Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winning a Beer Declaring 1S

Most days I don't pay any attention to the beer card - I mean, it's just some ordinary spot card, but tonight I was noticing opportunities to win a beer. (In case you don't know, if you win trick 13 with the 7 of diamonds without taking an inferior line of play to do so, your partner owes you a beer.)

So, I think tonight was the first time I consciously did that. It was the last round in a 4 table game at the Robins club and Joel and I were around 70% (we finished 69.64%) and playing the 2nd best pair in the room. Here is the hand:

Dlr: W
Vul: All

I opened 1S and got to play it there. North led a low heart and south continued a heart at trick 2. I then played AK of spades and then A of diamonds. Seeing the good break, I led a 3rd round of spades, which south won and made me ruff a heart. I gave south his last spade, and he made me ruff another heart. Now dummy's clubs were all gone and all I needed to do was play the Q of diamonds, diamond to the J, 10, and 7. Granted, the defense could have cashed 2 clubs at any point and then led more hearts to prevent me from being able to score the 7 of diamonds at the end, but I think this still counts. It's not totally obvious to south that pumping me isn't the right defense. North could have had the Q of diamonds and only 1 club honor, right? Maybe.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Play Bridge

1. Intellectually stimulating. Even if we have spent a whole day working hard, bridge is a totally different kind of thinking that is probably more fun than work.

2. An excuse to travel. Bridge tournaments are held all over and they move around from city to city so you can see a lot of the world just by going to tournaments.

3. Social outlet. There can easily be upwards of 50 people at a local bridge club, usually with a wide range of ages.

4. To stay busy. It sure beats watching TV all evening.

5. A way to relate to your kids/grandkids/grandparents. People of all ages can enjoy this game. At a time when the generation gap is as big as it is today, us young people need something we can do with our parents/grandparents and vice versa.

6. It’s a life-long game. You won’t get too old for it like you will with tennis or golf.

7. To be competitive. Bridge can be for little old ladies just killing time but it can be a very competitive game too.

8. For money. A very small portion of bridge players make money at it but for those that do, it can be quite rewarding.

9. For pride. There are generally not any monetary prizes in bridge but you win masterpoints, which you can accumulate and show off to friends.

10. To meet people. Don’t like the bar scene or the church gatherings, or the colleagues? Play bridge and meet people there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Novice game at RDBC

At the Warner Robins bridge club, we have been having a beginner duplicate bridge game for 3 or 4 years. It started before I moved here, but from time to time I run the game and now that I have started teaching in the area, I am more involved with the beginner group. It has typically been about 3 tables but lately, it has dwindled down to 2-2.5 tables, just barely enough to have a game. I would hate to see this die out becaude that would mean we aren't getting any new duplicate bridge players. I really hope this changes and that people in my class now will start playing in the beginner game Monday nights.

Many people have this idea that duplicate bridge is competitive and fierce and anti-social. Yes, it is competitive but the people are all nice and sociable. Playing at the local club is mostly about socializing. Even playing at sectionals and regionals and even the nationals is largely about socializing but it does get more serious as you go to the higher levels. So, please don't be intimidated. We want to make you feel comfortable and enjoy the food and company and the mistakes. We all were there at some point - we all forgot a transfer or passed a forcing bid or missed game with 30hcp or went down 5 doubled. It's okay. We learn from it and your partner will understand - if he/she doesn't, then they are the one that is taking the wrong approach to this game.

So, I encourage any social bridge players or new duplicate players in Warner Robins who might be reading this to come to the Robins DBC (at the corner of Maple St. and Watson Blvd, near the Wellston Center) Monday at 6:30 to check out this game. You'll laugh at yourself and learn a lot and maybe make a friend or two.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swiss Team Slump

I've typically had very good results in Swiss team games. It is my least favorite form of scoring but I have almost always placed overall in A. Lately, however, that has not been the case at all.

Okay, so I probably shouldn't count the attempt at the NABC Swiss at the summer nationals, although we were above average after 1 session. At the Macon sectional playing with Megan, we had a somewhat miserable day and just missed placing overall, but at a sectional with Patrick and Ann Hedden as teammates, I would have expected to be in the top 4. At the Atlanta regional with Bryan, Emory, and Joel, we had another bad performance. It was very tough competition but we are certainly capable of winning even in flight A Swiss at the 2nd biggest regional in the country. At the Long Island tournament, Mila and I with a pick-up partnership struggled in flight B. Then at the Athens sectional a couple of weeks ago, Sean and I playing with Megan and Patrick had a truly miserable day at the bridge table. Before we even started playing, the signs were there that it would be a bad day. finally in the last round, things started looking up again, but it's awfully hard to recover after getting 16 VPs though 4 rounds (out of 80 possible). Anyway, hopefully this weekend, I'll have more success in swiss teams that I've had lately. I'll be playing with Emory and Bob Heller and David Klein. We should do well unless they are frustrated or tired from being there all week and I'm not going until Friday.

Reasons I Like Canape-style Openings

I am strongly in favor of a bidding system that is easy to follow. Standard American and 2/1 game forcing are relatively simple but lack a lot of things. The most obvious fault with Standard American is making slam tries because it is too hard to create a game-forcing auction. The main problem with 2/1 is in showing invitational hands without support for partner?s major suit opening. Previously I decided to use jump shifts from 1M to 3m as invitational with a long minor but then realized a lot of these hands are still better off in the major or notrump. And big club systems can get complicated quickly if you put in a whole bunch of gadgets. So, I will attempt to describe why I like a simple precision system with canap? style openings.

I began creating this bidding system a couple of years ago with Ramesh, taking bits and pieces from other canap? systems that have system notes on the internet. Some things are still a bit fuzzy like how to bid 5-5 hands and how responder can use canap?. I wanted a system that would be good for matchpoints since that is my favorite type of scoring (well, BAM actually is my favorite but those games have gone out of style for the most part).

Anyway, back to what I like about this system. It is largely a natural system. Opening 1D/H/S promises a 4 card suit at least. Bidding a different suit at your next bid show 5 in the 2nd suit and exactly 4 in the first suit. This has kind of a preemptive effect as you more frequently shut the opponents out by bidding his 5 card suit. I love the auctions that go 1H-1S-2D-P and the opponents have an 8 card heart fit. While at standard bidding tables, it may go 1D-(1H)-X-(2H)-all pass or something similar. Responder rarely has to take a preference back to the first suit because the second suit is guaranteed to be longer than the first. So opener can ?reverse? with any hand safely. With 5 hearts and 4 diamonds, we open 1D, then over the expected 1S response, we can bid 2H even with a minimum and not miss out on a 5-3 heart fit. We learn about 4-4 major fits sooner than in standard bidding and the 5-3?s are still easy to find because we are not afraid to reverse into a 5 card suit at the 2 level. There isn?t much use for 2/1 game-forcing since opener is limited to 11-15 hcp. Responder will have a much better idea of slam prospects that opposite a regular opening with a 12-21 point range.

The weak notrump is also something I like a lot, even though 12-15 is a bit of a large range. But, again, it is effective at shutting the opponents out of the auction. I tried for a while to use an 11-13 NT range and use the 1D opening for the 14-15 or 14-16 range, but we found ourselves opening 1D much more than anything else and ideally, you would like all the opening bids to be used about the same amount.

Our big club structure is effective and mostly natural. 1D response is 0-7hcp. 1H through 2D responses are transfers, showing a game forcing values with 5 cards in the next suit. Opener only accepts the transfer with support. 1S over 1C shows any balanced hand with game forcing values. That way opener can bid 1NT and then responder can use puppet stayman. After 1C-1D, 1H is any 20+ hcp and responder rebids 1S with a real bust hand (no A or K or 2 queens). If they overcall, we play stolen bid through 1S, otherwise double is 5-7, pass is 0-4 hcp or a trap pass.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planning for the fall Nationals

A couple of weeks ago, I was planning out some upcoming vacations. This weekend I am going to Pittsburgh, but not for bridge, and next week I am going to a regional in Augusta, GA, and a couple of weeks later to the District 7 NAPs in Spartanburg, and it was kind of assumed that I would go with my parents to San Diego over Thanksgiving weekend.

I've actually attended the fall nationals more than either of the other because it always is in conjunction with an already-long weekend. And we don't have a big family, at least not near home, so we normally don't feel an obligation to go see them. but my parents were excited about their upcoming cruise on the Danube River next week, and they tried to convince me to just go on a 3 or 4 day Caribbean cruise with them that Thursday through Sunday.

Fortunately it didn't take much convincing that San Diego would be more fun. Nationals are really just about the most fun thing in the world if for no other reason than the midnight games that have gone out of style at regionals and seeing all the junior bridge players. This will be my 4th fall NABC and 9th NABC overall. The only problem with the fall nationals is that there usually isn't a major event to play in when I can go. Well, the LM pairs is Fri-Sat, so you'll find me there, with my dad. But when I go to tournaments with my dad, I don't go to win so much but rather as a family vacation. And my mom, who doesn't play bridge, probably loves it even more because she spends the afternoons shopping and exploring the city. So, I'm very much looking forward to the San Diego trip, but I am disappointed that I'll only be there 3 days. Someday I will be able to take more time off of work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Canape Bidding System

Last weekend was an interesting experience. I played at the sectional in Athens with Sean Gannon, a 17 year old who seems to be about as good as I was when I was 17. It's nice to be on a team where I'm not nearly the youngest person. We had several interesting hands - you're bound to have some interesting times when playing 144 hands over 2 days. Our results were mediocre - lost in the finals of the K/O with Megan and Patrick and did horribly in the Sunday Swiss but with another round or two probably would have made it back to average after having 16 out of a possible 80 VPs after 4 rounds. Then, to get the bad taste of the Swiss teams out of our mouth, we played at the Atlanta club Sunday night and came home with a decent 59% game for 3rd overall.

We played an interesting bidding system - strong club with canape style openings. I basically picked out various parts of other systems and then tried to work out the kinks to have everything decently covered. Here is the system summary:
1C - 17+ hcp balanced, 16+ unbalanced, with transfer responses (no further relays)
1D - 14-16 balanced OR 11-15 unbalanced w/ 4+ diamonds and possibly a 5 (but not 4) card major
1H/S - 11-15 hcp, 4+ card suit. if only 4, has another 5+ card suit
1NT - 11-13 hcp
2C - 11-15, 6+ clubs, no 4 card major
2D - any 4441 or 5440 w/ 5 of a minor
2H/S - weak2
2NT - 5-10 hcp, 5-5 minors
Negative doubles after 1M-2m show 3 card in OM, negative doubles after 1m-1M show 4, negative doubles after both majors have been bid show 3 card support in opener's major.
I've decided that the 1D opening occurs too frequently. At least it felt like it happened too much. So, I think next time I play this system, I'll change the NT range to 12-15 or 13-15. 1D becomes a totally natural bid (although it could still be a 4 card suit with a 5 or 6 card major).
The hands where canape style openings don't work so well is with 4 clubs and a 5 card major. We decided we had to treat it like a major one suiter or a balanced hand, but some other systems use 2H/2S to show that hand. I think weak 2's are too important. Another option is to use 2C as either 6+ clubs or 4 clubs with a 5 card major. That one may be midchart, though, and I don't want a system I can only play in flight A events.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Minorwood Success

Minorwood is a form of Blackwood used when trying to get to a minor suit slam. The main idea behind it is that most normal Blackwood responses would put you beyond 5 of your suit, so bidding blackwood at a lower lever would be helpful. I'm not sure how the textbooks say you should play this but my main partner and I have agreed that if we have agreed on a minor suit and we bid 4 of that minor, it is keycard blackwood. Last night, for the first time, we got to use this with some success. At least we knew what we were bidding, but still got to a bad 6NT contract, which happened to make.



Our auction:
1D - 1S
1NT - 2D(1)
2H - 3D(2)
3H(3) - 4D(4)
4S(5) - 6NT

(1) 2 way NMF: artificial game-force
(2) sets diamonds as trump
(3) last try for 3NT (if patner has a club stopper)
(4) RKC for diamonds
(5) 1 or 4 keycards

I was hoping to get to 7D. I didn't need much from partner (xx, AKxx, KQxxx, xx would be enough for 7D to be a 90% make). Needless to say, 6NT didn't stand much chance. We would have to find the spade queen on side and find Ax of hearts to come to 12 winners: 3 spades, 2 hearts, 5 diamonds, 2 clubs. But luck was with us on this night and the slam came home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Keeping your cool when the opponents luck into something good

In the same round as the hand mentioned in the previous post, feeling like we are way down in the match with 2 boards to go, I pick up:


Both vul., righty opens 1H, I bid 2D, and the same guy that just bid the bad slam asks whether 2D is anything special and Mila says it's normal. Right there is a big giveaway as the where the rest of the diamonds are. That's a bad question to ask. Please don't do it. It gives away too much information to your partner. If it has any meaning other than basically, "I have 5 diamonds and 10 or so points", it will be alerted. So, the guy bids 3H, invitational, and righty bids 4H. Seeing a chance for a big swing our way, I got greedy and doubled and led my stiff spade. Sure enough, dummy comes down with KJxxx of diamonds and the A of hearts and the ace of spades. The hand is certainly beatable (probably by 2 tricks) if I just make safe exits (hearts) instead of trying to get cute and lead an ace. But I got greedy again and played ace and another club at some point, which turns out horribly because partner had only the queen of clubs, so declarer's possible 3 losers in clubs vanished into onyl 1. -790 was worth -5 imps against +620 at the other table but down 2 would have gotten us 15 imps back from their previous good fortune. Alas, we lost the match by only 18 imps.

In the 6th round, I had an opening lead problem against 3NT. The auction went 1C-1NT-P-2C;P-2S-P-2NT;P-3NT-P-P-P. I held:

Clearly they have only about 24 hcp and this is a very close game. I expect declarer has clubs well stopped, partly because he went on the game with a minimum (unless partner has opened extremely light in 1st seat or lefty invited with less than 8 hcp) and partly because partner didn't double 2C. So, I led the 10 of diamonds, hoping to just not give up anything. As it turns out, declarer's club stopper was only ATx and partner had QJ9xx so a club lead kills it right away. I tried to blame this on the opponents but really, I can't. I don't think I made the wrong lead but it just didn't work this time. Nex time with this auction declarer will have AQTx of clubs and the diamond will be right.

A little later in the 6th round, we have the auction 2S-X-3S-P;P-X-P-P;P. Who has the spade length? The doubler or the passer? On this particular hand, no matter how I played, I was going down 2 for -300 when they can make 400 in NT of clubs. But I was just amazed that the person who made 2 takeout doubles had QJTx in spades and a singleton A of hearts. I can't play against that kind of bidding. I would have been really upset if it had affected my line of play. I'm upset anyway. This guy had no logical reason to think we weren't making 3S. He had a 3 count with 6 clubs and a singleton spade - clearly should bid 4C. Whatever. They're not good players and I'm not going to try to understand how they think that doubling 2S is takeout but doubling 3S is penalty. It doesn't make any sense. If 2S-X was takeout, then 2S-X-3S-P-P-X is also takeout. But if 2S-X is penalty, then the other double also is penalty.

Ethical Blackwood bidding

... several times in a row. Going into the 5th round of the round robin yesterday, we had 43 on a 40 average and seemed to be playign a competent pair. On the first 3 hands, they stopped in 4D making exactly and bid 2 making minor suit games, only one of which did 3NT have a chance. On the 4th board, they have the uncontested auction: 1H-3H-4NT-5D-6H. Seems fairly straighforward. No major breaks in tempo. Partner asks about the bidding. 3H was a limit raise and 5D, after about a 30 second hesitation, was 0 or 3 keycards. Partner leads a spade from 4 small and I play the queen, taken with the ace. Declarer draws trumps and leads the king of diamonds, with QJTx showing in dummy, along with Kx of clubs and a few small spades. So, she takes the A and leads another spade. I didn't have a chance to make an encouraging signal for clubs, so, from my partner's point of view, logically, the only way we're beating this hand is if I had started with KQ of spades, still an unlikely holding. And I wind up going to bed with my ace of clubs.

I should have called the director. I know there is nothing the director can do about the declarer being an idiot and bidding a slam knowing he is off 2 cashing aces or about him forgetting his partnership agreement. In this case, I am much more likely to believe it is the ladder. If I were playing against a novice, I could/should shrug it off and think, well, he didn't know any better. I can accept losing 11 imps like that once in awhile.

The guy wouldn't respond when I asked about what he was thinking or why he gave misinformation. He never looked at his card during or immediately after the auction so he wasn't reminded by that. I actually didn't look at the card either. So, my problem with this is that he seems to have bid thinking that 5D showed 1 or 4 keycards because no reasonable bridge player (which I assumed he was) would have gone on to slam with only 3 of the 5 keycards. And I know he isn't obliged to tell us that he forgot their agreement, but is it ethical or proper to bid the hand one way and then after the bidding remember what your actual agreement is and tell the opponents that actual agreement? Personally, I think he should have just said "I'm not sure whether we are playing 0314 or 1430 blackwood but you may check our convention card." There is no guarantee we would have found the defense to beat 6H if we are not convinced that declarer holds 4 keycards, but we certainly would have a better chance.

On the other hand, at the end of such an auction the guy should be able to tell what 5D is immediately without pause for thought. I mean, he was just thinking about this 15 seconds ago and now he needs another 30 seconds to think before telling us. That seems fishy. Perhaps at that point we should have called the director. If there are eny experienced directors reading this, I'd like your opinion.

Long Island Regional

I just returned home from a 3 day trip to New York. I played 2 days at the Long Island Regional tournament but the bridge was really a small part of the trip. It was just an excuse to go to New York and visit Mila and Greig and just to see the city. Initially I had planned to play 3 days and not actually ever go to New York City, but that's kind of silly. So, Saturday was spent roaming the streets of Manhattan and meeting up with various people. Fun times. Anyway, this is a blog about bridge, so let's get to it.

I left home at 4am Friday morning to catch a 6:40 flight from Atlanta to Laguardia. yikes! The long day definitely took its toll on me as the last few rounds of the evening session I wasn't concentrating at all. It cost us dearly as Mila and I were doing really well and were in good shape to place in the top 3. But several concentration errors dropped us to 55% for the day and 2nd in B. Not too bad but not great either.

I've decided that my weakest part of my bridge game, by far, is playing against weak players. I have difficulty understanding how they bid and play the cards. I try to think what kind of hand I would have to bid or play the way others do, and against bad players, it doesn't work at all. There several examples of this, mostly from today's game, a bracketed round robin. By the way, if there are any tournament organizers reading, I dislike this event very much. It takes bracketing way too far. A/X and B/C and 299er is an appropriate amount of bracketing. I could go on about the types of events I prefer, but that'll wait until a future entry too. I'll get into it some specific hands later, when I have more time to write.