Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Justin Lall
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Hey Ben,

I would not go so far as to have completely different systems depending on the vulnerability, not because I think it's wrong but because I think the effort required to have a second system could be better harnessed by honing your main system. That said, Brad Moss and Joe Grue, two of my closest friends who play 2 different systems, tell me that I am wrong about that.

I will say that I certainly play significantly different styles depending on the vul. First seat w/r I believe really aggro preempts are the way to go, but in all other vulnerabilities I am actually quite sound with my preempts, especially second seat red/white. Comparing my 2nd seat r/w preempts to my first seat w/r ones would make you laugh.

Likewise, my opening bids are about a point lighter in first seat w/r than in 2nd seat red, and thus my NT range is about half a point lighter etc etc. I think vulnerability is very important.

0NT would completely change the game. Strong zero would be all the rage lol. It is amazing to think about how that one step would completely change the game. I think 8 level saves should be allowed!
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hi Mario,

Thanks for the kind words and I appreciate it. For anyone wondering I am willing to answer questions related to that or anything else.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Yuan,

Compared to 10 years ago I play much more, and spend more time going over system notes (I guess the two go hand in hand). The obvious reason for this is that I am a bridge professional and have more job opportunities than I did 10 years ago.

Because of this I definitely spend less time thinking/reading about bridge and spend less time talking about bridge in general (excluding notes) than I did 10 years ago. I used to be extremely active on BBF and I used to discuss bridge on AIM etc daily with my friends. I also played a lot more online.

I think the optimal ratio would be somewhere in the middle. It would be better if I played less bridge than I do now and thought about/talked about bridge at a higher level more frequently. But again, since it's my job and I have to pay the bills that's not practical!
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Bronagh,

Thanks for referencing my article, I have gotten really positive feedback on that one and it's nice to hear!

There are always some negative people and some who hate playing against or losing to young people. Perhaps they find it embarrassing. I don't think this is unique to bridge, in life in general there are some older people who do not like being around younger people. But that is the exception by far in my experience. Most older people want to help younger people succeed and in bridge they want the game to live on so they see younger people as the future. I was definitely encouraged and helped by so many older people just because I was young and that is what I remember.
Jan. 15, 2015
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I have played transfers with landy, and always played 2S=4S+longer minor, and 2N=4H+longer minor. This is a popular defense to weak NT in the circles I am associated with. It goes along well with the philosophy of forgetting about minors, either bid 3m or if your hand is strong enough X then bid the minor.
Jan. 15, 2015
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I am similar to most people you know, very little notes on defensive signalling. But I think that is just because I'm not a notes person, I have talked a lot about defensive situations but it is definitely understanding our philosophy and how we will be thinking about certain situations. There are so many situations that it's hard to write down rules.

If there is ever a defensive accident or misunderstanding it is imperative to talk in depth about it and figure out what went wrong.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Peggy,

Hamman has had a profound effect on me. Even some of these questions about being honest, and being a good partner, those are classic Bob Hamman traits and I can't help but wonder how much of my progression there has been directly related to his influence.

I can't really know what my trajectory would have been without him, he was such an important influence on me at an important time in my bridge development. But having the best player in the world take an interest in you when you are 15 cannot hurt! He is an amazing guy and an amazing player.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hi Arend,

On the bridge side we definitely got crushed on slam hands. If you look over the hands we lost an insurmountable amount of imps on slam decisions, not due to bad luck but due to being outplayed in that department. So definitely slam bidding matters a lot in top level imp competitions, and the Dutch were far better prepared and had more/better agreements than us there. The Italians are often noted for having great slam bidding and agreements as well, that is one reason they win so much.

On the mental side, definitely if I ever get back there I will remember how much it sucks losing after going so far, and will definitely use that as motivation. I think we got desensitized to winning big matches and how high the stakes were, it was such a long run from the beginning of the trials to that point and it kind of felt like it was something happening around me at some point, totally surreal, and I think I lost sight of the moment and what was on the line during the beginning of the finals.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Darin,

Best convention that not enough intermediate players play is transfer lebensohl IMO. People are bidding a lot over 1N these days and having a detailed way of handling it is really important, and transfer lebensohl is so much better than normal leb. Specifically it is hopeless to not have a way to invite in hearts after 1N (2S), and I believe that's how it is in normal leb.

I am not sure about worst convention, but I would say overall intermediate players try to play way too many conventions that they don't completely understand and are infrequent or gain very little for a lot of added memory load.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Bob,

I think there is a simpler reason to why unestablished pairs often win national pair games, very few of the top pairs play together in them. For instance I think Levin and Weinstein would break all the records if they played with each other, but they never do (when they do play pair games they just win the world open pairs and win cavendishes all day lol).

So with the exception of the couple of top established pairs who always play together in national pair games, the winner is going to be either a lesser known pair or a pair of great players who are not a regular partnership.

Partnership does matter less in matchpoints than imps. In imps if you have bad slam bidding or costly accidents it is a lot worse, in matchpoints it's just a board and you can get it back by stealing a trick in a partscore on the next hand.

I think to be a top pair you need a lot of system and agreements. I just think that you don't need to be a top pair to win a national pair game, since that is not usually who you are competing against. I have a lot of agreements with Kevin and now that we will be playing at the nationals we are going to add a lot more. That said it is sometimes fun to just make out a card in 30 minutes and just play bridge, but it is not optimal for being a top pair.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Sartaj,

Thanks for the compliment! This was definitely a learned behavior, I was a bratty kid and a horrible partner (shocking) when I first started playing. I had a conduct hearing when I was thirteen for leaving in the middle of the last day of a national pair game playing with my mom!

I think people who want to yell at their partner want to absolve themselves of guilt/shame if they do something wrong, or they want to show how smart/superior they are and how much they know. If you lose that chip on your shoulder you realize bridge is a tough game and partner is trying their best and they need you on their side to play their best, and likewise you need them. Instead of trying to put partner down so you feel good, bring them up so you have a better chance of winning, and also I have found that if you're a good partner then your partner is way more likely to be a good one to you. The game is also just more fun that way.
Jan. 15, 2015
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It depends, in a Dutch accent I think it has 8 syllables and 3 sounds that an American mouth cannot produce.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Han,

Well first I would make it mandatory to learn bridge in schools. I would also place high financial incentives on becoming a top player in the country, all of the people who reach a certain rating or level will be subsidized by the country and live very comfortably. From there, the top kids who show the most promise can go study bridge full time at the Jlall bridge school. This will include star coaching from Eric Kokish, and top caliber players. The course will be rigorous and these students will play matches against top teams regularly.

Basically I am modeling it in a similar way to how the Soviet Union completely dominated the chess world for so long.

I think in 15 years I could have a team capable of winning the Bermuda Bowl.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hi Adriano,

Making a plan for the bidding can be fine, especially when it's a competitive auction. For instance, if your LHO opens 1H and your partner doubles and RHO passes and you have 6 clubs and 4 spades you might choose to bid 2C planning on showing 4 spades later (which in turn will show your partner that you probably have 6 clubs for doing it this way). This might be bad if the auction died but the auction will probably never die.

That being said, most of the time my plan includes making the best descriptive bid, or if I think I will have 2 bids making the best description possible with those 2 bids. With KTxx —- x AKQTxxxx I don't see any option other than opening 1C. I don't know how the auction will turn out but I imagine I will keep bidding them! The hand is much too strong to open 5C IMO.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hi Gonzalo,

Not even gonna touch this one! haha.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Wow Mark, that is an incredibly good read on me! Even the getting me in trouble when talking to women part, totally true I say exactly what I'm feeling too often sometimes.

I don't know where it came from, I think it is just a personality thing as it is true in both my bridge and non-bridge life (for example in friends I also value honesty over everything else).
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Michael,

I am not the greatest person to ask this question to since I generally don't lead the healthiest lifestyle to put it mildly. I do think getting enough sleep is very important and sometimes take sleeping pills to help me with that if I can't go to sleep (which is often).
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hi Dunga,

Part of it is that I am well conditioned for long bridge tournaments. No, I am not well conditioned, but some of the people with the best bridge stamina or really out of shape. Playing 72 boards a day or playing 4 weeks in a row is a great way to get used to playing a lot and staying focused.

The other part of it is hunger. Sometimes you're running on pure adrenaline, and that's ok. I can promise you if I make it to the finals of the Spingold I will not have trouble focusing. My whole life has been building up to that moment and waiting for it. If I reach that point I will not find it hard to remain focused. You really have to want it.
Jan. 15, 2015
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Hey Charley,

1) Landy actually. I think 2M natural is important, it' more preempive and your partner can raise/bid game with a big fit whether or not 3rd hand bids. Likewise I view penalty double as important, not necessarily to get penalties but to show a strong hand and get to game. I really think people have it wrong, they just want to bid and never get to game but it is way more frequent than people think that you have a game when they open 1N. You need a fit and some values, let's try to find it! I think 2C majors is the most important, show the majors immediately and have room to find the right fit and also have room to game try when partner has the majors. I don't care if 2D is natural or 2D is D+M. Basically I have no way to show minors or majors+minor and play 2m, who cares, we are not going to play 2m immediately.

2) I would absolutely be a sponsor in that case. I would look for #1 people who would be fun to be around and fun to be teammates for a long period of time (becuase if you're not having fun what's the point?? I would spend my money elsewhere), and also great pairs. Grue-Moss, Greco-Hampson, Levin-Weinstein in particular come to mind.

Edit: I notice I mentioned only American pairs, and I guess the reason is that I would want to have my team for the US trials so I can win Bermuda Bowls. That is the ultimate goal. I also notice you added a question 3…

I think I could defeat 420 5 year olds in a fight. More and they'd swarm me and take me out.
Jan. 15, 2015
Justin Lall edited this comment Jan. 15, 2015
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Obviously it was totally a catch, just like the week before it was not PI against the Lions. A big part of being a good bridge player is being honest, unbiased, and introspective. A big part of being a good fan is NOT being those things :)
Jan. 15, 2015
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