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All comments by John Miller
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In a knockout at the DC nationals, my RHO opened a 10-12 NT all red, I passed, LHO bid 2N, alerted as “any two-suiter, less than invitational,” partner passed, and RHO now bid 2D. I had a 55 one-count, but the auction marked partner with a good hand, so I accepted the 2D bid and bid 2S. That turned out to be our fit, and we got to a cold 4S opposite partner's semi-balanced 16-count.
May 17, 2013
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Do you play support doubles? If so, I'm inclined to bid 3. I can't construct a hand where it's right for partner to bid this way without at least five spades, unless he has something like six clubs. In any case, I think we're likely to have a better game than 3N
May 11, 2013
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The other problem was that opener had inadvertently “psyched” a strong, forcing, artificial bid, which is also a no-no. I was a college kid and these were college kids in a club game, so I didn't want to get into a complicated ruling. I simply told the various players what their obligations were and moved on.
May 10, 2013
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Thirty years ago I qualified as a director to start a club at my college. Although several players went on to become quite good, at the beginning most were rank novices. Once I was called to a table where the auction had begun 2 P. The partner of the 2 bidder was deciding whether to bid 7N with his twenty count when the player in fourth seat asked what 2 meant. Opener replied “weak.” With three separate rules violations and lots of unauthorized information, I assigned an A+/A-. Probably the A+ should have been average because of the ask out of turn, but I doubt I did that with the level of the players.
May 10, 2013
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Anybody want to assess the blame on the auction at our table: 1 - (3) - 4 - (4) - P - (P) - X - (5) - P - (P) - 5? And, yes, John Adams, I know your opinion already.
April 26, 2013
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I understand Philip Roth has been inspired to begin a new project on the subject of mental masturbation on bridge forums. Its title … “Pokorny's Complaint”
March 30, 2013
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I only play one convention named after Jacoby … the transfer one
Sept. 13, 2012
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Ron, I know the hand too (I jumped to 6S over 4H - P - P), and I think everyone has glossed over the negative inference of no Namyats opening. You said you would be willing to defend 6S, but I don't see why. You may have a trick among your KT of diamonds and Q of clubs (you did), but your heart length kills any defense in your partner's hand (and makes it more likely he has AQJ of hearts, and therefore no defense outside). So, I think you have two choices … bid 7H, if you think it is going for less than game, or lay low. I think in this case I would lay low (you did), but then let them play 4S or 5S. Of course when partner whacks 4S that will complicate matters.

Preempting Blackwood is of little use when there is a substantial probability of a heart void floating around. Raising hearts directly, or inferentially with some Blackwood bid makes my 4th seat decision easier because I have more confidence that partner has no wasted heart values. Note that if you switch your hand with your RHO's then 6S goes down. If I were white and my opponents were bad, I might sow some confusion by bidding 4S, but -900 isn't likely to be a great score at matchpoints.

I can't imagine bidding just 4S with AKQTxxx none A9xx AK. Well, it was likely a safe contract. I wondered if 5S would be invitational, but I think it asks for a heart control and I don't know how partner would know whether to accept.
Sept. 13, 2012
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I believe Meckwell play 3 over 3 as a relay after which they can bid a “doubtful” 3N. I don't think this is the hand for it, though, because as I understand it the doubt refers to the need to run the suit, and the 3 preemptor is never solid, so KQJTxxx is the best it can be.
Aug. 20, 2012
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If declarer plays quickly to trick one, either my partner or I, whoever made the opening lead, will announce that we have a mandatory pause at trick one, even with a singleton, and declarer should take no inference. We find it especially important in planning our Smith signals against NT so we make those plays in tempo. Although we have run into a few players who object to us making that announcement, most good players simply say “Thank you, take your time.”
July 18, 2012
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In your example about the NT invitation BIT, you assume responder had a maximum invite and was choosing between inviting and bidding game. It is also possible that he was choosing between pass and inviting. While certain established partnerships may have tendencies that support the contention that responder has a maximum pass, it is not obvious to me that in general this is a UI situation. If the guidance is always pass when in doubt, an unethical responder could make a slow invite with a minimum hand, knowing that partner will be constrained to pass with all but a clear accept.
July 18, 2012
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I echo Bob's sentiments strongly. What makes the Nationals doable for me is that I can work in the morning. Looks like I'll be working from 8-11 at night this tournament.
July 10, 2012
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Great story about Bob. It echoes an experience I had almost thirty years ago when I won a Sectional Swiss in Cherry Hill NJ and the next day Norman Kay called me up to congratulate me. The truly great players are not only ultimate competitors in their own right, but are generous in recognizing the accomplishments of others.
June 9, 2012
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It seems as if the ACBL defense is flawed in that it does not cater to the contingency of passing 2D with a weak hand and no diamond suit. It says “defend as if a weak 2D.” Well, if 3rd hand doesn't have to have diamonds, that's not a good solution. If you have the west hand accurately, then I would want to reopen, but given the defense, I would guess to double even though I'm not sure that's best theoretically. I'm going to have to revisit with my partner how we handle 2D - P - P.

I'm going to have to think more about the ethical issues.
May 8, 2012
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Isn't 5N grand slam force for diamonds?
May 7, 2012
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I should have put 4H as an option. The problem with jumping to 6H, as I see it, is that if clubs is your fit, and 6H is going down, the opponents might be nice enough to defend. At the table this hand bid 4S, I bid 5S, and it went pass, pass, 6H. Holding the club A, stiff diamond K and JT9 tight of hearts, I didn't think it right to sac, especially as the auction was peculiar, and partner, with xxx, void, T8xxxx, Txxx, couldn't know for sure that they weren't making a grand, so we were -1430 … for a push. RHO sure had a few nervous moments as his partner pondered what 4S followed by 6H might mean, before he passed. With A and a trump opening lead, the sac would have gone for 1100.
May 7, 2012
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On the last board of the semifinals of the Platinum Pairs, needing only an average board against Diamond & Platnick to qualify for the finals, I picked up a 4333 six count and, white vs red, had two passes in front of me. I thought about opening a precision 1D, but John Adams and I had discussed this before and his voice in my ear said I probably shouldn't. I don't know if it would have “worked,” but the risk-reward would have been on my side because we got 3 out of 25 for giving them a clear path to 3N from the correct side. Some of you might think me actively ethical, and others might think me a chump, because clearly those guys were not going to call the director on me.

On a fairness level, I am confident that any of the three precision pairs playing in the trials finals today will feel no compunction about opening 1D light if they feel it is right, and I, playing today in the quarters of the District 6 GNT's, will feel constrained not to do so. That difference is not a reflection of the experience of the field; the pairs we will play today have handled many light openers in their bridge career. At a fundamental level there is something wrong here.

On the merits, I don't find the light 1D opener a “controlled” psych in the sense that term was traditionally used. As I understand it, the ethical issue is that the partner of a frequent psycher, over time, gets an unfair advantage in fielding psychs that his opponents, who see the pair rarely, do not have. In this case it is a system design that makes the light bid more likely to work, rather than partner leaning one way knowing your tendencies. We open all 11-counts and a lot of 10-counts, so it is close to impossible for a third seat opener to be raised to game, or even to 2N for that matter. Knowing that I won't have to bid again makes the light 1D opener attractive. Partner of the bidder rarely is in a position where, in choosing his action, he has to consider that I have opened a little or a lot light.

In a club game recently I picked up xx xxx Jxx AKQJx, and opened a 14-16 NT in third seat. This was more likely to work for me than a standard pair because of our NT range and light opening style. I did not have to worry about partner jumping to 3N. When he bid Stayman, I passed for an excellent board. If you see something ethically wrong about what I did, I'd like to hear it, because it seems to me to just be an intelligent deviation that is likely to work because of our system structure. Ultimately, I see little difference between opening 1N on this hand and opening a light precision 1D.
May 6, 2012
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Bob, I think your comment gets to the heart of the matter, which is whether or not it is feasible to make this particular signal context sensitive. As I reflected on JD's comment, I realized I was missing something. Imagine 4th hand's holding in the suit led being 1) J8, 2) J2, 3) 8, and 4) 2. Playing upside-down, 4th hand may think he's given the correct attitude signal at trick one with 2) and 3), and can move on to suit preference. However, how does the leader distinguish between 1) and 3), or 2) and 4)? He can't, so I get the idea that if you play Smith, then it has to always be Smith in this situation. In the end it may not be the signal partner needs, but at least you won't get your wires crossed.

On the other hand, it isn't entirely clear to me that Smith is the best signal here. Usually if it is right for the opening leader to continue his suit when in a second time, declarer would have ducked the A at trick 1. Admittedly, there are some poker aspects to this, but with A-empty he would look silly winning trick one deceptively to put off a continuation by LHO only to have RHO turn up with the outside entry and short enough that he could have ducked to cut communications. And if you make suit preference a priority here, there is the possibility for context-sensitive changes in signal. For example, if one of dummy's unplayed suits is six solid, that can be ruled out for suit preference, so in context the signal could revert to Smith. But how good does dummy's suit have to be for that to apply? AKJxx? AQJxx? Any suit with the A? These are the issues I haven't thought much about, but I think if you are to adopt a context-sensitive approach to what signal you send, then there need to be some default ground rules to avoid disasters.

Curious how many abstentions there are - must think the topic is interesting, but not readily hashed out in many partnerships.
April 28, 2012
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You can get lucky and a singleton be unambiguous … 9 playing upside down or 2 playing rightside up …
April 27, 2012
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I find the attitude that because they are “better players” or “world class” that they should not rely on the rules as written is very disturbing. Twice in the last year I have had committees rule against me on the premise that I was a better player than the opponents and should know better than them what they are doing despite their clear (mis)information about their agreements. Meckwell have a lot to remember, and it's entirely credible that given the ACBL rules, they may simply decide to not put the time into remembering all the details of the Multi defense. To argue that becuase of their status that they shouldn't rely on the written defenses is crazy.
March 22, 2012
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