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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

Counterfeit drugs

Dr Michael Moreton from Bangkok Hospital read an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago explaining ‘generic’ and ‘brand name’ drugs, and suggested I should expand into counterfeit drugs. Thanks, Mike. Happy to oblige a colleague.
Every day I receive spam, offering me the opportunity to keep a battalion of beauties satisfied. These are the internet email offers of cut-price drugs that will keep me in a state of perpetual priapism, a continuing (and painful) male erection and the term was coined after the Greek god Priapus who is shown in paintings to have a central member like a third leg.
Offers like these which are too good to be true, are usually just that - too good to be true! These cut-price drugs are not the real deal. The chances are very high that they are counterfeit.
One of the patients showed me a box purporting to be genuine brand name Cialis tablets, which were not having the desired effect. I was immediately suspicious as the box was not all that well printed. I was quite sure they were counterfeit when I read the Patient Information slip. The English grammar was incorrect, and there were spelling mistakes. Eli Lilly, the ‘real’ manufacturer does not send out mis-spelled literature with their product.
Eli Lilly’s website on Cialis confirms that some web sites sell fake Cialis. The website suggests you ask yourself these questions; any “yes” answers could mean that the Cialis being sold may be fake:
Is the price so much lower than the price at the local pharmacy that it seems too good to be true?
Is the web site located outside of the United States, or does it not list an address or contact information?
Does the site offer to sell medicine without a doctor’s prescription?
Were you referred to the web site by an e-mail that you did not ask for? (Eli Lilly and Company, the maker of Cialis, does not send e-mails unless you ask for them.)
Does the site offer “soft tab” or “fast dissolve” Cialis? (Cialis only comes in tablets. There is no such thing as “soft tab” or “fast dissolve” Cialis.)
Does the site offer “generic Cialis” or a drug with a name that is similar to Cialis? (Such products have not have been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness - they could be harmful.)
The World Health Organization puts the annual amount of counterfeit drugs sales at something like $35-40 billion per year. No wonder I (and you) get so many offers of drugs through the internet. That’s a very large pie.
The World Health Organization also estimates that one in three drugs on the worldwide market today is counterfeit. Sometimes the fake drugs contain toxic substances from which you can die.
Pfizer’s laboratories analyze the fakes and a representative stated, “We’ve seen boric acid, we’ve seen heavy metals, we’ve seen road paint, we’ve also seen floor wax to coat the pills and give them a shine. Obviously, they are detrimental to anyone’s health.”
It is not just Eli Lilly that is targeted. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (yes chaps, the makers of the blue diamonds) estimates its annual losses to counterfeit drug sales at $2 billion.
However, this is actually a serious situation. If specific drugs are only available through pharmacies, on the prescription of a doctor, is it safe to just buy over the internet, without any doctor’s advice?
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “Patients who buy prescription drugs from websites operating outside the law are at increased risk of suffering life-threatening adverse events, such as side effects from inappropriately prescribed medications, dangerous drug interactions, contaminated drugs, and impure or unknown ingredients found in unapproved drugs.”
According to WHO, drugs commonly counterfeited include antibiotics, antimalarials, hormones and steroids. Increasingly, anticancer and antiviral drugs are also faked. And you can add to that, the ‘blue diamonds’. Never forget the phrase “Caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).
If you receive a spam email from someone who you don’t know, offering you specific pharmaceuticals at a cheap price, that should be enough for you to go no further. Get your medications on a doctor’s prescription from a pharmacy you can trust. Or suffer the consequences.

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
Bonjour, pour tu, chocolate de Suisse! Formidable, oui/non? Au revoir et bon nuit.
Mistersingha


Dear Mistersingha,
I just gotta love you! A couple of letters complaining about you and you respond with protestations of love, and all in French, with the Swiss chocolates enclosed. Yes, mon petit chou, vous est formidable aussi. Bon nuit.

From Mistersingha

Dear Hillary
With reference to a paragraph I read in your reply to a reader in the column early February: “Now one of the things you have to do to get over “klmitis” is to give up on your current carrier and fly THAI instead. They need the money. But then again, so do we all.”
I had read previously, either in your own esteemed newspaper or from another source, that in an effort to promote tourism to Thailand during this economic downturn that Thai Airways International had made a decision to discount its flight prices by up to 50 percent in an effort to help boost the declining Thai tourist trade. This news, not only had been announced by Thai Airways but also by the TAT I believe.
Very good news one would think, cuts in prices, will help both Thai Airways to attract more customers both to the airline and to Thailand, to help in these difficult times of declining tourism.
I have been considering returning to Thailand during Songkran and checked flight prices for 4th April and returning either on Saturday the 25th of April or the early hours of Sunday the 26th of April.
I set about checking my usual flight sites and airlines and returned with an excellent price of 486 sterling (even better now as my currency is the euro and the exchange rate is very favourable to me at present) with Emirate Airlines.
Having remembered the article about the Thai Airways discount, I checked the flight prices on Thai Airways site. This site returned a staggering price for the same dates of 3,663.30 sterling or at today’s Bangkok Bank exchange rate 184,520 Thai baht.
I fear that your wish above “fly THAI instead. They need the money,” will not be fulfilled by farangs travelling to Thailand and Thai Airways will continue to “need the money”.
My query is, when Thai officials announce these news items (for this and other things), do they ever actually carry through on the announcements? Is it the case that Thai Airways first double the prices, before then giving the 50 percent discount, which still leaves the airlines charging their exorbitant rates, even at half price?
P.S: I like reading your article each week, I prefer your answers to the letters, rather than the letters themselves, as many of your writers seem to be endlessly complaining about everything. In that light, I hope I don’t come across as yet another whingeing windbag. I have also attached the flight details from Thai Airways website in case you find the rates I have quoted difficult to believe. I selected economy class, but for some reason Thai Airways have only quoted business class?
Joe the Irishman
Dear Joe the Irishman,
Thank you for the nice words, Petal. Now, your problem. I checked with my friendly travel agent (Massic Travel - free plug) and the THAI deal is two fly for the price of one, worked out on the full fare price, which is 185,000 THB (or then 92,500 THB each). However, nobody buys tickets at that price, as you can get it cheaper by shopping around for the “market fare”. You would be able to get a THAI flight much cheaper shopping around in the UK, but currently the Middle East airlines are offering the best rates. Does that explain it all for you? It seems that there are lies, damned lies, statistics and air fares!

Dear Hillary,
I have heard about golfing widows, but at least golf is played in the daytime, so the golfing husbands are home in the evenings. My problem is that I am turning into a football widow. Football matches seem to be played at any time of the day (or night) and he is always off to some pub or other to watch the game. I am not interested in football, or else I’d go with him, but I am getting lonely left at home. What should I do? Tell him it is football or me? (I’m afraid he might go for the football.)
Footy Widow
Dear Footy Widow,
If you make life difficult for your football mad mate, then he will go for the football and it will be an ‘away’ game every night. Men will always take the easy way out, when pushed into a corner. They have no real goals in life, you see. Before you get right cross and relegated to Left Right Out, I would ask around to see if any of his football watching mate’s wives would like to come over for a hen session. Even if you are not interested, a night out at the pub might also be fun. Let him watch while you gossip with the other women there. That is much better for everyone, rather than sitting fuming at home, while plotting how to give your man a red card.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Is a tripod worth it?

The one piece of equipment that distinguishes between the amateur photographer and the semi-pro amateur is the tripod. But by that I mean a good tripod. I see many photographers toting a lightweight aluminium tripod that will blow away in the slightest breeze, and therefore quite useless for what you bought a tripod to do. Do not buy one of these.
The use of the tripod opens up new avenues for the serious photographer, and the least (but most obvious) is to take time exposure shots at night. Unbolt the hot-shoe flash, disable the inbuilt flash and see what you can get. Estimate exposure times and see what you get. With a digital camera, you don’t have to wait long. Trying to hold the camera still while you take shots at slower than 1/15 second just will not work, despite all the image stabilization technology.
Twilight photography and night photography opens up a whole new range of pictures and effects. Just the simple expedient of being able to keep the camera steady while you shoot 30 second or longer exposures will result in some great photographs. Try taking a shot just after sunset, for example. Set the camera on f11 and give it 30 seconds. You will be very pleased with the results. However, if it is too dark, give it 60 seconds - too bright then try 15 seconds. It costs you nothing to experiment.
Use the tripod in daylight too. Did you know that the very best landscapes during daylight hours are also best taken on a tripod? To get the huge range of depth of field necessary for these shots, you will end up with slow shutter speeds. The tripod ensures there’s no blurring. Those flowing milky, misty waterfalls are also best taken with a tripod as again a slow shutter speed is required to capture that effect.
Even nature shots are done best with this piece of equipment. You can set up the camera and then leave it, so that the birds, etc., can get used to its presence, and then with a cable or remote shutter release you can get the nature photos of a lifetime.
Another type of shot that needs a tripod is the panorama. A compilation of images which when placed together form a wide angle view of any scene. This can only be done with the use of a tripod.
Even when shooting still life images, the use of a tripod makes these shots a breeze. You can set up the shot and then make minute adjustments while looking through the viewfinder. Again you can use a slow shutter speed to be able to use very small apertures (around f22) to get the very fine detail into the shot.
So what should you look for and what should you spend? There are several items in the specifications that you should ensure is on any tripod you buy. The first is that it is heavy with strong legs when extended fully. The “locks” on the legs must also be secure.
Another item is that the actual swivel head incorporates a spirit level, so that you can ensure the top swivels in a true horizontal arc. The tripod head should also have calibrations, so you can swing it a definite number of degrees. A removable “shoe” is also a good item, as you can then position the camera on the tripod, but also remove the camera to take other shots but then replace it in exactly the same position.
The legs should be able to be spread out widely so that you can get the camera very close to the ground, and finally if you can get one, see if the tripod shaft can be removed and turned upside down, as this can get your camera completely at ground level and also immediately above an object placed on the ground.
How much will this cost? Expect to spend a minimum of 6000 baht. My own Manfrotto cost a lot more than that, let me assure you, but with now almost 20 years of faithful service, it has been a bargain!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Not all funds let you down, part 3
 

Exposure levels for the Fund are set out below:

 

Gross Long Gross Short Net Exposure Net Exposure

Strategy   

Positions Positions Cash Beta-adjusted

 

(% of NAV) (% of NAV) (% of NAV) (% of NAV)

TOTAL FUND   

87% - 66% 21% 7%

Several caveats are needed to the fairly negative conclusion that there is no obvious way out of current difficulties, either from a policy or a market-driven perspective.
Firstly, valuations are very reasonable in equity markets. It is worth recalling that if the FTSE 100 finished next year at current levels, this would equate to a 30% loss over the decade as a whole. This is a performance which must give some protection to current investors from the poor news flow.
Moreover, we are strong believers in the view that asset class cycles tend to move in a cycle from bull market to bear market to indifference to bull market again. Critical to this insight is the fact that it is the indifference period (and consequent lack of new supply) that precedes bull markets, not the dramatic falls in price of the bear market. Commodities are illustrating this point at present, with the multi-year indifference of investors to the asset class now leading to the supply constraints and price momentum being seen. Interpreting this to the current period would suggest that as and when conditions do improve it will be equity-oriented assets that generate the disproportionate upside, rather than the fixed-income areas often seen as ‘recovery plays’.
But the key note remains uncertainty. “Our assessment is not one we feel immense confidence behind. It is perfectly possible that a solution we (and policy-makers) are yet to discover is found or that the equilibrium price is closer to levels than we think (most probably because demand destruction in oil is greater than we see). We obviously have to remain vigilant to each of these possibilities…
“Even if we are right that policy will ultimately struggle to solve the broad problem this does not stop it having a material impact on the environment for capital markets. Most obviously, should policy-makers seek to aggressively cut economic demand the outlook for commodity shares will be very different than if they are willing to risk inflation in the interests of the banking system. With policy at something of an inflection point it is critical we understand this influence in forming portfolio structure in the near-term.”
[Reminder: All quotes in this article are from Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, the largest holding in the Turnstone European fund, which along with Orbis, Berkshire Hathaway and GAA makes up the majority of our equity exposure right now…]
So what is their portfolio approach?
1. “Overall fund structure needs to be simple and flexible. The low and stable net exposure we have run for the last few months still feels an appropriate reflection of current conditions and, critically, has worked well.”
2. “Compared to 2007, it is pretty clear both that overall economic growth levels are open to question and that the challenges for the world are global rather than concentrated into Anglo-Saxon consumption. To reflect this in the portfolio, we have added hedging positions exposed to global growth to balance our long position in the Mining sector.”
3. “On the short positions, we have continued to size positions with reference to valuation rather than momentum. While this risks some opportunity cost in the current market it should protect us during the inevitable squeezes that occur.”
4. “In terms of thematic bets we feel very uncomfortable taking a view on the oil price.”
But it remains a difficult environment.
“We are somewhat nervous in the very short-term as we suspect we are approaching a period in which investors seek to positions of outlook, a period that often yields dislocation for the portfolio. Nonetheless we feel that such risk is worth bearing given the strength of both the overall structure and individual views expressed.”
All sounds very re-assuring; what could go wrong?
“As noted above we have tried hard to construct a portfolio where thematic risks are limited given the uncertainty in the situation. The main exception to this is in our view that credit costs will remain elevated to a degree not reflected in several areas. As such the most difficult scenario for the Fund would probably be one in which falling oil prices were deemed to lessen the pressure on inflation and therefore yields. How bad such a scenario would hinge on the interpretation of the market of such a move on our key long positions in Mining and the Post Offices. If they were viewed as negatively correlated to oil prices in the manner seen last month then losses should be containable to around 2% of NAV. In the plausible scenario that such a view was not immediately formed, losses could be higher at around 4% of NAV (albeit we would hope that the incremental loss would be recovered in subsequent periods).
Elsewhere the main risk in the short-term feels to us that market dislocations are caused by investors reacting to increased uncertainty position-reduction. As we have noted before such periods tend to be difficult for the Fund and may be particularly so at present given the good performance in the second quarter. The profit-taking we have done on the short side should offer some protection against it but there is no doubt that a 3-4% loss could be sustained from this and, indeed, that it could be higher given how difficult such conditions are to model precisely.”
More manageable and a better risk/reward outlook than unprotected equity exposure, “Despite this uncertainty we remain of the view that the long-term value in the positions is very good and are therefore happy to bear some near-term volatility.”
So, are we? Yes but our preferred method of exposure in this extremely successful but highly specialized fund is through the Iridium portfolio and our long-short equity partners Turnstone Asset Management.

Historic Returns

Net Return (1/8/01-31/12/01) 

2001 2002  2003 2004  2005 2006 2007

Lansdowne UK Equity Fund

+5.92% +6.16% +18.61% +26.85% +27.66% +23.24% +31.73%

FT-SE All-Share Price Index GP     

(5.26)% (24.97)% +16.56% +9.21% +18.10% +13.15% +2.03%

 

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

Sakdipon Mitprayoon

And where were you on the evening of February 17?

Along with a few farangs and a goodly number of Thais, I took a chance a few days ago and went to a simply advertised concert at Payap on Friday, February 13. Before arriving, I’d said to my companion, ‘Well, if it’s not very good, we can always make a discreet exit during the interval.’
Believe me, a few minutes into this recital for ‘a guitar and voice’ by the young performer, no thoughts of an early departure or dinner were entertained. Sakdipon began with a short group of pieces for classical guitar, which he began studying at 17 and continued more recently with that fine player and teacher Alessio Monti. There was evidence of this in the choice of repertoire. Three works by Barrios, a popular suite by Villa-Lobos and a superb finale with a composition by the great Leo Brouwer. No flashiness here, but a concentration on the music, played with delicate restraint.
After the interval, we were treated to a ‘different’ performer. Sakdipon, dressed in black suit, confidently took centre stage of the Duriyasilp Hall and launched into ‘Broken Vows’ by the pop singer Lara Fabian, followed by a duet with a charming soprano, Jutaporn Chalin, whose voice complimented his strong baritone.
A Gershwin classic, ‘A Foggy Day ‘and Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ and, for an encore, the rather dated, ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ completed the evening. Skilful accompaniment on piano by ajarn Rangsan Poonsub was a pleasure throughout but it did not stop me wondering whether, perhaps on the encore, the singer had ever considered accompanying himself on guitar.
Let me say at once that this was an enchanting evening, with a performer who was confident but who showed no signs of ego or arrogance. He has talent, charm and good looks and could and should go far in his chosen fields. At the risk of being hypercritical or ‘nit-picking’ I think he might benefit from attention to his choice of material, especially in selections from what we oldies know as the ‘great American songbook.’
Let’s take the Porter song as an example. He was arguably the greatest composer-lyricist of them all. Others wrote better songs (Gershwin among them), certainly Lorenz Hart’s lyrics are even wittier, more poetic and poignant. But they had others to provide the words and music. Porter was master of both, a wealthy socialite, a gay cynic, a sophisticate of high intelligence and great ambition. The lyrics of ‘Anything Goes’ reflect much of the above: ‘writers who once knew better words, now only use four letter words, writing prose,’ (to rhyme with anything goes). It’s a commentary on a period, a critique and lament for a bygone world of elegance made famous by the likes of Ethel Merman.
Similarly the Gershwin brothers’ ‘A Foggy Day,’ (made immortal by Sinatra) is more a song for a world-weary guy, a traveller, who views the morning with alarm, ‘the British Museum had lost its charm,’ when made ‘low’ by a foggy day in London town. It’s great that, now we no longer have Sinatra, Ella or Dick Haymes et al, that their legacy lives on. But there are plenty of good, even great songs, more suited to a young singer.
I offer just a few, including Gershwin’s charming and more accessible, ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You.’ Or Hoagy Carmichael’s wistful ‘Skylark.’ Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Michele,’ or the jaunty ‘I Like the Likes of You’ by ‘Yip’ Harburg. And maybe the Bacharach and David ‘This Guy’s in Love with You’ or from a similar period ‘Love Hurts’ by Boudreaux Brigant? All good songs, intended perhaps for those who know what love is, but who don’t yet know the meaning of the blues. Songs need to be more than sung, they require interpretation and to suit the performer. This is not intended as a criticism of the evening, but as an observation.
Just a few days after our talented young singer held the fort so well at Payap, the nearby Luce Chapel on the same campus was home to no less than a hundred youthful performers, representing not one band but two. The Symphonic Band Concert Tour by the Bangkok group reached Chiang Mai and was, for one night only, augmented by our own Youth Symphonic Band, for the second part of the concert. They filled the large stage to near capacity and the only sad part about this enjoyable evening was the comparatively sparse audience which barely outnumbered the players.
What possible excuse can there be for the seeming indifference to enthusiastic, talented and energetic performers? There should – by rights – have been a notice saying standing room only. The music was accessible (a tad predictable perhaps), ranging from Le Roy Anderson to movie music, from a Percy Grainger folk song arrangement to Wagner, and from a composition from H.M. the King to sturdy marches and the charming Londonderry Air. Add to that the fact that admission was free, and there was simply no excuse for anything less than a full house to encourage both visitors and the local players. There are, reportedly, some 17,000 farangs in Chiang Mai and the overall population makes it the second biggest city in Thailand. Where are you when you are needed? Asleep in front of the goggle box? Propping up a bar? Or simply too bone idle to care whether the cultural and social life of Chiang Mai lives or dies?


Let's Go To The Movies: : Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
Valkyrie:
US/ Germany Drama/ History/ Thriller/ War – The near-miss assassination of Adolf Hitler by a ring of rebel German army officers on July 20, 1944, starring a restrained and excellent Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic German officer who led the heroic attempt (codenamed “Valkyrie”) to bring down the Nazi regime and end the war by planting a bomb in Hitler’s bunker.  Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns).  I was impressed by the supporting cast that includes Bill Nighy (fresh from his chores as lead vampire in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, and Kenneth Branagh.  Actually, I think the less you know about the details as you go in the more interesting it will be.  A well-crafted, thinking-person’s action movie.  Mixed or average reviews.
Luang Pee Kub Phee Ka Noon:
Thai Comedy – A swindler hides out in a monastery by becoming a monk.  With the popular Mum Jokmok and the usual stable of TV comedians.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
US Drama/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance – with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton.  Nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including best picture and best director.  It’s the tale of a man born elderly in 1918, who ages backwards through the 20th century.  I don’t see how anyone can really like this, but I seem to be in the minority.  But really, it’s so utterly nonsensical!  Great makeup!  Great set decoration!  Great period detail!  Worth seeing for those alone!  Perhaps Benjamin Button is the big-budget love story with just the right combination of qualities (nostalgic Americana, epic romance) that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences routinely admires.  By the time you read this, you will know.  Generally favorable reviews.
My Bloody Valentine 3D:
US Horror/ Thriller – It’s an unpretentious gory and senses-assaulting slasher film, and an effective mix of old-school horror stylings and modern 3D technology.  I’ve seen the 3D version in Bangkok, and the effects are good.  It’s a shame that we only get ordinary old 2D here in Chiang Mai.  Rated R in the US for “graphic brutal horror violence and grisly images throughout, some strong sexuality, graphic nudity, and language.”  Mixed or average reviews.
A Moment in June:
Thai Drama/ Romance – Directed by O. Nathapon, who is also active in theater and draws on his theater experience to devise a crossover of cinema and stage through a play-within-a-film.  Three couples – gay, elderly, and fictional – engage in a melancholy dance of indecision and regret.
Push:
US Action/ Thriller. The deadly world of “psychic espionage” where artificially enhanced paranormal operatives have the ability to move objects with their minds, see the future, create new realities, and kill without ever touching their victims.  Extraordinarily convoluted and confusing, but very stylish and with great visual design.
Confessions of a Shopaholic:
US Comedy. Nonsense wherein Isla Fisher plays a fun-loving girl who is really good at shopping.  An outrageously obscene gesture and the most ill-timed and appallingly insulting movie in recent memory as the economy continues to swallow up livelihoods, homes, and hope – as this ditz shops!
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:
US Action/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – The origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the vampires and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.  Michael Sheen (Tony Blair in The Queen) as the werewolf and Bill Nighy (Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) as the aristocratic vampire.  Rated R in the US for bloody violence and some sexuality.  Mixed or average reviews.
Before Valentine:
Thai Romance/ Drama. Four takes on love, made by three Thai directors, and I thought the results pretty dreadful.  If you’re of a Thai mentality, you might consider this a charming and harmless essay on adolescent love (even if some of the characters happen to be adults).  If you’re of a Western mentality, you might consider this blatant brainwashing of Thais to accept western consumerism.  The idea being that you have to show your “love” on Valentine’s Day by buying your beloved many flowers and much candy and several greeting cards, and by eating out at restaurants way over your means, and buying your girl a diamond ring.  The film is sponsored by a floral outfit (Miss Lilly Flowers), a restaurant chain (Chester’s), and so on, with much painful and insulting product placement.  For me the film has really dippy music, dippy dialogue, dippy situations, and dippy emotions.
Scheduled for Feb 26
Slumdog Millionaire
: US/UK Crime/ Drama/ Romance – Improbably nominated for Oscar best picture and best director – and eight other awards.  Scheduled for Feb. 26 for Thailand, but at the present time not to be shown in Chiang Mai; Bangkok and Pattaya only.  But we can hope!
Other Oscar films we won’t see:
Milk, Doubt, The Wrestler, The Reader, Frost/Nixon. I urge you to revolt!  Or at least write them some messages!


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Last week, I asked the question when is it right to lead a trump as the opening lead? I gave an example of the number one good reason for leading a trump: to cut down dummy’s ruffing power when dummy is short in one of declarer’s long suits. Another good reason is when your side has a strong trump stack. Note that when the defence has a stack of low trumps the forcing defence (see the columns on 27 Jan and 3 Feb) is usually better than leading trumps, to try and force declarer to ruff and thus reduce declarer’s trump holding to less than the defence. With long, high trumps however, double and lead them. Take this example, from expert player and author Mike Lawrence, with East dealing and neither side vulnerable:

East      South     West      North

1H        1S            2H           2S

Dbl       All pass                

The full deal is shown below:

                     S: 862

                     H: K2

                     D: K1065

                     C: Q983   

S: 7                                S: KQJ10

H: J75                            H: A10863

D: QJ832                       D: 94

C: KJ64                         C: A7

                     S: A9543

                     H: Q94

                     D: A7

                     C: 1052    

After the double, West looks at his singleton trump and knows East must have long trumps. Since East is willing to risk a two level double – which doubles the opponents into game if they make it – West expects that East’s trumps must also be strong. So West leads a trump. Now East-West are bound to make seven tricks – three high trumps, two heart tricks (since dummy’s trumps will be pulled by East before a heart can be ruffed) and the ace and king of clubs. The trump lead causes the contract to go down two doubled, for a nice profit for East-West. Please send me your interesting hands at: [email protected]