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All comments by Ron Zucker
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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!)

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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Learn what is really your fault and what you can't control. It does no good to try to fix the stuff you can't control.

Understand that others are also doing the best they can. At the bridge table, try to see partner's “mistake” from his/her perspective and see what made him/her choose a losing action. At work, try to understand why somebody else, doing the best s/he could, made a mistake. Figure out if it was a failure of communication (I should have signaled better), a failure of judgment (maybe we need to take this into account), or a failure of your corporate culture (maybe we should change our bidding agreements). Address what you can, but remember that partner/your colleague is also trying to do well.

On the other hand, if you screwed up, admit it promptly and see what you can do to fix it. At the bridge table, you file it away and try to learn from it. At work, you need to do the same. It's harder at work, both because there's less tolerance for failure and because mistakes can cost real money. But you can only do what you can to fix it. You still have the next board, and you still have the next decision that needs to be made at work.
June 11, 2015
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While obviously well intentioned, and clearly made in an effort to help the organization responsible for the game we both love in North America, I'm not convinced this proposal is a slam dunk. While many associations do have term limits, it's far from universally recommended, and my experience is assuredly mixed. Full disclosure: I am a non-profit worker, and long time non-profit senior staffer. What follows comes completely from my own experience, not necessarily from universal experience. I have served on boards and of staff of organizations both with and without term limits.

A few things that need to be considered. First, unlike many non-profit boards, the ACBL board is voted on by the units within the district the board member represents. That means that the election itself represents an electorate's view of what they need, rather than a self nominated group.

That is an important distinction from most non-profit boards, in which a volunteer is invited to join. Indeed, most boards with a term limit are not those in which the members are elected by smaller constituent groups. Those with representative governance are much less frequently constrained by term limits.

I have served on my unit board on two occasions. In that time, we've been lucky enough to have two dedicated and impressive people in my time representing us on the Board of Directors. The check here against the sort of featherbedding that frequently sinks non-profits, of course, is the election. If the ACBL chose the Board, I would agree with you. But they don't. Districts, as represented by their units, do.

In other words, the proper response to unhappiness with board actions is to volunteer locally. It's not hard to challenge a national Board member who is not representing you. But it does require you to volunteer first. I think that's a reasonable requirement.

Second, the ACBL's job is two fold. One is to promote bridge. The other is to hold enjoyable events – tournaments – for the membership. Most of our Board members have significant experience in one or both of those. That experience is invaluable. Replacing it doesn't happen just because you term limit the board.

Indeed, due to a sudden death, I was pressed into becoming the Sectional Tournament chair. I cannot count the number of mistakes I made because my predecessor was no longer around. New blood is good. New blood without the guidance of experience is, well, bloody.

I fear that negative experience, with all of the mistakes I made, would be repeated if we imposed term limits.

Third, the Board is largely self selected by those willing to serve. Look, there is not enough reward on the planet to make me be a Director. If you told me that Board Members get to play one day each NABC with their choice of Meckwell, Hamman or <insert great expert everybody would enjoy a game with of your choice>, I still wouldn't/couldn't do it because I work for a living and can't afford the vacation time. Our local Board representative, who also works for a living, makes a significant sacrifice to serve the game. How many are willing or able to do that? Or is the board to become solely the province of those who can afford to make that commitment?

Finally, I'm not a fan of term limits in general. We all have some politicians, board members or other representatives we'd like to get rid of. Unfortunately, it is often someone ELSE'S representative. We tend to be satisfied with ours. That's part of why there's so little turnover in the U.S. Congress, even though satisfaction with Congress as a whole currently runs about 17% in most polls. Yes, there is financial and incumbency advantage, but political scientists frequently point to the confirmation bias inherent in a reelection. I voted for him/her before. I therefore tend to think s/he is doing a good job.

The problem is that sometimes that person IS doing a very good, or even excellent, job in the role. Moreover, the institutional memory that is able to say, “We tried that and it failed, but got these good results from it, so if we're going to try it again, we should do so with these changes to avoid our previous failures” in invaluable.

And term limits, designed in part to force those who are not doing as good a job, throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I understand the impulse to term limits. All too often, the bathwater is brackish and disgusting, and anything that sits in it risks being contaminated. And surely we could use a few new members on the Board. I strongly suggest that you run. If you don't currently serve on your Unit board, please run for it. We usually go begging for people to serve. From there, tell people that your eventual goal is to be a Director. Start learning what it takes to do the job.

Given your commitment to the game and the organization, evidenced by your writing this in the first place, I suspect you'd be wonderful at it. Having served on the Unit Board here, I'd be happy to suggest areas where we, and almost all of bridge, go wanting for expertise and skill. I believe with all my heart that anybody who cares enough to post this would be a good candidate. I will try to help you if I can.

I'm not certain it would be a disaster to impose term limits. Perhaps it would be healthy. But I'd need a lot of convincing. Simply appealing to a set of best practices ignores the current governance. We are not FIFA. We lack their budget, and we lack their reach. The current board is far from perfect, but I don't see a fix just by mandating turnover. Indeed, I'd like the President's term to be expanded so that s/he can have more of an effect on the organization.

Again, that's all just my experience. But it does come from a lifetime of non-profit work, volunteering and management. I've served on any number of boards in my career. Things can always be done better, but different does not imply better.
June 2, 2015
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I have few concerns about bypassing 3NT at IMPs when I have a slam suitable hand. Yes. I might get too high. Give partner, for example, xx Axx QJTxx KQx and 2D is a fine bid – you'd bid the same, most likely, without the Q – by partner, and I've gotten us (potentially) too high. But 3NT hasn't made yet on those cards, as a club lead makes 3NT 50-50. Meanwhile, I'd hate to find partner with Kx Axx ATxxx QJT, and, after partner went out of his/her way to suggest a high level diamond contract, end up in 3NT. 1-2-2-2NT-3 is going to sound like a club concern, and you might not bother, bidding 3NT over 2NT, since 2NT promises a club stopper there.

With that said, I think you want to be careful about the 4 bid. First, some partners will object, and I might think they're wrong, but I don't want to blow up a partnership on a hand like this. So partner better be on the same page. Second, it's clearly out of the mainstream. See the result of the poll for proof. So you are staking it on your judgment being better than the field's. I'm not sure that's such a great decision, either. I do it all the time, but that's because I think a lot of the fun of bridge is staking my judgment against the field's when we disagree. That takes a certain, uhm, well, I'm not sure whether to call that confidence or hubris.

Finally, I prefer to play that an inverted minor does NOT deny a 4 card major. If you play as I do, 2 is the obvious bid. But few players I've played with play that way, at least until/unless I convince them that it's the right thing to do. So I assumed I'm playing with a random partner who hasn't had that conversation, and therefore the 2 bid denies a 4 card major. If I'm wrong about that, I'll be coming back to change my vote!
June 1, 2015
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OK, I admit, I assumed 2NT followed by 3 over 3 is choice of red suits. I didn't realize you were asking, as your follow ups indicated, whether or not to bid game. I was trying to find the weakest way to get to the 3 level!

Partner didn't have a direct X of 1. S/he is trying to compete for the part score. I respect that, and agree with the approach, even at IMPs. I hate losing a match 6 IMPs at a time. I know I have a few nice cards (though the QJ of spades could only be worse for offense if they were face up during the auction). But partner has heard the auction, too, and is, I suspect, already bidding those cards. I have a lot of losers, and no compelling reason to think I can make them all go away. It sure looks like I start with two spade losers. Do I really think I can hold everything else to 1 loser? I don't.

At IMPs, I'm perfectly happy if they take the push to 3. So if partner is not going to read my 2NT and continuation correctly, put me down for 3. If s/he is, I'll stick with 2NT.
June 1, 2015
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And, indeed, it took away a winning option. Say Don leads a trump. Now, I can choose to win in hand, play the A, ruff a spade, play a club to the ten, and ruff another spade. Now, I can pull trump, cross to the diamond and pitch 3 hearts on the pointed suit winners in dummy. It was effective, even beyond my bad guess as to line of play.

As I said, neither Don nor I are true experts, but we're not incompetent, either. He knew that my attacking hearts wouldn't work. My question was whether or not I should infer that he knew that, too.
May 29, 2015
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I like to mark on my card that I play responsive doubles through 7 (doubles of 7 are for penalty, not takeout!). But that wasn't mentioned. I think this is a responsive double, but without that agreement, I pass, despite hating to pass with a trump void.
May 28, 2015
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Huh, there was a comment that seems to be gone from you that you could put this into the semi-forcing 1NT bucket. And then I think you might have meant that you could put the invitation hand with diamonds into the semi-forcing 1NT bucket. And now I'm not seeing any of that. OK. Yes. I agree. This is a game force over 1, no matter how bad the 1 opener is.
May 28, 2015
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I disagree about putting this one into the 1NT semi-forcing bucket, John. Give partner a roach 11 count with misfitting cards. Offhand, I'll say QJxxx xx Qx KQJx. I think you want to be in 4 red at IMPs. And that's a totally aceless wonder with a short quack and wasted values in clubs. Of course partner will pass 1NT. The comparison is always fun when it's “-620. Plus 150. Lose 10.”

I can't think offhand of a set of cards that gives us less play for 4 (though I admit that my imagination of how bad partner's hand can be after s/he opens is often surprised). I don't think I can bid 1NT semi-forcing here.

And if you tell me that you always reply to the semi-forcing 1NT with a 5-4-2-2 hand, I think you'll end up in a lot of bad games. Partner's allowed to believe you don't have a minimum once you reply.

Or am I misinterpreting and you want to put the invitational hand with diamonds into the 1NT forcing bucket, and just pray partner is never 5=4=2=2?
May 28, 2015
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I play 1NT semi-forcing. With 2 aces, one with a helpful Q and Kxx of spades, if partner opened a piece of trash, I still want to be in game too often to bid 1NT. So I have to make a game forcing bid of 2 or 2. Moreover, I think bidding 1NT, even if 100% forcing, plans the auction poorly. Say partner rebids 2 (non-Gazilli), I'm fresh out of forcing noises. All I can do is bid 4. There are a number of hands less than GF strength over 1NT that have solid play for slam, but partner really can't investigate, especially if my bid might be based on a 3 card limit raise that I've upgraded due to concentrated length or values in clubs.

(NB: I have a sneaking admiration for 2, as it will help partner evaluate his/her hand better if we belong in 6, but I'd hate to have partner start counting tricks with Kx and think there is a likely 4th trick available in hearts though ruffing them out.I think partner is allowed to count that when it's an 84% chance.)

Which minor I bid depends on my partnership, and that's what makes this a difficult poll to answer. If I have followups, and I do in a lot of partnerships, 2 seems easy. But with a pickup partner, 2. So I answered what I'd do if I'm playing my preferred responses, not what I'd do at the table opposite a pickup partner, even a pickup expert partner. Since follow-ups are not standard, nor even expert standard, I don't think it's a great idea to assume partner is on the same wavelength I am. (For extra credit, we can ask why any expert would play as a pickup with me. Assume I'm dripping in cash…)
May 28, 2015
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I agree that those are dicey, but note something important. Those are dead minimums for the auction so far. Partner could have a better hand. It does happen. Meanwhile, I think that realistically 3 is functionally ending all auctions. No matter what or how good partner's hand, the auction is over. I think 3 seems a tad too little. 5 seems a LOT too much. If I could find a 3.5, or even a 3.25, diamond card in my bidding box, that would be perfect. Since I can't, I have to decide between 3 and 4.

After further consideration, I suspect you're right. My gut told me that there is 4 level safety, but, despite its size (I'm a happy fat guy with a beard), it's far from guaranteed. I was easily able to construct a hand good enough to bid on over 2 that wasn't strong enough to make 4. For example K Kx AJxxx AJxxx isn't great. It's far from a no play hand in 4, and is still not going to 5, but would be happier in 3.

As I say, I'm not changing my vote because I think it's important to keep the vote you'd make at the table. But I think you're probably right. One of my favorite partners is fond of pointing out that I have a bad tendency, when I start to tank, to overbid. (Worse for him is that he now knows this and ethically has to ignore it.) I think I looked at this one long enough to fall in love with it, and that's just not healthy.

And, thank you for adding a data point to back myself down when I fall in love too hard with a hand.
May 26, 2015
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In standard/2/1, 1-1-2 covers a multitude of sins, anything up to a functional 19 count. Moreoover, the fact that my non-vul opps haven't bid suggests that partner has hearts and not spades. Perhaps 0-3-5-5, which meshes just TOO well for this hand.

Partner could have the worst possible spade holding and game is good enough to be worth bidding white at IMPs, I think. Say x Ax AJxxx KQJxx. And if s/he is void of spades, that's not terrible. – Axx AJxxx AQxxx needs 3-2 clubs and one of two minor suit finesses onside, which is 75% of 68%, or 51%.

Yes, those are excellent hands for my hand, but partner heard me make a minimum 2 bid and wanted to invite anyway. I know it's not a lot, but I'm taking a shot on this one.
May 21, 2015
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Why, look! I have a 3-3-3-3 hand!

The thing that sways me is Axx. I can hold up in hearts twice, which should help shut out West. But suits tend to break badly after a preempt, so I can't bring myself to bid 7xxx. At MPs, I would just pass, but at IMPs, I can't afford to double a red preemptor into a red game, especially when partner is in balancing seat and might need to take action a bit light, since s/he is the one with shape.

I also think it depends a lot on what day it is. Today, I'm bidding 3NT, but tomorrow I might choose 3. I'm always impressed by a problem with votes for 4 answers, and there are people whose opinions I respect in each of those 4 categories. That's why I'm curious. Did this happen at the table, or did it come from your fevered brow?
May 21, 2015
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We recently had a discussion during a 24 board (short) KO match (our table was a solid 30-45 minutes faster than the other table) wondering whether blame transfers are alertable or merely need to be announced…

I think a whole lot depends on how you play after opener's 2 bid. But I was influenced by the comment that it's a 4 card major system into convincing myself that there is at least some likelihood of finding a 3 card support over there. I play a good bit of 4 card majors, and this is the set of inferences I would have taken (to get to the push).

Partner doesn't have 4+ spades (I agree with partner's estimation of those spades, but I can't take that into account on the auction). S/he doesn't have 5 card diamonds and 2 card tolerance, since 2 is such a perfect punt here (though a lot depends on what 3D would have been immediately, and what you'd expect for 2D). And partner doesn't have 4+ clubs. So the likelihood is higher that partner has a balanced 8-10 count with three bad hearts, and chose 1NT because this is unlikely to be a good moysian hand.

(With a weak hand and 3 card support in 4CM, I prefer to raise immediately. Again, take that with a grain of salt if your tendencies are different.)

I don't know how practiced a partnership this is, but 4CM changes hand evaluation a bunch. I think it points to taking the high road on these cards.
May 19, 2015

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