Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cell phone jammers

Yesterday I spent entirely too much time reading a thread on bridge winners about the cell phone policy at tournaments, mainly the rule that they aren't allowed in the playing area of NABC events, even if off.

There are many problems with that policy, not the least of which is most people blatantly ignore the rule (keeping the phone in their purse or pocket). Also, directors do little to enforce the rule unless it causes a disturbance.

We all agree that there should be a penalty for having a phone ring during an event but the inconvenience of not being able to have it for after the game is too restrictive.

I liked Geoff Hampson's suggestion: buy cell phone jammers to use in the playing area. That would seem to solve the issues - cheating, nuisance noises, and inconveniences.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 19, 2011

Responder's rebid after a 1NT response

Before the bridge game last night, Joel and I were debating about what to do with the following hand:

xxx, Jx, KTxx, AJxx.

Partner opens 1H and you bid 1NT as a passed hand, semi-forcing, and opener rebids 2. What's your call? There are clearly 3 options: pass, 2, and 3. If you weren't a passed hand and 1NT was forcing, I think 2 is clear because if offers the most flexibility and opener often has only 3 clubs. 3 is kind of al ight invitation because you have 2 available as a good invitation in clubs. When the 1NT response is semi-forcing or non-forcing, the likelihood of partner having only 3 clubs is now pretty much 0, so raising clubs looks more attractive. He could easily have some 16 or 17-count so that 3NT or 5 or 4 cold, so you have to keep it open, but is it really a good enough to make a forward-going bid like 3?


This hand came up at the Columbia sectional a couple of weeks ago. In that case I was a passed hand and raised to 3. I felt slightly shady doing it, in light of partner's long hesitation before bidding 2, but I knew the opponents were weak, and partner well could have been thinking about passing, which would make 3 less attractive. Partner's next bid was 3 and I had an easy raise to 4. He was 1-6-2-4 with 16 hcp, I think.


Last night, Joel and I had a similar auction: 1-1-2-3-3-4-6. I held:

Axxx,x,KT9x, Jxxx, so I had a very minimal raise to 3D. There are just too many hands where game is cold opposite a hand partner would rebid 2D on. It was actually a good slam that happened to go down because my LHO overruffed hearts twice. Joel's hand:

x, AQJxxx, A8xxx, A


Middle Georgia people don't bid 23 point slams so needless to say, down 1 was a zero.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Absurdity of some appeals

It’s slightly absurd what some people bring to appeal committees. One of them was a pair arguing about their opponent’s claim for down 2 when stupid play would have resulted in down 3. They were in a grand slam off an ace and the trump Q. (Summer 2004 case 16)


Another one that’s interesting to me is on a claim where a player stated she would crossruff. In hand she had a club and two top trumps. In dummy she had a diamond and two trumps, only one of which was high. RHO still had 2 trumps so the director ruled that with the stated line, she would have to ruff the club low, which would be overruffed. However, it was pretty clear from earlier play in the hand that declarer totally intended on trumping the club high. She had already trumped 2 clubs in dummy with high trumps. I was glad to see the committee accept the claim, even though adding the word high to her claim statement would have saved all the trouble. (Summer 2004 case 20)


Those two were from regional events but the cases from NABC events are usually pretty good.


As Patrick said in response to the previous post, committees seem to favor big name players. I have only been through 2 NABC casebooks but I read every one of those cases, including the commentary, and was appalled at a few rulings that went in favor of big names like Berkowitz, Meckwell, Weinstein.


People are terrible estimators of time during hesitations. In one event, with screens, a vugrapher, and several kibitzers, everyone had a different estimate of how long it took to send the bidding tray back, from no hesitation up to 5 minutes. Eventually the director ruled that for Rodwell to pass 3NT (after Meck took some time to bid 3NT) is not a logical alternative because he knew the partnership has at most 22hcp. Baloney! Have they not seen these two voluntarily bid (and make) 3NT on 22hcp before. At least they all agreed Meck was the hesitator and not the screenmate Versace. (Summer 2004 case 12)


Case 6 from Fall 2004 is disturbing. 1D-P-2H*-P; P-2NT-P-3C; P-P-P. When dummy comes down with a 3-2-4-4 7-count, the defenders suddenly “sensed a hesitation over 2H.” Yes, it is very strange to bid 2NT on a 3244 7-count but if the hesitation was legitimate, surely you would come with a stronger word than sense which indicated doubt about whether there was a hesitation (beyond the 10 second requirement) – this wording and timing makes it sound like you’re just fishing. Or maybe it’s the other side that is lying, thinking they are sure to get away with it since no one commented on the hesitation when it actually occurred.


There could be so many more cases of UI from hesitations and MI but most of us don’t care to make an issue of it most of the time, and that’s basically a good thing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Movements and Seeding

I take a significant interest in the ins and outs of things a director has to do, or should do, that many people are unaware of, and that leads me to think that sometime in the future, I’ll be a tournament director, at least part-time. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of the past NABC appeal case books but also the issues of movements for pair games and seeding of pair games is of interest to me.


Thirteen is the optimal number of tables when players do not have to duplicate boards. That way you get to play all the boards that are in play and you get to play every pair sitting the opposite direction in your section. That is why big events that have a cut always cut down to a multiple of 13 tables. But when player duplication is needed, 13 tables is an awkward number. One option is to curtail the game at 24 boards, another option is to play 3 board rounds (having 39 boards in play), and another option is to have a blackpool (2 byestands so a total of 30 boards in play, of which you play 26). Saturday afternoon at the Macon sectional, we were blessed three 13 table sections. The novice group duplicated their own boards and played 12 rounds of 2. One section in the open double-duplicated and had a blackpool. The other open section had a perfect movement with no duplication (the other section did it for them). Maybe no one else finds it interesting that the 3 sections of the same size at the same time had different movements, but I do, and I think the directors arranged this very appropriately.


Seeding, however, is something that is often lacking, especially at sectionals when you don’t have a good idea of what good players will show up. This resulted in the Saturday evening game (16 tables) having 2 A pairs sitting NS and 6 sitting EW. That’s a big advantage to anyone sitting NS. (Also, there were 7 C pairs NS and 3 EW) Sure enough, 1st and 2nd overall were NS pairs, way ahead of a slew of EW pairs who were bunched up around 58%. When directors sell entries, they typically have tables 1, 4, 7 set aside for B players; tables 2, 5, 8 for C players; tables 3, 6, 9 for A players.  Therefore, the game should naturally be fairly balanced – having equal numbers of strong players (and weak players) in each section and each direction.


In NABC events and some regional open pair games, the director has someone assigned to seed the top players. Typically, the top seeds start at table 3, the second seeds start at table 9, and the third seeds start at table 13. That way, you know that you’re playing the best players at those tables. I don’t know why they picked these particular numbers to be the seeds (and can’t find any site that explains it) but the difference in number is such that the seeded pairs will never skip other seeded pairs. In movements where there is a skip, pairs exactly 6 or 4 tables apart will never skip each other. Sometimes a skip is called after 5 rounds or 7 rounds, and sometimes with large sections, being any closer than 4 tables, the game may end before you get all the way around.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Anticipating Partner Getting Squeezed

Saturday afternoon at the Columbia, SC sectional, I declared this fascinating hand against one of the top pairs in the area.
Dealer: N
Vul: Both
David Coberly

Hugh Brown
Greg Roberts

Andre Asbury


First off, it’s an opening lead problem for west. I think the A stands out but I would not be opposed to a spade lead. With AQx, there shouldn’t be any danger of giving declarer 2 heart tricks as long as partner has a halfway decent overcall.

Hugh led A and Q, both winning. Playing standard signaling, Greg played the 7 and then the 9. Declarer followed with the 2 and 3 as dummy shed a diamond. Do you lead another heart? Why?

Let’s examine the possibilities from Hugh’s perspective. In light of this dummy, you can count 7 tricks for declarer and clearing hearts will give him an 8th. A) If declarer has the K, you must cash out - lead another heart, and partner will figure out to cash as many diamonds as possible after taking the K. B) If partner has the K and declarer the A, declarer has 9 tricks unless partner has KQJ. In that case, a diamond lead is necessary to set the contract. That would give declarer 5 or 6 hcp depending on the CJ. C) If partner has both the K and A, it would at first seem that clearing hearts is the way to go as declarer will still be left with only 8 tricks, but that opens up partner to a squeeze. This is definitely the most likely scenario for setting the contract but you need to lead a spade at trick 3.

What about east’s signaling? The 8 at trick one is definitely encouragement but does the 9 at trick 2 suggest a switch now that he realized declarer’s stopper is JTxx? If so, does it suggest spades or diamonds or is it up to the opening leader to figure out which one makes more sense. I’m inclined to think it suggests that partner find a switch but I’m not sure. The spade is obviously the killer on this deal and it’s much easier to find in imps than matchpoints because the threat of declarer having the SK and having red suit tricks go away is too high by not continuing hearts.

At the table, they continued hearts. Executing the squeeze is pretty simple. I won the 4th round of hearts and runs clubs. Surely the spade finesse is losing (K and A probably isn’t enough for most people to overcall 1) so it’s right to play for east to have the A and K. Here is the ending with one club to go.
Dealer: N
Vul: Both
David Coberly

Hugh Brown
Greg Roberts

Andre Asbury

If east discards the heart, throw him in with a diamond and he has to lead a spade into dummy. If he throws a spade, drop his now-stiff K. If he throws the diamond, claim.

On the actual deal, he threw the A, which actually is the only legit way to still be able to potentially set the contract. He would need Hugh to have the K, a very slim possibility.

Friday, August 5, 2011

4th quarter recap of loss to Lewis in the Mini-Spin

In the second round of the Mini-Spingold, my team lost a very tight match to the eventual winners. Over the 56 boards, each of our 3 pairs had a couple of big oopsies and the Lewis team played just well enough to beat us on that day and went on to beat a few other good teams. Anyway, the last quarter against them was a fascinating set of boards. Sean described it as the most stressful round of bridge he played, and he didn't declare a hand until the last of the 14 boards. Let's go through the round now.


We started the final 14 boards down 98-84. On board 1, the opponents bid a lay down 6H with 20 opposite 12 hcp. On board 2, I had a 5 loser hand with semi-solid spades and got to 4SX, cold for 5. Win 6. The very next board, I picked up another 5 loser hand with 7 spades. This time, RHO opened 1NT, I overcalled 4S, and LHO refrained from doubling with a flat 7-count. Boards 4 and 5 were partscore deals in which we netted 1 imp. By now I thought we might have gotten back to basically a tie, but somehow our teammates missed the cold slam on board 1.


Board 6 was an interesting deal. Sean had a one-loser hand: -, AK, KQxx, AKQJxxx. Our auction: 1C-1S-2C-2D-5S-6D-7D-P. 1C was either a weak NT or any strong hand. 1S was natural, canapĂ©-style. 2C was natural game forcing and denied 4+ spades. 2D showed longer diamonds than spades. 5S was unquestionably exclusion RKC. I don't know why I bid 6D, which theoretically shows 2 keycards, not counting anything in spades. My hand was 4-2-5-2 with my only high cards being the pointed aces. And Sean couldn't believe I didn't have the DA so bid 7 despite the ambiguity of 6D. Push.


Board 7 bothered me. I was declarer in 3NT after RHO had bid 1S, not raised by LHO.

Sean: -, KQJTx, AKxx, KQxx

Andre: KT8x, x, Qxxx, Axxx

LHO led the SQ, ducked to my K. If both minors split 3-2, I have 9 tricks. If not, I'll need some heart tricks. I couldn't afford to test the minors first because I needed them as an entry to the hearts later. I thought I likely had a 2nd spade stopper (or that west started with 3 spades in which case the suit will block) and it's unlikely that both minors would split so I led a heart. East won and played a low spade to my 8 and LHO's 9, then came the SJ and a spade to east's A and the 13th spade. Down 1. Yes, both minors were 3-2. Lose 12.


On board 9, my RHO David Sokolow attempted a squeeze in 5D with these cards after I, west, had preempted 2H over the 1D opening:

North: AKxx, Txxx, Qx, Txx

South: Tx, x, AKJTxx, AKxx

The defense started with 2 rounds of hearts and he played to squeeze Sean started with 4 spades and 4 clubs but there was no such squeeze rather than play for 3-3 clubs. After drawing trumps, he ducked a spade to Sean, won the club return and ran trumps, leaving and ending of S-AKx in dummy and S-x, C- xx. If Sean started with 4 of each black suit, he is squeezed as he would have to make declarer's little club good or allow dummy's little spade to take trick 13. It turns out neither play works because Sean was 6-2 in the black suits. Win 5.


The next few hands were uninteresting. Board 13, I held xx, Kxx, AQx, KTxxx and passed it out in 4th seat. Lose 3. On board 14, I did something that is usually not a good idea – I put an 8 card suit down in dummy. I raised partner's spade opening with 8xx, -, AJ9xxxxx, K9. The result (4S down 2) was duplicated at the other table.