Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Max Schireson
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
If you can count 13 tricks, you should bid the grand (or make a bid that might get you to 7N).

If you can’t quite count 13 tricks, but think 6N rates to be reasonable (even if inferior) it seems logical to show a king above the trump suit.

Guessing whether partner would have shown a king above the trump suit with any given hand is a different question. Recently I won two imps playing an inferior 6N contract because grand was cold if partner had the SK and I wasn’t 100% sure they would have bid above our suit to show it.

One useful gadget I have with some partners goes as follows: if I ask for the trump Q and partner denies it, and I then bid 5N I am showing all the keycards without serious grand interest; therefore if I bid 5N directly (partner not having shown the Q) I have more serious grand interest. With that agreement here it would be even clearer to not sign off in 6H.
Jan. 23
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I think lying about a previous hand potentially deceives an opponent about the state of the match. At least in principle this could effect play later in the match.

I personally would find that unethical.

This is different from refusing to answer, which I would just find unfriendly and a bit unsporting.

I think this sort of question is similar to “who are your teammates”. Technically I might not have to answer but I think it is basic politeness, and even if there is no law against lying I would consider it unethical to answer “just some players from the club you wouldn’t know, decent but far from expert” if I am playing with Meckstroth and Rodwell (or vice versa).
Jan. 23
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
“never understood why an experienced player (not a good player”…

Among the reasons a player who is experienced might not be good is they might not actually plan ahead, and they might never notice that in general after 1H-1N they might have nothing better to do than bid 2C on a doubleton. Having neither planned nor observed that general issue, they find themselves surprised to have no better call.
Jan. 17
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
One problem I have with these types of situations is that BITs are often much more suggestive of a specific action to the partner of the player who broke tempo than they are to some random pollee.

Here bidding 3N was not just a logical alternative, but IMO clear enough that I don’t expect pass to be a logical alternative.

If I were in charge of the laws (and many will be relived to hear that is very far from reality), they would provide redress when:
1. A player has clear UI (eg, wrong or missed alert, or a very noticeable BIT)
2. They take a highly unusual action (probably their action not being a LA is a reasonable test)
3. The UI doesn’t suggest that their action is worse than the normal actions (this is to protect players who are trying to avoid taking advantage of UI and wind up selecting a call that wasn’t a LA because they thought the normal call was suggested by the UI).
Jan. 17
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
“Would that absolve WEST from bidding 3 spades.”

Theoretically that would depend on what your double meant, but if it were takeout of diamonds, or showing spades, nobody would object to your partner bidding (at least) 3S.

“Barred myself from raising spades”

There is an interesting issue here which is a bit subtle. In fact barring oneself this way is arguably taking advantage. Why? If your question suggested (even if not deliberately) that you have some spades and some values, and if partners 3S call (even if subconsciously) already factored that in, then you have no reason to bid, you have exactly what your hesitation showed.

By barring yourself in this situation, you increase the effectiveness of the extraneous communication that is going on between you and your partner!

I am not suggesting that you and your partner are doing this on purpose. I absolutely believe that you are in good faith trying to understand how these situations work. This aspect of bridge is complex, and I see players much more experienced than you (judging only by your profile and available online results, no offense intended if these aren’t reflective of your actual experience) botch things up quite badly.

I hope you will keep trying to improve how you and your partner(s) handle situations with potential UI.

If you are open to constructive feedback on your actual bridge decisions, as for “should have doubled”, what would double mean?

In general coming into the opponents live auction vulnerable at the 3 level normally requires ***much*** more than a below average strength 4333 hand. You may be influenced by having seen partners hand and the very light “strong” raise, but I think most people would find it normal to pass with your hand, and probably you would find very little support for doing otherwise.
Jan. 13
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
“If I don’t ask for an explanation is there a hint I have nothing in spades?”
Maybe. If you always ask for an explanation when you have something in that suit and never otherwise then definitely. Try not to ask every time you have something in the suit, and to sometimes ask when you don’t.

“whatever happened to ‘give a full and complete explanation’?”
Here I think it just seems slightly imprecise. It is far from the worst disclosure I have seen, even if we might hope for more. This doesn’t feel like true evasion (which drives me crazy), but just a bit lazy.

Building good habits about both how we disclose and how and when to ask for more information is hard, and even players with good intentions sometimes err. Don’t be discouraged by the hostile comments - keep asking questions here and keep seeking to improve this aspect of your game.
Jan. 13
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
1. Would it have been better if S gave a more complete explanation initially? Yes (but see below).

2. Is there much problem with “anything more?” by you? No (but see below).

3. Is it a *really* bad idea to ask specifically about spades, after having been told the bid is artificial? Yes.

Sure, you could have gotten a more complete explanation. Not sure what specifically you were look involved for that would have influenced your decision, but yes, it could have been better.

Your first attempt to gain more information was much less harmful than your second. It didn’t mention a specific suit, and while it may not have been necessary wasn’t a disaster.

Your second question about spades was simply inappropriate, especially after the call had been described as artificial. If you ask questions like that you should expect rulings against you, because they transmit quite a bit of UI.

I don’t think people should have criticized you or your partners ethics. Unknowingly transmitting or using UI is not unethical, but it is subject to redress under the laws. We should not accuse players of unknown skill of being unethical; for most players it is simply a lack of understanding of the laws and what they require.

Finally, you say that your partner often takes surprising delayed actions, and offer his general habit of doing so as an alternative to the suggestion that his action was influenced by UI. I want to point out that he might do this often as a result of UI, completely by accident and without any intention to do anything wrong.

People often say they had a “feeling” that they should balance. Or they just decided on “instinct.” Perhaps the “feeling” came from his partner seeming interested in the auction. Would you have asked the same questions with xx, xxxx, xxx, xxxx? Maybe not. Maybe that difference is part of your partners “instinct” to bid here, and he doesn’t even know it.

This is why we don’t rule on whether partner tried to take advantage of UI. We just rule on whether there was UI that suggested the action your partner took, and whether there was an alternative action available. The ruling is not that your partner would absolutely never do what the UI suggested, just that they might have done something else.

You seem to genuinely want to learn. I hope you will do so, and change how and when you ask about bids.
Jan. 13
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Addendum: today almost the same team (though somewhat older, they swapped the 11 year old for a 14 year old so their average age increased from 9 to 10) won another Swiss (this time bracket 4)

I predict a movement to make senior events 30+ so that people don’t have to play against these kids!
Jan. 12
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
There are many other factors in this situation - most notably why they elected to play this suit at this time.

But say that they had to play this suit, and further say that QJx is not relevant and the only cases that matter are QJ vs stiff honor.

If I adopt the algorithm of always playing for a stiff honor, I will get this type of situation right about 2/3 of the time. If someone plays as you do I will get it right almost always when I see the J, and about half when I see the Q. If they randomize I will get it right about 2/3 of the time regardless. If they take the opposite approach to yours I will almost always get it right on the Q and about half of the J. Always 2/3 overall. Simple and good.

If I have options other than playing this suit, or the layout is such that I can’t pick up Hxx, then considerations are different. But just looking at the choice between QJ and stiff honor, I can always achieve 2/3 overall by playing for the stiff honor.

Without something else to go on, or options to play another line entirely, there is at best deminimis gain to be had trying to guess whether my opponent randomizes or not, since even if they play Q guaranteed 100% of the time from QJ there is only a tiny gain to be had playing for the drop.

When there is something else to go on (eg, vacant spaces), then it can be profitable to try to guess how opponents would play from QJ, and potentially revise. In particular when the vacant spaces significantly favor QJ, if you believe the honor you saw is the one they are more likely to play (for most players I think the Q), you might play for the drop, and if it is the less likely honor you might play for the stiff honor even when that layout is otherwise very unlikely. That said, we are now playing poker and if the opponent that you think you know also knows you, you are letting them select your play, which isn’t good, so be careful who you try this against!
Jan. 11
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.

Of course they can’t.

That said one way to think about RC is in terms of layouts to play for: you can play for a stiff honor by finessing, which picks up both stiff J and stiff Q, two layouts, or play for QJ tight. Even if you always know which of the two stiff honor layouts is relevant at the moment you are playing for a stiff honor, the algorithm of finesse when they play an honor wins on two layouts, whereas the algorithm of play AK wins on only one layout.

Another way to think about it is that you have seen one honor - say the J - so it must clearly be stiff J or QJ. A priori the odds were equal, but now you have seen the J. If the holding was stiff J, you have no new information. But when they held QJ, sometimes they might have played the Q. The fact that they didn’t play the Q reduces the probability they started with QJ tight in proportion to the probability that they would have played Q from that holding. If they would have been equally likely to play J or Q, from QJ, the odds are now half what they originally were. If they would usually have played the Q, they are even more reduced, and if they would usually have played the J they may be just slightly reduced, but the odds are no longer what they were a priori (before that play), and therefore are (absent other information about vacant spaces or logic of the hand or bidding) less than the odds of the stiff honor.

Many people find both of these approaches unintuitive, sometimes to the extreme. Sometimes actually doing a series of a few dozen trials helps to convince people that probability works this way. I did this with a friend in college; it was before my bridge playing days so we did drawers with pennies and nickels. It took about an hour, I won $10, and his understanding of probability was changed.
Jan. 11
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Is this a RC situation, and are the two situations the same?

Math is always math; whether it is the right question varies.

The inference that a stiff honor is more likely than QJ tight is most impactful when other layouts can be removed and it leads directly to a 2/3 vs 1/3 chance to pick up the suit. The fact that a priori there are twice as many stiff honor layouts than QJ tight layouts remains true no matter what else is going on, it just may or may not be important. An important example would be

AKT9xx in dummy opposite xx in hand.

You play dummy’s A and RHO follows with a quack. It is twice as likely that he held a stiff honor than QJ tight. You must set up the suit for no losers, but you can use one ruff to do so. Should you finesse next round?

Not against a good player who would routinely drop an honor from QJx - here the finesse loses to four holdings (3 QJx and QJ), while picking up two stiff honor holdings. Against a weaker player who would not think to drop an honor from QJx, yes.

“Restricted choice” still applies in the sense that the stiff honor is more likely than two honors tight, but other considerations matter more, so many would say that this is “not a restricted choice scenario”, but that language is not precise since the principle is still operating, it just may be less important than other factors in selecting a play.

Re Sarik’s point about not randomizing equally, most players don’t, but we can often just ignore that. I think Philip’s advice is practical but there may be cases where if we knew a particular opponents habits very well we can do better. For example, if a player always plays Q from QJ tight, and would never falsecard the J from Jx(x), then we know for a fact that when they play the J under our A it was stiff and their partner has Qxx. We can then eschew a 90% line in favor of the marked finesse. If we see the Q, then it is close to 50/50 between a stiff and QJ tight, so we might pick a different line that is 60%, even if restricted choice “should” be 2/3. Even if we must play this suit, an extra vacant space or two might be more important than restricted choice when we see the Q from that player, and quite a few vacant spaces might not be enough when we see the J. Philip is 100% correct that in aggregate and all else equal you will get the suit right 2/3 of the time playing for stiff honor regardless of what your opponents do, so you should “follow restricted choice” as a default even when they don’t randomize equally, but there are specific cases where knowing their tendencies enables you to do better.
Jan. 10
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
An opponent or director can’t distinguish but a player can. Same thing about revoking deliberately against opponents who wouldn’t notice.
Jan. 4
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
And what do you think of deliberately keeping partner oblivious, so that he isn’t in a position to inform your opponents?
Jan. 4
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Certainly if partner knows he should say something. But what if partner is so oblivious he doesn’t know? This sounds absurd, but I think it happens in the real world.

If I were playing (presumably either for money or some other non-bridge reason) with a partner like that for the long term I would tell him what I am doing, so that he can better inform our opponents, but it is not clear that I must tell him??
Jan. 4
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.

One principle I look to when I have a disclosure question is that I should give my opponents all the information I have about partner’s tendencies so that they should be as well placed as I am (apart from bridge skill and being able to see my hand) to make inferences from my partners action. I think that is the spirit of the laws, and how I try to read them when in doubt about their letter.

That said, I don’t think my opponents are entitled a) to have me follow my agreement in every instance or b) for either partner to know each other’s tendencies exactly. They should be in as good a position as my partner to understand my actions, which isn’t perfect.

If I agree to play 15-17 with an expert partner from China who is totally unfamiliar with me and I am totally unfamiliar with him, and I choose to upgrade a pretty good 13 in a Swiss because my opponents can’t defend to save their lives, and my partner is as surprised as my opponents at the end of the hand, I don’t think they are entitled to redress. Similarly if I play upside down, but I think my partner can likely infer declarers length in the suit - or partner can infer that I can’t possibly have any card higher than a T - and I choose to falsecard partner knowing they will figure it out based on their hand, again I don’t think they are entitled to redress.

Is it different if I think it is safe because partner never pays attention to count signals anyway? To the extent that I am never actually giving my partner count, it’s misleading to say it is upside down or standard, we should say “none”.

What about “15-17” with extreme unnoticed upgrades? Here there is an argument that we do have an “agreement” of 15-17, even if I often deviate from it, because partner uses it as the basis for their raises. If partner winds up declaring a 55 invitational hand, “15-17” can be used to accurately infer the strength of their hand. If it is actually our agreement, it’s not clear to me that our opponents should get to have more information about my hand than partner.

All that said, if I were playing with Bob and taking Eddies style,I would tell him what I am doing so that he can disclose it. I think not doing so in a long term partnership feels wrong, but it’s not clear to me that it actually violates the laws.


I think the idea that opponents should be able to assume without risk, unless specifically warned, that we simply count HCP and don’t exercise judgement is a silly one… but I am happy to warn them in areas where they expect to be warned. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg; if some players say “14+”, then it becomes more reasonable to assume that “15” doesn’t mean 14+…
Jan. 4
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
I wish there was clearer guidance in the regulations for how to handle this. I think it’s a hard problem.

Consider two styles of upgrading:
- Only exceptional hands like Grainger’s 14 count get upgraded
- Half or more of the 14s get upgraded: anything with a 5 card suit, and anything with more than average As/Ts/9s

Certainly the second style should announce 14+ to 17. Should the first? On one hand not announcing the first style of upgrade could cause an opponent who is counting points on defense to go wrong. On the other hand announcing the first style could do the same; a defender could see a couple 10s and a 9 and two As and decide that maybe their partner has a card that leaves defender with a 4-3-3-3 14 count that the actual player would never have considered upgrading.

Of course in theory the defender could ask “how aggressively does your partner upgrade, and what type of features make a hand upgrade worthy”, and should get an honest answer.

In practice most defenders aren’t that thoughtful about constructing full hands, and those that are probably know to ask when they need to know.

I do think a few checkboxes for upgrading style: very rare, occasional, frequent would help, and I think the issue comes up frequently enough that it is probably worth the space.

One interesting ethical question, which I am sure will generate fireworks: say Eddie the expert is playing with Bob the Bozo. They agree 15 to 17. Eddie opens any pretty good 14 1NT and some excellent 13s. Excellent 18s and pretty good 19s go into 20-21.

Bob never notices Eddies upgrades, and responds as though Eddie has 15-17. In fact he is so impressed by Eddie’s success declaring that he has started raising to 3 on flat 9 counts and inviting with every 8 and some 7S. Eddie nevertheless accepts most invites - all of them when the defense rates to be subpar.

When asked about upgrades, Bob says “I don’t notice them myself so often, but sometimes opponents have pointed them out, so I guess probably he might sometimes.” They played together weekly for a decade.

Is there any “agreement” other than 15-17? Can Eddie continue “deviating” from their “agreement”? If Eddie is fine with Bobs responding style, does he nevertheless have an obligation to describe his style to Bob solely for his opponents benefit?
Jan. 3
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
It depends on style, some might overcall 1H favorable on something like 9xxx QJTxx x Qxx. Others might want to have more high cards.
Dec. 29, 2019
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Steve, DJ blows an undertrick for no gain if partner doesn’t hold the T, because dummy’s K is doubleton.
Dec. 26, 2019
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.

If the book is truly aimed at expert defense then to not at least say that you should think carefully about whether partner can figure out which suit you want - with the given hand being a good example of one where they should be able to figure it out - is pretty ridiculous. I should have said “probably” an overbid without knowing that.

FWIW if they are vul I would be even more tempted to go for the extra undertricks with a partner where I am hopeful but less certain. Same if I think the contract is likely duplicated at the other table.

Seems like Jxxx without the 9 opposite AQT should get down 3.
Dec. 26, 2019
You are ignoring the author of this comment. Click to temporarily show the comment.
Without having seen the whole problem, or knowing the target audience for the book, I think ridiculous is an overbid.

Beating 3N a trick could be win 4 (say the other table is in 3C), and letting it make could lose 7, a swing of 11 IMPs. Partner should expect the “correct” play to win 1-3 IMPs at nobody vul. At matchpoints you could be risking most of a board to gain a small increment. Are you 80-90% confident partner will get it right?

There were half a dozen respondents who played a heart; perhaps more would have if the comments didn’t make the right play clear and Kit and others hadn’t already voted for a diamond. I think some of those who played a heart are clearly much stronger than an “average” player reading a book.

With an expert partner it seems safe to play the 4th spade before cashing the diamond. With the partners most players have it is a different story.

Playing with most of my partners I would play the spade, but I have a mentee who is a decent player by club standards with whom I would cash the diamond, and I would sure as heck tell her to cash the diamond when playing with her regular partner!

Still it is an interesting situation and I understand your objection to the advice given. The D7 is a cute twist, even if 2524 seems unlikely.
Dec. 26, 2019

Bottom Home Top