Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some things I learned this weekend

Okay, so this is actually about relationships, but it kind of is entirely about bridge. Bridge players need to be with other bridge players. They are a strange set of people. In a way, I feel like bridge has stunted my growth socially. In another way, I feel like bridge has made it easier for me to be sociable and fit in somewhere. I don't know. Yes, I have tennis but there's something about the mutual intellectual stimulation and the ability to always have something to say about bridge. I like tennis and many other things a lot but many days or even weeks there just isn't much to say about it, but there's always a bridge hand or bidding sequence or new convention that I want to discuss. I can't imagine what I would be like without bridge. Regardless, trying to hang out a whole weekend with a fellow bridge player without playing any bridge, especially someone I know almost entirely in a bridge setting, is not a good idea. While in the long run, getting along away from the bridge table is important, it should start at the bridge table because bridge is one (and maybe the only) part of life in which we are truly comfortable and confident and functioning like a normal person (well, normal for a given activity).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Anderson sectional

So, after a late night being a bad wingman in Atlanta, Ramesh and I
left at 7:30 to play in the Anderson, SC sectional on 4 hours of
sleep. Round one of the KO goes okay and we were fortunate to draw
owen/Warren again in the 2nd round (we played them in a 3 way the 1st
session). Disastrous.
A few more beers later, ramesh and i put together a nice 61.46% game.
It was the biggest jump i've seen in the last round - from about 56 to
over 61%, and our last round was only 16 out of 24 matchpoints.
Sunday, the good bridge continued as Ramesh (godot79) and I and Jim
Gentry and his partner came from behind to win the Swiss. Our system
worked well for us this day and slipping defenseive tricks was kept to
a minimum. One thing I like about our system is that it sort of makes
us, my partners especially, be disciplined. Our 1NT is 13-15 so
basically you have to pass all flat 11 and 12 points hands. And due to
the canape style, it at least seems harder to cheat a little on your
point count or distribution.
My favorite hand was when we got to double the opponents in 1S. I
opened a big club with AQT8x, Ax, Qxx, AJx. LHO stuck in a 1S bid and
partner doubled, showing any 5-7 hcp. All pass and she scraped up 4
tricks for 500 to us. At the other table, my hand played 4SX, also
down 3 for 500.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pet Peeves at the Bridge Table

Today I’d like to share some of the things that really bother me in bridge, mainly with people and their mannerisms, in no particular order.

1. I hate when people hold a card out like they are about to play it but then keep it there, face down just above the table. This gets me reaching for my cards and I’d really rather have my hands more relaxed while waiting for you to play a card. When I see you pull a card out of your hand, I expect it to be on the table as a played card within a second.

2. Turning the boards upside down after they have been played or shuffled. Are you afraid you’re going to forget that you’ve played board 1 if you simply move it to the bottom of the stack? Turning the board over tends to get them out of order and some of the boards have those interlocking grooves that really don’t fit well when some boards are turned over. Plus, you can sometimes see parts of the cards from the bottom of the board. The ladder part applies more to turning them over when shuffling. So, I’d like to start a trend of a board face down (or a card turned up) means it needs to be shuffled and a board face up means it is done.

3. I hate people giving lessons at the table. Maybe between rounds is okay if there is time, but one should have the courtesy to save personal discussions of the hands until the opponents are done. At the conclusion of the hand, it is okay to ask about a particular person’s holding if you didn’t get have it quite figured out but if it’s going to be condescending or take longer than 10 seconds, save it.

4. Declarers who call a card from dummy before the whole dummy is on the table are really annoying. It’s in the laws somewhere they everyone should take time at trick one before playing from dummy. That means before dummy plays, not when it’s rho’s turn to play because it may look like rho is hesitating because of a problem with what to play at trick 1 when he really is formulating a plan for the whole hand. I never complain about this because the people that do this are the ones who don’t know what they’re doing anyway.

5. Dummies who pull a card from dummy before it is called, even if it’s a singleton for the same reasons mentioned above.

6. Spending a lot of time looking at the traveler. I know, you’re all curious to see what the other people did, but it slows down the game, and you can study the traveler after the game. In fact, I think travelers shouldn’t be used except maybe in a teaching or mentoring game.

7. Pulling your cards out before everyone is at the table is rude. I know, the vast majority of people wouldn’t cheat but it’s just bad manners. What’s there to gain by looking at your hand 30 seconds longer than your opponent? I suppose it’s okay if 1 opponent is at the table, but when the other opponent comes, he may come from behind you and inadvertently see your cards.

8. Asking for a detailed explanation of every alert during an auction rather than waiting until the end of the bidding. Yes, you’re probably always going to want to know what RHO’s 2D call meant after partner opened 1NT, and you are totally justified in asking what the alerts are for the first couple of bids in a precision auction, but after that, if it’s clearly an uncontested auction, quit interrupting and wait for the explanation at the end of the bidding.

9. 6 ½ table and 7 ½ table Mitchell movements and the 4 board sitouts that go along with those movements. I make every effort to not have a 4 board sitout in any game I direct. Even if it means a little more inconvenience and a little more work for the director, people overall much prefer 3 board sitouts for 4 board sitouts. Not to mention, in club games more masterpoints are won if you have 1 group of 13 or 15 pairs than 2 groups of 7 or so.

10. Tardiness. This irks me more than just about anything else because I am habitually early everywhere I go and I expect everyone else to be the same way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stay out of Slam

En route to 3/4th place finish in the Hilton Head Friday open pairs,
Emory and I had a few defensive snafus and some fortunate bidding. I
held: KQJxx, Tx, x, KQxxx. Our auction: 2C-2S-3D-4C-4S-5C-5S-P.
Nothing alertable. At first I thought this was a bad sequence, but in
reality it's the best auction we could have. I think I would have bid
5D over 5C but that may be too encouraging. Emory's hand: Ax, QJ,
AKQJx, AJxx. Would you have been able to stay out of slam?

A good precision auction: 1C-1H*-2D**-3C-3S-4C-4D-4S-P
* game-forcing w/ 5+ spades
** denies 3 spades

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sleepy Bridge

I'm wide awake and full of energy now that it's down to 7 hours before I have to be up again, so I might as well write a little. Earlier tonight, I was so tired tonight that I almost canceled on Bob for the ST@C game in Macon but I went anyway. I was seriously nodding off at some points during the game tonight. By the end, Bob and I had a 73.8% game with no score worse than 2.5 on a 6 top. The field was clearly very unbalanced. Out of 15 pairs, there were more scores in the 30's (3) and 60's (3) than in the 50's (1). First in C was 38.74% for .70MP. Strange.
Red vs. white, I picked up:

Two passes to me and I open 1S. The auction continues: X - 2D(1) - P - 2S - all pass
(1) reverse drury (limit raise w/4)

Before dummy comes down, LHO says something to the effect of you're not getting another top against us (after 2 tops in the round already). I remark that I'm pretty sure this will be pretty much a top for us. I was serious, she was totally kidding. Dummy hits:

I struggled a bit and wound up down 1 for 5 out of 6. Someone was only +80 their way.

Here's an interesting play problem: 4S by south, uncontested auction


What's your best chance to make on the DQ lead? It may actually be a better defensive problem, though. I dunno.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bridge as a Social Game

I’ve met a lot of people (mostly non-bridge players) who claim that bridge isn’t a social game, or that is isn’t a social game for young folks, because who really wants to socialize with people 2 and 3 times their age. I used to think the same thing because bridge would be like a hobby to me but I would still have a normal social life. As I have grown older, I have noticed that almost all of my friends are now bridge players. And they almost all live far away from me. It’s not that I’ve played more bridge lately – I’m just getting along with bridge players better now, especially that I’ve found several other young bridge players.

Would my life be really dull without bridge? Yes, probably. I don’t fit in with a typical early 20’s group of people, certainly not the group that resides in Middle Georgia. I mean, I like to go out to bars and work out and watch shows and sports as much as the next person but somehow I never fit in with my peers here or growing up in Valdosta. At Georgia Tech, yes, there were many social groups I could fit in, but they went to the opposite extreme and are too nerdy for me. Maybe it’s an intellectual difference. The bridge players I now consider my best friends - Ramesh, Emory, Sean, Megan, Patrick, Dana, Gio, Joel, dad - include people born in 6 different decades of brilliant people who aren't totally consumed with the game or with work, like many super smart people are. Maybe that’s what draws me to them and vice versa. My friends from GT were largely too serious about studies and work to suit me while the friends from home are maybe too conservative to suit me.

But, seriously, playing bridge has allowed me to meet lots of fascinating people. Even though going to a tournament involves 7 hours a day (3.5 hours for a club game) of sitting at a table nearly silently, there is a lot of social interaction, probably more social interaction. You are bound to find someone you can get along with. And bridge kind of gives you something to talk about. Bridge player are notorious for going on and on talking about hands and bidding systems. I try not to do that but if you get a lull in the conversation or need an ice breaker, “What would you do with this hand…” is a good way to start.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Downgrading Hands

I’m not an aggressive bidder (or a conservative bidder) by any definition of the terms, but I am certainly not one known to downgrade a hand, going against the field, at a club game in macon, against opponents I typically get about a trick or two more than the field.

Last night, I picked up: Qxxx, Kxxx, KJx, Jx. Both vul., partner opens 15-17 1NT in 3rd seat, I stayman, he shows no 4 card major, I invite with 2NT. All pass. +180 when partner proceeds to make 2 more tricks than the field, mostly in 3NT down 1. 9 out of 12 MP.

A couple of rounds later, I picked up: Qxxx, xxx, Jxx, Jxx. Partner opens 2C, I bid 2D showing no controls, and partner rebids 2NT, 22-24hcp. I took another pessimistic view of this hand and passed 2NT. Another +180 after he gets an extra trick or two for a dead average. 4S is makeable.



Anybody have a good auction for getting to 7C, with south to deal? The majority of the field last night was in 6NT down 1 when west had Jxxx of spades and KQ of diamonds. My opponents decided to bid 6S, which cannot be beaten, giving us 1 out of 12 matchpoints.

My auction would start off: 1S-2H; 3C-4C. I think 4C should be keycard for clubs if you’re playing minorwood but it’s unclear. You may just want to set trumps and get a cuebid from partner. If it’s minorwood, opener bids 4S, now is 4NT to play or an ask about kings? If it’s not minorwood, then opener cues 4H, then is 4S by responder an option to play 4S, realizing that we have no diamond control and 4S is the best game.

If the auction goes: 1S-2H; 3C-3D; 3NT-4C, is 4C Gerber, natural and forcing (3D would have been sort of like an advance cuebid in support of clubs), minorwood, or passable?

My vote is that 4C in the first case should be minorwood and after a 4S response, 4NT is continuation rather than a signoff in a better matchpoint contract, 4S in the next case is a cuebid. Bidding 4th suit and then 4C must be a slam try in clubs with a control in diamonds, not minorwood.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It’s not very often that someone comes to a small sectional tournament without a partner, especially someone the caliber of Dana Berkowitz. But it does happen, and that’s precisely why tournament organizers have people on standby to make sure people who show up without a partner or whose partner stood them up can still play. For that, Sandy Barrow and Tom Wight deserve some credit.

I’m so glad Sean brought Dana down from Atlanta, and I’m glad I had room for them both in my house. It was a fun 3 days. I just wish I could have gotten Dana a better partner. But still 7+ masterpoints in 2 days playing with pick-up partners who I must say are below average, even for middle Georgia standards. I was thoroughly impressed with Dana. Hopefully it’ll be the start of something great.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Auctions After 1M-Dbl: Bromad

I suppose the standard treatment of responder's actions after 1M-X is:
1NT non-forcing
2m natural non-forcing
1S natural, forcing
XX almost any hand w/ 10+ hcp
2NT limit raise or better

I have several issues with this, mainly the 2m and XX calls.
Even when you happen to have a hand that fits the description of natural non-
forcing, would you really want to bid it. What's the rush in
bidding a new suit when rho has ostensibly shown support for all unbid? With those kinds of hands - 5 or 6 card suit and 6-9 hcp w/o support for partner's suit - it's usually better to pass and see how the auction develops.

Likewise, I think redouble should deny 3 card
support so that you can be more sure about future penalty doubles by
either partner. Redouble shows interest in defending but when you have
3 card support for partner's major, you do not have interest in
defending, at least not below 2 or your suit, especially at imps.
Often times I have found myself having redoubled with 3 card support only
to hear partner double 2D and knowing whether to leave it in with xx
or something like thy in diamonds is just hard because the extra
suppet means I have less defense than partner is entitled to expect.

With Emory, I play Bromad (Bergen raises over
major after double):
2C constructive raise of M (3 card support, good 7-10hcp)
2D limit raise with 3
3C/D are still normal Bergen raises
2M weak raise (0-bad 7)
1NT is non-forcing 6-9
XX is 10+ w/o 3 card support

That is my preferred method.

Another method I play with a regular partner is transfer responses:
1S if available is natural,forcing
1NT, 2C are transfers to C and D
Transfer into the major is a limit raise
A simple raise is normal
XX is again reserved for hands without 3 card support

The latter system still allows you to bid a new suit but it gets the
doubler, the stronger hand, on lead instead of having the lead come
through opener.

Sent from my iPhone