Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A couple of weird slam decisions

I like cuebidding, in case you did not know this.  Very delicate exploration of slam.  so, when playing with a man the other day who did not play Stayman, a couple of slam decisions were a little more general principle.

The first was truly odd.  As dealer, I grabbed Axxx-void-Axxxxxx-xx out of the slot.  I expected a fair chance that, whatever my decision, the auction would return to me at the five-level.  I was right, but the exact auction was unexpected.  I started with One Diamond, figuring that this would be the best way to start.

1D - 2C - 5H - P - ???

Now THAT was unexpected!!!  What in the world does 5H mean by a man who does not play Stayman, but who actually seems to have a fairly good grasp of the game?!?!?  Weird.

I decided to pass, as a void looked ominous.  Partner had the somewhat expected -- two voids (clubs and diamonds), with Qxxx-AKJxxxxxx-void-void.  About right.  On the spade lead, he ducked to assure 11 tricks.  Sure enough, however, trumps split such that the Queen was protected AND the opening lead was a stiff spade.  Fortunately, on the other hand, the stiff spade was with the Q-x-x in hearts.  So, good stop.

The other.  I was dealt AKQxx-Q10x-10xxx-x and opened One Spade.  The auction then went:

1S - P - 3D - 5C - ?

Again, back to me at the five-level.  And, what is a jump shift here???

6D seemed fairly good, so that's what I tried.  Partner held an unexpected hand:


Kind of odd decision, but "the Rabbit" is a system with which I am not altogether familiar as to nuances and the like.  So, presumably 3D is the standard Rabbit Jump Shift.

As you can undoubtedly see, 6D has play.  If diamonds split 2-2, declarer can win five diamonds by force, two more diamonds by ruffs, one heart, three spades, and a 12th trick if spades split no worse than 4-2 or the spade Jack falls.  If diamonds split 3-1, then we need the spade Jack to fall. 

As it was, spades split very strangely.  LHO had Jxxxx in spades.  He also had three diamonds, along with KJ in hearts.  Jxxxx-KJx-Jxx-Ax.  RHO, therefore, held x-xxxx-x-KQJxxxx.  Partner lost trick one to a club and got a spade switch (?).  He won that and pulled three rounds of trumps before trying spades, finding the bad news, and ruffed a spade back to hand.  Now, a club ruff to dummy.  He now had five diamonds plus a ruff, three spades, and that heart Ace, for 10 tricks.  His best shot was a hail-Mary catch of stiff heart with RHO, so Queen-King-Ace...  Nope.  Still, I liked his line.

The moral?  Sometimes you have to guess.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cuebidding to DEFEAT a Slam

Cuebidding is not just for the side with all the stuff.  Sometimes, a cue is necessary to defeat a slam.

I was playing last night with a newer duplicate player.  The first game we played was a life master party for a friend of his.  That new LM decided to celebreate by sponsoring a pro-am game, where regulars were matched with newbies, folks who perhaps played party bridge and might like duplicate.  My partner for that game was a real novice -- we did not even play Stayman!  But, with some well-timed luck and some heavy work to bring in some interesting contracts, we won.

Last night, we tried round two.  This time, the game was open, with no leveling of the playing field.  so, out work was cut out for us.  One deal, however, helped us with a repeat first.

LHO opened a strong Two Clubs, and my partner overcalled Two Diamonds after hearing that 2C showed a strong hand but any suit or balanced.  What kind of silliness was that?  Why not just open two of your suit with a strong hand?!?!?  So, partner decided to step in on that nonsense.

RHO then bid Two Spades.  All white, I had been interested in this deal before the opening bid, as I held xx-void-AKxx-xxxxxxx.  The developments so far made me even more interested.

Lots of options come to mind, but I tried a rather simple option of Six Diamonds.  LHO thought for a while and tried Six Hearts, passed to me.

Well, now we have reached to key point.  Better cuebid sometime, eh?  I mean, if you are thinking about bidding a grand, should'nt you tell partner that you have first-round control of one of the opponents' suits?  So, I bid Six Spades.  We eventually bid our grand, failing by 800 for a top.  The traveler showed a few small slams in hearts for an overtrick, on grand in hearts making, and our grand in diamonds, which was best.  LHO noted that the grand in hearts seems to make BUT for the cuebid in spades.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Anders Wirgren's Review of New Frontiers!

Again, I can only roughly translate this via google (as suggested to me).  But, I think it is a decent review...

System som har öppningsbudet 2c som enda krav kan få problem att visa alla starka händer, det är ingen nyhet.  Därför är det inte så dumt att göra, som Mats Nilsland föreslog för tjugo år sedan i systemet Super Standard och använda både 2c och 22 för att visa starka öppningshänder.  Mats idé var, att 22 lovade minst fyra spader, medan 2c tog hand om övriga händer. Samma idé kläckte Ken Rexford för några år sedan och det är hans lösning som presenteras i den här e-boken. I förordet nämner han att kan känner till att idén inte är ny, men att hans lösningar av den fortsatta budgivningen ofta än enklare än Mats.

Mycket av det Rexford skriver är intressant och han ger många exempel på metoderna i aktion. Han har också med många givar från verkliga livet, där ett par fick problem att hamna rätt efter 2c, enda krav, men där det hade blivit mycket enklare med hans metoder.

Att jag själv, sedan länge använder idén med både 2c och 22 som starka öppningsbud, gör att jag gärna rekommenderar boken till alla systemintresserade.


I have maintained a theory that life and physics often have parallels.  Rough parallels, perhaps.  For example, consider the Heisenberg Uncertainty Priinciple.  In one overly basic description of what this means, we learn that the mere testing or observing of a thing affects that thing so as to give us a false view of the thing as it was prior to our assessment of that thing.  The parallel in life seems to be roughly that our assessment of others (and their assessment of us) affects the other person.  In broader terms, if you see a person as kind, that person tends to become kinder.  If you see a person as funny, their sense of humor increases.  If you see a person as a waste, they also meet that assessment sooner or later.

Bridge also has uncertainty of this type.  If you see partner as a great player or as a strong developing player, partners tend to play great and develop well.  If you see partner as a hopeless cause, they tend to become hopeless.  If you think the opponents are going to crush you, they crush you.  If you sense weakness from your opponents, you come up with a good line or bid yourself, making sure that your assessment of the opponents plays out.

I cannot prove this, but I often wonder if quantum mechanics is at work when I look for Queens.  I am convinced that I find the Queen much less then 50% of the time, even if I follow the odds and inferences correctly.  Is my expectation causing the Queen, perhapps fluttering back and forth, to materialize in the wrong place every time?  Or, am I tending at times to be so pessimistic that I run against the line that I feel to be right?

I mean, strange things happen.  when I feel "on," I manage to find Queens constantly.  I recently held AJ10xx on dummy and Kx in hand.  I crossed to dummy to hook the Jack back, then King, then back to dummy for the Ace, and this all worked.  Nothing that fabulous, except that it was right AND I felt on fire that night, even before that play.  Did my brain work better that night because I was positive in my thinking?  Did I notice all of the right decisions because I felt right?  Was this simply coincidence?  Did I somehow elect in a quantum sense the "world" in which the Queen was placed where I thought it was?  Did I change or decide reality?  No -- the goofy quantum stuff was not really happening (I hope).  What was happening is that I was in tune and positive, with ,myself and with my partner, and that translated into success.

The damned problem is that bridge is not exactly an easy game to master in that regard.  You spend years and years learning about how big of an idiot you really are, and along the way you find out that your partner is a lunatic as well.  And yet, somehow you are suipposed to be upbeat and positive?  At bridge????

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hostage Negotiation

I had a weird occurrence a few years ago.  I was playing in a regional tournament in Dayton, Ohio.  When away from the table, my career is one of criminal defense attorney.  These two worlds collided when I received a note from a tournament director that I had an emergency call (fortunately, at the end of the session).

I stepped outside to call and found out that a client of mine was holed up in his mother's house, police surrounding the house, in what might have been a hostage situation.  Apparently, a judge had ordered this man taken into custody for purposes of an involuntary commitment hearing, meaning a hearing to determine whether his mental illness would merit hospitalization against his will.  He refused to leave, yelling this out of the door, and the police were unsure whether he might be dangerous.  So, a standoff developed.  He demanded to speak with his attorney, and they tracked me down at this tournament.

So, I spoke with him.  The hostage negotiator had failed, but I succeeded in removing him peacefully from the house.  The trick was rather simple, actually.  When he told me what was happening, I acted excited and happy, which confused him at first.  But, I then noted that we would probably have a massive lawsuit if this was all unconstitutional, as he was claiming.  I started talking about what I would do with my one-third of the massive settlement, and this got his thinking about what he would do with all of his money.  In the end, he walked out peacefully, dreams of a vacation home in Barbados in his head, and all was well.  His medications were started overe again, and he was better.  Later, both of us laughed about it.  Good end to a possibly bad story.

Well, as a slight embellishment, I imagine a deal that happened on another day happening actually as the last hand of that day.  I held Q8xx in hand, 9xx on dummy, in 3NT, and I needed one trick from this suit to make the contract, without losing three.  There were no other options.  So, I tried the obvious small toward the Queen, hoping for A-K to my right.  No luck.  But, the card played were x-10-Q-K.  This was curious.  I expected a fair shot that LHO started with K-J-x-x and RHO with A-10 tight.

I then ended up with a ruse to extract the remaining Jack and Ace at the same time from the opponents.  A way to get the culrpit out of the holed up position.  Greed, plus a measure of crazy.  The line was rather simple, actually.  I unnecessarily set up LHO's suit for him by using the last stopper in his suit to cross to dummy in order to finesse the Queen in a suit in my hand.  However, my holding in that suit was A-K-Q-2.  Not a real finesse, of course, but who would open up LHO's suit to lead toward A-K-Q-2?  Sounds like A-Q-2 to me, eh?

That ruse convinced LHO that I did not have the King.  Because I had opened 2NT, he was assured that my holding in the critical suit was now A-Q-x-x rather than my actual Q-8-x-x.  Thus, I had accomplished two things at this point.  First, I created a false image for LHO of my hand.  Second, I gave him dreams of that house in Barbados by setting up his suit and lots of tricks for him.  Now for part three.

Small toward the remaining 9-x on dummy in that key suit.  What was LHO to think?  Surely, I was trying one of those sneaky plays, small to the 9 hoping for an unfortunate duck by LHO.  The combination of greed, thoughtful analysis by LHO, and a tad bit of crazy mixed in, resulted in a hop of the Jack, per force overtaken by RHO's Ace, and I actually ended up with TWO tricks from that suit, only losing two, as RHO had no entry to LHO's winners!

Sometimes bridge and life have parallels.  When faced with a problem, remember a few things about the other guy.  Most people are thoughtful and can be relied upon to work out that which you suggest by your clues.  Most people are greedy.  And, most people have a wee bit of crazy to them.  Capitalizing on all three is part of the game of bridge.

Too often, players are obsessed with odds and percentages and finesse tables and conventional wisdom and the like.  I have never seen a listing of holdings that cater to crazy, but it probably makes sense.

Could you imagine a table of finesse positions that includes x-x on dummy and 10-x-x in hand?  How do you play this for one trick?  The mathematician says, "No way."  The thinker realizes that LHO could have A-Q-9-x and be tricky.  If he plays you for K-J-10, he might duck the 10, trying to sucker YOU into what seems like a safe lead toward the Jack, allowing LHO three tricks!  So, small to the 10 is the line.  Does this work?  Sure, for one of my partners.  This is a "crazy line," but it is, in a sense, the RIGHT line.

Another I saw was Q-x-x on dummy and A-10 in hand.  Suit contract.  I needed two without losing one, in a slam.  the line is not in any book I have seen, but it seemed right and worked.

Small toward the A-10, playing RHO for K-J.  If he ducks, I finesse.  If he sticks in the Jack, cross back and lead small toward the 10.  If RHO buys that I might have started with stiff Ace, two tricks snuck through.  I made the slam that way.  Again, RHO was a thinker, and he had a little crazy.  This time, however, the "greed" was actually more like not wanting me to have anything.  Hoarding.  Selfishness.  He did not want to give me that Queen for free.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shows or Asks?

An interesting question from BBF brings up a theory issue. Unusual jumps typically show unexpected holdings or difficult-to-show holdings. Jumps often show shortness, but other times (Bluhmer, Empathetic Splinter) show 2+ without control. Five-level bids sometimes are used for extreme shortness (i.e., Exclusion RKCB), but sometimes imply a hole (asking bids).

It seems that perhaps there should be a meta-agreement that allows the partnership to know which is which in a way that maximizes utility. Perhaps the tendency should be toward most likely occurrence, but then perhaps the tendency should be toward least likely anticipated.

The case in point was a reverse followed by a raise of Responder's 6-card suit.


What would a leap to 5C show?

In theory, if the "most likely occurrence" method is used, one would expect Exclusion RKCB, meaning something like 3-4-6-0 shape.

However, if the "least likely anticipated" scenario is used, then an "Asking Bid," resembling a Bluhmer or Empathetic Splinter, or Asking Bid, makes sense, a 2-4-5-2 shape with solid but no club control.

I am not suggesting a specific answer. Rather, discussion.