Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jennbridge: ABTA conference in Memphis

The American Bridge Teacher's Ass'n. ( held its annual conference in Memphis last week before the start of the spring NABC.  I was honored to be invited as a program speaker and elected to also sign up for the entire program.  A first time attendee, I wasn't disappointed.

Wed. AM featured an interesting panel discussion including the latest on income taxes for self-employed bridge teachers.  I made a couple of notes of items to look into, including PayPal income.  Then it was my turn.

Carol Griffin from Walnut Creek gave a lovely introduction and I launched into my presentation about Losing Trick Count.  I described how valuable it is as a hand evaluation tool and how I have been using it for over 15 years. I explained how it had markedly improved my game and how I wanted to share it with others.  I quoted Gene Simpson who declared:  "Average players can compete with experts if they understand and use losing trick count!"

I talked about Brent Manley and the series of Bridge Bulletin articles I am currently writing about the subject and how I believe that the time is right for this topic. I shared this enthusiastic comment from a reader:

Dear Jennifer,  A few weeks ago I wrote to let you know I had received your booklet & was trying to put it in use.  Today I played in our local open game.  I may have been the only non-life master in the room.  My partner "only" has around 600 points.  To make a long story short, I used LTC all day.  Much to my surprise we finished in first place, ahead of a player with 25,000 master points.  (I'm sure you know him by name as he plays in big time tournaments.)  Also, using LTC I was the only player in the room to bid and make a 27-point slam.  I'm sure you are used to doing such things, but it was really something for me.
Anyway, thanks for the help!!  Best wishes,  Harry

After an example hand using LTC, I described the teacher package I have assembled containing a copy of my booklet Losing Trick Count, an 8-page seminar booklet which can be duplicated for students and some extra hands if needed.  Bridge teachers can make such a difference in enhancing the skills of players and their enjoyment of the game.

Questions and answers followed. The talk seemed to be well-received as several participants purchased booklets and teacher packages.

Wed. PM
We were all looking forward to Mike Lawrence's talk about Counting:  the art of acquiring useful information.  He presented several interesting hands and engaged the audience in analysis.  The talk was reminiscent of his book How To Read Your Opponents' Cards which I consider to be one of his all-time best and which I recommend to students.  We received a generous 25-page handout.

Joan Anderson then conducted a fun bidding workshop which gave us some good teaching ideas.

A tour of Elvis Presley's Graceland plus dinner was scheduled for the evening and we traveled by bus in two shifts.  Graceland is a '50's style Southern mansion situated on 13 acres.  It is essentially a shrine to Elvis and it was hard not to reflect on his life and music as he was such a larger-than-life figure in our culture.  It was definitely a treat to stroll the grounds at sunset in the warm Tennessee air.

Thurs. AM
The prestigious Bridge Teacher of the Year was announced and congratulations go to Mary Jane Orock from Texas!

It was a pleasure to meet and hear Audrey Grant give tips on improving bridge lessons.  It was impressive to learn about the work that goes into the hands that she uses and we were pleased to receive a copy of her book The Impact of Opening Leads Against Notrump Contracts.

Lunch at the Peabody:  What a fabulous and elegant old hotel!  We were treated to a nice luncheon hosted by the ACBL and Baron-Barclay and enjoyed the ducks merrily splashing in the lobby fountain amid the massive marble columns.

Thurs. PM
Ray Lee told us what was new at Master Point Press and gifted us with A First Book of Bridge Problems by Patrick O'Connor.

Jerry Helms then gave a valuable presentation featuring some interesting teaching hands--all with his famed titles--along with useful handouts.

Finally, we were hugely entertained by Zia--who likened Bridge to Magic as he shared many amusing anecdotes and enlightening hands!  An example:  RHO opens 7 spades and you have the other 3 aces.  You lead the ace of hearts which gets ruffed.  Declarer then proceeds to run out all his spades and you have to decide which minor-suit ace to retain.  Give up?

Zia advised keeping the ace of clubs as declarer, with 13 black cards, may not have noticed that one of them was a club!

Awards Banquet
We all turned out in our finest as awards were given and Julian Laderman and first time attendees said a few words and book awards were given.

Fri. AM
After several action-packed days it was hard to believe what an interesting final morning was planned. We got to hear from Eric Rodwell who answered questions and came up with instantaneous examples to illustrate his points.  His new book is a treasure for those of you who haven't indulged.

Finally, an expert and entertaining panel moderated by the irrepressible George Jacobs.  The experts (John Lindop, Jerry Helms, Ellen Kent, John Rayner and Haig Tchamitch) fielded questions and offered opinions while Jacobs poked fun and kept it moving.

We adjourned, bid our adieus and started packing up. Quite an enjoyable morning, I reflected, as I headed off to play in the IMP pairs.

A high-energy week packed with an impressive lineup of bridge experts, authors and teachers, along with valuable tips and fun activities.  Not to mention gifts, handouts and new bridge books.  I met some dedicated bridge teachers from all around the country with whom I hope to stay in touch.

If you're a bridge teacher, get thee to an ABTA conference.  The officers and participants are hard-working and help ensure the survival of our game. The next conference is at the 2012 summer NABC in Atlanta.

Thanks ABTA!

See you at the table!

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