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All comments by Ben Thompson
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You can mix it up by round, so each group of boards get played with the same oddball rule around the room.

eg:
- boards 1-4: we play anticlockwise
- boards 5-8: we use bowers (ie the trump J is high, and the same-colour J is 2nd highest)
- boards 9-12: diamonds are a girl's best friend (and rank highest)
- boards 13-16: lead for the next trick comes from the partner of the hand that won the previous one (creates some interesting entry-management problems - and solutions)
- boards 17-20: upside down cards (2 is high, A is low) - this one is harder than you would think
- boards 21-24: no takeout doubles
- boards 25-28: the beer card is to be taken very seriously!
Dec. 21, 2018
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I would like to see a strict protocol for readmitted cheats, with the onus for more or less everything on them.

General:
- you will only ever play at a table with screens
- you must not bring any paraphernalia to the table
- you must not leave the table while any boards remain incomplete (except to go to the toilet accompanied by tournament staff who will accompany you at their convenience only)
- your table will be under video surveillance at all times, and may be under additional surveillance

While the cards are out:
- you must not say anything (if you need the director you may put your right hand in the air and say the single word “director”; the director will take you away from the table to explain)
- you must not write anything with the screen up
- you should be very careful about making any sound
- you must hold your cards below the table, including while sorting
- you must place your bidding cards strictly starting from the left, against the same edge, and with the same spacing, throughout the tournament

As a defender:
- you must keep your hands below the table except when in the physical act of playing a card, or lowering the screen in order to write something
- you must grasp the card you play with the same grip, and release it in the same manner, throughout the tournament
- you must only play a card by placing it in a small tray/box that we will provide for this purpose and which your screenmate will place on the table in front of you after the bidding is complete
- you should be careful not to make any unnecessary movements

Consequences:
- if you break this protocol on any board, you will receive a procedural penalty of 3 IMPs (or equivalent in pairs)
- any IMPs you gain on a board where you break protocol will be cancelled
- you will not be afforded any extra time to comply with this protocol and if your table runs late, you will automatically be assessed with all time penalties
Dec. 19, 2018
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Likewise, how did East expect to make 3NT if West was x AKJx Axx xxxxx? That is, West with a slightly less helpful hand in the ordinary range, tried to keep the NS spades out of the auction by jumping to 3D, East had a fly at a light game, and South turned the cube against a known-to-be-light game.

Does East valorously stick it and risk a big out, or discreetly retreat to 4D?
Dec. 17, 2018
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Well, the book could be done. I have his system notes obviously. I built my own summary tables, which would be suitable for book form, and which Russ liked.

I know what Russ wanted to do with the book. He didn't want a dry system book. He wanted to highlight key features of the system and illustrate them with hands from actual play. And ideally weave it in with his story in bridge.

Weaving in his story now would be the hardest part I think. Getting hands to illustrate features would be achievable - some have been published in various places and I'm sure old partners would be more than happy to supply suitable hands, and anecdotes.

On the more mundane side, it'd need someone to pull it together (I'd at least consider it), a publisher, and some sense of an audience. It'd be nice to have approval from Russ's family too. And photos. Photos are always good.
Dec. 13, 2018
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Oh no. I was fortunate to play with Russ in Orlando in the Rosenblum (with his great enthusiasm) and the pairs (with his grumbling assent). We played his system of course and it was terrifically fun, but nowhere near as much fun as the man himself.

My enduring memory of him will be after we finished up our first live set together to kick off the Rosenblum. Russ hopped on his scooter saying “Ben, there's only room for one eccentric on this team” and promptly raced off with a parting wave to catch up on his smoking. I guessed who he meant :)

Obviously his health wasn't great but he managed himself carefully and was completely switched on at the table. However, on the last day of the pairs semifinal, he was struggling physically and having to take breaks mid-set (of 10 boards) to go on his ventilator machine. Neither of us likes to lose but just that once I was secretly relieved not to qualify.

Even so, after a rest he came down to dinner that night and was in top form, regaling us all with his stories.

We'd been emailing since about his plans to publish a book about The System, and him coming out to play in the Gold Coast Congress. He would have loved it and everyone would have loved him.

RIP my friend
Dec. 13, 2018
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Yep. The first time we played this I picked up AQ109 in … and another 4 small ones. So it went 1H (X) insta-pass from me . Lefty promptly trotted out 4H, passed back to me for the straightforward 4. Everyone else had managed that a round earlier of course :)
Nov. 7, 2018
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I play a mad but entertaining scheme with my brother.

After 1m - (X/1red) we play:
P/1H = transfer (to the next suit up)
1S = the usual no major feels a need to bid hand
X/XX = I wish I could have just passed
Nov. 7, 2018
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Kit, yes it's all some sort of VP scale but I don't see “smoothness” as desirable. Any even vaguely sensible VP scale has a blowout cutoff - ie at some point the next IMP doesn't count at all.

I see the 2nd IMP counting less than the 1st IMP as a much bigger problem than the 41st IMP counting a lot less than the 40th. IMPs are already a compression. Why compress again … and change the odds of your bridge actions depending on how the match is going?

Philosophically, I want the odds of the actions I take to depend on the hand in front of me, not when I pick the hand up.
Nov. 5, 2018
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What Kit said, but I wouldn't convert the round-robin results to VPs. Make every IMP count - so straight IMPs but have (different) winning & losing cutoffs for every match to limit ridiculous blowouts.

Or play speedball.
Nov. 5, 2018
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Polling what you do with the right explanation would be part of the TD's job too, but the question of what you do with the wrong one is definitely relevant.

If 4 is not … for want of a better phrase … a logical alternative, then North has just made a giant boo boo unrelated to the misexplanation and has to wear it.

If you poll 100 (comparable) people with the RIGHT explanation and, for the sake of the argument, 5% fail to bid a slam, you haven't actually learned anything you can act on because on the other side you're working with a sample of 1.

So you have to poll 100 (comparable) people with the WRONG explanation to understand if the wrong explanation actually made a difference. If this poll comes back with 5% (or fewer) people missing slam then … the wrong explanation didn't cause any damage and North gets no joy.

But suppose you poll 100 people with the WRONG explanation first and exactly 0% of them missed slam. And exactly 0% of them bid 4S. We've just learned that we don't need to poll anyone with the RIGHT explanation any more because they can't bid slam any more frequently than the people who got the wrong explanation.

That is, in the special case where essentially no pollee misses slam with the WRONG explanation, there cannot be damage.
Oct. 31, 2018
Ben Thompson edited this comment Nov. 1, 2018
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Not to dash the spirit of bonhomie and whatnot but “if <fine person> and I agree on something, we're right” is not a given :)

And to clarify, I thought and think it's possible North MIGHT have been trying it on (which can be enough under the Laws to say “no chocolates for you”) but I did not and will not say that North WAS trying it on.
Oct. 31, 2018
Ben Thompson edited this comment Oct. 31, 2018
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Well, David has consistently pointed the way - we weren't at the table. Maybe West flinched slightly at the alert/explanation. Maybe North had played against EW before and knew/thought they played weak jumps. Just the explanation itself strikes me as unlikely (you see a lot of “weak” or “intermediate”, but “opening hand or better” is new on me and at face value has playability issues)

But I entirely agree with the principle of your question - that the possibility of a double shot would need investigation (by the TD at the table).
Oct. 31, 2018
Ben Thompson edited this comment Oct. 31, 2018
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Interestingly, the first choice of 2 of the 4 players I polled was none other than Exclusion KC. They recognised the risks but judged the chance of uncovering gold to be worth it.

3 of the 4, on one of their subsequent attempts, simply chose 6S as their bid. Everyone tried ordinary RKC (for hearts of course) as one of their subsequent attempts.

All of these choices are imperfect but they're all rational attempts to manage an extreme hand in a difficult situation.
Oct. 31, 2018
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David, I'm saying several separate things.

On this particular North hand I'm saying the 4 bid was so bad (for what I have understood the class of player to be) that no adjustment is warranted.

More broadly, the double shot is alive and well and a blight on the game. I'm proposing that there is currently a legal basis for penalising players who try for a double shot. And that there should be a clearer legal basis in the future for doing so because the current basis is admittedly a bit tenuous.

I'm NOT saying that this North was trying for a double shot, and in fact I was careful to state that. I'm NOT saying that ANY North who bid 4 should be regarded as trying for a double shot, and I was careful to state that.

I AM saying that the Law doesn't require North to be trying for a double shot, only that North MIGHT have been trying for a double shot.

As for tu quoque, I'm comfortable I'm playing the ball, not the man. I have agreed here with several important points that you and others (eg John Adams) have made. On other points we disagree, and we express our disagreement. Preferably with rationale, maybe even data. And a reasonable approximation of humour and manners (which I recognise in you and I hope you recognise in me).
Oct. 31, 2018
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Heh, very droll. But if you state your assumptions, of course you can make some judgments and give a “ruling”. Otherwise every BW article on a UI/MI/Law problem involving judgment can just have an auto-posted single comment “No-one was there so no-one can try judging the situation. This article is now closed for comments”.

You yourself have not been averse to expressing your judgment about what happened at the table. For example, “everyone knew what East meant”. Did they really? Surely only the TD at the table can assess that.
Oct. 31, 2018
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John, you haven't quite got the point of my admittedly unscientific poll. I gave the pollees the table explanation that 3D was “an opening hand or better”.

All 4 bid more anyway and when pressed for alternatives … bid more anyway. No-one thought to do anything BUT bid a slam even when pressed, and when asked everyone thought 4S was inconceivably bad.

My pollees ranged from about 400 masterpoints to about 3,500. Different scale but vaguely comparable to the over 2,000 masterpoints North has (as commented by OP). I don't think club player is the right comp.

There is a point where your action is so bad it's just your error and no-one else's. North will need the rear-view telescope to find this one.
Oct. 31, 2018
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David, I agree with all you say about the director needing to judge the skill etc etc of the actual North. I even mentioned it earlier in different words.

Still, the OP gave us a proxy for NS's skill level (some pile of masterpoints) and so for the purposes of a Bridge Winners debate we can reasonably take that to mean North is easily good enough to appreciate the quality and potential of the hand. From there, North would be good enough to meet the “gambling action” requirements.

So while saying that only the TD at the table can fully assess the situation is true, it's not really relevant here since to have any meaningful debate we have to make some assumptions based on the information provided.
Oct. 31, 2018
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Just for amusement I gave the North hand, the auction, and the explanation to 4 sound to good players tonight.

Everyone bid a slam (3x 7S, 1x 6S) in 2 bids. I said I forbid your auction, have another go. Everyone bid a slam at their next go. I said I forbid your 2nd auction, have another go. One said “I'm out of ideas” … and everyone else bid a slam. The most anyone got to was 5 auctions before giving up, and all 4 bid a slam every time.

Then I asked them to rate 4S. Every one of them said “bad”. I asked how bad on a scale of 0 to 10. Everyone said 0. Some asked if they could go negative.

Obviously this isn't the most scientific poll in the history of the game but the message is clear enough.
Oct. 31, 2018
Ben Thompson edited this comment Oct. 31, 2018
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Bill, who I'm willing to call a cautious bidder after about 20 years sitting opposite him :), swears by a guideline for slam tries he picked up from Jeff Rubens and the Bridge World.

It goes something like this: if partner can have a realistic, suitable minimum for their bidding where slam is cold then you should try for slam.

Works well.

Here, slam is cold opposite several suitable (very) sub minimums, and realistic ones at that except for being sub minimum.
Oct. 30, 2018
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John, no you just need to think North MIGHT have been trying for a double shot. You separate the possibility of intent from the particular player. That is, you don't need to establish that THIS North intended to be trying for a double shot, only that SOME North might have seen a dodgy opportunity and deliberately tried for a double shot.

It's a bit like that thing where if you pop in a hesitation in a situation where you COULD have known it could mislead the oppos to your benefit, and the oppos do draw a damaging false inference from that, then you get pinged. The director doesn't have to establish that you meant to mislead the oppos, or even that you knew that you could be misleading the oppos, only that you could have known (and have no demonstrable bridge reason for your little thinky).

To qualify that a little: you have to assess possible intent factoring in like skill - you can't ping a beginner for a dodgy thought process that they would never have thought of even if they were dodgy.
Oct. 30, 2018
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