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All comments by Bob Heitzman
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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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OK, but it is a 6 bid itself, and not necessarily a SLOW 6 bid, that suggests some additional feature, because the sign-off in this auction is 6.

That fact that 2 was not really a weak 2 bid is interesting, but it only means that North's 6 was more borderline; I agree with that. But he made the bid, and South acted honestly on the information. I would argue that passing 6 is suggested by the BIT; South bid the grand despite suspecting that North had doubts about his 6 bid.

If North had broken tempo and then bid 6, I agree that would bar South from bidding above 6.
May 16, 2011
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I think Jacco makes very good points. South never showed support. He could have shortness with very good s, or he could have support for either suit. North doesn't know which, so the sign-off would be 6 not 6. 6 could be viewed as an acceptance of the try for a grand with a suggestion on the way that maybe s is the better strain if South is NOT short in the suit. If North could really be 6-4 rather than 6-5 (an agreement that seems to me to be dubious but that is apparently what they play), then it makes sense to accept the grand try because of the 5th (for a weak 2, North could hardly be much better), and it is pretty logical to mention s again on the way to 7.

Perhaps, although 6 is a logical call, North should refrain from making it because of issues like the one that arose.

Also, when an auction reaches this level, it is normal for the players to think awhile before bidding, so a break in tempo is not really that significant, if in fact there was one (was that in dispute?).

It is unfortunate, I think. Jeff Rubens has suggested that when a player makes a bid like 5, he should be allowed to write down in advance what his intentions are over various continuations by partner to avoid problems like this.
May 16, 2011
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Well Stefan, you said earlier you must not have been fully awake during the hand. I can see you and raise you by saying that I was actually sound asleep when it was played!

Sorry, of course it was 6N, as I might have noticed by reading Jason's blog. But perhaps it should have been 6?

So 6N…it is not makable on the actual layout after a lead and a misguess in s. I think on a lead, for example, you can afford to misguess the s and still bring it home.
May 14, 2011
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I think the hand is cold whether or not you guess s. For example, win the , cash the three top s, and then go about your business. Eventually, you will ruff both your losing and in dummy, en passant so to speak, and there's nothing W can do to stop you. If he ruffs in front of you, you pitch dummy's last (the second last one went on a ); if he doesn't the defense can fight over trick 13–E having a high and W the last trump.

I'm not saying this line is clear (I suspect not since the rumor is that Meckstroth is a pretty good declarer).

Regarding whether or not restricted choice is applicable (leaving aside the auction that suggests that E has 6 or 7 s), I believe if declarer was missing only the JT of s, and not the 9 also, that restricted choice would not be AS relevant. As Paul implies and Jonathan states quite clearly, when he is missing the 9 it does become a central issue.

But even if declarer was not lacking the 9 it would still be relevant in the cases where E has a singleton or doubleton . Once E doubles 2 missing the AK, I think the odds that he has a singleton or doubleton become pretty high. As Jason mentions in his commentary, the question is whether E has 6 or 7 s, not really 5 or 6.
May 14, 2011
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Chip's comment that it is not a restricted choice situation is right in the sense that at this level E would routinely falsecard with the T from JTx, which ignoring the auction, he is more likely to have been dealt than any of the holdings Paul mentions.

But that doesn't mean that there is no restricted choice aspect to declarer's decision.

When you add to the mix an auction that suggests E has club length (he doubled 2 with neither the A or K), JTx of s becomes a somewhat less likely holding for him (although obviously not impossible).

Great hand, great analysis, great title, great use of accents grave and aigu.
May 13, 2011
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Dan's post indicates that the pool has declined 50% in 3 years. And the number of pairs has dropped 1/3, from 54 to 36.

The explanations given–the sluggish economy and the fact that the team trials are held just after the event–don't seem that convincing to me. The economy has certainly been worse in other years. And I don't really see the relevance of the team trials.

I wonder what is really driving this?
May 6, 2011
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Having kibitzed some matches on BBO where the participants know the score after each board, I can tell you that it completely changes the nature of the contest.

I remember one match in particular where a team was down by ten or so imps going into the last board and knew they needed a huge result to pull the match out. They bid a very slim slam and it made, enabling them to win the match. I'm sure they would not have taken the risk they did if they didn't know the exact score.

I'm not saying this is good or bad. It's not bridge as we are accustomed to playing it, but that's a different issue.
May 5, 2011
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On the actual layout, would it be that unreasonable for E to bid 6 over pass or 6 (instead of 6)?

Then, when N takes his belated save in 7, would it be that unreasonable for E to make a forcing pass with his void?

They might well find “stumble” into the par contract of 7 by E if you give them the room. They are much less likely to do that if you bid 7 directly. Give these guys a few clues, and next thing you know they do the right thing.

Against a random pair in a matchpoint event, its a different story.
May 4, 2011
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We're talking about 3rd seat openers, so partner cannot have Axx Qxxx Kx AQxx.

I would never open 1 with xx xxxx xxxx xxx. (I might open this hand 2 in 3rd seat, white against red.)

If you play that weak 2s show 5-11 hcp and a 6-card suit do you have to open all hands that meet those parameters with a weak 2? Of course not. You use your judgment, depending on the colors, the texture of your suit, the side suit holdings, the opponents, the format (matchpoints or imps), the state of your game, and yes, even “table feel”. The same is true of weak 2s in 3rd seat,its just that the parameters are wider.

I don't have a problem with barring conventional responses to 3rd seat weak 2s (although I think it is misguided). You don't really need them anyway. As partner is a passed hand, what can he have that he could not now describe with some natural call?

Opening a weak 2 in third seat simply means that your judgment is that it is better strategy to disrupt their auction that to describe your own hand constructively, and also implies that you can handle partner's raises. As to what exact hand it shows, there is a tremendous range.

I'm sure all experts play this way, although the extremes to which they go vary.

I would be happy to give my opponents a little lecture on the factors I take into account in deciding whether or not to preempt with a hand that meets the basic parameters of hcp and suit length. There isn't really time for that, and I also find that most opponents aren't that interested. But I am not trying to hide anything, and I try to be as forthcoming as time permits if they ask.
May 4, 2011
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Passing and then saving belatedly is an approach that has never worked for me, so I have stopped doing it. Bidding 6 and then 7 is a similar tactic. In effect, you are giving them extra space to exchange information and then offering them a fielder's choice.

From North's perspective, they almost certainly have a slam; he should reason that “these guys are good; to hope they won't bid their cold slam is pie in the sky”. He should “bid the limit” immediately–7.

Regarding South's double, I have had miserable experience with lightner doubles to ask for a ruff. There are too many disaster scenarios: 1) partner tries to give me a ruff in the wrong suit; 2) he guesses the right suit but we still don't beat them; 3) my double warns them about the ruff, and they bid a different slam that we can't touch. For the double to actually work takes a very unlikely parlay.

I try to persuade my partners that we should not make such doubles. The implications are that if partner is on lead and thinks I might be able to ruff something, go for it. The fact that I didn't lightner double doesn't mean I don't have a void. But I think I am a voice crying in the wilderness, so it is hard to blame South for doubling.

Once I bid 6 only with the North hand, my goose is cooked. To pull partner's double would be inconsistent with my initial decision.
May 4, 2011
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0-13! Is that legal? Next thing you will tell me is that lefty doesn't even have to have 5 spades!

Actually, I happen to know that it IS legal under the general convention chart–you just cannot play any conventions over it because the range is greater than 7 hcp. Also, I believe it is standard expert practice. Partner should treat it as a “normal” weak 2, and act accordingly, although perhaps pulling in a notch if he is on the border between passing and passing. In fact, this is what I play also (I do require 5 spades, although if white I might open 2D or 2H with only 4).

Righty's raise is unusual given the wide range of his partner's bid (and the fact that he seems to be alive to the possibilities, because he alerted). I feel sure righty has 5 spades and that my partner is void. Whether that means I should bid rather than double, I'm not sure. I voted for double–although I'm not sure how partner will know I don't have KQT of spades instead of xxx. Maybe with KQT of spades I should pass.

The last time this came up, my partner alerted and the opponents went ballistic. They called the director, Solly Weinstein, who told me I could not play this in HIS tournaments. I wrote various e-mails. I got an e-mail back from the ACBL (that attached an e-mail from Chip Martel supporting their view) saying I could not play this because it was overtly disruptive, and the ACBL does not permit tactics whose sole purpose is disruption. I got a preliminary response from the chair of the Competition and Conventions Committee that was sympathetic but when I tried to follow up on it, they went silent.

Finally I gave up. I still play the same way, but I have asked my partners not to alert. If the opponents ask, I have instructed them to say that “we don't have any agreement about what the bid shows; I am supposed to assume that it is a normal weak two; we play no conventions over it.” I would prefer to be more forthcoming but I don't want to be suspended.
May 3, 2011
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I don't think it is at all unclear whether matchpoints or imps is a better skill differentiator. Clearly, matchpoints is.

The reason is that at matchpoints, there are a half dozen or so decisions every board that swing matchpoints; at imp pairs, there are decisions only every half dozen or so boards that swing imps. This means you have to play a LOT more boards at imp pairs to separate the wheat from the chaff (by my rough calculations, about 6*6 or 36 times as many).

Matchpoints is a much tougher format than imps. At imps, you know what your trick target is on almost every deal once the auction is over. At matchpoints, you first have to use your judgment to determine your trick target and then you have to figure out the best strategy to achieve it. To me, it's similar to the difference between arithmetic and calculus.

This is not intended to minimize in any way Steve Weinstein's INCREDIBLE record in the Cavendish Imp Pairs. If you play a lot of boards and have a lot of comparisons, such as is the case in the Cavendish, imp pairs becomes a better skill differentiator than it is otherwise; it also helps to have a uniformly strong field.

Also, by the way, imp pairs is a lot more fun to play (and to watch).
May 2, 2011
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This seems like a very good suggestion.

On the first auction, (1)-2-(P)-? I think I would bid 2 even not playing “active cue-bids”. In these days of unlimited-strength overcalls, I would be reluctant to pass; if partner has a major, it's likely we have a game, so I want to leave him as much room as possible to show one. He will think I have a better hand than this, but I think it's worth the risk. The difference is that in standard methods, a cue-bid promises a rebid (unless we are in game), so I could not pass partner's 2M continuation, and of course he would not bid 2M in the first place with only 3. Your method considerably reduces the downside of cue-bidding on this auction.

Many MSC problems ask what to do with 4/5+ in a major/minor after the opponent's 1-of-a-suit opening. Playing active cue bids, you could fairly comfortably bid 2 of your minor, because advancer will have a convenient way to get us to a 44 major suit fit when we have one.

Another way of addressing this generic issue is to play raptor overcalls–a 1N overcall of a suit bid shows the values to intervene and 4/5+ in a major/minor (if they open 1m, your minor is the other one and your major is unknown; if they open 1M, your major is the other one and your minor is unknown). I think raptor is a great convention, but it is unsound unless you have complicated continuations, and raptor creates the problem of “what do you do with a real 1N overcall?” All of those issues are solvable (especially if you hate making, as I do, standard 1N overcalls anyway), but your solution is simpler.

You just have to define the situations where active cue bids apply rigorously lest the style evolve into “when in doubt, cue-bid”, which is a very bad style (people cue-bid way too much as it is).
April 29, 2011
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This is another situation where my answer is different in 2nd seat or 3rd seat.

If partner did not pass initially, 3D would be, as Henry says, unilateral. So I would bid 2D only.

If partner did pass initially, then I would bid 3D. There is much more vig in being obstructive once partner is a passed hand, and, although we might have a game or a slam, the odds are much greater that they have one than that we do.

Being somewhat torn between 2D and 3D, one thing I would NOT do is pass. I avoid using 4-letter words at the bridge table.
April 28, 2011
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Peg–you blew it.

This is a variation on Goldwater's Rule: “If they make a lead out of turn, accept it, because if they don't know whose lead it is they probably don't know what to lead.”

Clearly you should accept the insufficient call and be enchanted that they now have an extra round of bidding to screw up.
April 28, 2011
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Joe, glad you're feeling better and thanks to both of you for fessing up. Congrats also to Kit and Brian Platnick for pretty much nailing it.

At first, I felt a little disillusioned that such great players should have this kind of misunderstanding, but in retrospect, the double IS ambiguous. If the opponents are in the midst of a constructive auction (to the extent that such a thing can exist after a weak two), why shouldn't we be able to insert a lead-directing double? They cleverly decided to save some space by using 2 instead of 2N as ogust; in the process they have given us the chance to make a 2 overcall when the auction has in effect gone (2)-p-(2N)-?.

Then again, we do need some way to make a takeout double in this situation. Perhaps 2N here should be a takeout double? If they were to bid 2N as ogust, what would we do with a 2N overcall? I guess we'd have to double, which would be initially interpreted as a takeout double, so by playing 2N as takeout on the actual auction, we are more or less back to even.

In effect, we have to decide how to use the extra space they have provided US by THEIR space-saving artifice. Should we use it distinguish between a takeout double and a 2N overcall or between a 2 overcall and a takeout double? Based on frequency of hand-types, it seems that playing double=2 overcall and 2N=takeout double is best. 2 overcalls are much more frequent than natural 2N overcalls.

This is kind of similar to the situation where the opponents play transfer responses to 1. If it goes (1)-p-(1=hearts)-?, a popular defense is to play that double shows s and 1 is takeout.
April 28, 2011
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Paul–I agree that this is an interesting and important side aspect of ELC. Can we double (intending it as ELC rather than pure takeout) with any two suits, or does it have to be the two higher-ranking unbid suits?

In this case there is no ambiguity, because from the auction everyone knows that S doesn't have both minors (he would double or pass 5 on this auction).

I don't know the answer. ELC has not been around long enough that there is a pat answer in the literature anywhere that I know of. I have always assumed that an ELC double could show any two of the three unbid suits, but I see how this could create ambiguity in some situations.

Perhaps there are some ELC gurus out there who could shed some light on this?
April 26, 2011
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Kit wrote:

“5 carries some degree of ambiguity. 5 does not – it is a clear slam try in spades.”

At this level, the strategy is not to avoid ambiguous bids. That strategy might be appropriate in a pick-up partnership, but these guys are supposed to know what their bids mean (and I imagine Joe had no doubt what 5 meant), and act on that knowledge.

I wrote earlier that playing ELC is not compatible with making takeout doubles with 1-suited hands. Does anyone disagree with that? Kit, I know you are a fan of ELC. Do you make takeout doubles with pure 1-suiters?

Regardless of whether one plays ELC, the modern style is NOT to make takeout doubles with 1-suited hands. For example, I don’t play ELC if my rho has opened the bidding in first seat with one of a suit, but I still don’t make takeout doubles with pure 1-suiters. I either make a simple overcall, or jump to game in my suit, or jump to 3N, or make a jump cue (which ostensibly asks for a stopper; I don’t play that jump cues are sometimes preempts in that suit whatever the colors are or whatever the suit I am jumping in is; I might use the jump cue even if I have a stopper if I want to convey that I have an extremely powerful 1-suiter).

If you accept that one doesn’t make takeout doubles of preempts with 1-suited hands, then 5 is not in the least ambiguous. If S had only 3 s, he would pass or double 5, which in this auction would simply assert ownership of the hand. So South has 4 s; therefore 5 is an unambiguous slam try. 5 would also be a slam try, perhaps showing the A or void.

Even if you think 5 is ambiguous, 5 is not a hedge. It has to say: “if you are interested in slam, I can’t bid it, but neither can I rule it out.” If Joe thought 5 was ambiguous, his s are long enough that he wants to play in s and not s anyway, so he would bid 5, if he didnn’t pass.

I think this hand just boils down to judgment under pressure. I agree with Jason—preempts do work sometimes. I still don’t think Joe had a 5 call, but the comments subsequent to mine have made me start to wonder whether Curtis should perhaps have settled for 5 over 5.
April 26, 2011
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