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All comments by Eugene Hung
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I strongly disagree with the reasoning behind a heart lead. I think leading from jack-empty is one of the most catastrophic opening leads in bridge. If you think about it, it's quite a parley to find a holding where leading from the jack doesn't cost. Unlike leading from higher honors where if you hit partner with a touching card, you're okay, if you lead from the jack, even if partner has the queen, you may not help your side because now you expose the jack to a finesse (imagine if declarer has AT9x in dummy and K8x in hand).

Anyway, in all three non-spade suits, if we lead it and we are wrong, it's probably game over for that suit. The king is strong enough to survive taking a trick later, so I lead a spade.
April 16, 2012
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Actually, Greg Humphreys wrote the site and the polls software, not I … but we'll add that to our list of things to do.
April 16, 2012
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Hi Ish –

Australia and New Zealand are renowned for their liberal acceptance of a wide variety of bridge bidding systems. Do you think this has helped or hurt the popularity of the game? Also, in your opinion, has it helped or hurt the quality of bridge play amongst the top Australian/New Zealand players?
April 12, 2012
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Thanks for the catch, Ben. Fixed.
April 10, 2012
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Exactly. There's a big advantage to being aggressive in game bidding at IMPs. Sometimes they make a mistake, sometimes you find a nice play, and sometimes you just get plain lucky. If you're wrong, it's only 3-6 IMPs (it's hard to double a thin 3NT on this auction). If you're right, it's 10-13 IMPs.
April 8, 2012
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I rotated the deal to make the dummy North and our hand East (3rd hand). I think it's much easier to visualize this way.
April 1, 2012
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An expectation of 34.1% matchpoints (win 23.1%, push 22%) off a reasonable, if not optimized metric, feels good enough to draw a conclusion to me. Let's say the question was “not a problem”. Say Geeske asked whether she should act with Kxx T9xx Axxx 9x. The expected # of matchpoints for inviting in notrump is around 28%. Are you saying that this result is not strong enough to form a conclusion because there are numerous factors I didn't account for? I hope not.

In most situations which people judge “close”, the expected MP is usually in the 40s. 34% expectation is significant to me. You don't need an exact simulation to say that inviting opposite a 15-17 NT with Kxx T9xx Axxx 9x is wrong, even though on some hands it will be right, because you are using a reasonable, but non-optimized metric called HCP.

I have considered that strategy of stayman/pass with a fit and stayman/invite without – see my comment to Bob above. Let's call this strategy the Stayman Scramble. Here's a quick 2000-deal sim (small sample size, but it takes around 10 minutes/1000 deals):

Heart fit exists : 32%
Average IMPs from “scrambling”, vulnerable : +0.512 IMP/board
Average MPs from “scrambling” : 51.2% (50% is breakeven)

I think these results are optimistic given that the opponents are never benefiting from the extra info, but looking for a fit is strong, because now you have two ways to win. You can get to a better partial (if you ever find your 4-4 fit, you're almost always doing better) OR luck into a thin game. The IMP expectation is over a full IMP better because when we find the 4-4 fit, we're now frequently gaining 1-2 IMPs for the better strain.

Looking at these numbers, I can't draw the conclusion that pass is better than the Stayman Scramble at MP – 51.2% is a really thin edge. But I can draw the conclusion that the Stayman Scramble is significantly better than simply inviting in notrump (which averaged 34.1% MPs over 10000 trials). I may help the opponents with a club lead-direct or telling them about opener's 4-card spade suit, but I don't think it's going to make up 16% of a difference.
April 1, 2012
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Good comment, Josh. Let me address a few things.

1) The parameters do allow for 5-card majors. _Any_ 5332 hand with 15-17 HCP will open 1NT. It's only 5422s with a 5cM that are thrown out. If partner is 5422 with a 5-card major, then he will open 1 major, because now he has an easy rebid. Originally I had any 5M4m22 as allowed, but a top expert suggested defaulting that pattern to open 1M.

2) I go every week to the club to play bridge with Helen, and I do not see opponents at the club (which happens to be Geeske's club) open 1NT with 6-card minors or good 14s, so that simulation constraint is entirely appropriate for the field. Moreover, I suspect it's appropriate for the majority of duplicate clubs in North America. Not every event is the Blue Ribbon Pairs.

3) Agree that all 16s accepting is not so great for the matchpoints sim, but seems appropriate for the vul IMP sim. Like you said, you can at least draw the conclusion that if you invite with horrid balanced 8s at matchpoints, you probably shouldn't accept with all 16s as opener. If you have an idea for a better yet simple acceptance algorithm (reject with all flat 16s, for example), please tell me what you'd like and I can implement it and we can see the changes.

4) I agree completely that the two runs with a 5% difference in making vulnerable games showed that the sample size was not large enough. While I was sleeping, I had my computer run 10,000 simulations to get a better idea. The result on the next 10,000 hands was :

Inviting wins: 23.1% (note that sometimes game makes but we won't get there after inviting).
No effect: 22.0%
Inviting loses: 54.9%
Average IMPs from bidding when vulnerable: -0.66 IMPs/board

The expected # of matchpoints is consistently -0.3 matchpoints per board against a passer. That's really, really bad. It also makes sense. There is only one case where inviting wins. Partner must be able to accept AND he must make 9+ tricks in notrump. Otherwise inviting breaks even or loses. When you factor in that invitational auctions almost always hurt the declarer's chances because the opponents have more information about declarer's hand, it becomes an even worse proposition.

5) While I have great respect for the wisdom of crowds, sometimes the crowd is flat-out wrong. For example, there will certainly be states that vote heavily for the presidential candidate you favor least this November. Crowds are useful for giving people a sense of fairness, but aren't necessarily more insightful when it comes to uncovering truth.
April 1, 2012
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Like I said, I can easily make an IMP-based analysis for each board. On another 1000 hands, we:

won 10 IMPs (28%)
pushed (21%)
lost 3 IMPs (8%)
lost 5 IMPs (15%)
lost 6 IMPs (19%)
lost 7 IMPs (9%)

Net gain was 0.026 IMPs/board from bidding, vulnerable at IMPs. But that's by far the best time to bid. And this sample of 1000 was more favorable, finding a game 28% of the time – the previous 1000 only hit game 23% of the time.
April 1, 2012
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I believe the conditions of contest in the problem is pairs, which makes passing even better. My simulator is capable of generating IMP expectation for actions, but I assumed MPs, so I just gave the percentages.

I don't understand why one would use Stayman at IMPs to drop partner in 2 if a heart fit is found. The sim shows that we are only going down 11% of the time in 1NT (not surprising, since we have 8 HCP), so any gain from playing in hearts instead of notrump rate to be small. Stayman and pass is much better at matchpoints, when you may win the board just by finding your 4-4 heart fit.
March 31, 2012
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I have written a simulation for this situation because it's come up for me in the past and I wasn't satisfied with the results of isolated hand evaluation functions like K&R. The simulation situation is that South either invites with a natural 2NT (so there are no lead-directing implications) or passes the opening, which is what I assume here because the hearts are so poor. North's 1NT is 15-17, any 5332 or 5422 with a 5-card minor with some high-card strength in doubletons. After 2NT, I assume that with 15 HCP, North rejects, otherwise North accepts.

If North has 15 HCP, inviting can only be worse than pass, and is marked as worse if the double-dummy total is 0-7 tricks.
If North has 16-17 HCP, inviting is worse than pass if the double-dummy total is 0-8 tricks, else inviting is better.

Over 1000 deals:
Invitation is worse = 541
Invitation is better = 234

Distribution of tricks taken in notrump:
0-6 = 11.6%
7 = 21.9%
8 = 35.9%
9+ = 30.6%

While real-life play does tend to vary somewhat from dummy play, it doesn't vary enough to buck a nearly 30% edge from passing unless you are a top player playing in a poor field. Even in 1NT, the most difficult contract to defend, declarer's real-life advantage at top levels is usually around 5% over double-dummy, as seen in an analysis of world championship hands. Declarer's advantage decreases as the contract goes higher, especially after an invitational auction which reveals more about the declarer's hand.
March 31, 2012
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Transfer advances make the problem much easier but since they weren't stated as part of the problem I don't think it's fair to assume that we're playing them.
March 30, 2012
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I stand corrected then, 6pm does seem like a better time than 7:30. Once you are off the ground, though, you might want to hold one weekly session at 6:30 or 7 just to give people an option, and induce attendance amongst regular 6pmers by reducing card fees $1. It may lose you some short-term revenue but give you access to more customers long-term. As a working stiff, I already have enough trouble making a 7pm club game; 6pm would be impossible. Catering to just the retired will only perpetuate the decline of bridge amongst middle-aged and younger players.
March 28, 2012
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Is 6pm the best evening time for people in your area? In the Bay Area, most evening club games start at 7 or 7:30pm, because many people work until 6.

I would also recommend using Bridge Composer software to generate hand records and recaps if you are using BridgeMates/BridgePads. We here at Bridge Winners use it for the Cavendish Pairs and my local clubs also use it for their club games. Here's a sample recap generated by Bridge Composer:

http://www.paloaltobridge.com/gameresults/oleary/C120326M.htm
March 28, 2012
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I bid 2 because spades are the primary feature of my hand. Starting with 2 will practically bury your chances of playing in spades, because partner will never believe you have 5 good spades if you start with 2. I plan to show the rest of my hand at my second turn so that partner will choose the correct strain. While passing may gain 200 on some layouts when the opponents get too high, it's a big position to take when your side may have an 8-card spade or 9-card diamond fit, and you may have a cheap NV save against 3, as long as you find the right suit to play in.

In general, the player who first describes his hand type and its primary feature(s) puts his partner in a strong position. When you have a balanced hand, its point count is its primary feature. When you have an unbalanced hand, showing your two longest suits and your relative preference for those two will help partner make the right strain decision.
March 27, 2012
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I think it's important to discuss general rules, or “metarules” when you first start playing with a new partner. One of my favorite metarules is that 2NT is never to play when they bid and raise a suit. While that may backfire in certain situations, such situations are rare, and I never lose IMPs wondering what my partner's 2NT bid is, or worrying that my partner will mistake 2NT for something else.
March 27, 2012
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Since you were not interested in hearing the arguments for PASS vs. 1, but more about DOUBLE vs. 1, I think Barry gave a good summary on why we should overcall 1 instead of DOUBLE. Doubling with 3-5 in the majors and minimal high-card values doesn't rate to work well. If you double first, it's hard to show the 5th heart later, and you will miss most of your 5-3 heart fits. But if you overcall 1, you're more likely to find spades when it's right. For example, if LHO passes and partner has 5 spades with some values, she can still bid spades. Or, if LHO raises clubs/bids spades, silencing partner, you can double back in on the next round to show a hand with tolerance for all unbid suits and 5 hearts.
March 27, 2012
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1 seems clear to me at either MP or IMP although I judge it more dangerous at MP. Overcalling is not without downside – perhaps you persuade partner to lead hearts when holding the ace, for example – but there are far more dangers from passing. Even if passing and overcalling were dead even on a double-dummy basis, I would still overcall, as that leads to tougher auctions for your opponents than passing.

Lynn, you may want to do similar questions like this in the future as a poll. Hit “new poll” instead of “new article” to do so.
March 27, 2012
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David – I've also seen the Khan Academy and I believe it would be great for bridge. Keep coming to Bridge Winners and you may see some developments along that line in the future.
March 25, 2012
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I'm a bidder, I've learned the hard way that you can't pass these hands when there's a vulnerable game bonus lurking and you've got the shortness. Opposite hands with 7-8 working points and either 3 spades or 5 hearts, game rates to make. Passing may be right by avoiding a big penalty, but I've found PASS losing 10-12 IMPs more frequently.
March 25, 2012
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