Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Here's the places I went for bridge tournaments this year, and how I did at them:
Salem, OR Sectional: 13
Bermuda Regional: 59
Las Vegas Regional: 63
Toronto Regional: 23
Washington, DC Sectional: 8
Gatlinburg, TN Regional: 78
Medford, OR Regional: 17
Portland, OR Sectional: 10
Raleigh, NC Regional: 29
Grants Pass, OR Sectional: 9
Reston, VA (Washington, DC) Regional: 38
Las Vegas NABC: 22
Charlottesville, VA Sectional: 26
Hunt Valley (Baltimore), MD Regional: 26
Seaside, OR Regional: 22
Virginia Beach, VA Regional: 57
Boston NABC: 19
Charlottesville, VA Sectional: 25
Looking back, this year marks the fewest Sectionals I've played in many years. I didn't quite make it to either of my annual goals for colored points-- 100 Silver and 10 Platinum (98 and 6, resspectively). Hopefully my 600ish will put me somewhere reasonable on the Top 500 list. I'm hoping to make it in the top 300.
So here's to as fun of a 2009, starting with the Charlottesville Regional!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Here's an example:
You're West, holding
In an all-expert IMP game, you deal (nobody's vulnerable). North opens 1H. Partner (former junior standout and current all-around great guy Charlie Garrod) leaps to 3S. South thinks for a bit and bids 4H. What's your call?
First of all, how many defensive tricks do you have? I'd say right around one and a half. Most of the time the opponents' spades will split 2-1, and the diamond holding will usually be worth a trick. Once in a very great while, you'll be able to take two spade tricks-- remember, partner's under 30 and won't always have a seven-bagger for a nonvul three bid.
Next, is it safe to bid? Well, I'd argue more that it's not safe to pass! I think we have seven spade tricks and a diamond for at worst -300 in four spades doubled. So it's certainly right to bid.
But here's the pressure part. When he held this hand against me, Stan Schenker made the gutsy call of 5S, forcing the last guess on his opponents!
We guessed correctly -- 5S went for 500 when we could only make 5H -- but let's look at the mathematics of the situation:
Let's say that the opponents will double 5S 80% of the time, and bid a failing 6H 20% of the time. So, 20% of the time we win 11 imps for +50 opposite +450. The other 80% of the time would be split up like this:
3/4 of the time, 5S will go for 500. We'll lose 2 imps for this.
1/8 of the time, partner has a better hand than we expected and will only go for 300. We now win 4 imps.
1/16 of the time, partner has a worse hand than we expected-- maybe a six-card suit. We go down 800, and lose 8 imps. Ouch!
1/16 of the time, partner has a real dog. They defend well and we go for 1100! Lose 12! Oof!
So here's the whole table:
20% win 11
60% lose 2
10% win 4
5% lose 8
5% lose 12
Put all these wins and loses together and the expected imp gain is plus 0.4 imps! This means that this action could work out well, it could work out poorly, but in the long run, it's a winning action.
The percentages I used to weight the actions are totally subjective, and only a product of my at-the-table experience. If you think that the numbers are wildly different, plug them in to a spreadsheet and play around with them. You can download the Excel spreadsheet I used for this exercise by clicking this link.
Two-fifths of an imp may not sound like that much, but if you make sure all of your bids and plays have a positive imp expectancy, you'll find yourself winning most of your matches.
Nice bid, Stan!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"Standard" Precision is a strong-club system with natural positive responses to 1C. With our version of Transfer Precision, we bid a strain other than what we have in order to have the stronger (and less defined) hand as declarer more often. Here's a quick rundown on our responses to the forcing 1C opening:
1C (16+HCP if unbalanced, 17+ if balanced; any shape)
- 1D = 0-7 HCP or 8+ with a 4441 shape (any singleton)
- 1H = 8+ HCP, 5+ spades
- 1S = 8+ HCP, 5+ hearts
- 1NT = 8+ HCP, 5+ clubs
- 2C = 8+ HCP, 5+ diamonds
- 2D = 8-13 HCP, balanced
- 2H, 2S, 3C, 3D = 4-6 HCP, six-card suit
Over partner's transfer positive, opener can bid the suit shown to show a fit and start a (short - for now) series of asking bids. Here's an example of our asks at work:
1C - 2C;
2D - 3H;
3S - 4C;
4N - 5H;
7D - P.
1C = 16+, artificial
2C = 5+ diamonds, 8+ HCP (game force)
2D = Tell me more!
3H (sixth step)= Six-card suit with one of the top three honors
3S = Tell me more!
4D (third step)= Three controls outside diamonds (A=2, K=1; this must be the ace of clubs and king of spades)
4NT = Keycard ask in diamonds (eventually we'll use 4H for this, but we haven't gotten around to discussing all the ramifications of this yet); opener doesn't yet know if responder's suit is Axxxxx or Qxxxxx
5H = Two keycards without the queen of diamonds
7D = Six diamonds plus AK of the other three suits is twelve tricks... if partner has club length I can get a club ruff for the 13th. With my club shortness it makes it more likely that he has length there. Well, here goes -- I hope he has 3+ clubs or a major-suit queen!
How would you and your partner get to this 29 HCP grand slam?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
(**If you got a reservation at the host hotel and did not get the bridge rate, please let me know and I will change it for you!)
As of this weekend, every room in the entire hotel is sold, including the executive suites and deluxe rooms. Thankfully, the cutoff date for the guaranteed special rate was the 21st, so the phone calls have finally stopped. We were getting several calls a day from folks who were having trouble getting reservations, some of whom got very angry when we told them the hotel is sold out. They couldn't understand why we couldn't just get the hotel to release more rooms. Because three weeks is not enough time to build and furnish new accommodations...
But we did secure a bridge rate at the Cavalier Inn, which is our usual playing site for sectionals. Our first block there filled up, too, but we've blocked more and those rooms are still available at the bridge rate if you're looking for a place to stay. (Call 888 882 2129 for reservations.)
Dealing with the hotels and the last-minute reservations has been stressful, for sure, but it's got me excited about our turnout -- it sure seems like we're going to have a big tournament. (And, lesson learned: get your rooms EARLY whenever you plan to stay at the host hotel.) The last of our registration gifts and prizes have all been delivered, and boxes of tournament swag are stacked floor to ceiling in our living room.
Hospitality plans are going well, we've got a recycling project manager, lecturers are lined up -- everything is falling into place nicely. Finally.
Would anyone like to take guesses as to our final table count? The MABC is projecting 1700, but the last off-regional like this one (Roanoke in 2003) only mustered about 1300 tables. So, what do we think? I'm not putting all my hopes on 1700, but I certainly expect we'll get there, based on hotel reservations. I know bad weather could change a lot of plans...I'd love to beat the estimate, though. Here's hoping for 1800 tables! (Any more than that and we might be in over our heads...)
Playing together, we had two event wins and three third overalls. This was a surprisingly strong showing; I wasn't expecting to do great things this tournament. We'd just made the switch over to playing Transfer Precision. There are always some speedbumps with system changes, especially sweeping ones like that.... and there were. Happily, the few misunderstandings we had didn't cost. Our best event was the Saturday night Swiss-- we won all four of our matches for a total of 72 Victory Points out of a possible 80. We outscored the opponents 119-3! Those 3 imps were my fault. I held:
Meg opened 1C (strong, artificial, and forcing). I could have bid 2H to show 4-6 HCP and a long heart suit, but I decided that Jx of spades wasn't worth the full 1 HCP. I planned to show a 0-3 hand on the next round...and maybe I should have. So I bid a conventional 1D, (usually) negative.
If Meg had rebid 1H (Kokish; hearts or balanced), I could have rebid 2D showing an awful hand with long hearts. But her rebid was 2C. Now I reevaluated... I had a fit for partner's long suit and two doubletons! So I bid 2H trying to find a fit there. When she rebid 3C, I gave up.
She went down two for -200. The opponents went down 100 in 2H at the other table. Had I bid 2H immediately or passed her 2C, we would have pushed the board and been perfect for the event! Oh well...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Your RHO opens 1C in first seat, and your side stays out of the auction. The opponents bid
1C - 1H;
1S - 2D!;
2N - 3H;
3N - P.
Upon querying you find out that 2D was an artificial game force. Before you make the opening lead, you try to reconstruct the opposing hands.
RHO opened 1C, rebid 1S, showed a diamond stopper, and denied any heart support. It seems like he holds 4135 (possibly 4144 with great clubs and awful diamonds).
LHO responded 1H, forced to game, then rebid his hearts even after his partner denied holding three. So he must have six hearts. Not much more is known about his hand (except that he's wildly unlikely to have four spades). Let's give him a tentative 3622.
If those are the shapes of the unseen hands, what does that leave partner? Three spades, two hearts, five diamonds, and three clubs (3253).
(By the way-- if you don't do something like this before your opening leads, you should try it. It's amazing the things you can figure out before seeing any of the other 39 cards.)
So now that you have a reasonable picture of the unseen hands, what should you lead? Diamonds feel right; they're your side's probable eight-card fit. So which diamond? You decide that it's probably right to start untangling the honors. So which one - the queen or the ten? It's just barely possible that LHO is 3613 or 3712 with the singleton jack of diamonds, so you decide to table the queen of diamonds. Dummy comes down and you see:
Almost what you had constructed, except dummy's singleton honor is in clubs. Declarer plays low from the table, partner plays the three (upside-down attitude), and declarer wins with the king. What's going on here?
Normally, you'd expect partner to hold the ten of diamonds to be signalling positively when you lead the queen. You hold the ten, though. So your lead has worked fairly well and hit partner with a diamond suit headed by the jack! That's great news... but we haven't taken five tricks just yet.
Declarer leads a heart toward dummy. You play low smoothly (of course), declarer sticks in dummy's nine, and partner wins with the queen. The nine of diamonds comes back from pard. Continuing your trick-one plan, you unblock the ten. Declarer lets you hold this trick. You exit your third diamond and partner plays the jack.
Dummy's now in and exits a high heart to your ace (partner following, declarer pitching a spade). Now what?
What's going on in the diamond suit? Does pard only have three diamonds himself? Did we just set up declarer's fourth diamond? You put yourself in partner's shoes. With an original J93, would you return the 9 on the second round from a holding of J9? You don't think so. It's much more likely that partner held J983 and is giving you a suit-preference signal for spades. But that's not all-- since partner is flagging a spade card, he won't have anything in clubs! If you don't cut transportation now, declarer can get at least three club tricks to go with two diamonds and four hearts. So you table a spade, and declarer sighs and concedes down one. You pick up ten imps for your trouble, as your teammates are +420 in hearts. Here's the whole hand:
This hand was defended in this fashion at the table by my lovely wife Meg. We went on to win the event. Well done!
Friday, December 19, 2008
There are two types of events at our upcoming regional that will be scored based on IMPs. Those are Swiss Teams and Knockouts. Your strategy for these games should be a bit different than your strategy for pair and Board-a-Match games. We will have celebrity speakers between sessions each day at the regional, and I'm sure some of them will talk about various strategies for the different types of games. I encourage everyone to attend these brief lectures.
For now, though, I'll talk about IMP strategy. First, let's look at the International Matchpoint Scale:
Diff. in Pts. IMPs Diff. in Pts. IMPs Diff. in Pts. IMPs Diff. in Pts. IMPs
20-40 ………..1 270-310 …..……7 750-890 ……..13 2000-2240 …..19
50-80 ….…….2 320-360 …..……8 900-1090 ……14 2250-2490 …..20
90-120 ………3 370-420 ….…….9 1100-1290 …..15 2500-2990 …..21
130-160 ……..4 430-490 ………10 1300-1490 …..16 3000-3490 …..22
170-210 ……..5 500-590 ………11 1500-1740 …..17 3500-3990 …..23
220-260 ……..6 600-740 ………12 1750-1990 …..18 4000 and up …24
When you compare scores with your teammates, the difference in your scores will determine the number of IMPs that you win or lose. In a matchpoint game, an overtrick might be the difference between a top board and an average score. In IMPs, an overtrick is just worth one IMP. The real swings come from making games that your opponents miss, doubling the opponents when it's right, sacrificing when it's right, and finding your slams.
When you're declaring in IMPs, your goal is to make the contract. Overtricks are of little significance, so you should NEVER risk going down to grab an overtrick. Don't give the opponents a chance to set you if you can help it! If you've sacrificed and you know you're going down, doubled, don't stress. Just try to hold the contract to down one or two, so the sacrifice is profitable opposite your teammates' making game.
Vulnerability is huge in IMPs. You should stretch for your games and slams especially when you are vulnerable, and preempt and sacrifice more aggressively when you are not vulnerable and the opponents are. -500 is not a bad score opposite a +620 from your teammates -- that's a gain of 3 IMPs!
I sat down to play on a team as a fill in last week, and one teammate said "Okay. Strategy for teams: never bid grands, and never double." NO!!! If you can find a grand, OF COURSE YOU SHOULD BID IT. +2220 is worth 13 IMPs vs. a -1460 if the other table fails to bid the granny. If every other board is a push, 13 IMPs is still a fairly large victory!
Now, you should not be bidding games, slams, and grands just because you're vulnerable and it feels like you *might* have a chance. Accurate bidding is still key, but you just want to push a little bit more than you probably do when you play pair games. It's still wrong to bid a slam missing two keycards, but if you think you have at least a 35% chance of making the slam, it's usually worth it to go for it. Be more conservative about bidding your grands, but by all means at least sniff them out before signing off if you think they might be there.
In team games, you should be especially willing to stretch more for your games. Most matches are won and lost on game swings, where one table bids the games and the other doesn't. Game swings are anywhere from +6 to +13 IMPs, whereas going down when your opponents stop in the part score will usually cost you only 5 or 6 IMPs. You were probably taught that you need 26 high card points to make a game, but the truth is that sometimes you can make a game with 20 points and sometimes you'll go down one when you've got 30. Distribution makes a huge difference in hand evaluation. A distributional 10-count is often much stronger than a flat 14.
As for never doubling, well that's just silly. If your opponents do something stupid, make them pay! +1400 is worth so much more than +500. It's foolish to double when you're not sure you can set them, because you could be turning a -110 into a -570, but if you know you've got the tricks to set them, and you're not sure you have a better score by bidding on to the 5, 6, or 7 level, then by all means, whack it!
This is a lot of information to take for someone who's brand new to team games. Don't worry about nailing it all right away -- it takes practice and experience. You can reinforce the important points by attending the lectures during our regional. I'll summarize the key points, though:
1. Overtricks don't matter as much as simply making your contract. On defense, don't get greedy. If you're on lead with the setting trick, it's usually best to cash it.
2. You want to stretch to bid games, even when you might be light on high card points. It's not right to bid game on EVERY hand, but if it's a close call, it's usually right to go for it.
3. When you're vulnerable, you want to have solid preempts and sacrifices. On the other hand, when you're white and they're red, it pays to be very aggressive.
4. Make sure you and your partner have solid agreements in place about slam auctions. How will you ask for aces? What bids do you use to investigate grand slam opportunities?
5. Don't be afraid to double!
I'm sure the commenters will leave their valuable tips as well. Normally the task of writing this guide would've fallen to McKenzie, but he's out of commission until Christmas, so I trust that you readers will add any necessary information that I left out...
And if you have any questions, feel free to leave those in the comments, too. If I don't know the answer, I'll find someone who does:)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Here's a breakdown of the different events:
First of all, please note that all points start off as red. Gold points are awarded to the people who place in the overalls (or top 4 of a knockout) in any 2-session event with an upper masterpoint limit of at least 750.
Educational Foundation Pairs -- This is the first event of the tournament, holding the 1pm time slot on Monday, Jan 12. This is the only session that doesn't have a team game. Whether you enter the open game (stratified A/B/C) or the 0-300 game, this event is a regular matchpoint pair game. Money from your entries will benefit the ACBL's educational foundation.
Side Games -- Side games are all single-session matchpoint pair games. These are the only single-session open pair games, so they're good for players who can only play one session a day. These games are divided into series of 5 or 6 games. In each series, your two best percentages are added together toward the overall awards. For instance, if you play in 3 games in one side series, and you finish with 61%, 52% and 58%, your two top scores are added together to give you a 119% for the series. That's usually good enough to make the overalls and win some GOLD POINTS! It doesn't matter if you play with a different partner each time -- the overalls are tabulated on an individual basis.
Stratified Pairs -- These are 2-session matchpoint pair games that run every afternoon and evening session, starting on Tuesday. When you enter these events, you are committed to play both sessions that day. Compared to the side games, these fields are generally bigger and more competitive. GOLD POINTS to anyone who places in the overalls.
Knockouts -- You've probably heard that if you need gold points, the best way to get them quickly is to enter a knockout (KO). KO's are bracketed by team masterpoint totals, so you're always going to be playing only against other teams with about the same number of masterpoints as your team. This means everyone has a decent shot to win. You'll play 24-board matches, or two 12-board matches if you are in a 3-way. So basically, you're playing a whole session against just one other team. This event is scored in IMPs. It doesn't matter how much you win by. As long as you win, you get to move on. If you're in a 3-way, 2 teams will advance. You're guaranteed to advance if you win both matches, but if you're 1-and-1, you have to have a better margin than the other 1-and-1 team to move on. (If all three teams beat each other so that everyone is 1-and-1, the two teams with the most total IMPs move on.)
Full KO's last for 4 sessions, with only two teams remaining to play for 1st place in that 4th session. Almost all the KO's are afternoon-evening games over two days, but the first KO starts on Monday evening and continues all three sessions on Tuesday. Please check the schedule to be sure you can commit to all four sessions if your team wins! If you win your first two matches, you advance to what's known as the "money rounds." You're guaranteed at least 3/4th, which means more masterpoints -- some of them GOLD. The percentage of gold points will depend on the masterpoint totals of the teams in your bracket, but all KO teams that finish in at least 4th place will earn some gold points.
Compact Knockouts -- These are like full KO's, only shorter. Instead of playing four 24-board matches over four sessions, you will play four 12-board matches over two sessions. You will still get gold points for making it to the semifinals or better.
Board-a-Match Teams -- This event is like a pair game, but you play with a team. Instead of being scored on matchpoints or IMPs, you get either 0, 1/2, or 1 point per board. It's scored by computer, so you don't really have to worry about it yourself, but basically this is an event where you're trying to get the most number of points possible on any hand. Your score is compared to your teammates' score on the same board (like in Swiss Teams and KOs), and if your team is negative for the board, you get a 0; you get 1/2 a point for ties, and a full point if you win the board (ex: you're +450 and your teammates are -420). Overtricks, sacrifices, and doubles are a huge part of the strategy here. McKenzie's post on Board-A-Match strategy can be found here.
Swiss Teams -- You've played these before, right? We use the 20-point Victory Point scale in the MABC. The 2-session Swiss Teams on Sunday will be StrataFlighted, meaning there's an A/X field and a B/C/D field. Match awards are red, but overall places pay gold points.
Lose N Snooze KO's -- My favorite part of a regional! This is a fast-paced, super-fun late night knockout event. No one takes this too seriously -- it's about having a good time. Yes, there are masterpoints involved, but really, this is a FUN event. It's just one session of 6-board matches, and usually lasts about two hours for those who keep winning 'til the bitter end. And if you lose, you're done and you can go back to bed -- or stay and party with the rest of us:)
GOLD POINT Pairs -- This is a special event that we're running just on Friday. It's a 2-session commitment, and it's a great opportunity for Intermediate/Newcomer players to compete in a pair game for gold points, without having to square off against the top pros. This is the only strataflighted pair game of the tournament, so B/C players have their own event, capped off at 750 masterpoints.
I think that covers all the different types of events. Of course there are 0-300 events every session, as well. Cathy Hildebrand is our wonderful I/N director and she will guide you through all the different I/N events and answer any questions you have about these games.
Over the next few days, we'll post about the different forms of scoring (matchpoints, IMPs, and BAM) so you'll have some ideas about different strategies. Please check back, and if you have any unanswered questions, leave a comment! We look forward to seeing everyone in January!
His partner opened 1S. He gave a game-forcing spade raise (much better than a 4C splinter, in my opinion) and found out about short diamonds opposite. He hopped into RKC and found his partner with two keycards and the queen of spades. He was wondering if he should bid 5NT (asking for kings), 6S, or 7S.
Here's the auction up to this point:
1S - 2NT
3D - 4NT
5S - ?
There's a little-known extension of Roman Keycard that I'd like to share with you. Let's say that the trump suit has been irreversibly set, as in this auction. After the number of keycards have been shown, you can ask for kings with 5NT (We strongly recommend that the response to 5NT show specific kings rather than number of kings) as a grand try, but there are other grand-slam tries available. We play that bidding a new suit asks for third-round control of that suit.
Without third-round control, responder bids 6 of the agreed trump suit. With a shortness control (a doubleton) responder bids seven of the agreed-upon suit. With a high-card control (the queen), responder does something else interesting. So let's give opener a few sample hands on this auction:
1S - 2NT
3D - 4NT
5S - 6H!
Without third-round control in hearts, responder signs off in 6S.
Responder has a doubleton heart, so bids the cold 7S.
Responder has the queen of hearts, so his job is to do "something interesting". His partner already knows about the aces and the queen of spades, so responder cuebids 7H to let his partner choose the right grand slam.
Now responder has something "interesting" other than the queen of hearts. He cuebids 7C to show both the queen of hearts and the king of clubs. Now the asker can count top tricks-- 5 in spades, 5 in hearts, 1 in diamonds, and the A and K of clubs-- 13 running tricks without ruffing! Over 7C the proper bid is 7NT. It's not only the top-scoring grand slam, but it's the safest one!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Playing against our friends Robert Todd and Richard Helams, I picked up this huge one loser 6-6 red hand... and saw my partner open 1D! [1D was limited to 15 HCP and could be as short as 2 in a balanced hand.] I started with a quiet 1H. Robert, having passed his eight-bagger on the first round, bid 2S at his next turn. Jenni passed, I forced, and I kept making slam and grand tries until Jenni showed the king of clubs. My 6D bid was a plea for her to bid 7H with the king of diamonds. She didn't have it, so she couldn't bid the grand... but she was able to put it in the top BAM spot of 6NT! This was not what I had originally planned with my 6-6, but it seemed like it had to be a good contract for the form of scoring.
We were very happy with the result, until we found out that our opponents had a bashing auction to 6H, and our teammate made the very reasonable lead of his stiff diamond... our +1440 lost the board to -1460. Too sad!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Here's a few more hands from the BAM:
(A) All red
Partner opens 1D (2 or more diamonds, 10-15 HCP), RHO passes, you bid 1H, and LHO jumps to 2S. This gets passed around to you. What's your call?
(B) Red vs. white
You open 1D (could be short, again...), partner bids 1H, you rebid 1S, and partner splinters with 4D! What's your call?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
(A) All white
LHO opens 3H, partner overcalls 3S, and RHO passes. What's your call?
(B) All white, matchpoints
Partner opens 1S. RHO overcalls 2H. What's your bid / plan?
(C) All white
LHO opens 1C, partner overcalls 1NT, and RHO passes. You can:
-bid 2H (transfer to spades)
-bid 2S (to show an invite with diamonds)
-bid 3C (weak transfer to diamonds)
-bid 2C (Stayman; pulling 2H to 2S shows an invitational hand with 5 spades)
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
(For reference, here's Hand One and Hand Two.)
Percentage of blame: West 89%
Worst call: 6C
Percentage of blame: West 25%
Worst call: Pass
Monday, December 8, 2008
Here's what happens -- I'm sure you've seen this, too. Something is going on in the auction, and an opponent pulls a bid (or a double or a pass) out of the bidding box. S/he gets that bid all the way out and in clear view of everyone, then gasps, puts it back, and changes it to something else. Sometimes they come right out and say "Oh, I didn't see ______!"
You call the director, and the director's first question is "Was the bid on the table?"
When the opponents emphatically answer "NO!" (which is often a lie) the ruling is simply, "Well then you are allowed to change your bid, and your partner is to take no inferences from anything else."
So, basically, your opponents have passed volumes of unauthorized information across the table because they were being lazy and not thinking at the bridge table, and there is no penalty at all. Whereas if you accidentally drop the deuce of hearts out of your hand while sorting your cards, there are all kinds of rules...
Bridge players need to learn to think before acting on every auction, and the very important follow-up is that thinking should occur in the mind, not with the hands. Touching the bidding box at all passes information, so whether you pull the 2D card all the way out of the box before putting it back and passing or if you just hold your hands on the bidding cards for a bit, there is still UI, and that is a very real violation of the rules.
If you fall asleep at the table and accidentally pass out 1H doubled, you should not be allowed to rescind your pass just because you missed partner's red card. Take your medicine now and you'll make fewer of these mistakes later.
To me, it is very presumptuous for a player to screw up, then pass blatant UI by admitting "I didn't mean to pass!" and then to call the director and ask to be allowed to change the call after all this. I just can't believe that they are then allowed to do so!
Please note that I'm not talking about instances where you accidentally pull the wrong card -- that's different from bidding what you mean to bid only to notice that you weren't paying close enough attention to the auction.
We've all been guilty of this. In my opinion, ethical players are the ones who accept their screwup silently, proceed with the auction, and then apologize and explain to their partners after the hand is over and the bad result is recorded. But apparently the laws as they stand reward the unethical players who pass UI by admitting their error in the middle of an auction.
Sometimes, though, karma is on our side even if the law book is not. In the Saturday afternoon pair game, our auction went:
(1D) 2H (2D) "Oh! I didn't see that 2H bid!" She then corrected to 3D, which of course carries no penalty. Never mind the UI...
I passed, LHO squirmed for a bit, then passed, and my partner checked it out. When it was all said and done, they made 5D on the hand, which was also cold for 3N. My angry LHO said to his partner, "Well, I wanted to go, but when you only bid 2D I thought you had a bad hand!"
My partner and I pounced, and I think he got the message. He also got the zero he deserved for his unethical analysis of the hand. Just say no to UI.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I didn't feel that way at all. I credit the system -- maybe McKenzie had some close calls, but on almost every single board, I knew what my bid would be and we found the right spot. I was never displeased with our 2/1 card, but I love how descriptive we can be with our Precision bidding, without giving away any information at all from the big hand.
My favorite auction yesterday was this:
1C - 1D - 1H - 1S - 1N - 3N
Every call until 3N was alerted, and when the defender was getting ready to choose her lead, she kept asking questions about the alerts. "So that says nothing about clubs? Nothing about diamonds?" Finally, I just told her "You don't know anything about either of our hands, except that he's 20-21 balanced and I'm <7." She seemed mad, like with all that bidding, surely there's some information to be had.
We had several very nice auctions to spots that we probably could have found with our old 2/1 system, too, but with the advantage that declarer rarely gave away any information on his hand. I'm looking forward to developing this system further. I'm officially a convert.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Planning has been work, indeed, but it hasn't been the nightmare everyone seemed to think it would be. We had enough time that most things were pretty well spread out, and of course lots of great advice from other MABC tournament officials. We've been finalizing lots of details this week. McKenzie got our registration gifts ordered, and we predict they will be a big hit. Since this may be the only regional Charlottesville ever gets (and because we might get more of them if it is a good one), we want to make sure to focus on the players. We're stretching our budget as much as possible to provide good gifts and hospitality, and we put a lot of thought into what those gifts would be.
We've still got a little bit of work to do as far as door prizes. This isn't a requirement, but we'd like to do it, so we're going to go out and try to get donations from nearby restaurants and retailers. That's one of the things we've been putting off, though, because it seems like a drag. We've got our committee chairpersons in place, and we're very thankful for everyone who's volunteered to help so far.
My mom, Nan Massie (CHObridge at aol dot com), is the partnership chairman, and she would like some folks to step up and be guaranteed partners, and also partnership desk helpers. If anyone is interested in helping with that, please send her an email. We need volunteers to man the registration desk as well, so you can email me or leave a comment here if you'd like to help hand out the gifts. All desk volunteers (partnership and registration -- prize desk is covered!) will work 30 minute shifts either before or after the sessions, and will receive a free play for every two volunteer shifts.
The last thing we need volunteers for is the hospitality. If anyone is interested in bringing food for the hospitality suite on any evening of the tournament, these donations will be greatly appreciated! Again, comment or email me if you'd like to help with this, or just want to help with preparations in the hospitality suite.
All volunteers will receive free plays and access to the exclusive tournament VIP suite, where there will be private hospitality for the tournament committees. That's where you get to hang out with us:)
We were pleased to learn that the entire hotel is almost completely booked with bridge players. That's a very good sign for our attendance, and we can't wait to see this all come together. We hope to see you there!
I've long believed that players, especially beginning players, get too wrapped up in conventions. It becomes an ego thing just to know them, and many wrongly assume that the more conventions you know, the stronger your game is. But do you even know why you are playing those conventions? What makes them better than standard? How are they useful to you? More useful than something else? Are they super-specific and perfect for finding exactly the right contract that 0.00001% of the time you have the hand, and the 0.0005% of the time you and your partner both remember the convention when it comes up? How much are you giving up to have these things on your card?
The truth is, a lot of the most popular conventions out there are pretty worthless. They might be good when they come up, but you're often giving up a useful bid in favor of something that you might see once or twice a year. Are you really gaining anything?
Now this might seem hypocritical of me, since McKenzie and I play some pretty complicated stuff with lots of alerts, and I do love our system -- but the reason it works for us is because we have spent hours going over system notes, and hundreds of sessions honing our game. And we only add new things when we both decide we need a certain type of bid for a certain situation. I don't believe a system like ours is the way to go for casual partnerships.
For partnership desk matchups or beginning players, McKenzie and I both really advocate the KISS method. Only play things you are both comfortable with, and don't try to teach a new partner anything fancy ten minutes before your first session together. Just play the game you know, and you'll do fine. Really.
That said, I've been playing a lot lately with players who really do keep it simple, and I've found myself wishing they just played a few more things. If you're a new player looking to add a few gadgets to your card, the ones I'd want to see if you were my partner are:
1. Support doubles and redoubles. These are SO useful, and I don't really know that any other use of a double here would be worthwhile. In a situation where you have opened the bidding, your partner has bid a major suit (promising four pieces), and your right hand opponent takes a call, double or redouble by you promises exactly three card support for your partner's suit. It allows you to find a fit when your partner has an undisclosed extra piece in his suit, without getting too high in the auction before you can agree on a suit. In competitive auctions, finding a fit early is a huge advantage.
2. New Minor Forcing & 4th Suit Forcing. Like support doubles, these bids are useful for finding 5-3 fits when responder has only promised 4 of a major. I find that when I don't play these conventions, I'm constantly having to guess about partner's hand. Bids like these allow you to find your fits (or discover you don't have one) before the auction gets too high. Finding fits at low levels is also great for slam auctions, because you can now start showing controls below game. I use Blackwood about a quarter as much as I used to, and my slam bidding is at least five times more accurate now.
3. Upside-Down Count & Attitude carding (or at the very least, upside-down attitude). It's a mouthful, but don't let that intimidate you. UDCA is very simple, and incredibly useful. Think of standard carding. Now think of the exact opposite. That's UDCA. I never liked pitching a high card to show positive attitude about a suit -- you might be pitching a winner! I also prefer UDCA discards to Lavinthal and Odd/Even because with the other two, you're always showing preference for something. Sometimes, you really don't have preference for anything and you just want partner to lead the best thing he can for his hand. With UDCA, I can just pitch a discouraging high card which tells partner, "I'm not interested in this suit, and I don't have anything to encourage you about, either." With other carding, though, pard will think I'm signaling for *something* no matter what I pitch, and if he leads it, that may give up a trick when I really don't have anything anywhere. And there's something about playing upside-down count that just makes it easier for me to read a hand, but that's probably just because it's what I'm used to. I don't suspect that how you show count matters terribly, as long as you are consistent.
So beyond a KISS card, those are three things I really would insist on, as long as partner is comfortable with them. If you're not comfortable with these conventions and UDCA carding, I would recommend acquainting yourself. Support doubles and NMF/4SF hands come up all the time, and I just think UDCA is the most accurate and useful carding system out there.
Do you have conventions you can't live without? Why are they your favorites?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
IMPs, all red
North dealt and passed. East passed, and South opened 1D. Here's the total auction:
Here's your questions:
(A) What is West's percentage of the blame for these ten lost IMPs?
(B) What was the worst action taken?
Once again, if we get enough responses, a fabulous prize* will go to the jurist that comes closest to the consensus.
Let's get those votes in!
*Prize is not even moderately fabulous.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Your job (yes, you. Even if you've never commented before, this is a great time to start) is to answer two questions for each of these two hands.
I will post one hand today and one tomorrow.
(A) Assign a percentage of the blame to West. (If you think both partners contributed equally, West gets 50%. If West had three times more of the blame then East, West gets 75%.)
(B) Name the worst action of the entire hand.
If we get enough commenters (12 or more), the person with both consensus answers and is closest on the percentages will receive a fabulous prize*.
The case before the jury today is a crime of underbidding:
(1) All red, matchpoints
East opened 1NT (14-16). West Staymanned and bid 3C [forcing] over the denial reply. East bid 3D, and West splintered with 4S. East cued 5H, West bid 6C, and East passed. Here's the auction:
2C - 2D;
3C - 3D;
4S - 5H;
6C - P.
There are clearly thirteen runners in any of three strains.
(A) What was West's percentage of the blame for missing this granny?
(B) What was the worst action taken by either partner? (This does not have to be by the player to which you assigned most blame)
Hand #2 tomorrow. Let the deliberations commence!
*Prize is not fabulous.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
On a more personal note, it was a successful NABC for me as well, even though I earned only about 1% of Rodwell's points. I created very fun partnerships with old friends Jenni Carmichael and Mike Develin, as well as new friend Adam Parrish. I also played a national event with my good friend and former regular partner Drew Hoskins. On top of that, there were two successful days with my student Michael. I had a good time with all of my partners this week, and learned something from each of them.
I have lots of hands to report... but not today. Now I just need rest!