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All comments by Bob Heitzman
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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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If 3S is a GF, then 4C is rather obvious and the real problem is what we do next because we will not have come close to describing our hand yet. We could have at least an ace less for our negative double. So is the point of this poll whether we think 3S is game-forcing?

I think it should be, based on the principle that a cue-bid guarantees a rebid unless we are in game. But then I immediately think of other situations where this principle does not hold. For example, if it goes 1S-(2H)-3H-(P)-3S, 3H is a cue-bid, 3S is not game; yet I'm pretty sure we all think that 3S by opener is passable. In this particular situation, responder has made a negative double, which some might think is itself a limited call (e.g., it can certainly be passed). My partner might think that 3S just asks for a spade stopper; when I deny it, the auction can (legally) die, even if we are not in game.

So would I be confident that my partner thinks 4C is forcing? Not in the least. Although I might expect to win the post mortem if partner passes 4C, what I really want to win is the match. So 4C is out for me; 4H is also out since if partner has hearts we probably belong in slam.

I have to do something more ambitious, but I would also like to leave room for partner to tell me what the 3S call was all about. I am left with 4S, which I think says: "I'm not sure what you're interested in, but whatever it is, I have the tickets to cooperate. Unfortunately, 4S also sounds like a spade control, which I don't have, but such is life.
June 2, 2011
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Good point by Dan…I hadn't noticed that they were playing Kokish, so the first heart call by east and the first spade call by west were not natural bids. This makes the inference of spade shortness in the East hand less reliable.

If the point of a spade lead is to remove declarer's option to take the spade hook before he fully appreciates that he will need it (before, say, he learns that he has a trump loser), that case is definitely weakened once we (I) realize they are playing kokish. If declarer has two or more spades, eventually he will probably sigh and take the spade hook at trick one if I lead a spade and it is available. We have inside information that the spade hook will work for him, so maybe we should look elsewhere for our lead. But where?

Apparently, the first natural call in this auction was 3H; W then bid 3S, which is presumed natural; his partner “signed off” in 4H; West then launched into blackwood. It is an unusual auction in two respects: (1) West decided to launch into blackwood without knowing that much about East's hand–he only knows he has a nice hand with primary hearts, most of which he learned when opener bid 3H; (2) it is the non-2C-opener who did most of the bidding. What can West actually have? Since this is an unscientific auction, it is possible they are off two cashers in some suit.

If West has controls in all the side suits, he might have bid blackwood immediately over 3H. If he has two of the three side suits controlled, the missing control is probably NOT in a minor suit, as he then would then have cue-bid the minor suit he does control over 4H. He might, however, not have a SPADE control on this auction; perhaps his 3S call was a diversionary tactic.

So I will stay with the spade lead, but now for a different reason. As they have not exchanged information about side suit controls at all, I am hopeful that we can cash the first two tricks in a side suit before they go about their business of taking 12 tricks. The only side suit where that might be possible is spades. Perhaps I should lead the spade K to make sure we cash both of our spades when I have guessed right about what is going on, but I would rather withhold it as a hedge in case a spade lead is right for the original reason. If partner wins the spade A at trick one, I hope he will figure out for himself that I want a spade back.

Leading a club would require two cards in partner's hand to work–the club K and a control in their presumed source of tricks side suit. Leading a spade might work when he has only one–the spade A. Or it might work for the original reason.

June 2, 2011
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On this one, I don't think matchpoints or imps matters much. If the opponents bid and make a slam against me at matchpoints, I am getting a bad score, so my goal is to beat it, same as at imps. I'm not really interested in making a safe lead or staying with the field.
June 1, 2011
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“At the table, though, I can't see any reason to suppose that declarer has both a stiff spade and a trump loser, so you have to talk him out of the spade finesse at trick one, to prevent him from pitching his minor suit loser. That's one possible hand, but why is it more likely than others?”

I think this is a fairly likely scenario. West bid s twice and East wasn't interested, so he is short–a stiff or void–and stiffs are far more frequent than voids.

The surprise trump loser is suggested because you are void.

It's true that a lead could also be disastrous, but all things considered I think a lead is a worthwhile risk. It is usually right to lead aggressively against small slams.
June 1, 2011
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All my life, I have thought “forcing pass” meant that the partner of the forcing passer may either double or bid. Silly me. Now I am learning is what it really means is this: usually partner must either double or bid, but if he is going to double, he should make a further assessment of whether the contract rates to go down 2 or only 1; if the latter, then it's okay to pass instead of doubling, because your estimate might be off by one in which case you may be doubling them in a cold contract.

I think Fred passed 4 because he was interested in a slam, not because he had doubts about whether 5 would make. He was planning to pull Kit's double of 4 to 5, thus implying (by passing and pulling), a stronger hand than 5 directly would show. For example, as weak as Kit's hand was, if the K was the K, 6 would be cold.

Could one argue that Fred could not have a hand good enough to pass and pull because he opened 2 instead of 1? Not really; turn Fred's J and Q into deuces, and slam would still be cold opposite the K instead of the K, but we would not be debating whether Fred should open 1 or 2 with only 13 hcp.

May 31, 2011
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Maybe opening 2 instead of 1 was wrong, maybe Fred should have bid over 4. Neither of these is clear (to me), so my inclination is not to second guess my partner's choices.

It is clear (to me and to the janitor) that Fred's pass of 4 was forcing.

It looks to me like Kit passed 4 because he was feeling guilty about his previous 2 call. However, I know that a player of Kit's caliber would never do something like that, so I must be missing something. I'm sure Kit will enlighten us.
May 31, 2011
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Your accounting of the sequence of events is probably right. It makes it all the more surprising that they canceled Bali in 2001 simply because of its vague association with militant Islam. Only after the fact, when the nightclub incident happened in 2002, did it seem to some that their fears had been retroactively justified. From what I know of Indonesia, especially Bali, the nightclub incident was really out of character.

And yes, I do remember Istanbul. As I recall, Roy Welland took a team there to represent the U.S. after the team that originally qualified withdrew.

It doesn't feel to me that the relationship between militant Islam and the West has particularly mellowed since those days. Perhaps this indicates that the thinking of WBF top leaders has shifted significantly with the recent change in leadership.
May 26, 2011
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Pretty surprising that they would do this. The last time they scheduled something for Bali, they had to cancel it at the last minute, because a bomb went off in a night club there shortly after 9/11. I heard this resulted in huge costs for the WBF.

I have been to Bali many times, although never for bridge reasons, and not since 9/11. It is a lovely place, and more reminiscent of a very exclusive Western resort (such as, say, Maui) than it is of Indonesia generally, which is a pretty poor country. I have heard that Bali changed after the bombing, for the worse, but perhaps it has rebounded.

Indonesia has the largest Islamic population in the world; however, there are relatively few militant Islamics there. The government is supposedly secular and officially tolerant of all religions (however, if you don't believe in God, you should keep you mouth shut; they don't consider atheism an acceptable religion). The people tend to be very gentle and friendly to Westerners. If you walk down the street in Jakarta, you are likely to be mobbed by children who want to practice their English on you. The island of Bali itself is a Buddhist enclave within Indonesia. Nusa Dua is an area of Bali that, when I was there, was comprised mostly of luxurious Western hotel chains. It will be expensive.

I am not trying at all to suggest that bridge players should be reluctant to go to Bali for the world championships; in fact, I would encourage them to go. I am just surprised that the WBF would try to go back there so soon after the last disaster.
May 26, 2011
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I believe that Kit's approach would have been considered mainstream about 20 years ago. Expert tendencies change over time. That is not to say that the change is always for the better. In Kit's case, we have strong evidence (such as his recent Cavendish win and his outstanding track record over many years) that his more traditional approach is at least viable and in fact actually works pretty well. It's just doesn't happen to be what most of his peers play anymore.

I challenge Kit's statement that this East hand does not have unexpected distribution. To me, 5-5 constitutes “shape”, which is why I would have bid 4 with both of these hands, playing either style of double (Kit's or the mainstream). Something that has not been mentioned is that for this partnership, East's 4 call would strongly imply (perhaps even guarantee?) a 5-card suit, because West has presumably denied 4 s with her double, and East would have bid 2 or 2 over 1-(1) with 6+ s. So, even though East's double doesn't guarantee 3 s, East can count on West usually looking for greener pastures with less than 3 s because she knows West has a 5-card suit.

On terminology: Sartaj says that “Takeout/Cards does not specify either way for takeout suggests bidding and cards suggests passing.” That's not what “cards” means to me. “Cards” is shorthand for “transferable values”, meaning values that will be useful on either offense or defense. So “cards” does not suggest bidding or passing; rather it suggests that “whether you decide to bid on or pass my double, I have some cards that will help our cause that I haven't shown yet.”

We are talking about a fairly subtle difference in tendencies here; there is no bright line between Kit's approach and the mainstream approach. Kit's approach is that when he doubles, his partner should tend to pass without a lot of shape; the mainstream approach is that the doubler's partner should tend to take it out when it looks close. Whether the East hand is “close” or not is a different discussion.

May 26, 2011
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I'm not saying your way of playing double is right or wrong. I'm just saying most people don't play it the way you do.

With xx KJx Axx AKQxx most people would pass. I admit they are probably missing out on a juicy penalty if they hold this hand.

I think they feel they are more likely to hold KJx xx Axx AKQxx, in which case they would really like the double to be takeout.
May 24, 2011
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The description of their methods is not totally clear. After 1m-(1), it seems they play that double shows 4 or 5 s and 1 denies 4 s. They have 2 available for hands of invitational+ value with 6+ s. What's missing is what they do with 6+ s and less than invitational values, but a logical answer would be to use 2 for those hands, so I'll assume that.

The first part of this method is fairly common nowadays. Essentially, if you don't play this way, you create a whole class of virtually unbiddable responding hands. For example, you hold Ax xxx Kxxxx xxx, partner opens 1, and righty overcalls 1. You have no good option in standard methods; playing the way they do, you can bid 1 and at least give your partner a clue.

People use 1 to deny s and double to show s so that they can more often rightside the declaration of contracts–you usually prefer the overcaller to be on lead.

I've never encountered the second part of their system–using 2 to show 6+ s and invitational+ values. I'm not saying it's good or bad; you lose the ability to make a normal cue-bid, but you gain more precision in describing hands with s, which is after all a very important suit.

Their methods gives up distinguishing immediately between 4 and 5 card suits in responder's hand. That ambiguity can sometimes be sorted out through the use of support x's. Of course, if you knew the auction was going to go like this one did, you would not choose to pay this price, as Geoff points out. But who knew? My feeling is that it is probably better to build a solid foundation early in the auction and then to depend on judgment to solve problems like the one that arose here later in the auction. In other words, it is just not acceptable to have a huge class of unbiddable responding hands on the first round of the auction.

In this situation, I agree with Lew that technically a 4 bid by West would show 4. However, I contend that if you squint, West actually does have 4. Ok, she has only 3, but they are 3 very good ones. And she has the stiff as well suggesting that defending 4 is not a great idea. So I think she should pretend she has 4 and bid 4. If you doubled with the West hand, and heard pass-pass-pass, would you be a happy camper? I wouldn't, so therefore I wouldn't double.

As to what the double means, I suspect only Kit thinks the two choices are “takeout” or “penalty/cards”. I think the rest of the world plays that double is “takeout/cards”. In other words, West has extra values that suggest we can make something above 4, but also enough defense to suggest we can beat 4 if responder is so weak and/or balanced that she has to pass the double. I don't think the double guarantees 3 s. It just shows a good hand in context. I do think that double denies 4 s in this particular context (with 4 s and extra values, you would always bid 4).

If that is what double means, then East has a clear 4 bid. Yes, it would be nice to have a bid available to suggest s but still allow us to play 4s when the doubler has 3 of them. But not having an ideal bid available doesn't excuse making a very un-ideal decision–to pass. I think the doubler can pull 4, to 4N or 5 of a minor, with shortness in s, so 4 is not terminal.

This could easily be a double game-swing situation, so at imps I think it is clear what to do in both seats. At matchpoints, it is a LOT tougher. You just have to do the right thing; you don't have the concept of insurance to give you some margin for error.
May 24, 2011
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There is a report from the appeals committee in today's bulletin. It does appear that s was never under consideration as an alternative strain to s by NS. This means that 6 was indeed a sign-off (rather than an accept, with 6 being the sign-off, as some of us have suggested). In fact, there was some confusion over whether 4 even showed s (their notes said it showed 4 s, but South said he thought it might show a void and have nothing at all to do with s.)

Incidentally, 5 was acknowledged by North as an “intentional false cue bid”, although I don't think that has any relevance to the ruling.

Apparently, there was also a note passed from South to his screen mate, while North was considering his bid over 5, saying “I'm bidding” and when the screen mate asked “bidding over what?”, South wrote another note saying “anything other than 6”. Apparently South later explained that what he meant was that 6 was the lowest contract they would reach and not that he would necessarily pass 6.

South stated that his 7 call was a “state of the match shot not having shown the A of s”.

Both the director and the committee ruled that there was a break in tempo; although NS do not seem to have conceded that overtly, it seems they did not fight it too much either. The fact that South had time to exchange notes with his screen mate while his partner was thinking seems to be an implication that some time was taken by North before bidding; also, the content of the note suggests that South was concerned about being barred because of a BIT. But these issues are subjective; ultimately, somebody just has to decide whether there was UI or not; apparently the decision was that there was a BIT, so I think we're stuck with accepting that there was.

In light of this information, I now think that the ruling was correct. In effect, North-South acknowledged that 6 was a sign-off, and South decided to bid on anyway due to the “state of the match”. The note South wrote is also damaging to their case imo–if his note said that he was bidding over 6 that would be one thing (although it would have been better to write the note before his partner started thinking rather than while he was thinking), but it specifically said he was bidding over anything EXCEPT 6. It is fine for him to say later that is not what he meant, and I'm not saying that I don't believe him; but that has to be treated as a “self-serving statement” and therefore disregarded by the committee.

South is certainly permitted to take a flyer based on the state of the match, but he is not entitled to take a flyer when he has UI that indicates his flyer will work.
May 17, 2011
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Perhaps North psyched a cue bid or perhaps 5 was what actually what BridgeWinners says it was, a response to RKC. I watched the team trials on BBO, and the vugraph operator's explanation of the alert is not always reliable–it's tough to hear everything they say–all the operator really knows is that the bids were alerted. There is nothing in their system description that says what 4 is.

But Jacco, who cares? What on earth does whether North psyched a cue-bid have to do with South bidding 7?

OK, I concede your point, Henry. North did not have his 6 bid. But that had nothing to do with the ruling. North did bid 6, misguidedly in your opinion, but he bid it. The ruling was about whether S had his 7 bid. You are arguing that South should have expected a much better hand opposite, so I guess you agree with the 7 call.

To be critical of South for bidding 5 instead of 7 is beside the point, and also presumptuous. He judged that his hand was worth a grand slam try and not a blast. I find that reasonable myself, but again, so what? I would not expect a player of this caliber to be “stalling” because he hadn't yet made up his mind whether to blast 7. That's the kind of thing that might happen in a Flight B event routinely but not usually at this level.

As for “denial cue bids”, I have to confess that I've never heard of them and don't see the logic in playing that 4D says “I have a control”, and 5 says “I don't”.
May 16, 2011

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