Monday, May 31, 2010

Minneapolis regional recap

So, as I fly back from Minneapolis and a long weekend to an unexpected place for a bridge tournament, I am pretty content. This probably was one of the smallest of the Memorial Day regionals but it was easy to get to, relatively cheap, and I can now say I've been to the Mall of America.

There were numerous interesting hands from the weekend. Here is one that I have pondered upon a lot.



Matchpoints in the flight A barometer pairs, I was in 3NT after the following auction: 1C-1D-X-3D; 3NT-P-P-P.
I received a low diamond lead to the J and my Q. How would you play this?

There are a few options: heart toward dummy's Q; cross to dummy with a  club then take spade finesse(s); bang down A and Q to be sure you get your 3 spade tricks. Apparently I chose wrong by playing spades immediately and not taking the finesse. Righty won the 2nd spade as lefty discarded his lowest heart, playing udca, and led another diamond. I figured ducking wouldn't help and may prematurely squeeze dummy so I took the ace and cashed the 2 good spades. Lefty squirmed a bit but eventually parted with the heart ten and a low diamond. Now I had 3 spades, 2 diamonds, 2 clubs, and a heart, so to make my contract, I decided to cash my clubs and put lefty in with a club. He had 3 winners to take but had to lead from the heart king at trick 12. I was pleased, until insaw that we got a 1 out of 8 on the board. Once he pitches a diamond, I certainly should place ace and a heart toward the Q as all signs indicate lefty is down to KJ of hearts. That'll get me 3 heart tricks and 10 total. And it seems pretty tempting for lho
to discard a club from Jxx but tlhe did well to hold on to that half-stopper.

Plus, I suppose, many people would get a heart honor lead after a 2NT opening and stayman auction. That unveils the heart position sooner and lets me take the spade finesse without concern that i won't have an entry to dummy's last spade.

My most fun auction of the tournament was this afternoon playing with Todd Fisher. I held QJ98x, Txxx, Jx, xx in 4th seat.

1NT - X - 2S - X
3D - X - 4C - P
P - X - P - P
4D - X - P - P
4S - P - P - X
P - P - P

+1700 and win 17. Partner's hand: A, Kx, KQ9xxx, AQxx. It's too bad we doubled them in 2H vulnerable and let them make to give back 13 imps. I had a sure defense to best it one trick but decided partner must have the king of clubs in which case we could get it for 800. He had shown up with 10 points in the other suits and had made a takeout double of 2H which I converted. With Q in dummy and A in my hand, I played him to have the K and gave up a trick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How do you sort your cards?

Awhile back, something got me thinking about how people sort their cards in bridge. Oh yes, my dad posed the question of whether I would play the Q or the J from QJ doubleton when declarer in front of me plays the ace. I figured I’d play the Q more often than not but the difference wouldn’t be significant. Well, against a weak declarer, the Q may be more likely to entice them to finesse for the J next but against a good declarer, it probably should be mixed. Anyway, my dad said that one of his old friends said he would always play the card that’s on the left. But wouldn’t that always be the same card? I mean, when I have a QJ, the Q is always left of the J when I sort my hand.

Apparently, in the past, there have been issues with people trying to figure out what you have by looking at where you pull a card out of your hand. I haven’t heard any such accusations in my 10 years of bridge experience and I usually have my cards under the table anyway. So when I sort my cards, it’s always spades-hearts-diamonds-clubs, and within each suit it’s always highest to lowest, including all the spot cards.

On BBO, they sort the cards high to low and alternate the red and black suits. But one think I don’t like is they always move trumps to the left after the bidding. (Is there an option to change that?) While in Gatlinburg, I kibitzed a good bit did an informal survey of several players. No one else put hearts and diamonds together, as I do.

Most people sort their honors in descending order but don’t necessarily put the spot cards in order. No one claimed to move the trump suit to one end of their hand. A few people only sorted by suit but left all the cards within each suit random, and a decent amount of the people sorted every card in descending order. I also noticed no one sort the cards in ascending order (with higher cards on the right). And many people moved cards around during the hand, supposedly to move cards likely to be played soon at one end of the hand.

I suppose I could also study which sorting algorithm people use: the bubble sort, insertion sort, heap sort, merge sort, quick sort, bucket sort, selection sort, but I never paid attention to how people do this. I expect the vast majority use the insertion sort method. It is most intuitive to me, but then again, so is my meticulousness about putting every card in rank order and even the suits in rank order, but that may not be the norm either. Is there any correlation between how one sorts his/her hand or how quickly one completes sorting the hand and how good a player one is? Does sorting your hand faster mean you’ll play faster, too? It’s interesting to see that we all have different approaches to such things. I guess there isn’t really a right way to sorting your hand – it’s a just a matter of what you’re comfortable with and what helps you grasp the hand better.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's been awhile since I've had a hand worthy of blogging about, mainly because I have hardly played in the last week, but tonight I have a good one - kind of.

Dealer: E
Vul: NS
West East

I love defending a contract when I have all the outstanding cards and can make passive lead after passive lead. I tend to have success doing that because many people try to make an aggressive lead in such situations. This hand isn't one of those but it is one where the declarer knows where just about all the missing honors are.

East opened 1 and I overcalled 1NT, partner invited and I declined. So, 2NT by south with the ♣4 opening lead. When east plays the 8 at trick one and I win my 9, it becomes like a double dummy hand. I mean, west could still have a J or even a Q outside clubs but I played for east to have everything outstanding and it worked amazingly here. With a mere 22 hcp and no 8 card fit, I rolled in 11 tricks. I cashed the ace of clubs to rid east of his only safe exit card and then led a spade to the J. East has no good counter. At the table, he returned a low diamond, hoping to find his partner with an honor but my 10 won the trick, and this time I put east in with a heart by letting the lack go. This time east exited with a spade, taken in dummy. Now, a repeated diamond finesse and the run of the diamonds squeezed east into unguarding one of his remaining major suit kings. +210 (via 5 diamonds, 2 clubs, 3 spades and a heart) for win 2 imps.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Apparently there are still people who play on Bridge Base in individual tournaments who don’t think 1NT-P-2D is a transfer to hearts. Yesterday, I was playing in one of these silly games when I was dealer and the auction went:






We had a 9 card heart fit and they went down 5 for the ridiculous total of 2800. The 2H bidder had like a 12 count with 4144 shape. I guess I can understand not bidding after I double 2H, but not bidding after the redouble seems quite odd. Some of the craziness that happens with randoms on BBO. At least they kept us out of 4H.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Teaching a Computer to Bid part 1

My latest little project, started about a week ago, is to write a computer program that can bid my canapĂ© system. It's a rather interesting process but I'm afraid this will be another thing that I will give up on after a month or two. But if I succeed, I expect it would improve my bidding. Just going through the process of thinking about exactly how to evaluate hands and quantifying everything should make me a better bidder. I suppose the main point of this would be to practice the system and maybe teach other people this bidding system. I have succesfully gotten it to get through 3 bids (at least for 1 level openings, responses and most rebids) with no interference - that part is pretty easy because it's so formulaic. Based on hcp and distribution, the bids are really straightforward. Beyond this, and even more when opposing bidding is added, more analytic skills are needed. The formulas can only go so far before there get to be too many possibilities to explicitly mention. I haven't quite decided how to implement this.

If there's one thing I've learned from working as a software engineer and redesigning an old and incredibly unorganized piece of software for the last few years is that knowing your requirements and having a detailed plan are essential to writing good code. Yet I jumped right in and started coding because I wanted to see some results right away.

I have also realized something about my programming interests. I dislike programming GUI's. I guess I actually knew this before. I never liked doing any kind of interface programming but I enjoy the algorithms and logic parts of software. So, this project is gonna be all text on the console unless someone else volunteers to write a GUI. I don't even want to think about programming a computer to actually play bridge - that has to be way harder than bidding.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bidding with a solid minor

IMPs, EW vul, north deals.




There are several questionable calls in this auction, and it is
unclear which if any of the bids are forcing. Which calls do you most
disagree with?

I think the 2nd and 3rd doubles are clearly worst. After that, we each
thought the other person had a stronger hand than he actually had and
we got a bit carried away.

On another, somewhat related topic, 1m-1M-3NT does not show a balanced
hand of any strength - they're all covered by other bids. It shows a
long running suit with stoppers in the unbid suit. This is standard, I

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Safety Play?

I've managed to still play a lot of bridge in the past week (210 hands and counting since Monday) despite working 9-630 with rehearsal 730-10 all week.  So, I should have some hands to write about. And I've done practically nothing today except mow the lawn. I needed the day of rest. I don't get another one for weeks. Anyway, there are several interesting hands I will write about later, but for now a suit combination.

You're in 6S and your trump suit is Q97632 opposite AT85. You have all the side suit tricks so you just need to play spades for 1 loser. How do you do this? Do you make the same play at imps and matchpoints?

Playing low to the Q first is a safety play that guarantees the contract on any lie of the cards, but it also gives up the chance of an overtrick. If KJx is in front of the Q, the Q will win a trick. If KJx is behind the Q, you can finesse for the jack later.

Playing the A first goes down when KJx is behind the Q, an 11% chance. But it gains an overtrick when the K in singleton in either hand, a 26% chance.

At imps, the overtrick is worth 1 imp but going down costs 13 if non-vulnerable and 17 if vulnerable, so the odds overwhelmingly favor making the safety play. In matchpoints, it depends on how many pairs you think will be in the slam and how many people in the field you think will be in the slam. Most of the time, though, the odds still probably favor the safety play, especially if it's not an easy slam to reach.