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All comments by Michael Rosenberg
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Andy:

There is no argument that partner would have broken the law with such comments. What is not clear to me is what would be done about it. Would the score be adjusted? Or would it ‘merely’ be disciplinary action?
Again, this is all in the context of the ACBL position regarding the auction on the table. If I had my druthers, it would all be UI to me, and the score would be adjusted.

Henry:

I agree with following the law (both in bridge and life), with one exception. If I think the law is incorrect AND it is against my own self-interest to violate it, then I will not follow it.
Fortunately for me, there are, at present, only two laws (in bridge) that fall into such a category. This one, and the automatic penalty for an illegal play (such as a revoke).
March 8, 2011
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Edgar might not have disagreed (as Debbie pointed out to me). He might have said that my partner's comments came as a result of observing my confusion - and that such comments, based on UI, were an infraction. However, I guess the punishment for that would be unclear (all this under the ACBL presumption that the bid on the table is always AI)
March 8, 2011
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I agree that you are very likely to make this hand, even against the greats. And defending these hands is really tough - you need partner to be thinking just like you. Very few pairs would be up to even making this hand a tough guess for declarer.

On a different note, the trump lead seems pretty strange. I would basically never lead a trump no matter what I held as West. Hope I found a club lead (or a diamond from xx(x) or Hxxxx)
March 7, 2011
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That's REALLY good, Kit. Presuming you are correct (and I have no evidence you are not), you will always make, even against “good” opponents. But what about a great one?
I like to say that a great play is one that defeats a good play - in other words, there can be no “great play” unless it involves a good play (or plays) by an opponent.
So here, the great play would be for the opponents to pitch down to 2-2 in clubs (how could you ever play for THAT!). Or maybe go for a mind-blowing D pitch from a 3-card holding.
March 7, 2011
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Mr. Currie says he “can't come up with a 9 count that'll make 3NT certain”. I think he lacks imagination. How about this FOUR COUNT? 109432, A2, —, 985432. 3N is 100%. Admittedly, you'd probably prefer to be in 7C.
March 7, 2011
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Kit:

You say: “If you want to say that if you really have no preference whatsoever (i.e. you can't make any determination about which shift is likely to be less damaging) then instead of flipping a mental coin you lead low, I have no problems with that.”

That, of course, is EXACTLY what I have been saying all along. And, basically, all that I was saying. I agree it is a rare situation. I just don't see the problem in covering it - and, apparently, you now say don't either.

March 6, 2011
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What you are saying does not make sense to me.
If I have 95 left wit h “a mild preference for the higher suit”, I play the 9 - just as you would. When I play the 5, my partner knows I have lower preference or no preference. When YOU play the 5, your partner thinks (possibly incorrectly) that you have lower preference.
Basically, we always play the same card except when you randomly play high with no preference.
My partner ALWAYS knows my preference - if I have one. Your partner does not.
So, I still don't see the harm in having a default with no preference.
Your agreement sounds to me like one that might be superior when partnering a non-expert.
March 5, 2011
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Kit:

My notes say “with xx remaining, low-high may be neutral”. So, in your example, the 9 is SP for higher and the 5 is low-high or neutral.
Your somewhat ostrich-like approach to the no-preference possibility seems pretty silly to me. Since both cards are SP, doesn't it make sense to have a default where one card CAN be no preference? How does that hurt?

To take a far more detailed situation, your partner leads an obvious singleton, dummy has J10x and you have AKQ sixth. You are going to cash AKQ; there are 6 ways to play; what do they all mean? Well, you might think QKA is strongest for lower ranking, and AKQ is strongest for higher-ranking. But you need to recognize that you normally want to play the Q on the first two rounds, so that partner knows he has TWO discards coming (which means only 4 ways). Here's what my notes say:

Q, A, K = Neutral (win cheap, cash high is the ‘normal’ way to play
Q, K, A = Strongest for lower-ranking
A, Q, K = Strongest for higher ranking

The only other order which allows Q to be shown is K,Q,A. I would think that was slight preference for clubs.

These are not the only possible agreements (although the first three seem the most logical to me). The important thing (as usual) is to make sure you and your partner are on the same wavelength.


March 4, 2011
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Bob:
I never intended (and don't think I did) suggest that the CQ was not the clearly correct play. It is - as long as you think of it! Nor did I suggest that one should always play true cards on defense. What I AM suggesting is that, in the case of a play such as the D9, where there is no relevance to declarer, it is far safer that the signal you give partner should be consistent with your agreements. An attempt to invent something else is dangerous.
You say “I don't see much value in giving count in Ds”. I think that's pretty strange since, once partner knows the D count, the hand is over. He KNOWS a pitch is coming, so must shift. Similarly, if he KNOWS a pitch is not coming (as he thought he did), there is no need to shift. I'd have thought a “need to know” guy would think the same way.
March 4, 2011
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Some disasters are caused by one or both players doing something silly. These disasters are inevitable, given that we are human and bridge is a very difficult game. But others are evitable (to quote Amy Acker). Looking at this case (and some others in the Under Further Review series), I think it should be noted that disasters often occur when one partner does something against (or outside) his partnership agreement. This tells me to avoid stepping outside our agreements - too often, partner will be on a different wavelength and “trust” me.
Of course, if you don't have many agreements to violate, this is less of a problem. Then, the problem is hoping that partner thinks like I do. In this case, assuming that the default agreement for the diamond play was “count” then violating that agreement led to disaster. Whether it SHOULD HAVE or not is less important (to me) than whether it is worth it to try something like that.
Whenever I hear “I tell partner what he needs to know” it raises my hackles. I feel it's a little arrogant to think you know “what partner needs to know.” In fact, I am a general believer in ‘murky’ signals - playing middle cards when not sure what I want. So when I play an extreme card, you can have much greater confidence in following that.
As to Kit's “conflicting signal” philosophy, I think it is standard that the first signal takes priority. However, he leaves out three points I find important. First, with his AK72 example, he makes no mention of what to do if one has NO preference. I believe K, A and 7 would be the Standard - so it's not really fair to call that “mild preference for clubs”. Second, the knowledge of your actual spots (say AK32 as opposed to AK87) might make a difference as to how you play if you have slight (or no) preference, since partner might not be able to read your spot. Third, there may be an ethical problem involved. If the king is won quickly and then the 7 is played, mightn't that ‘feel’ different to a slow king and then the 7? In the latter case, partner has clearly avoided a strong signal for diamonds, whereas in the former it may be that partner made a robotic play to the first trick, then gave his ‘true’ SP signal.
March 4, 2011
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Not surprisingly, there is a dispute over the meaning of 2H - AND whether or not it is forcing. I have two philosophies about such a bid:

1. Don't bid it
2. If partner bids it, don't pass it.

This may seem inconsistent - after all, if my partner is following my principles (see above post), it is “safe” to make the bid. But my goal is to avoid accidents - and not to “throw a bomb” at my partner.

We can always discuss it later, and THEN make an agreement…..
Feb. 18, 2011
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Sorry - of course I meant NON-forcing at or above game.

By the way, the reason I prefer “forcing below game” is I think it is far less accident prone. The problem I have with Kit's principle is that one partner may think NF is a possibility, while the other may not.
Feb. 17, 2011
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Kit says:

“There are two fundamental principles which I think should be a guideline for undiscussed bids in any partnership, particularly a new partnership. They are:

1) If a bid can logically be interpreted as natural, it is.
2) If a bid can logically be interpreted as non-forcing, it is.”

First, I think it's far more important that a partnership agrees on the principles, rather than what they are (I think this about basically all systemic matters). It's far less important WHAT you play or agree - it's far more important that you are understood.

As to Kit's principles, I agree with the first. As to the second, I am in between him and Henry Bethe. The principle I play in my regular partnerships is that obscure bids are forcing if below game, but are forcing if game or above game.

Feb. 17, 2011
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Herrmann:

I thought Bob had been clear in his message, but I'll try another way. Say I open 1H (5-card major)and you have 3-card support. It is YOUR job to somehow tell partner about the 8-card fit. Or say you open 1C and I respond 1N with a 4-card major. It is NOT your job to find out if I, for some reason, concealed it. There are hundreds of examples, both bidding the suit first and supporting.

Now you CAN violate on a particular hand, and decide to conceal extra length. but, if you do so, you cannot expect partner to cater to that, unless there is some prior agreement that he should do so.

It's very nice for you to say “if opener bids 3C responder just needs to be aware that opener has not denied 5H” - but this is ONLY true if partner is on the same wavelength. On the actual hand, South, a world-class expert, didn't bid 3H over 3C, didn't raise 3H, and didn't pass 4H. So far from catering to the possibility, it didn't even OCCUR to him his partner had 5-card H - until he saw the dummy!

So, until and unless you can be CERTAIN to get to your 8-card fit via 3C (and, as I think you can see, that requires prior agreement), I believe it's your responsibility to bid 3H with 5-5

I thought 3H over 3C should be 3 good hearts to be descriptive - after all opener can bid 3H over 3D with 4 good ones (assuming there is no agreement about having 5-card). And a 4-3 fit on this auction is not as unlikely as you suggest. There might be a cross ruff; or clubs may be something like Axxxx facing Jxx, allowing for club pitches on diamonds.

By the way, bidding 3H over 2N on 5-5-0-3 is not quite the inevitable disaster it's portrayed to be. Partner should have either 2-card S or 3-card H, so has no need to bid 3N without good diamonds.

As I said, I knew about this problem before it happened. I had seen it 2 or 3 times before - and in each case it never occurred to the responder that his partner had 5-5.

Kit:

Your fundamental principle is an excellent one. However, it ignores what I believe is an even more fundamental principle - getting to your 8-card major fit. So until such time as this auction becomes commonly understood (and we are not close to that now), then I think 3C is disaster-prone, while 3H is not.

Martin:

You make a good attempt of mapping out the sort of stuff that a partnership should be working out.
I have a few quarrels with it, but the important (for me) point is that, without prior discussion, it will not work at the table.

You say that you “really cant see how 3C can DENY the 5th H.” But doesn't the evidence of South's actions here (plus my prior experience, for which I have no evidence other than my memory) show that it does?

I agree with you that South should not have thought his 3D was a cuebid for clubs. But I believe we don't actually know he did that. He only bid slam when partner bid 4H - and taking that bid as a cue seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Feb. 15, 2011
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I looked at this hand smugly, and remembered that I had been well aware about the problems on this auction, long before it actually arose. 5-5-3 is a problem, 6-4-3 is another. Also, if the auction is 1S-2DIAMONDS, 2H-2N, the problems are even greater - since you have less room over a 3D re-rebid by opener. I once broached this with Zia, but he didn't want to do anything special. My smugness turned to embarrassment, when I realized, three years and three partners later, that I STILL have done nothing to address this problem in my partnerships.

There are two questions that a partnership needs to answer here, each with two parts:

1) (a)Is this a situation which is “worth” having a convention? (“Worth”, to me, means a combination of how useful it might be, and how dangerous/likely it is to be forgotten.)
(b) What should that convention be?

2) (a)Without a convention, what are the best agreements to have?
(b)Without a convention, what is partner most likely to think about the “Standard” interpretations of various bids?

As to 1(a) I would say yes, if the response is 2D, and maybe, if the response is 2C. I won't get into 1(b)

As to 2, a lot depends on the “12 vs. 10” argument. The auction on which I have most commonly heard this discussion is 1S-1N, 2m-2S - what should you do with a 6-0-(4-3) hand?

At this point, I would have gone into a long answer here. Luckily, I was preempted by Bob Heitzman - I can only echo his sentiments, since I agree with almost everything he said. (The only item I would take issue with is that, after 1S-2C, 2H-2N, 3H that, playing 2/1 GF, 4C is not clearly a slam try in hearts.)

Getting (finally) to the actual hand, I would view (as does Heitzman) North's 3C bid as masterminding, but understandable. It's a little similar to responding 1N over 1m with a 4-card major - there are hands that call for it, but it's going to be your “fault” when it doesn't work out.

South's 3D bid could be various hands - basically, any hand that didn't want to bid 3H (3-good hearts), 3S (good doubleton spade), 3N (no serious interest in other contracts) 4C (setting trump) or 4N (quantitative). The question it would be nice to know the answer to is what 3N over opener's 3H now suggests. Is it “maybe we should be in 5C instead of 3N” or “if you had bid 3S, I would have played 4S, but I only want 5C if you have an extreme hand” or “I have extras”. I don't know - and certainly would not trust partner to be on the same wavelength.

From South's 3S bid, it certainly appears that he thought 3D set clubs. This would be strange since, notwithstanding Andrew Petrick's comment, I believe the following agreement to be current ly ‘Standard’: “any bid below 3N is (at least initially) to be considered an attempt to play 3N, unless we have already revealed an 8-card major fit.”

But maybe it wasn't simple for South over 3H. Maybe he thought he was too good for 3N, and feared 4C might be passed. So he bid 3S because it was “safer”.

4H was, to me, somewhat ostrich-like. It's the type of bid that can only be sensible if partner is on the same wavelength. Since he was not, the bid was not sensible. I know that my logic there might seem perverse.

South's 6C probably came from a fear that none of his previous bids had shown his extra values - and a certainty of what his partner was doing (I don't blame him for the last part).

I thought he played it nicely….
Feb. 15, 2011
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Martin:
I'm not certain I was being “ironic”, but my use of the word “know” was deliberate, and was meant to be provocative. If you knew me better, you would have known that.

I actually intended to provoke Kit into further discussion. His somewhat contrite response caught me by surprise. Fortunately (?), you were there to take up the slack.

I think this is an important discussion - both WHAT is expressed and HOW it is expressed.
I regard this forum as, partly, an educational one. I believe it's important, in bridge (and, much more importantly, in life) to be clear about differentiating between opinion and fact.

Kit has, for many years, espoused a “preempts always work” philosophy. He once told me he believes in preempting indescriminately - the only question is the level (and he usually goes with the highest he thinks reasonable). Obviously, I can't truly “know” his style (inasmuch as one can never really “know” another person's thoughts) and, as you say, styles can change. But I don't believe Kit's has altered much.

As to my own (mysterious?) preempting style, I doubt it would be easy to figure much out - even if you studied all my published hands. And I seriously doubt that Kit has spent many tortured hours poring over publications trying to decipher what that style consists of.
Even my regular partners tend to be unsure about which hands I will pass, or at what level I will open if I do not. Zia, with whom I played the longest, was often surprised. And, my style is not stagnant, even within the same parameters. It changes, both as I learn new things, and as current trends change.

When I joined this thread, my goal was to offer, to the readers, a counter to the “always preempt” philosophy. I believe there is, among experts, a bias in this area (and Kit is the leading advocate). Part of the problem comes with the “it's a bidder's game” mantra.

To digress from preempts a little, let's say you hold xxx, AKQJx, xxx, xx and it goes 1C on your right. Now, I believe virtually every expert would overcall in hearts - and would think it ridiculous to pass. But I would also look at the actual hand to see if passing would lead to success (for example, they might be about to bid 1C-1S, 1N-3N). I would regard it as “worse” to pass with 2-5-3-3 (since they are more likely to arrive at a spade contract with your partner on lead). Maybe it would be better to pass with 4-5-2-2 (assuming that the increased desire to compete does not counterbalance the increased likelihood of defending 3N).
If I saw enough evidence that passing here was a winner, I might experiment with that.

Now, I am NOT espousing a pass with this hand. What I am saying is that the expert discussion (if there were one) would be between 1H and 2H or (for a couple) 3H. Pass is never even considered.

And that tends to be the discussion with preempts. The conversation is usually between 1 and 2, or 2 and 3. But I can tell you that passing can and has worked very well at times. So do standard preempts. So do offbeat preempts. What I am fighting against here is the idea that there is real evidence behind Kit's preempting theories. I have some opinions about whether and how high to preempt, but I don't really KNOW anything - and I don't believe Kit does either. He is obviously very comfortable with his style, and that may well be a positive.

To close, as you did, with a wise quote regarding knowledge, my favorite is of uncertain origin (but often attributed to Mark Twain). “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”


Feb. 14, 2011
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Your state that with “Sxx HKQJxxx DQxx Cxx I know Michael Rosenberg will open 2H”. Like many of the things you think you “know”, this one is false. You know almost nothing about my preempting style - certainly a lot less than I know about yours.

You say you would “open 2H, since I think that if you do anything else you will have considerably the worst of it.” At least there, you say “you think” rather than “you know” - but I doubt you have any real basis for the “considerably”.

You ARE correct that I would pass with the 5-5 rounded hand - except maybe in 3rd seat….
Feb. 13, 2011
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So, what you're saying is that standard preempts work, but offbeat preempts work even better. Hmmm, no bias there. But I very much doubt your actual experience bears out these “facts” - even though I believe that you believe it does.

Mine certainly does not. I see lots of wins and losses for all sorts of preempts. And there are many, many factors to consider in deciding whether or not one should or should not preempt. To name but a few: vulnerability, form of scoring, position, suit quality, strength of opposition, partnership style and ability to describe with other action.

Feb. 13, 2011
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You left out what I regard as the biggest “con” against this or any other preempt. You might give an opponent a “road map” to make a contract which they otherwise would not make.

Also, I believe you underestimate how often opponents “find a lucky dummy” and get to a making contract which they otherwise would not reach. For example, when you open 3S with a heart void, the opponents get to 3N making when, had you passed, they would normally get to 4H - which fails on a bad break.

You are biased in favor of preempts, with the mantra “preempts always work”. I believe preempts SOMETIMES work.
Feb. 13, 2011
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Barry, you misunderstood. I wasn't saying it was 80/20 to play the ace. My “80/20” was the GENERAL guideline I would use. So, in order to ‘choose’ the evidence from the bidding, I would need to believe that the evidence from the bidding was AT LEAST 4 times as great as the evidence from the cardplay.

Here, I don't. Without knowing their opening style, I can't really be sure that they wouldn't bid 1N on their actual hand, or force to game if they had the 12 count. And some players would just NEVER redouble on a limited opening - unless they had a supermax, such as they had. Maybe they like to open 1M on borderline hands rather than 1C.

These are all things I really can't know too much about. What I CAN know is that it would be really tough for East to win the HK SMOOTHLY from Kx ((not to mention wrong/losing to win it at all). And the whole defense (3 spades and later D shift) is, for me, indicative of KQ, not Kx.
Feb. 6, 2011
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