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All comments by Bob Heitzman
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Of course I would be very interested in hearing from Jeff and Eric, if they are willing to share their thoughts with us. In the meantime, I agree that it is fun to try to guess why their auction went off the rails.

I think we feel more or less the same about the initial balancing double, Martin. I would choose pass and you would also apparently, but plenty of good players like double, including apparently one Jeff Meckstroth, so it's probably not off the wall to double.

Regarding Eric's 2, I think S's hand could be better for a “trap” pass than this (maybe xxxxxx KQJx AKJ –?) and that 3 covers all the important bases–it blocks them out of s (better than 2), it invites game in what is probably the only strain we might have a game in, etc. I personally don't think Eric's actual hand is worth a game force because of the misfit. I also have an innate distaste for random cue bids when a perfectly fine natural bid is available.

Moreover, I think it is inconsistent to bid 2 with this hand and then decide that Jeff's pass of 5 is forcing. Jeff's hand is narrowly defined since he passed in second seat and would probably not double with less than 8 hcp. So he has 8-10 hcp. Is the S hand a game force opposite 8-10 hcp? Is it good enough to create a forcing situation at the 5-level opposite 8-10? I don't think so myself, but I recognize that others don't see it that way, including apparently one Eric Rodwell.

So I'm just giving my opinion when I blame Jeff for initiating the disaster and Eric for hanging him unnecessarily. I do think we can tell that in addition to making some dubious bids they also had a basic misunderstanding about whether Jeff's pass of 5 was forcing. If they hadn't had that misunderstanding they would have survived.

Incidentally, apparently their counterparts in the other room also had trouble with these hands, as they also got to 5 of a red suit doubled. Hamway rescued them by taking the push to 6.
Feb. 2, 2011
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Steve has told us that this was not a misunderstanding about pass/double inversion, so we don't have to ask the players what they think–their actions make it clear. Jeff thinks his pass of 5 is non-forcing. He also thinks that to double in a non-forcing situation would encourage rather than discourage partner to bid. If he didn't think both of these things, he would have doubled. Eric thinks Jeff's pass of 5 is forcing. If he thought pass was an option he would have passed, because he surely had already bid his hand to the hilt.

A number of people think Jeff is wrong on both points, and that Eric's bidding is reasonable. I happen to agree with Jeff on both points, and think Eric both overbid (with 2) and misbid (by reading Jeff's pass as forcing). So I still think Jeff initiated the disaster with his dubious balancing double but that Eric then hung him out to dry.
Feb. 1, 2011
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I think Jeff's biggest mistake was his initial balancing double. Eric is not shy about intervening; so Jeff knows his side doesn't have a game. At imps, I like to cater to the very good scenarios and the very bad scenarios. With Jeff's hand, I don't see any very good scenarios resulting from his double, and I can think of at least one very bad one (i.e., we are balancing them into a game). Sure, partscore deals swing imps too, but they are more important at matchpoints than at imps. If they were playing a strong , I could see doubling because they are unlikely to have missed a game.

The East hand is very strong; I'm sure almost all experts playing standard methods would opt for 1 rather than 2, but personally I think it is close. I really hate depending on the opponents to balance me into my cold games. Partner will pass 1 in his sleep with xxx xxxx Kxx xxx or Qxx xxx xxxx xxx, and we will have missed a very good game. Because most experts don't open 2 with distributional hands like this, that's a good reason to pass 1 with Jeff's hand at imps. Against most experts playing some standard system, it is not actually that unusual that they have missed a game when the auction goes 1M-p-p-p.

Most people play that the pass of this redouble is neutral. A few pairs I know play that it is business behind the bidder even at the 1-level. I prefer to play that passes of redoubles are business if the contract redoubled is 2 or higher. This is obviously an important discussion to have with your partner.

I think 2 is way too ambitious with Eric's hand; 3 is plenty. Hands like his don't rate to play that well; the best feature of his hand is the suit RHO opened; his partner passed originally; I doubt we have a game; the deal looks like a misfit.

I accept 3 with Jeff's hand. He is in triage mode, as Michael says. 3 is less likely to incite a riot than 2N or 3 (whatever 2N might mean). 2N is too easy for them to double, and 3 is too tempting for partner to raise.

I would think that a player who passes 1 could not set up a forcing pass later, especially opposite a partner whp passed originally; if your hand is that good, then maybe you should bid something over 1. So I don't think Jeff should double 5; and I don't think Eric should double 5; let's just try to beat it. Doubling when pass is not forcing is card-showing, and neither of them has any cards they have not already shown.

I do think Jeff should correct 5 to 5. Perhaps he thought since he created this mess he should “man up” and not make Eric play it. Or perhaps he preferred not to put this piece of doo-doo on the table in front of all the kibitzers. Or perhaps he thought the opponents will never guess what he has so maybe they will slip trick or two on defense.

I don't blame this disaster totally on Jeff, although his initial mistake created a freight train he could not later avoid being run over by. But I think Eric helped the bad guys out.

These players are so good they probably got it back on the next board.
Jan. 31, 2011
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I ran across the following M.S.C. problem:

November, 1998, Problem F; imps; NS vul; you, S, hold AQT62 KJ5 AT 862

The auction:



2=s and a minor

The panel was asked 3 question: (1) Was your pass forcing?, (2) Do you agree with that pass?, (3) What call do you make?

This is very similar to the Helgemo-Helness auction, in that we are at the 3-level after the michaels bid. The panel voted 22-9 that the pass was forcing at the 3-level. A few panelists thought that it should be forcing at imps but not at matchpoints. Many commented that although it creates a force at the 3-level, if the partner of the michaels bidder jumps to the 4-level, the force is off.

Reading through various comments above, it appears that most of the people who commented (including Helgemo) seem to think the double creates a forcing situation. I was kind of on the fence myself, but after reading everything and seeing this MSC problem, I have decided that it makes much more sense for the double to create a forcing pass situation, at matchpoints or at imps. Also, I don't particularly see the disctinction between the 3-level and the 4-level. If you are creating a force at the 3-level, you have to have something close to game-forcing values so I don't see why you might want to sell out undoubled at the 4-level.

If the auction starts 1m-(2m) or 1-2, things might be different. Perhaps these auctions should be forcing at the 2-level and the 3-level through 3 of our suit. This is similar to 1N-(2x)-x, which most play as negative, and should create a force at the 2-level, but perhaps not at the 3-level. When your double is in an auction that is basically at the 3-level already, I think things are different.

Given that the double creates a forcing pass situation, I don't really think the N hand is strong enough to double, especially considering that his main suit is probably not a possible strain for us to play in. The hand has invitational values, not game-forcing values. Kit seems to think both that the double creates a force and that the N hand can handle the implications of that, but I think I don't think that is the mainstream view.

So that means that Helgemo has to bid 3 to show some values (as he himself apparently commented). I hear the comments saying that S is quite likely to have only 4 s, implying that bidding 3 may be unsound, but I still think it is clear to bid 3 as N. Because you have to do something at some point and this seems like the most innocuous choice.

Given that he didn't show values at his first turn, I think N should do something at his second turn. He has too much to just sit there. Perhaps, Helness broke tempo when he passed 4 and Helgemo felt barred.

Incidentally, 13/31 panelists though that S should have doubled 3 (42%, so it's close). A number who didn't think S should double at different colors. I don't have a strong opinion, myself, although I lean towards thinking S should double 3, at imps anyway. At matchpoints, perhaps the colors mean that defending 3 doubled is too likely to be a poor score and you should pass. As to what to bid over 3, 16/31 chose 3N as S, which seems reasonable to me.

Nobody mentioned that they thought S should open 1N, not 1, in the MSC problem. Perhaps 1998 was before the idea of opening 1N with 5-card majors rather freely became trendy. Or perhaps even most of today's experts would open 1 rather than 1N. I might open 1 at matchpoints on the theory that the hand has two flaws–fewer than 15 nominal hcp, and the fifth . These two flaws mean that the field will tend to open 1, so I will be out on a limb if I choose 1N. (I don't consider 3 small s to be a flaw for 1N, by the way–some of my friends refer to xxx as a Heitzmanian stopper.) In a team game, I think I should just try to evaluate my hand accurately, and I see the S hand as being worth about 16, so I would open 1N.
Jan. 31, 2011
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I agree that the main flaw wth 2N is not the small doubleton in s, so I didn't express that well. It is that my hand is very good in support of s, so that 2N is misdirected. This is similar to the problem with bidding 3 in this auction with something like x KQT AJx AKxxxx (a more typical manifestation of TBWNH)–it's not that you don't have what 3 shows, it's that you are leaving your support on the shelf. If I bid 2N with this hand, we could languish in 2N when 3 is better.

So I am happy to have an invitational bid available that specifically shows 3-card support.

I don't expect my partner to have bid 1 on xxxx in s, by the way, so if he does sign off in 3 I expect to have some play.

I have ways to show TBWNH over auctions that start 1-1M, 1-1M, and 1-1, but 1-1M is the simplest because 3 is available. I also have ways to show what I call a “superstrong raise” in each of these auctions. One of the main reasons for all of this gadgetry is to avoid manufactured reverses with hands that have support for responder's major.
Jan. 29, 2011
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This hand is kind of an unusual manifestation of TBW Nightmare hand-type. Usually, the hand-type is unbalanced and includes a long, strong club suit. Usually it has more than just one honor in partner's major.

On this hand, the alternative is to rebid a flawed 2N, the flaw being a small doubleton in s. Normally, I would have a hand where the alternative would be a flawed 3–the flaw being that 3 doesn't convey concentrated 3-card support for partner's major.

So I think I agree with what you recommend 3 would usually show, but I'm just saying I also think using that tool will work out well with this particular hand.

If partner plays me for long strong clubs and concentrated 3-card support or s, I don't think he will be disappointed in my hand.
Jan. 28, 2011
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Of all manufactured reverses, 1-1-2 is probably one that is least likely to cause a serious problem later. While you are claiming to have something you don't have–length and strength in diamonds–after all, it's only a minor suit.

Nevertheless, I hate manufactured reverses, including this one.

Suppose partner has something like xx Kxxxx xxx xx? He did us a great service by responding instead of passing, jockeying us out of our 7-card fit and into our 8-card fit. He will now pass 2 (correctly in my opinion, perhaps violating partnership discipline in your opinion) and we'll be in our 6-card fit at the 2-level instead of our 7-card fit at the 1-level or our 8-card fit at the 3-level. Is that progress?

I admit that partner will usually not pass 2, and I am unlikely to have serious problems later convincing him that I don't really have what U say I have, but how will it help me get to the right contract to make a bid that doesn't describe my hand? It might work out ok, but then again it might not. It's kind of random.

And the next time I bid 1-1M-2, partner will wonder what the heck I have this time.
Jan. 28, 2011
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Isn't playing that it is specifically a 3 bid with 3-card support going to come up LESS often than the generic BW Nightmare hand (of which the hand-type you describe is a subset)?
Jan. 28, 2011
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TBW nightmare hand in yet another guise!

I play that 3 shows this hand–3 card support (usually concentrated but this is enough because of all the aces), 18-19 hcp, inappropriate for 2N (in this case because of the small doubleton in s; more often you have a long minor in an unbalanced hand).

After 1-1, or 1-1, you need some other way to show TBW Nightmare Hand. However, after 1-1M, 3 is not needed for anything more compelling.

This hand is a T-spot away from being a 2N opener.
Jan. 28, 2011
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I think the double is in theory penalty. However, I agree with Jason that if I could tell from my hand that penalty was unlikely I would hope not to be too stubborn about it.

With the hand Steve held, I would have doubled 1. This strikes me as much safer than doubling when Steve did, after the opponents have exchanged information and might be able to carry us out. He could also have doubled 2 although I would expect this to be a takeout double of s with some length, which is NOT what he held. I believe in acting early or not acting. I don't really think you need more than this to double 1, although if the majors were reversed and they opened 1, this is probably not enough to double that (because partner must bid at the 2-level). If I decide to pass initially, I don't double belatedly.

Rubens has written about 2-way doubles. Apparently BJ Becker was fond of them. Jeff would ask him: is that double takeout or penalty, and BJ would answer “yes”. I think Kantar has also advocated them in some situations.

Jeff said that the two times such a 2-way double came up when he was playing with BJ, he had exactly a doubleton in the suit doubled and NO idea which meaning BJ intended.

I think 2-way doubles are very dangerous. The game is hard enough.

Perhaps Steve will share his perspective with us.
Jan. 28, 2011
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To clarify the shortness asking sequences (the spacining didn't come through as I'd hoped):

after 1M-2N-3 or 1M-2N-3-3
3 asks
…..3=void somewhere
……………4m=other minor
……………4=other major
…..3N=singleton in other major
…..4m=singleton in other minor

This is a big improvement over traditional jacoby, which offers opener no way to distinguish between singletons and voids, and which offers the jacoby bidder no way at all to show shortness unambiguously.
Jan. 27, 2011
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Gavin wrote

"With four-card support for partner's and a game-forcing hand, we use Jacoby 2NT."

Several have challenged this. If you look at M.S.C. problems, you will usually find the panel divided between jacoby and a 2/1 bid with this hand-type.

I agree with Gavin. With primary support, use jacoby (or splinter or perhaps make a limit raise).

In the hyper-competitive modern jungle, you may find yourself at the 5-level for your next bid; you will be much happier if this basic issue–your primary support–has been communicated. An ancillary benefit is that if failure to bid jacoby or splinter denies primary support, other sequences become more precise.

Splinters also show primary support and game-forcing values, but because they use up so much space they should be very descriptive. I like to play that they show precisely a non-ace singleton and 9-11 hcp. This means that with primary support and shortness, responder will often hold hands that are inappropriate for a splinter.

Traditional jacoby is very poor; among its deficiencies is that the jacoby bidder cannot clearly show either a second suit or shortness–opener will assume he is just cue-bidding. If you are saddled with traditional jacoby, you probably cannot afford to play that a 2/1 denies primary support for opener's major.

Here is a simple version of jacoby that addresses these issues:

3=any minimum without shortness
3=any hand with shortness somewhere
3=opener has extra length in his major, without shortness
3=good 4-card or longer holding in the other major
3N=18-19 with no shortness and 5 cards in major
4m=natural, good 5-card or longer suit

after 1M-2N-3
3=shortness somewhere, inappropriate for a splinter
3=18+ hcp, no shortness
3=good 4-card or longer holding in the other major
3N=15-17 hcp, no shortness
4m=natural, good 5-card or longer suit

after 1M-2N-3 and 1M-2N-3-3
3=void somewhere
4m=other minor
4=other major
3N=singleton in other major
4m=singleton in other minor

A final point: it is helpful if responder can make a limit raise by bidding something other than three of opener's major (e.g., 1M-3=limit +). Then you can reserve jacoby for hands with a modicum of slam interest.
Jan. 27, 2011
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With all this negativity, I think we might be missing the point–which of the the candidates proposed are most WORTHY of being selected for the HOF?

Many of them are or were great players. Some may not have been so great, but I prefer not to mention which; I would rather focus on the positive. The voters (of which I am NOT one) are not asked to veto candidates; they are asked to select candidates.

When I think of the HOF, I think of giants like Roth and Kaplan–players who not only won many titles but who were also great communicators. Goren clearly qualified on that count–among afficionados he may not have been considered the sharpest knife in the drawer (relax Barry, I'm talking about the other Goren), but he did win many titles and who can deny that he was a great communicator?

Two names on the list stand out for me: BERGEN and BRAMLEY.

Marty approaches Roth in the number of new ideas he has contributed in his books and articles. He was also a pioneer of a distinctive style. (I will overlook the fact that, in an apparent effort to be perceived as a solid citizen, he has recently repudiated that style by claiming that he would not bid 2 in Larry's “Fortuitous Ending” post.)

Bart has not been a prolific convention-inventor, but as an author in T.B.W. reporting on important matches, and as a part-time director of the MSC, he has contributed significantly to the literature of our game. He also has a distinctive style that all of us (who are paying attention) are very familiar with.
Jan. 26, 2011
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I find the wording of the new rules very big-brotherish. “Slow play, as opposed to careful or thoughtful play…” I'm sure most slow players think they are careful or thoughtful, as opposed to just plain slow.

The directors are interpreting this as “no fault” slow play penalties–i.e., they think the BoD is telling them they no longer have to even make an effort to determine why a table is late, they can just warn or penalize everyone involved willy-nilly. (They love this, by the way…it makes their jobs much easier.)

At a recent regional, a pair arrived very late at our table. They then made a frivolous director call against us, which made us even later, and then played very slowly. The directors observed the whole thing, then at the end of the round penalized them, but apparently only because they had previously been warned, not particularly because of their actions during that round. In fact, we were warned (but not penalized because this was our first warning) even though we had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that our table was late that round and the directors knew it.

Since we started the next round even later, when the change was called for the next round we were again not quite finished, even though we had played very quickly. That same director came running across the room to tell us that we would now be penalized, because now we were late two rounds in a row! Absurd.

I don't know the answer to slow play, and I do agree that it is a problem in need of a solution. But this isn't it.
Jan. 25, 2011
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I value this S hand at about 20.5. Seems like a 2N opening.

N forgot to bid something over 3. Passing with a hand that promising has got to be wrong. I'm not sure whether to double or bid 3, but “pass” is a 4-letter word.

I can understand S not doing anything over 4. Double is takeout, and the holding is inappropriate. Bidding 5 could be a complete disaster. Certainly I would feel uneasy passing but I can't prove its wrong. I might feel constrained to act opposite a timid player, but that is not the situation here.

Although I don't like the 1 opening, it really seems to me that N was taking a snooze during this one. Very unlike that Helgemo guy.
Jan. 24, 2011
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First off, Larry: nicely played hand. Also, I love the Bridgewinners box where you can press “next” and follow the play.

Secondly, as is often the case, Al is entirely correct in most of his outrageous statements, and, as is also often the case, the world will think he is nuts, so I would like to defend him.

Mekstroth's “upgrade” was definitely a psych; his hand is closer to a 1N opening than a 2N opening. I think he added 2 points for the fact that he would be playing it. I would say he is allowed to do that, but on this deal it did't work out for him.

The South hand that Larry held reminds me of the hand Michael Rosenberg held in the blog posted by Steve Weinstein regarding avoiding the 5-1 fit. It was too weak for michaels (or in this case an unusual 2N), so instead they overcall vulnerable opposite an unpassed partner! Usually we do that when we are too strong to show the 2-suiter, not too weak. Also, we should try hard to avoid frivolous overcalls in this situation; partner might have a good hand and take us seriously.

I'm not saying that overcalling 1 with this hand or 1 with the hand Michael had is “wrong”; far be it from me to second guess these great players. But I think they should heep in mind that they don't quite have what partner is expecting.

In this case, I think Larry did have an easy alternative–2. I have to admit that I have had some bad experiences weak jump overcalling on 5-baggers (although I once saw Edgar do this successfully in a Vanderbilt match so it can't be that far out–admittedly he was at favorable rather than unfavorable). I do it much less than Al (3 Al? … scary).

On this hand, I agree with Al that 2 is the better choice. It avoids creating a situation where partner will be expecting something other than what you have (like some defensive tricks), and it describes your playing strength well. The quality of your suit and your dynamic distribution compesate somewhat for the lack of a 6th .
Jan. 22, 2011
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First of all, I dispute Geoff's “whine” that precision is discriminated against in the rules. Precision players have all sorts of advantages under the rules over standard players. For example, you are permitted to play transfer responses to precision 1 openings, but not to standard 1 openings (in General Chart events). Does this make ANY sense at all (I know someone will suggest some kind of convoluted argument for why it does make sense but I'm not buying it). The bottom line is that CC Wei had deep pockets and was able to lobby the ACBL to get many elements of his system approved for prime time (I'm not sure whether his original system included transfer responses, but I do know they are permitted if 1 promises 15+ hcp). You don't even have to pre-alert the opponents anymore that you play a strong club in the first place!

Secondly, this relates to one of three “point-count” rules that the ACBL has promulgated:

1) You cannot have an opening bid at the 1-level that by agreement could be less than 8 hcp
2) You cannot use conventional bids (e.g., stayman) over 1N openings that have more than a 5-point range
3) You cannot use conventional bids (e.g., ogust) over weak 2's that have more than a 7-point range

It is probably significant that only one of these rules (the first one) carries over from the General Chart to Mid-Chart and Super-Chart. I don't know what Chart applies to the Team Trials. I would hope that all this ACBL nonsense could be discarded in the Team Trials (which are run by the USBF and not the ACBL) and that we could just play “bridge” rather than “brij” there. But of course we should always require full disclosure. If anyone knows what rules do apply in the Team Trials, please let us know.

Thirdly, in a normal ACBL event, is it even legal to open with a 1-bid holding Jon's first hand above in third seat (given that it has fewer than 8 hcp)? My understanding is that it is not, so I restrain myself from doing so, even though I am sure the best bridge bid is to open in third seat with this hand (I would open 1 but that's a different discussion). If others don't restrain themselves, then we are playing by different rules. Saying that if you do open it, it was a “psych”, or that partner will be playing you to have your bid, or that you only did it because you could tell you left hand opponent had a great hand: all of these are, in my opinion, rather weak excuses for what is basically breaking the rules.

PLEASE, whoever's in charge, if it's okay to open 1 or 1 with this hand in third seat, let me know ASAP so that I can resume doing it!

Fourthly. Geoff don't be fooled by Jonathan's Clark-Kent-like appearance; he is one tough hombre and you're going to need a whole lot of help from your friends to “kick his ass” the next time you see him. (I hope it's okay to use that expression if you are quoting someone else.)
Jan. 21, 2011
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Having decided that Brad's hand is somewhere on the notrump ladder, I'm only trying to make my best attempt to decide whether to open 2N or 2, intending to rebid 2N. Is there a better way to decide that than the Kaplan Evaluator? I doubt it.

I already said I would not even make an opening bid in the notrump family with the solid hand, so I'm the first to admit that comparing the two is kind of silly. I was responding to Barry's initial statement that the solid diamond hand is MUCH BETTER than the hand Brad held. Until you have an auction, you really can't tell which hand is better.

And I'm sorry, Michael, but I still think 4-by-3 hands suck.
Jan. 21, 2011
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“The Kaplan evaluator is good for suit contract … but it is not good for notrump contracts”…I imagine Edgar would say just the opposite, rather adamantly.

At the table, the evaluator I use is the Woolsey method, with some slight adjustments. I add a half point for each A, and subtract a quarter point for each quack. My ajustments are that I add a half point for each extra T (above my “quota” of one T), 1 point for a decent 5-card suit, and 1-1/2 points for a decent 6-card suit (I used to add 2 points for a 6-card suit but eventually decided that was too much). I have found this comes very close to the Kaplan evaluator, which I assume is slightly more accurate, but of course cannot be used at the table unless you have an intel chip in your brain.

I've been using this method for several years–ever since Kit published his article in the Bridge World suggesting it.

I have found it very accurate for notrump evaluation, less so for suit evaluation since the latter depends heavily on how well our hands mesh, and we need an auction to divine that. So I mostly use if for determining what level of notrump to open. I don't use it, for example, to decide whether or not a hand is an opening bid or a pass.

Barry and a few others cited the hand AT Axx AKQJTx Jx to possibly justify Fred's pass of 7. Barry even says this is a much better hand than the one Brad held. The Kaplan evaluator rates this hand as 21.8, and the hand Brad held as 22.0. So I wonder what evaluator Barry uses?

With that hand, my preference would be to open 1 and rebid 3N if partner responds 1 or 1N, or 3 if partner responds 1. However, maybe that is not so clear to the world, so maybe Fred's pass of 7 might have worked out (notwithstanding that Brad would have bid 4N rather than 4; I agree with that too, but it may be a little subtle). Also, from what Kit says it appears Fred might have felt he had an ethical dilemma over 7, so I now better appreciate his choice. Most likely, it didn't matter because 7 or 7N were probably going down also.

The comments corroborate my point that in a pair event the “field” rarely promotes a hand two levels, so few would choose 2 then 2N with a “19-count”. (Apologies for referring to you 2N openers as “the field”.)
Jan. 20, 2011
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There are three camps, not two. I know I said that before, but Soren seems to think that Levin/Weinstein represent one camp, while I think they are in different camps. This is not a dispute between penalty/card-showing doublers and card-showing/takeout doublers, so I don't see the attraction of the simulations discussed. Frankly, notwithstanding a few holdouts like Kit and Fred, I think we settled that particular dispute a long time ago. This is a more modern dipute between card-showing and takeout doubles.

There is the “penalty” camp represented by Woolsey/Stuart; there is the “card-showing” camp which seems to be the mainstream, represented by Larry and I think Steve (since he passed Bobby's double and doesn't seem to be contrite about it; in fact he confesses that he loves to pass doubles like this); and there is the “takeout” camp represented by Bobby, and also Brad and Alfredo, both of whom see no alternative to doubling with Bobby's hand. I think Geoff is also in the takeout camp, although he would bid with both Steve's and Bobby's hand.

That's right, I think Bobby and Steve are in DIFFERENT CAMPS, despite being one of the top partnerships in the bridge world. (I'm sure they actually are on the same wavelength on most other bridge issues.)

The “penalty” camp would make all the same doubles as the card-showing camp; they would also double with hands that include trump stacks, rare as they might be (the hand Debbie provided from the regional being an example). I did note that Kit would not double in balancing seat with a trump stack as he knows he is going plus and would be afraid partner might pull it. They would not double with hands where they are 80% sure they want their partners to pull (like the hand in question with which Bobby doubled).

The “card-showing” camp would not double with the trump stacks; nor would they double with hands where they are 80% sure they want their partners to pull; instead they would bid with those hands.

The “takeout” camp would certainly not double with trump stacks. They would also not double with “cards” as Bobby clearly indicated in response to Debbie's direct question (he said he would not double with a balanced 18-19 that included Ax or Axx of spades, although he gave an example of an extermely prime balanced 19-count with xxx in spades, with which he would double, with some trepidation that partner will play him for more distribution). When they double, they expect their partners to take it out, much as someone who makes a takeout double at the one or two-level expects partner to take it out. Of course takeout doubles of 4 can be converted to penalty if partner has a trump stack, as is also true of takeout doubles at the one and two level. Perhaps higher level doubles can also be converted to penalty with extremely weak balanced hands, and perhaps Steve's actual hand is borderline. There are probably some distributional hands with which they would bid rather than double, and perhaps Bobby's actual hand is borderline.

I happen to agree with Kit that the penalty and card-showing camps are actually not that far apart. However, I think there may be a rather larger gap between the card-showing and takeout camps.

Before reading this thread, I was in the card-showing camp, like most players. I thought Bobby should have bid, not doubled, although at first I said he should bid 4N, but then reconsidered and decided he should bid 5, and that Steve had a clear pass of the actual double.

After reading this thread, I am reconsidering. I now think Bobby probably should have doubled (although he himself now seems contrite about his decision to double rather than to bid, especially if Steve is going to sit with the hand he held) and that Steve probably should have taken it out (although this is more controversial and many of the comments have a lot of sympathy for sitting with Steve's hand). That's what makes this a fascinating thread for me–it has really changed my view of the world.
Jan. 18, 2011

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