March 2nd, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
Relating two slam investigations from this past Sunday’s sectional Swiss team event, where I was favored with receipt of clues from the auction to enable me to infer useful information about the hands held by my partner:
In fourth chair I opened 1♠ on the following hand:
The auction proceeded:
Partner’s negative double implies ownership of at least four hearts. The auction engaged by the opponents, when considered in connection with my three-card holding in clubs, strongly suggests that partner has extreme shortness in clubs.
Partner’s hand can range from something better than this slam suitable two count: Qx, xxxxx, xxxxx, x, to this slam unsuitable eight count: xx, xxxx, AKJxxx, x.
I hoped to discover whether partner had spade values or diamond values by bidding 5♣. Of course, I had to hope that partner would treat 5♣ as a cue bid for his “bid suit” of hearts.
Partner bid 5♦.
That is not what I had hoped to hear. Either 5♥ or 5♠ would have suggested better slam chances than 5♦. I bid 5♥.
Time to show partner’s hand:
With two aces and a fifth trump, partner – wisely, in my opinion – chose to bid on. At the table, he chose to bid 6♦ rather than 5♠ and so the grand slam was not considered.
6♥ made easily: I ruffed the club lead in dummy, drew all of the opponents’ trumps in two rounds, and established the spade suit by playing the ♠A, ♠K and ruffing a spade in dummy. I pitched a club on the ♦A and ruffed a diamond to hand to claim all thirteen tricks.
On a totally different auction – one not providing my hand with the clues about partner’s club shortness – the other table did not reach slam. 13 IMPs for my team.
My partner and I are playing a weak notrumps (12-14). Accordingly, an opening bid of 1 of a suit will either be distributional (some 5-4-2-2’s or, more frequently, a hand with a singleton or void) or, if balanced, be 15+ HCP.
Partner opened 1♣ and my RHO overcalled 2♣, showing the major suits.
Surely the opponents have at least a nine card heart fit. I can, of course, infer that both partner and LHO are short in spades. Partner’s projected spade shortness suggests that he might have long clubs. Partner’s heart holding is unknowable. He might have four nice hearts. Or he might have poorer hearts. Either way, my hand looks reasonable for game: perhaps 3NT if partner holds adequate hearts; perhaps 5♣ if partner holds weak hearts.
Inventing undiscussed bids is not a productive habit, but, particularly in an irregular partnership, how can I convey my club support and heart shortness at the smallest risk of being misunderstood?
I chanced a 3♥ bid.
LHO doubled and partner bid 3NT.
I passed 3NT but LHO now bid 4♥.
Partner, with an opportunity to double 4♥, instead passed 4♥. I inferred that while he had a heart stopper, his hearts were not exceptionally strong and long. So thinking, I felt committed to playing in a club contract.
In retrospect, I think it is too aggressive – given the risk of a spade void by LHO and/or a club void by RHO – to consider slam, but 6♣is still possible opposite a hand such as x, Kxx, ATx/Ax, AKJxxx/AKxxxxx. At the table, I bid 4♠ (ah, I might be further torturing my poor partner) and partner closed the auction with a 5♣ bid. Partner’s distribution was 0=3=4=6 with ♥KQT, ♦A, and ♣AK. He might also have owned the ♦Q (but I think he held ♦ATxx) and the ♣J: I do not recall. At any rate, he did make twelve tricks, taking a winning heart ruffing finesse.
My teammates — bless them! — were +200 on the hand (I do not know the details) and so this hand also sent 13 IMPs our direction, in a different match.
Drawing inferences from the auction – inferences that can be used to project partner’s holdings and the play and defense of the hand – is among the more appreciated attributes of bridge.
January 26th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 4 Comments
On Board 14 of yesterday’s club matchpoint duplicate, I misjudged the auction but then received a couple of breaks in the opponents’ best suit that allowed for a nice recovery.
My partner and I are playing a weak notrump. Accordingly, an opening bid of 1 of a suit will be either a distributional hand (meaning a singleton or void somewhere; a six card or longer suit; or some 5-4-2-2 hands) or, if a balanced hand, a strong hand (meaning 15 or more HCP).
Partner opened 1♦. I responded 1♥ on QJ73, J872, QJ2, A7. My left hand opponent decided to overcall 2♣ and my partner made a support double, telling me that he held exactly three hearts but otherwise not describing his hand. What should I bid?
I reasoned that 3NT could be a reasonable contract whether partner is strong and balanced or has long diamonds. If the former, I should be able to make on power; and if the latter, perhaps my diamond holding would solidify partner’s hand and help produce enough fast tricks to make game. I considered finding out a bit more about partner’s hand, but was finally persuaded to just jump to 3NT by two factors: (1) avoiding giving “information leak” to the opponents; and (2) placing the overcaller on lead, which could be critical if partner holds some innocuous club holding such as Jxx or Qx.
Well, the first factor did apply, as North decided not to risk a club lead but rather tried a safe diamond.
I won the diamond in hand and forced out the ♠A. North now led a club but it was the ♣6, forcing his partner to play the jack (causing dummy’s ♣T to become quite powerful). I won the ♣A.
After one club, three rounds of spades, and four rounds of diamonds, everyone is down to these five cards:
I cashed the spade in hand and North had no good discard. When he chose to discard a club, I threw him in with the ♣T and the forced heart return ran to my jack. A finesse of the ♥Q next produced eleven tricks for me: one club, four diamonds, three hearts, and three spades, losing only the ♠A and one club. 8 matchpoints on an 11 top, losing only to three pairs who, somehow, made twelve tricks in spades.
January 23rd, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 2 Comments
Declarer on this hand at the club today made only 12 tricks in his 6NT contract. I cannot remember exactly what line he followed, but when the hand was over, I remarked to my partner that there must be an overtrick on a double squeeze with hearts as the pivot suit, because only I (North) can protect diamonds and only partner (South) can protect spades.
Board 3, Reyim
My remark is accurate, but it took me a while to see the winning line. Can you?
There might be more than one line that comes to thirteen tricks, but the one that I noticed first is this:
Win 5 rounds of clubs, pitching one of each red suit from dummy.
Play ♦A and then ♦K.
That’s 8 tricks in, with this the five card ending (my hand – North’s — need not come down to the shown five cards, but two of the five cards must be hearts and one of the five cards must be a high diamond).
Note that my partner, having to hold on to four spades, has been squeezed out of his heart guard.
Play ♠K and ♠A, reaching this three card ending:
The ♠Q finishes me off. Whichever red suit I play, declarer discards the other.
Declarer did not find this line. And I doubt I would have either.
January 20th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 1 Comment
Let’s assume that you subscribe to the view that the purpose of the ACBL master point award and rank advancement system is to increase the amount of bridge being played.
Perhaps you do not subscribe to that view. Perhaps you prefer an award system that acts more similarly to a rating system. Or perhaps you feel that the playing of bridge does not require any validation by the accumulation of master points and the advancement of rank. I don’t belittle your view, but this blog is about using master points and rank advancement to “put fannies in the seats”.
(By the way, the stated mission of the ACBL is “to promote, grow and sustain the game of bridge and serve the bridge-related interests of … Members”.)
How the master point award and rank advancement system can increase the amount of bridge being played requires taking a long-range view that considers the motivations of bridge players. Looking at players who are already ACBL members, one must be just as concerned with addressing motivations that extend the duration of time in which they remain interested in playing tournament bridge as with addressing motivations that promote the volume of tournament bridge they play currently.
What promotes interest in playing a game? An article I read about the popular Candy Crush game app (by Dana Smith from The Guardian, April 1, 2014) talks about the effect of games on the brain. Among the quotes from the article are these:
- Initially, the game allows us to win and pass levels with ease, giving a strong sense of satisfaction. These accomplishments are experienced as mini rewards in our brains, releasing the neurochemical dopamine … Despite its reputation as a pleasure chemical, dopamine also plays a crucial role in learning, cementing our behaviors and training us to continue performing them.
- As we play, the game gets harder, the wins (and those bursts of dopamine) becoming more intermittent.
- The reward schedule becomes unexpected: we lose more often than we win and we never know when the next triumph will come. Rather than discouraging us from playing, this actually makes the game more enticing than if we won easily.
Much of Smith’s writing is over my head. But I think, in layman’s terms, what is being said is that the pleasure of the game player is increased over the long term when the game becomes harder and the wins, although achievable, become less regular and thus more satisfying.
Accordingly, I think the master points award and rank advancement system should not only offer the opportunity for beginning players to enjoy some success but (the rank advancement system if not the master point award system) should also entice the no-longer-beginner player to improve enough to achieve some success in harder fields.
My proposal for master point awards and rank advancement focuses on retaining the interest of the no-longer-beginner player. Because I am personally disposed to be concerned about what I perceive as fairness, my proposal also addresses issues of equity.
- Amount of points.
- Should be directly aligned with an estimated measurement of the merit of the accomplishment. The measurement of the merit of the accomplishment, in turn, should be based upon three factors:
- Strength of the field. Perhaps that could be measured by the rank of the competitors: NLM<LM<gold LM, etc. Perhaps also there should be bonus measurements for certain accomplishments, akin to the seeding points for NABC+ events.
- Duration of the event.
- Size of field; that is, more precisely, the number of competitors.
- Other comments:
- Eliminate the consideration of tables from other events. Why should your award be affected by players against whom you are not competing? Of course, the absence of those players would be expected to affect your event’s strength of field measurement.
- Eliminate artificial caps on major events such as NABC events. Some have tougher or larger fields than others. Why should that not be reflected in the points awarded?
- Eliminate biases toward certain forms of scoring. Why should not awards for KOs. Swisses, pairs, even individuals be based upon how many competitors you beat and the strength of those competitors, rather than being affected by the form of scoring?
- Consider a player’s participation contribution. In a team event, each teammate should be awarded ¼ of the points awarded to the team. If the team has more than four players, each teammate should be awarded a portion of the team’s master points that reflects the number of boards or matches in which such player participated. In a pairs event, each partner should be awarded ½ of the points awarded to the pair.
- In considering the size of the field, apply a constant scale, such that – everything else assumed to be equal – an event with 20 tables in play awards to first place an amount twice that of an event with 10 tables in play.
- Pigmentation of points. Pigmentation should not only be based upon the type of tournament (club vs sectional vs regional vs national event) but also upon the strength of the field. Gold points, for example, should be awarded only in regional events and only to the extent one’s results exceed some threshold measuring the strength of field. Platinum should be similarly restricted, in unlimited NABC events.
- Rank advancement. Each rank advancement should, as is the case currently, be based upon accumulated total points and, for some more advanced ranks, accumulated points by pigment. (Should there be a parallel rank for those who have satisfied the total points but not the pigmentation points? Not sure. But for purposes of strength of field measurement, only the with-pigment ranks should count.)
- Application to flighted, bracketed, and stratified events
- Flighted and bracketed events continue to be offered, of course, with their total master points and the pigmentation of master points being determined as above.
- Stratified events require special attention. The best way to describe my proposal is by example. Assume an AX pairs event with the following conditions:
- A would award ten overall places
- X would award ten overall places
- The best finish by an X pair is 8th overall
- The second best finish by an X pair is 13th overall
- The award to the winner of the event is x mps.
- The award to each of the other nine pairs finishing in the top ten is determined by a formula (x)(.9)n-1 where x is the award to the winner of the event and n is the overall finish of the pair in question. Hence, if x = 20 mps, 2nd overall receives 18 mps and 3rd overall receives 16.20 mps, etc. (Yes, I am sure that this is not how overall awards are determined, but there must be some formula in place that calculates a pair’s overall award based upon a percentage of the award to the winner.)
My proposal is that the top X pair, who finished 8th overall, receives mps equal to (x)(.9)8-1. That is, such X pair receives more mps than if they had won X with a 9th overall finish but fewer mps than if they had won X with a 7th overall finish. My proposal is that the second top X pair, who finished 13th overall, receives mps equal to (x)(.9)13-1. That is, the second place X pair not only receives more mps than the 0 mps that would be awarded to an A pair who finished outside the top ten but also more mps than had such second place X pair finished 14th overall but fewer mps than had such second place X pair finished 12th overall.
Of course, the determination of what award equals x is significantly dependent upon the strength of the AX field. Hence, my hope is that under my proposal the two top X pairs (and, in fact, all X pairs who choose to enter the AX event) receive mp awards that are equivalent to the mp awards they might have expected to receive had they entered an event that was for X pairs only.
January 15th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ No Comments
Would you be interested to play, and in interesting your friends to play, a game that operates like a big puzzle that:
- Requires players to satisfy an objective for each game
- Measures players’ satisfying an objective by earning a particular score
- Has only a few inviolable rules, rules that are easily learned by players
- Provides a strong sense of satisfaction as players’ performance improves, and awards advancement as performance goals are met
- Offers increasingly difficult competition as players’ skills and experience advance
- Produces more losses than wins, but does produce occasional, and welcomed, wins
- While being easy to learn, is hard to master, because it includes many strategies which must be employed at the right time
- Can become an obsession to the point that players’ sense of other responsibilities can suffer, if not monitored
- Played by players who have been recruited by other players
- Allows players to connect to others who share interest in playing
- Acts as an escape, a stress reducer?
Did you think I was talking about Bridge? I could have been.
The game is also:
- Particularly popular among young people
- Accessible through players’ cell phones
- Played by about 100 million people daily
So, I must not be talking about Bridge. Right. I am talking about Candy Crush!
As president of the charitable organization New England Youth Bridge, Inc. that has a mission of expanding the playing of bridge by youth, I would be excited if Bridge were able to tap into the audience that plays Candy Crush. Mark Raphaelson, a commenter on a Bridge Winners thread, advanced the concept of creating an app with bridge elements – he even coined a neat name for the app, Trick Taker. Perhaps the user might start by choosing how to unblock a suit or establish small cards in a long suit, advance to taking a finesse, etc. One would want the app to eventually be used to attract game players to play “real” bridge, either online or face-to-face.
Can that concept become a reality?
Maybe it could … with the help of a financial patron and the engagement of appropriate experts who are Friends of Bridge. Might you be, or know, that Patron? Might you be, or know, an appropriate Expert? Feel free to contact me, and I will try to connect you to others. What a legacy you might leave to the future growth of tournament bridge!
I foresee a few steps that would be required to bring a Trick Taker to reality in a way that could increase the number of youth who are exposed to bridge and who might choose to become duplicate bridge players. (And, the topic of creating apps that are attractive to youth not being a subject about which I know anything, I am sure that other steps will prove necessary.):
- Money that can fund the acts of exploring and potentially developing and marketing the app
- Expertise in identifying the operational elements and distribution networks that can produce a popular app
- Expertise in translating the identified elements into software that both teaches some elements of bridge and induces users to move from playing the app to playing duplicate bridge.
January 5th, 2016 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 2 Comments
How is your technique for eliminations/endplays at trump suit contracts?
The morning club matchpoint duplicate game of January 4 gave declarers two opportunities to practice good technique. That proper technique on neither board, if properly defended, actually should produce an extra trick is disappointing, but the techniques exercised by declarers are, nonetheless, instructional.
Board 17 was declared by fellow blogger Robin Hillyard of Carlisle, MA.
Robin (East) won the ♥9 lead to the 4, 3, and jack. Robin cashed the ♠A at Trick 2, getting the good news that spades were splitting. Recognizing that endplays work better when declarer and dummy hands are mirrored, Robin went about equalizing the club length between dummy and his hand. The next several plays:
- Cash ♥A
- Cash ♥K, pitching a club (the key play)
- Ruff a heart, thus eliminating the heart suit
The position now is:
Robin led a club from dummy in the shown position.
If South wins, South can play a diamond through dummy and declarer will be held to ten tricks, losing not only a trump and a club, but also a diamond. Fortunately for declarer, at the table North (not a member of my partnership!) rose with the ♣A. And had no answer: he could cash the high trump but then was faced with losing options of offering a ruff sluff by leading a heart or club (in which case Robin would discard his third diamond from hand while ruffing in dummy) or leading a diamond into dummy’s tenace. Making eleven tricks.
Board 15 was declared by me.
South led a spade to North’s ace and North returned a spade to my (East’s) king.
I drew the opponents’ trumps with the AK. I began the elimination of the pointed suits:
- ♦ ruff in hand
- ♠ ruff in dummy
- ♣A (the key play)
- ♦ ruff in hand
The position now is:
I led a club toward dummy’s queen. The hoped-for position is that dummy’s ♣Q loses to a doubleton ♣K of North. Unfortunately for me, but not unexpected, South held the ♣K, and even Aunt Matilda and Uncle Hortense can make eleven tricks, losing only the ♠A and the ♣K.
You might have noticed that both Robin and I sat East. Did we have a chance, then, to replicate each other’s technique?
No, we did not. My pair did not play Board 17, and, while Robin declared Board 15, he heard a different auction and received a different lead.
December 19th, 2015 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 5 Comments
At the club matchpoint game, we are facing a pair whom I have not before seen. The vibe I receive is that they are novices.
Their auction proceeds 1NT (convention card in my sight reports 15-17, although there is no announcement), 2NT, 3NT.
In passout seat, I hold
From the auction, I think I know that the opponents do not have extras. With the bulk of my side’s strength lying over declarer’s, I do not think this hand will play well for declarer (although I am somewhat concerned with partner’s being on lead, because his leading from strength might give away a trick). I decide to double.
When dummy shows with:
I begin to ask the meaning of the (unalerted) 2NT bid. But I reconsider, given my read that the opponents are novices. I’ve been had. -950!
December 19th, 2015 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 5 Comments
Chronicling this debacle from a recent matchpoint club duplicate:
Trick 1. ♥A, 6, ♣2 (discouraging), ♥2. (1-0)
- ♥3, 8, ♣6, ♥5. (1-1)
- ♥J, ♣7, ♥7, 4. (1-2)
- ♣3, T, K, 9. (1-3)
- ♣8, J, 4, A. (2-3)
- ♦2, 3, T, Q. (2-4)
- ♦5, J, A, 7. (2-5)
- ♦6, 8, 9, K. (3-5)
- ♦4, ♠2, ♣Q, ♥8 (3-6.)
Claim ten tricks -590 for my side on defense.
Not waiting as long as I should, I complained to partner: Why would you lead the ♥A instead of ♣Q? (A pointed suit opening lead is best, but who could possibly project that?) Even once you did, how can you continue hearts instead of leading pointed suits, taking me off the endplay?
Partner responded: Endplay? Why did you not rise with the ♣A and exit a club (because declarer could be on a KJ guess?)? Could you not have led back the ♦J instead of the ♦2 — this would, one would note, allow partner to win the third round of diamonds with the ♦T (because you might hold the ♦A and we could have three diamond tricks coming?)?
And, why did you pass my takeout double anyway?
Well, I have to give partner credit for creativity in the post mortem. But my feelings about the bidding and play remain as stated.
August 4th, 2015 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 3 Comments
Having received some help from the defense of an inexperienced pair, I was in great position to land a no-play slam on Board 24 of today’s matchpoint duplicate.
I responded 1♠ to partner’s 1♦ opening bid. Partner chose to rebid 4♠, presumptively denying a hand that could splinter. Recognizing the potential of slam but running out of science to begin to describe my hand, I bid 4NT keycard. Receiving a “two with” reply, I jumped to 6♠.
South chose to lead the ♥A and then follow with a small heart as her partner played up the line. Surprisingly, the ♥J won Trick 2.
Expecting an easy time at the play, I reconsidered after the ♠Q from dummy revealed that South was void in spades.
I next played the ♣A and ruffed a club. I led a spade to dummy and ruffed another club. I cashed my remaining high spade and knew that I was now facing a potentially key decision.
If one opponent owns Jxxx of diamonds, my best chance now is to cash the ♥K to pitch dummy’s fourth diamond. A diamond to dummy would then allow me to draw the last trump and claim.
On the other hand, if hearts are 6-2 (would the inexperienced North player have high-lowed if owning a doubleton heart?), a lead of ♥K to pitch a diamond will be ruffed for the setting trick. In that case, I should now lead a diamond to dummy, without first playing the ♥K.
The odds favor playing diamonds, I think, but the signaling favors playing hearts.
I played a diamond to dummy, winning the trick with the ♦A but seeing no ♦J. I drew the last trump, pitching a small diamond from hand, and cashed a second high diamond. And North failed to follow …
I don’t really wish I could peek. But it would be nice to have taken advantage of the defense from the first two tricks to score +980.
However … when engaging a post mortem with benefit of the hand records, my partner on the hand, Barry Black of Brookline, MA, made a point I had not considered: if I were going to play for a twelfth trick in diamonds and not hearts, why not draw all trumps right away and then play on diamonds? This line would establish a twelfth trick in diamonds not only when diamonds are 3-2, or 4-1 with the stiff jack, but also when …
Oh! A 4-1 diamond break with a stiff nine, allowing me to have played two rounds of diamonds and then enter hand with a club ruff to take a proven diamond finesse against the ♦J. THAT was not a blip on my radar screen!
By the way, would I have had choices how to play the hand, had South — even after having led the ♥A at Trick 1 –, continued with the ♥Q to blot the jack and establish her ♥ T at Trick 2?
July 29th, 2015 ~ Jeff Lehman ~ 1 Comment
Here was Board 14 of Tuesday’s club game.
East was declarer in 3NT after an auction of 1♦-1♠; 1NT-3NT. South led a small heart, small from dummy, queen from North, king from declarer.
Declarer ran five clubs. North pitched his three remaining hearts, East pitched a small diamond and South pitched his two remaining hearts and a diamond.
At this point declarer could settle for ten tricks by establishing a diamond trick (with a heart entry to such trick should a high diamond honor lose to the ♦A) and refusing the spade finesse (1+3+1+5). However, at matchpoints it is difficult to avoid the temptation for an extra trick by taking the spade finesse. Alas, there is a potential danger in the parlay of establishing a diamond trick AND taking the spade finesse. What if the ♦A is held by South, South chooses to withhold the ace, the spade finesse loses to North, and North then returns a diamond through the remaining high diamond honor of East? In that case, the defense might win THREE diamond tricks and a spade trick, holding declarer to only nine tricks.
At the table, declarer chose to lead not a diamond at the shown position, but rather to lead a heart to his jack and take the spade finesse, losing to North’s king.
North might possess enough clues to choose to now return the ♠J. East opened 1♦ and yet has four clubs, leaving East with no more than five major suit cards. South’s failure to have discarded a spade suggests that South holds exactly four spades and is maintaining parity with dummy’s spade length. If South were dealt four spades, then a return of the ♠J both unblocks the spade suit and could possibly pin a doubleton ♠T in declarer’s hand.
At the table, however, North chose to return a diamond to declarer’s high honor and South’s ace. South returned his smallest remaining spade to dummy’s ♠A, giving North a second opportunity to jettison the ♠J. North instead played the ♠9. Declarer now cashed the ♥A, and, being locked in dummy, presenting North with a third opportunity to discard the ♠J. That opportunity was declined, and a third spade from dummy placed North on lead with the ♠J. With only diamonds left in North’s hand, the forced diamond return provided declarer a steppingstone to the stranded diamond winner. Ten tricks.
Had North jettisoned the ♠J on the second round of spades, a third spade from dummy would have allowed South to execute a Crocodile Coup by opening the jaws of his ♠T to swallow his partner’s ♠9 and then closing the jaws to cash the ♠8, winning three spades as well as the ♦A. Sadly, however, the crocodile remained unfed.