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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

Christmas Disease - Too much plum pudding?

I know Christmas was a few days ago, and I hope none of you found out you were suffering from Christmas Disease - which has nothing to do with Santa or your melted credit card, but everything to do with Stephen. Stephen Christmas, that is. Stephen, a young British lad, was the first patient with a bleeding tendency recognized to have a different form from “classical” haemophilia (or hemophilia if you come from the left hand side of the Atlantic Ocean). I have mentioned Christmas Disease before, but being that time of year again, it is worth repeating myself.
His condition was studied by researchers Biggs, Douglas, and Macfarlane 55 years ago, who discovered that young Stephen was missing a different coagulation factor than the more usual one (which is known as Factor VIII). They named Stephen’s missing factor as Factor IX, and his condition later became known as Christmas Disease.
Just to confuse the issue, we also call Christmas Disease by other names, including Factor IX deficiency, hemophilia II, hemophilia B, hemophiloid state C, hereditary plasma thromboplastin component deficiency, plasma thromboplastin component deficiency, and plasma thromboplastin factor-B deficiency. There’s probably more, but Christmas Disease has a much nicer “ring” to it. (Probably “Jingle Bells” at this time of year!)
From the diagnostic viewpoint, it is very difficult to differentiate between classical hemophilia and Christmas Disease (my editor does come from the left hand side of the Atlantic, so I will use ‘hemophilia’ to humor him). The symptoms are the same, with excessive bleeding seen by recurrent nosebleeds, bruising, spontaneous bleeding, bleeding into joints and associated pain and swelling, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract hemorrhage producing blood in the urine or stool, prolonged bleeding from cuts, tooth extraction, and surgery and excessive bleeding following circumcision. (Why we have to chop bits off ourselves I do not know - I am quite sure any rational person would not like it, given the choice. Why stop with the prepuce? May as well lop the odd ear off as well. And please don’t write in, I am aware of the religious belief.)
Christmas Disease covers around one in seven cases of the total hemophilia incidence and is around 1/30,000 in the general population. This disease is also male dominated, being called a sex-linked recessive trait passed on by female carriers. This means the bleeding disorder is carried on the X chromosome. Males being of XY make-up will have the disease if the X they inherit has the gene. Females, who have XX chromosomes, are only carriers if either X has the bleeding gene.
Hemophilia has been noted in history for many years, and Jewish texts of the second century A.D. refer to boys who bled to death after circumcision (not an ideal way to go - see my remarks above), and the Arab physician Albucasis (1013-1106) also described males in one family dying after minor injuries.
In more recent history, Queen Victoria of Britain’s son Leopold had hemophilia, and two of her daughters, Alice and Beatrice, were carriers of the gene. Through them, hemophilia was passed on to the royal families in Spain and Russia, including Tsar Nicholas II’s only son Alekei.
Initially the medical profession thought that the bleeding tendency was caused by a structural defect in the blood vessels, but in 1937, a substance was found that could produce clotting in the blood of hemophiliacs. This was called AHG, or ‘anti-hemophilic globulin’.
However, in 1944 researchers found a remarkable case where blood from two different hemophiliacs was mixed, both were able to clot. Nobody could explain this until 1952, until the researchers in England working with Stephen Christmas documented there were two types of hemophilia. They called his version Christmas disease. So it became obvious that there were two factors at work and when the different bloods were mixed, they supplied for each other, the missing AHG’s.
The actual names were assigned to these AHG’s by an international committee in 1962. Factor VIII deficiency became known as Hemophilia A, and Factor IX deficiency as Hemophilia B or Christmas Disease.
I hope you had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.
Dr. Iain.


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Thank you for the nice reply you gave to the Chemical Engineer, and as you say if he would like to take a holiday here in Chiang Mai I would be delighted to take him to my temple in Lamphun Province. There he could meet and talk to Khru Bah Noi who loves taking people around his “Petrodiesel” plant.
Khru Bah Noi said with a further one million baht added to his project he could produce petrol and LPG at the plant.
The Chemical Engineer could also visit the small service station that is set up near the Village of Ban Jambon where the Bio Diesel that is also produced from the plant is sold.
If the chemical engineer looks up “Petrodiesel” on Google, and another site “Petrol from Plastic” he can get answers to his questions, but as a Chemical Engineer he probably knows the answers already!
If I don’t write before Christmas or the New Year, all the very best to you Hillary and all the staff at the Pattaya and Chiang Mai Mail. Thanks for a great column and publishing my letters. Oh! And I haven’t fallen off my motorcycle for a few months now!
Dear Delboy,
I do hope the chap who signed himself off as the Chemical Engineer takes you up on your offer to visit you and Khru Bah Noi up there in the north. I’d come up myself, but I’m too scared to fly and too old these days to be riding sidesaddle on your motorbike. (You aren’t allowed to carry petro-diesel on planes anyway!) However, it sounds to me as if it is people like your young monk who will save the planet. Happy New Year to you too, Petal.

Dear Hillary,
I have a Thai wife now, not a Thai girlfriend. No Mike, your wife does not need to be a UK resident as you have paid your taxes. Now go to UK and get Dependants form BF 225, fill it in and send it away.
Dear Archie,
Thank you for stimulating so much debate about the UK pensions and increasing the traffic through my pigeonhole, even though it was a little different from the usual broken hearted ex-boyfriend of go-go dancer number 88. Or number 27, or number 123. I wonder if they are actually learning out there in broken-heartland? Or is it the ‘lemmings’ over the cliff again? They will learn eventually, other than Mistersingha of course, who seems incapable of learning anything.

Dear Hillary,
Lots of long faces everywhere, but not mine. I think many people talk themselves into feeling down, but I read you every week and I always get a smile, reading about how these guys end up in the same sort of trouble every week. How do you keep a straight face some days, Hillary? Have a great Christmas and New Year. I’m stuck in the US this year, but I’ll be over later in 2009 and I’ll bring some bubbles and bon-bons with me. All the best.
Dear Chuck,
Thank you, my Petal, for being a regular reader, and I shall await the promised bubbles and baubles. As you say, there are plenty of long faces around, but by staying positive you have a much greater chance of finding the way through the financial mess. By the way, don’t worry about chilling the wine, the fridge in my office works well, but keep the bon-bons in a cool place!

Dear Hillary,
I never thought I would have this problem, but I’ve certainly got it now. I have met a right stunner. She is really super and works in an office near mine, in the same building in fact, so I see here every day. I’m not the sort to rush in, I have done the homework and she’s not married or attached or anything like that, but here’s the problem. The girls in my office who have done the detective work tell me that she doesn’t speak English. I really want to get close to this woman, but I haven’t got enough Thai to be able to chat her up or anything. What’s my next step, Hillary?
Tongue Tied Ted
Dear Tongue Tied Ted,
What a dilemma! After hours of surveillance, and some none too subtle investigations, here you are, hormones raging at the thought of this nice young woman and you don’t know how to pop the question. Or any question, for that matter. You have just discovered a simple and inescapable fact, my tongue tied Petal. The country the woman lives and works in is called Thailand. That’s not tongue tie-land, either. This is her country, and the language she speaks gets her everywhere, and everything. There is a lesson for you here. If you want to have a relationship with this Thai lady, then go and learn some basic Thai. Then go and try it out on her. If she thinks you are a nice chap, she will even help you with the pronunciations. However, if she doesn’t respond, then you have to accept the fact that you didn’t make her hormones explode, the way she made yours. Best of luck with the language course.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Bracketing for beginners

Last week I mentioned “bracketing”. Read any good photographic book and you will read the word “bracketing”. With modern cameras being so good, almost intuitive if you read the publicity blurb (hint: don’t read the blurb, but do read the manual), then why should bracketing still be necessary?
First off, let’s define bracketing. This is taking the same subject three times with three different settings. Basically, more light than you imagine is needed, the correct amount of light, and finally, less light than you imagine.
Now I do not really care how you gauge the “correct” setting, whether you get it from the camera’s built-in light meter, or from a hand held light meter, or even if you used the photojournalist’s f 8 and be there, the important factor is just that you do have a ‘starting point’ to work from.
I am also aware that most cameras these days do have a good metering system, taking readings from various points in the viewfinder and working out a good average, but you must remember that all the camera can do is give you a ‘good average’. This does not mean that it is the ‘best’ exposure.
There is much in the literature too about how good digital cameras are in problematical light situations. Surely the digital range is enough to get you out of trouble, under any situation? Simple answer is, No. If you are looking for a really good final image, you have to give the camera as close as you can to the ideal exposure for that picture. There are limits in how far you can go away from the ideal.
What I am preaching here is that you should always try for excellence in your photographs. Do not think that if there is not enough light, then you can fix it all with Photoshop or other fancy computer technology. You can’t. It will end up as a trade-off between detail, brightness and contrast. And nothing beats correct exposure in the first place.
So we return to bracketing, one of the oldest methods of getting a properly exposed print, and still significant in the digital age. As stated above, you have to have a starting point, and what you have to do is to decide just what is the main element in the photograph you wish to take. Is it the person, or is it the countryside, or is it the building, or sunflowers such as the photographs with this week’s column? Having decided on the main element try and get a light meter reading from it. Even walk up close so that the main element fills the viewing screen and get your initial light meter reading exposure values. This is the starting point, so set your camera to the values indicated. Such and such f stop at so and so shutter speed. If you have metered correctly, then you will get an image that is close to perfect. But only “close”. To get that perfect exposure, now you bracket.
The easy way is to take two more shots, one set at half a stop “under” exposed and the other at half a stop “over” exposed. Now you can do this easiest by changing the f stop (aperture) by half a stop, as most lenses have the half stop increments, while the camera has full stops with the shutter speeds.
The three shots shown here were bracketed with the half an f stop increments, as it is always very difficult to estimate bright exposures. As you can see, the one in the first is probably best, though the brightest one is also acceptable. The dark one is throw away value only!
Nest time you are trying something just a little tricky - remember to bracket the exposure!

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

The above R.E.M. title implies chaos and confusion. However, one thing that is steady in this present world of instability is the US dollar and it is getting stronger. Despite the fact that it should not be, people have shown faith in the Greenback when all else looks to have failed.
It is meant to show the strength of the US Government and its policies. How ill conceived this is. Despite the claims of prominent political economists such as Professor Ngaire Woods who says that, “For the American government there is simply no such thing as living beyond its means. With the rest of the world demanding dollars, all the US has to do is to keep printing them,” many analysts now think that the present crisis could be the pinnacle for the US dollar and lead to its long term demise.
It must be remembered that until recently this is what was happening anyway. “I think today’s financial crisis is going to hasten the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency,” says Avinash Persaud, chairman of Intelligence Capital Limited. “For the first time ever we’re now seeing that in the financial markets it costs money to guarantee you against a US government default.”
The argument for this is that it is backed up by, as John Cleese so aptly puts it, “the bleedin’ obvious”. The combined cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as funding American armies, navies and air forces all over the world is getting to be more than a tad expensive. Add to this the current bailout at home and it can be seen as the feather that breaks the camel’s back.
This could be something that the US does not like but will have to come to terms with as it would basically mean that it will lose its reserve currency status. Put another way, it is like writing a cheque that nobody bothers to cash. If all the other countries on God’s earth want US dollars then America will keep on printing them. This gives the US a massive advantage; one that led to a statement of pure (but truthful) arrogance from John Connolly, the ex-US Treasury Secretary who said the US dollar was “our currency but your problem”.
Over the last decade Europe has had its own currency and quite well it has done too - until recently. However, it has definitely become a lot stronger than many predicted it would and has certainly taken on the US dollar and hit it where it hurts. As reported recently, it even got to the stage where supermodels were asking to be paid in euros - even when they did appearances in America.
Despite all of the overall positives of the euro, there is too much diversification and political disagreement for the euro to take over as the world’s new reserve currency. Many people realize this and that is why there has been a flight back to the old US dollar and not the new euro.
Also, with non-alignment of European fiscal policy, many leaders in Europe do not want the euro to become the new reserve currency. As David Marsh, who has just finished a book on the euro says, “Europe has a much less vast set of ambitions than America has ever had.” By adopting the euro, Marsh continues, it showed nothing more than a “flight into a lack of ambition”.
So, if not the euro, is there anything else that might take over the baton? What about China? At the moment, it probably will not as it does not have the capability via open markets or internationally competent banks and institutions to cope with this.
However, as Persaud points out, neither did the US have these in 1908. In fact, it did not even have a central bank a year before World War I started. However, within a generation, the debt acquired during the war to end all wars marking the close of the so called imperial century (1815-1914) saw an incredibly sudden and dramatic change in fortunes.
The gold standard, under which one pound was worth US$4.85, was suspended at the outbreak of the war, with Bank of England and treasury notes becoming legal tender. Prior to this, the United Kingdom had one of the world’s strongest economies, holding 40% of the world’s overseas investments. By the end of the war the country was £850 million in debt, mostly to the United States, with interest costing the country some 40% of all government spending.
In an attempt to resume stability, a variation on the gold standard was reintroduced in 1925, under which the currency was fixed to gold at its pre-war peg, although people were only able to exchange their currency for gold bullion, rather than for coins. This flew in the face of the new economic reality and had to be abandoned during the Great Depression.
Sterling suffered an initial devaluation of some 25% and only recovered slightly to $4.03 by 1940. However, there was no little doubt that in a twenty-five year period the US dollar had taken over from sterling as the world’s strongest currency and this was confirmed by a further 30% devaluation in sterling in 1949.
Since that point, sterling has never since traded above $4 to the pound. Nor has it ever looked likely to do so again until this level was contemplated as being one of the more extreme plausible outcomes to the current crisis at MBMG’s June 2008 investment seminar.
The modern world contains a great many imponderables and innumerable opportunities for the law of unforeseen consequences to take hold. The irrefutable rise in the economic and political power of China is one of these - China has over USD1 trillion worth of US$ denominated assets thanks to its massive export growth over the last fifteen years plus. This gives the Chinese a lot clout because if it chose to move its money in one go then the US economy would be rudderless, paddleless and up that well known creek.
One the other hand, China is sensitive to preserving the value of its US assets and the outcome of this cross between a Mexican stand-off and a global financial game of chicken is entirely unpredictable - as one former US Secretary put it so succinctly this is the “balance of financial terror”.
The well regarded political analyst, Barry Eichengreen, has likened it to the nuclear deterrent employed by the superpowers during the Cold War, “We hope that everybody becomes respectful of the financial power of the other side, but that such destructive power won’t be deployed.” The difference, to our mind, is that China was never a nuclear power. Chinese history provides many examples of voluntarily enduring great pain to achieve small relative gains - pain is bearable as long as your enemy suffers more of it.
In this new millennium it’s not just China pointing the loaded gun - Emerging Market Economies own so many US dollars that America probably cannot afford to annoy them either. The Gulf Markets now price oil in ‘petro-dollars’. Europe doesn’t know what to price anything in.
The new president and his administration will be divided on what to do. Everyone outside of the US may well want a strong US dollar but not everyone within America will want this - especially the exporters. One of the reasons that a weak US dollar has not really bothered the Bush administration is that it has helped US exports. The head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs, Jim O’Neill, reckons that, “We are emerging into is this very hazy and slightly worrying state of affairs where there isn’t going to be any single country leading the world in the way the US has done and with it no single currency either.”
If these newly acquired wealthy nations do not like what is happening to the American dollar then they may look for other ideas or places to put their money. The only question is “Where?”
As the global balance of power changes from the west to the east, everyone knows that the USD cannot maintain its present standing. For now it is the currency of choice because there is no alternative. When one materializes, then watch out for a massive flow out of the currency and into the new kid on the block.
Put it another way, the US dollar is no longer America’s currency and everyone else’s problem, it is now the world’s currency and a bigger problem for the US than anywhere else. At the moment bluster, smoke and mirrors can keep it in suspended animation. An opportunity for China to replace the US as the leading global economy could be the catalyst that sees this taken away and the reverberations will be felt everywhere of the final shattering of the dollar into thousands of tiny shards of an economic empire that burned brightly but endured oh too briefly.
The problems facing other economies, in the short term, are in many cases as severe and maybe even more severe than those facing the US and a relief rally in equity markets lasting until Q1 or Q2 next year may provide additional support for the dollar. But at anywhere below $800 per ounce, gold is the best insurance policy any portfolio can hold until the currency picture settles down and the long term decline of the dollar and rise of the East becomes ever more apparent.

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

News and Views

A reminder that the super Chiang Mai Calendar is still on sale for a trifling100 baht. I’ve been using mine for a month already, since it began with December 2008 and lasts until January 2010. It is a delightfully publication, full of information (other than just the dates!), excellent photographs and charming paintings from local school children. It is a very sturdy desk calendar and comes with an envelope for posting in the New Year to those people to whom you want to send a special thank you or greeting.
You can find it at Rimping supermarkets, at Kaseem stores and the Tita Gallery, plus other outlets. All proceeds go to local charities and last year over 600,000 baht was raised, thanks to the voluntary efforts of everyone concerned with its production, from conception to final sales. A beautiful, almost spiritual, and very useful object. Chuck out that boring calendar from the bank or shop and grace your home or office with this. More details from www. chiangmaicalendar2009.
The EU Film Festival, which ended on Sunday evening, December 21, must surely have been the most successful so far – certainly in terms of attendance, with many near capacity audiences for many performances. My film colleague has covered it extensively, so just a few words of thanks to the organizers for arranging it in both Bangkok and this month in Chiang Mai. In terms of the programme structure, it is perhaps a pity that several films were only shown once. Word of mouth – the best publicity—is impossible and also, many people do not have the free time to get to films on one specific date. Also, I wonder why films (on the days with only one performance) were shown at 19.30? Too early to eat beforehand and rather late for many people to do so at around 21.30.
But these are minor criticisms, given the value (70 baht only) the generally good prints and subtitling and the fact that we were treated to mainly good films, new to most of us living in Chiang Mai. If I had to give ‘awards’ to any of the movies, it would be easy in the case of ‘best actress’, as Hanna Schygulla as the mother in the German-made ‘The Edge of Heaven’ gave a master class in her craft. Memorable. As for ‘best movie’, that would be a difficult choice between the above film and the British work ‘Control’, which probably had the edge in terms of direction and overall completeness of vision. A work of considerable power and compassion, directed with calm assurance by Anton Corbijn and featuring a great debut from Sam Riley as the tortured singer. Few duds along the way and some feel-good movies such as ‘The Ball’, from Italy, which would surely get an audience prize for it charm alone. Here’s to next year!
Speaking of which we have only two days left of a rather unhappy 2008, a year dominated by economic woes worldwide and seemingly non-stop political problems in Thailand. The actions of the PAD at both Government House and later at the airports caused incalculable harm to the country in terms of tourism and its image abroad. The great hope is that the new Prime Minister will be given the chance to lead a government for long enough to help the country regain its stability. He has the credentials. And with Barack Obama in the White House, perhaps 2009 will be a better year than feared.

Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Australia Drama/ Adventure – Baz Luhrmann returns to the screen to direct his first feature film since 2001’s Moulin Rouge, and I think he does so in grand style. Set against the backdrop of World War II, it’s the epic, sweeping tale of an English woman (Nicole Kidman) who inherits a sizable cattle ranch “down under.” With the bombing of the city of Darwin on the horizon, she teams with a cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) to save the ranch. The child who narrates the film and whose story forms the spine of the plot, is a delight to watch. His name is Brandon Walters and he is a half-caste Aborigine, and he is everything a child actor should be. Mixed or average reviews. Vista is showing it in a Thai-dubbed version only.
4 Romances: Thai Romance – Four love stories directed by four Thai filmmakers. Pretty much of a bore and not nearly as entertaining as Super Hap. The most enjoyable section was the last, featuring the band “August” and singer “Pitch” – that had a few nice surprises, and the kids are great.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: US Animation/ Family – A delightful animated picture, with the animals of the original Madagascar in new adventures and breath-taking exploits. I had a lot of fun with it, but then I like cartoons. In the vast plains of Africa, the members of the Central Park Zoo-raised crew encounter species of their own kind for the very first time. Generally favorable reviews.
Super Hap: Thai Comedy/ Musical – An enjoyable Thai teen-oriented musical comedy, in which two guys try to break into the music industry by forming a Korean-style boy band. But the one who looks cute and can dance can’t sing, and the other can sing but doesn’t look the part. The answer lies in lip-syncing. There are some quite entertaining bits and though it seemed to lose its way in sentimentality toward the end, it’s still one of the better Thai comedies.
Happy Birthday: Thai Drama/ Romance – Starring Ananda Everingham. A weepy love story, and almost incomprehensible to anyone without a deep understanding of Thai social behavior. Ananda is a travel photographer who travels around Thailand with his guide/girlfriend, until she has a car accident and ends up in a hospital in a coma, while Ananda waits endlessly at her bedside for her to wake up. Maddeningly tedious to most farangs, I’m afraid. Beautiful location photography.
The Day the Earth Stood Still: US Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – With Keanu Reeves. I enjoyed this! (Except for the kid, who is hateful!) If you like sci-fi thrillers, you should like this too, when the kid isn’t on screen. You have to be willing to accept a lot of the “aliens invade Earth” conventions. I did, and found it a lot of fun, except for the kid. In this remake of the landmark film of 1951 with Michael Rennie, Keanu Reeves now plays the alien who travels to Earth with a simple mission: to save the planet. He lands his space ship in Central Park and tries without success to announce his plans to the world via a speech at the United Nations. He’s shot and taken into custody instead. So he goes to his backup plan: destroy everything on earth, and then re-populate the planet with clones of the current species. Generally negative reviews.
I thought the script was terrific of this kind, except for the kid, which leads me to believe his father rewrote his lines and didn’t do it too well. I liked the bit about the US President nowhere to be seen, in fact hiding out, when Earth is invaded, leaving the running of things to others, much like George Bush on 9/11.
Transporter 3: France Action/ Crime – It’s an action movie all right – a lot of explosions, car crashes, and men being violent and assertive. All quite brilliantly done, and seasoned with just the slightest bit of plot and humor. If that’s what you like, this is for you. It stars Jason Statham as a former British Special Forces soldier turned mercenary, whose specialty is delivering risky items in a timely fashion. Mixed or average reviews.
Ong-Bak 2: Thai Action/ Adventure – With Tony Jaa, who also directed. It’s quite dark, and exceptionally violent. Not for children! But it’s extraordinary in many respects, and approaches almost every aspect of an action film in a new way. And it seems a terribly personal film for Tony Jaa, in which he apparently is trying to exorcise some inner demons. A fascinating attempt, and quite exciting.
Scheduled for Dec 31
Bedtime Stories:
US Comedy/ Fantasy –Starring Adam Sandler. A family-friendly flick about a hotel handyman whose life is changed forever when the bedtime stories he tells his niece and nephew start to mysteriously come true. The director is Adam Shankman (Hairspray).


Resplendent Salvias

Everyone knows the brilliant scarlet Salvia Splendens, used all over the world for its spectacular glowing colour in annual bedding schemes. They may not, however, know that in the tropics this Salvia is in fact a perennial, and can become quite a large, bushy plant if left to its own devices.
Another surprise is that it will also seed around the garden area. These days Salvia can be found in many other beautiful colours as well as in its original stunning red, all of which can make spectacular additions to any perennial border.
It’s not only the colours that are varied - there are many different species of this popular plant, some of which you may not even immediately recognise as Salvias. All are very garden-worthy, and you should identify them by looking for the characteristic tubular flowers - receptive to the proboscises of moths and butterflies - which emerge from the often attractively coloured bracts at the base of the flowers. These varieties are well worth seeking out, and are easily propagated from cuttings.

Tip of the Week
Always include short-lived plants that seed around in the garden at random, and when weeding try to recognise the young plants and leave them to grow where they choose. This method will always have the effect of softening a “rigid” garden display, and result in a more pleasing and relaxed appearance.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

To quote Hugh Kelsey: “If you bid a stop at no trump, then you don’t need to actually have one.” My partner, Chris Hedges, took this advice on a hand we played together recently. With neither side vulnerable and West dealing, this was the bidding:

South (Chris)  West       North (me)   East
                        2S            Dbl                3S
3N                    All pass                  
The full deal is shown below:
                          S: 2
                          H: A852
                          D: AQJ6
                          C: K1074   
S: KQJ853                            S: A6
H: K3                                    H: QJ1094
D: 98                                     D: 1043
C: 532                                   C: J86
                          S: 10974
                          H: 76
                          D: K752
                          C: AQ9       

West opened a weak two spades—a good bid because it forces the opponents to the three level and makes it difficult for them to find the right contract. I had the perfect shape for a takeout double, happy to support any suit from my partner. East increased the preemption by bidding 3S. This would be a good sacrifice, since it would go down only two against best defence (the defence would score two diamonds, three clubs and the ace of hearts). If the defence stumbles, then the contract may even make. Four cards to the ten is only half a stopper, but Chris was not intimidated by that or by the fact that he had only nine points. He bid 3N.
As you can see, from looking at all four hands, if West leads low to the ace, then the defence will take the first six tricks. However, holding West’s hand, there are not many players who could resist leading the king of spades. After that lead, 3N cannot be defeated. If East overtakes with the ace and then leads back a spade, four spades to the ten actually becomes a stopper. At the table, East won the second trick but there was no way back to West’s hand. Declarer won the heart switch in dummy with the ace and then took the next eight tricks in the minors (four diamonds and four clubs). A good bid by my partner, resulted in making 3N with only 23 high card points (and only half a stopper) between the two hands!
Please send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]