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All comments by Bart Bramley
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Yes, Steve, that's persuasive. However, it does not detract from my main point that Wold's line is better. The swing was well-earned at BOTH tables.

Let's look a little deeper. Given that playing all out for spades is superior, maybe the best line is to cash THREE rounds of spades before taking the diamond finesse. Then, if spades are 4-2 and the diamond finesse loses, declarer can hope that RHO has the spade jack and that LHO has the high heart (unlikely on the hearts played so far) or no more hearts (a definite possibility), leaving the club finesse available. This costs only when LHO misses Passell's defense, a contingency that is hard to quantify.
July 23, 2013
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A couple of additional points about Hand 1:

1. Even if Passell had held the high heart he couldn't afford to cash it before shifting to a club, because that would have rectified the count. Then, if declarer rose ace on the club shift, Passell would have been squeezed on the last diamond. With the immediate shift he could discard his heart.

2. At the other table Eddie Wold declared. He also held up until the third round of hearts. However, he anticipated the club shift in the event of a losing diamond finesse, and he realized that it would force him to choose between spades and clubs for his ninth trick. That is, he wouldn't get to try them both. A priori, bringing in an extra spade trick is about 52% (not counting stiff jack, which any line will discover in time), while the club finesse is 50%. Instead, Wold combined chances as best he could by cashing TWO spades before taking the diamond finesse. Thus, he would make if the spade jack fell doubleton (about 16%) before falling back on the club finesse. This is a superior line.

As the play actually went, Wold was not tested, but his play deserves commendation.
July 22, 2013
Bart Bramley edited this comment July 22, 2013
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I concur with everything Henry said. Joan was one of the greatest friends that bridge has ever had, as well as a personal friend. Judy and I will miss her dearly.
April 5, 2013
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Too fast!

I was about to send in this exact comment when it appeared. This is a cool squeeze, first a three-suiter against East, then a one-suiter against West.
Oct. 12, 2012
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I agree with Daniel Gulyas that “pulling a hand is penalizing the public, not the players.”

I agree with Thomas Gotard that, realistically, “bridge is NOT a timed event.” (my emphasis) The presence of clocks serves to inhibit the grossest violations, but until there is a comprehensive set of rules and sufficient manpower to apply them fairly, we will be stuck with what we have: Arbitrary enforcement, akin to a cop setting a speed trap (pun intended).

I have been nailed in the crosshairs of the time police too many times over the years, and each occurrence felt the same - without much warning I was told that I was in big trouble, even though I was usually taking the same amount of time (or less) as in the previous segment/match/event. Except THIS time someone was trying to nail me. Of course, on the vast majority of those occasions my partner or opponents took most of the time, but since I was in the same room I absorbed equal blame.

The Spingold is arguably the greatest annual bridge event in the world. Anyone can play, unrestricted by quotas or by the requirement to play with one's countrymen. Pulling the plug on an exciting semi-final Spingold match was a crime against bridge. Enforcement of close rules decisions should always be liberal in such cases, just as it is hockey or basketball, where the good referees “let them play”. Indeed, I think the same should apply at all times in all endeavors; when it's close let the players decide the outcome, not the officials. And in Philly we were not playing “until 2 or 3 in the morning”, the usual complaint by those who want more rigid time enforcement. No, the second session in matches with screens started at 4:30PM, so even if play proceeded at a snail's pace they would have finished by, say, 10:30PM at the latest. If the director had to stay a little later, that's just too bad; the bar would still be open for several hours.

My last point is about simple logistics. The easiest way to improve speed of play, by far, is to have MORE CLOCKS, and to place them so they are MORE VISIBLE. In the 2-day Roth Open Swiss last weekend, there were nearly 200 teams on Saturday, and nearly 100 on Sunday, all in one large room. There were only TWO clocks in the room, one on each of two adjacent walls. The other two walls had no clock. The clocks are small (about 6 inches high and 15 inches wide), and they were placed about 4 to 5 foot off the ground. Unless you got lucky, you had no chance to see either clock easily. Why should the ACBL expect the players to be serious about time when the ACBL makes it so hard to know HOW MUCH TIME IS LEFT? I am very conscientious about time, yet for most of the day I would have to lean far in one direction, or stand up, or stand up and TURN AROUND, in order to see a clock clearly. Before the ACBL abuses another event with time police, they should try the effect of getting more clocks, and bigger clocks, and placing them at least 12 feet off the ground, so that everyone in the room can see a clock without special exertion.
July 26, 2012
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Barry, your recollection of what happened in the 1991 Bermuda Bowl is absolutely correct. I was on USA2, playing with Mark Feldman. (One pair of teammates was Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart. We qualified in a Pairs Trial.) In the final round-robin match Poland could not dump enough to prevent themselves from winning, as my team had a terrible match, even though we were trying to win. For example, on one hand Poland stopped in 2 of a major with about 29 HCP, while Mark and I climbed to the 5-level looking for slam and went down. There were 3 or 4 such swings in the match. We ended up with Iceland in the first KO match (quarterfinal) and got smoked. I believe Poland drew England in that round, the team they were trying to avoid, and beat them anyway, before eventually losing big to Iceland in the finals. Iceland was far and away the best team in the event that year.
Nov. 22, 2011
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Bringing back a nice memory

A number of years ago in the Cavendish I held x-xxx-A10xxx-AKxx in fourth seat with none vul and saw the auction 1(Precision)-1-DBL to me. After thinking briefly about how to investigate a heart game, I realized that our best contract was almost certainly four SPADES doubled. Thus I bid 4 immediately. As expected, LHO bid 4, and soon I was collecting 500 (down three) when our limit was nine tricks in hearts.
Nov. 17, 2011
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I'm a true believer in 4333 takeout doubles. I'll make them down to 12 HCP, matchpoints or imps, vul or not, passed partner or not, regardless of the opening suit (as long as it's one of my 3-baggers). I tell my partners not to worry about what I might have and to bid assuming I've got a “normal” takeout double. We seem to reach the right contract anyway. I've been playing this way for a long time (35 years) and I know I'm way ahead.

I also agree with double on 4=4=(3-2) with the wrong doubleton and on most (4-2)-(5-2) when they open your doubleton major. I'm less certain about Gowdy's 4=4=4=1 over 1, but I'm inclined to double there too. Corollaries to this style include not overcalling 4-card majors on hands otherwise qualified for a double, and not balancing on marginal hands where I didn't come in the first time.
Oct. 5, 2011
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Clarifying an earlier comment

Bob H. quoted me as never passing 12 HCP “at matchpoints”, to stay with the field. That's true, but I never pass 12 at imps either, because I always seem to get “unlucky” when I do. For the same reason I never downgrade 15 HCP. Those occasional terrible games we reach just seem to make every time. In most areas I rely on my judgment of the “true” valuation, expecting to come out ahead on balance even if I'm going against the field, but for 12- and 15-HCP hands I'm more rigid. Call it superstition if you like. I call it sticking with what works for me.
Sept. 16, 2011
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The 1991 team was younger than the 1981 team

The average age of the 1981 team was at least 36. It did have young Levin, Rodwell and Meckstroth (23, 23 and 24) and John Solodar (about 37), but also included Russ Arnold (53) and Bud Reinhold (about 56) for an average of 36. In 1991 USA2 in Yokohama had their own three 20-somethings: Jeff Ferro (about 24), Alex Ornstein (29), and Steve Weinstein (27). The “old” guys were Fred Stewart (43), Mark Feldman (40) and myself (43). (I'm 3 days older than Fred, so I was the old man on the team.) Our average age was 34. That year USA2 was selected in a one-year experiment with a Pairs Trial. The average age of the 2011 team is 32 (in October).
Sept. 16, 2011
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When I went back to check the matchpoints I was surprised to find that making 4 would have been just a little over average (85/69). The board was played 78 times. 8 pairs made 660 in 3NT(!). Only one other pair matched my 650 in 4, also with the lead of the 10. 12 pairs made 630 in 3NT. 26 pairs made 620 in spades: 7 with the 10 lead, 4 with a trump lead and 2 from the long side with the K lead. The other 13 survived a red suit lead, which requires either misdefense or great guessing. Five pairs made 600 in 3NT. Four pairs played spade partscores (170 and 140 twice each). 18 pairs went down in 4. One managed this feat despite the 10 lead and another despite a trump lead; the rest got red-suit leads. Four of these pairs went down 2. Two pairs went down 1 in 3NT. Bottom went to the pair that was down 3 in 3NT.

All of this points to a fairly large declarer's advantage. In the position I reached I was pretty certain that I had pulled off the squeeze rather than seen a great defense. I did think about blowing what seemed to be a good board to try for a better board, but I decided that the pain of rejecting a beautiful ending would have been greater than the pain of going down. Why pull off a squeeze and then not take advantage?
Dec. 20, 2010
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I agree with the recommended line except for one detail. We start with ruff, ace, trump to the queen, to the king. Suppose West follows and East does not ruff, the only threatening case. Now, instead of pulling a second trump, immediately ruff a with the ace and lead a trump to the ten. If all follow we're home and if West has four trumps we're down, the same as before. But if East has four trumps we get a different pretty ending. Plow s through East. He must ruff eventually, else we score twelve tricks without using the ace. We overruff and now must guess whether East has any clubs left. If he does, lead a to the ace to draw the last trump, run hearts and concede a club at the end. If East is out of clubs, NOW we finesse the club. I'd bank on reading the club position close to 100% of the time, thus making regardless of the location of the king.
Nov. 11, 2010
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Structure is nice, but one of the big edges for Flannery is that responder can often place the contract immediately. And since his hand is largely unknown he gets an enhanced “declarer's advantage”. I agree completely about all of the subtle advantages whenever our side opens one HEART. Bashers conveniently forget about those when they carp about the infrequency of actual Flannery openers.

I play that 2D-3M is the only way to invite. I find that opener's overall strength is usually more important than his specific distribution. I use 2NT as a GAME FORCE, so on slam tries responder can get distributional info and then set trumps at the 3-level, allowing opener to show interest in three tiers (serious, non-serious, none).
Oct. 28, 2010
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I played this hand. While the club combination is fascinating by itself, other considerations were more important. I needed only ONE extra trick for my contract, and I had another suit (diamonds) that I could try, AS LONG I HADN'T ALREADY LOST A CLUB TRICK, because I would have to lose a diamond trick to set up the extra trick there. Therefore, I wanted to test clubs before giving up a club trick, so floating the eight was never in my plans. I cashed the ace, intending to lead a low one only if a quack fell in the right place. Otherwise, I would continue with the king (as I did), claiming on a 3-2 split. If clubs went 4-1 I would fall back on diamonds, which were A9x opposite K10xx, by leading through the hand with the long clubs and trying to lose a trick to the short-club hand.

This was a classic case of “look at the whole deal, not just a single suit”.
July 19, 2010

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