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All comments by Bart Bramley
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A 4NT bidder is captain, but as soon as she bids 5NT responder regains equal (or nearly equal) footing. This is the source of many appeals caused by a mistaken concept of “Hesitation Blackwood”, which properly applies only over the initial ace-ask. When responder unexpectedly finds herself having to think over 5NT, naturally some time may be needed to recalibrate.
Sept. 28, 2016
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The greatest teacher I ever had (Mr. Joseph, HS English and Latin) taught us never to describe something as “interesting”, since it was redundant. That is, if the subject were NOT interesting we wouldn't be discussing it at all.

“VERY interesting” is simply piling on.
Sept. 24, 2016
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Ai-Tai: Not good enough. Say the play starts spade to the nine and king, spade knocking out the queen, club to dummy, heart. East wins and plays a second club. If declarer wins the queen and cashes both hearts, he squeezes the dummy. If he wins the queen, cashes just one heart and plays a third spade, East wins and endplays dummy with the fourth spade. If he wins in dummy and drives spades, East wins and plays a third club, blowing up the entries. (Alternatively, East can duck the heart and transpose into the defensive winning position described in the last paragraph.)

To make after spade, spade, club, declarer must win in dummy and continue spades. Now a heart shift is too late, and if East plays a second club declarer runs clubs and spades, discards according to East's discards, and finally leads dummy's heart. Declarer can always score two red tricks in the four-card ending.

I think Benoit is correct that the only winning defense at trick 3 is a low heart, though I haven't Deep Finessed it yet. If declarer wins the heart and ducks a heart, he squeezes dummy on this trick: a black card is a winner, and a diamond lets East set up the diamond queen while he still has the spade ace. And if declarer abandons hearts and drives spades, he will never get a second heart trick and dummy will eventually be endplayed to lead a diamond.
Sept. 22, 2016
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Yarboroughs can be ranked by total pip count. An “average” Yarborough has 13x5.5 = 71.5 pips. The given hand has 75 pips, so it's not even terrible for a Yarborough. When I get dealt a candidate I always count the pips.

In the round of 64 of the Rosenblum at the World Championships in Lille in 1998 I held a 55-pip Yarborough. These hands may have been duplicated across the field, so other players could have held it. I don't remember the exact hand, but I do remember that I had two each of 7, 6, 5 and 4, one 3 and all of the deuces. I also recall that at another tournament shortly after Lille I saw an opponent's dummy that was 54 pips. Those two hands are the lowest I have ever seen.

Can anyone beat 54 pips?
Sept. 16, 2016
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Steve has illuminated the idiocy of the new rule: It requires that at least one member of each pair be conscious of removing the tray. For some players this is part of their skill set, but for many it is not.

At my table, when my pair sits North-South, I handle the tray and the boards, all the time, every time. I'm very efficient. The tray comes off the table as soon as possible, and goes back on, with a fresh board, as soon as the previous board is done. When I sit North-South my table always has a good “rhythm”. Everyone tunes in to the concept that when one board ends, the next one begins.

I cringe at the thought that I must yield to East-West when they declare. Usually that will mean some slowdown in the logistics, either before the play or after the play, or more likely both.

I fail to see how having one player handle everything can ever be construed as potentially transmitting information.
Sept. 4, 2016
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David, I'm glad that you're not impinging on my sensibilities while I am binging on this thread.
Aug. 25, 2016
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The recommended line will lose the overtrick when hearts are 3-1 and we have no trump loser. But we can still try for the overtrick by winning the first trick in hand. Then, after diamond ace and a spade to hand, whenever East has at least one spade, we can ruff a diamond, draw trumps and play on hearts, using the club ace as a late entry.

Suppose West has all four trumps. We ruff a diamond and play the club ace. If West can ruff this we are OK, since hearts will be 2-2 or we will have a heart-club squeeze (as Sartaj observed). If West is 4=0=7=2 he will follow to the second club and ruff the heart ace, but the heart-club squeeze still works.

The only danger of winning the first trick in hand is when West is 4=0=6=3 (without the club queen). How likely is that? Not very. Let's do the math. Going down in a cold slam costs 14 imps NV or 17 imps vul when the contract is the same at the other table. Dropping the overtrick costs 1 imp. Are the overtrick layouts 14 (or 17) times more likely than 4=0=6=3? Probably. (Would YOU lead a club from three small rather than a diamond?) So playing for the overtrick has positive expectation. Does that make it the right play?

I don't know. The agony of telling teammates that you went down by consciously rejecting the 100% line to try for a 99.9% overtrick might be too much to bear.
Aug. 24, 2016
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This is the trump variation of a play that I call an “Ace Squeeze”. I so named it because in the original (to me) notrump version, declarer requires the aces of all side suits. He can continually cash winners in the victim's short suits (guided by the early discards), eventually paring the victim down to only the endplay suit.

In the trump variation, a trump replaces the ace in one of the side suits. On the given deal, suppose that East had started with 1=4=4=4 shape and the early play had gone the same way. After the spade ace and a spade to the nine, East is squeezed immediately. A club pitch transposes to the actual deal. And on a heart pitch declarer can finesse in hearts, cash the third heart (stripping East of hearts, necessary to tighten the position), and cross to the third trump. On this trick East is squeezed out of his fourth club, allowing declarer to ruff a club and reduce to the desired all-diamond ending.

The “Ace Squeeze”, in both the notrump and trump variations, is more common than generally recognized.
Aug. 23, 2016
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Gary, don't be naïve. If I had “all authority”, what appeared in the Daily Bulletin would have been exactly what you see here.

Don's use of the word “sanitize” is an apt description of what was done to EOC's statement.
Aug. 16, 2016
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This was a first-class committee, but they screwed the pooch on this one.

1. In my opinion, PPs are appropriate only in cases of egregious abuse (like blatantly taking advantage of UI or MI to take an action that would otherwise never be found), certainly not applicable here.

2. The USBF policy of allowing, even encouraging, cross-screen clarification by the declaring side, is vastly superior to the WBF policy of DISALLOWING it. We have it right. We should not force our players to use the WBF policy when it is so demonstrably wrong. Indeed, in ACBL/USBF events I know many pairs who routinely clear up ambiguities before the opening lead. But penalizing a pair of “screen novices” for a relatively small violation of the USBF policy is going too far.

3. When there is a total disconnect between the supposed irregularity and the table result, let the table result stand and leave it at that. We should not be in the habit of rewarding appellants with “PP candy” (a term I coined many years ago) when their underlying case is so weak.

4. When the vote is 3-2 I want to know who the dissenters are and to see a statement from them about why they disagree.
Aug. 3, 2016
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I win the spade king and lead my heart.

1. If it holds (unlikely, since the opponents can see dummy's spots), I play diamonds and claim when they are 4-2 or better.

2. If they take the heart ace and play a spade (almost certain if LHO wins, still likely if RHO wins), I win and play ace and a diamond immediately, temporarily stranding both winners in dummy. When an opponent wins the king he must play a minor suit.
a. If either opponent wins the diamond king and plays a diamond, I run diamonds and play ace-nine of clubs. Unless clubs are 5-1, the opponents must deliver two tricks either to dummy or to my own hand.
b. If LHO wins the diamond king and plays a club, I win cheaply, run diamonds and exit with a middle club. If RHO wins and plays another club (forced), I play middle again and claim. (Playing ace and another instead will force me to guess which winner to save in dummy.)
c. If RHO wins the diamond king and plays a club, I play the queen. Assuming that the queen loses, I win the forced diamond return, run diamonds, and play ace-nine of clubs, making unless an opponents can cash two club tricks.

3. If RHO takes the heart ace and plays a club, I play the queen. To threaten me LHO must win and either continue clubs or drive hearts, else I can transpose into one of the lines in (2). Yes, I will probably go down if both the heart ace and club king are wrong (25%) AND the opponents defend perfectly.

I don't have to worry about 5-2 spades. 5-2 hearts could be a problem if the long hearts are in the hand with the diamond king. 5-1 diamonds will sometimes set me, but not always. Same for 5-1 clubs.
Aug. 2, 2016
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In practice we would not need all 12 provisional slots. This is a maximum; if some of the GNT matches are between teams with fewer than six players, then the maximum number of needed slots will be smaller. Also, canvassing the GNT players in advance should provide an accurate high and low estimate of the number of drop-ins. I would expect that enough pairs will commit to the LMs that at least 5 or 6 slots would be spoken for (probably more), and maybe a few others would commit to NOT playing. In reality only a handful of “bubble” pairs will be affected.

Note that there are “bubble” pairs even WITHOUT drop-ins.
July 13, 2016
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The issue of “displacing deserving pairs” is bogus. For the second and third days of national pair events a perfect movement is desirable (all 13-table sections, for example). The way to set the conditions is to specify how many pairs will be playing on the second day and to reserve a number of slots equal to the maximum number of potential drop-ins. The number of initial qualifiers equals whatever is left over, with extra slots available if the drop-ins don't meet their quota.

For example, suppose 6 sections of 13 tables will play in the semi-finals of the LM Pairs, for a total of 156 pairs. Meanwhile, during the first day, 8 teams of six players each are in the quarter-finals of the GNT. Four of those teams will lose, comprising 24 players, or a maximum of 12 pairs of drop-ins. Thus, the top 144 pairs (156 minus 12) qualify, with a few more pairs potentially getting in if there are fewer than 12 pairs of drop-ins.

This method is preferable to either (a) “unqualifying” pairs after they thought they were in, or (b) creating an imperfect movement on the second day.

The idea that the top 156 pairs all “deserve” to qualify is illusory. No, they don't. In this format only the top 144 “deserve” to qualify.

Allowing drop-ins to the second day of our 3-day pair events is long overdue. On this issue the WBF has been ahead of us for years, though their implementation is often imperfect. We should adopt the concept while fixing the flaws.
July 13, 2016
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In 3, I would draw the last trump and lead a diamond to the jack before exiting with a heart. RHO seems to have very short diamonds, so this line fails only when he has the stiff king. The actual line fails if RHO has a void or a small singleton and cashes out before exiting.
April 20, 2016
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No. Anyone can remove the tray, preferably someone who does it quickly and who remembers to restore the tray immediately when the current deal is completed.

When I play North/South I remove and restore the tray myself, regardless of whether I am declarer, dummy, opening leader or third-hand defender. When the current deal is over I grab the tray (and the new board) and place them on the table while simultaneously removing the old board. I am VERY efficient, which is the main reason I insist on handling the chore. The time between boards is as close to zero as I can make it. (By the way, I don't do any scorekeeping until after the new board is on the table and it is not my turn to bid. I'm a fast scorekeeper too.)

When I play East/West I let North/South handle the tray and boards, but if they dawdle I will take over those duties for them (with their permission - if they refuse permission then I will not be very patient with future lapses).

A lifetime of playing with partners who are both slower and less mechanically efficient than I am has ingrained these habits in me.
April 12, 2016
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I disagree with assigning dummy the chore of tray removal. Many players are “mechanically inefficient”; they shouldn't be assigned ANY tasks other than bidding and playing.

Moreover, waiting for dummy to remove the tray can interfere with the dummy's single most important mechanical task: PUTTING DOWN THE DUMMY. I already hate waiting for (some) dummies to write down the contract, or to sort their hand (again), or to “micro-straighten” the dummy AFTER they have put it down. Just lay it down and get out of the way. Extreme neatness is irrelevant; being able to see all thirteen cards is the only thing that matters.

Tray removal is best done by someone attuned to the need to do it quickly and efficiently. I admit to bias here because I am such a person, but there are plenty of others out there. Let one of them do it.
April 10, 2016
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A spade lead beats 6 by knocking out a crucial entry.

South wins and loses a club. East shifts to a trump, which is 100% clear at that point. Declarer can ruff two clubs but then cannot return to hand except by ruffing dummy's last spade (or a heart). No double squeeze.

I would vote for 6 down one. Bidding 6 is a strong LA. The parlay needed to let it make is too much to grant an offending side. Greg's percentages are a little generous (to N/S) for my taste.
Feb. 22, 2016
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Gary is actually referring to my practice when opening 1 (Precision style, could be as few as two). Yes, I stick two fingers prominently near the center of the table, and I look for acknowledgement. The 1 opening occurs frequently (much more so than the strong 1), but I still give the two-finger sign even if it's the tenth board in a row. Occasionally my screenmate will look exasperated at the frequency, but usually he just finds it humorous.

For a 1 opening my alert is a clenched fist. For a 1 negative I give the thumbs-down signal. For the 1 response showing 8-11 (artificial, any except 5+s, same as at the table in question) I point to the bid very clearly and wait for acknowledgement, and I also write down the meaning even if not asked.

When my opponents have alertable calls I expect the same treatment, no matter how often the bid may have come up earlier. This is especially true of an artificial 1 opening.

I recognize that my procedure violates certain details of officially mandated protocol, but it is in keeping with the spirit of the rules. More importantly, I have never had any problems doing it my way.
Feb. 22, 2016
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The discussion on page 9 is flawed. If East wins a heart and returns a heart, then you cannot get four club tricks when West holds the queen except for queen-ten tight, because the clubs will be blocked and dummy has no more entries.
Feb. 20, 2016
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I doubt that any pair has ever discussed this auction, nor that any pair has general principles that apply. This should have been abundantly obvious to everyone. Questions by E/W were groping; answers by N/S were meant to be helpful but CLEARLY should have been taken with a grain of salt.

My name for what E/W did is the “trick question”. By that I mean a line of inquiry designed to uncover a flaw that can be exploited later. E/W had as much insight into this auction as N/S, AND THEY BOTH KNEW IT. Calling in the cops was bad form. This runs counter to my concept of how to play the game.

I suspect that Helgemo was uncertain of the meaning of 6. His raise was a safety bid, catering to VOID-AQJxxxx-AQ10xx-x or the like. (How would YOU bid that hand?) He had great controls and a little extra, so that even if partner had the other hand type (his actual hand), 7 should have play and might be cold.
Feb. 2, 2016
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