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All comments by Max Schireson
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A few thoughts on Butlers:

1. Over 200 boards, I would expect the standard deviation to be around 0.4 imps per board. Butlers of eg +0.7 probably mean better than average and -0.7 probably mean worse than average but even that isn’t certain. The difference between eg +0.8 and +0.5 is mostly meaningless, but the difference between eg +1.1 and -0.8 is very very likely to be real (but still could be a pair of flukes where one average-ish pair had a *great* tournament and another average-ish pair had a poor tournament.
2. Opposition matters a lot.
- in a Swiss it’s *much easier to get a good Butler on a poor team because your opponents are less strong
- in a RR format like the BB, strong teams may play their weaker pairs against weak opponents and make sure their strongest pairs are playing in the matches against other teams in contention - not only are imps in close matches worth more VPs, but swings against other teams in contention effectively count double.

So while I don’t think they are totally meaningless, they definitely need to be viewed with some significant caveats.
Sept. 26
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I would also like to add that restricting the strongest players may also drive away other players who want to compete against the best.

Our youth NABCs are great learning events, but not serious events that the strongest eligible players are excited to win. Each year that I see strong players not enter it makes me sad. There the issue is both masterpoint limits and event structure so it’s not a perfect analogy, but I do worry that limiting eligibility based on skill/experience drives away more than just the ineligible players.
Sept. 21
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I have mixed feelings, but (like my feelings about any event I will never be eligible for) not strong ones.

I think junior bridge is great. The participants seem to have a blast and many of them grow into being top level competitors; some are while they are already eligible for juniors. Players who have won or are played in the Bermuda Bowl play U26, and last year we had a Bermuda Bowl veteran play U21 (!).

I think this is fine. I just wonder, given that U26 already has world class competitors, whether it makes sense to have a U31. Funding and mentoring for junior bridge is not unlimited, and I worry that this would come at the expense of other categories.

Sure, it would be great to see some of our young pros in the U31, but we might also see them in the Bermuda Bowl. We might also see fewer U26 or U21 teams sponsored by their NBOs to make room for the U31 teams, and I am worried that that tradeoff won’t be a net plus.

As for Peg’s idea of limiting it to newer players, I do think there is something to be said for serious events for newer players. This is especially true for new players who are not eligible for any age or gender restricted events. That said I think it’s hard to implement that limitation well today, and I wonder if a new-ish player event might be more useful than Peg’s contemplated new-ish U31 event. (Disclaimer: I might be eligible for the first but wouldn’t be for the second, so I may be biased).

I feel like the grinch for not jumping for joy about more junior events, but I do have concerns.

I am curious how three groups feel about this:
1. Players currently planning to compete in U26 who expect they would instead play U31 despite eligibility for U26, because they want to compete at the highest/most prestigious level of junior competition (this assumes U31 takes off and becomes the strongest and most prestigious junior event).
2. Players currently planning to compete in U26 who expect they would continue to do so (unless perhaps to their surprise they made a U31 team)
3. Players who are no longer able to compete in U26 who would be eligible to compete in U31

This doesn’t capture the resource issue I worry about, but it does get to potential dilution of a long established U26 event, which I also worried about.
Sept. 21
Max Schireson edited this comment Sept. 22
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John,

Do you have specific continuations agreed?

Why does partner do with a good spade raise?
Sept. 9
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I debated whether *all* applicable hands would open 1N, but after some thought left it at “most”.

The hands that I imagined might at least consider bid this way with would be good 17s with a 5 card spade suit that I was planning to rebid 2N, but when partner makes a 2/1 I don’t want to have to bid to 4N to show my values.

Besides the intellectual inconsistency of first deciding the hand was worth 18 then backing down I dislike this auction - it is very awkward if partner has a good spade raise - so on further thought I am pretty confident I would never actually bid this way (even apart from you stating that you would not know what it meant)… but if a partner who had read those notes did, I would think the agreement would still apply, and that they would have good reason for me to understand what they are showing.

All that said, I am not sure I would like the agreement if it was ever going to come up, so I now regret sharing what I did.
Sept. 8
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For what it’s worth, I think “outrageously out of line” is closer to a correct description of Michael’s *comment* than “perhaps just a little inappropriate.”

Knowing Michael a bit, I am confident in his positive intentions. I suspect that Kevin likely was also confident that Michael genuinely expected the comment to be helpful and welcome, and this colored his comments.

Michael was well meaning, and I think his behavior - by which I mean both the comment and the motivation behind it - was not at all outrageous. But Michael is someone who wants to and does learn, and I think it is good for him to see very clearly that
- not everyone values learning at bridge in the way he does
- the norms for interactions at the bridge table definitely do not include making comments such as the one he made
Sept. 7
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Michael R: I like your rule. It is more accurate, but also harder to apply.

Unlike the golden rule it is likely to eventually (perhaps now) help Michael with this situation.
Sept. 6
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I think that the golden rule won’t help Michael, because he would likely be happy to hear unsolicited advice that is correct/useful.

Michael, I agree with the general sentiment that unsolicited advice is usually a bad idea. If you give it the burden is on you to know that it is an opponent and situation where it will be appreciated.

It is very hard to be confident that it will be appreciated; for example here are some reasons someone might not want this type of feedback (not all of which necessarily apply to this hand)
- they may want to move on to the next hand
- it may be embarrassing in front of their partner (imagine their partner is paying them for a lesson- even more embarrassing then!)
- it may be an affront to their ego that someone who wasn’t even born when they started playing bridge knows more than them
- they may already know their error and be upset about it
- they may believe their play was correct and not want to discuss it - perhaps even to avoid embarrassing you

It is great that you are so motivated to learn. Not everyone shares that motivation. If you stop to think about it, it might not be so surprising that someone who has 20x your bridge experience but less skill doesn’t share your passion for learning and improvement.

In summary: don’t give unsolicited advice unless you are sure it will be appreciated!!!
Sept. 6
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My agreement is about a K extra. Yeah most of those hands have some other in this auction, but definitely not a balanced minimum.
Sept. 4
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Bill,

I think you are correctly describing the mechanics of standard 2/1, but not the value and the purpose.

The space through the 3 level is primarily used tounderstand how the shapes of the hand mesh, which is a form of exploring for slam. Players who are playing 2/1 explore for slam on every 2/1 auction, but they start doing that by seeing if the shapes make them feel there is the potential for 12 tricks, and only when that is the case do they check for controls unless they have significant extras.

This data is really important for evaluating slam.

Slam is not just about controls. You need 12 tricks. Think about 5=3=3=2 opposite 3=3=3=4 with eg 27 HCP consisting of AKQ of S, AK of H AK of D A of C. All the trump controls, first round control of every shot, second round control of almost all suits, and a good game (though still with some risk) that has no play at the 5 level.

I think there is merit to learning about trump for earlier, which your system does. I think it is more important to explore shape than controls next.
Aug. 31
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Yes!!!!!

I find that learning to see and think through whole hands is
1. Essential to playing well
2. Incredibly hard to learn as an adult

I don't really know how to learn it as an adult - still work in process for me - or how to teach it.

For what its worth, thinking hard about hands helped a lot. I found that eventually I could hold whole hands in my head and accurately play through variations. At first it took literally hours of thinking about a hand. Now it comes in 15 or 20 minutes.

Unfortunately for me it still doesn't come quickly enough to see things clearly at the table… and thinking I do and not quite having it, or stretching to see it and missing something else leads to some epic fails.

I may write more about this. I think it comes naturally to young players and only with very great difficulty to adults. I am excited that you are trying to teach it and look forward to learning more about what works/doesn't.

My only worry is that few students will be willing to put in the effort, which for me was monumental and I am still not all the way there. But if even a few do, you will be doing a very very good thing.

For what its worth in the beginning 5 is a lot. I would be happy if a beginner - or even a decent intermediate - could really grasp even one hand with some study.
Aug. 30
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Fwiw the guideline many follow is that with a good trump fit and shortness slam can be possible with two well fitting minimums. This can routinely be be 24 HCP or fewer. Tools like splinter bids, J2NT, and others are designed to help find these slams. I have certainly looked for slam when it is clear that we have less than half the HCP (but those cases are rare).
Aug. 28
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Bill,

The way I think about slams is that you need two things:

1. the ability to take 12 tricks
2. the ability to stop them from taking two tricks first

I agree that your system does a good job of identifying one risk to item 2 at a low level.

However, multiple posters have suggested that the key to finding low HCP slams is the shape that enables 1. Your system seems to take away from this.

I suspect that if you focus on 1, and find that the hands fit well and have the potential to take a lot of tricks, it will be relatively rare that you are in danger at the 5 level.

It’s great that your system has helped you find a lot of low HCP slams. Is it possible that with continued focus on that area of bidding, but prioritizing the fit and trick taking potential of the hands, you could do even better?
Aug. 27
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It doesn’t matter so much to your expectations what the other pairs in game do; you have a straight guess against them. But when you concede down one, you are converting a guess against the pairs in partscore to a loss.

Say all the pairs in game are oilers here :)

If 4 are in partscore and 8 are in game all taking the finesse, you lose 4 (4 vs 8) taking the finesse when it loses, but win 8 (8 vs 0) when it wins.

It’s good to make your contract.

That said I was the only declarer in the room (over 30 tables) to go minus the other day trying for an overtrick. I thought my line was about 3/4 to make the overtrick but otherwise would go down, vs playing safe. (I thought I was in a majority by not universal contract). Still think so and would do it again but the zero sucked.
Aug. 25
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Richard,

Re: #2, although I am not inclined to believe such things are possible, I must say that I quite like the idea of Henry continuing to see what you and the others he is following are saying :)
Aug. 14
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DC

The way to think about the probability problem is that after ~1.3M hands (half the given number), you will on average have seen half an 11 bagger. But sometimes you will actually have seen two, or three, or occasionally even more. Since those occasions “use up” your 0.5 instances quickly, most of the time you won’t have gotten one and you need more trials.

Another probability question: after the 2.7x million trials, what are the odds that you still won’t have seen one?

No calculator allowed, please give an answer accurate to within one part per million. I know at least one U21 player who will know the answer instantly and think the problem is absurdly easy.
Aug. 14
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Wayne,

Your “flaw” doesn’t bother me. I think different players *should* be able to use their judgement to open different hands.

Of course no system of checkboxes will precisely capture the judgement each player might use.

I think they system I describe would, however, on balance provide more accurate disclosure than the current system. Also as important as I think disclosure is, I don’t believe that we should ban judgement because it makes disclosure more complex.
July 14
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To Michael’s point, regardless of what the asker wants to know, if the respondents are answering a different question than what the asked intended the results won’t be accurate.

Surely everyone discussing bridge bidding understands this :)
July 14
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I am a big believer in disclosure, and I think using HCP as a “lingua Franca” around disclosure is sensible.

What I think is wrong is when HCP overrides judgement. We should be allowed to open what we think a hand is worth, but we should have to disclose the extent to which that might deviate from point count.

Let’s say I want to open 10-12 NT

I think I should be able to decide that
JT9, T98, KQJT9, KT
is worth 10 (or more) and that
K32, Q432, KJ32, KJ
is worth 12 (or less?)

Different players have different tendencies about upgrades and downgrades; these could be checkboxes on a system card - never, occasional, frequent, very aggressive

If you check never, then the first hand isn’t 10. Otherwise it’s fine. If someone had checked very aggressive upgrades I would have no problem if they called this hand 11 or 12.

None of this excuses someone calling K82, AJ4, K953, QT7 15-17, no matter which box you have checked; I don’t think you can make even a vaguely credible argument that it’s worth 15, so if you are going to open this hand playing with client who declares poorly you need to say 13-17 or whatever your actual range is.
July 13
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The first (admittedly US centric) sensible definition of expert that I have heard (other than US-centric) is someone who, on a team of equal players, should be expected to make the round of 32 in the Spingold or Vanderbilt.

Since this is about the top ~150 players, it should be similar to the players who you would expect to make day 3 of the Blue Ribbons or LM pairs playing with an equal partner, but since some of the top pros play KOs with their teams rather than whether those events and many pros play with clients, I would guess the combination of those effects means that those players might be closer to the ones you would expect to be above average on day 3 of one of those events, or make day 3 of the platinum pairs.

I suspect this roughly corresponds to the AH level in NGS, plus some of the stronger AD (obviously assuming accuracy of rating; even in a good rating system there will be some noise/errors and not every rating will be perfect so I am sure you can find a handful of exceptions).

Of course in some clubs *much* weaker players are viewed as experts, and players that you might think of as terribly weak get hired as “pros”.
July 12
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