Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Importance of System Context

A discussion on the Bridge Winners site ( was quite interesting to me.  The question was whether Opener should accept or decline a 4D splinter with a given hand.

The problems with this sort of question are legion.  First, the question did not even set parameters for the 4D splinter, as far as what it means.

More subtly, though, it is my position that a given call is defined not just by some sort of generalized agreement but also by the rest of the system structure, where alternative sequences could be considered.

For instance, take the auction 1H-P-4D.  Could Responder have xxxx-Jxxx-x-AKJx? 

My position would be that this holding is not possible if


would show that hand.  Redundancy is not allowed.

Similarly, consider


as having impact.

Of course, all of these sequence depend on what all of these bids mean in the system.  That is why really understanding system and theory is critical to understanding the meaning of an otherwise imprecisely-defined call.  Additionally, it is important to have partnership agreement as to these types of sequences, as otherwise you end up with a potential that partner does in fact have some hand he should not have (to you) because he does not recognize the redundancy, does not feel that one line to a point is preferred with some hand over another line, or similar inconsistencies to analysis.  In other words, maybe partner thinks that 1H-P-4D defines the two example auctions, whereas you think that 1H-P-4D is defined by the two example auctions.  Which defines which?  That seems like a tough analysis without discussion.

In this specific example, I actually define the Splinter, but I do so in a way as to consider the alternatives, meaning that the Splinter shows primes (Aces and internal lower honors only), wuch that the delayed auction shows some tertiary cards (Quacks, unattached Kings, etc.).  Hence, my definition would exclude the xxxx-Jxxx-x-AKJx possibility.