Conditions should provide a fertile hunting ground for our hedge partners at Man Investments.
A portfolio that exploits the upside potential of current conditions but also limits risk in the current uncertain conditions will most likely feature the following factors:
Asset class diversification
Underlying investment manager diversification
Active management
Contrarian thinking
Anyone with USD20 billion upwards of their own money could start one of America’s 10 largest endowments; at MBMG we seek to replicate this for sums down to USD50,000.
Carpe Diem!

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Paul Gambles on [email protected]

Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

A date for your diary… and the shock of the new

In a very few days time – this Saturday 2 August –the ‘inaugural’ dinner for the Rooftop Charity Party will be held. At the time of writing, tickets are still available. The price is a modest 500 baht, including a donation to the charity, a lavish buffet (at the Amari Rincome Hotel) and discounted wines..
There have been a few earlier events but this coming attraction is where the charity – or hopefully charities – will be selected from the half dozen or so who will be submitting their proposals. I say hopefully charities, since, as I’ve written before, it seems quite reasonable to split the aimed for total of around one million baht amongst two or even three of those making the request.
Sadly, the least ‘sexy’ charities get left out. Those helping disadvantaged children or the elderly fare best, whilst those aimed at people with mental problems or animals for example seem somewhat neglected. With animals in general getting a bad deal in this country I find it puzzling that no help for them has ever come from the Hillside charity. Even a small percentage would be a gesture in acknowledging the fact that the way society treats animals is as much a reflection on itself as its treatment of fellow humans.
Anyway, they’ll have a chance on Saturday to make amends and whilst they do so we can enjoy ourselves knowing that even the committee and the main sponsors have paid their entrance and that all the money raised goes to the cause(s) selected. No overheads here thanks to the huge amount of time and effort put into this event and the generosity of Dr.Wachara Tantranout, who makes the whole event possible – and so profitable- by donating the huge roof top space and support staff. The actual event is planned for Saturday 10 January, 2009 and before that a series of fund raising events will be held to boost the coffers. With money tight this year, it’s more important than ever that people help those who volunteer their services and time by buying tickets, offering worthwhile prizes for the 10th next year and take advertising space in the party brochure.
Last week I made a reference to a dinner party at the Green Mill which followed the successful concert given by the New York New Music Ensemble at Payap. There was an unusual vivacity about the dectette, even before the wine circulated. It was as though the group had survived an extremely precarious boat journey and emerged unscathed. No ‘coward’ had yelled “I can’t take any more” and jumped overboard (nor even headed for the exit). This was bonding through extremis and one wonders how wild the stories of heroism grew as the notes recalled grew more extreme. Did I hear talk of a new C.I.A. notion of flute boarding to replace its well known use of water boarding?
When, after the concert interval, Bennett Lerner cast a beady eye over the packed audience and asked, ‘Is everybody still here?’ there was – somewhat unusually for an American- more than a hint of irony ( the Americans don’t ‘do’ irony any more than they use evasions, sub-texts or euphemisms, nor share what Orwell considered the national vice of the British, hypocrisy, something to do with all that space and newness I guess).In fact, Bennett was acknowledging the considerable problem of such very new music, (and modern art in general), in that it necessarily ‘educates’ an audience, (and some players), in public. We’ve not had the chance to absorb it over time. If we are not willing or able to tune in to the new, it yields not excitement and discovery but a kind of causeless boredom in the listener.
This combines with a latent and very human fear of the unknown, as though a raucous and rather persistent stranger has intruded on a gathering of people we know and with whom we are comfortable. Of course, this new guy may be a Stravinsky, a Rothko, a Jean Vigo, a Yeats or a Faulkner – all of whom were once considered revolutionary, sometimes riotously so, but who now inhabit the very fabric of our lives. Perhaps it is only in the 20th century that artists have been so consistently urged to re-invent themselves. Modernism in various guises demands this, but people can easily resent change and with justification believe that there is no absolute virtue in ‘newness’.
Certainly there are plenty of radical artists who believe that shock or an attack on complacency is a virtue in itself. Even the great composer-conductor Boulez once demanded that all existing opera houses should be torn down. His great movement in the 1960s had to filter down and now we reap the benefit of his work and that of his ‘disciples’ Now aged 84, he no longer wants to destroy opera houses but simply build new audiences. Personally I love what Bennett referred to as ‘contemporary’ music. Music that is of the moment.Equally I can sympathize with those who don’t, since I have irrational dislikes, which, being a hypocritical Brit.,I justify on the grounds that I have at least heard them before making up my mind. Choral music generally, and male voice choirs from Wales or Russia, are the equivalent of Winston’s rats, while Gilbert and Sullivan, Les Six, swathes of Beethoven and Liszt are not far behind. And I even have a mild sympathy with Noel Coward’s preposterous and acerbic judgment of Mozart, on occasion. Not much sense in any of that, especially if you consider that Bach – arguably the greatest composer of all time - wrote magnificent choral works. My ‘view’ in fact makes no more sense than denying that composers of ‘our time’ may also be geniuses. We just haven’t got used to them, that’s all.

Let's Go To The Movies: Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Journey to the Center of the Earth:
US Action/Adventure/Fantasy - Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Briem. During a scientific expedition in Iceland, a visionary scientist, his 13-year-old nephew, and their beautiful local guide are unexpectedly trapped in a cave from which their only escape is to go deeper into the Earth. Traveling through never-before-seen worlds, the trio comes face-to-face with surreal creatures - including man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds, and dinosaurs. It’s the first live-action film to be released in the RealD 3D format, a digital format that is fast gaining acceptance among the major studios. Supposedly there are nine cinemas in Thailand that can show films in this format, none in Chiang Mai as of yet.
Mixed or average reviews for the 3D version, which we won’t be seeing here.
21: US Drama - Kevin Spacey is a crafty professor who trains brainy students to cheat by counting cards and then flies them to Las Vegas to raid the blackjack tables. I found it intermittingly interesting, and I do like Kevin Spacey. It is based on real occurrences in the mid 1990’s when a group of MIT students got together to count cards at Las Vegas on weekends, and did succeed for a while in breaking the bank. Mixed or average reviews.
The Strangers: US Thriller/Horror - A young suburban couple returning to their isolated vacation home after attending a wedding finds their lives suddenly thrown into chaos with the arrival of three malevolent, masked strangers in director Bryan Bertino’s tense tale of survival. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as the couple forced to resort to violence they never thought themselves capable of as they struggle for their lives. Rated R in the US for violence/terror and language. Mixed or average reviews - everything from “88 minutes of tedious sadism” to “The work of a born filmmaker who shows a remarkable command of tone and pace.”
The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller - In my book a wonderful film; dark, complex, and unforgettable, it succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling and disturbing crime drama. Heath Ledger gives a performance that is terrifying as a portrayal of an insane mind. It is reported that Ledger, to prepare for his role as the Joker, lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character’s psychology, posture, and voice. He also started a diary in which he wrote the Joker’s thoughts and feelings. Ledger said that he took inspiration from the lead character in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. I think it’s clear from the film that Ledger delved into his character too deeply, which caused him serious psychological problems, which led to his drug abuse, which led to his death soon after he completed his portrayal. The performance is something to experience. Reviews: Universal acclaim.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy - Again directed by Guillermo del Toro and again starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, it is again a dark and difficult fantasy world full of frightening creatures. It’s a brilliant nightmare, and almost too rich - one is truly overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. Generally favorable reviews.
Red Cliff: China Action/Adventure - This $80-million film, directed by John Woo, is being shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version, and that is a real shame. It is a grand and glorious spectacle, telling a story that is known by heart by probably billions of Chinese. It depicts the background to one of the world’s greatest battles, the Battle of Red Cliff, to be seen in the second part, scheduled for release around the end of the year. The events are from third century China, as the Han Dynasty Emperor raises a million-man army against two kingdoms. Starring Tony Leung.
Hancock: US Action/Comedy - There’s no doubt about it: Will Smith has a lot of charisma for a majority of moviegoers, but reviewers have widely diverse views on this one. A mess, frankly, but a mess with much to enjoy for fans of Will Smith, though he plays against type a good deal. Mixed or average reviews.
Scheduled for Jul 31
The Mummy:
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: US/Germany/Canada Action /Adventure /Fantasy - In the Far East, trouble-seeking father-and-son duo Rick and Alex O’Connell unearth the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin - a shape-shifting entity who was cursed by a wizard centuries ago. Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress to spend eternity in suspended animation, China’s ruthless Dragon Emperor and his 10,000 warriors have lain forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army, until a reckless young archaeologist is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber. Inspired by the world-famous Terracotta Army, the funerary art buried with the Emperor of Qin in 209-210 BC. Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello.

Bridge in Paradise :

Once upon a time, in a simpler age, if a player bidding Standard American opened 3N, they meant it. It showed a powerful balanced hand with 25-27 high card points. Those days of honest bidding are long gone, to be replaced by gambling 3N openers. My Acol bidding friends tell me it is the same in Acol. The gambling 3N shows a long (7 or more cards) running minor suit. Depending on agreements, the bidder may or may not have an outside entry. The bidder hopes that partner has a couple of tricks, can stop the suit led, and has at least one card in the long minor to lead to declarer’s hand. Then, presto, nine tricks and game made.
The biggest advantages of the gambling 3N are its preemptive value—it can be very difficult for the opponents to find their best contract—and that 3N sometimes makes. Probably its greatest disadvantage is that it gives the opposition a roadmap to the hands.
I recently spent an enjoyable weekend with bridge-playing friends from Chiang Mai, staying at the charming Chiang Dao Nest Resort, about 80 km north of Chiang Mai. I was sitting East when this deal came up, with neither side vulnerable and North dealing:


S: AK862  


H: K852  


D: 7  


C: 865  
S: Q4   S: -
H: Q104   H: 763
D: KJ1098   D: Q63
C: 1097   C: AKQJ432


S: J109753  


H: AJ9  


D: A542  


C: -  

This was the bidding:
N                E              S            W
P5S6S       3N6CP      4SPP      5CPP
I opened 3N after North’s pass. Kit Salisbury, sitting South, made an aggressive 4S overcall. My partner, Chris Hedges, raised my presumed suit to the five level (if my suit were in fact diamonds, I could always correct). John Bucher, North, was happy to raise his partner, in view of his very adequate support for the bid suit. I bid 6C, to raise the ante and John, with the reasonable hope that his partner was void in clubs, made the wise decision to raise to slam.
Kit ruffed the club lead, pulled trumps in two rounds, played the ace of diamonds and eventually trumped three diamonds on board. He led towards the jack of hearts, to try and make an overtrick, hoping that I held
the heart queen. When the finesse failed, he made twelve tricks (6 spades, 2 hearts, the ace of diamonds and three diamond ruffs), and had nearly taken all thirteen.
I was left regretting my ill-judged decision to bid 6C, thereby pushing the opponents into a cold small slam made with only 20 high card points between the two hands. Such is bridge in paradise!
Please e-mail me at [email protected] and tell me about your favourite hands.