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All comments by Ron Zucker
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Debbie, I have to ask. You mentioned earlier in the thread that this was sucking some of the joy out of bridge for you. To what degree does the expertise of the player factor into this?

A friend sent me hand 2 but with the alert, and I chose 4S. I reasoned that, though partner might be making a slam try, if s/he was, my jump might encourage enough when I'm aceless. If it's a game try, I decided to accept, though I think that's far from clear. Clearly, this marks me as being less imaginative, and almost certainly not as good a player, as the expert you cited.

But the problem you discuss is, I think, the wrong one. Let's follow your reasoning. So now we have to decide how good our opponents' bidding judgment is? If I'm sitting against you and make this decision, do I feel insulted when you don't call the director?

4H was an excellent bid. I can see that. But I don't think you can hold the bridge world as a whole to the standards of your expert opponent. We're all trying, but many, myself included, just aren't that good. So I have to wonder how much of the problem you're facing is poor education of the responsibilities as a player (where clearly hand 3 is an ethical disaster that should, at the very least, face education, if not a procedural penalty, no matter how much 4S goes down), and how much is you just having extremely high standards for bridge.
Aug. 23, 2012
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I'm fine with the redouble, but I'd surely pass the double of 2S. North said that this was where he'd like to be. Despite South's diamonds, I'm likely to live with it. East west are likely to get out with at most 3 tricks, fewer if declarer tries cashing the CA. (N cashes three trump and leads the DQ. When declarer ruffs in the long hand, North is able to ruff a club and cash hearts. South still, I think, has to come to the HK and CK.

With that said, I tend to think that partner pulling my penalty double means we should be looking hard for game. S/he is telling me that we have more coming our way than 300. I'd like to see 2NT after 2S (S has the other two suits stopped), N bid 3D (we don't necessarily have 9 runners after a club lead from N's perspective) and South choose between 3NT (N doesn't know about the A) and 5D. Either is a better bid than 3D after 2S.
Aug. 14, 2012
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Playing XYZ, what's the difference between 3D, 3H and 2D (GF) and then one of those bids?
Aug. 13, 2012
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I chose other. I think, as Henry does, that the K is a HUGE card, and I need to let partner know about it, and my continued slam interest, so I chose 5. I'll respect a signoff here, though.
Aug. 7, 2012
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Shape matters, but mostly it's aces. Kit Woolsey published an article on an improved point count some years back that used A=4.5, K=3, Q=1.75 and J=.75. This approximates “little jack points.” I open all except 4-3-3-3 without a 4 card major 12 counts using this point count method. So aces matter.
Aug. 7, 2012
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I think that is EXACTLY John Adams' argument above. He's convinced that double is right, and that most of the field has this wrong. (I'm a friend of John's, and he's something of a mentor to me, so I weigh his opinions heavily, even when, as here, I think he's wrong.) He doesn't just think double is right. He thinks it's VERY right, and that he has an opportunity to get a very good board often enough that he's thrilled that the rest of the world disagrees with him, even knowing that he's going to pay off on some hands. (Yeah, we discussed it at the unit game briefly last night.)

But I think Gavin's point is that it's only true if, as John is, you're CERTAIN that this is a percentage action. Sometimes, I think it MIGHT be a percentage action, but it might not. In those cases, I don't want to get out of line with the field. It's one thing to take an anti-percentage action. It's another thing entirely if you think you're going to be one of the few taking that action. Now you're getting a near top or a near bottom instead of an average plus or average minus.

Larry Cohen had an article in the Bridge World in November 2001 (No, I didn't remember offhand, but rather consulted the helpful online index) called “Win It on Another Board.” IIRC, and it's been some years since I read it, he suggests that when you are relatively certain the field is wrong, go anti-field. But when you are not perfectly certain, just rely on superior defense or declarer play to get you at worst to average, and avoid the 0. I don't think it's perfect advice, but it's certainly good advice.

I note that my informal listing of players I know and respect had a number on each side of the pass/double divide. That leads me to believe that this is a borderline decision. It's clear to me, especially after reading this, that the answer to the title question – Do we have a bidding problem or not? – is yes. I'm beginning to believe that the situation is actually close enough that it might be worth generating a large number of deals and checking for whether double is, in fact, a percentage action. I lack the ability to do that. Anybody else have it and have the time?
July 27, 2012
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The flaw, I think, is not whether you have a better place to be than defending 1NT. I think it at least odds on that you do *if LHO is about to pass.*

But you don't know that. For all you know, LHO is about to bid 2H, a reverse, or 3C. (I'm assuming that this is not against a big club pair. If it is, I have more sympathy for the double.) And with them NV, you might well be giving them a fielder's choice about how to get their top. Bid game, or just hammer your bid for 500?

The other problem here is that, even when LHO was about to pass, there's no way of knowing if a double is going to find your happy place. If partner bids clubs and you pass, that might well be very bad, conceivably a 5 card fit when partner is 3=3=4=3. If you don't pass (say you bid 2D), the red cards are coming out. If partner could see your hand, I have no doubt that a double for partner to pull is best. But s/he can't. You're tossing a decision to partner (where should we play this) that partner is much more likely to get wrong than right.

Moreover, I might double in BAM. There, I have no field to worry about, and only have to worry about beating one other pair. It's quite possibly worth a chance. But at MPs, I have to wonder about the field. If I double, my answer has to be better than a bunch of players. Partner didn't have a 5 card major, and I assume partner might have bid with a good enough 4 card major (say AKTx). So I'm aiming at a very narrow gap.

If you assume that this auction happened at a LOT of tables, and your hand gives you no reason to think not, I think this is a hand you try not to lose the event on. I'll try to WIN it on another hand, where I have better information. I think I can defend my way to at least average, if not average plus. I'll put that in the bank and save my views for places where I have more information.
July 26, 2012
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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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