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All comments by Mike Doecke
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Well done with the problem!

You do clarify that 2D is usually a 5c suit, but I think you need to go a bit more in depth into the rest of the methods to get meaningful results.

E.g. I answered based on the assumption that you play 2C* as any BAL G/F, in which case I think supporting diamonds is clear.
Aug. 4, 2018
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I think the joke has gone over your head Jim ;)
Aug. 4, 2018
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Maybe i'm missing something, but if Heart's did start 6/3 and RHO discarded 2 hearts (on the run of the diamonds) you can just keep an extra spade in hand, and play spades. At most you'll lose 3 hearts and the SA.
Oct. 5, 2016
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Automatic call, Not close.
July 12, 2016
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Sounds like your wife is becoming quite the bridge player :)
March 29, 2016
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The continuations I prefer are:

3D = Shortage ask.
3H/3S = Natural, good 5c suit.
3NT = To Play. No interest in either minor.
4m = Suit setting slam try.

Having 3D available as a shortage ask is the main thing that makes this method playable.
March 8, 2016
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If East does hold weak length in clubs, why can't declarer hold xx Jxxx Kxxx QTx or a similar hand without many entries to hand.
Oct. 31, 2015
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As usual a great article.

You point that East's could've done better with he spade pips is a fair one but isn't the fact that East switched to trumps an even a stronger indication that he must have values in Clubs?

The trump switch is certainly appealing on East's actual hand, but with 9xxx in clubs instead, it looks more likely to butcher West's Qx or Qxx of spades than to cut down ruffs.
Oct. 31, 2015
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If 3H is actually an invite (which it shouldn't be) then you should accept. Well placed Ks, nice trump spots and a good 5c suit more than make up for the potentially wasted Kd, especially when you might have raised very aggressively in a competitive auction.
Oct. 17, 2015
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Here's a counterpoint:

If our hypothetical expert is so experienced that they rarely need to break tempo in a common auction like 3M-Pass, why do they suddenly need 15 seconds to think when holding a strong hand that is just short of a raise to game?

Surely they would recognize that the difference in expected value between bidding and passing is trivial, while breaking tempo and then passing could be disastrous if it allows the opponent to pass on a marginal hand and avoid a penalty? Do world class players really break tempo and then pass on this kind of hand?

Who gets to decide that an ‘almost raise with marginal support’ is the only hand type that you are allowed to think on?

Regarding the hand mentioned in the initial post, I would have no trouble acting in tempo. However I can imagine different hands that might be an automatic for other players that I would need time to think on. I would be very unlikely to break tempo holding an ‘almost game’ raise.





Oct. 16, 2015
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Thanks for clearing up my sloppy description Steve.

An extension of case (2) is that when West turns up with 5 spades (and presumably 5134 or 5044 shape) East will show out on the second spade. Now the contract can be guaranteed by crossing in Diamonds and taking a heart finesse.

Also in case (3) where East turns up with the long spade it's not really possible for West to be 2254 because East would never play the 9 of diamonds from 94 doubleton.
Oct. 10, 2015
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That was the presumed 4144 in my scenario.

After 4 rounds of clubs and the As, Ks, Qs East will show out, leaving you in dummy. At that point, West is presumed to be either 4144 or 4234 so you have time to fall back on the double heart finesse. I did miss that this line will pay out to hKJ tight.



Oct. 10, 2015
Mike Doecke edited this comment Oct. 10, 2015
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If you're prepared to trust the opponent's early signals, this this line feels close to 100%.

After the first trick starts Qd from West, 9d from East it seems impossible that East false-carded from an initial holding of T9(xx) or 9x. Taking such a big position early in a hand that might be cold off on simple defense isn't world class bridge.

So based on that assumption and East's subsequent diamond discard, the original diamond layout is West QJT(x) and East 98x(x).

Now when East discards a spade and a diamond on the run of the clubs, (and under the previous assumptions) we know for sure that cashing the spades and exiting with the 3rd round of diamonds will give West the lead and guarantee the contract.

Finally if West started with a weird shape like 4144 or 5044 we will find out in time to guarantee the contract via hearts.


Oct. 9, 2015
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Kieran: They were on lead 5 times during that match and 4 leads matched the hypothesis (horizontal placement in each case).

<edit> On B18 Nunes led a singleton heart vs NT horizontally rather than vertically.
Sept. 14, 2015
Mike Doecke edited this comment Sept. 14, 2015
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Given your methods allow it, I'm surprised that you didn't choose to open 1S on this hand.

Holding short hearts and few high cards, finding a spade fit feels like the most likely way for our side to win the auction and if West does end up declaring, getting partner to lead a spade (rather than a diamond) will often be worth a trick. It's hard to argue with success on this deal though!

Regarding the choice to reopen:
At Favourable Vulnerability, against reasonable opponents, it makes a lot of sense to use balancing actions with a higher emphasis on sacrificing (rather than simply confirming deal ownership). Do you also apply similar philosophy to balancing after you've opened a strong club at favourable?
July 25, 2015
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My experience is that:

X = GF, no clear direction.
Bids = Natural, F1 @ 1 Level, GF @ 2+ Level, 1NT = INV.

is very effective.

I actually prefer facing this overcall method because the opponents often can't preempts as effectively on the first round of the auction because they don't know what their partner has!
June 25, 2015
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I really like the fact that your method allows the balanced hand to declare the NT when opener is strong and shapely. However, you haven't mentioned how responder deals with the G/F club hands. I think it's more valuable for responder to be able to show rather than ask on these hands.

Playing in the rest of the world where 1M - 2C can be 3-way (G/F Clubs, G/F Balanced or Limit Raise), I use a similar (but slightly less complex) method after 1H - 2C :

2D - Accepting a limit raise, no slam interest. Typically (11)13-16 OR 18/19 Balanced.

2H - Rejecting a limit raise.

2NT - 6+H, Extra values, but not a solid suit.

3H - Self supporting suit, usually balanced.

2S/3C/3D - Natural, slam interest opposite a limit raise.

After the auction starts: 1M - 2C - 2D responder can bid:

2H - 3H and slam interest. (either clubs or balanced)
2S - Clubs, without primary fit.
2NT - Balanced without 3H.
3H - 3H and no serious slam interest.
3D/3S - Natural, G/F with 6+ Clubs and serious slam interest.
4H - Limit raise.

Having played this method for a few years, I agree that the biggest gain comes from allowing opener to quantify their range immediately and unambiguously.

An unintended side-effect of including limit raises in 2C is that it helps divide up the range even more.

On a majority of hands this is enough information for responder to place the final contract and avoid giving away unnecessary information.






May 12, 2015
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Explaining South's double as ‘primarily penalties’ feels like a misnomer to me also, especially given that North chose to bid on this hand. (And Kit didn't comment that it was an unusual choice)

It might only be a semantic difference but my agreement on this double would be “Extra values, not extreme shape”. The fact that partner will usually pass (almost always when holding a flat hand) is a function of the high level rather than the meaning of the double.

Kit: I'm genuinely curious as to how you would act given the same auction holding:

KQJx xxxx KQJ Ax
x AKxx AQxx KQxx
xxx AKxx AKx AKQ

ps. thanks again for an amazing column!
May 9, 2015
Mike Doecke edited this comment May 9, 2015
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As soon as you start reducing the K value you run into the opposite problem of pairs who play just enough matches to maintain their ratings. Rating manipulation will always be an issue if every match counts.

Another reason that ELO doesn't translate well to bridge, is that chess players of significantly differing skill levels simply don't play against each other. In bridge a weaker team can (occasionally) win a set of boards against a stronger team which is an attractive feature of the game!

I'm not claiming that an ELO style rating system would be meaningless in bridge. If the ratings were calculated purely as a matter of interest, and were calculated independently on different subsets of tournaments (local, regional, national, elite) then they would provide an interesting opportunity to quantify the best players.
April 13, 2015
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Yep - there are plenty of other ways to improve the simulation. I was just sticking with the criteria stated in the OP.
April 13, 2015
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