By Barbara Seagram
Courtesy of BarbaraSeagram.com
My husband, Alex Kornel, and I taught bridge aboard a cruise ship a few years ago through the Middle East. It was the experience of a lifetime: Cairo, Sharm-El-Sheikh, Jordan (Petra), Safaga (Valley of the Kings), Oman, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Bahrain, Qatar, Fujairah (U.A.E.), Kish Island (Iran), Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) We learned a great deal about this area of the world and the people who live there. We learned that we must never lump all Arab countries together; each has its special differences.
Whenever we travel to an exotic destination, we always have concerns about safety. To our surprise, we found that there is little if any theft in any of these countries (perpetrators are jailed for this crime). We felt safe at all times, no matter what neighborhood or time of day. We were greeted with warm, welcoming smiles and genuine friendliness every step of the way. We did our own touring and thus had an opportunity to meet many of the locals. We tried to spread goodwill from the West wherever we went and often told people that we were bridge teachers. We told them that all over the world, people of all nationalities sit around bridge tables, playing and living harmoniously side by side, regardless of age, race, creed or colour. Bridge crosses all social, economic or religious barriers.
Our only sad moment was looking across the water when we were docked in Aquaba, Jordan…there was Israel, a few kilometers away. We wanted to hop in a cab and go for a visit to Eilat in Israel. We were advised that if we did this, our passports, when stamped with ‘Israel’ border entry stamps, would not allow us to enter any Arab countries. Our visit to Israel would have to wait.
Another highlight was that we arranged to teach a bridge class to a group in Dubai. The Charity event (in aid of the Dubai Terry Fox run) was held at a very beautiful hotel, the Fairmont Dubai. We were supposed to teach in the morning, break for lunch and then play a game of bridge. At the break, after enjoying a superb luncheon, the group decided that they wanted more instruction so we continued teaching all day long.
Not one person present was from Dubai originally; indeed not one was from United Arab Emirates. They hailed from Britain, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Belize, India, Lebanon, Denmark, Canada, Japan, USA, South Africa and Holland. It was a mini-United Nations. We discovered that only 20% of people who live in U.A.E. are actually Emirati.
As of Jan ’07, the local bridge club became an ACBL club. One of the organizers was Marilyn Johnston (who used to play a lot of bridge in Toronto and then moved to Dubai). Marilyn was my Dubai contact and made many of the arrangements for our successful day there. The manager of the bridge club then was Bernie Cooper. Marilyn and Bernie both wrote the ACBL Club Directors exam while we monitored them on behalf of ACBL (we took the exams with us to Dubai!).
The event was supported by the Consulate of Canada in Dubai and one of the main organizers was Maureen Rush, wife of the Head of Consulate and Senior Trade Commissioner, Graham Rush.
This was one of the hands that the students had to play:
The bidding was straightforward. West made our favorite lead in bridge: the ♣A because she also had the ♣K. Her partner followed with ♣Q. Out of eight tables, only one pair got this defense right.
The play of the queen under partner’s ace is a special signal in bridge. It tells partner that you also own the jack or that you have a singleton queen. This signal exists so that a defender will know how to get their partner on lead if they should wish to do so.
Lola now contemplated what to do next. She realized that their side was most likely entitled to two club tricks and the ♥K as well. Hmm…that wouldn’t beat the contract. She remembered hearing in the lesson that when you have trump control (the ace or king of trumps along with some little trumps) that short suit leads are then a good idea. Lola now switched to the ♠10. Declarer won this and started to draw trumps, finessing for the king. Lola won the ♥K and now led back a club to partner’s known jack. East dutifully now gave her partner a spade ruff. Down one.
When you are defending, you have to use your imagination. Defense requires your focus and lots of creativity. It is the most exciting part of the game and when you get it right, it is the most rewarding. Good defense creates lots of chemistry across the table. Pure magic!