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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

Despite what some women say - man is not a large rat

With the world apparently hanging by its proverbial fingertips waiting for the development of the wonder vaccine to destroy Mr. Porker’s virus, perhaps it is time to look at the safety involved with new drugs and vaccines. Remember that in 1976 a vaccine was rushed through by order of an American president, and I believe more people died from the vaccine than died from the flu from which it was supposed to protect the public. It also left a large number of people with a nasty condition called the Guillain-Barré syndrome, and about 30 percent of those with Guillain-Barré still have a residual weakness after three years.
So, have you ever wondered just how a new drug finds its way on to the pharmacist’s shelves? Just how do the pharmaceutical companies manage to develop newer vaccines and drugs such as ACE inhibitor antihypertensives when there were already plenty of alternatives? Or the apparently stiff competition in the drugs for males with Erectile Dysfunction. (I am sure you have all been receiving emails every day offering you newer and stronger lead for your particular pencil!)
However, when any new medication is formulated, there begins a very long process before the new “wonder drug” is licensed for use by you and me. Part of that process is testing the compound on live beings. Note I did not say “human” beings. Those live beings are usually convenient test animals, of which Mr. Rat the rodent is a prime example.
We always need to know how poisonous is the new drug. Mr. Rat is then fed the new compound in ever increasing quantities until the dose high enough to kill 50 percent of the rat population is reached. The scientists call this the LD50 (Lethal Dose for 50 percent) for the new compound - but remember this is for rats. If it takes 10 mg of compound A to kill 50 percent of the rats, but only 1 mg of compound B, then B is 10 times stronger than A.
Pregnant Mrs. Rats are also fed the new drug and the offspring are thoroughly examined to see if there are any abnormalities, greater than the ‘normal’ amount of expected abnormalities. Yes, no animal, including us, is without a usual percentage of birth abnormalities. Laboratory rats in particular are well known for being able to develop all sorts of abnormalities if you even just look at them sideways!
Only after this exhaustive testing is the drug then used in limited test runs on a very limited human exposure group. And, by and large, that does not include its testing on productive age females.
All this takes an enormous length of time, so next time you read of the new wonder drug “breakthrough” do not expect that this will appear in the pharmacy next week. Unfortunately too, many of these new drugs will end up never being released as further research often turns up problems that only made themselves apparent after long term usage.
However, even the ones that do get released have to be approached with caution. Just because rat testing appeared to show that the drug was “safe”, does not mean that humans will also react the same way. As the caption this week says, man is not a large rat! This is one reason why women in particular must be very careful with the drugs they take during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, that time when the growing foetal structures are susceptible to toxic chemical damage. In fact, any woman who has to take regular medication should ask her obstetrician about the relative risks. However, this does not mean stop taking the tablets as soon as you miss a period. Letting the maternal problems run unchecked can be an even greater risk to the baby than the risk from the medication taken by Mum.
Antenatal care is a very specialized branch of medicine and I do recommend that you should check in with your obstetrician for advice. You may not be a rat - but you don’t want to be a guinea pig either!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
In response to Bart’s problem of a couple of weeks ago where he has found he has a couple of the girls on the go and asks “Should I get a Private Eye to keep the place under surveillance, or should I just have it out with Number 1? Do you think Number 2 would contact Number 1 if I do nothing?” So what do you do? You just brush him off, suggesting he rent the condo out for 12 months and say goodbye to both Number 1 and Number 2 and “grow up a little before you return”. Do you really think this is justified, Hillary? By putting someone down, is this good advice? I would have suggested that the guy just carry on as he was doing. There’s nothing either of them can do to him. It’s not as if he’s signed a contract or married to either of them, is it?
Dear Larry (the Lawyer),
You demonstrate the old male chauvinism, where what the man does is OK, and the woman’s feelings are ignored as inconsequential. Your friend Bart is cheating and wants to know how he can weasel out of the situation. I am not going to tell him to ignore either girl at the expense of the other. And I wouldn’t be so cocky saying “There’s nothing either of them can do to him,” as there is plenty of things can be done, and have been done over the years. Chopping up his suits in the wardrobe has been featured in this column many times over in the past. Bonfires of books. Contacts with wives in the home country have not been unknown. And of course, there is a certain branch of home surgery with sharpened scissors and feeding the man’s donated organ to the ducks is also well documented. There’s lots they can do, and has been done. Don’t be so “cocky” if I might use a phrase, Petal. You might regret it. I think you need to grow up a little too, Larry.

Dear Hillary,
I have a great little gal who has been staying with me for about six months. When I’m away off shore she uses the car to go back to her village and stays there until I’m due to come back, but lately I kind of get the idea that maybe she’s not really back with Mom in the village, if you know what I mean. Got any ideas how can I check her out, but discreetly. I don’t want to get a PI as I can’t trust any tired old guy to be totally invisible.
Pat from PA
Dear Pat from PA,
This is a common problem Pat my Petal, and really shows that perhaps you have been too trusting, especially with such a short relationship. Here you are, you know the girl for six months and “Have the car, darling, I won’t need it for the next six weeks.” Would you do that with any woman you met only six months ago in the US? I don’t think so. You men really go out of your way to make problems for yourselves, don’t you! However, there is a way you can check on where she is with your car without resorting to getting her followed, as these days you can find cheap tracking devices you hide in the car which will give you the location very easily. Perhaps you could look into that. I hope you are not disappointed.

Dear Hillary,
You may find this a strange request, but I am an American interested in Buddhism and wondered if it would be possible that on my next holiday here I could join a monastery. I would only have two weeks but imagine that in that time I could at least get the basics of Buddhism. Is this possible? I don’t mind where in Thailand that I would go as I am interested in the study, not the geography or tourism side. I have always been impressed watching the orange robes going along the streets with their alms bowls in the mornings.
Dear Wesley,
There is no such thing as “strange requests” in Hillary’s letter box these days! I think I’ve seen them all. Now, to yours. If you want to understand the basics of Buddhism, you have to start long before you get on the plane to come to Thailand. To begin with, have you looked to see if there is a Buddhist temple in your region in the US? Discussions with the monks there will assist you in your quest. Monks in America can generally all speak English, while in the temples here, they naturally speak Thai and you would be lucky to find someone fluent in your language.
I would recommend that you get the following books before going much further, Buddhism Explained (ISBN 974-7047-28-4) by Khantipalo Bhikkhu, Phra Farang, An English Monk in Thailand by Phra Peter Pannapadipo, (ISBN 974-202-019-1) and The Good Life. A guide to Buddhism for the Westerner by Gerald Roscoe (ISBN 974-8206-56-4). Read these before ordering the saffron robes, Petal.

Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Expanding your horizons?

While a digital point and shoot may be your introduction to photography as a fun pastime, sooner or later you will find that your equipment is lacking. You can’t get close enough to get a good portrait, or your wide angle isn’t wide enough, or trying to take an action shot is impossible. You have reached the restrictions produced by your equipment.
Now you will want to expand upon your current equipment, and even when you are just starting out you should have an eye to the future, as money spent wisely now can result in great savings later.
Firstly, you need a good camera - an SLR (single lens reflex). The first pointer is to select a good brand. There are many to choose from, but if you look at the pros who are out every day shooting thousands of images you will find the same names on the camera cases. One of my favorite brands has been Nikon, which has served me well in the 35 mm field. Nikon equals bullet proof and quality lenses. Others such as Canon, Pentax, Olympus, etc., are also excellent brands, all of which have interchangeable lenses too, so your basic system can be enlarged upon over a period of time, and your original lenses will still be good.
The SLR is the center of your equipment. It is this camera that will allow you to be creative in your shots. It is this camera that will win you awards and recognition. It will be expensive, so choose wisely. For my money, the ideal “starter” SLR would be a Nikon D50. A camera that has a manual mode that allows you to make all the decisions.
Now you look at lenses. The “standard” lens that will come with your SLR will most likely be a 50 mm. Buy firstly a wide angle lens. Around 28 or 24 mm is good, or even 20 mm for very dramatic shots, but the distortion problem can be a little much at this wide angle. The next lens you should buy is around the focal length of 135 mm - the ideal lens for portraits.
No zooms? No, I personally do not like zoom lenses. The sharpness is not as good as “prime” lenses (though I have to say they are much better these days), but one reason I do not like them for new photographers is that zoom lenses make for lazy photographers. Instead of walking in to compose the subject, the photographer zooms in. The depth of field is lost, the flash is too far away and the chance of a perfect shot is lost.
You should also keep your old point and shoot compact camera, or if it needs replacement, stick to the better brands if you want to get something which will last, and even more importantly, one that will return crisp images. All the top brands make some very good small point and shooters, with excellent lenses. This camera is for those situations where you don’t want to lug all the gear, when you need something light and pocket portable. Get one with a 24 or 28 mm lens and built in flash which can be turned off.
The next important piece of equipment is the bag you carry your equipment around in. My choice is a soft padded camera bag with adjustable divisions. Waterproof in tropical rainstorms is important, so get one that has the zip fastener covered by a lip of material. Some exterior pockets to carry batteries, a spare pair of fold-up reading glasses (if you need them) and a pocket torch. Again, get a good one, even though they are expensive. Mine is quite battered and worn, but is now over 20 years old and has been round the world several times. It was money well spent.
Other equipment includes filters, and I will do a separate article on this subject another week - but do use adaptor rings to bring all the lenses to the same size. Again a cost saving later, when all your filters can then be interchangeable. And to start with, one of those dinky little table-top tripods.

Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

Kondratieff - Genius or Fraudster? Part 2

The Kondratieff Wave. Peaks and troughs
are associated with major political or cultural events.

Kondratieff’s ideas should be taken in the global perspective. The time of growth is also one of geo-political stability. When things are no longer on the up then old alliances fracture and new friendships are made. When the downside is nearing completion then it is the new that will take things forward. As Ian Gordon (IG) has pointed out, in 1930, America was the largest creditor nation on earth. They are now the biggest debtors. China and Japan are now the largest creditors and could be the unlikely alliance to lead us into Spring. Thus as the USA replaced the UK in the last winter so will the two great Eastern powers replace America.
This is not the only thing that the US has to worry about. As America replaced Great Britain as the great economic power after the last Kondratieff Winter so the US Dollar replaced the British Pound. IG has an almost apocalyptic concept of what may happen next: “I truly believe that the world monetary system will collapse in the Kondratieff Winter, much as it did in 1932 and 1933 when the world gold standard system collapsed. Britain went off the gold standard system in September 1931 and was followed by several other countries. And eventually, effectively, the U.S. went off too. The system, while it lasted, allowed individuals in the U.S. to exchange paper for gold. We now have a fiat system. Incidentally, it’s the first time, I think, in history that the entire world is being run on a paper money system, which is a U.S. dollar system. I think that that fiat system is going to collapse much as the gold standard system collapsed in 1930. So it really doesn’t bode well for the U.S. dollar if that does happen.”
Gordon believes that now people have discovered the only way money is valued is against debt then they will demand some sort of stability. Traditionally, until after the last Winter, money was valued against gold. This could well happen again.
If you take these factors into account then Kondratieff’s ideas still hold good. Maybe a less scientific way of looking at all of this is to say that when the last generation to see a depression is dying off then it is time for a new one to start.
Although the last sentence is a bit flippant, this still points to the whole point of what Kondratieff was trying to achieve. When things are really down, i.e. Winter, then this is getting towards the worst part. The only question is how long will it be before the cycle bottoms out and things start to get better? This is the season of debt repudiation and commodity price deflation which has been partly brought about by, amongst other things, debt defaults. By seeing what has happened in the past it is possible to envision what should happen in the future.
Everyone has now accepted that it is physically impossible to maintain the present worldwide debt and that it will take a minor miracle to buy our way out of the situation as it now stands. The present Kondratieff Wave still has life in it, in fact, it has lots of life. In April and May there was an increase in world stock markets and people got excited, saying that the worst was over. This was nothing more than a bubble and things will get worse before they improve. Some speculate that this means the Dow Jones will drop to as low at 1,500 before things get better.
There is also the problem that even though there is money going out of the economy because of collapsing debt, it will be overcome by the money being forced into it by the central banks. Somewhere out there is tens and tens of trillions of debt which has to be “cleansed” from the economy. On top of that there are the trillions of US Dollars which have been lost from the US stock market alone. These are real losses. As are the ones suffered by those owning real estate. The Federal Reserve’s solution is to print money - and fast. This is also the solution of Gordon Brown. However, they forget that banks have to want to lend it and there will be borrowers who have to want to borrow it. In the present circumstances this will probably not happen. This means that there will not be inflation but deflation.
The Winter of the K-wave is a dangerous period. But it will be eased for those holding a good, liquid multi-asset class diverse portfolio which should definitely include gold.

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


‘Die fast - the way you lived’

There’s a scene in Public Enemies, now showing in Chiang Mai, when the monstrous head of the FBI. tells his minions, via his lieutenant, Melvin Purvis, that they have reached a situation where, ‘As we say, the white gloves are off’. He tells them that he wants, (needs), tough action and that future interrogation of suspects can be strenuous.
In shorts, the Feds are getting organized against previously disorganized crime, which has in turn given away to organized illegality. It’s the mid-thirties, a few years into the depression, but this scene nods forward to a much more recent administration, desperate and brutal in a fight against ‘terror’.
Two victims of the new harshness are a gang member who gives up Dillinger’s hideout when tortured in a hospital and the gangster’s girlfriend who offers up information that later turns out to be false – something common to torture victims. These are the only moments of true violence in this splendid movie and both come from the side of the law. The rest is stylised shoot-outs with tommy-guns spurting fire like mini flame throwers and the mayhem of chases and robberies in homage to the gangster movies which were actually made in the period so lovingly recreated here.
Here, once again, we have the bulbous black de Sotos and Fords, with running boards seemingly tailor made to carry gun toting gangsters and their pursuers. As the two sides overlap, director Michael Mann reprises a theme common to his work, the mixture of good and evil on both sides of the law. Interestingly the public is shown to side with the ‘enemy’, not the police.
John Dillinger, svelte in Fedora and a long black coat, remains a criminal and a killer. He lives only for the day; the past is irrelevant, the future uncertain. He readily identifies with Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama, the film he went to see just before being gunned down outside the Biograph Cinema. Gable plays the stylish, cocky crook, loved by Myrna Loy and unwilling to accept a reprieve and spend the rest of his life in jail. On his way to ‘the chair’ he tells an inmate, ‘Die fast, the way you lived’. Watching this scene, Dillinger gives a small smile of recognition.
Public Enemies is an adult movie of clarity and lucidity, albeit an elliptical work which assumes that the audience knows something of the period and the outcome of this particular story. The other person who is sure of the outcome is Dillinger himself. In a tender scene, he lies to his girlfriend Billie, assuring her that they can soon take a trip to Rio, to dance and have fun. Their fractured, impossible affair is just one theme of this complex work. It is also a gangster flick, a portrait of a mobster, a brilliant evocation of an era and most importantly it tells of the traumatic changes in America in that challenging decade.
Dillinger has unwittingly become old fashioned. This swaggering, handsome guy with his tommy-gun and pistols, quirky spectacles and ruthless bravado is, by 1934, an anachronism as a bank robber. He and his cohorts such as Pretty Boy Floyd are wanted by the Feds and too ‘hands on’ and high profile for the new syndicates, who have no room for ‘mavericks’. In a telling scene, Dillinger is shown a betting operation and his recent haul of 70,000 dollars is sneered at: ‘This room generates that amount every day and we pay the police to stay out, but if you are in here they won’t do that’. These new style bosses work clandestinely, with more subtle ways of manipulating the system. Rather like banks and big business today.
Writing about this movie a couple of weeks ago, I optimistically anticipated a cinematic treat- and that it surely is. To be honest though, it is not a great film and nothing in Mann’s fine oeuvre, except possibly The Last of the Mohicans, suggests that stature. The action is too much on the surface, carried along by his restless camera, which becomes a visual metaphor for Dillinger’s personality.
Mann strikes a brilliant if uneasy balance between the great gangster films of the 1930s and ‘40s, (best of all was Howard Hawks’ Scarface), and the revival of the genre by Coppola with his Godfather trilogy. It shares some similarities of style and action with Mohicans in the themes of loyalty, betrayal and a nation ‘at war’ and stands pat with his works such as Heat and Collatoral in quality. Certainly nothing in the commercial cinemas in Chiang Mai in recent months can hold a candle to it.
The story covers, in linear mode, the last months of Dillinger’s life as the emergent Hoover, desperate for funds to build his empire, (‘I’m an administrator’, he says defensively), brings in the dour and ruthless Purvis to wipe out the high profile gangsters. Purvis in turn brings in rough neck Texan law enforcers to back him up. Christian Bale plays the agent with menace and iced water in his veins and it comes as no surprise to read in the end credits that he soon left the FBI. and later committed suicide.
Billy Crudup, fattened and prissy, gives us the boss of the G-Men, as a creepy, anxious man, pinning phony medals on young boys who help in the fight against crime. The lovely Marion Cottilard makes much of the role of the forlorn hat check girl, who loves Dillinger not wisely but too well. Indeed the whole, huge cast is impeccable and the screen is a riot of authentic faces from a by-gone era – a triumph of casting.
And that goes too for Johnny Depp who, looking a lot like Dillinger’s photographs, adds another fine portrayal to his already impressive list that outshines any other young actor in ‘Hollywood’. As usual with this generous actor, always understated except when camping it as a pirate, he does not try to dominate the movie but is the purring engine which powers the vehicle under Mann’s guidance.
Neither he – the epitome of style – nor the director or his vast team, seem to put a foot wrong. The special effects are unobtrusively magical and add to the seedy glamour of the art direction. The sound track is a marvel, if occasionally given to overscoring the visuals with its cleverness. But it adds a touch of class throughout and if you need convincing of that just watch for the fleeting appearance of Diana Krall, as a night club entertainer with the song Bye Bye Blackbird, which leads to the film’s heart stopping moment of tenderness in the last scene.
And what a final scene. I can think of no greater compliment than to suggest that it yields a moment of almost Bressonian purity: a shot of Billie’s passive, inconsolable face, then a quick cut to a door closing on the departing agent who has brought her news of Johnny’s death and his last words. It is a great moment in an accomplished and entertaining movie.
It also gives a clue to the film’s style, which though pictorially ravishing is somehow somber and melancholy at its core. It doesn’t aim for tragedy or even pathos but is content to ‘present’ a situation and let us make judgements. It depicts a man whose character was ruthless and fleeting and if it had been made a few decades ago, James Dean might have played the role to equal perfection.
This is a guy who keeps his clothes neatly folded in suitcases, ready for the off. When asked by Billie if he’s been at an apartment long he replies, ‘Quite a while, since before yesterday’. We learn little about his past; his mother died when he was three and his father beat him regularly as the only way he knew to bring him up. But there’s no special pleading here. Somehow Dillinger has survived, anchorless, drifting but now mature, loyal to his pals, ruthless to his enemies – private or public.
This is a must see movie, a work in a genre which, like the Western, has sadly become all too rare. The wit is muted (the ‘hero’ asked his name at a prison says ‘John Dillinger. My friends call me Johnny. You can call me Mr. Dillinger’.) The only advice I can give is to suggest seeing it on the biggest screen possible with the best sound available, probably at Airport Major. Just hold on to your fedora, it’s a bumpy ride, indisputably scenic and not a second too long.

Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Now playing in Chiang Mai
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
: US/ UK, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – I found it a thoroughly engrossing and exciting film, and a satisfying dramatic experience – everything Public Enemies tried for and failed to achieve (In my opinion.)  Denzel Washington plays a New York City subway dispatcher whose day is thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train.  The criminal mastermind, played by John Travolta, is the leader of a gang of four who threatens to execute the train’s passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour.  A reworking of the 1974 film.  Rated R in the US for violence and pervasive language.  Mixed or average reviews.
17 Again:
US, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance – A mild comedy about redoing life over again from high school.  It uses a well-worn formula, but has just enough Zac Efron charm to result in a harmless, pleasurable teen comedy.  Mixed or average reviews.
6:66 Death Happens / 6:66 Die Not Die / tai mai dai tai:
Thai, Horror –  A crime reporter starts seeing weird and scary things after someone who was supposed to die doesn’t die, causing a rip in the fabric between life and death, or something like that.  A dreadful movie, to gauge from the previews and posters. 
Public Enemies:
US, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ History – I think it’s a mess, albeit a brilliant mess, but I don’t want to unnecessarily discourage you from seeing it, because it offers many pleasures.  It’s an impeccably crafted film, with some fine performances, vast attention to period detail, an innovative use of high-definition video instead of film, and a fascinating era recreated.  Still, it’s a hodge-podge in my opinion, and doesn’t gel into anything coherent.  Johnny Depp plays the criminal John Dillinger and Christian Bale plays government agent Melvin Purvis in a Great Depression-era drama about the fledgling FBI’s attempts to end a crime wave.  Rated R in the US for gangster violence and some language.  Generally favorable reviews.
Director Michael Mann has been accused of bringing what has been dubbed the “MTV Look” to first television and then to films, a look which favors style over substance and technique over storytelling, in the “short attention span” manner of the MTV cable network.  That’s evident to me here.  The style and the techniques are truly impressive, but Mann has said, “The biggest struggle, for me is always: Get the story to work,” he said.  “The story has to be about the inner experience of [Dillinger], so that by the end, it’s not about him getting shot.   Is your heart with him? Do you know him?  That’s the battle.”
A battle he truly lost in this case, I think.
Dear Galileo:
Thai, Comedy/ Drama – A pleasant enough diversion about girls on their own in Europe – low-keyed and low-powered, slow and meandering.  From Nithiwat Tharathorn, continuing his examination of students in love as two teenage Thai girls spend a year in London, Paris, and Rome.  When they run short of money, they get jobs in Thai restaurants for a while.  Based on the director’s own experiences of living and working abroad.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
: US/ UK, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Romance – This, the latest and darkest Harry Potter episode, is a dazzling film, with brilliant cinematography, fantastic effects, and moments of emotional power.  I think you’ll find it incoherent unless you’re a close follower of the previous films, or have immersed yourself in the books.  If not, large sections of the film will make absolutely no sense whatsoever, because all the characters seem to know things the audience is never privy to.  Generally favorable reviews.
Great art direction and scenic design, and it’s really well directed, with excellent performances, and an exciting story. 
Scheduled for August 6
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra:
US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From Hasbro we get another action-adventure film based on toys, like Transformers.  “From the Egyptian desert to deep below the polar ice caps, the elite G.I. Joe team uses the latest in next-generation spy and military equipment to fight the corrupt arms dealer Destro and the growing threat of the mysterious Cobra organization to prevent them from plunging the world into chaos.”  The term “G.I. Joe” here refers to a Hasbro-created military-themed line of action figures and toys which lasted from 1982 to 1994, and included over 500 different figures and 250 vehicles and playsets.  A series of comics were printed as part of the promotion package.  With Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans.
Sam Chuk:
Thai, Drama – Based on a true story, this is a rarity for Thailand: a social issues film, exploring the lives of seven teenagers who are entangled with and devastated by drug use in a small province called Sam Chuk.  Their local teacher tries to teach them to cope with their problems.

Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

This was board 4 at the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai’s regular Wednesday bridge session on July 22nd. My partner, John Bucher, and I were the unwary victims of it. Our opponents were Chris Hedges and Graham Forshaw. I was sitting North and these were the N-S hands (note that the direction of the hands has been rotated so that South is the declarer): 

                     S: KQ7

                     H: K

                     D: AQ10752

                     C: K32               

S: ?                                          S: ?

H: ?                                         H: ?

D: ?                                         D: ?

C: ?                                          C: ?

                     S: J10942

                     H: AQJ1054

                     D: -

                     C: AJ                   

South dealt and all were vulnerable. This was the bidding: 

South       West          North      East

(John)      (Chris)      (me)        (Graham)

1H             P                 2D           P

2S              P                 4N           P

5N             P                 ?               

We were playing Roman Key Card Blackwood, in which there are five key cards, the four aces and the king of trumps. John’s 5N response shows two or four key cards and a void. Since I had two key cards (diamond ace and spade king), I knew that he had two, not four and we were missing an ace. In view of the length of my suit I guessed his void was in diamonds. What would you bid at this point? I had been thinking about bidding 6N. However, my partner’s void in diamonds made my good diamond suit look to be of little value in no trump. Consequently I bid six spades.
Chris led a low spade to the ace in Graham’s hand. Back came a heart, which Chris ruffed! Excellent lead from Graham, but who would expect hearts to split 6-6-1-0? So the contract was down one. To add insult to injury no one else was in slam at all, even though N-S clearly should be at the six level. After all, six no trump played by North is cold against any defence, scoring five top hearts, four top spades after the ace has gone, two top clubs and the ace of diamonds. Six spades only fails because of the extreme distribution in hearts. So we bid it well and got a bottom! Is there no justice? I can see that I’ll have to make more frequent sacrifices to the bridge gods in future in order to get their favour. The full deal is shown below: 

                        S: KQ77

                        H: K

                        D: AQ10752

                        C: K32       

S: 653                                  S: A8

H: -                                      H: 987632

D: KJ943                            D: 86

C: 98754                             C: Q106

                        S: J10942

                        H: AQJ1054

                        D: -

                        C: AJ           

The Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at or contact Chris Hedges at:  [email protected] If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]