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All comments by Bart Bramley
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Hopeless whining by E/W, especially West, who has the world's most automatic 5 bid. South's pass of 3 doubled is neutral. This is a tactical situation. Bidding 4 immediately or passing and waiting are equally valid. Sometimes you can buy the contract via the slow route when immediate action would compel West to bid on, which South almost certainly does NOT want. The actual auction lends credence to this theory.

Complaining about South's 4 call is ludicrous once his hand is known. After North's double of 3 it's 100% clear to compete to 4, even without the later double of 4. (I admit that I don't like North's last double, but I don't see much correlation between the supposed hesitation and that double.)

Letting the result stand should have been clear to both the director and the committee. Apparently the existence of the “weighted score” option clouded their judgment. Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean that you MUST do it.
Jan. 29, 2016
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My recollection is that about 40 years ago, in a series of editorials in The Bridge World, Edgar Kaplan laid out the framework for our current handling of the vast majority of the stickiest (but still commonplace) matters of bridge jurisprudence: Those having to do with unauthorized information. (Someone more willing than I to wade through the literature may be able to find exact references.)

Edgar's thesis was that nearly all of the infractions derived from players' inability to process the extra information they had, which could come from breaks in tempo, or from Alerts, or from failures to Alert, or from explanations, or from misexplanations, with a few other possibilities. He suggested that such infractions should be treated as TECHNICAL violations, akin to revokes or leads out of turn and other UNINTENTIONAL errors, WITHOUT ATTACHING ANY ETHICAL STIGMA. Calling a Director for such a situation would explicitly NOT be an accusation of cheating nor of any kind of unethical behavior. Such connotations had been routine before Edgar's proposal.

This was a brilliant solution. By reducing these common problems to technical violations, Edgar made their resolution easier (but still not EASY) and provided for their handling in a non-accusatory manner.

We should be wary of returning to the days when every hesitation rouses suspicion, and likewise every action taken by the partner of a hesitator. No. These are normal, albeit unfortunate, parts of the game. We should handle them without casting aspersions. Calling them “second-class cheating” or “unethical behavior” is inappropriate.

Similarly, I am very reluctant to give procedural penalties to players with UI who choose what seems to be an unwarranted action. Only egregious abuse of UI merits such a penalty, i.e., the player CLEARLY knew better. Such cases are rare.
Dec. 17, 2015
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Prohibiting certain classes of signals is a practical impossibility. That genie won't go back in the bottle. Just as we cannot “unlearn” 85 years of bidding knowledge and have everyone bid like they did in 1930 (or 1950, or 1970, or 1990), we cannot unlearn theories of defense.

The very best players can, and do, make their signals in tempo, including suit preference. My regular partner does it routinely, and I aspire to that standard myself.

The given hand is an impure example, since the defender had a real problem of whether to win the trick. This is a different form of UI, which should be separated from “pure signaling UI”, i.e., that in which a defender hesitates while simply following suit.
Dec. 16, 2015
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Several points:

1. I was also a third-seat defender here, on the auction P-3-3-4-DBL-P-4-All Pass. Partner led the K (Rusinow). Our declarer thought for longer than some declarers.

I had a big problem, right now. If partner had FOUR diamonds, then a heart shift would always be right. If partner had THREE diamonds, I might gain from a heart shift (declarer ducks with 8=2=3=0 and the heart queen), or break even (declarer is 8=2=3=0 without the heart queen), or lose (declarer is 9=1=3=0). I seriously considered playing the NINE (upside-down) to get partner to shift, either immediately or after cashing another diamond from four (hoping that I had a singleton) and noticing that I had discouraged with a doubleton. (He should figure out why.) However, I was worried that partner had FIVE diamonds; if so, he would “know” that I had a singleton and would certainly play another diamond, which would be likely to blow at least one trick.

In the time I had (several seconds) I decided to play it straight and hope for partner to find the winning defense. Unlucky.

2. Looking at this dummy and this bidding, everyone can see that third seat does not appear to have any problem in the future. What could it be? No, if he has a problem it must be ON THIS TRICK. Moreover, it is probably THIS EXACT PROBLEM. (Until I read RonPa's comments here I did not realize that he had a problem remembering his carding methods instead. Nevertheless, his huddle clearly telegraphed possession of more than one diamond.)

3. To my eye the defender's huddle well exceeded “normal” third-seat defensive tempo, even with declarer's quick play. There was no doubt whatsoever that he was thinking about this trick. Also, while Sontag played quickly, to my eye he did not “insta-play”, but rather after one or two beats. Several other declarers played about as fast.

Edited for clarity and to correct distributions in (1)
Dec. 10, 2015
Bart Bramley edited this comment Dec. 13, 2015
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David is correct that the squeeze is a better play when SOUTH has the spade length, because it works regardless of South's trump length. However, the squeeze fails when NORTH has the spade length, costing the contract when North also has trump length, say 4=5=3=1 or 4=4=3=2.

The question is whether the squeeze line, which works against South only, is better than the “spade-and-diamond-length-in-the-same-hand” line (the “Gawrys” line), which works against either opponent. The squeeze line gains when South has spade length WITHOUT trump length. The Gawrys line gains when North has spade length WITH trump length. That would seem to favor the squeeze line, but South's double of four clubs might tilt the odds sufficiently to make it a photo.
Nov. 25, 2015
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I agree with Dave's version. SDAM came from MIT to the Chess Club, not the other way around. Dave and I are older than Mark by a few years. We were at MIT close to the creation of SDAM.

I agree with Mark that CLAS did originate at the Chess Club. I had nothing to do with that one.

My recollection is that a plaque at the door of the Chess Club had a founding date in the 1850's, making it one of the oldest game clubs in the US. However, bridge did not overtake chess (at the Chess Club) until the 1930's.
Nov. 17, 2015
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Check again. After a trump lead South has the timing needed to ruff TWO hearts in hand AND set up the sixth club: eight total trumps, three clubs and a spade.

But after two high hearts declarer can no longer ruff two hearts in hand and enjoy three club tricks, even with two club finesses, because he can't play ANY clubs before drawing trumps. Try it.

Thus, the only winning line is to sacrifice one of the heart ruffs in exchange for two club finesses and the double squeeze.
Nov. 6, 2015
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When I first played with Sidney (20 years ago this month), I was excited to be playing with one of the all-time greats, and a first-class gentleman. But what thrilled me most of all was the chance to play with the guy who had played THIS HAND.
Nov. 4, 2015
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The “best” dummy I ever saw occurred long ago in an early-round Vandy match. My partner was Ken Lebensold. I had:


as dealer and opened 5. Ken bid 5 and I rebid 6, ending the auction. The lead was the heart queen and Ken delivered:


With the heart ace offside I had five losers. His two-loser dummy provided exactly zero tricks for me!

(edited for clarity)

Oct. 18, 2015
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Linda: I think you are referring to my theory about people who say “No problem”, usually on defense. My theory is that they ALWAYS have a problem. (Yes, we all know counterexamples of people who didn't notice it was their turn to play. I'm not talking about that.) Their problem may not be at this trick, but they do have a problem. It's better to say nothing than to lie about it.

Of course, this does not give a player carte blanche to think in positions where thinking sends a clear message, unless that message is true. The OP situation is an example, as is the case of leading up to KJ (cited elsewhere).
Oct. 16, 2015
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Suppose you consider the decision between pass and 4 to be very close. (We have seen strong advocates of both calls.) You should still be able to make your call in tempo. That's because this is a common situation. An experienced player already knows the arguments pro and con. If it's close he should just PICK ONE.

Tempo-sensitive players do this often, in all kinds of situations: Whether to invite over partner's opening 1NT, whether to bid on in a competitive partscore auction, or how to continue when partner makes a 1-level response to your 1-level opening. Yes, you might have a real problem, but if you've seen it a few times before, you should be able to act without revealing that you have a problem.
Oct. 15, 2015
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For a strikingly similar situation, see:

If that link doesn't work, go to the USBF website and find Appeal #1 from the 2013 USA2 Final match between the Nickell and Fleisher teams.
Oct. 9, 2015
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I'm repeating what others have said for many of these.

1. 4 shows a good hand but not necessarily club values or length. For me it establishes ownership. As West I would pass (forcing) since I'm happy whatever partner does. But I could see pushing to 5 with either hand.

2. 1 is fine. I might double first with 4=6=0=3, where I have true playability in all three suits. Bidding over 1 as West is marginal. I would pass. No aces or kings, some of those quacks will be wasted, game is unlikely, improving the contract is unnecessary. The case for bidding is that when East can be as big as he is, we might not want to let him rot in 1.

On the second round I like 2, though double is possible. One of my principles with strong awkward hands is to complete my shape before doubling, so I might double on the THIRD round if South competed and partner passed. West dropped the ball. He's worth a raise to at least three spades, and I wouldn't quarrel with four. Game is excellent opposite AKxx-AJxxxx-x-xx for example.

3. All on West. Having signed off in 3NT, when pard bids 4 he now has a super-max and should drive to slam. Reaching seven is too tough, and it's only marginal anyway, needing both minors to run.

4. However East intended 6 (seems to be asking for third-round control), West didn't get the message. Would East bid the same way without the heart jack? Hard to know, but the grand is much worse without it. Possession of the trump jack is key for many grand slams. East might have shot out the grand directly, as the actual outcome shows that too much science is not always helpful.

5. Good auction for the most part. I like the voluntary 1NT, implying a non-minimum (within 12-14) with real notrump orientation. And I'm OK with 4, showing a good suit-type hand. 4NT is fuzzy and should probably be an offer to play with a double-stop. However, East got it right.

Good set of deals.
Sept. 16, 2015
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I was defending at the other table. The opening lead was the same. At trick two declarer played a low diamond and ducked West's eight. West shifted to the club deuce, finessed to East's queen, from which there was no recovery. I can understand declarer's (incomplete) thinking: “I need two out of three things to work among the club finesse and 3-3 splits in spades and diamonds. The club finesse is the one (of the three) most likely to work, the more so since West opened the bidding.”

As the cards lay, I think declarer was doomed once he decided to play on diamonds rather than spades initially.

Kit's analysis is much more comprehensive, as usual.
Sept. 14, 2015
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After cashing both high hearts a similar squeeze still operates. With five cards left declarer has 3 spades, 1 diamond and 1 trump, opposite dummy's 2=1=2. South's five cards must include two spades, one heart and one diamond. If he saves only one heart then the last trump will squeeze him down to at most one diamond, after which the diamond ace and a heart endplays him. Thus, South's fifth card must be another heart, leaving him 2=2=1.

North must reduce to two cards in diamonds or spades. If diamonds, then ace and a diamond endplays North. If spades, then the spade jack, ducking the queen, leaves time to set up and cash a long spade.
Sept. 8, 2015
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Steve. A squeeze only against South is not sufficient. Suppose he saves two spades and three hearts. When you cash your other heart and lead a diamond to dummy, South pitches his low spade and claims. If North has saved three spades and two diamonds you're down.

Let's back up a trick. With one trump to go dummy saves 2 of each. To prevent your ending South must save 2=3=1. On the last trump North must save three spades, else Kevin's play works (spade jack ducking the queen). And if North reduces to two diamonds he is endplayed by ace and a diamond.

Can you endplay South in hearts without his cooperation?
Sept. 8, 2015
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Oops. I can still succeed, but it gets complicated, which is what I was trying to avoid.

Instead of saving two spades and three diamonds in dummy, I save two spades, one heart and two diamonds. South must still keep two hearts and two spades, for the same reasons as above, and must keep the diamond king to avoid exposing North to a finesse (a guard squeeze element). North must reduce to two cards in either diamonds or spades. If North reduces to two diamonds he gets endplayed on the second diamond. If he reduces to two spades, then I lead the spade jack and duck North's queen, and I cannot be prevented from setting up a spade trick and cashing it. Kevin had most of this figured out much earlier.
Sept. 8, 2015
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I saw a slightly different ending. Win the heart lead (best for the defense) and run trumps to reduce to five cards, saving two spades and three diamonds in dummy.

Even though dummy has no heart threat, South must keep two hearts to prevent declarer from cashing the heart ace and exiting with ace and a diamond (Steve's “usual” ending). South must also keep two spades, else declarer can duck a spade. (In this variation declarer must NOT cash the heart ace before ducking a spade. South has no effective exit.) Thus, South must blank the diamond king. Now ace and a diamond sets up a winner and endplays North.
Sept. 8, 2015
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Josh would have us believe that the write-ups are works of fiction. I disagree strongly, especially about those from the heyday of the Casebooks (1996 to about 2005). Many cases were written up extremely well.

When I serve on committees I often get to write them up, and I work very hard to make sure that the write-up includes all relevant facts (meanings of bids made or not made, exact sequence of plays, etc.) and all of the arguments by both sides, as well as the basis for the Committee's decision. (I do not bother with the internal discussion except for those parts that pertain to the actual decision.) I strain to make the Committee's line of reasoning completely clear. I believe that most scribes are equally meticulous.

Recent write-ups may have suffered from the misguided efforts of ACBL staff to “edit” them before publication. I know from personal experience that they have changed not only the words but the meaning in some of my write-ups. I HOPE that this practice has ended, but I have my doubts.

Regardless, any well-intentioned description of what happens in committee is better than none.
July 16, 2015
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I was one of Adam's 56 pollees a few years ago. Here is part of my private correspondence at the time:

(START QUOTE) The crux of the matter for a committee is not “logical alternative” but “demonstrably suggested”. We have a balanced minimum with quick tricks, so pass is a LA, even though the panel (and I) think that 4 is by far the better choice.

I have two objections to disallowing 4 after a huddle. First, the message of partner’s double (authorized info) is that he has a good hand without clear direction. That’s the same message (unauthorized info) that the huddle provides. Second, the “demonstrable suggestion” is weak. I KNOW that partner doesn’t have unexpected trump tricks. Indeed, I can tell from my own holding that partner has very few trumps at all. My evaluation of our offensive and defensive prospects is unrelated to the length of partner’s huddle. The 4 bidder will often have five trumps; if he has only four he’ll have some other distributional quirk that will negate some of our cashers in diamonds or spades. I have strong undisclosed spade support and a known 8-card fit. Defending when the opponents will frequently have a solid 10-card fit is a losing proposition. All of those conclusions are authorized from the bidding and my own hand.

One COULD argue that partner’s indecision stems from marginal values (choosing between passing and doubling) rather than a choice between doubling and bidding. That would suggest PASSING, because if partner is minimum (or sub-minimum) for his double we may have an easier time taking four tricks than ten. I’m not saying that it’s a GOOD argument, but if pass were the winner and this hand found it, SOMEBODY would make the case that it was tainted. (END QUOTE)

Reviewing all of this today, I still feel the same way.
July 15, 2015

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