Vol. VIII No. 50 - Tuesday
December 15 - December 21, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Money Matters

Life in Chiang Mai

Let's Go To The Movies

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Bridge in Paradise

The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Christmas Disease - Hating the supermarket carols?

I know Christmas is coming in a couple of weeks, and my hospital has its Xmas Charity Fair tomorrow (Saturday 12 December), but I hope none of you have just 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” hemophilia (or haemophilia if you come from the right hand side of the Atlantic Ocean).
His condition was studied by researchers Biggs, Douglas, and Macfarlane around 50+ 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. 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 our children 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 faith.)
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, when 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 will all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dr. Iain.

 

Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
As an erstwhile long-term resident of Thailand, I too ran into problems with inflated bar bills. In one bar in Bangkok I saw the landlord deliberately add on to my friend’s bill a beer I had bought for him myself. When I pointed this out, the landlord looked at me in a way that boded ill for the integrity of my physical person. We left hurriedly.
Again, in Pattaya, a German pal and I were charged double - the landlord swore we had ordered drinks for the girls. We hadn’t. And we didn’t pay the inflated bill. But this only causes bad feeling and I finally, after thirty-five years, found the answer.
Quite simply, pay the bill each time you order a drink. Then tip the girls generously at the end of your session. In dud bars, you’ll see the mama-san and the owner are not amused by this strategy.
Another good way I found of avoiding the problem is to stop drinking. I have finally achieved this after 49 years of insobriety.
I don’t recommend this method, though, at least not until you reach the age where people think you’re an old git and do not sense the sensitive soul underneath the wrinkles.
Here in England, I totter downstairs to the computer every Friday to read your splendid column. So few women these days believe in the quintessentially floral quality of men. We wouldn’t be ‘petals’ otherwise, would we?
Fond regards,
Bob
Dear Bob,
I’m sure you’d rather be a petal than a stamen, and thank you for the nice words. I’ll think of you every Friday morning (“Bob will be reading this,” I’ll mutter excitedly under my breath), but I am sorry to hear (or presume) that you have reached the “old git” era. I was hoping some young blood was coming to sweep me away, after the champagne and chocolates!
Now, as regards the bar bill. Undoubtedly there are unscrupulous bar operators and the sooner they get found out, the better. By the way, you don’t have to pay each time, just sign the individual bills as they come, making sure you underline the amount being charged. This way you can check the bills at the end of the night and make sure each one has your signature and the amount underscored. Of course, if you were taking me out on the town, we would be going to ‘better places’, more upmarket, the kind of places I cannot go on my salary, if you get my drift. By the way, don’t worry about the champagne now you have given up drinking - I’ll drink it all by myself.

Dear Hillary,
I asked my Thai girlfriend to marry me, but she said that she could not because her family did not agree. I found this amazing as the girl, a woman really, is 28 years old and surely old enough to make up her own mind. We have been dating for the last three months, and I thought everything was sweet with her parents. I have been married before and have grown up children, but she does not. Do you think it is because I am a foreigner? Or is there something else I am missing here? I had intended taking her back to my home country after we were married.
Dumbstruck
Dear Dumbstruck,
I think there is lots that I am missing in this equation too. Where do her parents live? Which stratum of society? What are their occupations, including that of the daughter? Where in the family hierarchy does the daughter come? All these can have an enormous bearing on the response by the family, as well as the woman’s adherence to family traditions. You also have to remember that you are probably more than twice her age, and again, as you have realized, you are a foreigner. What would your response be to a daughter of yours who had a boyfriend twice her age, and a foreigner as well, who might take her away to a foreign country? You have not been dating very long either, Petal. You may think you know this woman after three months, but I doubt it. Understanding Thai society and Thai minds can be a very difficult process for foreigners. Finally, it could really just mean that she didn’t want to disappoint you, so used the usual excuse. Sounds like a lost cause. Better start looking somewhere else.

Dear Hillary,
Last week there was a letter from some guy saying the upmarket Thai families don’t want to see their daughters going out with, or marrying foreigners. Maybe he’s only seen one such liaison, but there are plenty of farangs married to rich classy Thai women. Not all Thai wives are trophies, you know. Of course, if you want to be sure, marry the only daughter of a millionaire (dollar) widower.
James
Dear James,
You are correct, Petal. There are many marriages between farangs and Thai, and that is Thai men and farang women, as well as Thai women and farang men. As I pointed out last week, racial prejudice was not invented in Thailand. There is also much religious prejudice in the western world, just take Northern Ireland as a good example. The Battle of the Boyne, over 300 years ago, is still being waged. Please read the letter above yours too.


Camera Class:  by Harry Flashman

Digital camera owners manual

The other night I was at a concert with two friends, both of whom had brought their pocket-sized digital cameras. Needless to say, both had problems, all of which could have been easily overcome with just a little thought beforehand.
The first problem with camera 1 was the flash would not go off. Not being familiar with the camera, I could offer no suggestions other than look at the manual. Not only was the manual not with her, but she admitted she hadn’t read it recently either.
Mind you, I can sympathize with her, as I am still slowly chewing my way through the manual for my digital camera. They seem to be written as to be deliberately difficult to understand.
With no manual, my next suggestion was to look at the drop-down menu that all digitals have these days. We managed to get that to happen, but I’m damned if I could find anything about turning flash on or off. She was left to take the shots under the concert’s lighting (dim) and so the shutter speed was too slow and the images were blurred.
If that were not enough, the camera then told its owner that the battery was about to run out. Did she have a second, or back-up, battery with her. Of course not! And to finally top it all off, the camera then also told her that the memory card was full. So much for the ‘take it anywhere’ and record those great times pocket digital.
The other member of the photo brigade had a new fancy camera phone, which would take both still and video. I am convinced it probably did all that and received telephone calls as well, but again the instruction book was not there. It seemed to be stuck on video, but with the stage lighting being dim, as mentioned before, the video result was probably fine for the tiny LCD screen, but it certainly would not stand being blown up to domestic small TV screen size. As mementos of their evening in Thailand, it was an utter failure.
All that was an introduction to some very basic photographic items which, when understood can make your photos so much better.
The first and most basic is to hold the camera steady. Camera shake, despite all the fancy ‘image stabilization’ technology, is very common, especially when the photographer holds the camera in one hand while counting one-two-three with the fingers of the other hand. Use two hands to hold the camera and then say the one-two-three words.
Let’s address batteries and memory cards next. Always keep a spare charged battery with the camera and that problem is fixed.
Now the memory card - get the largest that your camera can handle. At least 1 GB and preferably bigger, and regularly clean out (delete) old pictures and then save the good ones on your computer or get the camera store to put them on a CD for you (which you will clearly mark as being “holidays in Thailand” or whatever, so you can identify the CD without having to play every one). Select the high resolution setting for the shots, even though you get fewer photos on one card, rather than the 600 low resolution (blurry) images, being the other end of the resolution scale for your camera and card.
Read and attempt to understand the owners manual, especially simple procedures such as turning the flash on and off, and how to select the various automatic modes, such as ‘Action’ and ‘Landscapes’. Practice doing the maneuvers so that it becomes automatic as well!
The final tips should be well known and involve camera technique. Remember the Rule of Thirds, being the optimum placement of the subject - which is one third in from either side margin and one third down from the top, or (rarely) one third up from the bottom. It makes your photographs look much more professional.
And lastly, move in closer to make the subject the ‘hero’, rather than sitting surrounded by extraneous background!
Happy digital photography this weekend!


Money Matters:  Paul Gambles MBMG International Ltd.

The Battle is Lost but can we win the War? Part 1

In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal stated that, “Many lost jobs in the US will never come back.”
Nearly eight million people have become unemployed since the recession began. Now, it has to be said that a lot of these jobs were created out of nothing anyway by the fact they were related to the housing industry which boomed earlier this decade. Bill Bonner calls this the Bubble Age whereby, apart from the above, people also had jobs selling products to people who did not really want or need them and, much more importantly, could not afford them unless they were paid for by credit. Also, do not forget the support staff needed to make all of this happen. People who worked in manufacturing, selling, transporting, etc., are now on the dole as well.
Well, the Bubble has well and truly burst. Obama thinks he can ease the pain by pumping in more money but it cannot really work. When he has run out of the filthy lucre the status quo will remain; i.e., people will still be in debt and out of a job. The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the casinos in Las Vegas had now stopped any expansion projects for the foreseeable future. When this happens you know things are bad.
Occasionally, there is good news but this is only short term. Nothing goes up or down forever. There is always a bounce when there is a downward trend but this is a dead cat one. The basics are:
- Just over one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers there has been huge, never seen before, state intervention in the American economy.
- The US government is now the country’s largest lender, insurer, car maker and guarantor against risk for all typed of investor.
- The American government is basically paying for 9 out of 10 new mortgages. If you purchase a General Motors car then you have bought something from a company 60% government owned.
- If you take a loan out or use your credit card, there is a good chance the American government is financing both your debt and your bank.
- Finally, if you buy life insurance from AIG, then you have got something from a company which is almost 80% owned by the state.
I have shown this because it shows that when there is no more federal money the situation will not have changed one iota. People will still be in debt with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s go back to the employment statistics. During the last decade, America employed over two million new people each and every year. In the first six months of this year over 2.5 million jobs have been lost. For these people to be re-employed again, new business needs to be created either by present companies expanding or new ones starting. This is not going to happen in the near future. It is always expected that people are laid off when times are bad but the slack is usually, at least in part, picked up by someone. Not this time and economists believe we will have large scale unemployment for quite some time. The head of the IMF has said it will be the middle of 2010 before we start to see employment pick up. I think this is highly unlikely and far too early.
The figures are there for all to see. Even if we could employ one and a half million people per annum in new, sustainable jobs the fact is that almost eight million have lost their jobs during this downturn. The probability is that more will be lost as well. Therefore, by the end of next year we could be looking at ten million people who have been made unemployed over the last few years.
What this means is that even if we get back to how rates of employment were ten years ago there are still going to be many millions on the dole queue.
Obviously, this is not the first time we have seen large scale job losses but they are usually restored when the economy recovers. However, this was when we were still in the credit growth era of the last sixty years. The problem is that this growth is no longer there. There are lots of houses out there which have been repossessed. We don’t need any more new ones. We certainly do not need such a big finance industry either. We need to get rid of credit not get more. So these jobs are not going to be needed for many years to come.
Also, it must be remembered that companies will look for cheaper sources of taking people on. Rather than use someone locally for USD50,000 they can outsource to India or the like for USD5,000. Thus these jobs have been lost forever.
To be continued…

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]onal.comm


Life in Chiang Mai: by Mark Whitman

Promises, Promises: Step Lively: Nap: Sad Season

A few days ago my film colleague on the Mail sent me a ‘promised schedule’ for the CMU Open Space screenings on Saturday evenings which are held at 7p.m. in the building over the Art Gallery at the end of Nimmenhaemen Road.
As you may know, admission is free to this estimable and eclectic series of movies, and along with the Friday evening French films at Alliance Francaise, they make the perfect antidote to much that passes for ‘cinema’ at the local multiplexes. Films such as 2012 are giving the popular art form a new dimension it must be said and are disaster movies in every possible sense. So keep an eye on these two venues, details of which can be found in the listings pages here.
True I have not been much taken by French films recently, since Truffaut seems a sentimentalist and Alain Resnais overly clever, but Alliance Francaise often have excellent works and their rivals at CMU promise good things from January, beginning on the 2nd with the Coen Bros. highly diverting satire Burn Before Reading.
Later that month (23rd) you can see Magnolia by Paul Thomas Anderson, who is certainly one of the finest directors working in the U.S.A. today. This complex film boasts a magnificent ensemble cast, a clever music score and confirmed a talent which was compounded by last year’s last year’s film There Will be Blood, a magnificent version of Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil.
There is no point in my listing or detailing the 26 works promised so I’ll mention more later. But two others of really special note are worth adding: On February 27th look out for a masterly debut by Joshua Marston called Maria Full of Grace. This searing portrait of the life and travails of a Colombian young woman tricked into being a drug mule was one of the best films of the current, dying decade. And for a classic and a contrast see Antonioni’s Red Desert. Made in 1964 this is the oldest film in the season and still one of the most intriguing and ‘modern’.
Step Lively
Sorry to bang on about the state of Chiang Mai’s pavements but it is interesting how much response this topic evokes. My main, and most serious, objection is the constant need to step out into the road because the so-called pedestrian section is either blocked or otherwise unusable.
This will often be the result of construction work, pot holes or other obstructions – sometimes broken paving stones or areas where trees have been uprooted or from wires or billboards. Even less forgivable is the parking of motor cycles and even, on occasion, a car.
The latest hazard is to be found on Huay Kaew Road. Here you will find a new coffee and drinks bar, the owners of which have had a notice board constructed which is – once the bar is functioning – wheeled out sideways so as to block the entire pedestrian walkway. Sorry guys, I know we all need to earn a living but I don’t think a hole in the wall venue needs a sign as big as a castle portcullis.
NAP
This year’s Nimmen Art and Design Promenade was the 10th to be held in the elegant Soi One and surely the best so far. The music seemed to be better, the stalls and shops more plentiful and more enticingly stocked and the coffee and wine bars and food stalls super. True I was not here for the first two or three but this annual event from December 5 is credited with helping make Nimmenhaemen Road into the most exciting place in the City.
On the three evenings I took a stroll there it was busier than ever and the atmosphere was relaxed and convivial and quite a few places seemed to be doing good business. Certainly it was impossible to get a seat at the Amari pasta restaurant and a couple of the small wine outlets. I was struck by the fact that well over 90, even 95, percent of those enjoying the evenings were Thais. Which brings me to the inevitable conclusion that local farangs or visitors don’t know what a treat they missed. Or is it..?
Sad Season
Just the fact that lots of people have gone back to their original countries for what is known as the ‘festive season’ (a.k.a. the last desperate attempt by shopkeepers and others to make a killing out of the gullible), plus the undeniable fact that the so-called high season has not yet arrived and seems unlikely to levitate at all. What a dismal year this has been for business in Chiang Mai and all hopes of a turn round beginning at Loy Kratong have long since faded.
The combination of last year’s airport fiasco and the menace of red shirt demonstrations have been a contributory cause, alongside the general lack of movement and tourists. Given that there are less than eight, perhaps ten, weeks left for any upturn in visitors, it seems that this will be a very sad season indeed. No doubt there will be a flurry of activity for the couple of weeks either side of January 1st, but I think that quite a few businesses will be shutting up shop in March and soon after. If the baht remains strong and the tourist authorities correspondingly weak, and the demonstrators active, then it is unlikely to improve in 2010/2553. Perhaps a note of complacency also has something to do with it. From what one hears, surrounding countries are not all experiencing the same dearth of paying customers.


Let's Go To The Movies:  by Mark Gernpy

Vista is to be gratefully thanked for returning (at least for this week) to its old habit of bringing some non-mainstream films to Chiang MaiVinyan is way far-out, and New York small and fitfully delightful.  For those looking for something different, they shouldn’t be missed.
Now playing in Chiang Mai
Vinyan:
France/ Belgium/ UK/ Australia, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – A love it or hate it film.  Fast-moving and at the same time slow, because often nothing seems to be happening.  So highly atmospheric that you think that may be all there is to it.  Six months after losing her only child in the Asian tsunami, a mother (Emmanuelle Béart) is convinced she sees him in a film about orphans living in the jungles of Burma.  Her skeptical husband (Rufus Sewell) agrees to join her search ...but their venture finds them stranded in the jungle under siege from a vicious gang of feral children.  It’s a chilling and dark tale.  Rated R in the US for some disturbing violent content, sexuality/nudity, and language. 15+ in Thailand.  The film was shot in Thailand; in English and Thai.  Mixed or average reviews, reviewers either extolling it or excoriating it, but I highly recommend it, if far-out and mystical films are something you now and then enjoy.  And if you enjoy Joseph Conrad.  And if you liked Apocalypse Now.  Or Lord of the Flies.  At Vista only, and thank you.
The Box:
US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Just delicious!  That’s my overall impression: a film to be savored.  And in particular, a tasty performance by Frank Langella that will make you drool.  Delightful fun!  Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a suburban couple with a young boy who receive a simple wooden box as a gift.  The box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button.  But, pressing the button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don’t know.  A curiously haunting tale that will intrigue your brain with attempts to decipher the connections between events that you are sure are connected, and fathom the meaning of events that you are sure have meaning.  Mixed or average reviews, but highly recommended.  At Airport Plaza only.
New York, I Love You:
France/ US, Drama/ Romance – An anthology joining ten short films by ten directors, all love stories set in New York.  The rules: No more than two days’ shooting time.  One week of editing.  An eight-minute time limit.  If one film isn’t working for you, just wait a few minutes.  Rated R in the US for language and sexual content.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Vista only.
Pai in Love:
Thai, Romance/ Comedy – Thai ensemble romantic comedy of six short films centered about a group of friends who all happen to take a winter vacation to the same place – Pai, northern Thailand’s hippie retreat.  Somehow, in that small province, they all find the true meaning of love.  At Airport Plaza only, and unfortunately only in Thai.
Couples Retreat:
US, Comedy – A comedy centered around four couples who settle into a tropical-island resort for a vacation with therapy sessions.  Generally unfavorable reviews.  At Airport Plaza only.
Yam Yasothon 2 / Hello Yasothorn 2:
Thai, Comedy – Thai down-country comedy with popular comedian Mum Jokmok and the usual TV comedians, engaged in rustic humor.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol:
US, Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy – Still the best film in town.  If you at all like animation, don’t miss it. It’s a faithful recreation of the Charles Dickens classic – one of literature’s most haunting tales.   Mixed or average reviews, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Shown in 3D, which in this case is a marvel, and only at Airport Plaza.
Ninja Assassin:
US/ Germany, Action/ Crime/ Thriller – A blood-soaked combination of physical stunts and digital trickery, featuring the shyly expressive Korean pop star Rain.  Not recommended, unless you’re easily delighted by ultraviolence for its own sake.  Rated R in the US for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language. 18+ in Thailand.  Generally unfavorable reviews.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon:
US, Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance – It’s for teenaged girls with raging hormones who want very safe romance, with just the vaguest threat of titillating danger.  Vast numbers of people love this movie.  It’s really just a matter of taste.  Mixed or average reviews.  At Airport Plaza only.
2012:
US/ Canada, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – The end of (almost) the whole world, as only Roland Emmerich can show it, and very well done indeed.  Thai-dubbed at Vista, English at Airport Plaza.
Scheduled for December 17
Avatar:
US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From director James Cameron, his first feature film since Titanic, and much anticipated.  The story involves a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet’s indigenous population.  The movie is 40% live action and 60% photo-realistic CGI.


HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?: By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

Weeds, weeds!

This time of year you may see the Chiang Mai forest edges and abandoned Longan plantations covered with a climber that has tiny white flowers. This is the notorious Mikania, or “Mile-a Minute” (Songkhla). This composite was introduced from South America by the British during the World War II, to camouflage airfields. In sixty years it managed to cover most of tropical Asia, including Indonesia and even Queensland in Australia. If you do not control this weed, it may shade the trees to death. Mechanical removal at an early stage is of course the best, but you may try biological warfare, as the Cuscuta plant (Dodder, Foi thong) may actually attack it and dry it out. This parasitic plant has no leaves or roots, just a stringy yellow vine, currently in blossom. It penetrates the host and sucks its minerals and sugars. Cuscuta is commonly found along roads in Chiang Mai, where it may parasitize any plant, even ornamentals, but it does not grow at an aggressive speed like Mikania, which makes it easy to control.
Other weeds currently dominating the scrublands are the three American mimosas: Mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant, Maiyarap), with its rapidly folding leaves. It grows flat on the ground, out of reach of the mower, remaining prickly and nasty for bare feet. M. diplotricha (Giant Sensitive Plant, Maiyarap khao) forms impenetrable thickets through long arching branches with rows of hooked spines that attach to skin and clothes. “Shark teeth” would be a suitable name. The third species is M. pigra (Giant Sensitive Tree, Maiyarap ton), which is the tallest species and very common. Another Chiang Mai weed is Chromolaena odorata (Christmas Bush, Ya dok khao is one of its 28 Thai names) from North America. Its chaotic light violet flowers are currently in blossom. Although the fragrant leaves are used by the Thai farmers to induce blood coagulation to an open wound, it may become a troublesome weed, forming thickets which suppress other vegetation. Although Roundup will kill all these plants, constant weeding is the healthiest solution. [email protected]


Bridge in Paradise : by Neil Robinson

Here is a hand to try bidding with your favourite partner. See if you can get to the optimum contract—my partner and I did not. It was board 9 from the Bridge Club of Chiang Mai pairs game on Dec 2nd (hand directions rotated 90 deg, for convenience in viewing the hands). North-South were vulnerable and East dealt. Assume you hold the North-South hands. If you are playing 15-17 point 1NT, then the bidding will probably start as below. What should North bid now to reach the best contract? 

                      S: 3

                      H: Q

                      D: J952

                      C: AKQ10982              

S: 9762                                S: 10854

H: K83                                 H: A97642

D: KQ3                                D: 10872

C: J74                                  C: -

                      S: AKQJ

                      H: J105

                      D: A64

                      C: 653             

East      South     West      North

P           1N           P              ? 

The North hand has only twelve points, but what a playing hand. There are six potential losers, four diamonds and the major suit aces (the jack of clubs is a conceivable additional loser, but unlikely). The question is how many of these six will be covered by the winners in your partner’s no trump opener. My partner and I have a special bidding system to help find minor suit slams, but I am disappointed to report that we ended up in just 3N (making three overtricks).
After thinking about the hand I decided the best way to bid it is the simplest. The most critical cards to find in South’s hand are aces, to provide first round control of whatever suit the defence leads. So bid 4C immediately, as Gerber (if you do not play Gerber, this hand is a good reason to change). When your partner shows two of the three missing aces, then blast right to 6C. This slam contract is cold no matter what is led—you take seven clubs, four spade tricks and the ace of diamonds. At the table most pairs ended up in game in clubs or no trump. Only Martin Bagnall and Dennis Hudson bid the club slam—well done. However, this was not a top. New visitors to Chiang Mai Ruthie and Les Cohen bid and made 6NT. A heart lead will defeat this, but it is unlikely that West will lead a heart from three to the king. The king of diamonds is a much more likely lead, or maybe a top of nothing spade. Either allows the contract to make. So well done to Ruthie and Les for bidding and making a top on this challenging hand.
Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes new players. For information on the Club go to the web site at www.bridgeclubchiangmai.com. If you have bridge questions, or to send me your interesting hands, please contact me at: [email protected]



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