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All comments by Max Schireson
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Interesting. I hadn’t heard about the chuck sheets before. A quick google search didn’t help. If you have any pointers I would appreciate it.
April 11
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Really interesting to hear Barry.

That said, how many of the top level blown imps do you think are simple errors vs more complex play errors? To what extent is “draw trumps, take finesses, cash winners” metaphorical? Certainly top players often make hands where the finesse that an intermediate player at the club would take is off, but there is a squeeze or endplay… my guess is that simple stuff is a lot of it, but a significant portion of swings are also more complex play issues?
April 11
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Yes, better is superior imo.

But also one can more quickly achieve fast play than good play, so this seems like a draw.
April 11
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I think it’s true far far far past beginners.

I think that absolutely first rate world class card players playing my super simple not particularly good system without error would have a decent chance to win a 2 day pair game or advance to the R8 in a major event, and would generally outperform “experts”. I am confident about this because of some of my results, and knowing how much I blow in card play.

It’s possible that system is a bigger part of what separates world class players from ordinary experts (by experts I mean players who, based on skill and apart from seeding anomalies, I would expect to make the 32 more often than not). I don’t know, but my impression (which could be illusory) is that the top players are more aware of more of what is going on at the table, make fewer errors and more good plays than ordinary experts and that accounts for at least a big part of the difference at that level too. All that said, while I think I am worlds better as an analyst than a player, it’s above my pay grade to have any confidence in what separates great players from good ones.
April 10
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The club suit’s attorney is overloaded with discrimination suits against various players, partnerships, and systems. Recently he began suing the courts as well for failing to even schedule hearings.
April 10
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Art,

I suspect that the non-use is more fundamental than that. My instinct is that if those players were playing in a pick up partnership with another player where they had no time to discuss system and just agreed to play “what we think is standard/normal”, it would not occur to any of them that their partner might even consider these things. If they could choose 10 things to clarify, the non-use of any of these things would not make the list.

Disclaimer: I am nowhere close to that level, so what I play is irrelevant, but I usually get seeded low enough to get to play R64 against folks who routinely make the R4 or R8 and see what they play.
April 10
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Ok, I will rant a bit. Please take this in the spirit of trying to be helpful to a newer player.

I think it’s intellectually interesting to see what gadgets most experts play, but I strongly recommend against making them a to-do list. It seems that you genuinely aspire to learn to play well. I have been on a similar journey for a few years longer than you, and my conclusion is that play (both defense and declarer play) is approximately infinitely more important than system.

I play most of the stuff on your list, and maybe a bit over half the stuff others have suggested. I think plenty of the stuff I don’t play really would be helpful: transfer lebensohl, gazilli, some sort of system for coping with 3 level interference over NT, and some other things not listed like two suited keycard. I think there are a number of cases of bids that I should switch, and unused sequences that should be put to productive use. I have one partner who makes fun of my system for being boring: she says if she isn’t sure what we play in any given situation, usually it’s the most simple boring thing possible. It is far from optimal. And I am doing almost nothing to improve it.

Why? It isn’t what really costs me. What really hurts my results is that I make 2 or 3 really costly and egregious errors in play most sessions, and even more smaller/less costly errors. I am working on that but it’s slow going.

I played a 120 board match against a top level team (Bob Hamman etc, it was amazing) and we lost by 50 imps. Larry Cohen published (mercifully without my name) a number of my errors in articles in the bridge bulletin. They were clear errors where 10 out of 10 experts would have gotten it right. Those errors alone cost more than our margin of defeat. In the Blue Ribbon pairs in Hawaii I finished 27th. If I just eliminated a series of bonehead errors on the final day we would have easily been in the top 5.

These results, and many others, prove to me that It is possible to be competitive at a pretty high level with a very rudimentary system. It is not possible to be competitive without playing well.

What matters is:
1. Whatever system you have, make very few errors; a simple system played accurately matters more than a complex system played imperfectly (I am pretty sure that kickback has cost at least 5 times what it has gained in the history of its use)
2. Use reasonable bidding judgement
3. Don’t blow tricks playing match points. Don’t blow contracts playing imps.

I think it is very tempting for teachers to teach students more system, and for students to learn more system. (No offense to those who are teaching you; I know many of them and they are great). Progress feels tangible, and you might impress people with how much you know.

It is very hard to teach or learn to stop blowing tricks. But that is nearly everyone’s actual problem.

All that said, if you enjoy learning system gadgets for their own sake, fine. Just don’t think it will make much difference. For most people I am pretty sure they do worse, because a very small number of errors with system overwhelms the benefit of most gadgets.

Finally, I do think there is a lot of heterogeneity to the stuff being discussed. The majority of the stuff on your original list is standard not just for experts, but for most experienced tournament players, and you should learn most of it. But much of the stuff past that just isn’t necessary. Looking at your yesses and nos, I think you are pretty close to what you need.
April 10
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Yes it’s a much narrower range of scores for a very long event that approximates true skill.

That said I think the range would be wider than 48-52 in that event (though I think the vast bulk of the field would be between 48 and 52).

In Hawaii Blue Ribbons Debbie Rosenberg and I finished with exactly half the match points on day 3, which was good for 27th out of 52. We missed the cut for this field extremely narrowly. (BTW I would be happy to be a substitute pair if you do this event and have an inconvenient number for the movement!)

If a pair ever so slightly better than us manages to sneak in and represents the bottom of the field, my guess is that “top level” pairs would probably do about 4-5 points better than the bottom of the field - I think I reliably blunder 2-3 half board swings per session, and I think our results reflect that.

I don’t know how much better than that the very very best pair would do, or even who they are, but my guess is another 2-3%, for a total range of 6-8% aside from random fluctuations.

Note that if the 3 day pair events were also very long, it would be harder for a marginal pair to finish above average. You would then have the same pairs finishing at the top of all the events, and a total field of around 50 pairs. That field would be significantly stronger (I wouldn’t be at all close to making it) and might range from 48-52 in a long event.
April 8
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Playing face to face without screens, alerts of passes and redoubles when artificial bids are doubled could help partner remember the agreement. Here (presumably online?) is no reason not to share with opponents what your agreement is.

That said, this agreement doesn’t seem that highly unusual or unexpected to me. I don’t think the other side should assume, for example, that pass shows no preference/requests partner to bid if they don’t have spades.

I think it’s better to alert, but I don’t think the meaning is unusual/unexpected enough to make an alert required. Since the question was “should”, not “must” I selected the first option, but I would not rule against the non-alerting side.
April 5
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There is a fine line between looking funny and being funny looking :)
April 4
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In a vacuum one might like a; for the relevant layouts where W has 3 small spades to E’s 1, there is one additional vacant space for the SQ.

In a game where you gain few matchpoints or IMP against the pairs in slam even when you finesse the SQ, it seems that b is the winner.

Since it’s only one vacant space different and 3:1 imp odds in favor of playing for the spade to drop, it seems that even a small slice of the field in slam should be enough to swing it?
April 2
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Donald,

I think a lot of people find humor *around* tragedy., which is different.

We are living through a true tragedy and it is the inescapable context and backdrop of our lives. It causes death, disruption, isolation, and for many financial catastrophe. It is the elephant in the room, and it is knocking over furniture, stepping on people, and crapping on the rug. None of that is remotely funny.

But sometimes life is still funny. People and organizations are funny. Yes, they can even be funny in how they react to this tragedy that is our context. For many of us, humor relieves stress. For many of us, humor works best when it connects with our lives.

As I read it, Steve wasn’t making fun of COVID 19, or of death and tragedy. He was making fun in part of how the ACBL might react to it, and in part of our preconceptions of how the ACBL might react to it.

I understand that distinction may not be significant to you right now, but I thought it needed to drawn. Now I will return to trying to stay out of it.
April 2
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Timo,

Just because the profile says so doesn’t mean that the moderators (Steve in this case) might not post something without their approval, just giving them a heads up that there will be a prank posted in their name.

I still see no evidence than anyone but Steve is responsible for this.

Whether what he deserves is blame, credit, or some of each will be the subject of much debate, which I will stay out of and mostly ignore.

As for blaming the ACBL, which we seem to like to do, perhaps we should blame them for at times being sufficiently incompetent that this post could have fooled anyone.
April 1
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Steve never said they gave permission, he said he gave them a heads up. Very different.

If I were him, I certainly wouldn’t ask permission, because anyone granting it then becomes potentially responsible.
April 1
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I still like yours playing IMPs - I just hadn’t processed it correctly at first.

On your line I think I pick up Qx of spades offside with the HQ wrong.

Lots to think about.
April 1
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No I had a brain freeze. If *E* wins you might have a problem but that’s not what you said, nor is it what any sane person would have said, I should have re-read and seen W, or just been thinking sanely.

Your line seems clearly better at imps than cashing AK of clubs then taking the spade finesse; you succeed whenever the spade finesse was on, plus you also pick up Qx of spades on your left.

I also think that it’s better than my line of (despite the problem statement) ducking the heart.
April 1
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I competent agree with the principle of considering the scoring strongly.

That said, your claim is only valid when the HK is right, and you can try for this chance at little cost playing imps by ducking the lead. When the HK is wrong and you play this way usually you go down 3. Unless you think it very likely they are in slam, it seems better to pick up the cases where the HK is right by ducking the heart lead, and to take one finesse rather than playing for both drops.

Edit: sorry misread. Yes if W wins you are fine. Nice line.
April 1
Max Schireson edited this comment April 1
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IMO it depends strongly on if it’s imps or matchpoints, and also on what contract you think the field reached.

First let’s think about matchpoints.

I expect the field to be in a spade contract, making 12 tricks if either finesse is on and 7 if both. +630 rates to be a poor board, and +660 not much better; I really need 690 of either finesse is on. If both finesses are on I want to go +720 and beat the pairs that aren’t in slam.

The simplest thing to do is win the heart lead and take the club finesse immediately, then after cashing a top spade overtake a diamond honor to repeat the club finesse while still having a diamond entry to finesse spades. It feels more productive to try the suit where i can set up more tricks first; for example if LHO started with Qxxx of spades and the KH, when I cash the last diamond from my hand he will be squeezed.

Another option to consider is ducking a heart trick to try to make when both black Qs are wrong. When I take this line I give up on getting any matchpoints when both finesses are on (25%), but I can take the club finesse and play for RHO to have the SQ and HK, in which case I am back ahead of the pairs in game. When both finesses are off and the HK is right I am a big winner, including against those in slam. I think I need about 2/3 of the room in slam for this line to be better?

IMPs is a different problem.

Here it is particularly important to make when both black suit finesses are off (worth 12 if they are in slam, where otherwise when they are in slam it only saves 4). It seems like the best chance of this is the heart being right, so I duck a heart lead and if they don’t continue hearts I am home; if they do I put in the J. I have some decent chance to make right there, even in the extra important both-black-finesses-off case.

It may be that the details of some of my analysis is wrong, but I think the theme of thinking about the scoring is super important.

I think in general it’s better to try clubs first because the extra trick you gain when it’s right, which might also create squeeze chances. That may have been the intended point of the question, but so felt compelled to comment on everything else going on.

Edit: typo
April 1
Max Schireson edited this comment April 1
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I think its important to distinguish the cases where you have a 4 card major from when you don't in terms of when you respond 1D.

If I do have a 4 card major, I will nearly always bypass D to bid the major. Even if I have an invitational hand, I will often bypass the D - typically when there are only 4 of them.

If I do not have a 4 card major, then I will use my judgement between 1D and some number of NT for hands that are suitable shape wise for both. Occasionally I might even bid 1D with only 3 of them, if I don't think its right to play NT from my side with 3=3=3=4.

For 3NT, which is 13-15, I generally prefer to not bid even when 3=3=4=3 unless either a) my hand is screaming to be declarer in a NT contract or b) they are favourable and I am worried about them getting in with one or both majors.
March 28
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I understand.

Yes, I want to play with and against the “talent” - and to compete with them. Your movement means I not competing with them at all, and I am also never being defended by two of the top players. I would much much rather sometimes partner another sponsor than lose these aspects.
March 28
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