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All comments by Bob Heitzman
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I would never open 1. Even if it doesn't go pass-pass-pass, how will I ever show this monster?

I would never bid 3 over 2. Although perhaps forcing “in theory”, if partner has something like x xxx Qxxxx Kxxx he could (and should) pass 3. 3 is the forcing call over 2, not that it will help particularly once I opened only 1.

EW did very well on this board, but I'd be really surprised if they won the event.
July 17, 2011
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Steve has the ability to cloud men's minds. Well, at least some men's minds (not Rodwell's apparently).

I understand that was the superpower possessed by Lamont Cranston, aka “The Shadow”, who was the lead character of a radio series in the 1930's.

If you are a bridge player and a genie grants you one wish, that's probably a good one to ask for.
July 14, 2011
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Henry

“To the best of my knowledge at least two of the US teams in this year's WC are not sponsored: Bathurst in the Bermuda Bowl and Schwartz in the Senior Bowl.”

Bathurst is certainly a sponsored team. I would guess that Schwartz is as well.
July 14, 2011
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I think almost everyone plays 1-2m-2 as not implying extras.

1-2-2M is a different story. I believe that should also not imply extras, even when 2 is not game-forcing, but I think the mainstream approach is that it does imply extras.
July 14, 2011
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Gavin

After this round, did you suspect you were on your way to winning the event? There must be some great boards coming for you guys. I'm looking forward to them.

I understand the time pressures involved in at-the-table bridge. On the first board, deep throat says you're supposed to get another trick on defense, and also that your side can make 2, so it is an important trick matchpoint-wise. To get that trick, you might have had to think about it for a few hours, though, which in real life bridge is not an available option. You took so much time as it was on this board, that you felt under time pressure on the second.

I agree with Barry that you should either show a non-serious slam try, or a serious one but then sign off on the second board. However, on a good day, slam would have been gin. (Wait a minute, this WAS a good day!)

Once again the amorphous 1M-2C auction rears its ugly head. This is another deal where playing 3 as jacoby would have helped you. Joel could bid 2N to show a balanced game force, and you would then not be so tempted by the slam.
July 13, 2011
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This is reminiscent of the previous edition in this series in that choice of methods is the biggest nit to pick, rather than the calls the players actually made given their chosen methods.

There is no compelling reason to play that 2N instead of, say, 3C is the jacoby raise. Believe me, the way most people play jacoby, the extra space provided by using 2N instead of 3C is totally wasted anyway. In the meantime, hands like North's, which is a natural 2N response, become very difficult to bid. North bid three suits; perhaps it is understandable that South might have thought she was 2=1=4=6 instead of 2=3=4=4.

I think the second area where methods may have played a role in this particular disaster is in sorting out stoppers when they double your “punt”. It seems that we should thank them for doubling, as it gives us more room to maneuver; but to take full advantage of the extra space, we have to have clear agreements about what the various bids mean.

I think David and Larry had an arrangement whereby redouble in a situation like this shows a partial stopper. That seems like the best treatment to me. Our first priority is to determine whether 3N is playable; most likely South is not well-heeled in s or she might have bid 3N instead of 3, so if North passes, South should redouble, implying a partial stopper, and North can continue to 3N.
July 5, 2011
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I believe Larry has a very legitimate beef here, although I am a little surprised to see him making such a big deal out of it.

This was not a great performance by West.

His final pass was flat out wrong. At matchpoints it would be a capital crime; at imps it was only a misdemeanor. I imagine he was not completely confident that a double would be for takeout. It is sad that a player at that level might have doubts about what double would mean, and sadder that he would think his world class partner might sit for 2-doubled at imps when there is even the slightest chance it is making.

The greater crime was the defense. West's trump continuation was very bad.

As to West's initial action, I also think 1N was a very poor choice. To me, 2 seems kind of obvious, but I would accept double. Sometimes you are endplayed in the auction into lying about a stopper or about a 4th . However, this isn't one of those times.

West is lucky he doesn't live in NY state, where it's three strikes and you are out!
July 5, 2011
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Paul

After 1H-1N-2C-2D-2H, responder should probably usually pass with a doubleton heart and a weak hand, certainly if he is 22(45). Opener might have only 2 clubs, so venturing to the 3-level is risky. With 2263, 3262, and 2164, responder should probably also pass 2H, for the same reason–there are no assurances that we have a better fit than our known 5-2 in hearts, and if we don't we certainly don't want to get to the 3-level.

With 2236, he should probably bid 3C (after 2D, this would be weak). Also with 3226 and 2146.

I don't define 1H-1N-2C-2S as a “good” club raise, for example to differentiate it from 1H-1N-2C-3C. I define it as a different club raise: invitational, inappropriate for 2N, but without enough clubs to raise directly to 3C. Since 1H-1N-2C could be 4522, you certainly can't afford to raise to 3C with only 4 of them, and even doing so with 5 it is dangerous. Yet there are many hands with 4 or 5 clubs that are not comfortable 2N bids either–perhaps too much distribution. This is what 2S shows–I want to raise to 3C, but in case you are short, I'll give you a chance to get out in 2N.

I don't think this is covered in my write-up above, but I also think 1H-1N-2D-2S should be handled differently from what most people do. I don't define it as a “good diamond raise” as opposed to 1H-1N-2D-3D, although it could be something like that. I think this and also 1H-1N-2H-2S should be relays to 2N, giving responder more ways to show various minor-suit oriented hands.

So I would play 1H-1N-2D-2S-2N
…..3C=invitational hand with long clubs (better than 3C directly which would be weak)
…..3D=good raise to 3D (better than 3D directly)

As opener might have only 3 diamonds for the sequence 1H-1N-2D, raising directly to 3D would be more diamond-oriented–at least 5–closer to a “courtesy” raise. 1H-1N-2D-2S-2N-3D should show a more active interest in 3N than 1H-1N-2D-3D, so stronger, and perhaps with only 4 diamonds.

Does this address your questions?

Bob

June 30, 2011
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Gavin

I'm really enjoying this series. A lot of my bridge playing friends have mentioned to me how much they're enjoying it.

On the second board, I think 2 really should be forcing, so I'm having a tough time understanding what Joel was thinking when he bid it.

Perhaps he was thinking that he should have responded 1 rather than 1 initially. I think that is the case. Now, when they overcall 2, you will have an easy 2 call (showing 4) and you will get to the right contract.

Here is my reasoning:

When partner opens a minor, and you are 44 in the majors with a hand that intends to pass partner's 1N rebid, you should bid your better major, not automatically 1 which is the standard practice. If partner has a balanced, minimum-range hand, he will often bypass a 4-card suit to rebid 1N anyway, so whichever major you respond in, you are in jeopardy of missing a 44 major suit fit. I would rather miss a 44 fit in my weaker major than my stronger one (e.g., if our s are xxxx opposite xxxx, maybe we belong in notrump anyway).

I think the validity of this reasoning depends to a degree on your partnership's “bypassing style”. For example, if your partner will never bypass 4 s to rebid 1N after 1m-1, then the reasoning is probably not at all valid. If your partner would only bypass 4 s with 4-by-3 hands (which is perhaps mainstream), then it is less valid. If you would bypass 4 s with almost any balanced, minimum-range hand (as I would and I suspect many others would as well), then the reasoning is very valid.

Incidentally, I am happy to have an excuse to respond 1 rather than 1 because I hate responding in a major with 4 small anyway, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

What do you think?

June 30, 2011
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Josh says “I had reasons for not making a normal direct 5 bid” as West over South's pass of 4. Is it “normal” to bid only 5 at that point? I prefer 7 directly. 5 is inadequate after partner jumps to 4; 6 maybe is more “normal”, but as West I would be concerned that 6 will just stampede them into bidding a slam that I'm pretty sure is cold. If I bid 7, I don't know what I am rooting for–them to double us or them to bid a grand which we might beat. In other words, 7 gives them the last guess, which is my goal in life.

As far as the North-South bidding goes, I really can't criticize the decisions they made given their methods. However, I consider it very poor to play that 2-2 says virtually nothing about responder's hand (this is a point Marshall Miles makes again and again). Note that neither player was able to bid a suit naturally until the 6-level.

If they played step responses, for example, South would be pretty sure about the king when he has to decide what to do over 7 (it is unlikely they would bid and raise s with neither the ace or king). That would be a big improvement over knowing nothing at all.

Even better would be to play that with 3 controls, North can start bidding his suits at the 3-level immediately. So the auction might go:

2…(P)…3…(4)
P*….(P?)..3…(P)
5N….(7)..P….(P)
?

*Over 4, South can bid 4 if it is forcing (which arguably it should be when 3 showed 3+ controls).

Now South would be able to make an intelligent decision over the belated 7. He knows virtually everything about North's hand: the two suits, the ace and the king.

The suggested responding scheme to 2:

2-
…..2=inability to bid anything else
…..2M=desire to play there opposite 18-19 balanced (if 2 could show that hand type)
…..2N=4+ controls, no decent 5-card suit
…..3X=natural, 3+ controls

Granted, this arrangement would be ideal on this particular layout but perhaps less so on others.

The point is that we need to allow responder to describe his hand more often after a 2 opening. Playing the way they do makes you extremely vulnerable to being preempted. Listen to Marshall!
June 28, 2011
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In terms of signalling methods, I think, playing standard carding, the lowest at trick 1 would suggest shifting to s, the highest would suggest shifting to s, a low middle one would suggest a shift but show no preference between the side suits, and a high middle one would suggest continuing s.

So I would play a low middle at trick 1, either the 5 or 4. I don't know what I want partner to do; he will have to decide based on his hand. I have a tough time visualizing a hand where I'd want a shift with that dummy, so even if I thought partner was requesting a I would be reluctant to go along with him. The signal is not a command; it is a suggestion.

If you play upside-down count and attitude, a high middle one would suggest a shift and a low middle one would suggest a continuation. So I would play the 8 here. If you play upside-down suit preference, then the lowest would suggest a shift and the highest a shift.

I'm not sure how to translate this to your signalling methods, Peter, since you seem to be missing an option. You don't seem to have a “neutral” signal available.

I do think this is a tempo sensitive situation. For example, if you suggest a shift to s or s, there is a difference between doing so quickly, in normal tempo, and slowly. For example, a slow suit preference signal would imply some doubt. Naturally, I would expect my partner to bend over backwards not to take advantage of my tempo, but I would certainly rather not give him a problem.

Partner knows I have at least 5 s. If he has only 5, he wouldn't know whether I have 5 or 6.
June 23, 2011
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Brian

I didn't say that 2 by South would GUARANTEE 4 s, I said it would IMPLY 4 s. In order to change “imply” to “guarantee”, South would have to raise s next.

So, for example

(1) X (P) 1
(P) 2

would show little more than 4 s and solid values for a takeout double, while

(1) X (P) 1
(P) 2 (P) 2
(P) 2

would also show 4 s, but would be a stronger hand. Similar remarks would apply to a direct raise to 3 or 4, versus a 2 cue followed by such a raise.

If you have a constructive auction that starts 1-1, then opener can raise “to the appropriate level”. Responder has shown 4 s and implied full responding values. (Even in this situation, opener has to be a little wary because responder might have bid “on air”, but that is a different issue.)

When you have a competitive auction that starts (1)-X-(P)-1, things are different. Advancer was forced to bid–he may well have bid 1 with fewer than 4 s and a complete yarborough. Intervener in the second auction has to tread more delicately than opener in the first auction.
June 23, 2011
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Kit

I agree with you that South would not have bid 2 with 4 s, so that part of my earlier comment was ill-conceived. However, I still think that 2 is a better continuation over 2 than 2 with the actual South hand for the reasons I mentioned.

I also don't think it is as simple as raising s to “whatever level he deemed appropriate” when South has 4 s. I think South would either bid 2, 3, 4 or first cue bid 2, then raise with 4 s. As North might have a yarborough with only 3 s, raising to 3 or 4, with or without the initial cue-bid, requires a huge hand. In effect, South needs the cue-bid to differentiate between “serious” raises and less serious raises.

Many commentators say that a cue-bid of 2 by South when he bid 2 would imply only 3 s, which I disagree with. I believe that 2 implies 4 s.

The point I was trying to make is that the meaning of 2 cue bids–the one North actually made and the one South might have made when he bid 2–is the source of the confusion here. I think cue bids imply support.
June 23, 2011
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As I commented earlier, I don't agree with most of the calls chosen in this auction by Steve and Howie. However, I didn't mention that I feel much more strongly about some of the calls than others.

For example, I think the initial decision whether to double or overcall 2 is close. I think the decision to bid 1 or 2 after the takeout double is close. (Barry Goren says he thinks 1 is ok, but it's close to a 2 bid–he doesn't seem to be aware that there is middle ground between 1 and 2–namely, 2.)

I think the 2 call after 2 was a VERY BAD BID–North should show his s, not make an amorphous cue bid. Whether he should bid 2 or 3 is close, but 2 should not be in the picture.

I suspect that South interpreted 2 as agreeing s, which I think is quite a reasonable interpretation.

I suspect North bid 2 because he was feeling guilty about his earlier 1 underbid, which is a bad reason to choose a bid. You cannot make a bid that says “my earlier bid was incorrect”.

There are a few comments about what 2 by South would mean (at the point where he bid 2), with some saying that it shows specifically 3 s. I think that is wrong–2 implies support but not specifically 3. I don't agree that “any hand that has 4 card support can raise to an appropriate level.” North has not bid 1 voluntarily–it was under duress. So for example, raising to 3, or cue-bidding first and then raising to 3 would both imply 4 s, but the second auction would be stronger than the direct raise. We need ways to differentiate between “serious” raises and “frivolous” raises because North could have a yarborough with as few as 3 s.

Kit says that South should bid 2 over 2 because “partner is assumed to not have 4 hearts or he would have bid them”, and he needs to let partner know he has 3-card support. I disagree with this also–I think 2 implies 4-card support. In the meantime, suppose partner's has something like xxxx Kxx Ax xxxx? Although 2 implied support, often when our primary fit is in a minor we try to find a moysian in a major instead of playing in five of a minor. If North's majors are as above, which 4-3 major suit fit would you rather play in?

Even if we are not angling for a moysian, South is right to bid 2 as a cue-bid in support of our presumed (because of the 2 cue) fit.

I said earlier that “the auction illustrates the sad state of standard methods when it comes to continuing the auction after a takeout double; even the superstars seem to have no clue what their bids mean”. What I had in mind specifically was the meaning of cue bids of the suit they opened after we make a takeout double. I think clearly Steve and Howie had different concepts of what North's 2 cue-bid should show. I think the discussion illustrates that many experts have different concepts about what South's cue-bid of 2 would show.
June 21, 2011
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The auction illustrates the sad state of standard methods when it comes to continuing the auction after a takeout double; even the superstars seem to have no clue what their bids mean.

An initial 2 is preferable to double.

In response to the double, 2 is preferable to 1.

Steve's 2 call given his initial double, was EXCELLENT (I didn't want to be totally negative).

After 2, Howie should bid 2, not 2.

Over 2, Steve should bid 2, not 2.

Howie should just jump to 4 over 2, not bid 3.

I don't think any game really makes, but getting to 4 of either major would be a huge improvement over what happened. The contract wouldn't be doubled, and it would go down less.
June 20, 2011
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I'm sure that Kit is thrilled to be blamed for this lead.
June 20, 2011
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I was going to ask my usual question: matchpoints or imps? However, after a little thought I decided it would not matter.

I think it is bad bridge to rebid 2D without either a fifth diamond or a non-minimum-range hand. This implies that you must rebid 1N with minimum-range 1543 hands and 2542 hands that lack a club stopper, which some people might feel squeamish about, but I believe is the best strategy. (With 3541 minimum-range, partner would raise to 2S.) That's because we want to play most of our partscore hands in 1N, the most difficult contract to defend against, and not 2 of a minor; furthermore, if we try to play in 2 of a minor, good opponents will usually only allow us to when it is a bad spot.

If partner is 3541 with extras (say 15-17 hcp), then it would be normal for him to bid this way planning to raise spades over a 2H preference, and we are probably cold for 4S. If he is 1543 or 2542 with extras, we probably have a play for 3N. We also might have a game in diamonds or even hearts opposite certain hands. Game is such a lively possibility that I would not consider passing with this hand.

The real question is whether to invite with 2N or 3D? I prefer 3D, since the stiff heart is more valuable in diamonds than notrump. If partner passes my invitation, I expect he will be able to make 3D, even if it is a 43 fit, more often than 2N.

The argument that you can get to 3D over 2N but not to 2N over 3D has only superficial appeal. First off, is 1H-1S-2D-2N-3D even passable? I'm not sure of the correct theoretical answer (I suspect it should be forcing) and, moreover, I'm not sure what partner thinks. Even if I was confident that we had a firm partnership agreement that 3D over 2N is non-forcing, partner might neglect to correct to 3D on some hands when it is a better contract than 2N.
June 17, 2011
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I agree that it is clear to bid 2H instead of 3D.

Not overcalling 1D might also have helped.

What should North bid after a pass by West? His best bid is a game-forcing 2N, but that is only invitational for most partnerships. North will probably blast to 3N, and now getting to slam will be difficult. Or North himself might temporize with 1D (which is probably his best choice in standard methods) but then East can overcall 1H.
June 12, 2011
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Famous last words: “the bidding is not going to die here”. Remember them the next time you are in pass-out seat at imps with a borderline decision as to whether or not to balance.

Modern methods require a strong cue-bid for hands like this. Now that everyone plays michaels, many think we have lost the ability to make one. Actually, we haven't. 3C is available for this purpose. Ostensibly it asks for a club stopper, but it can also be used for a hand like this.

Some partnerships misguidedly use 3C as preemptive at some colors (favorable or white) or at some formats (mps or imps) or in some suits (minors but not majors). Once you expand your definition of what kinds of strong hands 3C might show, the strong version of 3C is actually more frequent than the preemptive version. Not to mention that if you don't play 3C as strong, you are up the creek without a paddle on hands like this one. Plus it's much easier on the memory just to play that all jump cues are stopper-asking.

On this hand, even 3C followed by 4S is not enough, so you would follow 3 up with a jump to 6S or perhaps 5S if you are the super-cautious type. If partner has the K, he will raise. Bidding 5S or 6S immediately is then unambiguously an advance save, and if partner has the spade K he can pass with no worries; maybe it will enable your save to make; certainly it will go down less than you were budgeting for.
June 6, 2011
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Although I did lead a in the poll, and the actual scenario was one possibility I had in mind, I have to agree with Hermann that North's bidding seems random. Why did he not start with 2 rather than 2?

An even more interesting question is: once he decided to ask for key-cards (a dubious decision), why did he not bid 5N over the 5 response, cluing his partner in on his possession of the fifth key-card? Surely that piece of data might be of interest to a 2 opener whose hand is not well-defined by the previous auction; and providing that information is more or less “on the house”.

The “normal” assumption when they ask for key-cards and sign off in 6 is that they are missing a key-card. I led a mostly because the missing key-card that is most likely to help me is the A of .

One might argue that they could be missing the A, and the K might be in dummy, so the Q lead might work. This would mean that the 2 opener has two or more small s and the A. This seems unlikely to me on the auction, although not impossible. But the lead only requires partner to own the A; the lead requires him to hold the A plus the K to be in dummy; so the lead requires less.

Another line of “reasoning”…You can sort of tell from the auction that North either doesn't know what he is doing or is up to some kind of chicanery. If the latter, surely one possibility is that he decided to bid a slam when South bid 3, and his 3 call was an attempt to talk us out of a lead. Like the Rueful Rabbit, you could reason that if the Hideous Hog doesn't want you to lead a , you better lead a .
June 4, 2011
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