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All comments by Kevin Bathurst
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My opinion is that previous year’s USBC results should be a factor in ranking the current USBC, so PP’s should be used to rank teams rather than deep-PP’s. I also think the previous year’s trials should count towards determining how deep a bye is granted, so the deep-PP’s should be eliminated entirely.

If we're using the past USBC to help rank the field why not use it to determine byes too? Byes should be a reward for good performance through the year. If using the V/S/R is a good way to award byes then using V/S/R/trials is better. There's no risk of a team winning every year only because of the advantage of having won the previous year's trials. The extra PP advantage isn't big enough.

Yes I know I don’t usually participate in the ITTC. I’m offering my opinion here because I objected to the way the the rankings were decided this year by deep-PP. Rankings were also done by deep-PP in 2012 and 2013. It seems to me to be in contradiction of the language for ranking teams spelled out in the CoC for roughly at least the last 10 years. Strangely there was no section regarding ranking teams in the 2017 CoC. Marty and Alan also seem to interpret the language the way I do.

There is almost no advantage to being the 1 seed as opposed to the 2. The 3/4 is always a shuffle, as are groups of all lower seeded teams. The only difference is who chooses first for seating rights if those two teams ever play. Should that be changed? I don't know.
June 29, 2017
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ty, fixed
Feb. 21, 2015
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Someone requested the real hand here, partner held:
KQ
Kx
AJxx
AKJxx
May 12, 2014
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Partner actually held AKJxxx KJxxx JX -. You can decide where you want to be.
May 11, 2014
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The Cooler!!
Feb. 26, 2014
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For those interested: the actual hand had Kx and AKQ in dummy, and 6412 in declarer's hand with AQJx AK. There doesn't seem to be anything surprising about that. You have to lead a diamond to prevent declarer from pulling trumps before cashing diamonds and then taking a heart finesse. It's not partner who needs the ruff, it's you. My partner led a spade and was furious with himself for not finding the diamond lead for the correct reason. Many people mentioned the entry cutting effect of a diamond, but no one I've given it to, nor any comments here, have mentioned the actual layout as a reason.
Jan. 9, 2014
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I also find it offensive that you've called out several players, my partner included, whose success in the highest level bridge competitions that exist speaks for itself.

There's no reason anyone should be insulting those players. The chair of the ittc should be a great deal more respectful.
April 28, 2013
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I can't imagine any bridge player thinks that JLall is only “close to WC.” He might be the best player you named.
April 27, 2013
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Nice article as always.

Just a comment on the math of the Law of Total Tricks:

If there are 17 total tricks and they split 9/8 in 3/3 (or maybe /) then bidding/defending nets +140/+100, so bidding is better in this case.

If they are split 8/9 then bidding/defending (assuming no double, maybe a big assumption) nets -100/-110, bidding is better again.

“That is why competing to 3 was unlikely to be the winning action for E-W. It was improbable that both contracts could make, and if at least one of the contracts goes down, either E-W will get a plus score by defending or they were never going to get a plus score.”

It seems they were going more plus and less minus by bidding no matter the distribution of tricks if 8 and 9 for the two sides.

If the tricks are less evenly split, and you'll never bid game, then bidding is wrong in every case.
Nov. 18, 2012
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If opener has xx xx akxxxx xxx he's already got a slam bid, IMO. You showed a very good hand.

You're seeing the hand only from your eyes. “What sort of hand would take the auction of the 1N opener that is not the hand I suggested?” Look from his perspective: you showed something like 5-5-3-0 with *slam interest* opposite a hand known to be 2-2 in the majors with 14-16. You barely have that, if at all. Partner can infer a lot from this. If he has jx qx akxxx(x) axx(x) (or even worse in clubs) he's practically a claim for 6 on the auction. Where could your 15+ points be to make slam bad? Maybe he should try for 7, there's no reason you don't have axxxx akjxx qjx -, but he didn't try for 7.

That's another argument working against this blind 7 blast. Partner had 5 available to say he had interest in diamonds. So he could have bid that and then moved forward with a 7 try. He guessed, now you want to guess on his guess.

I have only one “rule” in bridge. Don't bid speculative grands. It's such a big, big loser. Here you know so little, why guess that you know it all?
Nov. 15, 2012
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I don't know why you involved me, but the discussion would be short. Anyone who knows my style in these spots already knows what I think: bidding 7 is terrible. It's a completely blind guess, and guessing 7 is a huge loser.
Nov. 14, 2012
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Yuan,
“do you think that whenever there is a checkback (e.g. any form of NMF), that a relay system may be better?”

Yes, but it doesn't have to be “relays” to be good. Everyone knows that a little science is better than not (imagine no checkback, just natural forcing bids and natural nonforcing bids), and everyone knows that a little more science is good to handle more difficult ideas like slam tries, rkc, choice of games. This is just one way to do a little science to encode the (hopefully) most important ideas. This is mostly unrelated to your original post.

Michael,
I was only responding to Ken and your comments related to precision 1 auctions and whether you could show those hands after FSF, which, of course, you can. In standard I don't use the above in the same way, but it has a lot of merit. I think playing standard is a lot harder in these auctions.

3-2's can't happen if you design the system well. You almost have to play direct major jumps are both majors. And if you don't play those jumps then I think you have to rebid 1NT with at least 1444, and may as well on similar shapes when it looks right. Like Josh was saying: with 1435 you always run from 2. You might have to play at the 3-level (say 5233, 5143), but you won't play a 3-2 ever.

3-3's can happen. Silly 2NT's can happen. 4-2's might happen. You could easily play a 4-3 instead of a 5-3, and maybe more bad things are possible. Despite those obvious risks, in my experience playing this style has been very good. Just because you play “standard” doesn't mean bad things can't happen to you. You might also play silly 2NT's, play 4-2 fits instead of 5-3 fits, play 5-1 fits instead of 1NT, and I'm sure more. It would seem that since you know so much more about opener's hand you'd be so much better informed to make a good decision. It's not always so.

“Would you think it worth playing relays here even if you don't open 1D and rebid 2C with any of 1-4-4-4, 1-4-5-3, 1-4-3-5, 1-3-4-5 or 2-2-4-5? Or do you think “natural exchange” could also do a good job then?”

I think the idea of a natural exchange in this auction is inferior to some sort of science, but the users' judgement will be the biggest factor with the natural system. The less judgement you have to exercise, the less likely you are to exercise poor judgement.

Josh: Why will you do that?
Oct. 13, 2012
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It seems natural if you really wanted to ensure rightsiding to make 2NT contain the hands with 4 hearts (though I don't do this, I play it's all 1-3-(54)'s). Seems as close to rightsiding NT as you could guess with the info you have and there are conveniently 5 of those: 1444 1453 1435 0454 0445.

There are only 3 other auctions where opener bids NT before responder. After 2 responder's ask is 2N. So: 2-3-3-3n, 2-3-3-3n, and 2-3n. Doesn't feel like much of a problem.

My guess for the total number of shapes you really want to be able to show (completely or incompletely) at or below 3N is 16 (or more depending on the rest of the system). I show 16 in what I play.

If you really want to do this it's pretty easy to make it all work, but yes the memory work can be taxing. I don't know what's better in theory. In practice I think relays have their place, but are big losers if your whole system is only relays. Here it really just makes sense to me to play it, as the “natural exchange of information” isn't doing a very good job of getting to the best contract.
Oct. 12, 2012
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If you do a full relay starting at the 2 FSF ask (for 1-1-2-2) you can have opener show 21 unique pieces of information at or below 3NT. So you could show all the shapes and, say, min/max for some or all depending on the number of original included shapes.

Like Fibonacci: 22N33333N can contain 8532111 unique items respectively, 21 in total.

You will be giving something up to do it, but you may gain something too. Also this assumes only relay asking. If at some point you break the relay you may be able to head down a different path for different information.
Oct. 12, 2012
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Not that it matters, but the actual hand was AT9 Axx Qxxxx xx. This happened in a BBO bidding practice against GIBs.

A few world class players have suggested to me that pass is somewhere between automatic and a guess as to what is best. The player who held this hand passed “at the table”.

It still would not occur to me to pass, and I'm convinced now (thanks to the comments here) that 4 is a better bid than 4.
Sept. 19, 2012
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If the King is the “big lead” vs NT then you might not lead K from KQJx and would certainly lead it from KQT9.
Sept. 18, 2012
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I never said what side I was on. My vote is public though.

I agree that Steve B's hand wasn't adequate. But there's got to be some merit in a game force that involves partner in a higher level decision and describes a (probably) crucial piece of defense, even if it's not slammish on its own. I was thinking more like xxx, Qxxx, x, AKxxx where you want to help partner over the not-so-unlikely 4/5 bid, and if partner happens to get enthusiastic you've got some decent values for him. Again, for whatever reason, a fit jump is not available.

So what do you think the 4 bid looks like? Are we going to be able to stop successfully opposite xxx, Axxxx, x, AQxx (and sorry, slam IS terrible opposite this) and does that hand qualify for 4 at all? The only good slam hand offered so far (except for barry's perfecta) is: xxx, Axxxx, -, AKxxx. And despite your hyperbole, a grand is not good there, though 6 is excellent. Will that hand even stop opposite a 4 signoff? What is the normal low end of this 4 bid? Is it a 5-level stop opposite the given overcall? Do you always have 5-level safety? So far it sounds like the 4/N camp require 5 trumps, good controls, and they wouldn't mind a diamond void. Did 4 really show all that? Maybe it did.

If it's so clear to move past game, it should be trivial to give 100 hands that make that position clear. I've seen two, and by your own admission one wasn't very likely. The other was borderline to bid again even after a signoff.

I'm not convinced, and I'm not sure you are either.
Sept. 10, 2012
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Aviv, I listed all 9 bids above 1 until 4 that we play are raises.
Sept. 9, 2012
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I'm surprised no one in the 4/N camp has offered hands that are consistent with 4 and make slam good. The only hands offered for that side so far:

“xxx AQxx x AQxxx” give very poor play for 12 tricks
“2=5=1=5 with the two round aces” makes slam less than 50%
“xx-AQxxx-x-Axxxx” I make slightly better than 50%

It's easy for me to construct laydown slam hands, but not that easy to construct very many consistent with the auction.

Also twice 4D was called a 5-loser hand. Is that what's expected to be normal here? What is required and how is that enough to move on?
Sept. 9, 2012
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Great point. We had no agreement either way. After this hand came up and my partner and I were not on the same page about what each bid meant we had a discussion (without firm conclusion yet, we're keeping an eye on this poll).
Sept. 9, 2012
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