Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Merril Hirsh
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Thanks, Mike. This is terrific.
Sept. 5, 2017
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Congrats! That's terrific!
Aug. 23, 2017
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Yes, you can. But that is pretty cumbersome, potentially creates time pressure and has the disadvantage of allowing opponents to remind themselves of their complex system. (I'm not saying the people using the system are unethical. I'm saying they are human. One of the disadvantages of playing a complex system is that it is difficult to remember. And asking mitigates that disadvantage. It is, I believe, a reason why people aren't supposed to alert various bids at the 4+ level, for example). It also requires that you ask questions when, at least, at the time, you don't care about the answer, solely to conceal the times that you do care.

I think Danny is right that this situation creates a real problem for ethical opponents. It is especially difficult when you may want to double a bid if you know is artificial but would be a lunatic to double if you knew it was natural or when the meaning of your call might be different to partner depending upon the meaning of the bid. If you ask (especially when partner is likely to be on lead), you feel like you are cheating the opponents. So you don't ask and you cheat yourself. (My partner and I missed setting a slam in the Vanderbilt in exactly that way).

The irony is that if people play a relatively easy system of artificial bids (like transfers in response to a natural opening 1C), it must be prealerted, so people can prepare. But Danny's example of a far more complex auction is not.

I don't think there is a perfect solution to this. I wouldn't bar the system and it could take a month to describe every conceivable auction at the outset. At least in the Vanderbilt, I could ask the Os to annotate the bidding as it occurred on every hand (safe in the knowledge this pair wasn't very likely to forget their system). But Meyer's examples involve players who are not quite at the level.
April 25, 2017
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I am also someone in this category. (In fact, my partner and I are developing a cottage industry of being very close or up after three-quarters before losing our round of 64 match. There doesn't seem to be much of a market for it, but you never know).

I think that there are really a number of issues involved. First, I can't complain that our seeding is unfair. Until we win, we haven't won. And the fact that winning requires us to get past one of the top seeds is not only part of the game, it is a big part of the reason we play the event in the first place. I'd like to think though that if and when we won one of these matches, we'd get some credit the next time and it wouldn't be the torturously slow process Gavin described above. But truth to tell, I don't know that the Vanderbilt should be designed with me in mind.

Second, I have long thought, though, that the schedule discourages people from competing in the major events by limiting the availability of national events to enter if you do not qualify. We enjoy the events enough that this hasn't stopped us. But I would love to have an event to enter if I don't qualify for the second day of the platinums, or I lose in the round of 64 in the Vanderbilt or Spingold. This year that wasn't actually an issue because they only had 63 teams in the Vanderbilt so by losing, we qualified to play in the mixed pairs Tues-Wed. But not every pair is mixed and could take advantage of that, and really we'd be better off if there were more than 64 teams so you needed Monday to create the bracket.

Third, as this suggests – we are I think getting too few teams in these events. It would be much better to change the schedule to encourage more teams to play.

Finally, yes, there are some very low seeds who are very strong teams – especially those who are coming to the US from places like India (NRK), or China or Poland or a number of other countries and even more so if they are young enough not to have accumulated a lot of victories that have increased their visibility. If they do not rise in the seeding from upsetting one top seed, they will end up playing another until they put together strings of victories that get them to the later rounds. Honestly, that is an unlucky first round draw for a highly seeded team, but I'm not completely sure it is unfair. The Vanderbilt is a very very deep field, playing a form of scoring in which (even with 60-board matches) luck plays a pretty significant role. This year Nickel won. Last year, they lost in the round of 32.
March 22, 2017
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Alan, I think the point is good, but I wonder about your example. With AJ10x responder might actually be worried about a club lead through the holding. With xx it is more complicated, as declarer holding AJ10x is now good. That would especially be true if you have methods for determining after a double whether declarer has a club stopper.
Jan. 10, 2017
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Great article, Han. So great, in fact, it overcomes the disclaimer at the beginning. (But then there an attractive irony to have in that in an article that weighs cost and benefit against each other).

One other thought just to complicate things along the lines of some of the other comments: isn't there ultimately a game theory aspect of this? I'm not God's gift to game theory, but if, for example, you determined that the optimal strategy at this point were as Alan Frank speculated to bid Stayman with a hand that isn't worried about a revealing double and not to bid Stayman with one that is (although as I am about to mention, I think I might disagree with his conclusion on the precise example he uses) wouldn't you then need to factor in the assumption that people now won't bid Stayman under X circumstance in deciding on the optimal lead? (This is along the lines of Kit's point – if no one ever bid Stayman the logic for picking a major in non-Stayman auctions would decline). Would that then lead to the conclusion that you should vary what you do so as to defeat leader's expectations (bluff and double bluff)?
Jan. 10, 2017
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OK, thanks. I was just reacting to the statement that “If you think about it, it should be clear that East has the queen of hearts.” You might want to edit it.
Nov. 7, 2016
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Corrected, thanks.
Nov. 7, 2016
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This is really unfortunate. I have used both, but much prefer the windows version to the web version. I find the web version more difficult to see, and more awkward to navigate. I also find that it sometimes spools for a while when trying to get on, especially when the computer is using bandwidth for other things, and I don't have that problem with the word version. Sigh.
Nov. 7, 2016
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On east's return of the J of hearts marking him with the Q, the analysis is very interesting. But isn't it possible that east has AJ tight and west led fourth best from Qxx53? East might lead the J hoping partner has the K, or trying to avoid getting into a situation where partner has to rise with an honor to avoid an endplay or because east doesn't want to lead anything else.
Nov. 7, 2016
Merril Hirsh edited this comment Nov. 7, 2016
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Thanks Kit. Great article.

One more typo: on page 6 “unbloaked”
Aug. 16, 2016
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Any discussion that digresses from Swift to Gilbert is well worth having. How about:

The bridge-playing cheat, who anyone catches,
His doom extremely hard
He must bid only minors
In 199ers
With all his conventions barred.

And there he plays extravagant deals
Only to fail each time
To opponents untrue,
Partner with no clue
And some other appropriate rhyme.
Aug. 1, 2016
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Thanks, Kit. Small typos. On the play diagram on page 11, you have East playing the 10 of clubs again (instead of the J). Then, when East plays the A of clubs, South plays the 9 of clubs instead of the 2.
June 27, 2016
Merril Hirsh edited this comment June 27, 2016
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And here I was going to compliment Oren on knowing the musical South Pacific. But at least this has been helpful. I used that internet thing to find out what Better Call Saul is.
June 17, 2016
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Please feel free to ignore this comment if it goes too much off on a tangent. (Now there's a scary intro). From your columns it seems that generally use the Law as a starting point in competitive bidding decisions and then use judgment to make the final decision(here concluding that on this hand all else is not equal).

Having just finished reading “I Fought the Law,” I was wondering what you thought of the relative benefits and detriments of using the approach Mike Lawrence and Anders Wirgren argue for there. Using their approach on this hand, you'd probably estimate that your side has 19-21 points, and that collectively your two shortest suits have 4 cards, leading to an estimate of 9 tricks for your side in spades.
May 9, 2016
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I think Clyde means that asker's partner is not entitled to assume that the asker has hearts based on the question. That's certainly correct.

On whether declarer is acting on his own risk in acting on the information, and also whether anything improper has occurred, that is a tougher. I see this situation as an awkward continuum. On the one hand you have situations where you really do want to know about some bid whose meaning isn't clear, but the question might give away information either to declarer or partner. Suppose you are listening to a complex auction from people using unfamiliar methods and need to know whether a bid is artificial so you can double for a lead. If you don't ask, you're guessing. If you ask, find out that it is natural and then pass, the janitor knows you had some reason for waking up an asking the question.

On the other extreme you have this example where unless there was a failure to alert the meaning of the bid is familiar and the only apparent point to asking is revealing something about your hand.

Clyde's example tries to bring what I'm calling extremes closer. And I have to admit it is possible. (We actually did have a hand in Spingold that went 1H (by partner) - 2C (by Geir Helgemo), X (by me), and a long pause by Tor Helness, who decided that there was no bid that showed his 8 hearts). But in general I think in this situation:

If the asker doesn't have hearts, there is a significant risk that the asker is coffee-housing and I'm not sure the “draw inferences at your own risk rule” applies to this kind of coffee-housing any more than it does when declarer falls for an opponent's long delay in following suit and concludes (incorrectly) that the card wasn't singleton.

If the asker does have hearts, I don't think declarer is hurt unless asker's partner acts on the information.

Either way, declarer should call the director.
April 19, 2016
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I don't see this as a problem. You allow people to drop into events for which they would have been eligible. If someone has 5500 MPs at the relevant time, they can't play in 0-5K.

I agree with you that you start by picking events that will allow drop-ins and see how it has worked.

As a practical matter the GNTs is a special case. It is very difficult to compare the fields in GNT to the Von Zedtwitz Pairs. The top of the GNTs includes a number of world class players. But many world class players are not eligible for the GNTs – because, for example, they don't live in North America, or because they couldn't make it to the district qualifiers, or have to compete against someone else who is world class in order to win in their district. Also, because there is a district qualifier, the GNT field is uneven. A world class partnership may not include people in the same district.

But, in some ways, I think this makes it an easier test case. We expect people who qualify in their district to compete in the GNTs. If they don't succeed, it seems reasonable to allow them to drop into another open national event.

I think the next step would be to allow drop-ins from the Platinum Pairs, which also has a limiting qualifying requirement.

The other events that are pretty easy I think are to allow drop ins from the Vanderbilt, Spingold and Reisinger.

After those, it is a little more complicated – because you have national events that are open for everyone, and ones that are limited by gender or age, and ones that are just different (like the Fast Pairs), even before you get to events limited by masterpoints (like the 0-10K). But I don't think it is that difficult to figure out.
April 15, 2016
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As I understand it, Cincinnati chili actually has its origin in the cooking of Greek immigrants. It isn't an adaption of, for example, Tex-Mex or Southwest, but something that developed independently. 5-way is cool though.
April 15, 2016
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I think drop-ins are a great idea. It is very frustrating to have to choose between events I really want to play in (like the Platinums) and events I'm more likely to Q in (like the IMP Pairs or the 0-10K Swiss). If, for example, at the Spring Nationals, you pick the Platinums and are not old enough to play in the Silver Ribbon Pairs, the price of not qualifying is two days of regional events. And the next open National event for you is the Vanderbilt. Then you start thinking about how much expense and disruption to other things is involved in perhaps going across the country to get to an NABC.

If you take as a given that some percentage of people go to nationals in order to play in national events, you shouldn't be discouraging them from coming.

As for carryover – I'm fine with making it zero and requiring people who “only” made it to the quarterfinals of the Open GNTs pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
April 15, 2016
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Congrats Gil and Marty! Well deserved.
March 22, 2016
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