Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Nicolas Hammond
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It was your reply to David that got my curious on the different scenarios. I'd worked with the VP scale with the different NBOs - USBF, ACBL, WBF. At one point all three were using different scales and I helped them all converge on the WBF scales. So I'm more familiar than most on how they work.

I agree with David's original post - why score with a non-linear scale at half-time? Doesn't matter what the scale is - why?

Taking your argument ad absurdum you could calculate the VP after each board and then sum those up.

Bridge scoring is, from an outsiders perspective, ridiculously complicated. You compare table results, then use an arbitrary look-up table to calculate IMPs, sum those up, then use a mathematical formula (that has boundary conditions) to calculate a Victory Point total. As Bridge players, we have to come accept this for what we call “Swiss” or “Round Robin”.

I teach Bridge to beginners. It's very hard to explain. Last Wednesday I bought the class a lottery ticket with 11, 40, 42, 60, 62 and 20 as the numbers. These are the most common (positive) numbers they will see: 110, 400, 420, 600, 620. With -200 being typically a very bad score. Sadly, we didn't win the ~ $400M prize - someone in Florida did - but it helped the class become familiar with the Bridge scoring concepts.

Try explaining the OP method of selecting the US winners to non-Bridge players.

The crux of the issue, as Jan summarized elsewhere, is do you use Win/Loss scoring, or VP scoring; and if you use VP scoring, do you score at half-time.

I have no horse in this race. Other than the half-time scoring can lead to some absurd situations which, IMHO, would make Bridge look bad to the general public.
Jan. 31
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@Jan: “That means ignoring half of the boards that each of the ”losing“ teams played, and making the boards they played against the other ”losing“ team all that counts. I prefer to have as many boards as possible count.”

If you have a 4 teams, and a simple KO format, in the semi-final Team A beats Team B, Team C beats Team D. In the final team A plays Team C, in the bronze medal playoff Team B plays Team D. In the final and bronze medal games, the results of the scores in the semi-finals should be irrelevant. IMHO.

@Peter: “scoring a 3-way match by VPs is equivalent to treating it as we do a Round Robin.
I don’t see how that can be considered crazy”

But the OP didn't suggest this (3 way by VPs); the OP (actually a comment after the OP), stated that the match would be scored at half-time, using a non-linear scale, scored again in the second half with the two non-linear results summed to calculate the final score. That's the part that I think is crazy.

@Michael: “Nicolas: I'm trying to think of analogous situations from other sports. Maybe you or somebody else can come up with one.”

In the Superbowl, the SF 49ers beat the KC Chiefs by seven points in the first quarter, by seven points in the second quarter, by seven points in the third quarter, but the KCC win the fourth quarter by twenty-four points. Using the new NFL scoring system of awarding VPs for each quarter, the SF 49ers are declared the winners.

All: I should have little voice in this. The chance of me representing the US in bridge is infinitesimally small. As an outsider, the proposed scoring system of selecting two winners from three entries seems bizarre with the possibility of weird scenarios. See my scenario 4 above for a plausible scenario. The “clear loser to most rational people” gets selected to represent the US.

Let me offer an uglier alternative. Day 1, Team A crushes both Team B and Team C. Team B and Team C are equal. In Day 2, Team A can effectively decide which other team gets to go to Italy.
Jan. 31
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Long post above, it was to address the “However, the net IMP results of the two-loss team will be better than the 1-and-1 team.” comment. You can lose both matches, have a worse net IMP than the 1-and-1 team and still advance. Non-linearity in the VP scale.
Jan. 30
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The problem is that the VP scale is non-linear. Using this at a half-way point of a match leads to absurd situations.

Let me give some real world scenarios to illustrate the point.

Assume that WBF has create a new U-90 World Championship. USBF has three teams that entered, teams Martel, Boyd and Hammond (it's my last year to qualify!) and has to select two teams.

We are using the WBF 28 board VP scale. As suggest by OP:

Scenario 1:

Day 1: Martel beats Boyd by 80 IMPs. Boyd beats Hammond by 1 IMP. Martel beats Hammond by 40 IMPs.

At the end of Day 1:

Martel 36.77
Hammond 12.99
Boyd 10.24

Day 2: Martel again beats Boyd by 80 IMPs. Boyd beats Hammond by 1 IMP. Martel beats Hammond by 120 IMPs.

Final VP standings

Martel 76.77
Hammond 22.75
Boyd 20.48

Both Hammond and Boyd lost to Martel by 160 IMPs. Boyd beat Hammond. But Hammond, not winning a match, and having a worse total IMPs than Boyd goes to Italy.

Scenario 2.

As above, except on Day 2 Martel beat Hammond by 140 IMPs. Same VP as above. Hammond goes to Italy. In this scenario Boyd lost to Martel by 160 IMPs, Hammond lost to Martel by 180 IMPs.

Scenario 3.

Day 1: Martel and Boyd tie. Boyd beats Hammond by 120 IMPs. Hammond beats Martel by 80 IMPs.

At the end of Day 1:

Boyd 30
Hammond 20
Martel 10

Day 2: Martel beats Boyd by 1. Hammond beats Boyd by 80 IMPs. Martel beats Hammond by 120 IMPs.

Final VP standings

Martel: 40.24
Hammond 40.0
Boyd: 39.76

Hammond lost each match by 40 IMPs!! Boyd beat Hammond by 40 IMPs. Boyd lost to Martel by 1 IMP, Hammond lost to Martel by 40 IMPs. Hammond goes to Italy.

The net IMPs are

Martel: +41
Boyd: +39
Hammond: -80

Scenario 4:

Day 1: Martel beat Boyd by 40 IMPs. Boyd beat Hammond by 1 IMP. Martel beats Hammond by 10 IMPs.

At the end of Day 1:

Martel 28.95
Hammond 17.58
Boyd 13.47

Day 2: Martel beat Boyd by 40 IMPs. Boyd beat Hammond by 1 IMP. Martel beats Hammond by 75 IMPs

Final VP standings

Martel: 65.46
Hammond 27.6
Boyd: 26.94

Martel beat Boyd by 80 IMPs, Martel beat Hammond by 85 IMPs, Boyd beat Hammond by 2 IMPs, yet Hammond goes to Italy.

It just seems wrong if you have a match to arbitrarily take the score at half time, convert it using a non-linear formula and add these two non-linear values to determine the final score.

I can create a lot more scenarios where a team that loses both matches gets to qualify. In all of the above Boyd has a better win/loss score and also a better net IMPs score.

Why be so complicated?

Just use the same concept as ACBL three way matches in a KO. Simple win/loss - anyone can understand it. The current proposal is Alice in Wonderland stuff.
Jan. 30
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In your scenario, I would argue that Team B which beat Team A should go. Team A did not win a match. How absurd is that Team A would go not having won a match?

Try explaining this to non-Bridge players that for each board played we added each table result to find the net table result points per board which we then used to a look up table to convert to an International Match Point. We added up these International Match Points at the end of each day and then converted them to something we called Victory Points. The two teams with the highest number of these Victory Point things get to go. Yes, you win Victory Points even when you lose. Yes, the finals of the WBF U31 will be decided by win/loss (admittedly with IMPs), but for qualifying the US team we picked a team that didn't win a match.
Jan. 30
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Don't think so.

I seem to remember playing in a 3 way for either the Vanderbilt or Spingold. Same rules as general 3 way KO for ACBL regionals. It's a win-loss formula, not VPs on who goes through.

The OP is addressing what might be a very specific situation. 3 teams wanting to represent the US, but only two are selected. It would leave a bitter taste if you were team 2, beat team 3, find out that team 3 did not win either match, but team 3 is off to Italy. And you can imagine the comments from those that do not play Bridge when they find out the absurdity of losers ‘winning’ and wondering who wrote the rules. Everyone knows if you win a match, you're the winner. Except if you want to represent the US in Bridge.

Disclaimer: I have no dog in this race. I'm 32 (ish).
Jan. 29
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I am also a member of the IBPA. It's been suggested I write something for them…

In my case I would use statistics. It is possible to numerically measure the “quality” of Bridge at a tournament. I can then compare tournaments. We expect similar tournaments, e.g. Bermuda Bowl, to have a similar level of play.

See data at
Click on Chapters 13, 28, 29, 36.

See data at
Clcik on “Bermuda Bowl”. See the big change before and after 2015. Compare the results from 1955-1991 with modern results.

If someone is willing to take the data from the WC books and enter them into a BBO/LIN format (I can help provide the tools), then this will provide more data from that era.

You have to be careful calling out journalists for not following a cheating allegation. Serious consequences arise if you accuse a player of cheating.

You have to look at all the times when a player did something “unusual” and it did not work in addition to finding the times when they took an action and it did work. In most cases, I have that data.

I only have 32 boards of Gianfranco Facchini/Sergio Zucchelli in my database. Not enough to draw any conclusions.

Belladonna/Avarelli were simply brilliant on defense. I have 526 boards in my database, enough for analysis. On one of the statistical tests I use they are ranked just below Fantoni/Nunes. On this particular test, Fisher/Schwartz happens to be #1. Both Fantoni and Nunes are rated as better declarers than Belladonna and Avarelli. In general there is a correlation between declarer play and defensive play.

Neither Belladonna nor Avarelli rate well as declarers when compared to top players today. I am sure that there are plenty of write-ups of their brilliancies, but, trust me, they made a lot of mistakes that haven't been written up.

Opening leads are difficult to analyze. Even at the elite level 20% of opening leads are “bad”. Europeans and Americans have different views on opening leads. One opening lead won't tell you much. Lots do. Take a look at Look at Chapter 29 for a graph of opening leads and how successful the top pairs are.
Jan. 29
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With these rules you can have a situation where a team does not win a match but advances.

Team 1 beats Team 2 (by a large margin), Team 2 beats Team 3 by a small margin, Team 1 beats Team 3 (by a small margin).

Team 1 will have the most VPs, but team 3 may have more VPs than team 2.

If you have a situation where Team 1 wins both matches, and Team 2 beats Team 3, it would seem logical that Team 1 and Team 2 are selected irrespective of their VP scores.

I would therefore propose a change to your rules.

If a team wins both matches, they are selected. The winner of the result of the match between the other teams is selected. If tied, use whatever Tie Break rules you have in place.

If a team wins one match and ties the other, they are selected. Same rules as above for selected the other points.

The VP scale is pointless for deciding two winners in a three way match. Just use a simple win-loss formula.
Jan. 29
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Suggest giving the DIC the opportunity to rescind if a medical or other emergency has arisen. “I ran out of gas” is not an excuse, “my car got rear-ended” is.
Jan. 27
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Jim: the operational logistics of number of sets of boards required for ‘n’ teams are usually based on floor space and layout. For example, if you are playing a bracketed Round Robin, you can reuse boards between brackets in different rounds. If you are playing a KO, you can reuse boards. But if you have all players in same bracket sitting close to each other: in the US you don't want them playing same boards, in other parts of the world this is acceptable.

I've tried to get Gatlinburg to use duplicated boards for bracketed Round Robin and also for KO matches but little success. I'll try again this year…
Jan. 26
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Filmed 12 years ago. Some of these kids are still playing!
Jan. 24
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Statistically Jeff & Eric have been one of the top American pairs for many years. They are one of the few pairs that has become better post 2015 (even when looking at data with all known cheaters removed).
Jan. 20
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@Steve. It was Board 12 in the Friday morning game. Mike was playing with Anton Habash. The power of the Internet means you can look up the LHO and RHO. Can't be bothered to format but here are the North, West, East, South hands.

K 9 4 2
A 9 8
A 9 8
J 4 2

J 10
K 10 4 3
K 10 5
9 8 6 3

8 5 3
J 7 5
7 6 4 3
K Q 5

A Q 7 6
Q 6 2
Q J 2
A 10 7

At his club, 8 played in 3NT, 8 played in 4. Mike was the only one to go down in 3NT.
Jan. 18
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Richard: Try talking to the local organizer of a Sectional or Regional to better understand the logistics of bridge tournaments.

The hotel wants money for their convention space, for rooms, for the kitchens.

How this is allocated is part of negotiating the hotel contract. Every contract negotiation is different. For the NABC, ACBL are likely to start with wanting to pay $0 for the convention space; they know that they have to pay a minimum amount for food during their 10+ day stay. They usually pick off-peak times to host the “convention” to save money.

A ten day block, which includes two weekends, is a different animal to negotiate.

If you talk to your local organizer, they will tell you that the local hotel can often make more money from a wedding that they would for a Bridge tournament.

ACBL have been booking NABCs for a long time; it is something that know well.
Jan. 18
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That is what they do with Regionals. ACBL has patron members so NABCs are treated differently than regionals. There are perks with being a patron member. Handling NABC rooms is more complicated than most people think.
Jan. 17
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Look at the situation from ACBL's perspective.

They are required to show a certain number of rooms booked “room nights” to guarantee cheap convention space. If they allow people to book direct, there is no tracking with the hotel(s) that the rooms are booked with for Bridge. When you book at a regional, you may deal direct, but you have a Bridge rate and the hotel can track the rooms sold. If you go to an NABC and book through there is no tracking. Gatlinburg has a similar problem.

Booking a hotel for a convention is large financial risk (I know, I've done it for other organizations). Failure to fill the room nights carries a large penalty (c.f. ACBL and Hawaii).

Trying to predict the number of room nights a few years in advance when the contracts are signed is a very difficult job.

In this case, ACBL appear to have sold their blocks early. That's great - it means no financial loss for the ACBL. It appears that they have booked a block of rooms with other hotels to guarantee some cheap rates. They don't have to do this for their members, but they did.

But the rooms appear to be selling out early. That's also good (for ACBL).

I've traveled a lot; I've never had guaranteed 2 bed/1 bed. I might request, but sometimes have not had the room I've booked. Hotels have so many rooms, so many single/double beds; they can only reasonably move some number of beds into rooms. They can't guarantee everything. The Bridge group is a large atypical group; we have to accept that.

You can't always get what you want has been a refrain since 1969.

Be thankful that the ACBL offers cheaper rooms; and there were some available.

If you want superior service at a cheap price, you are complaining about the wrong things. ACBL or its housing bureau don't control the supply of beds in hotels. You can always book direct, pay a higher price, and get more of a guaranteed option.

Edit: typo - I meant atypical not typical.
Jan. 17
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 17
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About four years ago I put together a lot of Wikipedia pages on Bridge players. I sourced the data from the original sources and some of this ended up on Wikipedia pages.

My data from 4 years ago is on Github. For example, for Garozzo see

Another example:

Ignore the country name associated with each player: I hand edited those later.

I cover the era of the Blue Team in Chapter 44 of my book: This is statistical analysis of how well the various pairs played, including comparisons against other players from that era. It is also possible to statistically compare the defensive abilities of players from that era (including Reese/Schapiro and some famous American pairs) with some of the best defensive players of the more modern era, e.g. Balicki/Zmudzinski, Fantoni/Nunes, Fisher/Schwartz. I have charts that show how these top defensive players statistically compare to each other.

Have the editor PM me for more details.
Jan. 16
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I do not disagree that this hand is worth an upgrade. 4 aces; five card suit; if you are going to upgrade, this is the hand to do it with.

The issue is if your convention card (CC) should be marked “19-20” or “18+ to 20”. Or should have somewhere “upgrades common”

ACBL only allows HCPs (HCPs do not include length points) in their default CC (unless you describe another hand evaluation method).
Jan. 5
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To be clear: the Regulations in WBF events are different than the Regulations in non WBF events.

The BBO hands I pulled for Bathurst/Lall were mainly from non WBF events.

I do have the data on all other pairs. I don't know who plays a strong club system and who does not.
Jan. 4
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I was the one who wrote the original comment on the other thread.

On the previous thread, David described a hand, but it was unclear if he was described his hand, or a hand from the Junior trials, or some other hand on behalf of someone else. He stated that 2NT range for the pair was 19-20, but the hand was opened 2NT.

I'll try to be clear, but it's difficult because the rules/regulations aren't.

For semantics, in Bridge we have the Laws. The issue in this case is Law 40. There is no mention of HCPs in the Laws. The Laws are universal.

We also have Regulations. These are not universal. ACBL issues these in ACBL land. ACBL defines what is allowed, what is not in its jurisdiction. You may not like it, but thems the Regulations. ACBL has a convention card with space for the 2NT HCP range. This is what you play, not what you would like your opponents to think that you play.

The relevant part of Law 40 is “Repeated deviations lead to implicit understandings which then form part of the partnership’s methods and must be disclosed in accordance with the regulations governing disclosure of system.”

In this thread, OP wrote, “The partners are experts and their agreement is that they may exercise their judgment to upgrade or downgrade any hand. They do so on occasion but not frequently.”

That's fine. But when I sit down to play against you (the general me, not the specific me), I have no idea if you are experts or not, nor do I have any knowledge of your judgement skills or your frequency of upgrading/downgrading.

IMHO, “on occasion” meets my criteria of “repeated deviations” (i.e. more than once you have deviated) from your published HCP range.

The problem here are the Regulations. The ACBL uses HCPs. They define the HCPs using the Milton Work HCP, not distributional HCPs, not add an extra HCP for four aces, it is the strict Work HCP. You may not be using Work HCPs when you play, you may have better methods but ACBL prescribed that you shall use Work HCPs when filling out your convention card. If you want to argue, go talk to Mr. Bumble, he will agree with you.

I fully stand by my statement, “at best unethical”. ACBL advocates Active Ethics. If you choose to downgrade/upgrade (and in my analysis of top players upgrades are frequent, downgrades are extremely rare), then you have a duty to keep your opponents informed. They should not be required to ask.

Writing 19-20, but playing 18+ to 20 is unethical. There is no reason for you not to write 18+ to 20 if that is what you really play. Players should know, without asking, that “18+” means that you will upgrade suitable 18 HCP hands to your 2NT opening bid.

And to your point, ‘I was accused of being “unethical at best.” It pissed me off.’ When you wrote the article, it was not clear (it still isn't to me) that your original post was about a hand that you had bid with someone or was about the auction conducted by another pair. IMHO the pair that bid that hand were “unethical at best” by not fully disclosing their agreements. If it happens to be you, then I can assure you that your opponents will be more pissed off at you with failing to properly disclose your agreements than you are pissed off with me.

“I actually considered the comment libelous”. Nowhere close, but let's get back on topic. I am glad that you have published this article. I am glad there is discussion on this topic. Players need to be much more educated about Law 40. There are LOTS of players that are currently violating Law 40 in ACBL land; when I have some time I'll publish a list of who they are. I've reported at least a couple of partnerships last year to ACBL but there is little/no interest in them pursuing Law 40 violations.

Congratulations on your retirement. Please focus on playing more bridge and helping to coach the juniors! Congratulations on the achievements of those that you coached.
Jan. 2

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