Thursday, August 25, 2011

Having a Baby

My wife and I are having a baby soon.  We are very excited, of course.  I already have (sick) visions of the "youngest life master" as a Rexford.  Who knows?  Eh, she'll probably have nothing to do with bridge (if she's smart).

Pregnancy has lots of potential complications, one of which is "gestational diabetes."  It is a condition where you can develop an inability while pregnant to process sugars because hormones block the effectiveness of insulin.  One solution is to eat lots of small meals per day rather than our usual one big dinner and snacks late at night.  Work causes a dumb eating schedule, you see.

As always, I see bridge parallels to life.  So, is even this capable of a bridge parallel?  Sure.

Take matchpoints, for example.  Healthy eating might be shooting for average plus all night.  If you could maintain just a 65% on each board, you would surely win most games.

On the other hand, shooting for tops all night long usually results in tops and bottoms, feast and famine.  If you have three 100% scores, but also three 0%, you end up with 50%.  To get to 65%, you need about six 100% scores for every three 0% scores.  That's a lot of work, and it is definitely not healthy.

The thing is, from experience, 100% never seems to be 100%.  It ends up second to top or tied for top.  0%, bottom, however, tends to be full blown 0%.

In contrast, the "average plus" never seems to be 65%.  Rather, you end up with a lot of 75% average plus results.

IMP scoring, however, seems different.  A top yields a lot IF the top is big scorer.  Lots of less costly bottoms cost less.  Plus, the margin seems different. IMP scoring, to some degree, is more like GETTING PREGNANT.  The boys either swim or not.  There is no 65% pregnant.  So, with IMP scoring, you go for the BIG SCORE.

This parallel seems to play out even more.  Matchpoints is like bearing a kid.  Constant headaches over little things.  Sickness.  Cramps, constantly.  Little achievements here and there.  Estimations of scores, somewhat like sonograms of the game.  And then, a lot of screaming when the results come in.

IMP games, however, are more like sex.  Big scores that you brag about.  Complete disasters that you pretend did not occur, and frankly blame on partner anyway.

I suppose that's why I like IMP games better.  My wife, though, complains that I play the hands too fast.  I like to get to the smoking faster, I say.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weird Begets Weird

Bridge is a funny game.  One aspect of it that is quite humorous to me is the Principle of Consistent Weirdness.  This principle establishes that weird bids or plays have a tendency to induce further weird bids or plays.  Remember this.

My favorite problem of this sort was in a suit contract.  I was in Dummy, but I would opnly be back there one more time.  In a side suit, Dummy held KJ109xxx opposite my stiff.  So, with nothing better to do while over there, I decided to lead one of these cards toward my hand, ruffing and hoping for something good to happen.  But, which card?

I could try the King, hoping to smother the stiff Queen.  I could just play small, hoping for the stiff Ace or for RHO to hop the Ace.  Or, I might even try the tricky Jack.

I tried the 10. 

Why?  Because the 10 is weird.  And, by application of the Principle of Consistent Weirdness, the 10 was fhe most likely weird card to induce a weird card from RHO.  Weird begets weird.

In practice, RHO hopped the Ace, I ruffed, and I later enjoyed the King.  Did the 10 have any impact at all on this situation?  Did RHO think I was being tricky with the stiff Queen?  No.  RHO started with both the Ace and the Queen.  There was absolutely no reason to play the Ace rather than the Queen.  Except, that is, that the 10 was so very weird that the PCW forced that Ace out of his hand.

The same thing happens, of course, during the bidding.  However, be careful trying to whip out the PCW in the bidding, as partner has a tendency to be sucked into the weirdness vibe.  The same can be said for PCW on defense -- be careful to ensure as much as possible that partner's weirdness cannot hurt.

Finally, if you check, you will probably find PCW principles at play with the opponents' convention cards.  generally, people who play weird conventions play a lot of weird conventions.  If you can only find one weird convention on their card, expect their seemingly normal sequences to in fact be weird nonetheless.  Plus, if you see weirdness on their convention card, be quick to make the first weird bid, or at least a reciprocal-weirdness call, as this usually induces an equal reaction of enhanced weirdness from these opponents.

Don't get me started with directors.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Regular Stayman Auction and Idea

Playing with a friend who is not a regular partner, the following auction and problem arose.

Partner opened a strong 2NT.  Playing Stayman, with 4450 pattern, I trooted out Three Clubs, played as regular old-fashioned Stayman.  Her rebid was Three Hearts.

Being not too familiar with old-fashioned Stayman these days, but with slam interest, I decided to cuebid Three Spades, believing that this must be a cuebid in context.  Partner bid Three No Trump, causing me grave concern.  The auction broke down after this, and we ended up in Six Hearts, needing a diamond hook to work (it did not) and for an intrafinesse in trumps to result in only one trump loser (hearts split 4-1 the bad way).  So, a disaster.

But, the first five bids gave me a thought.  I kind of like the idea that Three Spades by me, in this sequence, using these methods, should be a shortness slam move.  Partner's 3NT call, then, would ask for the shortness (I would bid Four Hearts to flag spade shortness).

That seems like a relatively easy concept.  You might want to add this IF you play old-fashioned Stayman after a 2NT opening.


! = shortness slam try, hearts agreed
* = asking for shortness

But, it could get even more complete.  Suppose, for instance, that Three Spades is instead a relay to 3NT.  In other words, Three Spades is natural.  That seems really easy to remember.

If that is the case, then 3NT would have no particular meaning.  For that matter, calls above 3NT would have no particular meaning.  If Responder had a hand with four spades and a minor and slam interest, he could first bid Three Spades to check on a fit and then, if opener bids 3NT, show the minor.  That saves space when the major fit exists.

Using that more natural approach, Responder's 4C and 4D would be immediate shortness bids.  3NT could be "spades or general slam bump," with Four Clubs asking for clarification, Four Diamonds showing general but Four Hearts showing spade shortness:


3S = natural
3NT = hearts agreed, spade shortness of no shortness (4C asks; 4D = general, 4H = short spade)
4C = hearts agreed, short club
4D = hearts agreed, short diamond

This alternative has the downside of wrong-siding spade contracts, but it enhances all slam sequences when hearts are agreed or when spades end up agreed.

Some food for thought, maybe.