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All comments by Ron Zucker
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I'm not doubting your experience, Diana, and I'm glad it worked for you, even if it didn't work for me. But your comment left me confused. This schedule, if anything, makes touristy things impossible. My partner and I, before we noticed the start times, had made tentative plans to tour the Philadelphia Mint, which I remembered from my childhood as a cool tour, before the game. With a 10 AM starting time, that was impossible.

Yes, there are restaurants, but any other touristy things are now, I think, sorta out of bounds. And while I'm with you that SF has great restaurants (I lived there for 10 years) and this will make getting into those difficult, an earlier start time would make Muir Woods, Seal Rock and the walk across the Golden Gate Bridge impossible. Restaurants are rarely, if ever, the only tourist draw.

Again, the organizers and schedulers have to balance the desires of too many bridge players. I'm not saying you're wrong for loving this schedule, and it's good for bridge that, to the extent this schedule costs the ACBL my attendance, it makes your attendance more likely. I'm merely confused by the reasoning in the comment.
July 17, 2012
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Don, you're on the board. You know our membership, so I don't want to doubt you. That said, I've been fairly impressed with the tech savvy of our older members, and of older computer users in general. I think the quick adoption of BBO is a case in point, but also how quickly our membership in DC took to looking up game results online instead of staying for the recap sheet to be posted.

My problem with it is simply that there is a need to wait. We've all been in the situation where we wanted to play one event, but couldn't find teammates or decided at the last minute to switch. Pre-buying makes that more difficult, especially as my understanding is that they do try to seed the field for major events, including pairs.

It was great meeting you at the NABC's this weekend. I need to make an effort next time I go to the NABC's to find more of the people who I meet here on BridgeWinners.
July 17, 2012
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I'd like to believe that my thinking would be, “Well, it's MPs, so I don't need to bid game here. Going down is the worst thing we can do.”

But I don't believe I'd think that. I think I'd end up making the “penalty raise,” and put partner in game. I know I shouldn't, but s/he DID just bid my 6 card suit to the AKQ.

One thing that Steve Robinson (who's a member of Bridge Winners, but is probably too busy playing to comment on this) has convinced me of is to go out of my way to avoid bidding a major on this auction with a terrible hand. With 3-3-4-3 and a 2 count, I'd bid 2C to avoid having partner raise. Since 5 of a minor is SO much farther and harder than game in a major - that one trick makes a HUGE difference - it's worth it to play in a bad minor suit fit to avoid a big bid by partner. If s/he is on the same wavelength, and I know that it's difficult to believe that unless s/he is from this area, where Steve has been a kind mentor to all of us, then I'll bet on partner having some values. If not, I'll just hope we can make it, but any less seems like an insufficient bid with this hand.
July 16, 2012
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A question for the doublers (including me). Isn't double here usually played as “takeout double of 1D”? If pard has a D stack, he might pass, but I suspect I'm about to bid 2S after partner pulls. Which is OK. It should show a strong hand with spades. But I sincerely doubt partner, with his 3-5 count, is really going to sit.
July 16, 2012
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OK, having played the weekend, my dislike of the schedule is now overt hatred. Day 1 of the LM Pairs, we didn't actually start until 10:30. That meant that we had about an hour break for lunch at the overwhelmed Reading Terminal Market. And that was without checking the scores. If I'd had a better first set, that would have really bothered me.

OK, on to Saturday. Now, thanks to trying to go up the morning of the event, partner and I were both zombies and played like it. We “qualified for the regional event.” That event was 10 and 2:30. But, while the LM Pairs started close to on time, since everything can be set up the night before, they don't know how many pairs they'll have in the regional, so that, again, started close to 10:30. But the second session was at 2:30. A 45 minute lunch break ensued.

I decided against staying. My vacation time is too valuable to waste that way. I don't know what I did to annoy the organizers, but I don't feel like being punished for whatever it was at the tournament.

Yes, I want to be able to get my nap in between sessions if I'm tired, or to luxuriate. I'm unwilling to feel like I'm being whipped by the schedule. Starting early? Not my favorite, but it was worth it for an NABC. But the second session doesn't have to be on the heals of the first. It made it unpleasant to say the least. I had a team for this weekend's National Swiss event. I backed out. I wish them luck, but I won't put myself through that again.
July 16, 2012
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I'm trying, John. You know me and know that I frequently play and bid too quickly. I'm making an effort to do this.

What's frustrating to me as I try to make the effort to do this is that I find it so easy to do in my other card playing hobby, poker. I understand the value there of evening my tempo. And I understand my bad habit at bridge, yet find it so hard to do at the table. I see an easy bid, and I forget to slow down. Then, when it's not so easy, I wish I had remembered. It's a self training issue.

I'm trying. Ask anyone who knows me. I'm VERY trying.
July 11, 2012
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It depends on the context of my system for me. With many partners, I play a weak (11+-14) NT, in which rebidding 2NT shows a strong NT, so yeah, it's frequently done with 5 cards over 2D, when I lack the values to bid 3C. But in my strong NT partnerships, I prefer 2NT to be the default bid, and to not play “high reverses,” i.e., that 1H-2D-3C doesn't show more than a solid opener. Even then, it will USUALLY deliver 6 cards, but in that style, I'm loathe to open a hand with 1M if I'm too weak to bid it out. I'd rather pass and hope to get in later.
July 10, 2012
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Subtle distinction here between overbid and misbid. I voted east for not passing the double of 4D, implying interest when s/he knows there's a likely diamond loser. But even if 2H doesn't show extras, I can't figure out why West didn't bid 3C over 2C. This approach has to show a good hand with reluctant club support.

It also matters if it's MPs or IMPs. At MPs, going past 3NT, as East did, shows a hand strongly suitable for slam. This is a good hand, but not one that is thinking slam as soon as West opens. On the other hand, if it's IMPs, going past 3NT shows merely a few extras and the thought that 5C may well be a better contract than 3NT.
July 10, 2012
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Wait. Was the 2NT anything conventional, such as lebehnsohl? If so, you broke the relay with 3H, and partner CAN'T pass. If not, then 2NT has to show a better hand than this.

I just don't think it's tenable to play that partner can pass after 2NT short of game. Yes, I prefer the “cheaper of 4th suit or 2NT” version of “Blackout” discussed above, and I think it's even part of BWS. But if you're not playing it, I think you need some way for opener to say, “I didn't have a 2C opener, pard, but if you can respond with a 1 over 1, I have enough for game.”

FWIW, Jeff Goldsmith's K&R evaluator calls this 19.65 points, while the Danny Kleinman evaluator on the same web page calls it 19. While I think that 2NT as an opening is fine, and as a rebid is least of evils, neither evaluator thinks it's a 2NT opener.
July 9, 2012
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I'm a (local/unit) sectional chair in Washington DC, and I can tell you that this is the most contentious issue I deal with. I get both sides. I'm a night owl, and HATE any start time before noon. On the other hand, finishing earlier is a big deal for many, and for many, the last boards at night are a disaster. I always think that's payback. The first round(s) in the morning are always difficult for me, so I get my revenge at 10:30 at nights, when I'm fresh and my opponents are having difficulty.

The compromise I've decided to live with for my sectionals is to start at 11 and 4. I actually think it's the worst of both words. 2 o'clock is late for lunch, and ruins your timing. But I can't run an earlier event, in part because neither I nor most of my volunteers can get there early enough to get the coffee made, the event set up and the hospitality arranged for an earlier start time. And this is as late as we can go. I'm considering trying 10:30 and 3.

And while some will denigrate the importance of public transit, I think most who do are thinking in a suburban lifestyle that includes a lot of cars. For those, like me, who live in a city, the availability of public transit is paramount. It would never occur to me to drive in Philadelphia, and I can't really afford to stay at the host hotel. Public transit is an important part of my planning, and it's certainly difficult at midnight.

That said, I'm only going for the weekend of the NABC's. With a schedule I dislike, I can't quite bring myself to take a week's vacation when I know I won't enjoy it. I wasn't even going for that long, but it's so cheap to travel via Amtrak, and I found a place to stay via AirBnB, so it's such a cheap trip that I couldn't bring myself to not take any of it.
July 9, 2012
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As a less skilled player (sadly, not less experienced, just not all that good), I very much appreciate advice from pros in almost every area of the game. One of my professional opponents has helped by showing me how he read my face for cues about my holding. I've since learned to keep a better “poker face.” Others have given me technical advice, while still others have helped me be a better player in general.

But, and here's an important point, except when I know them AND their client well, I try not to ask them for advice when they're playing with a client. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, WORKING. They are trying to pay attention to what partner does, and to their thinking process in order to explain it to partner after the game when running boards, as well as to playing well. So I don't want to interrupt.

As such, about the only way for me to get that advice is if they offer it unsolicited. And I'm thankful that they're willing to do so.

As to the hand in question, I do have a question. Frequently, I've read things, especially old Al Roth comments from The Bridge World's MSC, where the writer will say that partner is likely to be able to look at his/her hand and figure it out. While I agree that, absent discussion, I suspect that the 2S double should be takeout, isn't the original poster allowed to look at his hand and decide that it's at best unlikely that it was takeout?

And how does the unintentional UI change that? Is he not allowed to look at his hand? This is an honest question. Given that sometimes we do transmit UI, even when we try not to, how am I, as the partner of the person who gives UI, supposed to handle it in situations like this?
June 26, 2012
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May I just point out how depressing this is? Not that there are scammers. Pond scum abounds in this cruel criminal world.

But how sad is it that even Nigerian scammers know that I'm not good enough at bridge to fall for the idea that someone might want to learn from me??? And I thought it was only my partners and opponents who had that opinion of me.
June 26, 2012
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I'll be tempted to bid 5C over 4H if I start with 3D now, but might not. This hand has SO much more offense than defense that I'd like to try to buy this sucker. At any other colors, I'd pass, planning to bid 4NT if they get to 4H, but unfavorable, that's a bit rich.
June 21, 2012
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Especially in suit contracts, I think aces are WAY undervalued. I do hate the fourth diamond (I upgrade for length in RHO's suit, but downgrade for length in LHO's suit), so I think it's close. But I checked, and there's still a game bonus out there. As others have said, if I had to go past two of our suit to show the LR, I don't think I'd do it. But I don't. I'll give one slight push for game, then back off unless partner starts driving.
June 21, 2012
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Obviously, in my weak NT partnerships, it shows extra strength or shape, so it's easy. In my strong NT partnerships, I'm a sounder opener than some, so I'd do it on basically anything I consider strong enough to open unless I'm devaluing specifically something like Qxx of hearts. I wouldn't do it on KJxx Qxx xx AQxx (which is a borderline opener in my preferred style), but add in a T in spades or clubs and I would.
June 20, 2012
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The only thing recommending pass to me is that 1NTX is not game, and they're NV. But the overtricks get awfully expensive. I don't think this is a minimum opener, but something possessed me on the first round to decide it was. Maybe I was playing against a vastly superior team and decided I needed a swing. Whatever made me decide that the first bid was a good idea (and while I like to think I wouldn't open this, if I am dealt this the first board against Meckwell, I'm taking my shot where I see it) hasn't been made less true by the 1NT overcall.
June 15, 2012
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The old rule is that if the caddy doesn't know it's forcing, it's not forcing. (I recently had a case where I was unsure if partner's pass was forcing and I was in the passout seat. Just as I was deciding, the caddy walked by. All I could think was, “David, could you look at this auction for a second? I have a question…” Fortunately, nobody else could figure out why I stopped my thinking to laugh out loud, and I didn't want to give away anything about my hand, so I didn't say anything.)

In this case, W could be 5-6 or 5-7 without a lot of defensive strength for this bid. The second best thing in bridge is forcing them up a level. (The best thing in bridge is forcing them up a level then beating them one trick.) West did his/her job. S/he is not suggesting that we could either play 4H their way or 6D our way with nothing in between. Good job. Now leave it up to partner.
June 15, 2012
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<snip> We still got none of 12 matchpoints and won that night. </snip>

None of 12, or nine of 12? Just curious…
June 12, 2012
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Your poll phraseology is difficult to choose. I ALMOST always open 1 of a suit, but will open 2C if:

1) I have have more defensive winners than losers; and,
2) I can see slam opposite a hand that will pass 1 of a suit.

This hand isn't close to qualifying for it, both because I have 4 dubious winners (due to my length) and 4 winners, and if partner has an ace, s/he will not pass most times. Rob's example hand, which has pretty decent play for slam opposite no aces but the right shape, is fine.

FWIW, opening 2C or a strong 1C is no panacea on this hand. You only win big on hands like this, where they don't have the values or shape to get in your face. But the same thing that makes 1D so attractive – all of your shape, which suggests you'll get another bid, makes a strong 2C unattractive. If they can start bidding, you're WAY behind those who got to show their shape naturally.
June 12, 2012
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One funny story, and then I'll go away.

Many years ago, in the first round of a national event, we were rewarded by playing a top 6-handed team with significant national and international success. (I don't want to embarrass the player in question if some feel this makes him/her look petty, so I won't use names.) After the game, a friend of mine, seeing our draw, contended that a fair line for the next day was 100 IMPs. We made a $20 bet with our team getting 100 IMPs.

After three quarters, we were down 89, they were pulling out their “best” pair to let them get some rest for the next day, and they asked (VERY politely and in a way that in no way insulted me) if we wanted to concede. We declined.

I went to grab a smoke before making boards, and my friend was outside, asking how we were doing. 89 down seemed like an interesting margin, as they were likely to lighten up. One of the other players asked, and I had no qualms explaining the bet. When I got back from my smoke, I was surprised to see the pair that was set to take a break shuffling at our table.

“I'm sorry,” one explained to me, “but I don't like the idea of anyone winning a bet against me.”

I enjoyed the experience greatly, and have always respected the amount of pride it takes to go back out for another quarter to ensure that your reputation as a competitor and great player is intact.

Of course, I also lost $20. I wonder if my friend would have called it a push if we had conceded… :D
June 8, 2012
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