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All comments by Jan Martel
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Thanks, but I really don't deserve the credit. If this happens, BBO will deserve far more thanks than I do.
April 28, 2013
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That's a great idea, if only I could figure out how to do it - the URL doesn't seem to be specific to the player you've searched for. But I'll ask someone who knows more about URLs than I do :)
April 27, 2013
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The name of the event was changed from International Team Trials to United States Bridge Championship over 15 years ago. The change was Rena Hetzer's idea, because she hoped that calling it the USBC would result in more publicity. But there's an old saying about leading a horse to water - we have never been able to persuade players to stop calling it the Trials. Look at this thread - the title is “Why aren't you playing in the USBC?” The first post uses the word “Trials.”

It bothers me that you think decisions are made by “entrenched interests.” When the “entrenched interests” wanted to eliminate the USBC in the Rosenblum year, the USBF chose instead to poll the players and do what a majority wanted. Ever since Mike Becker took over as Chair of the ITTC, he and his successors have tried very hard to keep the decision making process as democratic as possible. The USBF Board has agreed that the ITTC should have the primary say in deciding the Conditions of Contest for the event. This involves far more work than having a dictator or small group of “entrenched interests” make the decisions.

Why don't we have a longer Round Robin? Because the ITTC has consistently voted not to have the event last more than 10 days (11 in two team years). And the ITTC has consistently voted to have the Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final matches be 2 days long. That leaves at most 4 days for the Round Robin and Round of 16. I'm probably the person who would be most disadvantaged if the event were longer - I don't get paid for being there, it's a lot of work, and I miss my horses when I'm away from home. But I voted for a longer event this year. I was in the minority. That's how democracy works.

The WBF has a week long Round Robin not because they think it is more true to form, but because they want everyone who comes to a World Championship to play that long before being knocked out of the main event. The Bermuda Bowl Round Robin cuts from 22 teams to 8. That means you can be plus VPs in the Round Robin and be eliminated. The ITTC, after a lot of discussion, decided that no team should be eliminated if it was plus VPs, which is the reason for having a 2-stage Round Robin with some numbers of teams, and part of the reason we choose to cut to 16 instead of 8 teams. We can (and the ITTC has) debate at length what format will result in the team that is playing best winning. That, after all, is the primary goal. If we can achieve that result and also make it a great event for those who don't win, that's a big positive. But first things first.
April 24, 2013
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Probably I wasn't clear. Combining with a Regional doesn't save us much (if any) money. Regionals don't have screens, so we still have to ship and set them up. Ditto for duplicated boards (not that Regionals don't have them but we'd have to have separate ones). We won't save on directors' fees or expenses, because we need 2 top-level dedicated directors. We might save a little if we need a third director for the Round Robin and the Regional can spare one - that would save us travel for that director (we'd still have to pay the session fees). So the entry fees wouldn't be much lower, if they were lower at all. The only advantage to being at a Regional is that teams that lose have something to play in.
April 22, 2013
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Unfortunately, very few hotels have the sort of playing space we want for the KO stages of the USBCs. Even at NABC's, where ACBL has all sorts of clout and goes to big, nice hotels, the late stages of the Vanderbilt & Spingold are very often in unsuitable rooms (by which I mean meeting rooms without bathrooms in the rooms or large ballrooms separated by air walls, which don't provide adequate sound barriers). In St. Louis, the two Vanderbilt Semi-Final matches were in two different buildings in order to get reasonable sized rooms & the bathrooms for one match were a floor below the playing room; those for the other match were in a relatively public area where someone who was watching the match on Vugraph might easily be using the bathroom at the same time as a player. The San Francisco Marriott was an exception, but it's far too expensive for a Regional, and too big to be interested in the USBC. ACBL has to find a hotel that works for all the other events as well as the main team games. For the USBC, we can be pickier and insist on playing spaces that allow us to have adequate security.

There aren't any Regionals at a suitable time of year that have sufficient additional playing space for the USBC or the USSBC. In 2015 I expect that the USWBC will again be held at a Regional.

We hold a USBC in the Rosenblum year because when we took a vote among USBC participants about whether they wanted to do that, an overwhelming majority (my recollection is about 70%) said they did. The USBC has as its main objective choosing our International Teams, but another objective is running a great event, and the players voted to have that great event every year.
April 22, 2013
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David, you need to separate out “seeding points” and “Positioning Points,” although PPs are an element of seeding points. Teams earn byes ONLY as a result of earning PPs in the immediately preceding USBC, Spingold, Reisinger & Vanderbilt. Thus, although you are of course correct that Chip & Zia are a new partnership, and you are also correct that each of them has maximum ACBL seeding points as a result of their performance with different partners, the Fleisher team's bye to the 2013 USBC Quarterfinal is based on the performance of this exact team in the NABC events, in other words, on performance in events in which Chip & Zia played as a partnership. How many seeding points the team has is irrelevant; they are the #1 seed in the USBC because they did better than any other all-US team in the NABC events.

Seeding points determine the seeding of teams that do not have byes. Those seeding points are a combination of ACBL seeding points & Individual Positioning Points. ACBL seeding points are awarded for finishing in the top 32 in the Vanderbilt or Spingold, or in the finals of the Reisinger. The specific table of seeding points for each finish is in the ACBL conditions of contest at <>;. Individual Positioning Points are the Positioning Points won by teams on which each player played during the year preceding the USBC, so long as the team had no more than 3 non-US players (non-US players also cause the number of PPs awarded to be reduced). You can see the list of PPs & seeding points for teams in this year's USBC on the USBF website (go to <> for a summary of how things are done and links to the PP, IPP & seeding point spreadsheets). Why does the Kolesnik team have more seeding points than the Robinson team? The Kolesnik players have done better recently than have the Robinson players.

About the Round Robin. Usually it is a complete Round Robin. But the Conditions of Contest provide that if only one or 2 teams are to be eliminated, the Round Robin is among only the bottom 4 or 6 teams. I believe that the reason for that is to allow for longer matches between the teams most likely to be eliminated. Had more teams entered, all but the two teams who earned byes as a result of their performance in the NABC events would have played in it. So I don't think it is reasonable to suggest that people didn't enter because they knew only the bottom 6 teams would play in the Round Robin. If that is true, I wish some of those people would share their method of predicting the size of the entry with me - it would make it a lot easier for me to tell the hotel how many rooms we need if I knew, preferably a year in advance, how many teams would enter the event.
April 22, 2013
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Funding for our International Teams comes from the ACBL International Fund, which is distributed to the USBF and CBF to pass on to the players. Thankfully, that fund has grown over the years, and the teams going to Bali will (almost certainly) receive the full US State Department per diem amount ($393) for each day they play plus three days to acclimate to the time zone. There may even be enough money to pay for some of their travel expenses. When I say “thankfully” I mean it. Back in 2001 when I was the NPC for USA2 in the Bermuda Bowl, and Chip was a player on that team, we shared a room (I'm not complaining about my roommate :)) and used miles for our plane tickets, and still spent more money than ACBL gave us for expenses, so I am ecstatic that there is now enough money to get very close to paying the players' & NPC's expenses. But there isn't any left over to spend on coaches & practice, so that is up to the teams themselves.
April 22, 2013
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Steve is correct that International Fund games at clubs support our international teams. But he is wrong that that means the IF money supports the Trials. In fact, that money is used solely to reimburse players on International Teams for part of their expenses to attend the World Championships. I am very grateful that in the last few years the IF money has been enough to provide each player with the US State Department Per Diem amount for the World Championships. This year there may even be enough to provide some portion of the players' airfare. But even if that money could be used to support the Trials (it can't), there isn't any left over.

Steve is also correct that we added the Event Fee for entering the Trials for the 2007 Trials in Chicago. In 2006, the Trials were in White Plains, NY. Joan Gerard negotiated a wonderful hotel contract for us, an anonymous donor contributed $10,000 and we had a large entry. Those Trials lost only $26. The USBF Board recognized that we were never going to duplicate the favorable situation we had in 2006 so if the Trials were going to pay for themselves, we had to raise entry fees. We then examined the expenses and realized, as I explained, that we had substantial expenses before the event started. It seemed reasonable to add an event entry fee to cover those expenses, and that is where the “event fee” came from.

In Chicago, the USBC made a profit of $1200. There also, we had a good hotel contract and some donations (not as much - $3750), so I suppose it should be no surprise that in 2008 we lost about $1500, despite a generous $10,000 donation. Incidentally, I'm not getting these numbers from some secret place - you can see the balance sheets for all of the Trials on the USBF website. Just click on “Past Tournaments” under the USBF Tournaments menu and then on the year you're interested in. If you find one where there isn't a balance sheet, that's my fault, sometimes after the Trials I am feeling overwhelmed and don't get everything done - let me know and I'll post it.

Each year expenses seem to go up. So we lose a little more. We raised the session fees a year or two ago (from $120 to $150 per session) to cover increases in charges for directors mostly. We combined the Women's and Senior Trials, which saves on shipping and allows us to have one director for both events on the last two days. Last year we started holding the Open and the Women's/Seniors at the same site, which saved on shipping charges and also helps us with hotel negotiations. I anticipate that in 2015 we will separate the Women's from the Seniors. The Women's will probably be at a Regional, because the Women's is small enough for that to work and the WITTC has asked to be at a Regional. The Open & Seniors will be at the same site to save on shipping. Before you tell me I'm skipping next year, in 2014, the Rosenblum year, there is only an Open which chooses USA1 for 2015.
April 20, 2013
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“I wonder if representatives of lower ranked teams had a seat at the table.” Definitely. In fact, two of the six or so people who have been most involved in devising the formats are playing in this year's Round Robin. In addition, if I were able to play in the USBC, I would definitely be on a lower ranked team.

Decisions about the USBC Conditions of Contest are made by the International Team Trials Committee (ITTC), which used to meet in person at most NABCs but now holds most of its discussions online. ANYONE can participate in those discussions. Anyone who participates over a reasonable period of time can vote on decisions. As a result, the ITTC is a fairly large group and the email discussions can be extensive. The Technical & Advisory Committee is a smaller sub-committee of the people who have been most involved in discussions. That committee tries to analyze things like specific formats and changes to such things as the requirements for earning byes (as Henry said in an earlier post in this thread, this year the TAC recommended and the ITTC adopted a new scale of requirements which make earning byes harder), as well as technical details. Who's on these committees? They are listed on the USBF website at <>;. Some of them are members of the top-seeded teams, but many are not. Barriers to entry are VERY low.

This year is unusual in having a Round Robin stage with only 6 teams. In most years, all teams except the two or three who have earned byes to later stages of the event play in the Round Robin. This year if one more team had entered, all of the teams except the two bye teams would have played in the Round Robin. It is only when 1 or 2 teams need to be eliminated by the Round Robin that it is limited to 4 or 6 teams.

It feels wrong to me to ask teams to pay for stages in which they don't play. After all, they're already paying an event fee to enter the event. The session fees are supposed to cover the actual costs of each day of play. But I think the main reason we haven't considered asking teams to pay session fees for sessions in which they don't play is that it's so rare for there to be many teams in that situation. I will raise that possibility with the ITTC.

The ITTC has discussed at length holding the first stage of the USBC online. I'm very much in favor of doing so, for the reasons you mention. This year, I finally got the ITTC to agree that IF we had a Preliminary Stage of the event, that could be online. The Preliminary Stage is to eliminate one or two teams BEFORE the Round Robin when there is a “bad” number of teams in the Round Robin. The 6 team Round Robin this year isn't a Preliminary, it's a way of running the Round Robin so that matches between teams most likely to be eliminated by the Round Robin can be as long as possible. Having listened to the discussions about an online Preliminary Stage, I'm afraid that the chance of getting the ITTC to approve having this Round Robin online is very close to zero.

Why has the ITTC been opposed to online play? Primarily for security reasons, but also because many committee members think that online play just isn't the same as face to face play. There's also some concern that it would be unfair to players who don't often play online.
April 19, 2013
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I'll try.
First, the reason for having only the 6 lowest-seeded teams play in the Round Robin is in order to have longer matches between the teams for whom this stage is most likely to be relevant. Yes, that assumes that seeding is accurate and it isn't always, but for this event it's pretty good, because it uses primarily results in the major events over the last ten years, with more recent results more heavily weighted.

When the initial cut is small, we don't want to take a lot of days because there is a limit to how long people think the total event should be. When the field is reduced by no more than 30% we allot 1.5 days to the Round Robin. With 14 teams, you could play a complete Round Robin with each match being 6 or at most 7 boards long in 1.5 days (remember we're behind screens, so allow 9 minutes per board). The drafters of the Conditions of Contest decided that it would be better to have only the teams likely to be eliminated play longer matches. The matches this year will be 16 boards long; they will be played in halves, which is good because it means each player on each team has to play at least half of each match. When matches are played straight through, some teams have tougher schedules than others because of which players play when. If there had been one fewer team, the 4 lowest-seeded teams would have played for 1.5 days to eliminate 1. This choice of format was in the Conditions of Contest when I first became involved with the drafting, so to some extent I'm guessing at the drafter's reasons, but I'm a pretty good guesser.

Second, if it isn't obvious from what I said above, yes, this is in the Conditions of Contest. You can download complete Conditions of Contest for years and years on the USBF website. If you look at very old ones, you will see that the formats are described in terms of percentages of teams qualifying and it's sometimes difficult to understand. The current Conditions of Contest have a chart as well as some written descriptions. I hope it's easier to understand, but I know it's not easy.

Because there are so many different combinations of numbers of slots in the Round of 16 (determined by the number of teams with byes to the Round of 16 and beyond) and numbers of teams in the Round Robin, it isn't possible to give adequate time and effort to each possibility before the actual numbers are known. So we try to guess at likely numbers and decide on the format for those. For less likely numbers we provide that the formats are reviewed after entries close (the blue section on the chart if you're looking at it).

I know you won't believe me, but I'm sure I'm not exaggerating when I say that I and the other members of the Technical & Advisory Committee (TAC) spent at least 50 hours (each) on trying to clarify the chart of formats this year, and that was with a lot of time having been spent in the past on some of the possibilities. For the number of slots we had this year (12), we had formats for from 13 through 20 teams, except that we couldn't figure out a reasonable format for 15 teams (a compete Round Robin involves matches that are too short; 15 can't be evenly divided into two groups). So had one more team entered, the TAC would have had to come up with a format - maybe divide into 3 groups and qualify 4 from each? Maybe add half a day and run a complete Round Robin? I don't know. As it was, we had a format that had been in the Conditions of Contest for a long time and seemed to make sense.

Third, no, the teams who aren't playing the first 3 sessions don't pay session entry fees for those sessions.
April 18, 2013
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Thanks, Tom. Yes, we need Vugraph operators for both the Open and Senior & Women's events. Anyone in the Orlando area who would be interested in helping, please email me (marteljan at gmail dot com).
April 17, 2013
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This is an interesting thread. Thank you for starting it, Henry. I don't want to get into a lot of this, but do want to give you some perspective on the costs, and why they are so high. I have just finished adjusting this year's budget for the actual entry (that affects the entry fees and also the length of the event and how many directors we need when). I expect that the USBF will lose about $9000 on this year's USBC. That is in spite of an event entry fee of $360 per team and per-session fees of $150 per team (there are two sessions a day).

Why is this such an expensive event? Some of it is, as someone said above, a matter of scale. We have two top-level directors for almost all of the event (one of them goes home when we are down to 4 teams). In case no one has hired a national level director recently, it costs about $550 a day, including hotel and per diem. We also have someone to unpack and repack, set up and move all of those wonderful screen tables, duplicate the boards after the first three days, make signs & help the directors. He's a little less expensive than a top-level director, but not much - another $450 a day. We pay for my hotel room & meals - another $175 a day. So each day of play starts out costing $1725. We provide coffee in the playing area. I complain every year at how much that costs, and it varies by day, but the total cost last year was a little over $3000. Hospitality - we provide breakfast and lunch every day. Play starts at 10:00 am, so there isn't a lot of time before play for breakfast (at least for those who don't wake at the crack of dawn), and having a hospitality suite where you can get a quick breakfast is one of the things players appreciate. The break between sessions is only an hour and ten minutes, not really time to get lunch at a restaurant, so we provide lunch. The first few days (how many depends on format and entry - it's 5 this year), there are too many players for us to serve lunch in the hospitality suite, so we make the best deal we can with the hotel to provide lunch. That adds over $1000 a day for those days. For the rest of the tournament we serve lunch in the hospitality suite. We're a lot cheaper than the hotel, but it still isn't free.

The event fees are designed to cover the costs of getting everyone and everything to the tournament. Travel for two directors, one logistics person, one hospitality suite hostess and me. Estimate this year (and Henry is right, Orlando's cheap) is $2500. Shipping for the screens and other supplies, also cheap this year because Orlando is reasonably close to Memphis, about $1000. Pre-duplication of boards for the first 3 days, because with setting up screen tables and lighting and everything else we need, our logistics person can't also do those boards - another $1000. Printing hand records (I suggested just putting them online but the players want pieces of paper) - $500. Rent to ACBL for the screens, bidding boxes, timers, etc - another $500. That's over $5000 before anyone plays a hand. With 16 teams this year, the total event fee is $5760.

Session fees ($300 per team per day) are supposed to cover daily costs. With 12 teams in the Round of 16, the total session fees per day will be $3600. Our cost for staff & hospitality for each of those days will be about $3000, so we will “make” $600. On days with fewer teams, lunch & coffee will be less expensive, but total entry fees will also be less. For instance, for the Finals, total daily session fees are $600. The cost is about $1600. Some of that is for the logistics person, who is actually packing up things to send home those days, so maybe it shouldn't count against those specific days. But overall, the session fees won't cover the marginal costs.

In addition, we provide a lot of Vugraph coverage. Whether Vugraph costs should be part of tournament costs isn't clear, but for what it's worth - I anticipate that we will pay Vugraph operators about $4000 for the event (they get the princely sum of $80 per day). In addition, we are “importing” 4 experienced operators, for whom we'll pay travel and room costs. About another $3500. Go read the thread about the Buffett Cup before you decide whether that's worth it.

This has gotten ridiculously long, for which I apologize. And I really don't want to try to respond to everything else, except to say that any US citizen or permanent resident can enter the USBC. The Credentials Committee review about which someone commented above is for players who are added to a team that has a bye or has won the right to represent the US. I'm about to post a BW announcement for the Senior and Women's Trials this year and will do the same for the Open next year.

And finally, I'm not playing because I have too many other things to do at the tournament. Not being able to play is, for me, the major downside of running the event. I found it a great event to play in, but the last year I played I was just too distracted by trying to play and also deal with administrative things.
April 17, 2013
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Your method is essentially what we play, although I confess that we haven't discussed some of the higher level bids :)
April 1, 2013
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“The Cavendish Calcutta (now moved to Monaco) involved large sums of money. Appeals were heard by the Chief TD, in conjunction with his fellow TDs, along with input from top players.”

I don't know what is being done now, but I do know that when the Cavendish was held in the United States appeals were decided (usually by telephone) by a panel of expert players who were not playing in the event.
March 27, 2013
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As the Vugraph operator at the table for this segment, I can tell you that Debbie is 100% right about the spot cards played - I could almost never see Roy's card, because he tends to play his cards with his right hand and leave his hand on the table - he was sitting South, so I was looking at his cards from his right. Because I was sometimes struggling to see the cards remaining in his hand in order to figure out what card he had played, I think I was not as good as usual at seeing other players' cards if they got turned over quickly.

As for the specific board, all of the explanations and discussion at the table was very quiet (as it should be) and so was Roy's discussion with the director when he summoned him after the hand was over. It was my impression (but really not a very firm one) that the 3 bid was described as showing 5 hearts and not 4 spades. I know that there was also further discussion about the bidding before the opening lead and I could not hear what was said.
March 22, 2013
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As I understand it, the players on team 58 do not speak English, so they asked to be allowed to have Zhong Fu as their NPC, even though he is playing on another team, in case it became necessary to communicate in English.
March 20, 2013
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WBF Brown Sticker regulations cover only opening bids and overcalls, so you can play any responses you want without having them treated as Brown Sticker.
March 8, 2013
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I didn't mean to say that the WBF policy is confusing, just that it provides no more guidance to what things should be alerted with screens that are not alerted without (for instance, I don't think it answers Sabine's question about whether a 4H control bid should be alerted). None of the screen regulations I have seen provide any real description of what is to be alerted differently with screens than without (except for the WBF's statements about doubles and bids above 3NT, and ACBL's statement that bids that are normally delayed alerts should be alerted when they are made).
What I think is missing from all of these screen regulations is a discussion of to what extent bids that aren't “conventions” but might have a meaning that wouldn't be obvious to the opponents should be alerted or explained.
Dec. 10, 2012
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This has been a great thread, thank you , Sabine. As a somewhat impartial observer, I have a couple of comments. First, in response to Sabine, who said:

“Maybe the fact that all conventional bids are alertable behind screens warrants more than just a little footnote on the Alert Chart and deserves its own paragraph in the Alert Rules.”

The ACBL screen procedures are set forth in a separate Conditions of Contest document called “Special Conditions Pertaining to the Use of Bidding Boxes and Screens” which you can find at:

The footnote in the Alert Chart is presumably designed to alert players (and directors) to the fact that one of the provisions in those Special Conditions is that things that are delayed alerts in regular play are to be alerted normally behind screens.

Those Special Conditions don’t address whether bids that are not alerted at all without screens should be alerted behind screens, and there is a lot of variation in whether that is done. Incidentally, the WBF alerting policy (which took me a while to find – it’s at also doesn’t say anything about this. Nor do the WBF General Conditions of Contest or the USBF General Conditions of Contest. So if there’s a difference about what is and isn’t alerted behind screens, it’s custom, not rules.

Second, as I’m sure most of you know, I strongly agree with Michael about pens instead of pencils. In addition to the fact that pens are quieter, notes written in pen are easier for Vugraph operators to read ?. I also understand why ACBL doesn’t give pens – they disappear amazingly faster than pencils. In Philadelphia this summer, BBO generously gave us nice pens to put out on the Spingold Vugraph tables. By the end of the tournament, despite the fact that BBO had given us more a couple of times, there were exactly two pens left. Even when we distribute less nice pens at USBF events (I collect them from hotels all the time; we’ve ordered boxes of cheap ones), there are far fewer on the tables at the end of a session than at the beginning. So pens, like those little golf pencils and convention/score cards, are disposable supplies. And they’re not as cheap as you might think. I know, it’s not much money compared to the cost of the screens and cards and bidding boxes and Bridgemates and directors and playing space and … but all of the costs come out of our entry fees, and we do tend to complain when entry fees go up.
Dec. 10, 2012
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Of course my experience with transfer responses to 1 is in a Weak NT system, so 1 is more likely to be bid with a long club suit, since the balanced hands are 15-19, not 12-14 and 17-19, but yes, we bid 1 of a red suit very light (and we announce that: “1 shows 4 hearts and can be very weak” etc, distinguishing 1 which shows a normal response). But my other point - that at least one of the opponents has already passed - is no different for people using transfer responses in a Strong NT system, is it? The later you are in the auction, the less likely it is that a side that hasn't yet bid will want to.
Oct. 2, 2012

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