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All comments by Craig Zastera
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Stan,
I mostly agree with your facts, but not so much with your conclusion.

Of course, it is unlikely that they will have 24 HCPs.
But they might easily have 21 or 22.

If I had to “guess” at the expected HCP distribution, I would guess close to 20-20 between the partnerships with *perhaps* their side *slightly* more likely to have slightly over half.

I know that's a lot of “slightlys”, but that is because there is a large range of uncertainty on this auction (one of the advantages of those “weak NT” openers).

As to whether only a “fraction” of the tables will be opening RHO's hand, with a 10-13 range that is far from clear.
If he has 12-13, nearly everyone will be opening.
Even if he has only 11, nowadays a lot of young crazies open all/almost all of these too.

So it is only when he has 10 (11) HCPs that we are likely to be in a disadvantageous position.

Also, it is important to know partner's bidding tendencies on this auction. Here are some important questions to try to answer before choosing our action:
1. If pard had a stiff with good TO shape,
say 4=1=4=4, 4=1=3=5, 4=1=5=3, 3=1=5=4=, 3=1=4=5,
what would be the minimum HCPs with which he would
double (2) ??

My answer is perhaps as few as 6 HCPs with 4=1=4=4,
maybe that or a point more with the others.

This situation is similar to an “OBAR BIDS” situation
in that partner, if weak but with good shape, knows
that we will have some points but may lack the shape
to compete. Hence, he will make very light TO doubles
when he has appropriate shape.

2. How about with “fair” TO shape: 4=2=4/3, 3=2=4=4 ?

My answer: assuming no wasted minor honor(s), I
think 8 HCPs would suffice.

3. With a *balanced* hand, what is the *maximum* HCPs
with which partner would/might pass (2)?

This one is harder, but I would say that with 13 HCPs
he should probably do something other than pass most
of the time. If none of his values are in s, I
think he should double with 11, even with 4=3=3=3,
probably even 3=3=4/3.

With 3=3=3/4 and values (e.g. KTx), he might pass
with 13, but I think that would be rare.

If you disagree substantially with any of the above, that might lead you to a different conclusion (from mine).
But my view is that partner will not have a hand with anything resembling TO double shape.
He probably has 3 s. Something like 2=3=3=5, 3=3=3=4, or 3=3=2=5 are likely.

So now I consider “Law of Total Tricks”.

It is quite possible there are only 14 trump (e.g. if partner's shape is 3=3=3=4, 2=3=3=5, 3=3=2=5).
In these cases, bidding (or doubling) now would be “wrong” from a LOTT perspective.

Also likely is 15 trump–perhaps they have an 8 card fit (I consider this slightly against the odds given partner's pass and the above analysis), or that we
have an 8 card fit in or s.
In this case, bidding/doubling is still probably wrong.
If they can make (2), by LOTT we would be down in 2 and even more likely in 3m. Since we are vulnerable, this would be risking being doubled, =200.

There would need to be at least 16 total trump for acting to be a likely winner. In this case, we might make 2 while (2) also makes. Or we make 3m while they would be only -1 in (2).

Although it is certainly quite possible for there to be 16 trump, I judge this to be against the odds.

Worse, in order to maximize chances of finding our “fit” if we have one, DOUBLE would have to be our balancing choice. But that is quite risky given that we don't really have TO double shape–if partner responds in s, that will likely be very bad for our side.

The alternative is to balance with 2. But that too carries substantial risks–we might play in a 4=2 (with perhaps a better fit available elsewhere) *or* partner might even compete to 3 thinking we have 5.

So my conclusion from all this is that although the scenario might be as you fear such that we are headed for a “zero” defending (2) and have some nice fit available where we can make 8 or 9 tricks, I think it is at least as likely that competing would lead to a minus score (perhaps -200) while we might even be able to defeat (2).

So I do not see sufficient probability that acting here will lead to a good result to justify the risk.
I think it is at least as reasonable to play for one of the scenarios where we are best off defending (2).

One final consideraton before passing (2) is “what am I going to lead?”
Unfortunately, it is true that we don't have a clear “good” lead (an argument in favor of bidding).

I think it is clear to lead a minor suit, but less clear whether to choose a prudent (probably an honor) or the aggessive K (hoping for a ruff).
I'll admit that the K appeals to me as we likely need something good to happen on defense in order to beat (2).
Nov. 13, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment Nov. 14, 2018
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Playing UDCA, if East wanted to encourage a shift, wouldn't she simply discard a low (a suit in which she is known to have many cards) rather attempting to encourage a shift obliquely by discarding a discouraging (a suit in which her attitude is already known)?

No, if she chooses to discard a , a suit in which she has no high cards and likely not much length, it can only be because she has shortness.

Therefore, a discard should be construed as count in that suit, not discouraging attitude.
Hence, playing UDCA, if East chooses to discard a rather than a , she should choose the 2.
Nov. 13, 2018
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John,
I guess it is unclear to which play OP was referring.

I assumed it was West's shift because that is the play after which 2 becomes unbeatable with best declarer play.

But I suppose discarding T instead of 2 when playing UDCA is a candidate, as well as the later 4th round of s after declarer gave the defense a 2nd chance.
Nov. 13, 2018
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Yes, Phil, East's s in my example are 98.
The :JT7 is the South holding.
Nov. 13, 2018
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Why is it “at best moot”?
Points are at best evenly divided. So unless you are arguing against the LOTT, a call that will likely result in our playing at the 3 level without sufficient “total trump” is likely to be a losing action.
Nov. 13, 2018
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you are correct. My bare-bones example does not produce a 50% play for 4.

On the other hand, I actually expect a somewhat better hand than this for partner's negative double.

Still, I suspect that 3 is probably the “percentage” action, which is why I think it would be my choice at matchpoints.

We all know that at IMPs, though, it pays to bid games aggressively. Even when these games turn out not to be percentage, the result is a “push” at -1 or even -2.
Nov. 13, 2018
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Why does our side have to hold at least half the deck?
I mean, we could,…. but also East could have 13 and West up to 11, so we certainly don't have to hold half the deck.

Another inference is that partner knows (2) is terminal for their side. So if he had anything (particularly with fewer than 3 s), he likely would have done something (e.g. double) over (2) since he would know that we might be in a tough position in pass out seat with some HCPs but no shape.
Nov. 12, 2018
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But playing a 4th will fail on my example
(East has K8xx-A9xxxx-T-98).
Must shift to a to succeed.
Nov. 12, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment Nov. 13, 2018
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Here is a possible lay-out that absolutely refutes any suggestion of “worst play ever.”

Suppose East's hand were:
K8xx-A9xxxx-T-98
Leaving declarer with:
AQJ9xx-KJ-xx-JT7

I believe this lay-out is reasonably consistent with the bidding.

After West starts with K, A, the *ONLY* defense that will beat 2 is:
1. Continue with Q on which East *must* pitch T.
2. Switch to a to give East a ruff

That's four tricks for the defense with the A and K still to come.

Since this is a possible lay-out for which West's (and East's) plays including trick 4 swtich constitute the only winning defense (after first two s have been cashed), West's switch cannot be the “worst play ever” as to contend for that title would require at the least a play that could not possibly be needed to defeat the contract on any conceivable lay-out.
Nov. 12, 2018
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I agree with your assessment of “close.”

I based my aggressive 4 choice more on the form of scoring–at matchpoints I would more likely choose 3.

I expect partner to hold a decent hand for a double at this level.

It doesn't take much to make 4 a reasonable spot.
Say: xx-xxx-Kxxx-Axxx.
Nov. 12, 2018
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Your “doesn't come up enough” is, if true, an argument for playing this double as something other than responsive (for example, it could be used to show s so that 3 would show a good raise and 3 a lesser raise as a supplement to a “transfer advance” scheme).

For a responsive double at the 3 level (as here) to be sound, it must conform to LOTT analysis. It is clear that our side can't have a great HCP majority (if we even have our half), hence we must have sufficient trump length to justify 3 level competition.

If (responsive) doubler is less than 5=5, it becomes unlikely that our side possesses a sufficiently long trump suit to justify 3 level competition. Even when he is 5=5
(say 5=2=5=1 in OP example), the responsive double may not work out (if overcaller is e.g. 2=5=2=4), but at least when he is 5=5 there is a reasonable chance that his side will have at least an 8 card fit somewhere.

Long ago Jeff Rubens also observed that hands truly suitable for a responsive double after partner has *overcalled* (as constrasted to when he has doubled for take-out) do not occur very often. This is particularly true at the 3 levl.

For that reason, Rubens suggested an alternative use for these doubles–“cue-bid doubles”–so that after e.g.
(1)-1M-(3)- a “double” would be used to show a good raise of overcaller's major while 3M would be a weaker raise.
Opportunities for a “cue-bid double” occur relatively frequently, perform a very useful function (allowing advancer to distinguish invitational raises from competitive ones), and conform to “LOTT” thinking in that they are used in cases where a suitable fit is known to exist.

So if you believe that hands suitable for responsive doubles after partner overcalls occur rarely (and may not work well even when they do), you might consider adopting the “cue-bid double” treatment as a more useful alternative.
Nov. 12, 2018
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If East's T were a stiff (say he had one more and one fewer ), a shift at trick 4 by West would not defeat the contract assuming the same major suit honor lay-out.

Nor would leading the 4th succeed.

No, if this were the lay-out, only a shift from West at trick 4 would defeat 2.

After a shift is ruffed by East, say he exits with K. As long as South wins and plays J he succeeds. If East instead exits a low , declarer must play J to succeed.
Nov. 12, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment Nov. 12, 2018
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(a) Don't see why the discard on 3rd was bad.
East expects partner to continue with 4th on which
he can discard his other , ensuring set too I think.
Not sure *which* East should discard given their
signalling methods. I would discard T count, but
I play “standard” count signals, so perhaps with UDCA
the 2 should be the first discard.

(b) Once West shifts to a instead of playing 4th
(or a ), it is no longer possible to defeat 2
if declarer plays correctly.
It doesn't matter what East does on the 2nd high
from dummy–ruff high, discard, or ruff low–
declarer can make 2 in all cases.

© You are right that South's low exit did give the
defense a second chance–if West wins T and leads
a , the defense can prevail.
Nov. 12, 2018
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Chris,
I'm not sure I understand your comment–possibly you did not say exactly what you meant.

According to OP, West played a at trick *4* (not trick 3 as you say).

And a shift at trick 4 is by no means necessary to defeat 2, although it would be OK.

A 4th round of s (on which East must pitch her other ) also suffices to defeat 2.

Interestingly, both a opening lead or a switch at trick 2 would lead to defeating 2.

But a shift at trick 3 (after cashing two s) would NOT work!

Once West has cashed *2* rounds of s, he *MUST* continue with a 3rd (high) in order to defeat 2.

However, after cashing the 3rd round of s, the defense can prevail either by a 4th (provided East pitched a on the 3rd round) *or* by a switch.
Nov. 12, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment Nov. 12, 2018
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West should continue 6 (East pitching last ), so that after declarer ruffs and leads a to dummy's A, EAST will now have the opportunity to err by ruffing and exiting a *low* .
Nov. 11, 2018
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Partner *should* be at least 5=5 in the pointed suit for his 3 level responsive double. This is based on LOTT thinking:

1 overcaller shouldn't be supposed to hold a 4 card side suit (though, of course, that is not impossible).
Thus, to compete 3 over 3 without support, doubler ought to be at least 5=5 so he can reasonably *hope* for an (at least) 8 card fit or enough length (and hand strength) to sit for (3X).

How strong should doubler be? When partner has made a *2* level overcall, strength for doubler isn't as crucial as overcaller has promised more. So in that case, 6-7 HCP is probably an adequate minimum. The 5=5 shape, though is crucial.

But when partner has made a mere 1-level overcall, I think a 3 level responsive double should require a bit more strength, 9-10 HCPs.

But here he is a passed hand, so his range is narrow.
KQxxx-x-KQxxx-xx is probably an opening bid, so I'd figure not that good. Maybe KJxxx-x-KQxxx-xx would be the best we could hope for and perhaps a point (or 2) less.

It is debatable whether it is better for doubler to have a stiff and two s or the other way around.
The former allows for a perhaps playable 3 when overcaller doesn't fancy either pointed suit.
But the latter allows for a more likely to be successful pass of (3X) in such cases.
I'm in the camp of preferring the responsive double to be better able to stand a penalty pass (so 5=1=5=2 preferred).

If doubler isn't 5=5 (sadly, real world partners all too frequently are not), he is more likely to have 5 s and only 4 s. So if I'm going to bid, 3 seems better than 3 (also, our s are better and we can run to 3 in an emergency).

But our hand looks pretty good for defense. We have the top s, so 2 s and a ruff seems possible. Then a trick from partner on the side and our A beats (3X).
Why, we might even beat it 2.

On the other hand, we might easily be down in 3, losing perhaps a and two tricks in each pointed suit.

Seems close to me between 3 and PASS. If they were vul, I'd pass and try for +200. But here, +100 might lose badly to +110 our way, so I think I'd risk 3 if I can trust partner to have the shape he should.
And, who knows? Maybe they will bid again over 3.
Nov. 11, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment Nov. 11, 2018
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Tom,
I think it was Jeff Rubens who wrote an article a long time ago contrasting transfer methods (e.g. Rubensohl or transfer lebensohl) with “good/bad” methods (e.g. lebensohl).

The transfer methods solve the problem of suit ambiguity by transferring into the suit. So suit identity is known immediately.

But what is lost is any strength distinctions.

Responder (to the transfer) will occasionally have the fit and strength to do something other than just accept the transfer at the lowest level, but often he will not.

After a simple acceptance, the transfer bidder will be in the dark about partner's strength and degree of fit, so will often have to guess as to whether just to pass or to pursue a higher contract.

So I think choice between “transfer methods” vs. “good/bad” methods has to be made on a case-by-case basis (i.e. determined for each specific auction).

I tend to use a lot of “good/bad” in cases where game is a possibility for our side because then having ways to show different strengths unambiguously is crucial.

And I find that opponents often do not compete further over the “suit ambiguous 2NT” bids, so this theoretical problem with such methods often does not manifest in practice.
It is worth considering, though, whether 2NT is best used for “bad” (traditional) or “good” hands.

I do use a “transfer lebensohl” method when our 1NT openings are overcalled at the 2 level. The transfers always promise “game invitational or better” strength.
With lesser hands (but judged still worth competing to the 3 level), I use a suit-ambiguous 2NT.

But this auction type has a special property which favors the transfer methods (over straight “good/bad”). That is that opener's hand strength is known +/- one point, and his shapes (balanced) are also fairly narrowly defined.

Thus, responder can usually accurately judge from his hand whether he is “just competing at 3 level” vs. “game-invitational strengh” vs. “game-forcing strength”.
So a transfer method revealing suit and some strength info immediately works well.

But in other competitive auction types where there is more uncertainty about one or both partners' hand strength, a “good/bad” method to immediately reveal strength information may be more useful than a transfer method which obscures strength information in favor of immediate suit revelation.
Nov. 11, 2018
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They show that the improved spot cards have a significant effect on the probability that 12 tricks are makeable–goes from 43.19% to 51.51%.

That is a big change. It suggests that comparative analysis between the two versions (bad spots vs. good ones) should perhaps be done to account for what cases lead to the 8.5% improvement in the chances of making 12 tricks.

The large increase *might* suggest an alternative line with the better spots. Or, maybe not–perhaps the extra chances in s do not result in another line (besides playing s from the top first) becoming better.

The East hand type Michael suggests (4-1-Hxxxx-QJT) in no way account for these increases.
That particular East hand will occur on only about one deal in 10,000 (actually, one in 9,268). So that would only increase the percentages by perhaps 0.01%.

And I disagree about the value of simulations here.
First, they set an *upper bound* on what is possible.
For example, knowing that *double dummy* it is only possible to make 12+ tricks 44.7% of the time will spare you from trying to find a line that is better than that.

Also, if you find a line that makes 12+ tricks 36% of the time (about what the AKx line scores), then you have only to ask yourself under what conditions that line will fail.
If you can account for the missing 9% (or so), you will then have a good handle on all the possibilities and be able to consider whether any alternative line might be better (perhaps you can find a way to succeed on some of the missing 9% without sacrificing much from the 36% you already succeed).
Nov. 11, 2018
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I agree. Considering alternatives is good even if the conclusion is to reject the considered alternative.
Nov. 11, 2018
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Seems to me that I have bid my hand already with vulnerable 2 overcall. In my view, I am relatively minimum for this action.
Therefore, I think it is up to partner to compete further if he deems that appropriate.

For me to bid again over 3 strikes me as “bidding the same cards twice.”
Nov. 11, 2018
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