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All comments by Ron Zucker
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I don't think it does. It is right on the number of spades and clubs, but those spades are a GREAT 6 card suit, and those clubs are… not good. But of course, that's why I asked this in the first place.

Am I seeing it wrong, or should I emphasize spades? That strikes me as the first question to answer. Kit (below) answers one way, but a number of players seem to disagree.

As always, thanks for the input.
July 13, 2015
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OK, this is the other question people haven't commented on, except for you. Do I want to be in this slam at IMPs?

First the easy part. 4-3 spades are 62.2%.

Now comes the hard part, and it involves counting. There are 20 3-2 breaks out of 32 combinations of 5 cards (2^5=32). Now, 20/32 should be 62.5%, but I do know that it's 67.8% for a 3-2 break missing 5 cards. This is because of cards in dead suits. But when counting the probability of making it, I don't know how to do this.

If I just count combinations that work, it's 81.25%. That's all 3-2's by combination, plus stiff J in either hand, plus Jxxx to my right. Does that get changed by the same other cards calculation? Because if I count combinations (81.25%) and multiply it by 62.2%, it's a 50.5% slam. Given the possibility for a disaster at the other table – there's always some chance of a disaster on a misfit – do I really want to be in a 50.5% slam at IMPs? In a short match, this is likely to be the important board.

But if I'm miscounting it, and the slam is actually closer to 85 or 87% of all 4-3 spade breaks, I think I want to be in it at IMPs, because the wins against 4 beats out the possibility of a disaster at the other table, so I get about the same IMPs whether I bid 4 or 6,

Of course, 5-0 loses any time the DA is in the same hand as the long clubs, since partner can engineer a ruff. But that's all double dummy. Hell, the way some days go, it's clearly going to go cub ruff, to the ace, club ruff and I'm down 2!

So here's the real question. What's the threshold for bidding this slam? How good does it have to be in a short match? In a longer match?

Yes, if I'm playing a great team, clearly I want to be there if I don't think they will, or not if I think they will. This is a classic board on which to swing, and I just want to do whatever the other team won't if I can figure that out. But against a generic, but not very good, team, there's a strategic element to this hand that is not covered simply by changing our bidding.
July 13, 2015
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OK, so that was a big part of my question. I thought 3 said exactly that. Since a jump shift is usually understood to be “Your suit, my suit or NT,” at least in my experience, I though 3 said, “My suit. Please tell me what you hold.” Is that the underlying problem? Is that not standard? What's the difference between what I chose (2 and then 3) and 2 and then 4?

Thanks for the input. I take it your plan, then is 1-1-2-3*-3-4? Or would you rebid spades after 3? If you do bid 4, what do you bid over partner's 5? Thanks!
July 13, 2015
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I'm really not trying to be snarky here, so please don't take it that way. Did East think, as you did, that 3 was non-forcing? I don't think it should be. But it's your system, and I have no qualms with different systems.

Was 2 either a 3 card limit range or natural with clubs that can be less than a GF? If so, I can understand East not wanting to game force. If responder has a primary clubs hand with a stiff spade, we're likely in a misfit, and the impulse to stay low is strong at MPs. But if it's either game forcing with clubs or a spade 3-card limit raise, I would say that East blew it a lot earlier (and therefore regains 100% of the blame) by asking with 2 instead of just bidding 2. If it's game forcing with clubs, great. You get to tell partner about the most important part of your hand. If it's a 3 card limit raise, like most here, I think East has a clear go.

So the 2 bid is a threshold question that your original post didn't address.

If you were on the same page, I really do think both of you underbid by a lot. I mean, I understand underbidding at MPs, but even at MPs, they still pay game bonuses.

But I also think that, if you were on the same page, there's a LOT less fault. East is concerned with wasted club cards. Give West Axx xxx Jxx KQJx and East is dead in the water in 4, and 3 might well be too high. West is, well, I think West still underbid his hand, but in the context of a 2 asking bid and big club system, East could have a pretty crappy hand.

UPDATE: I thought about it another 30 seconds, and I take that back. East still underbid, too. Indeed, 4 is likely to make opposite the worst hand I could come up with for West off the top of my head that was consistent with the bidding. So if you were on the same page, it's 50-50.
July 10, 2015
Ron Zucker edited this comment July 10, 2015
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I wanted to give 100% to East for making what has to be at best an ambiguously forcing or non-forcing bid. (Logically, to me, it should be forcing, but with the dreck I often open in my big club system, perhaps it ought not to be, and I'm just not sure.)

But then I thought, “Clearly, East has to think 3 is game forcing, right?” I mean, how tightly are you going to parse the case of a bid with approximately a 3 point range? In that case, the fault is West's, for passing a forcing bid.

Then I realized that, while I love playing innovative systems as much as the next guy, they require a LOT more thought and discussion than “Standard” systems. So they both get 100% blame for adopting a big club system with a 2 over 1 ambiguous response and not discussing follow ups.

This is Schroedinger's Post. If West is right and 3 is not forcing, east is 100% at fault. If East is right and 3 is forcing, West is 100% at fault. I suspect their matchpoint score on this board collapsed the wave form…
July 10, 2015
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Ha ha ha. But this isn't a discussion of bridge. It's a frank solicitation for help finding it, but there is no issue of strategy, tactics or anything else. When I post a hand, I'm looking for help improving my game. When I post an article, it's about the game. Others can (I hope) learn from the responses. This, on the other hand, targets the tiny group who are on their way to Israel, which strikes me as potentially not appropriate.

Obviously, I'll let the mods decide, but I had to think about whether or not this is indeed appropriate to the site. I first tried by DM'ing two players whom I know to be from Israel, but when I didn't hear back, I tried this. But I'm not sure it's appropriate.
July 6, 2015
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As one of the lesser players who wants to play up, I know that I don't have the experience or skill to play against some of the best teams. I can win or lose in Bracket II (my ego and experience says more likely win, but since I don't play in it very often any more, I can't be sure). I have a chance in Bracket I, but I have to be on my A game, as does my partner.

But here's the thing. The only reason for me to play at a regional is to play better players. I'm lucky enough to live in an area with a relatively healthy local bridge game. It's not world class, obviously, but it's solid. The reason to travel, to have the expense and the hassle of going to a regional or an NABC is simple; I want to challenge the best and see where I really stand. I want to learn from them.

With the growth of KOs and the difficulty playing up (yes, I've been turned down often, including once where we asked to play up, were turned down, then brought in when another team begged to be moved down and it was reasonable, and went on to win the event), I just don't go to regionals anymore. The top pairs are not in the MP game. They're in the KOs. As such, it's no thrill to win a regional pairs.

If I could guarantee being allowed to play up, I'd go through the hassle of finding a team. Since I work for a living, that's often hard, as the local regional happens during a time (this week) that is almost impossible for me to take off from work. But I'd find a way. Without that guarantee, I'm not taking off from work. I'm not going through the hassle to play Bracket II or regional pairs. And yes, the advent of online records means that I've gotten caught, and earned the ire of directors, adding a zero to my MP total.

With ALL of that said, I also think that players vote with their feet. The cynics say that masterpoints are for sale, and I can't argue against it. Those more hopeful, like me, say that the ACBL is in the business of servicing its membership within certain limits, and the membership as a whole likes KOs. If you have to sacrifice a few outliers like me, well, I can save up and go to the NABC's instead, where nobody minds if you play in the title cups even though you have no chance of winning. So that's what I do.

It's imperfect, but maybe it helps that I'm a political activist for a living. Sometimes, it turns out that I'm not in the majority, and I have learned to accept that.

As to the original question, Joe, let me tell you a little secret. I have happily paid pros for lessons. I continue to do so online now (with Josh Donn). It has made me a better player overall. I know I need to work a little harder at the game. I tend to get careless. Playing with Josh has reminded me of the things I already know that I let slip too often. Yes, at some level, your client will be paying you for a better chance to win. But at another level, s/he will play better across from you than s/he normally does, because it's embarrassing to play like an idiot across from a better player. As others have pointed out, I don't see it as being different from the people in the KOs who are hiring pros, and I think it might be better, because you can also model what it takes to be a better partner and a better player.

The only advice I'd offer is to follow the model of the best pros, who might or might not teach at the table (I think most of the best don't), but who run all the boards with their partners to discuss what they did and why, and who have perfect comportment at the table. Be kind to partner and you opponents. Be unfailingly polite, even if there is an irregularity. Model what we want to see in the A/X game, and try to bring your partner there with you. That way, even if you don't win, you will get to teach your partner something important about the game, and make it worthwhile to him/her to hire you in the first place.

Good luck!
July 6, 2015
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OK, just to wrap back around. I decided to pass (in tempo) and they played in 6. Our teammates hit 5 for +100, taking one in each plain suit when partner held Txxxx x Jxx J9xx. I led a top spade, and the spades were 1-1. Though they could run the diamonds, that only provided 3 pitches, and they had to take the heart hook for down 1 for a 5 IMP pickup. But note that, predictably, this depended on a 1-1 spade break, which is about even money.

My LHO (East) held x Jx KQTxxx Kxxx, leaving my RHO with x AQTxx Axx AQTx. He played the clubs for no losers, but the diamonds only provide 3 pitches, one too few.

The clue I acted on that nobody mentioned was that my RHO was the 5 and 6 bidder. With 0 spades, I'd have expected my LHO to take the push. With 2 spades, I'd have expected him to warn partner of the expected spade losers by doubling. By passing over 5, I decided his most likely number of spades was 1. That gives me a much greater chance of beating 6, especially if the bad club break will make life more difficult for them.

But the more I thought about it, the worse I felt about my decision. I'm getting, as Kit suggested, 50-50 odds for the bid, as they were in 5X as the other table. But if I pass and am wrong, I'm losing 10 IMPs. Locking in a 5 IMP loss feels right, even though passing was a 5 IMP gain.After all, 1-1 spades is only slightly above 50-50 (52-48). And my RHO DID bid 6, and he's a very good player.

So I asked. Some excellent players disagree about what's right (SHOCK!), but the majority seem to agree with my pass.

As an aside, the reason we won this match is that both tables botched an early second half board (they went for 800 against a white game, while I misbid and propelled us to a no-play slam) but our team at both tables used that as reason enough to just batten down the hatches and play bridge, which, not surprisingly, worked. As people have pointed out, SOM didn't matter. We just played bridge, and that was the best approach.
June 30, 2015
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Kit, you are a genius. Not just for your understanding of the problem, but for the clarity of your explanation of the IMP odds. Thank you.
June 30, 2015
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Fair enough. I was hoping, by giving thinking, that I could focus on what I was thinking, and get feedback on that. But your thinking is basically that partner has a good picture of my hand after the 5 call. That is very much the same as I was trying to imply by saying, “My job here is done.”

As to 4 over 1, I thought about it at the time, but I was very concerned with partner over-saving on this hand. My hearts suggest a very distributional hand going on already. It's a defensive value, not an offensive one. I don't want partner to unilaterally save. I only bid 5 after partner's 4, when I know we have a big fit. I want partner to use some discretion. If I bid 4 over 1, I don't think partner is ever letting them play, even when it's right to do so.
June 30, 2015
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I think I would, even if taking out insurance, let them play 7C. Your K is a big card.
June 30, 2015
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Thanks, all. I held the other hand. 85 AQ2 AK5 J5432. I thought I had a very difficult decision, and finally decided that partner was unlikely to be 6-4 with spades good enough to handle 85 doubleton, but could be 5-5. Moreover, even if not, if his hearts were good, he has a chance to ruff spades high in dummy and return to his hearts, so it might play better.

(NOTE: I intend to post that one, too, but don't love it when you post both sides at the same time, so intend to wait long enough to get honest answers.)

When running the boards, I mentioned that, while I would have bid 2S here, I'm not sure what's right. So I figured I'd ask.
June 29, 2015
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OK, hadn't really thought about it, but clearly, you're right. I usually just assume that constructive bidding is fine.

1 after 1 (0+, no precision short diamond opener a la 2) - (1) - 1 is constructive, shows 8+ playing points (sometimes shaded down a la a standard negative double of 1) and at least 8, and sometimes 9, minor suit cards, but not the values or shape to show a natural 2 level minor. So it's a pretty narrowly defined, constructive bid. It didn't occur to me that narrowly defined constructive bids would be outlawed by the GCC.

It's not that I didn't believe David's comment. It just literally had not occurred to me to check. Now that I have, it's CLEARLY not GCC legal, and I'll have to have that discussion. Thank you.
June 26, 2015
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“BTW, the last option of looking at your hand and try to guess right has not garnered any votes, but is a popular choice in real life. So perhaps Bridgewinner participants are not representative of the bridge playing population.”

Well, that, or we're lying. We all do that to some degree. We just don't admit it.

BTW, and I'm fine with taking this offline to avoid cluttering up a discussion, but, uhm, GCC doesn't allow 1-(1)-1 to be less than 4S? Why not? What specifically disallows it. Clearly the X can be 4 or more spades, so why can't the spades be the other hands with at least responding values?

(Note to self: discuss this with the partner with whom I play this in a precision context!)

Thanks!
June 26, 2015
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This is clearly far afield of the original post, but something I wanted to mention to Gary and Kit. For some of us, it feels like the answer, “We have no agreement,” is simply evasive all too often. Two players who have been playing together monthly or more for 15 years or more may or may not have a specific agreement, but certainly have a feel for each others' bidding. The number of times I hear, “We have no agreement” when they CLEARLY have an understanding is staggering. I end up having to press, “Well, in your experience, what will he have for this call?” Which is not a question I'm allowed to ask.

I have literally heard, from long standing partnerships, that answer about whether a new suit was forcing after an overcall. Of course, the convention card is blank there, too. Yet, when I call the director, I've been accused of being a “bridge lawyer,” and engender bad feelings in the community.

Now, I will say that the better the competition, the less I hear this. But it does mean that you probably get undeserved crap about the answer a lot, and I understand it. We have no agreement might be the proper answer, but it's badly abused by experience players so often that it comes with its own problems.
June 22, 2015
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I'm a spade support guy. With Steve's hand, I bid 3. My rule of thumb is that when I'm not sure what to do and need to hear more, I make the cheapest non-misdescriptive bid I can. I leave partner room to bid 3NT with a heart stopper, having heard that I have values, 3D if s/he is looking for half a heart stopper, 3 if s/he is looking for a full heart stopper, or 3 with a minimum. I'm not concerned about a raise to 4 because: (1) partner is aware the this is a difficult auction for me, so won't be eager to go past 3NT; and, (2) partner is denying a heart stopper, so I'll try 4 and hope partner can make it.

My hand is too good to not bid game. The only important question is strain. I'm going to solicit as much information as I can about strain. That means getting partner to tell me more. Not taking away partner's room to do that strikes me as the key to this type of question. More room taken should mean more information conveyed.

At least, that's what I think. All of my opinions should be assumed to be NON-expert.
June 18, 2015
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If you've ever seen some of my lines as declarer, it's clear I've spent too much time in “fantasyland.”

I love OFCP, but have only ever played it while waiting for the rest of the players to show up for a “normal” game of HORSE, Omaha or NLHE. Part of the appeal to me is that it's a game I don't have a well practiced strategy for yet, where I do in the other forms of poker I play. (Of course, part of that strategy includes deviating from it so that I'm not too predictable, but there's a baseline strategy.) I would certainly love to see players who are better than I (and that's almost everyone) play live or online to learn more.

I think there is some commonality between bridge and poker, but less than some think. There are optimal lines of play in bridge. There are no optimal lines of play in poker. As such, it is rare to see a bridge hand where the poker part plays into it.

But it does happen. Last night, my (very good or expert) LHO had to decide if my partner was up to underleading an ace against a 4 contract. (He was, and he was right, for a 10 IMP pickup.) I posted a problem a few weeks ago where I had to decide how much to read into an opening lead. Those are poker problems as much as bridge problems.

What I usually tell people who play one but not the other is that bridge is a card game. Poker is a money game played with cards. OFCP straddles the two more than most.
June 18, 2015
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Oops. Had the hands reversed in my head. Thought LHO was the opener.

And I still think that's right. I think the key to life here is never attacking a suit if they can do it first.

Well, that and wishing I'd passed 1NT…

There is a possible path, through endplays, to down 1. Undoubled, down 1 doesn't have to be a disaster on these cards. It LIKELY is, but it doesn't have to be. They may well be forced to give me a club trick to go with my 4 top winners. I'll try the J, which will likely lose to the Q, but I have to do something. A bottom is a bottom. Might as well hope for something improbable to get me to 7 tricks.
June 17, 2015
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1) I'm with Tom. Partner had to pass 1NT, no matter how hard that would have been. Yeah. I know. As you're reaching for the pass card, the double just looks so tempting. But I think partner HAS to know you're about to bid 2, as you're too broke to sit for the double. I'd have more sympathy with a direct double, planning to rebid 1NT over 1. But, y'know, that's a good hand pard is looking at. C'est la vie.

2) In this case, I'm leading a low heart, “endplaying” west. And doing that again later. I'm not making this. The goal is to hold down the losses. Yes. I know. LHO can have opened the bidding with Axx KQTxx Qx xxx. Indeed, I suspect that. But I'm sorta screwed here. I don't have a plan to make 2NT. I'm just going to try to get all the tricks I can, hoping to be helped by a misdefense somewhere.
June 17, 2015
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Threshold question. Is this, or is this not, a forcing auction? Yes, we voluntarily bid game, which normally sets up a force. On the other hand, I'm a passed hand. Partner can't know how speculatively I bid game. (Put me in the camp that would have bid 3 or, if it's clearly fit showing, 4 earlier to let partner in on the joke, but I think there's a lot I like about the 4 bid as a passed hand, so I'm not abstaining.)

To be honest, I'm not certain if this is a forcing auction. I'm calling over a caddy, since it's only a forcing auction if either the caddy or the janitor thinks it is.

But I don't think it is. I might have bid 4 as a save. Partner can't know. 1 was not preemptive. It shows a hand. My LHO can have nothing, but most precision 2 openers are a hand that the world opens, too.

Partner may not be in on all of the joke, but s/he has to have something to have bid 2, and I didn't bid 4 as a save. I suspect opener is saving with a hugely distributional hand. And I suspect it's a good save, that we're not getting the value of our game, which I suspect is making. But bidding over 6 counts on partner to have a VERY pure hand, with great major suits. I'm not sure I can do that. My RHO can still have some values.

So, is it worth doubling, just because I think they're going down? Yeah, I think it is. +300 doesn't lose too much to +420 or +450, while +100 does. If we're only +100 instead of +50, oh well. But if it's making, unless it's making overtricks, which I doubt, it only costs 170. I think double is the percentage IMP action.

Of course, I've been wrong before…
June 17, 2015
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