Show cover of The Setting Trick: Conversations with World Class Bridge Players

The Setting Trick: Conversations with World Class Bridge Players

Hi, my name is John McAllister. I have spent the past six years playing bridge all around the world. My goal is to win a world championship. Doing so requires getting into the minds of the world's best players. I can not think of a better, more fun way to do so, than to interview great bridge players and share their insights in podcast format.


47. Susan Morse - Bridge Writer Extraordinaire
Susan Morse is my kind of person, well humored and a lover of bridge. In one of her Bridge Bulletin articles she introduced me to the concept of the Bridge Base Online “hamburger”. This conversation came about based on a chance encounter at the Austin NABC. We’ve since gone on to break bread during the Hilton Head regional. In a just completed phone conversation Susan tells me she will talk to her team about playing the Spingold for the first time in Providence. Episode highlights: 1:10- 'Good Evening Memphis' 14:55- How she began playing bridge 25:00- The all-too-familiar story of frantically pursuing masterpoints 48:35- New bridge book coming out soon? 53:10- The awe of meeting Meckstroth 1:03:27- The Migry (TST Guest #3) Hand 1:16:56- The tables are flipped and John gets interviewed 1:27:34- The Cardturner movie???
92:03 03/26/2022
46. Milan Macura - Bridge Streamer
Returning from my hiatus, I am pleased to welcome Milan Macura to kick off our next season on The Setting Trick. Milan is a professional player and teacher. He is also a Youtube streamer and was previously president of the Czech Bridge Federation..  In 2009, through a series of amazing, fortunate events, Milan won the 1st World Youth Congress. Listen for the full story! Milan Macura's Youtube Channel Episode highlights: 5:06- His pathway in becoming a streamer 13:25- The story behind his improbable win in the 1st World Youth Congress 19:30- Milan can’t be intimidated 26:05- “Full-service pro” 28:47- How Milan learned bridge 37:58- Youth bridge 48:55- Streaming details 52:08- Blue shirt red shirt 59:40- Milan loves playing bridge on tablets 1:05:25- Celebrating the World Youth Congress victory
71:12 03/16/2022
45. Jenni Carmichael - Director!
We have saved today’s guest to appear once the next in-person Nationals loomed near. Meet Jenni Carmichael, our first tournament director on the show and spouse of TST Guest #24 Tom Carmichael. A fine storyteller, Jenni finds the humor and draws out the drama.   Episode Highlights: 1:20- Chances of Austin Nationals happening 5:23- Requirements to become a director 11:15- 3SXX making is clearly an average board 15:00- “I just have four cards left to play” 17:05- How Jenny got into directing 24:00- “The only law we care about is God’s law” 28:46- “Does he have his bid?” 40:44- Bridge camps 46:30- Mixed Pair stories of absurd scores, intense pressure, and momentum 53:26- If no Greg, maybe no Double Dummy 55:20- Jenni once held a long grudge against her current director idol 1:11:12- It is useless to psych against Jenni 1:14:13- But her psychs are deadly
84:47 11/04/2021
44. Ola and Mikael Rimstedt - Twins that Win
The Rimstedt family of Sweden is among the strongest bridge-playing families of all-time. Twins Mikael and Ola are the youngest players ever to win the World Pairs, and their sister Cecilia won the 2019 Venice Cup, sadly with their sister Sandra no longer on the team after having emigrated to the US. Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Mikael and Ola. In addition to being my friends and I’ve even been lucky enough to have them on my team on occasion. Watch the video version here: Episode Highlights: 7:35- Mikael and Ola almost didn’t play in the world pairs they ended up winning 13:17- How Mikael got angry at Ola on a board where their side got a complete top late in the finals of the World Pairs 18:02- Rim job on Vugraph 20:12- Making the Swedish Open team 34:42- Rimstedt brothers better than the Grossack brothers??? 38:48- Why they split and came back together 46:12- Their dad previously played for Sweden 1:04:28- How Ola and Mikael got into bridge 1:12:08- Dating status
81:14 10/19/2021
Double Dummy 2.0 - Introduce your Friends to Bridge
I am excited to share the new version of Double Dummy with all of you. We created this film in hopes of spreading the word about bridge and inspiring a new generation of bridge-lovers. Please watch it and if so inspired do share it with others in your life who might be curious about bridge. The film features a team of the best American bridge players under age 21, vying for the United States' first ever medal in U21 team play. This is your opportunity to get an inside look at youth bridge at the highest level. The film is available through our fundraiser with the ACBL Educational Foundation through October 11th.
08:02 09/18/2021
43. Susan Bricken - Dedicated to Growing the Game
We are informally designating Susan Bricken as the Chief Enthusiasm Officer for the ACBL Educational Foundation’s new program, BridgeWhiz. We hope she’ll be an inspiration to all who want young people to learn the game. After finishing this episode, make sure to tell three people about BridgeWhiz, and feel free to copy me at! To date 1,250+ students have signed up. WATCH THE VIDEO VERSION HERE: Episode Highlights: 0:50- BridgeWhiz details 6:48- The bridge version of Queen’s Gambit 13:45- Immediately jumping into the deep end 20:20- Learning bridge from TST Guest 41 Robert Todd 23:08- Never play bridge with your spouse?? 25:00- Doubling the size of her local bridge club 31:10- The interviewee becomes the interviewer 32:50- The history of Double Dummy 45:25- Saving Lives Susan 50:10- Swimming Susan
57:26 09/15/2021
42. Shan Huang - Is Better than You!
Shan Huang (technically Huang Shan) is a budding bridge legend. His frequent successes at tournaments earned him multiple Richmond trophies, the Canadian masterpoint race, before he immigrated to the US’ greener bridge pastures. He is in a formidable partnership with Floridian Kevin Dwyer. Link to Video Version:   Episode Highlights: 1:40- Huang Shan 11:33- Why Shan moved from Canada to USA 19:30- His experience at a Chinese monastery 24:10- Descriptions of Justin Lall (RIP) 28:45- How Shan’s partnership with Kevin Dwyer came to be 32:35- The power of preempts against precision players 35:30- The biggest advantage of strong club systems 41:45- Shan’s mentors 49:54- A tragic hand 1:02:45- Another minus 1660 hand that costed John $1600+ 1:07:27- Who does Shan most want to partner with? 1:13:22- How rating bridge hands is like rating peoples’ attractiveness 1:19:00- Shan hates squealing
92:26 09/03/2021
41. Robert Todd - Adventures in Teaching
Robert Todd is becoming a force in the bridge teaching world and has been called “the next generation of great bridge instructor and entertainer.” Having taught in 48 States, lectured at countless regionals, nationals, and cruises, Robert is following the path of his mentors Audrey Grant, Larry Cohen, or Barbara Seagram—some of the world’s most renowned bridge teachers. Besides teaching professionally, Robert is heavily involved in promoting youth bridge. Using his knowledge and expertise as a top-tiered educator, Robert is helping spearhead the new ACBL Education Foundation program, Bridge Whiz. If your child is interested in learning bridge online, this 20-week long class is perfect for their needs! Learn more here. WATCH THE VIDEO VERSION ON YOUTUBE: Episode Highlights: 1:20- The history of the ACBL Education Foundation  5:50- How to make learning bridge enjoyable 7:15- Robert’s teaching style and method 11:57- ACBLEDF peddling Tricky Bridge 15:10- Robert was brainwashed into loving bridge His unique upbringing in the social bridge community influences his perspectives 22:05- Robert led a study to discover how many bridge players there are in America 27:05- Why the ACBL Education Foundation’s goal is different than the ACBL’s 32:35- Different bridge-playing communities 35:59- Professional teaching administrative details 43:52- Professional bridge and promoting bridge 50:53- Funny stories about TST Episode #31, Adam Kaplan 1:00:32- Robert’s analysis on the Meckwell partnership 1:02:44- The administrative thinking behind BridgeWhiz
79:16 08/18/2021
40. Jacek Kalita - The Gentle Killer
Ever since my conversation with Jeff Meckstroth, I began asking a standard question to Setting Trick guests, “are you better than (Jacek) Kalita?” It was a fun or tough question, depending on the guest, which got a wide variety of responses in spite of Jacek being ranked 2nd in the World Bridge Federation’s rankings. Hailing from Poland, Jacek is our first European based guest. Astute listeners will have noticed that I stopped asking the are you better than question when Jacek’s partner Michal Nowosadzki confessed to self-kibitizing in multiple online events last year. The partner with whom Jacek won two Bermuda Bowls and also his good friend. Find out what Jacek had to say about all of that and see his fine sense of humor for yourself. Episode highlights: 3:58- Are you better than Kalita??? 6:35- Michal Nowosadzki (Kalita’s partner) cheating case 10:04- The aftermath reaction 15:00- Kalita’s pathway to becoming a professional 23:35- When a frequent opponent becomes a partner 27:40- For the system nuts 31:50- Why Kalita is pro-kibitzing 36:20- The secret sauce behind Kalita and Nowosadzki constant success 41:00- Bridge and traveling the world 44:20- When Kalita got to play with his childhood bridge heroes 46:15- Kalita’s former client helped create the stock market in Poland! 50:28- Kalita’s family and bridge 53:35- Michal Klukowski and Kalita
67:42 07/31/2021
39. Andrew Rowberg and Danning Lu - Collegiate Bowl Champs
In 2017, there was no bridge club at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Then Andrew Rowberg, a recent PhD graduate in computational material science, came along. Four years later, during which bribery cookies were baked, practice sessions held, and talent developed, the UCSB Overbidders Anonymous emerged victorious in the 2021 Online North American Collegiate Bridge Championships. We’re excited to showcase the journey that this UCSB team took from having nothing to winning it all.   Episode Highlights:   2:40- The formation of the UCSB Bridge Club   4:05- How Danning learned bridge   5:34- The pieces of the champion team   12:20- COVID can’t stop dedicated college students   13:42- Defeating TST Guest 32 Richard Jeng the Georgia Tech bridge giants   19:10- Freshman clutching it up in the wild Finals match   23:29- Andrew’s teaching philosophy   28:00- Now is your perfect chance to hire a collegiate champion with a PhD in computational material science!   33:07- The overbidders in “Overbidders Anonymous” are no longer anonymous   39:30- The universally dreaded Berkeley monsters   45:35- Proof that playing bridge increases your job prospects   48:10- Danning plays the precise system and likes to take fitness   51:23- The expert’s advice on forming a collegiate championship team 56:00- The secret ingredient in bridge success: sugar
57:59 07/05/2021
38. Mike Levine - Hires the Best!
Our first ever sponsor to be featured on The Setting Trick is Mike Levine. As many bridge players know, a match up against the Levine Team should be dreaded, unless one enjoys being demolished. In tow with his ultimate dream team, which includes two partnerships considered by many to be the greatest pairs of all time, Mike recently won the first 3 North American Online Bridge Championships in a row, a feat of absolute dominance.   In life, Mike Levine has somehow managed to top his massive successes at the bridge table; he is one of the world’s most illustrious inventors, holding more than 60 patents. Through his shared insights on topics like population control, I got to see the creative force behind his many inventions. I am excited to share my conversation with this fascinating man.   Episode Highlights:   2:28- The progression to the inception of Mike Levine’s current team   8:34- Mike isn’t the weakest player on his team???   11:25- Mike’s approach to bridge is understanding concepts logically, rather than memorizing   15:50- Mike’s recipe analogy to bridge   18:10- Mike doesn’t fully subscribe to the common wisdom for pros that “Your job is not to win. Your job is to not lose.”   19:00- Why Mike is willing to spend so much money to hire top players   25:10- Why Mike’s physical disability does not hinder him   29:04- The Lake Trail that Mike brought to existence   34:30- Mike’s education   36:05- One of Mike’s joke patents   39:52- Mike’s solution to global warming: prevent overpopulation   44:05- More thoughts on population control   48:00- “All things complicated are not useful”   53:40- Is Stayman really a convention?   58:35- An example of Mike’s “wonder bids”   1:03:15- Take a glimpse into Mike’s mind as a bidding theoretician
76:06 06/08/2021
37. Youngest Life Masters: Bill, David, & Doug Hsieh - Passing the Baton
We continue our popular series of “The Youngest Life Master” with long-ago former record holders Bill and Dough Hsieh, along with their older brother and inspiration David Hsieh. In this episode, they taught me just how much our game has changed. From the abolition of smoking at the table to masterpoint inflation, and to the resurgence of youth bridge, bridge has evolved. However, one thing continues to be the same: its power of leaving happy memories that survive over the span of decades.   Episode Highlights:   1:50- Be the once in a blue moon and pronounce their last name with “C”   4:05- How the Hsieh brothers got started on bridge   7:00- Imagine being interviewed by the local newspaper for every tournament you go to   7:55- 6-year-old-Doug’s opponents thought Doug was a joke and refused to play   10:20- The masterpoints inflation is real   11:05- Bill’s dad was the original engine behind his pursuit for the record   13:24- An unlucky split costed Doug beating the record by an additional 10 months   14:44- Bridge can consume you   15:48- The past versus the current state of youth bridge   18:50- The Hsieh brothers’ current exposure with bridge   22:40- David’s favorite partner   25:15- It was inevitable that Doug will beat Bill’s record   26:50- Ron is a great role model!   30:35- The Hsieh brothers’ influential mother   33:05- Back when everybody smoked at the bridge table   36:00- People still remember stories from Midnight Swisses that happened 40 years ago 40:15- Bridge opens up connections in the work place
49:05 05/15/2021
36. Michael Xu - Asks a Lot of Questions
In June of 2019, I asked now 17 year old Michael Xu to help me prepare for my interview with his bridge mentor/hero, Michael Rosenberg. This sparked his progression from The Setting Trick helper, to The Setting Trick intern, and finally to The Setting Trick guest.   One year after I first reached out, Michael co founded the Youth Bridge Association, a nonprofit organization based on the idea of youth teaching youth bridge. As co president, Michael has helped host multiple classes as well as a tournament that drew 140 juniors!    Michael has generously agreed to share the below letter, which upon reading, Kevin Rosenberg, Michael Rosenberg’s son said, “it sounds like you’re trying to date my dad!”   Fabled “dating” email Dear Michael, A few months ago, when asked by my college counselor who would be the best person to write a letter of recommendation, the first and only person that came to mind was you. Before bridge, before SiVY, before you, I never thought I would come to identify so strongly with a community. If you asked me back then whether I believe that I will have such a robust relationship with a non-family member, I would have scoffed at that idea. Yet, over the span of 4 years, I have developed a truly extraordinary connection with you. From our first encounter in Toronto, to the first bombardment of emails, to the first in-real-life post mortem (@Atlanta), to the first dinner together (@Dennys), to the first time playing against you, to the first time hearing a "well-played" from your lips, and finally to the latest email, you have seen my growth from a completely clueless youngling to a now still slightly clueless and learning adolescent who knows some things. Michael, you are the only one. You saw me at the Trials, going past midnight to review boards. You saw me at WuJiang, China, where even at the World Youth Team Championships, I was more preoccupied with learning than sleeping/eating. You saw me flood your inbox with emails, and when you think you answered them all, I 'rewarded' you with countless follow ups and more new emails. In short, you saw my relentless pursuit to learn, my unprecedented level of insanity, my unrestrained intellectual vitality. Throughout my journey, you were my ultimate mentor, answering my plethora of questions, elucidating mysteries, and even providing me with life advice.  Given our lengthy, special history, I feel that you are unique in your capability to vouch for me. Genuine intellectual curiosity is highly coveted by colleges, and I think you are most suited to testify about that on my behalf. Just as you had strongly advocated for me back in 2018 for the U16 team, I hope you will be able to advocate for me for college. Would you be willing to write me a strong and unique letter of recommendation for my college application? If you have any follow up questions or need any further information, please don't hesitate to let me know. Sincerely, Michael Episode highlights: 1:50- Is YBA for college application resume stacking??? 3:20- How the YBA came to be 4:40- YBA class details 14:00- YBA is about advanced youth players paying it forward and giving back to the community 19:15- Michael Xu = Michael 1(?) 23:10- How Michael came to partner Finn Kolesnik 25:50- The Setting Trick internship = ultimate girls attractor 30:35- Michael’s work with Professor Samantha Punch and BAMSA research project 33:10- Michael Rosenberg gets bombarded by Michael Xu with thousands of emails full of questions  36:50- MEAT and Kevin Test 39:30- Michael’s attempt at dating Michael Rosenberg 46:20- How Michael learned bridge through SiVY 50:15- How listeners can help out the YBA 54:45- Michael is getting beat in the Life Master race by the younger SiVY generation
61:58 04/11/2021
35. YLM: Joel Wooldridge, Sam & Dan Hirschman, and Steve Cochran
The third and possibly final episode of the Youngest Life Master series has touched down! In this episode, we caught up with four former youngest Life Masters: Joel Wooldrige, brothers Sam and Dan Hirschman, and Steven Cochran. Joel is now a world-class expert and is one of the world's best players. Sam and Dan continue to celebrate their former record with the annual “The Party”. Steven was an absolutely wild teenager; he once woke up in the ocean while traveling across the country to play bridge, without his parents. At the age of 14. It really amazes me how different are the paths that people take! Episode Highlights: 2:55- 11 year old Joel Wooldrige 3:55- How Joel learned to play bridge 5:25- How Sam Hirschman’s father played a role in getting his son’s record beaten 8:55- Joel was in the Guinness Book of World Records! 11:15- The real reason why Dan had to take back the YLM record for the Hirschman family 18:15- Sam and Dan Hirschman 20:30- Father Hirschman = Most Valuable Motivator 26:25- Sam was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine! 28:10- Bridge lost Dan to Magic: the Gathering 28:49- Dan was featured on the Leno show, the People Magazine, and NYT 32:19- The last times Sam and Dan can flex their former record 34:05- The annual “Dan Hirschman Youngest Life Master KO Teams” where 25 teams onced showed up to play at the Hirschman house 40:35- How Sam ended up on Sports Illustrated magazine 44:30- The decline of bridge’s cultural relevance 46:50- Meet Steven Cochran 49:25- Steven learned bridge at NASA 52:35- Steven taught his entire college fraternity to play bridge - 14 year old Steven spent a whole summer traveling US and Canada to play bridge 59:48- Steven excels at declaring 1:01:35- Unfortunately, Steven couldn’t measure up for the attractive girl 1:02:35- Waking up in the ocean 1:07:40- Steven once was a professional soccer player 1:09:09- No fanfare for Steven becoming part of the first two-person ACBL Kings and Queens of Bridge 1:12:50- Played against a typical nobody: Omar Sharif  
80:11 04/03/2021
34. Andrew Robson - The Formidable Englishman
Andrew Robson is a giant, in both height and bridge; he is 6 feet 6 inches tall and has won a slew of titles, including back to back Reisingers in 1998 and 1999. On top of all his bridge accolades, he has met the Queen of England, received the prestigious “Other Buggers’ Efforts” award, and survived a 100 foot fall. If you want to learn more about Andrew and his bridge adventures, there is a great page on his website called Andrew’s Life in Bridge, where I learned many of the stories I asked Andrew about today.  COVID finally got Andrew to start presenting a daily video series, where I’ve learned a lot of card play nuances in the advanced section Subscribers to The Setting Trick email list may access Andrew breaking down Adam Kaplan's play on a deal featured in Double Dummy here. Episode Highlights: 1:42- A horrible accident that broke his legs 9:22- He’s not a model student 12:27- Andrew’s education Imagine doing worse on a test than a monkey would 15:37- The tournament that was vital to Andrew’s confidence as a bridge player 18:52- A wildly successful psych 22:10- How Andrew met one of his partners, Rita Shugart 24:20- Andrew is an “Other Buggers’ Efforts” award winner! 27:42- When your team sucks at losing IMPS 29:52- The pain of losing in the semi-finals of a Bermuda Bowl by 1 IMP and then losing again by 1 IMP in the third place playoff 31:37- Amazing bidding by Andrew and his partner, David Gold David Thompson’s quote from Bridge Winners, “The video of auction is quite interesting: The auction took 12 minutes including 3 minutes for the 7♦ bid and 5 minutes for David Gold's final pass. Whilst 7♦ was certainly a brilliant bid by Robson, Gold's pass was pretty impressive also having diagnosed the sorts of hands Robson could be holding and successfully determining the inferiority of a ♠ contract.” 38:07- Andrew Robson Bridge Club 41:27- John’s mother might have a crush on Andrew 45:12- The members of the popular rock band, Radiohead, went to Andrew’s school! 49:07- The future of bridge and youth teaching 53:07- Andrew’s memories of September 11, 2001 58:07- “Oh, you farted” ~Zia Mahmood 1:02:02- Andrew had to track Simon Stockten down in the Himalayas
64:41 03/26/2021
33. Albert Bender - Taking the Game to Kids
Al Bender is an extraordinarily dedicated teacher for Bridge For Youth, a nonprofit organization that promotes youth bridge in the Seattle area. After the pandemic struck, Bridge For Youth and Al switched from a face-to-face teaching model to solely virtual instruction. He caught my attention through this Bridge Winners article on the benefits of teaching online. To say the article brightened my day would be a massive underbid. Read it!  The most important takeaway from Al’s experience is that virtual instruction is an incredibly effective teaching model. We want to see this model duplicated across the country! Episode Highlights: 2:20- The many flaws of teaching face-to-face 4:25- Advantages to virtual teaching 5:05- Bridge For Youth’s journey in learning how to teach online 7:55- How Bridge For Youth got a staggering 110 students 9:50- Interesting gender discrepancy 12:40- The power of the Shark Teaching Console “I no longer have to watch my partner make stupid mistakes” 16:10- Testmoz and the allure of competition 18:55- A serendipitous success 20:40- The dedicated student 23:40- Summer camp will be taught by former Setting Trick guest, Tom Carmichael 25:35- Collaboration to on youth tournaments 29:20- SharkBridge is free for teachers who teach youth bridge for free 30:05- Teachers must be good with youths 32:10- Bridge For Youth is in search for teachers! 37:50- The important thing is having FUN! 40:35- A big weakness is the lack of social interactions when using Shark Bridge 45:00- Al warns you to not use the word “kid” 47:00- Al wants to make a difference in his students’ life
51:14 03/19/2021
32. Greg Hinze - This Dude Abides
Meet Greg Hinze: Three time North American Bridge Champion, world champion and he also has a world class sense of humor! After first hearing there was such a thing as a professional bridge player, Greg made it his five year goal. He played a lot, read lots of books, practically went broke and now is a highly desired pro.  Episode Highlights: 1:35- How Greg first decided to pursue his goal of becoming a professional 3:15- How Greg got hooked onto bridge 6:10- Greg and his poker job 7:55- How Greg quickly improved into an expert 9:40- Live bridge and RealBridge 12:50- Greg’s favorite event 15:20- Reject those who rejected you 18:50- Strong club vs natural system 21:45- Greg’s 2D opening system 24:10- Winning a world championship on a team formed the night before the event 26:50- Greg, his wife, and fun midnight knockout deal 29:30- Broke North American champion  31:35- An interesting strategy to pick between two close calls and a happy accident 35:20- His prediction on the future of live bridge 40:50- “Swiss Master” ~ Justin Lall 43:55- Bridge connects 48:30- Greg’s biggest bridge tip
54:32 03/12/2021
31. Youngest Life Master: Adam Kaplan and Richard Jeng
At the age of 10 years and 43 days Adam Kaplan set the record as the American Contract Bridge League’s youngest ever life master. A subsequent article in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin, commemorating Adam’s achievement, inspired his successor Richard Jeng who broke Adam’s record with ease at the age of 9 years, 6 months, and 12 days. Both Richard and Adam are members of the USA1 Under 21 team whose journey in the 14th World Youth Team Championships we chronicle in Double Dummy. A film which Adam largely inspired. Here are two brief conversations about Richard and Adam’s quest to become the youngest life master and what the title meant to them. 2:16- The event where Adam won his last needed masterpoints 4:04- Two club games per day—the dedication needed to get those masterpoints 6:39- The fame ensuing after his achievement 7:46- What the achievement means to him 9:14- “I was a terrible partner” ~ Adam 12:14- Adam’s current level of bridge involvement 14:04- The story behind Adam’s nickname 15:39- Adam’s partner in Double Dummy 19:54- An optimistic grand bid by Adam 24:09- Adam’s current career plans 26:30- Richard’s first reaction on hearing about Andrew Chen’s achievement 27:05- How Richard first started playing bridge 28:40- Richard’s inspiration on becoming the Youngest Life Master 29:50- Richard’s meeting up with the teen whose record he planned on beating 30:35- This record is meant to be broken! 31:35- Life Master is a title given only to those who mastered life 31:55- The event where Richard won his last needed master points
34:12 02/28/2021
30. YLM: Andrew Chen - The Current Titleholder
Our latest guest, Andrew Chen, is our youngest ever, by a lot! 8-year old Andrew is the ACBL’s youngest ever Life Master, a feat many spend decades striving for. In May 2020, Andrew, at the age of eight years and three days, smashed the previous record holder’s mark by more than a year. He also was the first to set the record since the requirements for being a Life Master moved from three hundred to five hundred Masterpoints. All four members of Andrew’s immediate family, his mother Sarah, his brother Charlie and his father Steve, are bridge players. He is also a product of Silicon Valley Youth Bridge, whose pizza parties are helping introduce many young people to the game. Steve also joins us, to whom Andrew gives a lot of credit for his amazing achievement. Episode Highlights: 1:40- Andrew’s favorite bridge player—and no, it’s not his dad :) 4:20- Andrew enjoys punishing his opponents 6:43- How Andrew decided to pursue the youngest Life Master title 9:15- The players who helped Andrew in obtaining the title 12:35- A glimpse into Andrew’s bidding system 14:34- Andrew the ambassador 16:35- How Andrew’s parents met 17:05- How Andrew’s family plays bridge. 19:15- Andrew doesn’t neglect his reading 20:43- Video games that Andrew enjoy playing 22:35- Andrew’s height 25:08- Andrew as the narrator for Double Dummy??? 27:45- Andrew’s language fluencies
31:23 02/18/2021
29. Ron Smith - Has More Stories
Didn’t get enough of Ronnie? He’s back! Ron Smith returns to the show, bringing with him more hilarious stories. Episode Highlights: 6:05- Ron’s opinion on Real Bridge 12:30- When your teammates go for minus 4600 in 4Cxx down 8 so you lose 24 IMPS, but you still win the match 15:35- Ron learns from his teacher who went minus 5800.Twice 16:05- Story of the only person to win the Vanderbilt while also losing two matches in the same tournament 18:30- Never give up during a match 25:05- Bobby Levin is so good looking, his partner needs to play with his head down lest he loses his focus 28:40- More hilarious Baby Levin stories 34:40- Ron believes in the great joys of having the social connections through playing bridge 38:10- Speculations on the future of bridge—will things ever be the same again? 40:15- Mahaffrey stories 44:35- Peter Weichsel’s most embarrassing moment 47:15- Reese stories 53:05- Ron’s worst three hands 59:48- Leo Lasota: the world’s greatest online player 1:03:05- Oren Kriegel is an upcoming super star 1:06:35- “Here comes the damn diamonds again” story
69:46 02/02/2021
28. Ron Smith - Is Funny!
Among US Juniors, few adults’ names are as well-recognized as Ron Smith. But don’t let his title of “Honorary Junior” fool you; Ron began playing bridge back in the Roth Stone era, when he only would open the bidding with 14 points—3 points more than what he needs to open today. A true perennial all-star, Ron stands out for his work in fostering the rising young stars of our game. He’s also a pretty entertaining and genuinely good natured fellow.   Episode Highlights: 1:50- Ron’s mother used to think he was going to hell for playing bridge 3:40- Ron’s sister = ultimate bridge wing-woman 5:15- How Ron became hooked on bridge 12:05- Seymon Deutsch could get away with anything 16:00- The legend of Zia Mahmood 21:30- “I’ve got a partner for you” = Bobby Levin 23:00- Don’t cheat 32:20- Al Roth Stoned 36:55- A Justin Lall story 40:50- Ron + Juniors = win Midnight Zip KO 42:40- Ron is an honorary junior 44:30- How to get Bobby Levin to agree with your bidding 48:30- Bob Hamman’s unique perspective on Justin Lall 52:10- Brad Moss bamboozled Joe Grue with a legendary psyche  54:50- Ron believes in preempting aggressively when favorable 1:05:00- Edgar Kaplan and his diplomacy 1:14:40- Rubber bridge stories 1:23:40- “You’re not playing for anything either?” 1:35:28- How Joe Grue got his nickname “Joe Boo”
98:08 12/18/2020
27. Scott Hoffer - World's Best Bridge Learning App
While Scott Hoffer professes to be the worst player yet to appear on The Setting Trick, he caught my attention as the developer of an iOS app called Tricky Bridge. Presently only available on iPhones and iPads, Tricky Bridge has become my go to destination for anyone who is interested in learning the game. The ACBL Education Foundation helped make the app’s series of 37 beginners lessons free. Hat’s off to both the Ed Foundation and Scott, you’ve answered one of my prayers! Episode Highlights: 2:00- Tricky Bridge and how it came to be 9:48- Tricky Bridge’s retention rate with users 11:53- Apple’s massive stamp of approval Contest - Who is the Apple Editor playing Tricky Bridge??? 19:33- Scott’s company Forklift Studios Meadowlark Bridge - Rodney Ludwig, the AI engine behind Tricky Bridge 21:18- Computer Bridge World Championships 26:03- Idea behind the Bots in Tricky Bridge 31:03- Grant from the ACBL Education Foundation founded the learning portion of the app 33:38- Please advertise the app to any young person interested in learning bridge 43:23- Thanks to BridgeWinners for helping provide feedback on bugs and crashes 48:43- Scott’s ideas about the best way to stream bridge 50:03- Scott’s acting career 50:46- Yale student, Reese Koppel, is a Tricky Bridge Intern 53:13- Robert Todd from ACBL Foundation 58:08- Double Dummy Film  
59:52 11/27/2020
26. Nabil Edgtton - Tall, Dark and Handsome
I first saw Nabil Edggton at the 14th World Youth Team Championships in Taicang. I remember being in the Vugraph room and hearing fellow Aussie (Nabil is from Oz) David Stern say something to the effect of, Andy (Hung, Neil’s junior and current partner) likes to bid game and let Nabil play it. It still strikes as the type of compliment on which I would love to be on the receiving end.  Nabil and I became friends when we teamed up for the Rosenbloom in 2018. We don’t talk about it here, but Nabil is a total hunk. He’s a good friend and I am pleased to share this conversation with our listeners.  Highlights from Episode: 1:30- Nabil’s thoughts on how to get young people into bridge 6:30- Nabil’s potential area of growth in bridge 21:00- Nabil’s thoughts on a hand that John played 29:10- John’s growth in the skill of moving on after a mistake 32:00- What Nabil thinks is the key to working on improving one’s flaws 35:40- Nabil’s preparation before a bridge tournament 38:50- What Nabil loves most about John 43:10- Nabil’s general life advice 46:10- Nabil’s advice on a partnership relationship 52:30- How Nabil tackles the problem of improving as a bridge player 1:05:10- The mental edge that babies have 1:09:40- Why Nabil thinks there is a lot of value in simulations 1:36:20- A story of John teaching Hool 1:44:40- Nabil’s thoughts on the problem with society 1:51:10- An area of improvement for John
121:03 11/18/2020
25. Walt Schafer - The Place to Play Online
On March 13th Walt Schafer began organizing bridge games on BridgeBase in response to the global shutdown. Walt continues to organize what has become known as “The Schafer Game,” selflessly out of his love for bridge. I got to play with the legendary for Bob Hamman for the first time in Walt’s game and we went on to win. Beating Episode 23 guests Finn Kolesnik and Jacob Freeman among others.  A friendship has developed between the two of us thanks to this podcast conversation and I am delighted to share this conversation with a fine player and fellow bridge lover.   Episode highlights: 2:55- Previously organized bridge games at the exchange 8 player 7 week schedule $5 per imp 7:35- How Walt’s directed tournament came to be what it is now 14:45- Walt’s Bob Hamman story of a great declarer play which to this day, Walt still does not understand why it was necessary Written up in the bulletin Took a double dummy software two and a half days to make the same play 19:55- Another Bob Hamman declarer play story 22:20- a Tom Fox story Strong club system New Orleans Walt set up Greco and Hampson 28:40- Baby Levin 31:50- A Spingold story involving Kit Woolsey Ed Manfield: “Those are the best 16 boards I’ve ever been involved in my life” 39:00- Sometimes getting knocked out on the first day of the Spingold is a blessing in disguise 43:45- D22 GNT Qualifiers story 45:55- Junior star Finn Kolesnik 47:45- How Walt learned bridge 51:40- Walt’s mentors: John and Bart Bramley 55:25- Bridge players succeed in trading options 1:13:05- Walt’s first compound squeeze and how Bart just deflated him 1:15:05- Walt’s greatest/favorite played hand where he uses the delayed duck squeeze Redouble can be a great psychological weapon 1:26:05- Walt’s role in the history of the Helgemo hand 1:30:30- Walt’s physic abilities 1:35:50- Walt is a bridge player at heart Bridge versus poker in terms of prize money 1:45:30- Walt’s invented conventions Look out for the Shaferton 1:50:55- Hamman still got it in bridge 1:52:00- Junior bridge 1:59:55- Instant classics
143:17 11/13/2020
24. Tom Carmichael - Captains the Juniors
In August of 2012, Tom Carmichael and I spent 12 days together in Taicang, China. Tom as the non-playing captain (NPC) of the USA1 Under 21 team, and me as the executive producer of a documentary film with the working title Lost in the Shuffle. We decided to focus on Tom’s team owing to the appeal of the players on it and their chance to win the first ever medal for the US in the Youngsters (Under 21) Series. This conversation is eight years in the making. As an outside documenter, it’s fascinating to hear Tom talk about the dynamics between his fellow NPC’s and how they discussed and learned about which teams and players were good. Tom earned silver medals as both a player and NPC in junior bridge and has represented the US in The World Mind Sport Games. For all of the junior bridge players out there, Tom and Joel Wooldridge’s partnership started when they met at the junior reception at a Summer NABC. You never know where you might find your world class partner! Episode highlights: 1:35- How Tom got into bridge 3:55- Parents met at a bridge club 12:15- How Tom met Joel Wooldridge 14:20 - System development with Joel Wooldridge by mail. Joel became ACBL youngest Life Master in 1990 at the age of 11 years 4 months and 13 days. 18:20- Bridge spans across generations 21:30- Tom believes it is awesome how bridge allows you to compete even against the world best 25:40- Tom’s interesting relationships with ACBL Youngest Life Masters 26:50- Atlanta Junior Bridge, Atlanta Super Sectional hosted first ever Youth NABC in 2010 29:20- Tom’s memories of the 2012 World Youth Team Championships (the event covered by Double Dummy) 40:15- The competitive pressure and emotions of the game 47:10- Serious Pie Neapolitan pizza in downtown Seattle 48:05- Tom’s wife Jenni won the 2016 Reno NABC Mixed Pairs with Greg Humphreys. 50:05- Tom’s system with Joel Wooldridge 57:15- Tom’s attitude towards Joel’s success in bridge 1:00:40- Shireen Mohandes’ site 1:06:45- Tom’s history with Atlanta Junior Bridge 1:10:00- Tom’s story of kibitzing his team as NPC and how he handles the non-bridge aspects of NPCing 1:20:00- Celebration of Justin Lall’s Life 1:25:30- You need to be able to move on from losses 1:31:00- Deal on which Tom won the IMP Pairs + other crazy hands
105:50 11/03/2020
23. Chris Willenken - Next Level Bridge Thinking
Not all professional bridge players are world class. I will comfortably posit that Chris Willenken is. Having watched a director ask Chris about a bidding problem at an NABC I've been dumbfounded about how much Chris knows with just a few words introduction. Demand for playing lessons with him has skyrocketed during Covid as bridge players seek to improve their games online. I love the role Chris' mother played in helping him find this lifelong pursuit. Find out how she and bridge communities in both the Poconos and New York City's initial nurturing helped turn Chris into a top American expert.   Episode highlights 2:45- How Chris started playing bridge through his mother 9:05- The Collegiate School and Manhattan Bridge Club 13:40- Chris’ relationship with one of his first partners 16:00- Chris’ quotation on Ernest Hemingway to describe how he started his bridge professional career 20:05- Chris’ heartbreaking story about losing the Blue Ribbons Pair on the last board 25:20- Chris’ story of a funny hand played with Roy Welland 30:20- Chris’ story of making it to the semifinals of the Rosenblum with Michael Rosenberg,  Chris’s hall of fame bridge partner for five year 38:20- Chris’ mindset on all his incredibly close calls in winning major tournaments 41:30- Chris’ answer to when he felt he could be considered a great bridge player 47:10- Chris’ epic history with parliamentary debate at Williams College Amanda Amert, Chris’s debate partner at Williams. 51:45- Chris’ style of bride with his current partner, Jan Jansma 57:15- How Chris views the use of deception in bridge 1:04:50- How Chris decides with his partner their bidding system 1:07:10- Chris’ family and quarantine time 1:15:50- Is Chris better than Kalita??? 1:18:45- Youth Bridge Association
79:06 10/22/2020
22. Jacob Freeman and Finn Kolesnik - Teens that Win
Jacob Freeman and Finn Kolesnik are 20 and 16 years old respectively. They first proposed the idea of appearing on The Setting Trick, seemingly as a lark, at the 2019 Fall North American Bridge Championships. As the podcast’s founder and host, I was delighted that it mattered to them, and amused by being asked during a chance run in on a street corner! Find out the amazing story about how these two teenagers put together the “amateur” F Kolesnik team, calling on four hall of famers each of whom are more than twice their age. These two up-and-coming bridge players who have already found much success in the game. Even though they are both still teenagers, they made waves in the bridge world when they recently tied for first place in the inaugural NAOBC Knockout.  I got the chance to chat with them about both of their backgrounds and how they got into playing bridge. The two young men tell the story of how they became a team. I ask them about their thoughts on the future of Bridge and about their short-term and long-term goals. After losing the first 30 minutes of our first recording session, Jacob and Finn were generous enough to chat with me for a second time. In this episode, I have put together both interviews so you as a listener can gain all the insight!  Thanks for listening, and if you like what you hear, give us a review on iTunes.  Like our page on Facebook: Follow us on Instagram: Opt into our Email List:   Show Notes: Bridgewinners thread on Andrew Robson and David Gold bidding to 7 diamonds from 2017 Transnational Teams Playoff Episode Highlights: 2:25 - How the Kolesnik Team came together 15:55 - Finn’s and Jacob’s favorite tournament 21:55 - Bob Hamman is a hilarious man 25:00 - Finn’s college and future plans 27:50 - Jacob’s future plans 34:25 - Finn and Jacob discusses co-championing in the NAOBC KO 42:30 - How Jacob and Finn met 46:05 - What it was like after realizing they tied for first and the celebration afterwards 50:25 - Hamman said sorry when Finn placed fourth in the Life Master Pairs 52:50 - How Finn and Jacob became so good at bridge 56:40 - Finn’s partnership with Michael Xu 1:00:10 - How Finn and Jacob work on their partnership 1:01:50 - How they decided to play together in the NAOBC 1:09:10 - Why John made Double Dummy and started this podcast! 1:14:55 - Funny story about Finn’s dad superstitious occurrences  1:15:40 - Finn and Jacob’s professional bridge scene 1:20:45 - Finn and Jacob’s youth international bridge plans
85:42 10/07/2020
21. Phil Clayton - Online Champion
Phil Clayton is a regular listener. When he recently won the first ever Premier Pairs we decided to invite him to be a guest. Phil wrote this post on Bridgewinners describing his win with his regular partner Andrew Gumperz. The ACBL’s ultimate masterpoint reward is Grand Life Master. Unfortunately for Phil, none of his major wins will qualify him for the distinction. Nonetheless, he says the Premier Pairs is his best result to date.   Phil recently moved to Dallas and seems to be greatly enjoying the bridge culture there. Here’s a photo of him and Hall of Famer/ Episode 12 guest, Bart Bramley.   0:30 - Phil Clayton’s regular partner and home-grown system   2:40 - what it was like winning the pairs   5:15 - Even a bad session led to a win   7:00 - Phil’s environment as a junior player   10:05 - bidding problem and funny system win   15:00 - defensive problem   20:55 - Phil’s advice on defensive signaling   30:10 - Phil’s prediction on future National events   37:45 - Playing with Hamman 13 pages of notes after 90 minutes of discussion   44:35 - How Phil got back to Bridge after his hiatus   48:30 - Mountain biking with Chris Compton “Over the falls”   56:05 - Finalist for ACBL CEO Job   1:11:40 - Nerve wracking nature of barometer scoring   1:16:35 - Bidding problem 
83:30 08/30/2020
20. Jack Zhao - Laughs his Face off
Jack Zhao is a two time world champion in pairs and one of the funniest men in the bridge world. While this is an audio program, when Jack laughs wholeheartedly, it looks like his face is going to explode. I’ve had the pleasure of partnering Jack for a week long regional tournament and visited him in his home city of Tianjin, China.   In this conversation we discuss Jack’s improbable journey to living in America, learning bridge as a teenager and the importance of Jack being welcomed into the bridge scene in Rotterdam. In spite of his team missing the first six boards of the semifinal, Jack won the 2017 Reisinger. In 2006, he won the Vanderbilt as the 44th seed, and the World Pairs, partnering Fu Zhong in both events. He won the World Mixed Pairs in 2014 with Kerri Sanborn.   Jack’s ultimate bridge goal is to win a major world team championship, preferably the Bermuda Bowl. In spite of having been asked, he is not yet eligible for senior events.   Highlights from Episode:   1:25- The Edge - “It was like someone lit the touch paper on this bomb. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a switch went on.” From It Might Get Loud when he saw the Jam on Top of the Pops.   2:30- Introduced to bridge by a casual player   11:50- 50% slams   14:12- Bridge in Rotterdam   15:25- The importance of bridge books Kelsey   16:46- Bridge bible, Better Bridge with Bergen Carried it everywhere with him   19:18- Most helpful was Terrence Reese over my shoulder   23:49- Playing with 1966 World Pairs champion Hans Kreijhns One club four cards, one diamond four cards, one heart four cards Underled ace of diamonds Only lead to beat the contract   29:40- Jack’s lifetime hero, Barry Westra, always curious about what Jack was thinking   36:35- Exams at Erasmus University   39:28- Playing with Fu   43:14- 2nd in Transnational teams   44:25- “Easy” last day of Bermuda Bowl Round Robin   47:19- Dream for all bridge players   52:11- Bridge does not require a lot of calculations   53:54- Reaction when he underled ace of diamonds He can still see his p’s face   56:16- Top players in Netherlands were open to Jack   1:02:00- How Jack learned about Michael Rosenberg He was the guy who could make THOSE hands   1:04:27- Opponents cards   1:13:08- Winning Vandy as 44th seed   1:16:24- A grand slam in diamonds   1:19:30- Winning the Reisinger    1:30:32- Better than Kalita?  
115:40 07/23/2020
19. Kim Frazer - Represents her Country
Kim Frazer is an Olympian, three time Commonwealth Games gold medalist in rifle shooting and author of Gaining the Mental Edge at Bridge. Seeking a hobby in retirement, Kim took up bridge in 2005 and in 2018 made the Australian women’s team in her first attempt.   In this episode Kim shares how the mental techniques that brought her such success in shooting are just as applicable in bridge. Kim discusses the path she took in writing her book and explains with simple practices how to improve one’s mental bridge game. Kim is rigorous about improving hers.    When she encounters a new card combination, she makes sure to look it up in the ACBL Encyclopedia. Her diligence is contagious. Playing in a BBO speedball a few days after we spoke, I encountered AQ762 opposite J954 and wondered, hmm, I wonder if there is more to this combination than I know. (Encyclopedia still in storage)   I played two slams in the same speedball which required careful play and handling. I noticed myself thinking I don’t know how to play slams well. Thanks to having talked to Kim, I was able to acknowledge this negative self concept and notice how it didn’t serve me. I went on to make both contracts. Thanks Kim!   I echo what Ron Klinger shared in the introduction, “I would just like to bar all of my regular opponents from reading this book.”   Here’s the fantastic photo of Kim from her shooting days mentioned in the outro.    Highlights from this episode:   19:00 Dont give yourself an excuse to fail   26:24 Ron Klinger’s way of writing a forward   43:19 How Kim credits her partner’s mental toughness for her first Commonwealth Games Gold Medal   49:47 How Kim thinks about affirmations   1:1:14 Studying card combinations   1:02:34 Shooting results versus bridge results   1:05:15 BLOW   1:06:15 How Kim’s partner looks at the dummy as declarer   1:08:09 Kim’s method for tracking the bridge if live bridge ever returns   1:14:36 Kim’s bridge goals   1:18:27 Kim’s cue word   1:22:01 How she started writing bridge articles   1:24:08 Does Kim hunt?   1:25:10 Better than Kalita?   1:26:59 Why she wrote the book  
94:55 07/02/2020