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Bridge Winners is Depressing
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Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, folks. I know that Bridge Winners was created by players who love the game. This site has a wealth of material. There are all sorts of bidding, lead and play problems. One can even set up partnerships and matches.

There is a lot to learn and see on bridgewinners.com, and the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking: “Wow! This is so great!” But Newton’s Third Law is unavoidable. I will explain this issue in a moment. But first, something totally new from me: a bridge problem.

North
A10943
96
KQJ975
East
87653
KJ7
Q32
A4
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

Matchpoints, North showed 5/6 min. The opening lead is the 7, 4th best. (Even with the beer card?) Your Q holds the trick, declarer following with the 4. What do you play back?

Newton’s Third

There are all sorts of goodies on Bridge Winners. Kit pops out articles like Lance Burton produces doves and hankies. That Kit finds so many interesting deals and problems is fine by me. Kit has a long and illustrious career playing high-level bridge. It follows that he should have some good stuff.

Mike Gill has posted some very interesting deals, too. The issue I have with Mike is that I was always the young kid for basically the last half century and I just don’t look anywhere as young as Mike anymore. But when Oren starts banging out article after article with cool hands, I have to stop and scream, “What about me?”

How does Oren come up with this interesting stuff? Oren is like 12 years old. OK, perhaps he is physically older, but Oren is like 12 in bridge-years. (Bridge-years is something akin to dog-years.) And when Oren is as old as I am presently, he is probably going to look as young as Mike Gill does now. BTW, the only reason I am even giving Oren a full 12 bridge-years is because he is so good. And for all I know, Oren might really be 12 in Earth-years. Sure, he graduated U of Chi, but I could believe Oren is smart enough to get through high school by age eight or nine. What I find bewildering is that he and Mike come across all these neat bridge problems – apparently all the time – as it is not like they had decades of material to draw upon.

To understand my frustration – and why this site can be so depressing – consider the following typical “real world"* bidding problem for me.  (* Or at least my world, I suppose I should not vouch for the reality of it.)

South
AKQ94
Q6
A104
1082
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
?

Your call?

Opening 1NT was a possibility. I would have chosen that with three hearts or perhaps the ten of spades. I suppose now that 3 is “right.” Partner would have opened 2 on any hand with six hearts. You want to find a game. 2 will end it. 2NT shows extras, but there is no club stop and someone might be able to take five club tricks. At the table, I found the obvious 3NT bid and yes, someone did take five club tricks.

I took five club tricks.

West
J102
852
KJ875
63
North
A10943
96
KQJ975
East
87653
KJ7
Q32
A4
South
AKQ94
Q6
A104
1082
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Yep, in the interest of truth, P-1; 2-3NT is how we actually bid this board. Not the sensible start I presented initially. The 7 went to the queen and ducked. Perhaps there is some deceptive reason to follow with the 10 from your hand. But at the club, if you play the 10 and then the 4 on the continuation, there is a good chance LHO will forget about the ten – since that was so long ago – worry that you have A10 remaining and switch to a heart. Right defense, wrong reason. And a near bottom for declarer’s tricky play.

At the table, RHO continued with the 3. I looked at the card and thought how challenging the 2 return might have been. That gives declarer a problem. If the diamonds are 6-2 you don’t want to duck and the A is most likely with the shortness for no overcall. If the diamonds are 4-4, you cannot afford to let West shift to a heart at trick three. So if one is playing against Mike & Oren, on the deuce return you have to wonder whether to win the second trick or whether they are swindling you.

But at the club, on the deuce return, the math says: ho-hum, duck. Sure, it could be a standard fourth-best. Or it could be Q2. But it still could be Q32 or Q52. Not because they are swindling you, but because either (a) they don’t know the proper card and always play low up or (b) they agreed to play UDCA and think U/D applies here.

Interestingly, the math starts out the same as against the strong pair. But the difference is that in my case, the chance my West will ever play a heart is close to zero. Only one player found – or might have found – the heart switch on a 15 top. (10 tricks was 8 of 15 MP, some pairs made 11 because E shifted to a spade.) BTW, the common auction was 1-1; 2-2 (GF); 3-3NT, which is why no one in the open played in clubs and everyone managed to reach the same contract as we did with our expert bidding.

So maybe we need good players for good problems? I dunno, but here are some of my other recent “bridge problems.” Last Sunday, my former partner attended the Swiss as he was evacuated (or possibly deported) from Florida for Hurricane Irma. He came over after the first round and said, “I had a backwash in the first round.” I responded, “Cool!” But I have to admit that I thought, “Screw you, how come I never get cool hands?”

Ron had a backwash squeeze and I was faced with this problem from the first round:

Bidding Problems For Other Players

I posted this as a bidding problem because I thought it was very interesting.

http://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-hvosxqds7s/

South
J9632
108
A10873
9
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
3
?

Donald Lussky & Marshall Lewis both commented that they thought it was a good problem too. And it is a great problem in some universe other than mine. I elected to bid the straight-forward 5 because I did not want to encourage a spade lead against hearts. Which would have been fatal. Had I been playing with Ron, he would have known my spades were not that good for the original pass as I had not opened 2. But that was not going to be considered. Marshall's (and Yuan's) 4 is way too subtle in the universe I occupy.

The reason this was a non-problem for me was that both tables found an “I was going to open 1, so I will overcall 2. Even red at IMPs.” 5X went for 800, even after the opening leader looking at Axx Axxx QJ4 xxx led the four of diamonds(??) It was. . . imaginative, I suppose. (Yes, he really led the 4.)

Our Clubs

I play at two of the larger clubs in America. They are both well run. One of them used to be one of the strongest clubs in the country. One of our current directors is like a savant, rainman-guy when it comes to directing. I remember telling him a funny story about a hand about a half hour after the session. I left out the players' names. But Chris said, “I made a ruling on that hand, it was board 17, so you would have played it in the fourth round which means. . .(two second pause)... you must have played it against Harry and Susanna.”

At one point, to distinguish between when he was playing and when he was directing, Chris took to wearing a tie when he was “on duty.” This was apparently lost on too many members and he discontinued the practice. Chris can run 4 sections with 50+ tables singlehandedly and while playing. He makes nothing but correct rulings and always hears someone mutter “director” even in a noisy room. For Christmas last year I was going to get him an outfit that would make it clear when he was working. And in recognition of his status as a super-director, what could be more appropriate than his very own super-hero, super-director t-shirt?

So I commissioned this:

Merry Christmas, Super-Director!



My wife made me buy him a bottle of wine, instead.

So I am stuck with this custom t-shirt I cannot return. And I have not been able to unload it on eBay either. The world of bridge is very different than the rest of the world. In bridge, the ethical thing to do is pre-alert one’s opponents. The rest of the world apparently isn’t even interested in pre-alerting partners. Go figure.

Play Problem:

North
KQJ
AQxx
Jxxx
AQ
South
xxx
K10xx
Qxxxx
10
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
2
4
P
P
P

How do you play on a nondescript club spot lead?

My first thoughts were the bad thoughts real bridge players are not supposed to have. One is supposed to think entirely about the play. Instead, I said to myself, “This is why I have played transfers over doubles for the last 20 plus years and never regretted it once.”

Sorry, but it is not my fault that Bob Hamman is incapable of pointless insights when presented with his dummy. I am all about extraneous. I write articles, Bob wins titles. But I did move on with my thoughts. I do not want to go down right away by taking a club finesse which is also unlikely to work. It does not appear the contract can be made if East is 4x1. You will suffer a diamond ruff or get tapped.  AK or Hx with E would be convenient and likely necessary. I decided to play RHO for 4324. If East is 4423, West would have seven clubs and should have bid a pile of clubs at this vulnerability. If East is 4423, you need to take the first-round heart finesse; the second round won't work.

The four relevant trump positions are x/Jxxx, J/xxxx, xx/Jxx, and Jx/xxx. It is a little less than 1 in 4 for the first case where the finesse is necessary. Either works for xx/Jxx. You lose if J or Jx and those combine to about 50% more likely than x/Jxxx. You can start diamonds, but at some point you will still need to decide whether to play a heart to the ten on the first round of trumps. Finally, if E is 4324 with AK and J he might have overcalled 1NT.

I elected not to take a first-round finesse and went down because E had A10xx/J9xx/AK/Jxx. I thought this would be a good “How Would You Rule?” problem for Bridge Winners. It isn’t an ATB because I am a bridge player and real life for bridge players is blaming someone else. On this hand, I need to blame the director, Chris. I would have called him for a ruling, but he was sitting East at my table. Maybe this should be a poll. Have you called the director on himself?

Do you see my case? I bet Ed Reppert is scratching his head, thumbing through the rule book wondering what the problem could be. The issue is not there, but my case is supported by ACBL precedent. For better than the last quarter century, our ACBL has been dedicated itself to insuring that people need not play against good players. Where is my protection? Had Chris performed his managerial duties properly and gotten the usual suspect house player to fill out the field, I would have made this hand like everyone else. Not because they right-sided it with good methods, but because other East players did not want to give up a ruff-sluff.

Against me, Chris was leading clubs until the cows came home. This was so upsetting. Well, not entirely. It looks like I can give him that t-shirt this year.

BOLS Tip

Here is a bidding problem:

MP, Both vul, 1-1-? Holding: 85 102 953 KQ10432

Took me 1 nanosecond to pass. I did not even consider 3 preemptive. And, BTW, we have not reached the bidding problem yet. I just want to take a moment to pass on my BOLS tip. (Bilious Outrageously Lousy Suggestion)

I have this theory about never preempting at the club if it can be avoided. Come to think of it, if I followed my own advice on the first hand I presented, I could have gone plus. (QED?)

If one is playing against good players, either because you like to or because the ACBL is not providing you with the proper protection, preempt early and often. One simply cannot afford to give good players space to work things out. But what happens in most club games is the preempt motivates otherwise sleepy players. If one’s auction starts 1m - P - 2M alert, these players never ask about the alert with “Please explain,” they always ask, “Is that weak?” When you tell them “Preemptive,” they assume weak and act. And for some reason completely lost on the “BIT is not revealing crowd,” they have an abnormally successful rate of fielding light actions. I have had actions start: 2S-3C-P-? and 4th passes holding 11 with a stopper and 3 is the limit.

Sure, I could call the director. Or at least I can until December. But I don’t. I bid cheaply or pass. And I preempt with hands when I know it is wrong for them to bid. “Can you believe that crazy guy preempted?” Yeah, and overcalling on your hand was so perfectly normal.

I am not suggesting that players are cheating. Only that too many inexperienced players think only about bidding or passing and have absolutely no sensitivity to level. If they think the hand is a bid, they don’t distinguish between bidding at the one, two or three-level. Sometimes not even the four-level.

Keeping this in mind, here is the problem:

South
85
102
953
KQ10432
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
3
3
?

I believed the answer was to stop RHO from correcting his bid to 4. You know that partner’s 3 rebid is an overbid. If partner had a legitimate 3 call, she would have bid 4. What I did not want the opponents to do is accidentally bid the game we cannot set. I told RHO that I accepted the insufficient bid and passed. LHO bid 3 and that ended the auction.

I led the 10 and dummy hit with:

K10963 954 Q76 AJ

See? No sensitivity to level. Which is why, if they had something useless like "Club Lehman Ratings," I would totally crush Mr. Totally Focused Bob Hamman. TGBH played too many Bermuda Bowls to adjust to club bridge. Think about it, his book (and if you haven't read it, you missed a gem) is titled At the Table. My book on how to win at the club will be titled Is This Our Table?

Of course, I have to stop bragging now, because here is what really happened. The full deal was:

West
AJ42
63
AJ1082
86
North
85
102
953
KQ10432
East
K10963
954
Q76
AJ
South
Q7
AKQJ87
K4
975
W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2
3
3
P
3
P
P
P
D
3 West
NS: 0 EW: 0

Partner won the first two hearts and played another high heart. When I was telling the story to Ethan Stein, he said, “Oh, no wonder I didn’t recognize the hand right away. He overcalled on a 4-bagger. I played from the other side, ruffed with ace and ran the jack.” Which fortunately still keeps game safe. My declarer ruffed with the four. I found an overruff with the five and played the K. Declarer then played three rounds of miscounted trumps ending in dummy. He then played a diamond to the jack. Sat for about two minutes because he did not want to be in his hand. So he cashed the ace of diamonds. That brought down the king, but he neglected to unblock the queen. Trapped in dummy, he lost a club at the end for nine only tricks.

I entered the result in the Bridgemate and handed it to declarer for confirmation. He looked up at his partner and announced, “We got 67%.”

Is thinking that I should have not accepted the 3 bid resulting? If this were an ATB problem, do I get the blame for accepting 3 or does my partner get the blame for not jumping to 4 so they finally autobid 4? There is so much subtlety to this game of ours.

In Search of Good Hands

Someone took an Ann Gallagher finesse against me a couple weeks ago. For readers who are not familiar with this maneuver, Anna Luther was a former silent screen actress who left movies, married, and as Ann Gallagher became a regular at NY bridge clubs. She entered bridge lore when faced with this trump holding in four spades.

North
K542
South
AJ109

Ann Gallagher ran the jack, which held. She then giggled and said, "Let's see how lucky I am." She crossed to dummy in a side suit and played a spade to the ten. (Not so lucky.) The Ann Gallagher finesse against me was K10xx in dummy and AJxxx in hand. Declarer played first to the ten and then back to the jack. It was fortunate that I held Qx in front of dummy. If it was stiff, declarer would have taken the proper number of tricks. If it was Qxx, the field would have also lost a trick with a higher percentage play than the declarer at my table took. I have to say that I was wondering whether she might have been thinking that a double finesse is 3/4 and a single merely 50/50?

Someone once constructed a hand where the Ann Gallagher finesse was the correct play.

West
KQJ109
Q754
104
43
North
A
K32
K765
AKQJ2
East
432
6
AQJ983
1087
South
8765
AJ1098
2
965
D

West leads the K against 4. Declarer plays a heart to the jack and West ducks smoothly. (It is a construction so we can credit West for being smooth.) If declarer plays a heart to the king to repeat the finesse, he will fail. I seem to recall another hand featuring an Anne Gallagher finesse that was credited to Belladonna. He said he did not recall the hand and I suspect that was also a construction.

Making Stuff Up

I want to assure any readers who made it this far that I have not made any of this stuff up. Though the STD-man costume was never actually ordered. One can really compose these personalized super-hero costumes online – which I did – but I never placed the order, though I did think about it as a gag gift. (After learning about Comic Con on the Big Bang Theory, I just figured this had to be out there, and it was.)

But you know who routinely does make up bridge stories?

Daily bridge columnists. I know this for a fact. For the younger audience members, once upon a time people did not walk around staring at portable mobile devices. We had these things called “newspapers.” They were printed every day and distributed for reading. Inside, most papers had a bridge column. Since printing was expensive, bridge authors were limited to a specified number of column inches to produce an interesting, instructive hand for the average reader supported with marginal space for analysis.

Doing this on a daily basis well is incredibly difficult. Bridge columnists are always on the lookout for material.

I used to go to tournaments where at dinner there would be two or three columnists. And they would always look to squirrel away hands from the hand records. But to make them a “column hand” one usually needed to change a few cards. The funny part is that these world-class players would all spot the same hand, and realize that if a few cards were changed it would make for a good article. Eventually, they needed to start checking with each other that they weren’t clipping the same deals. A few times there were three writers, all with the same hand clipped and all of whom had made the identical modifications. Quite amusing, especially since negotiations for who was going to write it up would ensue.

But since neither Mike nor Oren are making things up, I find that depressing. I was reading an interview of John Paul DeJoria, homeless guy turned self-made billionaire. DeJoria was discussing his childhood and he made an interesting observation. “We didn’t know we didn’t have anything, because we didn’t have the TVs to know what everyone else had. But we had at least two changes of clothes, so we thought we grew up OK.”

Cool stuff happens to other people? If not for Bridge Winners, I would be happy in my ignorance. But if this stuff happens a lot, that would mean that bridge would have to be the greatest game ever invented. If that is so why isn’t everyone in the USA playing it?

If your answer is we ran out of smart people, I could believe it. But it is also possible that only I get left out. I have a sometime partner who refuses to sit in the same compass direction as I do because “You never hold any cards.” I have seen Melissa make her partner change seats with her because she does not want the same hands I will get.

There is nothing worse than knowing that everyone not holding my cards is having fun.

Don't Forget to Vote!

I am going to conclude this with a poll. If we can make answers to math problems subject to poll results on Bridge Winners, it seems reasonable to have a poll on apparent age. After all, unlike math, this is actually subjective.

Question: Oren walks into a bar and orders a drink. What happens next, does Oren get beered or carded? Vote by liking one of the first two comments!

 

 

BEER HIM! (7)

CARD HIM! (Appears < 21!)

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