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All comments by Bart Bramley
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My favorite method, SCuM (Shape, Color, Majors), is great for this hand. I double to show either spades and diamonds, or hearts and clubs. At my next turn I will jump to five hearts, implying a slam drive with hearts and clubs, and better and/or longer hearts (with my suits reversed I'd jump to six clubs).

If partner has a dreadful misfit (2-1 in my suits, say) she might bail and pass, but with any semblance of a fit she should prefer at the slam level. If she has the club king (you never know) she can think about seven.
March 6
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This is very sad news. Russ and I went back to the '70s when we both lived in New England. My first friend in the family was his older brother Steve (who passed away in 1985). Russ and I were variously partners, teammates and opponents on many occasions, and always friends. He was warm and amiable with a lively sense of humor and a ready smile. He was one of those people that had what I call “the twinkle”, that special look in his eye.


Judy and I will miss you, friend.
Dec. 13, 2018
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The second deal is the last board of the 2003 Bermuda Bowl. Declarer Lauria was manually playing dummy's cards because Versace had left the room to find out the status of the match. The safety play is the SPADE QUEEN, which would have guarded against declarer not noticing that LHO (Soloway) had actually played a SPADE instead of the expected heart ten.

Unluckily for Lauria, when he manually “discarded” a lower spade his RHO (Hamman) followed suit with the spade ten. Now declarer had to go down two, which meant losing the match by 1 imp instead of going to overtime with the safety play of the spade queen.

Working back to the first deal, I see that declarer on that deal must have led a black card instead of the third diamond. If I “discarded” either low spade on an actual spade lead, it's all over. The same is true if I discarded my club on a spade lead, since I will then have to lead the club after I win the spade ace. And if I discarded a spade on a club lead, declarer will win the king and cash a spade while I must now follow with my penalty card. The safety play is to discard a HEART. Regardless of the black suit led, if I correct my revoke in time we will still beat the contract whenever it can be beaten.

(clarified last sentence)
Oct. 25, 2018
Bart Bramley edited this comment Oct. 25, 2018
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Damo:

If you're going to cite my article to support your theory, do all of us the favor of showing the deal and the specific actions you find “strange”.

Yes, I said that “off-center actions abounded” on the deal. The most glaring was a favorable third-seat weak 2 by Bobby Levin on AJ764 1087652 65. I said that Levin's call “was exotic, though his other options, including pass, would have been even more so.”

There is a world of difference between “off-center” and “incomprehensible”, which is the descriptor I would use for many of the Blue Team actions in Wilsmore's book.
Oct. 7, 2018
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West may have missed the killing defense, but he does have a perfect 13-card straight.
Sept. 9, 2018
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I'm relieved that our calculations of the relative merits of the two lines are now consistent, albeit not identical. I see that I erred by assuming that QJ would allow the suit to be set up with one ruff, which will affect my count of both lines. And my raw numbers of winning cases are lower than yours because I used factors of 2, 1, 0.5 and 0.5 for the trump holdings.

I may not have the energy to grind it through again. I'll settle for having determined that Meckstroth's (and my) instinct was correct: The 3-way combo is significantly better than the line that simply enhances one of the three ways.
June 1, 2018
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Kurt: My math is different.

I excluded deals with voids but included all other deals. I made the same assumptions about possible holdings from which the lead could be made (half of the time from J10 or J108, never from J103, even though I consider that last assumption doubtful).

Line 1: All in on diamonds. I assumed that declarer would win the A and lead a second trump, finessing the nine if possible. Then he would play AK and a third diamond, taking the ruffing finesse if plausible (2-2 trumps and RHO playing Q9 or J9), else ruffing high.

Line 2: Combo line. Win the K and play AK. If both honors fall, ruff a diamond high and hope for 2-2 trumps. If one honor falls, ruff a diamond low; then, if the other honor has fallen, hope for 2-2 trumps. If declarer survives the diamond ruff but the diamonds are not good, then cash AK, club ruff, heart ruff, club ruff; then, (a) if the A has fallen, take the most logical red-suit ruff to dummy, draw trumps and claim, or (b) if the A has not fallen but the Q has, try to cash the J and ruff a diamond to dummy.

I assumed that the defender sitting over dummy (over the diamond void) would always drop a diamond honor from any holding with both diamond honors, but that the defenders would not otherwise false-card in diamonds, as that would entail risk from many holdings (declarer's diamonds are hidden). I also assumed that the defenders would always make the most effective discard.

I found 221,725 winning layouts for Line 1, and 298,639 winning layouts for Line 2. A severe drawback for Line 1 is immediate failure when the lead is from J10 or J108. Note that the combo line does not discount the chance of setting up diamonds; that is one of THREE possibilities for success.

Moreover, even on the trump layouts that are favorable for Line 1 (10, 103 and 108), the two lines have almost identical chances of success, differing by only a few hundred cases in favor of Line 1.
June 1, 2018
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I should have included the possibility of trying for queen-third of hearts. However, playing for it compromises some of the other chances, because it requires cashing AK before ruffing the first club. If either the Q or A is doubleton, then declarer must ruff an extra red card at the end, which would not be necessary otherwise.

Nevertheless, I now think that the best overall line is: K, AK, then, if no quack, AK, club ruff, heart ruff (if queen still out, else cash the jack first), club ruff. Now, if the Q fell tripleton, try to cash the jack and ruff a diamond to dummy. If the club ace fell, ruff a diamond.

If a diamond quack falls, especially from North, it's more complicated. Testing diamonds will lose a makable contract when North has J108-xxxx-Qx-xxxx and pitches a heart on the third diamond, but if he is 3=5=2=3 you survive.

I still that Meck's combo approach, leaving two low trumps in hand, is superior to going all out for diamonds.
May 22, 2018
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I realize now that this squeeze is a variant of a guard squeeze. Imagine West with Jxx of clubs; it still works, because East can never throw a club.

In many guard squeezes declarer cannot afford to cash a side winner early, lest he squeeze the opposite hand early, but in this layout declarer could have cashed the second high diamond immediately without disturbing the ending.

The key is that declarer must be certain of the count. If so, he can always make without guessing the club queen.
May 21, 2018
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Wooldridge did make four hearts, playing as described. I was an opponent.

Inexperienced Vugraph operators made many errors throughout the early KO rounds.
May 17, 2018
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Devastating.

A great player and a greater man. A true friend. The definition of strength in the face of adversity.

Judy and I miss you dearly. Our thoughts are with Peggy.
May 14, 2018
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I agree with John. My defense seems to matter only when declarer is 6520. Partner is unlikely to have six hearts unless his trumps are strong enough to beat them, as long as I cash my two tricks. Thus, declarer has 4+ hearts and I must stop ruffs in dummy. Declarer can draw trumps and cash winners, or he can ruff a heart or two in dummy, but not both. Partner will burn up a diamond winner when declarer tries to get off dummy. I need partner to have the heart king plus either the spade ace or KQ9.
April 9, 2018
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Well done, Stefan. Still, it is better to challenge West in this way than to concede by allowing the defensive crossruff.

I am constantly amazed by the numerous variations even in very small endings.
Feb. 13, 2018
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In the position on page 10 you risked the contract. If East ruffs the club jack you will go down. The ruff will be from a three-card holding (East is marked with three hearts and five diamonds already), which must be HJx. He will then lead a diamond for West to ruff with a high trump, and his HJ of trumps will score. You lose a diamond and FIVE trump tricks. Down one.

Nor is it safe to lead trump in the ending. On the actual layout the opponents can play two trumps ending with East, who can cash a diamond and tap the dummy with the fifth diamond, leaving a heart loser.

The winning play is to RUFF A LOW CLUB. If it lives, lead a heart to assure another trump trick. Instead, suppose East overruffs with the jack and plays the high diamond, ruffed and overruffed. West can threaten you with another club, but you carefully ruff with dummy's QUEEN. East overruffs (pitching is no better) and must either play his last diamond, letting you score your trumps separately, or his trump, letting you win in hand and (finally) cash the club jack.

Note that leading a trump earlier does not work when the remaining trumps are 1-3. West gets out with a heart and eventually East ruffs (or overruffs) a club to draw two trumps for one and leave you a trick short. Here it was key that West's low trump was the seven, which empowered dummy's 65 into equals against the jack.
Feb. 12, 2018
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In college I saw this one, with only N/S vulnerable:

W N E S
1D P 1S P
3S P 4NT P
5H X 5S 6H
X All Pass

North: xxx AJxxx xxxx x
South: x Kxxxxx – Axxxxx

The lead was a diamond. North was quaking as he put down the dummy, but with hearts and clubs both splitting the result was 1860. Unfortunately I was West. However, the worst part was when partner suggested that I should have saved.
Jan. 31, 2018
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Echoing everything above. Lew and I were regular partners in recent years. I thought I already knew how to “behave” at the table, but Lew showed me several extra dimensions that I was never aware of before. He is the perfect exemplar of sportsmanship.
Jan. 19, 2018
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Back when ACBL Appeals Committees existed and I regularly served on them, I had a simple criterion for determining whether an appeal was “frivolous”: Was it a complete waste of my time? Luckily, that question almost always had an easy answer.
Dec. 18, 2017
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Hugh and I became friends when he was captain of my Bermuda Bowl team in 1991 (he was sensational as captain), and later we were partners for several years. Starting in 1992, and for many years thereafter, my wife Judy and I always had Thanksgiving dinner with Hugh and Min (and with Darwin and Kay Afdahl), a tradition that extended well after our partnership ended.

As many others have noted, Hugh had a wicked sense of humor, but one had to be near him to appreciate it as his delivery was always low-key. We have lost one of the giants.
Nov. 22, 2017
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I would hate it. I'd attempt to grab a bite before the first session, and I would give up on eating between sessions, as it would barely give me time to swallow before I had to play again.

The small time between sessions isn't enough to do anything useful, be it eating or not. Review the previous session? Maybe. Relax before playing again? Not really. Hang around in an uncomfortable limbo? Yes, that's it.

In contrast, the current schedule allows for a regular-length meal at a time more closely associated with eating by people on normal schedules, AND for a substantial “rest and recharge” period before resuming the bridge battles. From my perspective the “early” schedule is basically one ultra-long session.

At Nationals I rarely indulge in large, extended meals, even when I'm not playing any more that day. Big meals, at any time, are incompatible with my main goal of playing as well as I can.
Aug. 30, 2017
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I would go legit. I agree that the winning defense of saving TWO excess diamonds is highly non-intuitive, but it should be found. By the time declarer leads the fourth trump it is a double-dummy problem. There is no hope if declarer has a club, so East must play for the actual position.
July 29, 2017
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