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All comments by Phillip Martin
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I think Rubens is wrong. I think it is in a Bridge World article somewhere. I knew my complete collection would come in handy. I'll start with Vol. 1, No. 1 tonight and let you know when I find it.
Sept. 13, 2011
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I just spoke to Jeff Rubens. He is unfamiliar with this agreement. So it doesn't come from the Bridge World or the Bridge Journal.
Sept. 13, 2011
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I don't think this fits the definition of an encrypted signal. According to the WBF, "players may not use signalling methods by which the message or messages conveyed by the signals are hidden from the declarer because of some key available only to the defenders.“ The ”key" here is available to whoever has the jack. Sometimes declarer has the jack and knows that both defenders are giving correct count, while each defender is in the dark. Thus the agreement bears more relation to an agreement like “10 or 9 show zero or two higher” than it does to encrypted signals. This is not an original idea, by the way, although I can't recall where I picked it up. Probably some Bridge World article. I'll see if I can find it. I am curious how widespread it is. I've only discussed it with a few players. But everyone I have discussed it with also plays that way and seems to think it is routine.
Sept. 13, 2011
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Is ‘either major could be trumps and partner’s last bid was 3 or 3NT' sufficient for setting this cue-bid scheme in motion? Or are there situations where 4 of the unbid minor would be interpreted as a choice-of-games cue-bid instead? Since your usual philosophy is (or at least used to be) that choice-of-games takes precedence over slam tries, I'm a little surprised you don't apply that philosophy here.
Sept. 10, 2011
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The second eight of hearts was a misprint. Thanks for pointing it out. As for the diagram, I think that follows bridgewinners standards. (The table is the green field, not the auction.)
Sept. 7, 2011
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Neither I nor Ivanova invented this play. Whenever the defense needs two tricks (either in the middle of the hand or on opening lead against a small slam), the need to lead low from king doubleton so that partner can overtake the king with confidence is well-documented. I'm sure both Ivanova and Halatcheva were familiar with this position. As you point out, it is hard to appreciate Halatcheva's problem at trick two without knowing the auction. Maybe she could have solved it; maybe not. But one thing for sure, the lead of the king would not have worked. In my partnerships, if I led the king, it would be overtaken with no reservations. And, if declarer guessed the trumps and made it, the blame would be 100% mine. I suspect the same is true in this partnership.
Sept. 4, 2011
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Bob, you accurately describe the “modern” school of thought. But I think that the very fact that one can pose the question “Is pass forcing or not?” shows how dangerous it is to play this way. It makes no sense to me, in any situation, to play the meaning of two calls is switched depending on some criterion on which you and your partner can disagree.
Sept. 2, 2011
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More importantly, why do you care if pass is forcing? Provided you play that “double” means “I think it's right to defend” and “pass” means “I'm not sure what to do,” I think most forcing-or-not questions become moot. The problem occurs when you play that double means one thing in a forcing auction and something else in a non-forcing auction (e.g., showing extra flexible values and essentially encouraging partner to bid on). To my mind, tying the meaning of double on whether a pass would be forcing or not is just begging to have an accident.
Sept. 2, 2011
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While it's tangential to the point you are making, I'm not sure it's fair to characterize Ivanova's lead as “sneaky.” I suspect she made the lead for technical reasons. If she leads the king, how is her partner supposed to know whether it's a singleton (in which case she must overtake to give her a ruff) or a doubleton (in which case she must duck)? If I carelessly led the king in this position and partner failed to overtake and let them make it, I would be insulted.
Sept. 1, 2011
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It never crossed my mind not to bid one spade, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't even comment on the decision. How are you supposed to find your 4-4 spade fit if you don't bid them? I don't see why the double changes anything. If anything, the double probably makes the auction easier to handle. LHO rates to bid something, and partner can immediately distinguish between three- and four-card support via a support double.
Aug. 29, 2011
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10,000 hands for a simulation! I'm impressed. When John and I used to run Borel simulations, we would do maybe 100 hands, because we would have to analyze each result ourselves. One problem with using a double-dummy analyzer, though, is that just because a contract goes down double-dummy doesn't mean it's going down single dummy. For example, if we assume you are leading a top club, you won't beat this contract when declarer has jack-fourth and partner has one entry, something the double-dummy analyzer doesn't know. The opposite may be true as well. The contract may make double dummy but declarer may be unlikely to make it in practice. Perhaps when running a simulation like this, it would be worthwhile to analyze a subset of the deals by hand to determine the likely error resulting from double-dummy analysis. You could then adjust the final results accordingly.
Aug. 22, 2011
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I also have to take issue with the idea that bashing involves higher risk than bidding scientifically. I wouldn't say that scientific bidding is necessarily less risky. It simply trades some risks for other risks.
Aug. 19, 2011
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It's not enough to look at your risk. You must also look at what you stand to gain. At IMPs, you are risking four imps (possibly six) to gain two. It's fairly clear I'm not two-to-one to beat this, so I would never double at IMPs. At matchpoints, my risk and reward are probably the same, so I should double if I'm better than 50% to beat it. Am I? Let's assume that I intend to lead a high club. If clubs are 4-3-1 around the table, the jack is 50% to drop. So the question boils to down to which is more likely: (A) clubs being 3-3-2 around the table or an opponent having five clubs but not the jack; or (B) clubs being 4-4-0 around the table or an opponent having five clubs with the jack. It's impossible to calculate precisely without making assumptions about the opponents' bidding style. But, offhand, I would say (A) is more likely, so I should double.
Aug. 19, 2011
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Edgar would be pleased to find the one diamond overcall punished like that. He always contended that overactive bidding helped the opponents more than it hurt them. I didn't even consider overcalling one diamond, although I certainly would have bid one spade with the suits reversed. One diamond has no obstructive value, and it seems to serve no constructive purpose with this particular hand. Although I admit it might gain if partner is able to make a pre-emptive raise.
Aug. 15, 2011
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But the problem is how to reach six clubs in a 4-3 fit when that's right, as it will be quite often if partner has a singleton or doubleton heart. I don't see how responding one heart advances that objective.
Aug. 11, 2011
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Fortunately, Jack is a scrupulously honest partner. A lesser partner might pretend, after the fact, that he intended four notrump as natural. But not Jack. In the post mortem, he readily admitted (in footnotes to the auction) that he intended four notrump as Blackwood and that he interpreted five clubs as showing zero or three keycards.

Of course, one might ask why I bothered to bid four spades. The reason I bid it was to give partner a chance to bid four notrump natural. Then, once he bid four notrump, I decided he didn't mean it as natural.
Aug. 10, 2011
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Well, I have a few small issues with the wording of the last paragraph. But, for the sake of argument, I'll stipulate that you are correct. Let's say Kit did indeed take advantage of his partner's hesitation. So what? There's nothing wrong with that. We sometimes say things like “he took advantage of his partner's hesitation.” But, in fact, that's a careless locution. What is wrong is taking advantage of information gleaned from partner's hesitation. It just takes too long to say “he took advantage of information gleaned from his partner's hesitation,” so we use the shortened, less precise phrase. As often happens when we do that, the imprecise phrase eventually settles comfortably into our brain and muddles our thinking. Most of the time it doesn't matter, because most of the time the two phrases mean the same thing. But leave it to Kit to find an example where they don't mean the same thing and that forces us to do some de-muddling.
Aug. 5, 2011
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Actually, the laws don't say that only declarer may use the hesitation to his benefit. They say that only declarer may use inferences from the hesitation: “Inadvertently to vary the tempo or manner in which a call or play is made does not in itself constitute a violation of propriety, but inferences from such variation may properly be drawn only by an opponent, and at his own risk.” What inference did East draw? One can imagine other situations where you might benefit from the hesitation itself rather than from an inference from the hesitation. For example, bored by partner's hesitation, you look deeper into the position and realize you missed something. You realize declarer has a counter to a defense you were planning, and you need to change your plan. Sometimes, partner's huddle might alert you to the fact that the deal is more complicated than you thought. But say that's clearly not the case here. Say partner is thinking about which of two suits to discard, and you happen to know it makes no difference. Say no one would contend that you gained any information from partner's huddle. But you did gain extra time that, impatient fellow that you are, you failed to take yourself. Do you think the laws require you to stick with your original decision to avoid “taking advantage of partner's huddle”?
Aug. 5, 2011
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Fascinating ethics question. Choosing one defense if partner huddles and another if he doesn't seems wrong on its face. On the other hand, what unauthorized information did you gain? You were double dummy before partner's huddle. Take a different example. Suppose you decide to stiff an offside king on defense. Before you get the chance, however, partner drops his cards on the floor and declarer sees them (but the table blocks your view, so there is no penalty). No one would argue that you must go ahead and stiff your king anyway. This, in essence, is what happened.
Aug. 4, 2011
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