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All comments by Steve Willner
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“Consulting” and “polling” are not the same thing. Consulting is mainly to make sure nothing relevant has been overlooked and secondarily to get a sense of whether any bridge judgments involved are clear or murky. Polling is to help make specific bridge judgments.
Oct. 4, 2013
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In your second, made-up case, North gets no sympathy from me. It may be a failure in my bridge analysis, but if North isn't bidding 3S over a natural, competitive 3D, I see no point at all in bidding it when 3D is a game invitation in hearts. First of all, North has a probable trump trick against hearts, and anyway East can still bid game if he wants. 3S just offers the option of doubling if opponents think that's best.

I also don't see any suggestion in the original post of a poll being conducted. Directors should consult on all judgment rulings; failure to do so would be wrong.
Oct. 3, 2013
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Why is North “always” bidding 3S? It strikes me that holding JTxx in opponents' suit is not the same as JTx, and that bidding is more attractive with the latter than with the former.
Oct. 3, 2013
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Could someone give us brief Wolpert biographies? Where did they grow up, where do they live now, and how did brothers end up in different countries? (Apologies if everyone but me knows the whole story.)
Oct. 1, 2013
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This is the critical question. With 22 teams, 21 rounds, how many rounds can you play with arbitrary schedules and still guarantee that all play all?

The basic idea of trying to make the last matches either meaningless or critical to the teams involved does seem good, though. The question is how to achieve it.

One slight wrinkle is that the two US teams (and any teams containing relatives or other personal relations) should probably play each other early to avoid any suggestion of collusion.
Oct. 1, 2013
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This is a very common view: North has done something the Director or AC views as inferior, so he is not to be given any benefit of score adjustment. Whether one likes it or not, the Laws say something entirely different.

What the Laws actually instruct the Director to do is figure out what North would have done if properly alerted. It strikes me as quite plausible that North would pass when the opponents try to play in a suit where he has four cards with good intermediates. If North does pass, EW will almost certainly play 3D.

The alternative scenario, I suppose, is for North to bid 3S anyway, after which we know what happens. The Director's job is to assign weights to these two possibilities. I personally would give almost no weight to a 3S bid, but weighting the choices 50-50 as the Director did after consultation is within reason.

As Dean wrote, once the weights are decided, the proper procedure is to IMP each score against the other table, then calculate the weighted average of the IMPs. Here that would be 6 IMPs to NS for +200/+50 and -9 IMPs for -420/+50 or -1.5 IMPs net to the team that was NS at the table involved. (Hope I've done the arithmetic right.) As I say, I personally would have given a lot more weight to the 3D-2 scenario.
Oct. 1, 2013
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“Ban” is a bit strong. Multi is legal in Flight A team games at NABCs and where I play (Boston area) at sectionals and regionals. Multi is even legal in at least one pair game here.

It would be fair to say multi is banned in most pair events and in open events, i.e., where all flights are playing in one event.
Sept. 28, 2013
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Stu: would you consider a BoG resolution asking for a single compilation of all the rules players are expected to know? (I'm thinking of the EBU “Orange Book,” which I think is now a “Blue Book.”) One problem now is that ACBL regulations are spread over a whole mishmash of documents, and even with the best intentions, it's difficult to know what the rules actually are. (See my message below, and compare with the original ruling and other comments in this thread.) I'm not claiming a single document will solve all problems, but at least there would be something to point to and study when a case arises.
Sept. 21, 2013
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As it happens, I recently had occasion to look through the ACBL alert rules on this topic. They are quite a mess, but if you follow everything (Alert Procedures, Alert Chart, and Convention Charts) with care, I think the actual rule for direct bids in opener's suit ends up being unambiguous:
1) if the opening 1C is artificial, a natural 2C overcall is not alertable; all artificial 2C overcalls are alertable.
2) if the opening 1C is natural, a natural 2C overcall is alertable; most artificial 2C overcalls are not. (Meanings that are “highly unusual and unexpected” are always alertable.)

The problem comes in determining whether 1C was natural. The “could be short” announcement is no longer sufficient. If 1c is only short with exactly 4=4=3=2 shape, it is now considered natural. (It has always been considered natural if it shows 3+ clubs.) If it could have other shapes with fewer than 3 clubs, it is artificial.

An opening 1D bid that can have fewer than three diamonds is always artificial. Therefore natural 2D overcalls over it are not alertable, but artificial ones are.

The real problem is that the rules are so obscure and hard to follow. As things stand, I think we all have to ask for explanations in every questionable situation. We should do so _regardless of the hand we happen to hold_ (yes, even with a flat zero-count). This isn't perfect, but I think it's the best we can do.
Sept. 21, 2013
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In my ideal world, 4D would show spades and another suit (with 4NT showing red suits). That would be nice here, but I doubt anyone actually has this agreement.
Sept. 19, 2013
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There is no one I respect more than David Burn when it comes to laws and regulations, but he must have written part of his last long paragraph while rushing out the door. A player may not “use UI” to choose a call or play, but he may do so in deciding how to inform opponents. That is, the player's obligation is to give correct information to the opponents no matter how he comes by this correct information. For example, if a player misbids, and partner's alert or explanation “wakes him up,” he can use that wakeup to explain the true agreement to opponents. This may mean explaining according to one set of agreements (the true ones) but bidding according to a different set (the one the player imagined before the wakeup), and that's fine.

I am pretty sure there's a WBFLC “minute” on this subject.

Jeff Rubens has suggested what I believe is a better approach in this area, but so far as I can tell, nobody but me agrees with him. Whatever the future holds, for now we have to play as the current rules dictate.
Sept. 19, 2013
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David's idea is much like what I was thinking, though my idea was to base entries on bridge population rather than BB success. I think David's approach is better.

Personally, I don't see why each zone nor the host country should be given an automatic entry, but my political savvy is… um… not so good.

Wasn't the BB field 8 teams not so long ago? Maybe that's too few for today's wider world, but I don't see why 16 or even 12 wouldn't suffice.
Sept. 19, 2013
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Law 17D2 is correct, but nobody seems to have noted that it calls for an *artificial* adjusted score. That means avg+/avg-, not an *assigned* score such as 6H=. If I were writing the rules, they'd be different, but we have to go by the rules we have.

It is, by the way, an all-too-common fault of ACBL directors to give an artificial score when there's no excuse for it, but in this case, it's mandatory. If 6H= was going to be a great score for the NOS, that's just too bad. (If there's any hint that the OS could have spoiled the board deliberately, that's another matter – Law 23 – but it seems wildly unlikely unless there is something Bud didn't mention.)

As for a PP, the standard ACBL 3 IMPs is probably warranted in a Regional event. At matchpoints, the standard 1/4 board is very heavy; I'd be tempted to give only half that. At a club game, a PP is harsh, only justified for a repeat offender.

To sum up: the NOS scores +3 IMPs, the OS scores -6 IMPs, and VPs are calculated separately for the two teams (and will generally add to less than the normal 20 or 30).
Sept. 18, 2013
Steve Willner edited this comment Sept. 18, 2013
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As several people have pointed out, if partner's tempo tells you he has a third spade, you have to play him for having only two unless doing so is not a logical alternative.

To know whether playing partner for only two spades is a LA or not, we'd have to see the whole deal and play and probably know something about your defensive agreements. That's why I abstained in the vote.
Sept. 18, 2013
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If you want to shorten the event, having fewer teams entered would be a good start. Are there really 22 with a reasonable chance to win?
Sept. 18, 2013
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“Steve's rule” is a replacement for the old “more quick tricks than losers” criterion. It says only open 2 if for any contract the opponents might bid, you can either expect to set it or expect to bid over it and make. (Note “expect,” not “guarantee.”) The given hand fails the rule even for three-level bids by the opponents: you don't expect to beat them, and you don't expect to make 4.

Switch the black suits and the hand is close to satisfying Steve's rule: you expect to make 3 but not to beat their 4-level contract because probably only one spade will cash. Trade the K for a red K, though, and the long-spade hand would be good enough. If you made hearts the long, though, it wouldn't be good enough because that hand (say x AQJTxxx AK Axx) fails the rule for a 3S bid by the opponents.
Aug. 31, 2013
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I didn't think screens are all that expensive, but they slow the game down quite a lot. Or am I wrong? Anybody have figures?
Aug. 25, 2013
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One reason slow play matters is that it ruins the enjoyment of the game for a lot of us. Edgar Kaplan compared slow play to spitting on the table.

Another reason slow play can matter is its effect on the whole event. Obviously this is irrelevant in a KO final, but earlier in the event, players want to know in reasonable time who their next opponent is going to be. The effect in Swiss, BAM, pairs, etc. is obvious.

If there were an easy solution, it would have been put into effect a long time ago. However, I am convinced than _any_ solution starts with deciding who is responsible for being slow. Even this step is not easy (see my other comment).
Aug. 21, 2013
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As Kit wrote, clocks are hopeless. I'm not even sure most Directors would be up to the task. It takes a fair degree of bridge skill to know what is a genuine problem meriting thought and what is an unjustified delay. As others have written, comparison of two or more rooms playing the same deals may provide some guidance, but even that's imperfect because there may be important system or other differences.
Aug. 21, 2013
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The OP might like “The Overcall Structure” (which doesn't apply in this context but contains a similar idea).
Aug. 15, 2013
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