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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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Let's suppose you choose to run the diamonds first. There are 3 ways to do this:

a) Cash ace of spades first
b) Cash 3 diamonds, and if they live take the spade finesse
c) Play a fourth round of diamonds, ruffing if RHO follows but overruffing him and playing ace and a spade if RHO has 3 diamonds.

b) seems clearly better than a) for avoiding a heart ruff. a) potentially gains only when LHO has stiff king or Kx of spades. b) potentially gains when RHO has Kxx or Kxxx.

Between b) and c), I'm not sure. Offhand, they look close. I'm going to assume that b) is better.

So, the choice is immediate spade finesse vs. 3 rounds of diamonds and then spade finesse. In the second variation, if the spade finesse loses the opponents will almost always be able to get a heart ruff –basically, only if one of them has stiff honor or AK tight will that not be available. Thus, cashing the diamonds first seldom gains, making the immediate spade finesse looking better.
March 23
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The natural slam try is used when controls aren't the issue. Generally on an aces and spaces type of hand, where you need partner to have the necessary fillers (the queen of trumps in particular), and DCB won't get to what you are looking for in time. This doesn't look like the right sort of hand for that approach.

Starting with 4 DCB and then bidding 5 over the response is almost always an absolute signoff. Responder should override only if he has so many fillers that he just about has to have what is needed. Remember, opener can have anything under the sun, so responder can't picture opener's hand.
March 23
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It turns out that the 1 bidder will almost always know the answer about which kings responder has without responder needing to scan his shortest suit, or to scan his next shortest suit when his shortest suit is a singleton or void. If opener can't tell, there usually won't be enough controls for slam in the first place. Thus, responder can go directly to queens, saving a crucial step or two.

Occasionally opener won't be able to tell. In that case opener will have to make a percentage guess. Sometimes opener can anticipate the problem and take a different approach.

Responder always assumes that opener knows what responder has shown.
March 23
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That is correct. Also, we do not have a way to play a 4-4 spade fit at the 2-level unless responder has invitational strength. Garbage Stayman is not available to us. That is a disadvantage of Puppet Stayman.
March 22
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Right. Let me rephrase my statement better: If partner has the king of clubs, which is the only holding where it is vital to shift to a club, then it would make no sense for partner to shift to a spade unless he has a doubleton.
March 22
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That's not South's problem. South doesn't know anything. South is merely following instructions.
March 22
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Looking at that dummy, why would partner ever return a spade if he didn't have a doubleton. There can't be a rush to establish spade tricks. Partner would have simply punted with a diamond.
March 22
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South would bid either 2S (minimum, 3 or 4 spades), 2NT (minimum, < 4 spades), or 3 (non-minimum, < 4 spades). This would be a judgment call on this hand.

opposite 2, North might choose to pass. If North didn't pass, he would bid 3 (forcing – we don't re-invite), and South would bid 3NT.

Opposite 2NT, North would either pass or bid 3NT

Opposite 3, North would bid 3NT
March 22
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Playing puppet, I would usually bid 2 on a 4-3-3-3 hand with a 4-card major. The point is that if we have that 4-4 major-suit fit, I can then suggest 3NT and partner can make the final decision. Or he can suggest 3NT, which I can pass. Even though my hand is flat partner's might not be – he might even be 5-4-2-2 with a 5-card minor and a 4-card major. If he has that shape and we have a 4-4 major-suit fit, the hand almost certainly belongs in 4 of the major.

Another factor for bidding puppet with the 4-3-3-3 hand is that it reveals less about opener's shape that regular Stayman. For example, suppose with regular Stayman the bidding goes:

1NT-2;2-3NT;P

The opponents know that opener has 4 hearts and responder has 4 spades. But with Puppet, it might go:

1NT-2;2-2;2NT-3NT

The opponents will know that responder has 4 spades, but only opener knows whether or not he has 4 hearts. That information is concealed from the opponents.

When choosing between 3NT and 4 of the major, being 4-3-3-3 isn't the only criterion. For example, suppose you hold:

xxxx KJx KQ AJ10x.

Playing 14-16 you open 1NT, and the bidding proceeds

1NT-2;2-2;2-3NT.

Surely you would pass, wouldn't you? But make the hand:

KQxx KJx xx AJ10x

And surely you would bid 4.
March 22
Kit Woolsey edited this comment March 22
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I don't agree. Opposite your primish sort of hand which your 3 bid denotes, partner won't be suggesting 3NT unless he is 4-3-3-3 with probably a spade suit weak in intermediates as well as extra strength. Even if diamonds is a soft spot, which might not be the case, the suit may be 4-4 or if the diamonds are 5-3 the player with 5 diamonds might not be on lead.

Given all this, which do you think is more likely: That 4 will take two more tricks than 3NT (the necessary condition for 4 to gain meaningful IMPs), or that there are the same number of tricks in the two strains (the necessary condition for 3NT to gain IMPs). I could be wrong, but my money is on 3NT.
March 22
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There is no way to find out that we don't have a slam, so I'm driving this hand to slam. Of course I know better than to leap to 6, since leaping to slam is always wrong. There must be something better to do.

Assuming we are playing leaping Michaels, which is pretty common among experts, that means a 4 call shows both minors. I will try that. Over partner's 5 I'll bid 6, and if he is much longer in diamonds he can correct to 6. Over 5 I'll try 5, and now partner knows I have grand slam interest with likely a heart void and maybe he will get it right.
March 22
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Platinum pairs are in Spring, not Fall.
March 21
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Rick,

The problem with the drop-in approach is that due to the geographical constraints of team composition for the GNT, many (if not most) GNT teams will be different from Soloway teams. Thus, suppose one player on a Soloway team makes it to the quarter-finals in the GNT. Would we want his entire team to have drop-in privileges?

I'm not saying that this approach couldn't work. But it is more complex than usual.
March 21
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I wonder if the BOD has considered the scheduling implications of having the GNT be at the fall nationals instead of the summer nationals.

For the summer nationals, the GNT overlaps the Life Master pairs, – an annoyance, but players can work around that. However, for the fall nationals, if the same schedule is followed the GNT will overlap the Soloway knockout, which is the main team event in the fall nationals. This would present major problems for players who are planning to play in the Soloway knockout and make it to the quarter-finals of the GNT.
March 21
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You are correct that Ulam's first problem has been answered in the affirmative. I'll withhold posting a solution for a while, as readers might want to try it on their own.

I worked a lot on the second problem many years ago. I'm pretty sure the answer is no, but constructing a logical proof of this is sort of impossible. However, with today's powerful computers it is quite possible that a brute force proof could be found.
March 18
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North would have bid the same way if his 6 of spades were the 6 of diamonds. He should have bid 2 over 2, or, failing that, 3 after the double.
March 18
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I don't think so. It might be necessary to play for a 3-3 club split, so we want the club position fluid. Also, a small spade from dummy without first playing the ace leaves us in better control of things most of the time.
March 17
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The jack. If partner has only 2 trumps, it won't matter. If partner has 3 trumps, leading the jack has the best chance to protect his holding. Consider holdings such as A10x, and this should be clear.
March 16
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If you bid 3, that is a straight control ask. Partner will not be going beyond 3NT unless he has 4+ controls (3 shows 0-2 controls, 3NT shows 3 controls, 4 shows 4 controls, etc.). Thus, you can drop it at 3NT if partner shows 3 controls by bidding 3NT.

When partner does bid 3NT showing 3 controls, if you choose to give up on slam you have to make a choice between 3NT and 5 as the final contract. My judgment is that 5 has better chances. You may feel otherwise.

If you do sign off in 3NT, partner needs at least 4 controls with 13+ HCP or 5+ controls to override.
March 16
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When opener continues with DCB after the response to the control ask, that obviously means he can picture a possible slam if responder has the right hand. So, if opener bids DCB and then signs off, it is possible that responder can tell from looking at what he has that he has to have the right hand. This is very rare, since opener might have anything, so cards responder thinks of value may be worthless. For example, suppose responder has QJ10xx of the trump suit opener signs off in. Responder might thing this is great. But if opener has AKxxx, responder's honors in trumps are of little value.

As a general rule, responder always respects the signoff. He should override only if it hits him in he face that he must have what is needed.
March 16
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