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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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Joshua says:

There is actually a different reason the whole thing could be wrong. LHO could play the J from J9 and likely not lose a trick (if he plays the J declarer will assuming singleton J or KJ but not J9, and play a low card on the second round). The whole exercise was based on the assumption the LHO must play the 9 from J9, therefore the T from T9, therefore the J from JT. If LHO can safely play the J from J9 at least some of the time, it all changes.

This is a good point, but I don't believe it applies here. The idea is that playing the jack from J9 doubleton gains when declarer doesn't have the 10 (since declarer will certainly go wrong rather than have a 50-50 guess). However, it loses any chance of declarer going wrong when declarer does have the 10 (even if declarer believes the jack is singleton or J9 doubleton, it can't hurt declarer to play low to the queen next, since if the suit is 4-1 he can cross back and lead up to the 10). My suggested strategy reduces declarer to a 50-50 guess, and I don't think any other approach can make declarer go wrong more than half the time.

A purer example of this suit combination which doesn't involve a possible falsecard from J9 doubleton would be:

Q8xxxx

A?

where declarer has adequate entries and needs to take 5 tricks in the suit.

If declarer starts by leading the ace East can never afford to play the jack from J9 doubleton, since it can't gain and it loses when declarer has A10 doubleton.
Oct. 1, 2011
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Danny,

Perhaps he should. But maybe South won't have an entry, or maybe there are just 9 top tricks in notrump. On the actual hand, 4 has no play either.

Joshua,

You don't specify whether you are talking about opener or responder having the game-forcing hand.

If responder has a balanced game force opposite the 1 opener, we bid 1NT. Yes, this runs a risk of wrongsiding the contract, but other artificial approaches which try to avoid this have problems also.

If opener has 25-27 balanced, we make the 2 artificial rebid, and then bid 3NT over responder's 2 call. Yes, this is ugly and standard players do better since they have Kokish available, but the frequency of this hand is very small and most of the time any game will make on brute force so it won't matter.
Sept. 24, 2011
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Georgiana,

Having the 6 be the highest priority when encouraging is pretty arbitrary. The philosophy is: High is for suit-preference high, low is for suit-preference low, and middle is encouraging. The 10 is the highest spot, and the 2 is the lowest spot, so it feels right to us for these to be the strongest suit-preference signals. The six is the most middle card, so we call it the strongest encouraging signal.

No, we signal suit-preference on king leads vs. suit contracts (unless contract is 5-level or higher). On ace leads we show attitude.

The reason we give standard signals at trick 1 is that we have found that there are more situations where technical necessity prevents giving the desired signal when playing upside-down than when playing standard. A couple of examples:

Partner leads the ace vs. a suit contract, presumably from AK. Dummy has 10xx, and you have J92. Clearly it is necessary to play the 2 in case declarer has Q8x. If playing upside-down signals at trick 1, partner is likely to misread this. Coversely, if you have jack-doubleton you can afford to play the jack.

Partner leads the queen, Rusinow (or king if playing standard honor leads) vs. notrump. Dummy has a singleton, and you have A10x. If partner has KQ9xx and declarer J8xx, it is technically necessary to unblock the 10 in order to run the suit. If playing upside-down signals at trick 1, partner is likely to read the 10 as discouraging and switch.
Sept. 24, 2011
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Adam,

After 1-1, our 2NT rebid is 20-21 (maybe a good 19), which is basically like a standard 2NT opening. With 22-24, we rebid 2, which is an artificial call covering a variety of very strong hands (we don't need 2 as natural, since 1 is forcing). Responder bids 2 to ask which, and with the balanced 22-24 we rebid 2NT, which is the same as 2-2;2NT in standard. We lose on the 25+ balanced hands since we don't have Kokish available, but this is a relatively small loss due to the very low frequency of such hands. Keep in mind that responder has made a negative response, so unlike with standard 2NT opener or 2 then 2NT it is unlikely that we have a slam.

We gain when we have one of the strong balanced hands and responder has a positive response. This is a potential slam auction, and we have established a game force and responder has started describing at a low level so the strong hand can take control. Our slam auctions are far more efficient than after a standard 2NT opening, since we start at a lower level with more description and the strong hand rather than the weak hand is captain which is clearly desirable. So yes, we would be happy to give up opening 2NT in general.

We choose to use our 2 opening to show a good diamond preempt. We do this to take some of the burden off the 1 opening. Also, since responder has both 2NT and 3 to work with we have more room for a good constructive auction. We find we don't need to have a call for a good club preempt, since if we judge the hand too strong for 3 we can open a light 2 and usually survive. Hence, we use 2NT to show both minors less than an opening bid, which seems to work pretty well.

Sept. 24, 2011
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On board 8 one would probably want to be in game since it is around 50%, although since the overcall puts more clubs in North's hand that makes it more likely that the queen of spades is offside. However, Adam found a great mesh in his partner's hand. Give East the jack of hearts instead of the jack of spades, for example, and while East will like his hand better game will have no play.

Since Adam is apparently playing Precision, I assume that the pair routinely opens 11-counts. I imagine Adam's thinking was: What is the point of opening this hand 1NT when partner doesn't figure to have more than a 10-count so we probably don't have a game.

Adam's instincts are right. The truth of the matter is that playing this style 14-16 is the wrong range for the opening 1NT in 3rd and 4th seat. Game is unlikely if you have a 14-count, so there is no need to make an opening bid which could encourage partner to get you overboard. Fred and I have found that 15-17 is a much better range for the 3rd and 4th seat 1NT opening.
Sept. 23, 2011
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In my view, passing a forcing bid is no different from any other action. If I believe on the available information that it is the percentage call, then I have no problem doing it. The important thing is that we aren't having a misunderstanding, and that we both know that the bid is forcing.

As an illustration, a while ago I held xx AQxxx KJxx Qx. At favorable vulnerability I opened 1, and the bidding proceeded: 1-2-2-P;?

2 was a normal free bid, 100% forcing by agreement. Yet, I chose to pass. My hand was minimal to begin with, and the auction made it considerably worse since I had a bad fit for partner and my queen of clubs might be worthless. In addition, any bid I made was flawed. Even if partner has a good opening bid such as AKJxx xx AQx xxx, any game is poor, and he could have quite a bit less for the 2 call.

Could I have been wrong? Of course. If he has something like AKQxxx Kxx Axx x, which he could very well have, game is laydown and slam is pretty good. My judgment, right or wrong, was that over the range of hands the bidding would go this way that passing 2 would be the percentage action.

As it turned out, I was right. But suppose I had been wrong and we had missed a laydown game. Would partner not trust me, and be worried the next time he picks up a 16-count and makes a 2-level free bid that I might pass? Of course not. He knows that I know it is forcing, and if I choose to pass that is my problem.

If you don't agree with my choice, that is fine. But that would have nothing to do with partnership confidence. I expect my partner to make the bid and play he thinks is best, and he expects the same out of me. If passing a forcing bid is that action, so be it.
Sept. 22, 2011
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Tony,

Excellent job! One can, of course, question the choice of parameters, and different parameters would lead to different results. However, if I held those 10 hands and were asked the question: Assuming partner has a balanced 10-count, would I prefer to be in 1NT or 3NT – the results shown are very close to what my gut instinct would say on all 10 hands.
Sept. 18, 2011
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Joshua,

That is exactly what I am implying. After the opening lead, I believe the defense does better (compared to double-dummy) than declarer.

Perhaps I am wrong. But speculation and “logic” isn't going to demonstrate this. Hard data is needed. If I am wrong, prove me wrong. Go through several hundred hands where the best opening lead was made, and see what the results are.
Sept. 17, 2011
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Tony,

My 1/4 of a trick estimate was based on live action results. I went through a full fall nationals tournament (everything matchpoints or BAM so every trick potentially mattered), and compared my at the table results to the deep finesse double-dummy results. The overall declarer advantage was around 1/4 of a trick.

Joshua,

Yes, the opening lead swing tends to be greater than 1/4 of a trick on balance. However, after the opening lead the “advantage” shifts to the defense, since it is declarer who has to guess those queens and jacks which the double-dummy engine always gets right.
Sept. 16, 2011
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Tony,

Very interesting analysis. I believe you are on the right track, and that we will be seeing more analyses like yours as our computer power gets stronger. I have some suggestions about how to improve your analysis and come up with more definitive results:

1) You don't specify the parameters on responder's hand other than saying it is a balanced 10-count. Presumably you are looking for hands which will drive to game over a 1NT opening, but will stop at 1NT (either by responding 1NT or by passing a 1NT rebid) over a 1 of a minor opening. In order to avoid complications from responder looking for other strains, I would suggest the following parameters:

a) 10 HCP
b) No 5-card major
c) No singletons or voids
d) At most 1 doubleton


2) The results would be more meaningful if converted to expected IMPs. There would be 2 sets of results – one vulnerable, one non-vulnerable. For each trial, the result would be IMP'd compared to, say, 3NT at the other table.

3) You fail to take the “declarer's advantage” into account. This is a very real thing. My studies over many hands have shown that empirically the declaring side averages about .25 tricks better than the double-dummy result (mostly because of the opening lead, of course). I think this must be included in your analysis in order to make the results realistic.

For example, on a given trial suppose the double-dummy result is 8 tricks. Incorporating the declarer's advantage, the expected realistic result would be 8 tricks 3/4 of the time and 9 tricks 1/4 of the time. So, if non-vulnerable, the expected gain from stopping at 1NT would be: +5, +5, +5, -6 = 9 IMPs over 4 trials, or 2.25 IMPs. If vulnerable, it would be: +6, +6, +6, -10 = 8 IMPs over 4 trials, or 2.0 IMPs.

Taking this approach, you could get an average IMP gain (or loss) from stopping at 1NT over your 250 trials for each of the 10 example hands. I'm sure everybody would be quite interested in the results.
Sept. 15, 2011
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In this sort of situation North could have been thinking about a lot of things. The use of 4 as RKC here is unusual, so North might have been double-checking the meaning. North might have been verifying that 1430 applies. This isn't just a question of counting keycards. Given that, North's BIT by itself doesn't signify anything or suggest any particular action.

On the other hand, South didn't have a marginal decision. South had a very clear pass of 4 given the meaning of the bids. As in most unauthorized information situations, the cards speak. Here the cards say that South had, perhaps subconsciously, taken advantage of the unauthorized information. In addition, the North hand says that South read the BIT accurately. Therefore, it is clear to roll the contract back to 4 if the slam made.

The question of how to deal with South's justification for the 6 call can be tricky. Here it is clear that the statement was likely self-serving. However, suppose instead South had said that she thought the 4 call showed 1 keycard, not being used to playing 1430. Then things could be more difficult.
Sept. 12, 2011
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Joshua,

The main cost is the inability to make a slam try in a minor at the 4-level when a minor might be in the picture. I believe that outweighs any gains from your suggestion.
Sept. 10, 2011
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Phil,

My current philosophy is:

Below 3NT, no slam tries unless a 9-card major-suit fit has been established.

Above 3NT, no choice of games Q-bids.

So yes, my philosophy has changed.
Sept. 10, 2011
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Mike,

At that point East did not know that South was about to bid 6, nor that lead consideration was the issue. Would not a 5 or 5 call over 5 be a slam try? Granted slam is unlikely the way the auction has gone, but it could still be there if East has a very distributional hand and West has the right fit. I would hate to have to work out at the table just which auctions partner might be making a slam try on and which auctions he is getting in a lead-director.
Sept. 5, 2011
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Mike,

1) I definitely agree that the 4 call doesn't create a force, and I would expect any expert partner to draw the same conclusion. However, some may be in doubt, so I thought it was worth raising the issue.

2) I admit that I am somewhat biased by playing a strong club. The danger of partner moving after getting raised is much less. He won't be making a game try on his 17-count, since he doesn't have that 17-count. The only time he will be making a move is when he has extra distribution, and if that is the case the light raise might steal the hand from the opponents.

Even playing a standard structure, my preference is to pretty much always raise. Not only does this take bidding room away from the opponents, it puts partner in the picture immediately if there is competition. I realize that my view is not mainstream among experts, and I could well be wrong.

3) When the partner of the opening leader doubles a slam in this sort of who knows who can make what auction, the double is made for at least one of these reasons:

a) To increase the penalty
b) To shut partner up and prevent him from saving.
c) To direct an unusual lead.

On the actual auction the double would be in the balancing seat, so it is not intended to shut partner up. You may well be right that it is sheer penalty and the opening leader should make his normal lead, but I would be inclined to go with the Lightner interpretation if that can make any sense. If you really are doubling to increase the penalty, usually either any lead will defeat the contract or all you can get is a 1-trick set and it isn't worth doubling. While the Lightner double is much rarer, when it occurs the swing is much greater.
Sept. 5, 2011
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When a player learns via the alert procedure that his partner thinks a bid means something different than what was intended, there are two things to look at:

1) Clearly the player making the bid received unauthorized information. Did that player make a call which might have been suggested by the unauthorized information, and if so, was there another reasonable (and less succsssful) call which might have been chosen?

2) Did the opponents receive mis-information, and, if so, was there a reasonable possibility that they might have taken a different (and more successful) action had they received the correct information.

With regard to 1), I can't imagine Peg doing anything other than passing 3NT had she not gotten the unauthorized information. From her point of view she had described her hand with the 3 transfer, and partner had chosen to play 3NT with the knowledge that she might have this sort of hand. What else but passing makes sense? In fact, not passing would be taking advantage of the unauthorized information, since it would be an attempt to describe what she really had.

With regard to 2), the question is what are the true methods of the pair. If the 3 call is, in fact, natural in the partnership agreements then there is no mis-information since the duty is to inform the opponents of the partnership agreements. However, if there is any doubt then the assumption should be that the agreements are what the bidder intended, since otherwise a pair having this sort of mixup could make the self-serving statement that the explanation (i.e. non-alert) was correct. Thus, unless the partnership could produce documentation that the 3 call was natural I would rule that there had been mis-information.

If Peg believes that she had made an error then she definitely should not say anything. It is her duty to see that the opponents get the partnership agreements, nothing more. In fact, any such statement might cause a ruling to go against here since it might induce the opponents to do the wrong thing. However, if she believes that her partner failed to alert then of course she must speak up.
Sept. 3, 2011
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Luke,

Assuming the conditions are satisfied, yes, we certainly do. For example: 1-P-2-2;? Now double of 2 by both opener and responder would be 2-card.

Sept. 1, 2011
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Adam,

What you say is correct. But it isn't a realistic play at that point. Playing West for an initial Ax of spades is not only higher percentage but it doesn't risk losing an absurd number of trump tricks when West has A76x of spades and East has the ace of clubs.
Aug. 28, 2011
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Henry,

No, I mean exactly what I said. The double shows specifically a doubleton.

Hermann,

I bid something. Anything. Perhaps 2 if the suit has good quality. Perhaps 2NT, assuming it is takeout or good-bad, depending which my partnership agreements say it is (it definitely is not natural). Perhaps 3 of a minor. The one thing I don't do is pass. We don't defend at the 2-level when I have a singleton in their suit.

Jon,

In general, partner counts his trumps and if his count gets up to 4 he passes. Obviously he can and should use some judgment. With an offensively oriented hand such as Qx xxxx xxx KQJx I would bid 2. But normally partner would pass the double with 4 hearts.

It is true that you will chalk up an occasional -470. That is part of the price of doing business. It doesn't look good on the scorecard, but the cost is at most 8 IMPs (vs. -110). Often the cost won't be nearly that great, as the alternative would have been to go for a number yourself.

The upside is more frequent and can be almost as large. Often they go down when you would have gone down for a swing of at least 4 IMPs, sometimes more. Sometimes you collect a number when they go down 2 or more. Even if they are down 1 and you would be making your part-score, you will have about broken even.

The 2-card double is simply an application of the Law of Total Tricks. When the opponents have a 7-card fit and your side has a 7 or 8-card fit, it is usually right to defend at the 2-level since the trump total is at most 15 and often 14. However, if they have an 8-card fit, it is usually right to declare in your best fit.

The big advantage from the 2-card double is that you don't over-compete when the opponents don't have the trump length they say they have. How many times have you had an opponent overcall, his partner raise, and you over-compete thinking they have an 8-card fit only to find out that the overcall was on a 4-card suit or the raise was on a doubleton. Playing the 2-card double you don't fall into this trap. For example, suppose you hold: Axx, xx, KJxx, Axxx and hear the bidding go: 1-1-2-2;? If the opponents have the 8-card spade fit they say they have it is probably right to compete to 3. Playing the 2-card double, you don't have to trust them. You can pass, confident that if partner has a doubleton spade he will make his own 2-card double. Similarly, if you have the same hand with 2 spades and 3 hearts you can make a 2-card double, and if it is right to defend partner will know it.
Aug. 28, 2011
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In order to analyze this problem, it will be necessary to make a few assumptions:

1) What will you lead? If you will always lead a top club, the double won't affect your chances of defeating the contract. However, if you decide the best lead is the 10 of clubs, then clearly you don't want to double and give the show away. I will assume a top club will always be the lead.

2) Possibility of a runout. On this auction it is unlikely the opponents will be running. Also, if they do run I don't know whether I am happy or sad about it. I will assume that this is a wash, so a runout doesn't matter.

3) Danger of a redouble. At matchpoints this is obviously irrelevant. What is worst case at IMPs? If an overtrick makes, you would lose 11 IMPs instead of 6 IMPs for just doubled. It is very rare that there will be a redouble. An opponent would have to have both extra strength and all suits stopped to redouble, and even then he might not. Since the redouble costs at most 5 extra IMPs and is very rare, I'm going to ignore it.

At matchpoints, the double is basically an even money bet against other pairs in 3NT. It is unlikely to make a difference against other contracts, and on this auction 3NT figures to be a very common contract.

At IMPs, the range figures to be from down 2 to making 4. The IMP swings are:

down 2: +5
down 1: +2
make 3: -4
make 4: -6

This indicates that you need better than even money odds to justify the double at IMPs.

What are the odds of a set? If the enemy clubs are 3-3 or worse, you always set them. If they are 4-3, you will set them 3/7 of the time. I'll estimate (just a guess, I admit) that 30% of the time they will be 3-3 or worse. Of the remaining 70% of the time when they split 4-3 you will set them 3/7 or 30%. By these estimates you will defeat the contract about 60% of the time, making the double a good bet at matchpoints. At IMPs, it looks to be a tossup.
Aug. 19, 2011
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