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All comments by Eugene Hung
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I do have to agree with Randy on one point that was shunted aside by the debate between Brad and Justin. I think there's a sharp demarcation between kids who have parents active in tournament bridge and kids who do not. As one of the few juniors of my generation (10-12 years ago) who found tournament bridge without any parental encouragement, I believe the junior program of my time was skewed heavily towards kids with “connections”. (Disclaimer: This should in no way be interpreted as a comment on the current state of the program, with which I have no experience whatsoever.) I also think it's more likely for a male junior to turn pro if his parents are active in the bridge world. I can't think of too many young bridge pros who didn't have that parental connection. This could support Brad's point, that a lot of these juniors, having grown up in their parents' world, are easily seduced into immersing themselves further in that world without fully exploring other options.
Aug. 28, 2011
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Paul, I disagree strongly with your opinion. Does holding a 5-card diamond suit deter you from opening 1NT when your pattern is ? Similarly, I would say a player that would “never” respond 1D with 5 diamonds, pattern and 12+ HCP is letting their system override their judgement. KJx KQx Axxxx xx is a clear 2NT, not 1D.

In fact, I question the judgement of a player that would respond 1D on most hands with specifically 3352 shape, 12+ HCP, and a stopper in both majors. (The exceptions would be hands with incredible diamond suits, as mentioned above). Holding that hand, what's your most likely game after partner opens 1C? 3NT, not 5D. So make the bid that will right-side the hand and conceal the diamond suit from the defense. Under a style where you frequently respond 1D with 5, you not only unnecessarily reveal to the defense that you have club support and no surprise source of tricks in diamonds when you do respond 2NT, but you are allowing them a cheap 1M overcall when your side is likely outgunned in the major suits. I firmly believe making the descriptive (on values and general shape, but not primary suit) and preemptive response of 2NT leads to far better results than 1D, especially when you are not wrong-siding the contract in the process.
Aug. 26, 2011
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Today, I was able to do the double-dummy analysis given a specific lead, after Steve W. said that not leading a top club was crazy. Given a top club lead, on another 10000 deals, the contract still goes down 70.79% of the time, and we're earning an average of 0.5 imps / board for doubling. In this run, clubs ran from the top 68.46% of the time, similar to the amount in the first run, so the double-dummy defense only made a difference in 3-4% of hands. So now the dd analysis is biased towards passing, because declarer won't always guess right later if the clubs don't run.

I don't quite understand what Ken was saying about the frequencies of down 1 and down 2. But if he was confused by the discrepancy between the ratios of down 1 and down 2 comparing situations where clubs do and do not run, well, taking 5 clubs off the top is often a trade between your long club for his slow trick, so you can't regard partner's contribution to the defense as a constant. (You can if partner has quick tricks such as an ace or AK.)
Aug. 22, 2011
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The comments make a good point: I overlooked that I could throw out the few hands where opener had 18-19 balanced, as such a hand would rebid 4NT instead of 3NT. Similarly I needed to throw out responder's hands with 19 balanced or 18 with a 5-card diamond suit. Re-running the simulation with these parameters slightly increases the success rate for double (around 1% more likely to go down, and increasing the IMPs gained to around 0.85 IMPs/board).

Daniel – the auction is not 1NT - 3NT, but 1C - 2NT - 3NT. Neither opponent will have a 5-card major, as both had the opportunity and motive to show one. In fact, only opener may have 5 clubs (I assumed responder would show a game-forcing club raise holding 5 and a game-force), and only responder may have 5 diamonds. Re-running the sim with responder allowed to hold 5 clubs only affects around 1% of deals, as then clubs must be 3-0-5 around the table.

For the diamond distribution with responder's clubs restricted to at most 4, responder holds 5 diamonds 66% of the time, 4 diamonds 30%, and 3 diamonds 4%. I reran the sim with responder required to hold a HCP in both majors, so no worthless doubletons or tripletons. The results did not change much, as most responder hands had a HCP in both majors anyway.

Regarding the far cry comment, it was about the estimate of clubs splitting 5. Most commenters didn't seem to realize how flat clubs are likely to be around the table.

Finally, I believe 2NT invitational is standard for most advancing bridge players as it's common to teach people about weak (6-10), invitational (11-12), and game-forcing (13+) ranges for responder. But at expert levels, 2NT as a game-force seems more common.
Aug. 20, 2011
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Phillip – good point on risk. To be fair, the researchers did not explain exactly which responses were deemed “risky”, just that each problem's responses were rated both for bridge merit and risk. I assumed the bashing responses were scored as “riskier”. Perhaps I should have used the phrase “increasing variance” or “volatile” (yes, one can argue that bashing is less volatile than bidding scientifically as well). But on this problem, I think we'd all agree that double on this hand is more volatile than pass.
Aug. 19, 2011
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Hi Richard, I fixed the play – you need to specify an auction, else the handviewer thinks it's North's turn to bid. Unfortunately it's no longer on your blog…I'm going to try to put it back now.
Aug. 19, 2011
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I just added a note to the bottom of the article which reads:

Although we are leaving comments open, given the sensitive nature of this subject, any public allegations tied to specific individuals will be promptly removed. The site policy for comment moderation is: we will only remove posts that can destroy a reputation or are deemed obscene. It does not matter if the allegation is true or false: no names will be dragged through the mud in public. This article was meant to educate and enlighten people about “the wrong thing”, not to start a witch hunt. Thanks in advance!

Aug. 16, 2011
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Michael –

I wasn't saying people like the rules on airport security (I personally don't), but they tolerate it (I do). You don't see people publicly advocating to go back to the days before 9/11 in terms of security. Many people have a beef with the extent of the new security (full body scans, or toothpaste in bags) because they believe such measures are not in line with the higher goal. But I believe the general idea that we need more security than pre-9/11 has been accepted by the majority of Americans because the old method proved insufficient.

Regarding leaving phones in a box on the table at start of session, phones range widely in quality. While some poeple own cheap and disposable phones, some people have more expensive phones or phones containing sensitive information, and in those cases there is a significant risk of loss of property. In Toronto, I left my gift umbrella at the start table because I was East in a pairs game and didn't want to lug it around; when I got back, the umbrella was gone, as someone had taken it after N/S had left the table. I didn't care that much because the umbrella was fungible to me, but my smartphone is not.

I also have an issue with the “donation” needed to check in a phone. From my perspective, I'm already doing the ACBL a big favor by letting them handle my private cell phone in the name of security. I don't see why I should have to pay for it as well when I know I can achieve the same objective, for less money, by sticking it in my pocket and turning the ringer off. I realize the ACBL has to pay someone to secure the phones, but I believe this cost should be shared amongst all the entrants in the event, because of the near-ubiquity of cell phones. When people have to check in cameras or backpacks in tourist attractions, they don't pay a separate fee, it's usually provided as part of the entry fee, because people don't like being singled out. Bottom line, is charging cellphone users separately for the handling more just? Yes. But is it more likely to increase compliance? No.
Aug. 14, 2011
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I believe that regulations/laws should be socially acceptable and have a majority consent of the governed. People are not robots; if one imposes a law that a majority of people find unacceptable, they will do their best to avoid or ignore it. (See the prohibition on alcohol in early 20th century America.) One may argue that this comes solely out of self-interest and that laws are needed to rein in people's selfish impulses, but I find that people are willing to obey laws even against individual self-interest (e.g., the airplane security laws passed after 9/11, or the income tax laws), as long as they buy into a higher goal. For airplane security, most people are willing to submit to body scans or putting toothpaste in baggies because they believe it's important to prevent something like 9/11 from happening again; for income taxes: because they believe it's important to have some money to be spent on the common good. True, you will never get buy-in from everyone, but I do think it's important to get it from as many people as possible. And when it comes to the laws of an organization that people are joining voluntarily, I would much rather make laws that people will want to follow, rather than laws that are unpopular and encourage a mindset that it's okay to break laws because lots of other people don't like it.

So, while you are correct that the threshold for introducing a cellphone ban may not be the same as the threshold for introducing screens, I argue that people will be much more willing to honor a ban on cellphones for a screened session. It's human nature: the ACBL is showing that it's willing to be inconvenienced for security, and it's much easier to get someone to make a sacrifice when you show you are willing to sacrifice as well.

Another intangible benefit of tying cell phone regulations to screens is that screens create an atmosphere that security and integrity are paramount. You don't see too many people unleashing profanities in a church, even if they are not part of the faith, because the atmosphere discourages it. And similarly with screens. I find people tend to be more quiet and respectful in areas with screens than in the non-screened areas. It could be a function of the smaller number of people, but I think there's something more – whispering is normal, and people are more likely to go outside of the screened area to compare scores/talk. I think the ACBL should leverage this atmosphere to their advantage.
Aug. 14, 2011
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Michael – I'm surprised the ACBL doesn't use screens earlier than the round of 16 myself. After all, they use screens for the final day of the Blue Ribbons, which has at least 26 tables and up to 52 (2-4 sections). I wouldn't mind having screens earlier in the top-tier events either. I just think tying cell phone regulations to screens makes a lot of sense. The ACBL has already arbitrarily decided when certain events are “serious” or not, let's use that as the dividing line for cell phone ownership.
Aug. 13, 2011
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Michael: Yes, in Philadelphia they screened every stage of every event. But, in Philadelphia the entry fees were much higher than the $34-40 paid per session at Toronto. It's a simple question of economics. I imagine you, and a significant subset of players like you, would probably be willing to pay the extra money to play in an all-screen event. But there would also be a significant subset of players, both expert and duffer, that would be unhappy about it. In general economics tells us that whenever the price of a product is raised, you lose some customers. To me, improving the security and integrity of the first round of the Wernher or the North American Swiss is not worth the extra added cost and hassle of screens.

For all the guff we give the ACBL, we must recognize that it is an organization catering to an enormous number of people, each of whom has different priorities. The only thing that unites bridge players at a NABC is that they like to spend money to play a card game – beyond that they all have different priorities. Some play to win I/N trophies and section top prizes. Some play for their livelihood. Some play for the joy of playing a game they're good at. Some come to see old friends. Some play because their spouse is a bridge nut and they have nothing better to do. And some believe passionately in the integrity and purity of the game.

From my past interactions with you, Michael, I can well believe your highest priority is the integrity and purity of the game, and I respect you greatly for it. But your views are certainly not the only way to see things, and I don't think you're in a plurality, let alone a majority. For every Michael Rosenberg or Danny Sprung that is happy to have screens in the first qualifying of the Wernher at the price of $60-100 / session, there is at least one player who is annoyed. Maybe they are living on a fixed income and can't afford to play at the higher levels. Maybe they hate the slower pace of screens. Maybe they don't think the extra cost is worth the extra integrity. I don't need to come up with all the reasons, suffice to say that any time you change policy, a segment of the market will be unhappy and may vote with their wallets by not paying.

Personally, I don't think the decision-makers of the ACBL are ultimately driven by the purity or the integrity of the game – it plays a role in their decisions, but it's not the main driving factor. Instead, I believe the ACBL is ultimately driven to generate as much revenue, for itself, and as much happiness, collectively, for its members. (One might say that revenue is their sole driving motive, but I prefer to think well of people and organizations until proven otherwise.) And in that light, the ACBL's decision to not have screens in early rounds of large events makes a lot of sense to me. Even their refusal to allow common world-wide conventions on the GCC or MidChart makes sense, because their target audience for these events is different than those playing at the highest level of the game.

Danny, to you there's a huge line between regional events and NABC+ events. But your views are not universal. One expert I know privately told me that in his opinion, he doesn't care at all about the NABC+ events where the best players can't play due to another event – events like the Wernher or the North American Swiss are simply not the same level as the Vanderbilt, the Spingold, the Reisinger, or the Blue Ribbon Pairs. To him, these second-tier NABC+ events are sideshows from the real thing. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, there probably exist players who wouldn't mind screens for regional events as well – after all, they are a “serious” bridge event that people travel to pay money to pay in, right? (I don't think this view is very popular, but as the BridgeWinners community has shown, you can probably find someone who will argue for any position.) Right now the ACBL has compromised by having screens in the late stages of certain events. You think it should be all the time, in all NABC+ events, but who is to say you are the sole arbiter of what is right?

Also, as Peg pointed out, if we really wanted to improve the security and integrity of the game, we should move to electronic inputs and segregated areas with monitors for each player. As much as I personally would like to try this in the events where screens are being used now, I don't see this happening soon because I believe the vast majority of ACBL members prefer to play face-to-face. Maybe in 20-30 years, when the demographics of the ACBL have changed to a majority of members comfortable with playing on video screens, we can revisit, but for now, I believe the ACBL thinks moving to an electronic format is not wise, both from an economic and social acceptance standpoint (and it might also lead to security problems of its own.)
Aug. 13, 2011
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That would assume that security and event integrity is the only meaningful goal. As seen in this thread, not everyone feels that way. You might as well ask why the ACBL doesn't put screens in the first two rounds of the Blue Ribbons, or the early rounds of the Vanderbilt / Spingold. The cost is not worth the security gained. If the ACBL doesn't think a round is worth securing with the best anti-cheating technology (screens), why should honest players be inconvenienced by a security policy that is poorly enforced and does not seem to be much of a deterrent to cheaters?
Aug. 13, 2011
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Steve –

I'm a creator of this site. I see nothing wrong with the level of discourse here. You stated your opinion, and others have disagreed, using humor that you may not have appreciated to make their point.

In any case, I appreciate your empathy for Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, but have you considered that they may be used to it by now? It's dangerous to attribute feelings to people who aren't yourself. If they have a problem with it, I'm sure they'd let the ACBL (or their bodyguards!) know.
Aug. 12, 2011
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Randy –

Thanks for the clarification. That makes more sense. FYI, the last Nationals in Toronto prior to this year was 2001, 10 years ago.
Aug. 12, 2011
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(Site admin note: just to clarify, “randy” and “randy breuer” are the same person – he kindly filled in his last name after I asked him to.)

Randy – I don't understand. If I recall correctly, the cell phone policy was implemented shortly after the San Francisco NABC in 2006. If you're talking about an incident with a director over 9 years ago, then I don't think your experience is relevant for criticism of this policy.

For what it's worth, as an avid cellphone user, I would support banning cellphones in rooms with screens. The very fact that screens are being used indicates the ACBL considers security to be more important than convenience in that stage, and I think anyone who participates in a screened event would regard not bringing a cellphone into a screened area as a fair request. But for very large national events such as the National Open Swiss, which cater more to the casual tournament attendee than the professional, I think it's better to adopt the policy that was given for the early rounds of the GNTs: if a cellphone sounds, you get penalized for disrupting the environment, but you are allowed to carry them in.
Aug. 12, 2011
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One other comment: I played this board and held partner's hand. My partner bid a straightforward 6. This was sufficient to win the board as the other table stopped in game, probably because they did not open my hand. The other hand was :

QT AKT54 Q654 T6
Aug. 5, 2011
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Henry –This is interesting that my simulation came out differently from your math. Maybe we should break it down even further to see where one of us might be going wrong.

Partner has CJ: 41.46%
Partner has 3+ clubs: 38.45%
Aug. 5, 2011
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I ran a quick simulation to determine the odds of partner holding the CJ or 3. Assuming that partner has a rule of 20 opener, at most 13 HCP, has AK of hearts but not the Q, and has any 5332 or (5422 without a side king):

Partner has the CJ or 3+ clubs 61% of the time.

Aug. 5, 2011
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Kevin – great job compiling these statistics. Is there any tangible effect of a “homefield advantage”? For example, this year, the NABC was in District 2, and District 2 teams did very well.
July 25, 2011
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Incidentally, I was playing in GNT-B yesterday and my team finished tied for 4th with the New York team. We had played them in round 1 and beat them head-to-head, but the first tiebreak was total # of victories, instead of head-to-head result, and we lost that (6 to 5) to finish as the “#5” seed (and then randomly drew #8 ). Does anyone know why head-to-head result is not used as the first tie-break? It would seem that total # of victories is more indicative of “strength of schedule” than overall quality. Since this tiebreak determined being able to pick your opponent from a pool of 5 instead of getting a random team from the 4 remaining, it was fairly important.
July 21, 2011
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