JoAnne and Leon Lowe have had a significant impact on duplicate bridge in District 17 playing bridge and serving on local and district boards.  JoAnne has served on the D17 board for many years. Lee is a past president of Unit 354. This bridge-playing couple can be seen as many Regional and National tournaments having fun and playing a very good game of bridge. When asked to answer a variety of bridge-related questions, they generously provided the following information that should be helpful to many.


How did you first get involved with bridge (individually and as a couple)?

Leon learned bridge in the mid 60’s at college and began playing ACBL events in 1973.  JoAnne learned bridge from Leon in the mid 70’s and joined the ACBL in the late 70’s.


What problems, if any, did you face playing as a married couple?

The most difficult issue is you know your spouse so well that harsh criticisms are occasionally verbalized and these comments would never occur with a regular partner.


What advice would you like to give other couples playing duplicate?

Attempt to at least moderately maintain the same skill level as your spouse.  With a large skill/experience gap between the two of you the game can become quite frustrating for both. 


What do you both like to do when not playing bridge?

Leon enjoys surfing the net, playing poker, and playing golf.  JoAnne volunteers a great deal of time with our Unit 354 and District 17. She also enjoys reading, beading and playing golf.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in becoming a good player?

Leon.  Although having a great passion for the game, he had to work long hours, hours during his “learning” years.  JoAnne.  Worked full time and her most regular partner, Leon, was frequently occupied with work.


Because of your background (card sense, math skills, competitive nature, etc.) what part of duplicate was relatively easy to learn?

Leon.  I played poker passionately before bridge and all those poker skills seemed to carry over into bridge.  JoAnne.  I am naturally competitive and played card games with my family as I grew up.  Those skills transferred to bridge.  


What do you like most about playing in regional and national tournaments?  What about sectionals?

Both of us enjoy playing the very best players at NABC’s and regionals to test our skills.  Sectionals are enjoyable because you see so many of your friends.  We rarely travel to play sectionals.


What persona (character, image, etc.) do you strive to maintain while playing duplicate? 

We both try to be friendly and ambassadors of the game.  We never attempt to intimidate new players.


What are some of your best memories of playing in tournaments around the country?  How about your most amusing and/or embarrassing mistake?

Leon.  My fondest memory is playing with a seven year old who was trying to become the youngest ACBL life master at that time.  We won his first two session open pairs and he was literally running around the playing site yelling over and over, “We won.  We won.”  Most embarrassing.  I once claimed against a Flight C pair stating, “I’m going to play all the trump from the top, then the diamonds from the top and give you the last trick.”  My left hand opponent looked around in total confusion and then said to me, “I have the A of trump.”  I had forgotten the most important card in the deck!

 JoAnne. I love beating Leon when playing with other partners. Early in my bridge career my partner, Doris, and I were taken to a committee at a regional. Neither of us had a clue why this seated pair had requested a committee. Fortunately our local director who knew us was the director in charge and the case was dismissed because it was 2 beginners having no clue.


Bridge Playing Strategies

What suggestion or helpful comments would you like to give to relatively new players?

Take lessons from qualified teachers ONLY!  Read and study only three to five basic bridge books.  Do NOT over indulge yourself with conventions initially. Practice counting how many cards have been played in a suit. On defense add your points to the dummy’s points and the range that declarer has to figure out the range of points your partner has.


What are some common bidding problems players should avoid?

Avoid having too many gadgets to remember.  Learn to listen to the auction.  A good hand can be not so good in some situations and bad hands can actually be very good in some auctions.  Unfortunately this skill can only be fined tuned with experience.


What are your thoughts on team games vs. pair games?

Beginner players should concentrate playing pair games to the greatest extent possible, since that game is played most often at the club games.


In general, what are good strategies for defense?  What about lead strategies that work well?  What are the secrets to good defense when you and your partner have not bid? 

Counting suits is critical.  This requires both partners to signal constantly and both partners paying attention to their partner’s carding.  When in doubt lead 4th best and attempt to lead partner’s suit when they have bid.  Getting “creative” destroys partnership confidence and creates wild swings in your results with many more failures than successes.  Leading when not in the auction is most difficult.  There are often clues to their weaknesses based on the bidding.  Also, leading trumps when there is every indication the opponents will want to cross ruff often works well.


What are good pre-empting strategies?

Always be at least moderately sound in 1st and 2nd seat and always sound vulnerable.  3rd seat preempts are open warfare: Good 5 card suits are acceptable and pretty bad 7 card suits can be preempted at the 2 level in 3rd seat.


How much is extra length in a suit really worth? 

If the long suit is trump extra cards are worth a great deal.  A good perspective is you have one less loser floating around.  If the suit is good and you are the declarer at NT, long suits are worth minimally an A.  However, long bad suits are terrible when defending - no trick potential and fewer “working” cards available.


Which are the very most essential conventions. . .  For novices?  For intermediates? 

New players essential conventions: Forcing NT’s, negative X’s, stayman, transfers after 1 & 2 NT, and blackwood.  Intermediate players MAY want to add support X’s, inverted minors, and Jacoby 2NT after a 1M opening.


What are the keys to developing a delightful and effective partnership?

Respect of your partner as a person first and a player second is key.  Also, the most enjoyable partnerships are when both players are at the same basic skill level.  To get better it also helps to find a partner who is SLIGHTLY better than you so you can learn new tricks of the trade as you get more experienced.


How can one do well playing with many different partners?

Don’t play Standard American, play KISS.  Keep It Simple Stupid.  Do NOT play numerous gadgets especially ones that you are not totally comfortable with.  Make sure you both (a) agree on your defensive carding agreements and (b) that you will both watch those signals intently.


Future of Duplicate Bridge

What are your thoughts on zero tolerance, bridge ethics, and/or the recent cheating by high level players?

Cheating should not and cannot be tolerated at any level of bridge.  Period.  Bridge ethics are mandatory, but enforcement here is a tough, tough task.  Clearly, some things can simply not be tolerated.  However, because every person is a unique entity some behaviors are common within their “culture” and offensive to other cultures.  The ACBL has to be careful not to infringe upon an individual’s rights while claiming they are enforcing ethics.   


How do you feel about on-line bridge games for practice and/or tournament play?

On-line bridge for practice is an awesome tool.  It allows both parties to align convenient sessions and they are not hampered by travel considerations.  On-line tournaments.  This appears to be the wave of the future and we certainly would not take on a roll to impede that direction.  However, at a personal level we believe on-line tournaments are not a fine and wonderful thing.  Personal interaction is lost and the possibility of cheating or at the very least the perception of possible cheating is major issue.


What can local units do about gaining new players, with so many older players leaving the game?

We believe in all honesty that tournament bridge will eventually fade away and die.  The electronic age is so akin to the social environment required to support bridge that the recruitment of new players, especially young new players, is a daunting task that will eventually become impossible to achieve. 


How can ACBL get the newer players interested in playing in tournaments?

The key to recruiting young new players is on-line capabilities which by definition can not support tournaments as we now know them.  No solution to this problem comes to mind.


What are your thoughts on the future of bridge cruises?

We have no strong feelings for this topic.  We do believe the immediate impact would be quite good, but as the ACBL continues the possibility of an ever aging member population these activities will have no significance and not economical for the ACBL. 


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