Join Bridge Winners
The IMP Tax. Chip Martel 1997

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Basic Principles Of The Systems Policy

(consistent with the Objectives of the WBF systems policy).

1) Players must have a reasonable opportunity to prepare defenses to

their opponents' methods (particularly weak conventional calls).

2) Players should have a free choice of bidding methods as long as it

does not conflict with 1.

3) We want to promote a congenial atmosphere at WBF events and avoid

conflicts between players.

Currently we are failing point 1) badly in this Bermuda Bowl and

Venice Cup. With 54 pairs competing playing a wide array of weak

conventional bids it is impractical to prepare adequate defenses

against all opposing teams.

In an event this large a pair playing unusual methods will gain an

unfair edge. Since it is unlikely any given bid will come up in a 20

board match it is tempting not to bother to do much defensive

preparation. In effect the pair playing these methods collects a small

expected "IMP tax" from each unprepared opponent they face. Since the

"IMP tax" collected from each opposing team is small it isn't a big

deal to them, but over 17 matches it does matter to the pair playing

these methods.

The effort required to prepare properly for a bid such as 2S = weak

preempt in any suit is substantial (I have three pages of notes for

dealing with this and really should have more). In addition even this

"one" convention is really a whole host of different ones depending on

the style of opening and follow-up used (do they usually correct to

partner's suit? Does passing 2S show spades or just no desire to bid?

What do bids mean after 2S-(DBL)? Bids such as this 2S bid which could

have length in the suit opened are by far the most complex to defend

against and require the most careful disclosure.

For this Bermuda Bowl not one pair playing brown sticker conventions

gave a complete description of both their bids and the follow-ups. A

(small) minority gave descriptions which were reasonable, and most

were woefully inadequate. In fact, it may be impossible for a pair to

provide an adequate description of some of these bids, for two

reasons. First, many of the bids have a low frequency, thus the pairs

playing these bids have not had much experience about what sort of

hands they open or what happens in the subsequent auction (one of the

pairs, in a clarification of a bid, commented honestly: "It might also

be a random hand NV vs. VUL - but my partner and I have actually never

made that bid in serious bridge!"). Second, developments in

competitive auctions will depend on the meaning of the opposition

bidding.

Thus I would suggest the following three policy changes:

1) Brown sticker openings and overcalls which could have length in the

suit bid should be reclassified as HUM (this would include bids such

as 2C/2D = 0-7 any, 2H= weak in hearts or spades, the 2S bid mentioned

above, etc.)

2) HUM bids should not be allowed in matches which are shorter than a

full day (64 boards).

3) Written defenses should be allowed to any conventional opening

which is not strong and to any conventional bid on the first round of

the auction (the first four calls starting with the opening bid) which

could be weak.

If item 3 is not endorsed I would favor SHARPLY restricting what is

allowed in any match of fewer than 64 boards. It is totally

unreasonable to expect players to

memorize defenses to literally dozens of different bids most of which

are unlikely

to arise. In addition, I doubt if there are five players out of the

200+ competing who consider memorizing defenses an enjoyable part of

bridge. Making the competitors miserable should surely not be a goal

of a system policy.

Finally, with regard to the third principle above, I should point out

that at this tournament, it is my belief that any time an opponent

made a brown sticker bid which I had trouble defending against, I

could have called the director and asked that the result be adjusted

because of the inadequate description provided. Such actions would

certainly not promote the enjoyable and friendly atmosphere at the

table that we want at WBF events.

Chip Martel

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