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All comments by Eugene Hung
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Fast Denies is a poor way to play Lebensohl after double of weak two. In standard Lebensohl, after a 1NT opener, the notrump declaration is already fixed. In this situation, notrump has not been taken, so why do you want to jump to 3NT without a stopper when partner might hold Kx of the enemy suit? Far better to deny a stopper with a cue-bid. Slow 3NT (going through Lebensohl) should show a stopper with some doubt (the other major is playable), while fast 3NT shows a stopper with no doubt (the other major is not playable).
June 11, 2012
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Bob, if West has AKJ10xx and sees 9763 in dummy and both of the players follow small, he has to get it right. There is only one card missing, and no matter who has it, playing the other top honor will run the suit. So East is wrong to unblock, it's a play that can't win – unless you think West has AKJ10x and declarer xx.
June 10, 2012
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But Henry, what about all the 21-23 point bad-to-hopeless games that happen to make, gaining 6-12 IMPs? You have to take the good with the bad. You can't just arbitrarily say: let's avoid all hopeless games and bid only the good ones; part of the reason why these teams are winning is because they are constantly putting their opponents to the test.

Justin Lall once told me about the importance of constantly being in game, even hopeless ones, as long as the defense isn't brain-dead easy. At IMPs, constantly bidding thin games wears on the opponents and puts them under pressure not to make a mistake. You stop on a dime in 3 with play for 9 tricks, and the pressure is off: if they drop the overtrick, they lose 1 IMP. Go to 4 and put 10-12 IMPs on the table. Or, maybe your skill finds a line that your counterpart misses: another huge pickup to offset the 5-7 IMP giveaways. At IMPs, the odds are on your side to be an optimist about game – so push them hard!
June 9, 2012
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Hi Bob – Thanks for participating in the Well. Beyond “Hamman's Rule”, what would you say is your most important tip for advancing players to improve their game?
June 9, 2012
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High on the list of conventions I love to see my opponents play: “constructive” major-suit raises. They work well when you have 8-10, but awful when you have the 6-7. Just raise to 2, get your hand off your chest, and make it harder for the opponents to compete when you have a fit. East's hand is going to bid anyway over 2, but now if you drive to game, East will have to tip off his strong distributional hand. And you certainly won't be hitting 4 for two doubled overtricks. 5 maybe, but never 4, once you know partner has primary support and 6 support points.
June 9, 2012
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Feels pusillanimous to pass with reasonable 3-card support and a void in opener's suit. I believe in supporting with support and letting partner evaluate his hand. If half the people in this poll are passing 2, then I don't take much inference from LHO's failure to raise to 3 – the world is full of bridge players who fail to support their partner when they should.
June 8, 2012
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We could legislate withdrawals, but I don't see the need. I'm fine with the way things currently are. Don't ask, but if your opponents want to withdraw, you're welcome to accept.
June 8, 2012
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Yes, this is an advantage of transfers over 1 – it allows you to open lighter than standard because you have two ways to show a non-strong notrump while reaching 1NT. The ranges are:

11-13 : open 1 … accept transfer … 1NT
14-16 : open 1NT
17-19 : open 1 … break transfer and bid 1NT
20-21 : open 2NT

I know JoAnna and Migry worked hard on mastering this system and it looks like it paid off. Congratulations ladies!
June 6, 2012
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Oops! Teaches me to post on short sleep…but I still stand by everything else.
June 5, 2012
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I cannot imagine any top player passing this hand. In general, it is GOOD to open the bidding when you have more high card strength, more spades, more distribution, and more skill than your opponents.

1) High card strength: You just have 10 HCP, but they are two kings and an ace. For suit play, the Work HCP count grossly undervalues aces and overrates queens and jacks. The hand is worth at least 11 unless you play in notrump and your hand is not likely to do so. Don't be a point counter – you have above-average high card strength. Also, unless you play a light opening bid system and your opponents do not, your side rates to have more high-card strength than the enemy. Your RHO did not open in 3rd seat, so his range is effectively lower than the other two seats.

2) Spades: You have 4 spades. That means you have a comfortable rebid (1 if it's constructive, or 2 over a double). And if any side has a spade fit, it's almost certainly your side. This means the opponents have to bid a level higher to take the contract from you, and you're less likely to have to overbid the opponents at a higher level. (It's possible if they have hearts and we have diamonds.)

3) Distribution: You have 6-4 shape, and a void to boot. This means if you find a fit, you are playing with a 30-point deck, so game, or even slam is possible (as Danny Miles's hand shows). Given that you have 6-4 with 3 passes to you, the chances of a fit are far higher - the other hands will tend to be more balanced (no preempt).

4) When you are the better pair, open as many hands as you can. If you pass it out, the only skill that is being tested is your fourth-hand judgement. But if you open, even if it's slightly negative expectation in theory, in practice you have so many opportunities to gain later, it's not funny. If you bid better, declare better, and defend better, then create opportunities for you to do so!
June 5, 2012
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Agree with Danny. Also, I do believe LC the Elder at one point in time (40s? 50s?) would certainly write up 1-3 as forcing – only when 1-3 limit was achieving critical mass would he switch. As one of the few people to have actually played LC Standard in practice, I can attest that every non-optional convention/treatment Larry mentions is something that I see a significant percentage of people playing.

Anyway Henry, I personally like a lot of the ideas you suggested after a strong 2, but IMO they're not really appropriate for a documentation of what intermediates might consider “standard”. Kokish, a non-LC Standard convention, appears to be used more frequently than any treatments suggested in this thread and even that has pitfalls. Just yesterday, a new partnership I knew agreed to play Kokish with a 2 bust but then got confused as to whether 2 2 2NT was game-forcing or not. They lost a board in the process.
May 30, 2012
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Arik, that is a beautiful end position, thanks for mentioning it.

You are right, if East held AQ109(x) and not the A, even going up with the K would work. But this presumes a practical impossibility. My expert RHO would never pass with 3-card support, 7 HCP, and a spade singleton (x 10xx AQ109 J9xxx). Nor would he pass 1 with x 10x AQ109x J9xxx (he'd overcall in diamonds).

True, no opponent is ever required to do something, but then why trust RHO's 10 signal as well? I personally believe the 10, but under your exacting theoretical standard, you can't arbitrarily believe in one highly unusual action and ignore the possibility of another highly unusual action .

Anyway, perhaps I should have worked out that it was theoretically correct to play low, but in practice, at the table, I have to make a simplifying assumption (RHO does not have a red ace from his failure to bid) or I'd be spending 15 minutes on every hand. Thanks very much for the comment, though!
May 30, 2012
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Renowned author and bridge champion Larry Cohen presents his favorite 52 deals from his bridge career. As might be expected from a man who has played hundreds of thousands of hands, the 52 he's chosen are exquisite. You will learn about the rarest opening bid in bridge, 4-3 and 4-2 fits, brilliant coups, clever psychs. But more importantly, you will also learn about the consistent thought process needed to be a winner. Every deal is presented through the “play along with me” style, where Cohen shows the reader just one hand and asks the reader what they would do at each decision point. Some decisions are easy for intermediates, but others will cause even world-class players to go wrong! Most of these deals do not require advanced knowledge of bridge, just solid (extremely solid!) technique and understanding of bridge logic.

If you'd like to learn about system gadgets or a specific bridge area in depth, this is not the book for you. But if you'd like to see the highs and lows of a great bridge career, along with the chance to measure your general bridge technique with a champion, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
May 30, 2012
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Henry, I find your comments about improving strong 2 auctions enlightening, but remember, Larry's goal is not to present a system with more value, but one that is common enough for two unfamiliar partners to play. He even kept weak jump shifts at the 2-level even though he personally detests the treatment, because it's common and simple.

Perhaps we should re-envision LC Standard as what one of the leading teachers of intermediate players envisions as “standard” today. Not what it “should” be, but what it “is”.
May 29, 2012
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Michael, I just consulted with Joe and you are correct: Lauria's bid was 4, not 4. The article has been modified to show the correct bid.
May 25, 2012
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The actual sentence you criticized, though, is in the context of a discussion about the trick 3 decision, not about the whole hand. *At the point of discussion*, this line of play (“finessing the spade, and cashing 4 rounds of spades”), would work regardless of the location of the K. Obviously if tricks 1 and 2 were different, that line may not work – but that is not the situation he is discussing.
May 19, 2012
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While what you say is an interesting (double-dummy) line, Kit is analyzing the situation at trick 3, with the second heart already cashed, and thus I find his wording appropriate. As another recent poll shows, not everyone defends like a champion, and nobody, not even champions, play double-dummy.
May 19, 2012
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My impression is that experts playing with clients would be more likely to open 1NT, not less. You get to declare more that way.
May 18, 2012
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Sorry, the missing names on this case was an oversight. The names have been added.
May 16, 2012
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Even if I knew my partner had 4 spades, it is never attractive to bid above 2 unless we bid and make 4. There are no benefits to playing 3.

I agree that it is important to distinguish a full opener from a sub-minimum opener with 2, and I would have bid 2 had I been confident in its reception. But let me just point out that say, instead of holding Qxxx KQx A10 xxxx, what if Polly held Qxxx xxxx A10 KQx or Qxxx A10 xxxx KQx? Same side suit honor texture, same distribution, same loser count. Now the opponents can cash 3 tricks off the top and we need a 3-3 break. Even the actual hand is essentially 50% if we replace the diamond ten with the club ten, a difference that most systems would not identify.
May 15, 2012
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