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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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If you believe that 2NT is a better rebid than 1NT because the call has a higher IMP expectancy, that is fine. But if you believe you must bid 2NT because you have 19 Goren points and the system defines the 2NT rebid as most 19's to 21, you are being a slave to the point count. The goal is to choose the call which maximizes your IMP expectancy, not to follow some rule.

As to what the ranges are for the 1NT rebid, we vary slightly depending on the opening 1NT range. When 1NT is 10-12 (so 1, then 1NT is 13-15), 1C followed by 1NT starts at 16, so we make the defined top a little lower – bad 19's. When 1NT is 14-16, 1C followed by 1NT starts at 17, so the defined top is higher – most 19's. When 1NT is 15-17 (which we play in 3rd or 4th seat) 1C followed by 1NT starts at 18, so we make the defined top all 19's.

Within the definitions, there is a lot of scope for judgment. The main reason I don't like the 2NT rebid on the actual hand is that the hand is suit-oriented enough so there is a good chance that we belong in a different strain. Rebidding 1NT increases the chances of finding that superior strain, and I believe the gains from this more than compensate for the possible missed game. If the hand had the same playing strength but were more notrump oriented, then I would agree with the 2NT rebid.
July 4, 2011
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It seems to me the only possible improvement is the final double. It is impossible that North would have both Q-bid 5 and made a forcing pass of 7 without the ace of diamonds and the king of hearts. That means South can count 12 tricks, and where there is 12 there is often 13.

Still, bidding 7NT is questionable. Would North have bid differently if his jack of spades were the ten? Might not North have something like J10x Kx Axx QJxxx for this sequence? The enemy bidding indicates that suits won't be splitting. If 7 goes for 1700 and only a small slam is bid at the other table, which is quite possible, then bidding 7NT risks 23 IMPs in order to gain 6 IMPs. Thus, it is hard to fault South's decision to double.
June 30, 2011
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If there is any fault, it must be the final double. It is inconceivable that North could both bid 5 and make a forcing pass of 7 without the ace of diamonds and the king of hearts. Thus South can count 12 tricks, and where there are 12 there are often 13.

Still, it is difficult to fault the double. Would North have bid differently if his jack of spades were the 10? Might not North have bid this way with J10x Kx
June 28, 2011
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Good catch Cenk. I think you are right. So we need East to have both spade honors.

The question is can we handle both doubleton and tripleton in East's hand. I believe we can. Start as I suggest, 3 rounds of trumps and a spade off dummy. East must win. If East shifts to a diamond honor or they continue spades we are home, since the other diamond entry can't be attacked. So the defense must play on clubs. This will give us the count in both clubs and hearts, and that along with our inferred 6-0 diamond count will tell us whether to lead the queen of spades or just duck a spade.

Playing low from dummy at trick 1 is now clear, since if the spade honors are split East must have the king of clubs.
June 27, 2011
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The problem with playing penalty doubles of 2 of a major is that sometimes you don't know for sure whether the overcaller has hit partner's suit. The is even more true when the multi bid can be a 5-card suit. Imagine picking up KQxx xx Axx KJxx and hearing it go: 2-2 to you. If partner has spades, which he will most of the time, you will want to bid 2. But if partner has hearts, bidding 2 will be a major disaster. You can't afford to take this risk to cater to the rare time you have a penalty double.
June 26, 2011
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Why didn't West lead his partner's suit? The failure to double 2 doesn't mean much. It seems like West would lead a diamond from any singleton or doubleton rather than pulling out some random club lead. The answer must be that he doesn't have any diamonds.

Unless I'm lucky enough to win 2 club tricks, I will need 2 spade tricks. I can never handle a 4-1 trump split since I will get forced in clubs if I draw trumps, and West will get a diamond ruff if I don't. I must start spades before touching diamonds, or else West can set up a diamond trick if he has AK of spades. The first round of spades must come from dummy.

I win the opening lead, play 3 rounds of trumps ending in dummy, and play a spade off. This makes when trumps are 3-2 and East's spades are AKx, A10, A9, K10, or K9. I don't see anything better. Note that I won't make when East has AK doubleton, since I can't afford to lead the second spade from dummy – he would win and knock out the other entry.

The play on the opening lead is sort of a guess, but I think playing small is slightly better. The reason is that the unfavorable spade holdings are East having honor-doubleton (no 10 or 9) or one honor with the spades 3-3. If that is the case, East will need the king of clubs for his opening bid.
June 25, 2011
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I play suit-preference signals here. 10, 9, 8 is suit-preference high, 2, 3, 4 is suit-preference low, 6, 5, 7 is encouraging.

I would like to give an encouraging signal, since a shift to either spades or diamonds could be a disaster. From partner's point of view, a shift to either pointed suit might be right. Partner almost certainly has a trump, and if he does he will shift to a trump rather than continue clubs. He must be aware of the sluff-ruff danger, and he can tell by looking at dummy that there is no constructive value in continuing clubs.

Using Peter's methods, I would play the 3 of clubs.

I do not think this is a tempo-sensitive situation. As a defender you are entitled to take your time to think about the hand and plan the defense, just the same as declarer is entitled to take his time to think about the hand and plan the play regardless of whether his problem is at trick 1 or down the road. If East thinks for a minute before playing a club, West does not know whether East is thinking about the entire hand or about which club to play, so there is no unauthorized information. Only if East plays instantaneously is there unauthorized information, as now West would know that East didn't have a problem on trick 1.

June 22, 2011
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Bob,

I strongly disagree with your statement that the 2 call implies 4-card spade support. If South had 4 spades, he would not have bid 2. He would have raised spades to whatever level he deemed appropriate. As I said, the number one priority is to set the trump suit.
June 22, 2011
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Three fundamental principles of constructive bidding were violated here:

1)Bid out your shape
2)Set the trump suit
3)Don't jump to the final contract unless you are sure

2 was a poor call. North has hearts, and South's takeout double suggests a 4-card heart suit when South doesn't raise spades. North should bid 2. This will simplify matters whatever South has. If North feels he is too strong to bid 2 (I don't think he is), then he should bid 3. He must bid out his shape. The 2 call says that he doesn't have a heart suit to bid or a long enough spade suit to rebid.

2 was correct. Partner is assumed to not have 4 hearts or he would have bid them. Partner might have 5 spade and need to know about the 3-card support. Set the trump suit.

3 was even worse. When South bids 2, North knows for sure that spades is a fine strain. Even if there is a 4-4 heart fit, North's hearts are so weak that a 5-3 spade fit will probably be as good or better. North should bid 3 or 4, but he must confirm that spades are trump. Among other things, 3 might be misinterpreted.

South was misled by North's bidding. However, he couldn't be sure that 5 was right. He should simply bid 4. Yes, that is forcing. Forget about stopping in 4 of a minor on constructive sequences when the minor hasn't been previously agreed – that is losing bridge. After bidding 4, South can respect North's 4 call.

June 20, 2011
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Clearly East should not overtake the king of hearts unless playing with a weak partner. That blows any chance of defeating the contract when declarer has the jack of hearts. If East is playing with a weak partner (which appears to have been the case), then overtaking may be best.

Equally clearly, West should shift to a club at trick 2. From West's point of view, there is virtually no consistent construction where the defense can take 6 tricks unless East has a singleton club.

As to who declarer should play for the king of diamonds, I think the odds favor East. He has more diamonds than West. Ownership of the king of diamonds under the overcaller isn't going to affect West's decision about whether or not to double. Finally, West's shape might be 2-4-2-5 instead of 1-4-3-5, and if he has that shape with the king of diamonds he might have opened 1NT.

You say that East encouraged in hearts (wrongly), so the opponents were playing upside-down signals. If the opponents were playing standard signals (so East's 7 was discouraging), then declarer should play the 8 – giving his own encouraging signal since he wants a heart continuation rather than a club shift.
June 17, 2011
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Very interesting hand. As I see it, there are 2 possible lines of play depending on who you think has the ace of clubs.

If you think East has the ace of clubs, take Cenk's line of play. Play all your trumps but one, coming down to 7 cards. If East doesn't hold 4 spades, duck a spade for the tenth trick. If East doesn't hold 3 clubs, cross to dummy with a spade, club to the queen, and duck a club. If East keeps 4 spades and 3 clubs, lead the last trump discarding a spade. If East also discards a spade, throw him in with the third round of spades. If he discards a club, spade to dummy, club to queen, duck a club. It will be very difficult for East to deceive you about the count in this situation.

If you think West has the ace of clubs, cash 3 rounds of hearts, lead a club to the king, and cash the ace of spades. Now, if you believe West started with a singleton spade, simply duck a club. West will be end-played on the third round of clubs. If you believe West started with a doubleton spade, cash the second high spade and play a club trying to keep East off lead. This will work unless East started with J10xx of clubs or West had the foresight to dump the jack or 10 of clubs from AJx or A10x. East will probably discard his idle fifth spade on one of the hearts if he has 5 spades, so that should be your clue as to which layout to play for. This line can also succeed when East has the ace of clubs and West fails to unblock.
June 16, 2011
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Since I was declarer, I'll try to explain my thinking on the hand.

East had returned the 2 of spades. With an initial 3-card holding the proper return is the top of a doubleton if it can be afforded. East couldn't have the 10 of spades, since from A10x he would have played the 10 at trick 1. Defenders cannot afford to falsecard in this sort of situation, since it is likely that their partner will be winning the trick and he will need the count. Thus, I was convinced at the table that the spades were 5-2.

The queen of hearts came out smoothly, and it felt like a queen-doubleton. The instinctive play is to duck, since if the hearts are 3-3 I am clearly dead. However, I realized that I could never make the hand if West had Qx. I win the second heart, and play a club hoping that West has the ace of clubs. The problem is that he can win the ace and return a diamond, and I will be unable to enjoy the jack of clubs. I could not imagine him making a mistake and ducking the first club or winning and returning a club. He knows my major-suit shape, and will get a count card from his partner on the club lead. Furthermore he knows I have every remaining high card to get up my 1NT (14-16) opening, so if I am 4-3 in the minors I must have the rest of the tricks after knocking out the ace of clubs. Therefore, it seemed inconceivable that he would misdefend.

So, what chances did I have? West having QJ doubleton of hearts and the ace of clubs wouldn't help. He wins the club, cashes the jack of hearts, plays a diamond, and I'm back to the untangling problem. He might have stiff queen of hearts in which case ducking is the winning play, since if they can't knock out dummy's ace of hearts I am cold. But at the table it felt like a doubleton heart. If I duck and East turns up with KJxx of hearts and ace of clubs I would go down an extra trick for no good reason. Finally,
if West has QJ doubleton of hearts and East has the ace of clubs, I have a real chance by winning the first heart and playing a club. They can still defeat me if East goes up ace of clubs, leads a heart to West's jack, and West exits with a diamond. While in theory East can work out that this is his only chance if I have my 1NT opening bid, in practice this will be a very difficult defense to find, particularly since he won't have the luxury of thinking for a long time when the club is led through his ace. I believe it is quite likely he would duck, in which case I would make.
June 10, 2011
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Henry,

In fact Fred and I would know what our bids would mean. Our agreements are that if the opponents open 1 of a minor which could be fewer than 3 of the minor but isn't necessarily a strong hand, we treat it exactly as if it were a Precision 1 (or a Polish 1) which we do have clear agreements about. I'm not saying this is the optimal defense vs. the magic 1, but we would not have any mixups.

Anyway, I do not see the problem with system disclosure for online competition. A .pdf file of the convention card can be posted, and would be easily available to the opponents. In fact, for team competition the file could be posted in advance of the match, and pairs would have the opportunity to prepare defenses if they so chose. Thus the ability to study your opponents' system before play is much better than in a live event. In a live event you generally have only a few minutes to discuss, unless the systems are required to be posted on the internet in advance. With online competition, if you knew which team you are playing the next day you would have plenty of time to discuss.
June 1, 2011
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Steve,

Consider the following example: Suppose at unfavorable vulnerability your partner opens 1NT, next hand passes, and you bid 3NT. Would you agree that this creates a force if the opponents enter?

Now, suppose your hand for the 3NT call is: xx xx xx AQ10xxxx. 3NT doesn't have to make, but it surely is a reasonable gamble.

Unfortunately, LHO comes in with 4H, and it goes pass, pass to you. You are in a force. But what should you do? While 3NT was a reasonable gamble, 4NT is not. You need 10 tricks instead of 9, and the opponents know what to lead. For all you know, partner doesn't even have a heart stopper. 5 doesn't look so good either. You can't really expect that to make.

What about 4? You have no idea whether it will make or not. The only information you have is that partner didn't double, so he doesn't have something like KJx of hearts. I don't believe the odds are good enough to justify doubling. Therefore, even though you are in a force I think you should pass.

Of course if the bidding had gone so the 4 call was on your right and you passed, partner must not pass. Your hand is unlimited, and you could be certain of a plus score, hoping partner will choose the action which gives you the biggest plus score. But when partner is limited, you may know enough about the hand to determine that selling out undoubled is the percentage action.

On the actual auction, there is no question that we were in a force by our agreements. When Fred passed over 4, he definitely did not expect me to pass it out there. The decision to do so was entirely mine.

Steve appears to think that I should not pass, although he does not state what action he believes I should take. However, he does believe that Fred has a bid over 4 with the hand he holds. Bobby and Barry don't say anything about Fred's call. They don't explicitly say what they believe I should have done, but if I understand Bobby's comment he thinks I should bid 5. Perhaps they are right. However, I am curious what hand they would be hoping Fred holds consistent with his bidding (not the actual hand, of course, since we agree that with that hand Fred should have bid 5 himself) where bidding 5 would be the percentage action looking at just our two hands.

Fred obviously doesn't have 3 hearts. If Fred has 3 spades, 7 clubs, and a side ace as he has, we agree that he should have bid 5 himself. Therefore, even if Fred has 7 clubs he must have at least 2 diamonds, and he must have at least 4 red cards. So how can 5 make given that he doesn't have a 1 opening? Maybe it is right to bid in case they can make 4, but the singleton king of spades is a potential trick on defense but not on offense.
May 31, 2011
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Bob,

Once I pass 3NT, slam is assumed to be out of the picture. Fred has described his hand, and I have chosen the contract. Furthermore, if I wanted to make a last minute stab at slam I could have bid 4 over 4.

I am quite sure that Fred was planning on defending if I had doubled 4. This is not a pass or pull to invite slam situation, since the hands have already been limited.

One can debate the merits of opening 2 on Fred's hand. But once he has chosen that action, he must lie in the 2 bed he made.
May 31, 2011
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Why should I take any action at the end? It is true that Fred bid 3NT with the expectation of making, but that contract is no longer available to us. If we are to play a game, it has to be 4NT or 5. Fred figures to have solid clubs for his actions, but he doesn't have to have a 7-card suit. He probably doesn't have secondary cards in spades, or he would have doubled 4. Most likely he has one of the pointed aces, but that doesn't leave room in his hand for much more. A typical hand consistent with his auction would be Ax Jx xxx AKQ10xx. Opposite that, 5 is down 2. In 4NT, we could be off the entire diamond suit. Even if Fred's hand is better it seems nearly impossible from my point of view that we can make 4NT or 5. Since they probably aren't making 4, it can't be right to take a sure minus score when we have a likely plus score.

What about doubling 4? I can't be sure about the trick-taking value of my king of spades, since Fred hasn't guaranteed a spade stopper. Remember, he bid 3NT before the opponents showed a spade fit, so he had to be gambling on one of the pointed suits and it could have been either suit. I have no idea how many clubs will cash. A 2-trick set seems pretty unlikely. Doubling gains 2 IMPs (+100 vs. +50) if they go down 1, while it costs 5 IMPs (-590 vs. -420) if they make. I do believe that 4 will go down more often than not, but not enough to lay 5 to 2 odds.

Should Fred bid 5? I think so. I showed some interest in further competing when I passed 4, since if I were sure I wanted to defend I would have doubled in order to shut him up. It seems quite likely that I have a singleton spade and some club support. I must have at least 1 red-suit trick for my actions, and if I don't have that singleton spade I probably have 2 red-suit tricks or I would not have suggested further competition. Thus, 5 appears likely to make. In addition, his seventh club increases the probability that we aren't cashing any club tricks and 4 might be making. It seems to me that bidding 5 with his hand has to be the percentage action.
May 31, 2011
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Henry,

I did not mean to imply that major tournaments needed to be run in the classical manner. I simply said that table presence considerations would be lost.

I do not agree that system disclosure is a problem with online play. In fact, I consider it a very good feature of online play. The player making an alertable call alerts both of his opponents about the meaning of the bid, while his partner does not get to see the alert. Thus, if a pair has a misunderstanding about the meaning of one of their bids, their opponents get the same information about the meaning of the bid (unlike with screens where they get different information), they get the information about what the bidder thinks his bid means, thus what the bidder has (as opposed to what his partner think the bid means which might be quite misleading), and the side making the bid does not know about the alert or explanation. Thus, the bidding side gets no unauthorized information, and their opponents always get the correct and identical information. In addition, a player may ask an opponent about the meaning of a call privately, so his partner does not see the question. As a result, the problems of unauthorized information and mis-information are virtually eliminated. This is a big plus, for online play.

Online play has other advantages. Irregularities such as bids and leads out of turn or insufficient bids are completely eliminated. Questionable claims are dealt with cleanly. If the defenders don't accept the claim, play continues with declarer's hand exposed but the defenders hand still concealed. Even tempo problems aren't as severe, since a delay could come from things other than a player thinking – a slow internet connection or a player stepping away from the keyboard. Also, for serious tournament play it probably wouldn't be difficult to modify the software so a player sees the bids and cards played by the other players come all at once (rather than as they are made), so there really is no information about who is thinking. All things considered, there would be almost no need for director or committed rulings.

Another advantage of online play is speed. Players don't have to take time to take their cards out of the board and sort their hands, Making bids and playing cards is also faster with online play. The amount of time needed to complete a specified number of boards is a lot smaller than face to face play.

Yet another advantage of online play is record keeping. The hand, bidding, and play card for card are stored and easily retrievable for later analysis.
May 28, 2011
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While the concept of online play for important tournaments is potentially a good one, there are a lot of considerations which can't be brushed off lightly.

Security is a big problem. The ACBL has prohibited players from having electronic equipment in the playing room for security reasons. Yet, online play automatically gives the player access to electronic equipment. Every player would have to have a trusted monitor at his side every minute to ensure no communication.

Even if people are playing honestly, there is always the problem of the perception of cheating. A pair takes a couple of unorthodox actions which happen to succeed. and their opponents feel that this pair must have known something. With online play, there is no way a player can do anything to protect himself.

There are plenty of technical problems. What if a player misclicks, which is easy to do with any online software. Can he take it back, or is he stuck with it. Also, what if because of some computer glitch a player takes an unintended action.

Another problem is internet connections. Not all internet connections are stable. What happens if, in the middle of a match, a player loses his internet connection and is totally unable to get back on.

There is potential unfairness involved. Some players are not used to playing on a computer, and are uncomfortable doing so. Some do not concentrate as well when they are referring to pictures of the cards on a screen rather than the actual cards. Also, table presence, which is definitely a part of the game, is lost.

Another problem is accessibility. Not everybody has a computer or internet access.

I'm not saying it can't be done. I enjoy online play, and there is plenty of potential in that direction. But there are a lot of questions which need to be answered before online play can be used for important competitions.
May 26, 2011
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That is correct. I prefer to play the double as expecting partner to pass unless he has unexpected distribution, which the East hand here does not have. I don't necessarily have a trump stack for the double, but I do have a definite preference for defending.

My reason for playing this way is that with the distributional hand I can usually find some suit to bid and have a reasonable chance of being right. On this hand, I would bid 4 with the West cards. But if the double is takeout (i.e. partner is expected to bid unless his hand is quite defensively oriented), then if you are dealt the strong balanced hand you are really stuck. Partner will certainly bid if you double and you don't want that, but if you pass you may be defending undoubled when your side has a game.

I am well aware that my view here is not mainstream, and perhaps the takeout interpretation is better on balance.
May 25, 2011
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You can't have it both ways. What are you going to do when you are dealt something like xx KJx Axx AKQxx. If you double with this showing “cards” as well as on the actual hand of AQx J Qxxx AK109xx showing “takeout” how is partner supposed to know when to pass and when to pull? But if you have to pass on the first hand for fear that partner will bid 4 on jack-fifth of spades, you risk getting stolen blind when partner isn't strong enough to reopen. Partner will not always be able to reopen even with heart shortness, since from partner's point of view you could have a weak notrump and it wouldn't be close to being your hand.
May 24, 2011
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