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All comments by David Yates
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(With apologies to Sonny Curtis)

“Solvers” rocks! It’s a tough one
I fought the World and the World won
I fought the World and the World won
I needed points ‘cuz they gave none
I fought the World and the World won
I fought the World and the World won

Was left in a heart and it feels so bad
What’s my partner done?
Made the best bid that I ever had
I fought the World and the World won

Robbed on appeal, it was no fun!
I fought the World and the World won
I fought the World and the World won
B.W. Standard, it’s a perversion!
I fought the World and the World won
I fought the World and the World won

I missed the Honor Roll and missed by one
So my MSC race is run
Got obsessed by my diversion. . .

I fought the World and the World won
I fought the World and the World won
Sept. 12, 2013
ATB
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I am shocked to discover that LTC did not work. Positively shocked!

You could have picked up 3 IMPs vs a potential lose 10. This was a tragedy because?

Short suit game tries work just as well as help suit game tries. Both help the opponents defeat thin game contracts. Next time, N makes a SSGT holding: AK10xx / Ax / Qxxxx / x. And you stay out of the ‘non-making’ game when they lead lead a heart, because the club cannot right. -10 IMPs when the OT up and bid 4S. Not knowing he was not supposed to lead a club - your teammate did. How hard was it to guess that suit now?
Sept. 12, 2013
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I do not know what needs to be alerted in Denmark. In the ACBL, the Alert policy is always decades behind expert practice. We have to announce NT ranges and transfers. Alert new minor forcing and Jacoby 2NT. The fifth time Rodwell opens 1C in the team match, he still has to alert. Just in case the opponents have not figured out what Meckwell are playing. A great deal of the “required alerts” are pointless given the level of play.

Our regulations also require questions and answers in writing. That gets obeyed with the same level of reverence reserved for Jimmy Carter’s remaining 55 MPH speed limits.

The current rules seem very cumbersome. I cannot imagine how long it would take to complete a GF relay auction behind screens with both sides needing to passing a silly alert card back and forth screenmates. It seems to me that players will always gravitate towards convenience and socially accepted practice. The same way most motorists have gravitated to 75 MPH on the Taconic State Parkway.

My suggestion is to improve the lighting :)

If I were writing the rules, I think pointing towards a bid and making sure you make eye contact with your opponent for acknowledgment is enough. If your opponent does not seem to confirm, then you can place the alert card in the tray. This is basically what people are doing now. If there have not been director calls for a failure to alert, then the evidence shows that it works.

Sept. 12, 2013
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Neal - I voted for something else.

Your partner wins the award for the worst fielding since I was moved to third base back in my sandlot days.
Sept. 12, 2013
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As with other ATB-ish problems, this is another 50-50. (They are always 50-50, even if partner made a certifiably inane bid, you agreed to play).

I would have reopened with X on the N hand and bid 5D on the S hand.

Having a spade void here makes less of a difference than in some lower level competitive sequence where you are worried your void means they have enough trumps. Here it is simple math and N should trust his partner to look at the colors and be sure before passing up a red game for a white set. (Looks like +800 was probable). South can count RHO for 5 spade tricks. It is South's length that matters - not North’s. Also, 6C would have been cake with just a bit more S. If S held the Q-C. 4D looks even more silly if partner held: Qxxx / x / xx / KQxxxx

So I double and reserve the right to bid 4S if partner bids 4m. (You are right, 4H might be last making contract)

My BOLS tip: Bury partner and raise every time they fail to let you nail the opponents.

I will not guarantee you win the board, but you are a 100% to win the PM. If game made and there was +800 available, you still can complain about no reopening X. If there was only +500 available, you claim you would have bid 3NT. Easy to do now that you see the hands. And if game goes down - blast partner for not letting you have the chance to take the penalty. You had to raise to game when partner passed up easy money!!
Sept. 12, 2013
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If the NABC events were still closed, the ACBL formula would probably be fairly valid. Only 22% of the 50 seeding points are MP. So the seeding of North American players will be reasonably good since performance results are heavily weighted and these players are almost always competing.

But what has happened is more and more foreign players compete these days. This means that for any given event, we might have some Vandy “newbies” who are actually quite experienced. It is just that the ACBL formula does not think that European, Asian or World team championship results matter. The ACBL never seems to assign meaningful rankings for these players. One would think it would be easy to create a corresponding seeding equivalent based on WBF rankings, however:

In Toronto in 2001, Paul Chemla was given 30 seeding points. His comment when discovering that was based on 50 max was: “so each of my World Championships is 10 points?”. Hmm, a Bermuda Bowl win or 10,000 ACBL masterpoints. . . which do I want?

Originally, four guys from Poland were always hopelessly underrated. For a short time India was the new Poland. Then 4 guys from China became the new Poland. And after this last Spingold, the new Poland is. . Poland. #39 seed - really?

BTW, there is an inherent problem with decay. In this last Spingold, Forrester was a whole 13 seeding points. He used to be worth the whole 50 - back when he won 2 consecutive Reisingers, an Open BAM, and was 1-2-2-2-3 in five consecutive pairs events. Decay is the reason. But Forrester has not been inactive in bridge. Just in the USA. He will be playing for England in Bali. In any event, it seems odd that Mahaffey - who has some 22 or 24 seeding points (if I remember correctly) - would elect to play with someone who the ACBL ranks as so much ‘worse’.

The short hand answer to the seeding issue is that since the events are open, the ACBL has to revise their seeding formula. The US players are rated “close enough for government work”. If you look at how the brackets played out 15-20 years ago, the seeding was very accurate.

But the disparity in those fields was also much greater. The field in these events is so deep now, there are really two levels for the NABC big three:

(A) This team can win the event if they play well
(B) This team cannot win the event

15 years ago, there were maybe five ‘A’ teams in the top 64. Now there are maybe 20. And a very high percentage of those ‘B’ teams - even if one would rate as little chance to run the table - can still beat almost any of the ‘A’ teams on any given day.

The Vandy is no longer NCAAF. With most of the early rounds SEC vs Sun Belt. It is now as deep as the NFL - any given Sunday.
Sept. 12, 2013
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I hate it when my 19,000 word tirade gets upstaged by three short sentences from Ed.
Sept. 11, 2013
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Bob makes a technically valid point, but I am going with “on the other hand” with this one. The problem is the ACBL wanders off into too many directions simultaneously.

Back in the days of real “zero-tolerance” games - we had zero tolerance for other players. Often for partner, but especially opponents. And if we could club someone over the head with the rules, why not? Al Davis (“just win, baby”) would have been proud.

Today, most ACBL games - regionals too - are a hybrid game. A mixture of social and competitive that is . . . well, bizarre at best. So we have all these players who want to earn points and win, but do not want any of the other trappings that go along with a competitive venture. Including responsibility. ACBL bridge is a politically correct event like most kids soccer games. The only difference is seven decades of age. Instead of setting a bar and asking people to meet the standard, we lower that bar and cater to their level. This is not just the ACBL, but endemic to the USA and the West. But I’ll keep to bridge right now.

My problem is, since I am unfortunate enough to have to make my living playing ACBL bridge, I have to go along with the ACBL way and cater to a group that is pretty much already convinced of their own self-entitlement.

If I am competitive at the table, they complain it is only a game and it is supposed to be about “fun”. But doesn’t my client want to win? Isn’t that why I was hired? However, if I am chatting with my client because we finished 10 minutes ago and our idea of fun does not include staring at each other in silence forever, they complain. And it AMAZES me that people who claim not to hear alerts or explanations when they are sitting right next to you, can complain from two tables away that they now do.

But we have to go along with this crap. So in the new-age spirit of ACBL-land, we do make selective alerts. If the auction started 1S - (X) - 2S against Greco-Hampson, I let it go because they know what that bid means. But when Lynn alerts the 2S call at the regional, it is probably the same for the same reason I would do it. She is playing against a patzer and just wants to pre-alert the theft. That way the opponents are not unduly troubled when they see dummy table a hand they would have passed.

I know what the rules are. I break them all the time. The Laws say I am not supposed to make my own rulings. My ruling is: “put the card back in your hand”. Yesterday, on the third round of trumps, my RHO tried to signal for a heart and as he was pulling the spot, the K-H next to it dropped on the table. Dummy had Qxx / I held Axx and was never getting more than one pitch. (The funny part is LHO who won the third trump was trying desperately to try to lead something other than a heart -, I finally told him to just lead one). If the ACBL wants me to be anal, I will make the TD walk over, give his ruling and then I will just play a low heart from both hands.

Sorry for the long diatribe but I was not able to get to the gym and punch the heavy bag yesterday after a day at the bridge table. The bottom line is this:

Do not start the Alert Procedures off with a preamble admitting to, and I quote:

“admittedly ‘fuzzy’ terminology”

And then ask us to follow it to the letter. We are just trying to do our best in this brave, new world that is ACBL-land.
Sept. 11, 2013
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Thanks for posting this Henry.
Sept. 11, 2013
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Sadly, the perfect hand to fit his comment comes up - and Al is not here for it.
Sept. 11, 2013
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I always tell students that there are no bidding sequences in bridge where a subsequent bid can tell partner:

“I did not have my last call”

Whatever partner thinks 3S means, it obviously shows a hand that was supposed to do something other than pass on the last round.

Anindya, you are a wonderful partner for having 11 prime HCP and 3 tens for your reopening double. I could have had much less.
Sept. 11, 2013
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Our bidding ‘brilliancy’ is detailed in the other thread.

I like to play that 1D-2D; 2H is balanced min. 2NT would be 17+ or possibly unbal GF with 4H. The original inverted minors comes from K/S. Since that employs a weak NT, the 2NT rebid in K/S after 1m-2m is 15-17 and always enough for game.

I dislike the “standard” of 2NT being 12-14 because responder is on a random guess with too many hands as to how to continue. There is no room for an invite. Though I suppose 3C could be an invite bailing to 3D - but what do you with =4432 or 3343. Also at MP you might be trading +120 for +110.

One can also play 2H as various. (Min Bal/s or GF with 4H unbal) Because 2S is GI opposite bal min. 2NT declines, 3C accepts and says you play, 3NT accepts and says I play. 3D/H/S show the GF hand with extras and patterns out.

Most of my experience with this is after 1D (Prec-like) - 2C/D; then 2H is bal. It works very well. I cannot seem to get many standard players to improve system. Many hate remembering anything - and if you cannot remember system then you shouldn't play it.
Sept. 10, 2013
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I got to this thread b/c I played on Sunday and just got an e-mail congratulating me for my result on this board. What I remembered about Sunday (it was so long ago) was being annoyed at how poorly our results were matchpointing. We were almost 7% higher in the CG.

The e-mail said: “spectacular play”. I looked at the hand and only remembered that I had bid NT. Looking at it as a play problem, I realized that making 12 tricks on a heart lead was non-trivial and that play would be noteworthy. Everyone will vouch that I have not achieved Belladonna status and would just forget my own brilliancies as they are far too common. So I wondered why I could not remember the hand. Then it occurred to me that many might open the South hand 2NT. If West leads a spade, it is trivial to win and play a club to the nine. Hardly spectacular. So I went on-line to look it up.

35 declarers took all 13 tricks in NT :)

I checked our line score and saw we got to 6D. Partner played it and hopefully that explains my vacant memory. Oh, so it was brilliant bidding! It is coming back now.

My partner voted to open 1D. Then with the N hand I voted to try to steal the contract with a 1NT response. (For the record, what I vote for online and what I do at the table might be two different things). My partner rebid 3NT. She has see enough of my white 1NT responses not to bury me with any old 17-18 - just inviting with 2NT with those. So I knew she had good values or shape. A sixth diamond or 4-5 in the pointed seemed to offer good play, so I bid 4D RKC and off to the races and 6D we were.

The only thing I recall from the play now was that after K-H and two rounds of trump, partner played A-S, then to K-S on the table. I rolled my eyes thinking that if no spade ruffs were available we were going down. Then she played a heart off dummy and I thought: “I hope she was not supposed to duck the first one”.

Now I am kind of disappointed that I did not try to REALLY steal the contract and play 6NT from my side with the J-H lead. Wow, a missed chance to be brilliant. That, and future e-mails from Mr. Loeb will probably now read: “your cheese-head actions got you another good board”.

Anyway, thanks to David Loeb for spotting this hand. I slept through most of it. A very interesting deal.
Sept. 10, 2013
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Re: coffee-housing. From Kit’s post: The truth of the matter is that such “coffee-housing” goes on all the time, even at expert levels, although there it is much more subtle so it isn't blatant enough to be clear that the rules are being broken.

How true. In the Blue Ribbon Pairs, my partner was playing a hand in 3NT with AK10xx-D in dummy and Jx in his hand. When pard led out the jack, his LHO made a very subtle flicker. Lefty held 98xx. I wont name names, just limit the field a bit with my thought at the time, which was: “no wonder you once got banned for cheating.”

My partner at the time is a great player and knows all about history. He popped ace. Crossed back to his hand and played some heart winners. The best part was rather than actually squeezing LHO, he claimed it out. Telling lefty that he was not going to take the diamond finesse and “since the diamond queen is dropping from your partner and you have the club ace, you’ll be squeezed in the minors”. Lefty just dropped the ace of clubs on the table as a discard and folded his hand.

All of the tricks and MP. Bridge can be so much fun!
Sept. 10, 2013
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You might stop making WJS with 4 spades and a 6 clubs right after you hit partner with 4531 and a hand “too good” for 2D.
Sept. 10, 2013
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I agree with both Lynn’s & Steve’s comments. I did vote for “alert” in B only because “standard” in auction B is the way Lynn plays and Neil’s 2M-1 bid as the weak bid (/LR) and the 2M direct bid as constructive is the opposite of “standard” If the opposite of what everyone else plays isn't unusual, what is? I know that if one plays “nothing” over X, that 2M could include 7-9, but what is significant is that 2M must be 7-9. In my view, this qualifies as “unusual strength” for this sequence. (Plus, see final note).

However. . .

Expanding on the above comments regarding the ACBL procedures and policies, even though my reading of the Laws requires Neil to alert 2M over X, (and I am in a very small minority judging by the voting - but hey McD’s is the restaurant everyone votes for) it is very difficult to see a situation where a failure to alert would lead to any damages/redress. (But not impossible, see final note) This is because other regulations provide (a) experienced players to protect themselves and (b) the wound cannot be self-inflicted. So even in an auction such as: 1S - (X) - 2S - P; P - (X) - XX and the opposition eventually goes for a number in some final contract, why would there be an adjustment? If responder was weak, opener could simply have the extra HCP. And if they were playing “nothing” then responder could be 9 HCP.

If someone complained, I’d tell them Larry Cohen is going to send them a medal. His attached commendation reads: “it is called bridge”. In the poll, there wasn’t an option that said: alert (b) but given other ACBL policy, who cares?” Except:

(Final note) assuming one had 1,000 pages of system notes, the ‘inversion’ of standard practice might matter. It would also matter to me if I played against Neil regularly because lacking an alert, it might take a long time for me to actually discover (when 2M-1 comes up) that they have a nonstandard structure over X.

Typically, over 2M, direct bids by advancer are values and 2NT is often some Lebensohl with a weaker or competitive hand. One can see that arrangement might need to be reversed, as the opponents have reversed theirs. Bidding directly with the weaker, competitive hands now gives Neil & Co less ability to organize a X of a 3-level contract (a prime reason for the constructive raise) when advancer is just trying to compete. So IF a pair had agreed to specific methods over a constructive raise and there was no alert, and they could some how that was causally related, I might (key word) be persuaded to adjust the score.

Note that in auction (A) the fact that the opponents might bid or balance and how they do it in this sequence is immaterial regarding the strength of responder, providing that responder's constructive raise (a la Al Roth) is not so strong as to be mostly forcing.
Sept. 10, 2013
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Memo to Greg:

If you live near SanFran or NYC and $3,000 a month for a studio rental seems ‘normal’, then Honolulu does not seem expensive. But it is shocking for other areas of the country. (We need to go to Hong Kong or Moscow to be jolted.)

It is hard to believe loving umbrella drinks is not universal. Brain freeze!!
Sept. 9, 2013
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Wow, I have no clue who the Sharples brothers even are (were?). Remind me not to pick “bridge” as a trivial pursuit category against Michael K.
Sept. 9, 2013
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1M-2M as 7-9 and 9-losers is a treatment. Defined as: “A natural call which, by partnership agreement, carries a specific message about the suit bid or the general strength or shape of the hand.”

Treatments are not usually alertable. The ACBL alert procedures state: “Most natural calls do not require Alerts. If the call promises about the expected strength and shape, no Alert is necessary. Treatments that show unusual strength or shape should be Alerted.”

Certainly 7-9 is extremely common in auctions A&C. In B, there is a much better case for alert since most pairs tend to view that auction as my turn to bid. The direct raise is usually junk and an artificial call is usually the good raise. (So: what do you do with fit and weak over X? Still play 1NT F?). I would gauge auction B promising 7-9 as unusual.
Sept. 9, 2013
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The one thing I would NEVER do is change the E-W result. I might even tack on a PP on top of their zero just because they deserve it and the 8th amendment unfortunately prevents West from being keelhauled.

WT&^%! was X?? Other than hoping to hit +200 and if not, attempting to legislate N/S into a different contract based on the mishap.
Sept. 9, 2013
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