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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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Chris,

While I agree with your theme that one can't always know what a player is thinking, I believe that on this hand you are suggesting a thought process by declarer which simply didn't exist. After winning the third round of spades, any decent declarer would lead the queen of clubs in his sleep. This guarantees 11 tricks if the club king is on, 10 tricks if the club king is off, and involves no risk at all. The fact that declarer didn't do this indicates to me that declarer had no clue at all, and choosing to take the club finesse at the end was an accident rather than a well thought out risk.
Feb. 18, 2012
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Paul,

Nothing to do with their suit. Any non-natural call above 3NT is a slam try, not a choice of games Q-bid.

I don't see why 4 is likely to be a void. Since 4 would be natural, 4 is the only bid which is available for a slam try in hearts. It doesn't even necessarily show a diamond control. What would South bid over 3NT if he had something like: AKxx AKJxxx xx x? Surely he is worth more than a mere 4 call. Yet it is not safe to go above 4. So 4 is all there is.

Feb. 2, 2012
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The leap to 6NT is terrible, as are almost all leaps to slams. South might have had something like KQJ10x AKJ10x xx, in which case 6NT is off 2 aces while 6 is laydown. What North should do is not clear, but it is clear that he shouldn't bid 6NT.

The real issue is whether 4 is a slam try or choice of games. It is nice to say it is choice of games for this hand, but suppose instead South had AKxxx !AJ10xxx xx. Now 6 is a fine contract, but how would it be reached? If 4 could be bid on the actual hand North can't do more than bid 4. And if South has my example hand bidding over 4 is pretty dangerous, since North might not have any help in the majors and 4 could easily be the limit of the hand.

My partnership agreements are: Above 3NT, there are no choice of games Q-bids. Any Q-bid is a slam try. Below 3NT there are no slam tries unless a 9-card major-suit fit has been established. Any artificial call is assumed to be looking for the best game until proven otherwise. This doesn't always work perfectly, but it leaves no ambiguity and clears up situations such as this deal.
Feb. 1, 2012
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Sathya,

I believe declarer can still make even if East wins ace of hearts and returns a club. West must duck, of course. Now declarer cashes out red-suit winners ending in dummy and leads the third round of clubs. If East wins the clubs are dead and declarer can set up a diamond trick, with the defense getting only 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 1 club. If West wins, West is end-played after cashing the clubs.

In fact, declarer doesn't need to lead a heart first. When declarer find out the diamonds are 3-1, he can win the second diamond and lead a heart – being sure to unblock the king when East goes up ace so declarer can win the third round of hearts in dummy to play a club without having to touch the spades.
Jan. 30, 2012
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Barry,

You are quite correct about the alternative loser on loser end-play, which works if hearts are 5-2 or if East started with KQJx. That is certainly declarer's percentage play, as his actual line depends upon West having two honors doubleton in clubs, East having all the honors, or an unlikely defensive error. Whether declarer never saw this line or read the heart position accurately I do not know (I was West). I'm pretty sure that I didn't really huddle on the heart lead, since playing the king would be a clearly wrong play. In fact, it would allow declarer to make the contract with the loser on loser end-play.

One further point: If the hearts are such that the loser on loser end-play would succeed, East should be sure to play his smallest heart on the third round of hearts so it would look possible for West to win this trick. If East started with KQJx, it would be vital for him to unblock on the second round of hearts. Declarer could have done better by leading the 8 of hearts from his hand rather than small to the 9, so the 9 of hearts would remain as a deterrent to East playing small on the third round. But East should do so anyway even if the 9 would win the trick, since playing high would be conceding.
Jan. 21, 2012
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Randy,

I would bid 3D at any vulnerability, any form of scoring. Sure, occasionally you will run into a misfit and go for a number. But the cost of missing a vulnerable game or getting to the wrong game is just about as big as the cost of going for 800, and that will happen a lot more often. Also, passing risks being on the wrong side of a double part-score swing.

It is all too easy to remember the times you go for a number. But the hidden IMPs lost (or not won) are just as important.

Roland,

Scott says it all. You tell partner 10/13 of your hand instead of 5/13 of it.

Keep in mind that a 1S overcall doesn't define your strength. You might have a weakish hand – about an 8-count. You might have an intermediate hand – about a 12-count. You might have a strong hand – about a 16-count. So partner faces the same competitive decision problems as far as strength goes when you overcall 1S as when you bid Michaels.

If the opponents were to take an oath of silence, then I would agree that overcalling 1S would be more likely to lead to the better contract than bidding Michaels. But life is not like that. Opponents are in there bidding also, and if you don't show both suits now you may have to decide whether or not to risk showing hearts at the 3 or 4 level. It is better to establish the extent of the fit immediately. If LHO passes over the Michaels call, partner has methods with which he can invite. If LHO bids, partner will be better able to judge what to do when he knows you have both majors.
Jan. 20, 2012
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I totally agree Brian. If you get too high but are in the right strain, you may recover with good declarer play or friendly opening lead or defense. But if you are in the wrong strain, nothing will save you. Shape before strength, always.
Jan. 19, 2012
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Randy,

I don't think the time problem is nearly as bad as you portray. With the current structure, there are 54 boards played on the final day of the Reisinger. while the event is naturally played at a relatively slow pace, it still finishes at a reasonable time. In fact, if I remember correctly at the last nationals the Reisinger finished before the North American swiss.

The fact that you are playing against one pair for a lot of boards speeds things up. You only have to prepare and discuss defenses once rather than every round. You don't have to waste time moving to a new table. Most important, if there is a board which is played quickly you don't have to sit around and wait for the round to be called before you start the next board – you can start the next board immediately. I expect that if anything play will be faster than with the current structure.
Jan. 9, 2012
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Andy,

That detail could be handled quite easily. For example, the conditions could stipulate that the team or teams which lost by the smallest amount in the first day of the BAM would get to the second day if the expected drop-in from the Seniors was one or two teams less than it could have been. There should be no difficulty making sure we get to 32 teams on the second day of the BAM. We are talking about a 2 team difference in the worst case scenario.

Gavin,

I appreciate your point, and I don't necessarily disagree. However, the Senior KO has become a very good event. I have played in it the last couple of years and found the competition quite challenging. If I had to choose which event to play in, of course I would choose the BAM. If you look at the final four teams from the last few years, you will see there are plenty of teams in the semi-finals who would be legitimate contenders in any national knockout. Forcing players to choose one event or the other would eliminate these teams from the Seniors, and greatly reduce the quality of the competition. Is this what we want?
Jan. 8, 2012
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If the event is included in the schedule, there will be an overlap between the Reisinger and the Senior knockout. The Senior knockout will runs 5 or 6 days depending on the entry size, so the finalists and possibly the semi-finalists from the Seniors will not be able to play the first day or two of the Reisinger BAM knockout.

If we are to retain the Senior knockout as the high quality event which it has become, which I believe is definitely desirable, then it will be necessary to have a drop-in structure. We cannot “punish” the finalists and semi-finalists from the Seniors by saying they can't play in the BAM. This would mean that no top player would enter the Seniors in the first place for fear of doing well. I think that is completely unacceptable.

The drop-in problem isn't nearly as bad as it is in the WBF events for two reasons.

1) Since the Reisinger is to be a knockout event, there is no carryover. Just as with the Spingold or the Vanderbilt a team who wins a match by 100 IMPs is no better off for the next day than a team who wins by 1 IMP, the same will be true for the BAM knockout. Each day all teams will start with a clean slate.

2) There is no need to have some kind of a “qualifying session” for the first day or two of the Reisinger. We should go right into knockouts, using 3-way matches when necessary to get down to the desired number of remaining teams. While I agree that for IMP events 3-way matches are terrible due to the luck factor, I don't think there is any problem with them for BAM knockout. If you lose a 28-board BAM match you weren't unlucky – you got outplayed. If you are minus after 56 boards of BAM, you don't deserve to continue on to the next day. Thus, the logistics of the drop-ins won't be difficult (the semi-finalists and the finalists from the Seniors will be required to state their intentions before the BAM starts), and there won't be the kind of unfairness which exists in the WBF events.
Jan. 8, 2012
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If I have a truly balanced 3-card limit raise, I am quite happy when partner passes my semi-forcing 1NT response. I think it is a lot more likely that we can take 7 tricks in notrump than 9 tricks in his major when partner has a 5-3-3-2 minimum. I'll grant this is IMP thinking rather than matchpoint thinking, but even at matchpoints two balanced hands often produce the same number of tricks at notrump that they produce in a 5-3 fit.

My guideline for when to pass a semi-forcing notrump is very simple. It must be a 5-3-3-2 hand on which I would not have accepted a 3-card limit raise. Thus, if responder does have a 3-card limit raise we will never be missing a game which we would have otherwise reached.

If responder has 3-card support and judges that his hand is too suit-oriented to risk playing in 1NT, he just goes ahead and makes his normal limit raise. Sure, opener will be expecting 4-card support, but so what? Responder has already judged that the hand belongs in the major. Opener will find out how many trumps responder has when responder puts the dummy down.
Jan. 8, 2012
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Andy,

All you say is true. But that still leaves judgment in the picture.

In my example, as you say knowledge of the requirements for playing a penalty card is authorized information for all players. From this knowledge and from this knowledge alone George can determine that a club shift can't work, since the small club is a penalty card. That would indicate that George is permitted to shift to a diamond.

On the other hand, as you say other knowledge derived from the penalty card is not authorized information for the defender. Is there other knowledge here? Did partner discard the club with the intent of getting a diamond shift? Or did he simply have his hand mis-sorted and thought he had played a spade? I don't know. The director doesn't know.

Even if it is determined that George had unauthorized information which argued for a diamond shift, it still has to be determined that there was damage. What if the diamond shift were a 100% play? Then of course there was no damage. What if it were a 90% play? An 80% play? Where do you draw the line? And how do you determine how clear the diamond shift is in the first place?

My point is that it is better to structure the laws so as to minimize the amount of judgment directors and committees need to apply. Of course there will always be some situations where judgment is necessary, but the laws should be such that these situations are as rare as possible.

Jan. 8, 2012
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Steve,

I'm not so sure this is a good idea. In my alternate universe, here is what happened:

The Robinson rule modification has been made part of the laws. Once again George is on lead against 6NT, and he leads the ace of spades. This time he doesn't have the king. Dummy has the king of spades and long, solid hearts, so George needs to find his partner's ace. George's partner (accidentally?) discards a club and then discovers he has a spade. Declarer can forbid a club lead or leave the club on the table as a penalty card, but there is nothing declarer can do to prevent George from finding the winning diamond shift. And George is 100% to find it, since he can work out that if his partner has the ace of clubs declarer would have left the club on the table as a penalty card.

Sure, one could say that George's partner acted unethically (which we don't know) and that George shouldn't be allowed to shift to a diamond. But it is better to not have make this sort of judgment decision. With the laws as they are now, George would not profit from the club discard.

Jan. 7, 2012
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A great idea which from the comments here appears to be accepted by the top players. There are details involving scheduling, etc. But these are just details which can be worked out.

The question is: How do we turn this concept from a discussion topic on BridgeWinners to a reality. I'm not familiar enough with the inner workings of the ACBL to know what the procedures are for making such a change. I'm sure there are members on BridgWinners who are familiar with these procedures, maybe even a member of the board of directors. Can we hear from these people.
Jan. 5, 2012
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Steve,

The 3 call doesn't have to be based on a long club suit. What would you bid with a hand such as QJxx AKx Qx KQxx. Remember partner's 1 opening could be on a small doubleton. So you must bid 3, to make sure you aren't off the whole diamond suit. If partner has what will look to him like an adequate diamond stopper such as Kxx he is going to bid 3NT, not 3, and you will be in the wrong game after your 3 call on the actual hand.
Jan. 3, 2012
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Rainer,

I think you are being a bit double-dummy. It is true that while the singleton queen of diamonds is a notrump oriented card, it is North's KJxx of diamonds which makes 3NT better (if it even is better – 3NT could have no play on a diamond lead – defense getting 3 diamonds and 2 spades while declarer has only 3 hearts 3 clubs and 2 diamonds). Change North's diamond holding to AJxx or Kxxx, or give North a tripleton or even a doubleton diamond, and 4 will be considerably better. Remember, North did not open a natural 1. There is no way to get this information.

If partner has 3 spades, I'm going to play this hand in 4. Yes, 3NT could be better, but I can't determine that sensibly.

My reason for bidding 2, then 2 (as opposed to 2, then 3NT), is that if partner doesn't have 3 spades I may be able to determine that 4 or 5 is superior to 3NT.

I think the concern about giving the defense too much information is overrated. Most of the time the defense will be making the same opening lead anyway, or the opening lead won't make any difference. The primary goal should be to get to the best contract.
Jan. 1, 2012
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Victor,

It isn't as easy as that. Let's suppose you decide to play West for the 10 of spades. You lead to the 9 and are successful – East wins with the ace or the king. Now East leads back a diamond. What do you do? If you discard, West may be ruffing with an initial doubleton diamond. If you ruff high, you may find that West started with 4 spades and doesn't have a doubleton diamond.
Dec. 31, 2011
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Steve,

I strongly disagree. South does not have to have 5 spades for the 2 call. He could have a slammish hand with a club suit, which is exactly what your suggested 3 call would suggest. North will not be showing 3-card spade support if South bids 3.

The 3 call violates the fundamental principle of constructive bidding: Set the trump suit if possible. You don't have to necessarily play in that trump suit, but it is vital to establish a playable trump suit before you do anything else if your constructive auctions are going to make sense.
Dec. 31, 2011
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Jess,

Yes, 2-way checkback is quite playable in any system. There are many bells and whistles one can use with it, but the five-second discussion version is:

2 forces 2, responder's follow-up bids are natural invites.

2 is an artificial game force, bid naturally after that.

Just the above will considerably improve your bidding accuracy after a 1NT rebid.
Dec. 31, 2011
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Rainer,

There is no great rebidding structure after the invitational 3-level jump shift. You pretty much have to play that anything is forcing, and opener makes his best guess.

Still, the invitational jump shift is better than nothing. If you are dealt that hand playing 2/1 GF, and don't have the invitational jump shift available, you must choose between stretching with a 2/1 and driving to game or bidding 1NT followed by 3 of the minor which is expected to be much weaker. Yes, one can play that the 2/1 followed by a 3-level rebid is invitational, but this hurts you on the more important 1-suited game-forcing hands where you are forced to bid something you don't have.
Dec. 28, 2011
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