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All comments by Jan Martel
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I’m also a big fan of Flannery, and am always amused when Vugraph commentators bash it. We play a structure that’s similar to Steve’s, except that we limit the 2 opening to 4-5 hands and we give up on a natural invitation in diamonds to use 3 as a slam try. This means that 2NT isn’t overloaded by being used for both game and slam investigation, so opener knows immediately whether to evaluate their hand for game or slam. Slam evaluation is helped even more by knowing that partner has at least 2 cards in the other Major, whichever one it is, so secondary values in both Majors are useful.

Our responses to 3 are:
step 1 (3): minimum
step 2 (3): maximum
step 3 (3NT): 5440

If the opponents happen to double 3 or bid over it, we use Pass, RDBL (DBL) and the cheapest bid as the steps, which is our reason for using “step x” instead of the specific bid to describe these responses.

After opener has quantified his hand, responder sets trump: one step is hearts, two is spades. Then opener shows shape, using our “standard” steps: none (4522), low splinter (4531), high splinter (4513). If opener had 5440, it just takes 2 steps to show the splinter. In the worst case, we’re now at 4, when responder is trying for slam in spades and opener has a maximum 4513 hand or is 4504. So we always have room for keycard, which is double keycard (remember responder doesn’t have shortness in the other Major, because she didn’t bid 4m over 2), and often have room to cue bid or make a last train type bid. We’ve been happy with how this structure works and haven’t missed the natural invitation in diamonds. In fact, in partnerships in which we play Multi (because our partners like it), we use 2 as Flannery with the same responding structure and just give up on diamonds entirely.
Oct. 26, 2010
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Flash was always smiling and always willing to help in any way he could. Such a sad shock to hear of his untimely death.
Oct. 4, 2010
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Bryan makes some good points, but I think they are mainly theoretical and not a serious problem with the suggestion Bridge Winners is making. I’ve been a Vugraph operator for a lot of sessions, and I can’t remember a hand where there was a scoring or claim error that the commentators and spectators failed to point out to me. So I don’t think we’d be asking the Vugraph operator to determine that there had in fact been a mistake, we’d just be changing the rules about what sorts of mistakes the operator should report to the Director.

We already tell operators to call the director if the board on the table doesn’t match the one on the operator’s screen - when there’s a mis-duplicated board, we want the director to find out as soon as possible, so the board isn’t played at either table when it can’t be compared. Similarly, when the teams have managed to sit in the same direction at both tables, we want whoever first notices it to tell the director, so we can stop play and get the pairs aligned properly. If it happens to be someone in the Vugraph audience who first notices this (the one time I saw this problem, it was), of course we want that spectator to tell someone, either the operator or the director, whichever is easier.

What I think Bridge Winners is suggesting is that we add to those obvious instances situations in which the wrong score has been entered for some reason. They make the sensible suggestion that in that case, the operator doesn’t have to say anything to the players, because it isn’t necessary for something to happen immediately at the table, but that the operator should tell the director (electronically, or by asking someone not in the room to talk to the director), so that the director can look at the play record and see whether an adjustment should be made. In the simple case where the score entered doesn’t match the number of tricks taken, the director could just adjust. In the more complicated cases where a claim is involved, the director could start the wheels in motion for determining whether the claim should be changed.

Barry’s suggestion about time monitoring is more difficult for me. I know that the computer could calculate the amount of time taken by each player if the operator entered bids and plays in perfect “real time.” My problem is that I also know that there are times when the operator is doing something else during the bidding or play (responding to a spectator, reporting on something that’s going on in the room, in my own case often helping some other operator) and so doesn’t accurately record the time taken. I would be much less comfortable with telling operators that they’re going to be responsible for an accurate calculation of the time players have taken than I would be with telling them to report scoring problems to the director. On the other hand, I hate it when the director asks me after I’ve been the operator for a session in which the table was slow which of the pairs was more at fault - it’s not easy to judge that unless you are really focused on the time taken on each hand. So I have mixed feelings - in some ways I’d prefer to have the computer judge the time taken, since then I wouldn’t have to; but I’d also worry that if the computer was “counting seconds” I’d have to stop doing things that make me less accurate at reporting things as soon as they’re done.
Oct. 1, 2010
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In retrospect, I agree that I should not have discussed the hand with you - if your team decided not to ask that the result be changed, I could be disappointed but I should not have pursued the matter further. I do not believe that I could or should have approached the TD, surely you don't either, do you? I did ask the TD about the score correction period, and was told that it expired 30 minutes after the completion of a segment.
Sept. 26, 2010
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1) I don't agree with your memory of the facts - I believe that Kyle showed Brad his hand, Brad claimed down 2 and Kyle agreed. But I don't think that's relevant. My point about what happened at the table was that having the Vugraph operator ask for confirmation of the score didn't wake anyone up to the fact that there had been an erroneous claim.
2) I wasn't at the table in Geneva, but the initial post in this thread stated that after 2 tricks had been played, the defender showed the declarer his KQx of clubs and they then agreed on -4. Apparently that wasn't correct, but that is what the post said (and the only reason I know it wasn't correct is the post by Onno, which wasn't there when I commented). I certainly agree that there should be a difference between the number of tricks actually taken and the number of tricks that were going to be taken, although apparently the committee in Geneva disagreed (there are two different correction periods, one for “manifestly incorrect” scores and a shorter one for all other score corrections; I would have thought that entering a score for a different number of tricks than actually taken at the table fell under the “manifestly incorrect” language).
3) By the time the side that was damaged knew about what had happened, the time period for score corrections had expired (it is very short). I told your teammate (who was not going to play any more boards in the match) about the error immediately after the second quarter, before the score correction period expired, in a foolish attempt to give your team the chance to correct the error before the second half started. Your team chose not to do so when they didn't know if it was relevant or not.
I guess the people who never claim are right if you seriously believe that had Kyle played the hand out he would have lost another trick.
Sept. 26, 2010
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Barry Goren says: “Oh and BTW this probably can't happen again . When the score of 1100 is posted on BBO Vugraph there would be 5000 specs screaming in Roland's ear that the score should be 1400 . The VG operator would check with the players and that would probably wake them up”

I don’t think that’s so clear. As a Vugraph operator, I frequently ask the players what result was claimed, sometimes because my mind was wandering, sometimes because the players weren’t clear about what result was being claimed, sometimes because a spectator or commentator has suggested the the score “must” be something else, sometimes because my screen tells me that one side or the other has already taken more tricks than claimed, sometimes just to be sure. I ask often enough when the players haven’t made a mistake that I don’t think they can infer from the fact that I’m asking that I think they have mis-claimed. I try very hard not to express any surprise or doubt when I ask, and I don’t ask more than once even when I am certain they’ve made a mistake. I have seen enough boards on which the wrong number of tricks were claimed and my question didn’t cause a change in what the players thought, particularly when under time pressure, to think that the Geneva incident could arise again today. Perhaps Vugraph would mean that someone on the team would learn of the error before the period for score correction expired, though.

Hendrik Sharples: “I suspect today any team in this situation would simply step down and let the rightful winners play the next set.”

I hope so, but I’m not as confident about this as you are. There was a hand in the finals of the New Orleans Spingold that could have led to a situation almost identical to the one in Geneva. Here’s the hand:
{handviewer b=26&v=b&d=e&wn=Rose Meltzer&nn=Fred Gitelman&en=Kyle Larsen&sn=Brad Moss&w=sj842hkj85djckj86&n=skt97hqt9432da7c7&e=sa53had9863ca9543&s=sq6h76dkqt542cqt2&a=1c1ddbl1hp2d3c3d3sppp&p=dkdjdad3d7d9dts2h5h2hah6s3sqs4s7h7h8h9s5cac2c6c7c4ctcjsth4c3s6hjcqcks9c5ht}

At this point, declarer claimed -2. If he had played the hand out: pitch a diamond on the heart, cash the spade A and cash winners, he'd have been -1. The only way to go down 2 was to concede a trick to the stiff K of spades by playing a high club instead of the A of spades. Certainly a possible play, but not one you would expect a good declarer to make. Similarly, on the Geneva hand, the defenders could have let declarer out for -4 if they had set up dummy’s hearts and not cashed their spade, but no one has suggested that would have happened if the hand was played out.

Immediately after the second quarter of the match, and before expiration of the period for score corrections, I told a member of the Diamond team about the hand, expecting, like Hendrik, that they would have the score corrected. They didn’t.

The New Orleans Spingold was decided by 4 IMPs, so the score on Board 26 was irrelevant, but if Sontag had gone down 2 instead of 3 on the penultimate board of the match, he would have saved 2 IMPs, and the 2 IMPs error on board 26 would thus have prevented a tie, perhaps deciding the match.
Sept. 26, 2010
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My first instinct was to bid 4, but then I wondered whether that might be non-forcing, so I discussed it with my better half. We agreed that there was some ambiguity about whether 4 was forcing, and also agreed that we wanted to make a move towards a club slam with this hand. So what do the bids mean?
3 is presumably either a hand where we don't know what to do (if 4 is forcing, maybe 3 could be bid on a hand that would like to bid a non-forcing 4 for instance) or an advance cue bid for one of partner's suits - not suitable with QTxx.
3NT is surely to play, taking into account that partner has doubt about it (with a hand with running clubs, partner would probably just bid 3NT).
4 shows a preference for clubs over hearts and no-trump but is it a good hand or a bad one?
4 is also not completely clear - probably it's a cue bid for one of partner's suits but maybe it's natural. Would we have bid 1NT with Qxx, xxx, KQJxx, xx? Probably not, so that makes it a cue-bid, but not clear for which of partner's suits.
4 is surely to play
4 by our rules would be Keycard for hearts
That gets us to our unpopular choice of 4NT. That can't be natural (how could we have a hand that would bid 1NT the first round and make a natural 4NT bid now?). It's not Keycard by our rules, because 4 is. It's not a substitute cue bid in spades, because we have 3 available. It's not exclusion Blackwood in spades because we bid 1NT, so clearly don't have a spade void. So it's a slam try in clubs, which is what we wanted to do.
July 10, 2010
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