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Updated: 2018-01-31T05:09:22.084+00:00

 



System Notes

2009-12-13T13:34:10.706+00:00

Geocities closed down a couple of months ago and I've been too lazy to find a new place to put my system notes. For the time being, if you want a copy of any of the notes referred to in this blog, please email me at {firstpart}@yahoo.co.uk, where {firstpart} = dcrc2y.



What's so bad about transfer openings?

2009-11-02T00:11:32.718+00:00

The EBU has invited comments about system regulation on the L&E blog. Apparently the system that has prompted discussion this time is a transfer-based set-up along these lines:1C = hearts1D = spades1H = balanced 9-151S = strong1NT/2C/2D = natural [I assume]And this isn't the first time that 1-level transfer openings have been under the spotlight - there have been complaints about moscito before.Now, I've written about system regulation before so I'm not going to go all through that again. But there's something interesting going on here: these transfer openings aren't all that hard to defend against (not compared to multi, say, or assumed-fit pre-empts, which are Level 3 and Level 2 respectively), so why is it that people react so strongly? Having played both Polish Club (a lot) and moscito (a little) I've seen for myself that people find the latter considerably more intimidating.I suspect a big part of the reason is that in these systems all of the 1-level bids are affected. If you're playing 1D as a transfer to hearts, the chances are you're going to want new meanings for 1H and 1S as well. Perhaps none of the bids are particularly taxing for the opponents when you look at them individually, but having four unusual 1-level openings is four times as much for the opponents to think about. Certainly the intimidation factor seems to be closely correlated with the amount of unfamiliar stuff in the system, irrespective of how "difficult" it really is.Here "amount of unfamiliarity" could mean either the number of things that opponents need to think about before starting to play, or the frequency that they actually come up. I would say the former is a better reason for restricting conventions, but the latter is important too - a call that comes up once in a session can be an interesting challenge, but if these things are appearing every other hand (or more if you're unlucky) it starts to become a little draining.Another point is that, although there are many unfamiliar systems around, these transfer systems are unfamiliar in a particularly obvious, in-your-face kind of way. The unfamiliarity of systems like Polish Club is dimmed by all the nebulous minor-suit openings you come across. Transfer openings really look like something completely different.None of these are necessarily very "rational" reasons for disliking a system, but of course that's not the point. If opponents feel a system detracts from their enjoyment of the game, it's not because they've done a detailed technical analysis. If a system appears to be difficult, then that's a problem.Besides, not everyone is a bidding theorist. When I look at a 1D opening showing hearts, I can see straight away that I can defend against it exactly like a 1H opening, so long as I've managed to agree what my double and cue-bid mean (and it doesn't really matter which agreement you pick). It's really quite remarkable that that's all there is to it. But you do have to be thinking about it in the right way. If you're not used to looking for analogies like this it won't necessarily be so easy to grasp. I've seen enough people making the "wrong" cue-bid in this situation to know that not everyone is comfortable with this stuff.I'm not going to lose sleep over whether transfer openings should continue to be permitted. But the fact is that many opponents do have a problem with them, and my experiences of this are enough to make me feel it was probably a mistake to allow these bids in general tournament play. It would be great if everyone could learn to love these things; but if a large majority of players do not want them to be allowed, as suggested on the EBU blog, then that cannot be easily dismissed.[...]



TaBR4: Three Answers to Every Question

2009-08-02T16:53:51.533+00:00

This post is about the regulations concerning disclosure of agreements - both alerting and answering questions.Given the limitless variety of treatments and conventions that can be played, the rules about disclosure can never be totally precise. As a result, two very common questions are "Should this call be alerted?" and "How should this call be described?" When answering these questions, it is important to realise that the "best" answer may depend on who is asking. Our three different points of view are:The player who is trying to describe his partner's call.The opponents who are receiving this description.The TD, who may have to decide whether the description is adequate.Let's concentrate on the question of whether a call should be alerted. Nearly always (at least if we're talking about bids) this question arises when someone has made a bid which is essentially natural but has some additional information attached to it. We have to decide whether that information is enough to require an alert. Say someone asks you for advice on this. The sort of answer you give may well depend on who is asking. If a TD needs an answer, you have to look for exactly where the dividing line is between alertable and non-alertable. If you are lucky the situation may be covered explicitly in the regulations, but otherwise you have to try and work out what the requirements are by comparing to similar situations and coming up with the most sensible interpretation. Whereas to answer the question from a player's point of view, you can point to specific rules if there are any, but otherwise it is best to err on the side of caution.So, what does that mean? Suppose it is unclear whether a particular bid is technically alertable. Then if you are the player who is doing the alerting, the best plan is always to alert it. That ensures that you always help the opponents when they need it. You could ask a TD for his opinion on whether an alert is required, but there isn't necessarily any guarantee that a different TD would agree. Unless you are able to find a definitive answer somewhere, the safest and most helpful policy is to alert every time. This is summarized in a well-known slogan,When in doubt, alert.Similarly, if your opponents have made a bid and you are unsure exactly what you can expect from it, the best way to find out is to ask. The ACBL has another slogan for this:Ask, do not assume.But for the TD, there are no such nice general principles. A TD cannot hedge his bets: he must rule one way or the other. That comes down to working out exactly what the regulations mean. The TD's question is undoubtedly the hardest of the three.What's the point of all this? There are three things I want to say here. First of all, when someone does ask one of these questions, it's obviously important to know which point of view they are thinking of. From the various discussions I've participated in, it seems to me that it's all too easy to talk at cross purposes. You can be trying to decide how a TD should rule, and then someone comes along and says, "If you're not sure, just alert it. What's the problem?" Or, just as bad, a player who wants practical advice can end up being given a detailed technical analysis. This sort of thing can become very irritating. You really have to make sure you know which of the three answers is required.Secondly, the phrase "when in doubt, alert" is certainly a useful piece of advice for players. But it is not, and never can be, the basis for a regulation. It is not something that can be applied by the TD. A TD has no alternative to looking closely at the definitions to see what the requirements really are. And I know that "when in doubt, alert" is written into the ACBL regulations, but it would mean nothing if it was not backed up by a proper definition and examples of what actually makes a call alertable.Finally, I believe there are implications for what makes a good regulation. Players do not necessarily need to know all the details of the regulations in order to disclose the[...]



TaBR3: Who Makes the Rules? (part 2)

2009-07-26T18:05:57.960+00:00

In the previous post I argued that a TD should follow the regulations of his club (or tournament, or NBO), even if they contradict the Laws of bridge. That raises the question (as put by Nigel K in a comment to that post) - if a regulation is illegal, what can be done about it?One possibility is to go through the usual process for changing a regulation. That means persuading the committee responsible for the regulation that they should change it. Very rarely, a committee might be overriden by a general meeting, or something like that.But that doesn't sound very satisfactory. Surely if a regulation is illegal, it ought to be possible to require it to be put right.Well, personally I don't think it's possible. Or, if it is possible, I think the cure would be worse than the disease. Let's consider the alternatives.As mentioned in the previous post, there is a sort of chain of authority for making regulations, with the WBF at the top and TDs at the bottom. So, let's suppose that we have a club which has made an illegal regulation. Now, the WBF is the ultimate authority for deciding what is or is not legal, but there is no direct link between the WBF and an individual club, so the WBF can't do anything about it. So authority is passed down to the next link in the chain - the national organization. There is a link between a club and its NBO - clubs are members of the NBO - so, in principle at least, a NBO can require a club to bring its regulations into line with the Laws. In a similar way, everyone answers to the organization immediately above them in the chain: TDs work for their clubs (as per my previous post) and NBOs answer to the WBF.Well, that's the principle. Is it going to work? In order to force a club's regulation to be changed (for example), three things will have to happen:The NBO has to hear about it.The NBO has to have the time to tell the club that they should change what they are doing.The NBO has to be prepared to follow it through and take action if the club fails to put things right.The first of these things doesn't happen very often: it requires someone to care enough about the situation to make a complaint. The second step is even less likely: NBOs are very busy, and most of them don't even get round to fixing their own rules, let alone worrying about what their clubs might be doing. Even in a reasonably pro-active NBO like our EBU, I'm sure they would prefer not to have to interfere.Then we get to the last step. What can an NBO actually do to force a club to comply? Most likely, adhering to the Laws is a condition of membership. So they can threaten to withdraw affiliation (or "masterpoints", from the members' point of view). But now that's getting pretty serious. And the NBO doesn't want to lose a club. If too much pressure is put on them then they will just walk away. The NBO really doesn't want to take action over what is a relatively trivial matter. So it is very, very unlikely that this will happen.One level further up, it's even less likely. If a NBO has an illegal regulation, then the WBF can in theory tell them to change; but in practice the WBF can't afford to lose an NBO - indeed there's no way they can take any meaningful action against them at all, over something as minor as this. You can't punish the players for actions taken by a committee.And so the authority passes down to the next link in the chain.You know what that means - it means that the people who get to decide whether the regulations are illegal are the same people who wrote the regulations.Now, you know how easy it is to twist the wording of the Laws to make them say pretty much anything you want. Any regulating authority worth its salt will be able to come up with some justification for the rules it wants to make. And you may think that this supposed justification is poor to non-existent; but it makes no difference, because the regulating authority itself is the judge. Particularly for an NBO - if they say their regulations are legal, then they are [...]



TaBR2: Who Makes the Rules?

2009-07-26T18:05:02.158+00:00

When a ruling is needed, there are at least four different places the relevant rules might come from:The WBF produces the Laws of bridge;National bridge organizations have further sets of regulations;Individual clubs (or tournament organizers) may have their own regulations;Finally, the TD may have to decide some things for himself.These form a nice hierarchy: decisions made by the WBF are binding on the NBOs; NBOs in turn have some control over their clubs and tournaments; and TDs should follow the rules they have been given.This is all well and good when the rules are clear and uncontradictory. But inevitably, that isn't always the case. There are a number of things that can go wrong, and this post is about just one of those things.It has been known for authorities to make regulations which are illegal according to the Laws of bridge. You might see a "club rule" that allows redealing of boards, or bans psyches. (Some psyches can be regulated according to the Laws, but not all.) Higher up the chain, there has been a bit of controversy recently because the ACBL has changed the wording of Law 12C1(e) in its publications, significantly altering the meaning from the WBF's version.So the TD can be faced with a Law that says one thing, and a regulation which says something different and contradictory. What is he to do?In my view, a TD's responsibility is to his club or tournament. If you have agreed to direct at a club, then you must uphold that club's regulations, irrespective of whether they are good, bad or downright illegal. Similarly, if there is conflict between a NBO and the WBF, a TD should always follow the regulations of his NBO.Why should this be so? Partly because it's the only reasonable way to structure these things: a more specific regulation always overrides a general one. (Indeed, if you try to read the Laws of bridge without this principle in mind, you will get nowhere.) I would also point to the lack of a direct link between a TD and his NBO. A NBO can require that its clubs follow certain rules, but it has no say over who they ask to direct. So a TD does not have to answer to anybody apart from his club. That makes it pretty ridiculous to defy the club's regulations.But perhaps the main point is that there are much better ways to address any conflict in the regulations. These things should be sorted out at the appropriate level, and at the appropriate time. If a TD refuses to apply a regulation which he thinks is illegal then he is effectively claiming that he has the right to adjudicate in a dispute between his club and his NBO (or NBO and WBF, or whatever). No, it is not his place to do that. If a bridge organization cares enough about something to make a regulation - particularly one that might be illegal - then they will not have done so lightly. It means they believe that is what is best for their players. Maybe they are wrong, but they have a right to expect that they will not be undermined by their TDs.Now, this all seems pretty obvious to me. But I've seen too many people claiming that certain regulations are illegal and that this means those regulations can be ignored. Too often it is a way to try to get around a regulation that people don't like. I don't think this is a proper way to go about things. If you don't like a regulation, then you should try to get it changed. (Indeed the EBU recently did remove a regulation which I (and many others) thought was illegal. The main reason to remove it was that it was a bad regulation, but the question over its legality was a good weapon to use against it.)Incidentally, what do we feel about authorities who make these illegal regulations (or regulations that are only legal with a very creative interpretation of the Laws)? Personally it doesn't really bother me that much. As I said above, organizations are just trying to do what is best for their players. If they think the Laws are so badly wrong that they have to make an illegal regulation, then th[...]



Thoughts about Bridge Regulations: Introduction

2009-07-18T22:03:19.067+00:00

This is the start of a series of posts about bridge laws and regulations. This series is about what makes a good regulation: what should be prioritized, and what should not be. It's also about the processes involved in writing, interpreting and applying these regulations. That is, I'm going to be talking about general philosophy, not about the specifics of what individual regulations mean.

Now, I always worry when talking about this stuff. Firstly, do people really care? I imagine that to most people, the idea of discussing this sort of philosophy would seem very boring, if not rather pretentious. And secondly, I've never had to take responsibility for producing regulations - so it's easy for me to talk, and a bit unfair on the people who actually have to do it. They get enough stick already.

But people really do care about the end product - they care about which systems are legal, and which calls have to be alerted. We see more than enough arguments about these things. And often those arguments can be boiled down to a question of philosophy. I think at some point we have to put aside the specifics and talk about what's going on underneath. And, sad as it may seem, I find this stuff interesting. So, here is a place to discuss that philosophy.

I should point out that this series is going to be a bit different to my series on bidding theory: that had a nice sense of direction to it, with each post building on the ones before. This new series is just a collection of thoughts, in no particular order. (And you shouldn't expect two posts a week, either!)



What's Up

2009-07-18T20:55:30.187+00:00

I have to apologise again for not blogging recently. Particularly seeing as I was quite optimistic last time that I might get back into it.

Anyway, what's happened is that I've moved back to Cambridge and started work as a software engineer. I've been here for a month now. After all this time, starting a proper job has been a bit of a shock to the system - I was so tired after work for the first two weeks - but I'm very glad to be here. And the weeks have gone by very quickly.

And I've played no bridge at all since I arrived! Apart from one game on BBO where I was barely concentrating. Which is clearly something I will need to rectify ...

There are two posts to come this weekend. I'm not going to be blogging very frequently, but it's nice to be able to write here when there is something to say.



Don't Hesitate!

2009-04-13T19:40:34.143+00:00

This post is about the laws on Unauthorised Information, and in particular the definition of a logical alternative (Law 16B1(b)).Here in England, we used to have a "70% rule" for logical alternatives - that is, if a particular action would be chosen by more than 70% of a player's peers, then we would say that there were no logical alternatives to that action.The "70% rule" no longer applies: it has been superseded by the definition provided by the new (2007) Laws. That is,A logical alternative action is one that, among the class of players in question and using the methods of the partnership, would be given serious consideration by a significant proportion of such players, of whom it is judged some might select it.Since this is now part of the Laws the EBU is obliged to go along with it, though there is still room for interpretation - particularly in terms of quantifying what is meant by "a significant proportion" and "some". The EBU suggests "a significant proportion" is something in excess of 20%. I'd have to say that to me the term "significant proportion" sounds more like 30-40%. But that's not the main point here. Whatever the details are, it is clear that this definition is going to result in there being many more LAs than there were under the 70% rule (since "some" is a lot less than 30%). To put it another way, the Laws are now much more restrictive in terms of which actions you can take when in possession of UI.What are we to make of this? If we look at it from a TD's point of view, we just have a different test to apply. That's not so hard. But how about from a player's point of view?It seems to me that we will have to start looking at UI situations in a different way. And particularly if we are talking about UI from hesitations.It is often said that inadvertently transmitting UI is not an infraction: the infraction is if you make use of information from partner. It is advisable not to hesitate as this may put partner in a difficult position, but if you find that you have to think then you should not worry too much, because if partner has a clear-cut action then he will still be able to make it.Now, in theory this position has not changed under the new Laws: it is not an infraction to transmit UI. However, I believe that this is no longer the right way to think about it. In my opinion, the effect of the new definition of a LA is that there is now a penalty for hesitating. Not the automatic penalty advocated by Bobby Wolff, but a randomly-applied penalty that depends on the other hands at the table.The thing is, the definition of a LA is now so weak that there are all sorts of rubbish actions that have become LAs. It's no longer good enough for you to have a clear-cut action, it has to be very very clear-cut: it has to be obvious to all those idiots that the TD believes are your peers (though of course you are really a much better player than they are). Think about all the silly bids made each day: it doesn't take much for there to be "some" people selecting an action.So, if you hesitate in a tempo-sensitive situation, there is a fair chance that the TD will have to impose some daft action on your partner. It's no good blaming the TD for this, since he has to follow the Laws. And you certainly can't blame partner. No, it's your fault for hesitating.Like I said, I view this as a change. With the 70% rule it was best to avoid hesitating, but even if the TD did have to adjust the score you could be assured the result would be fair: you would not be given a silly result. This is no longer true. There is a penalty for hesitating, and depending on the hand that penalty may well seem very arbitrary to you - it is quite possible that you would genuinely never have had that result with or without UI. So, you must not put yourself in the position where that penalty can be applied.If you hesitate and it happens to make no difference, [...]



Update

2009-04-13T13:01:14.556+00:00

OK, so I haven't done any blogging for ages. In fact, I haven't been playing much bridge at all recently. Back in the summer I was finishing off writing up my PhD. After that I moved back to Hampshire - unfortunately away from most of my bridge partners. I expect I'll be moving again once I've found employment ... but who knows how long that will take. (In fact I had my first interview last week; actually I'm waiting to hear back from them in the next few days, but let's just say I made a few mistakes that I can learn from there.)

Meanwhile, I've been playing a bit of bridge with my Dad and his group of friends - in fact we won a little swiss teams event last month - but it's not quite the same as when I was in the U25 squad.

You might think, if I'm unemployed and not playing much bridge, I'd have plenty of time for blogging. Why hasn't it turned out like that? Well, I think many people have found with this sort of thing, it's difficult to keep up the initial enthusiasm. And particularly for me, since this is a bridge theory blog and not a bridge hands blog (because this is what I find most interesting), I don't get a limitless supply of material just from playing the game. I started this blog to get certain things off my chest - particularly my thoughts on bidding theory. And now I've said what I wanted to say there.

But every so often I find things that make me want to write a blog post, so I'm not going to stop completely. Unfortunately a lot of these things are about bridge politics, which can be interesting but is not particularly uplifting. And I'm worried that if I talk about bridge politics too much you'll get the impression that I think bridge administration is in a mess, which is not the case at all. Never mind. There will doubtless be a lot of bridge politics on this blog, but I hope I can find other things to talk about as well. I have a few things lined up, let's see how it goes ...



L&E Minutes for June 2008

2008-06-20T15:41:27.403+00:00

Apologies for the excessive amount of EBU stuff on my blog, but we live in interesting times ...6.2.1. New permitted agrements at Level 4.So we have some new "toys" at Level 4. They are all pretty harmless, being things that it makes sense to allow given what is already permitted. For example, in the rule for "Either-Or Club" both the strong option and the weak option now correspond properly to what is allowed at lower levels.6.2.2. 2C Fert.This is the evil convention from Brighton where 2C shows 0-5 points with either 4+ spades or 4+ hearts or 4+ diamonds. The L&E decided that they didn't like the way this could be opened on a two-suiter with longer clubs. So they've banned this.I'm not sure this makes a whole lot of difference. This change doesn't really affect the defenders' options. And there are other hands with longish clubs that could still be included by modifying the definition slightly - for example it seems a pair could still play 2C as "any hand except for a two-suiter with clubs as the longest suit".The problem is these ferts should never have been allowed in the first place - not when Level 4 is to be used for nearly all EBU events. The pre-2006 rules defined the permitted methods in terms of one-suiters, two-suiters and three-suiters. This might have looked a little clumsy but it did at least mean you ended up with bids that actually had a definition. With the 2006 rules, if you want to get around the requirement not to include the suit bid in the "specification", you can do this simply by not specifying anything much at all! These things should not be allowed: the EBU should be requiring a minimum amount of "specification" like the pre-2006 rules did. This would still be considerably more permissive than, say, the WBF "Brown Sticker" regulations.6.2.3. Alerting of doubles.Good news here: the L&E discussed three decent options, and decided to go with this one:Alert strange doubles only at any level. Any double that is takeout, penalties or somewhere between the two is not alerted.In my opinion this is not only the best of the three options discussed, but indeed an excellent solution to the problem. Finally, after about three years of discussing this, the L&E has found something which will actually work. I'd really prefer there to be an exception for doubles of natural opening bids (a double of a suit opening is expected to be for take-out) but that is a relatively minor niggle.The bad news is that this now has to be approved by a new committee of the EBU, the "Club Committee". Now don't get me wrong - I think it is perfectly right that clubs should have an input into this process. But now is not the right time. The views of clubs should have been sought during the initial period of consultation - in fact they were, I believe, though if the EBU's committee had already been set up at that point then perhaps the consulation could have been done more effectively through them. But when it comes to a final decision, that ought to be solely the job of the L&E. The L&E is perfectly capable of taking into account the needs of its club players when making its decisions; in fact, while I can't speak for the committee, I am quite sure that this has always been their number one consideration.Instead, having already put up with the awful 2006 rules for two years, the implementation of the new rules is being delayed by at least another few months, despite the fact that we already know what they should be. And this is all assuming that the Club Committee actually approves of the idea. The real reason why you shouldn't have two committees looking at the final proposal is what happens if they come to different conclusions? Then the L&E would be faced with either not being able to implement what they know is right, or pushing it through and having it look like[...]



Busy Week

2008-06-08T15:36:26.131+00:00

It certainly has been a busy week. First of all for me personally: in a few days' time I'm going back home for my dad's birthday, and before I leave I really need to have finished a draft of the main section of my thesis. So, as you can imagine, I've been working pretty hard. On a similar note, congratulations to my friend David Hodge who submitted his own thesis down in Cambridge on Monday.

In the bridge world, there was the vote on the EBU's strategy proposals at Wednesday's EGM. The proposals were voted through, with 52 in favour and 31 against, meaning that Pay-to-Play is to begin in 2010. As you know, I think this is misguided. But I'd like to echo what Jeff Smith said at our county's AGM which took place the following day: now that the proposals are a reality, it's important that everyone helps to make it as successful as possible. If the proposals are implemented well, then it may be unpopular but the EBU will survive. But if mistakes are made there is the potential for disaster. I would have to say that in the past the EBU has been very bad at communicating its ideas, even the good ones. This can't be allowed to happen for something as important as these changes. The number of clubs that have said they would disaffiliate is really quite shocking, particularly here in Manchester and in my home county of Hampshire. I hope that many of these clubs can be persuaded that they should remain a part of our NBO. I'm sure that some of the objections are things that could be overcome by better understanding.

Thursday was the first time I'd been to my county's AGM. It took three-and-a-half hours, but actually I was quite impressed by the relatively small amount of pointless argument. My contribution was to suggest that, in order to try to reduce the number of teams who withdraw from the first round of the cup without playing their scheduled match, teams should not be allowed to enter the plate unless they actually played their first-round cup match. (Teams do have the option of entering straight into the plate, if they do not want to play in the cup.) Apart from this I managed to keep quiet, and avoided being given any jobs to do (having the excuse that I may be leaving the county at the end of the summer).

Also on Thursday was a meeting of the L&E. It appears that they have made a decision concerning the alerting of doubles, but details have not been made public yet. Mr Stevenson said that before being adopted it would have to be looked at by the new "Club Committee" of the EBU. That's slightly scary since I get the feeling a widely held "club" view is that everything the L&E tries to do is wrong; but perhaps we can hope that an official committee would be more constructive. Anyway, it looks like some progress has been made.



Why I Oppose the EBU's Strategy Proposals

2008-05-17T16:45:29.651+00:00

The EBU exists to promote and organise the game of bridge in England. It is the "promotion" part that we are interested in here. Bridge is a great game: the more people that play it the better. If the EBU can do something to increase the number of people playing then they can rightly say that they are a successful organisation. In fact it seems that the number of people playing bridge is declining; the EBU is understandably worried about this and is trying to do something about it.But let's be clear about this - what we care about is the total number of people playing the game, whether or not they are members of the EBU. The success of the EBU is not defined by the number of people they have on their membership list, but by the total amount of bridge being played in the country. That's what it really means to promote the game.The core idea of the EBU's strategy proposals is for "universal membership" - that is, all members of EBU-affiliated clubs would automatically be members of the EBU. Even if a large proportion of clubs decide to disaffiliate, this proposal will still surely increase the number of EBU members. But will it actually do anything to stop the decline in the number of people playing the game?The most controversial aspect of the proposals is that they would change the way the EBU is funded. Rather than having an annual subscription, the proposal is to charge players a certain amount for each session of bridge that they play, taken out of the table money. The intention is for the scheme to raise the same amount of money as the current scheme does; however, if you consider individual players, there will inevitably be some players for whom bridge becomes more expensive to play, and some for whom bridge becomes less expensive.The way things are at the moment, with the annual subscription, means that the EBU membership contains a disproportionately large number of tournament players and other keen players, compared to the bridge-playing population as a whole. So, in effect, the tournament players are subsidising the rest of the bridge-playing population. Under the proposed Pay-to-Play scheme everyone would be contributing. The net effect is to make bridge more expensive for the casual player; their money goes to make bridge less expensive for the serious players. Isn't this a bad thing if we want to promote the game? The keen players are going to continue playing whatever happens. We want to get more people playing the game, but the newcomers are the people who are worst off under the proposed scheme, since at the moment they would tend not to join the EBU until they are more experienced.My opinion is that the keen players should subsidise the promotion of the game, like they do at the moment. Because I enjoy playing the game, I am keen to see other people learning to play, and I am very happy for my money to be used to get them started. Under the EBU proposals you would instead be taking disproportionately large amounts money from the very people who you are trying to promote the game to. Admittedly the amounts of money involved are quite small, but one of the attractions of the game is that it ought to be a relatively inexpensive hobby. When the table money is typically £1.50, an increase of 30p or so is noticeable.There is a strange imbalance in the EBU's proposals: having scrapped the annual subscription, they intend to make up for this almost entirely with Pay-to-Play fees from club games. But, as I said, most of the people playing annual subscriptions at the moment do so because they play in county or EBU events. So surely a sizeable proportion of the new Pay-to-Play fees should be coming from tournaments. But for some reason they are not doing this. Instead it is the casual player who pays more. I don't under[...]



Everyone Needs a Forcing Raise

2008-05-17T17:35:07.986+00:00

This is not really a bidding theory post, it's more of a practical thing.In my regular partnerships I play very complex systems. But I also play with lots of different people from the club, and then we play simple versions of Acol. Now, I'm not a big fan of Acol, but if it's just for the odd evening I don't really feel I miss anything from my more complex systems ... except for one thing.Traditional Acol has no bid which shows a forcing raise of a suit opening. If partner opens a major and you have a game-forcing hand with 4-card support, you are supposed to start by bidding a new suit, and then support partner at game level on the next round (a "delayed game raise"). With a very strong hand you might have to start with a jump-shift. (These days splinters have become very popular - widely understood even at the club - but they don't help you when you don't have shortage.)The problem is that this just doesn't seem to work. Either you or your partner has to guess whether to go past game, and my experience is that it is very difficult to guess well. In order to have a sensible auction, you really need to tell partner that you have a game-force with support before you reach game level. So, you need a forcing raise.For me this really became very evident in the last few weeks. I saw six hands suitable for a forcing major-suit raise - three in a beginners' class, two in the club duplicate and one in a league match. Of these, there were two missed small slams, one grand played in game, one poor slam going off and one hand played at the five-level with three losers. Only one time was the hand bid to the right contract. But in each case where it went wrong you couldn't say anyone had made an obvious mistake. And in each case the hand would have been trivial to bid with a forcing raise (apart perhaps from the grand slam, which might only reach six).So it's clear to me now: if you have a new partnership - even for just one evening, and no matter who your partner is - you have to agree a forcing raise. Forget about defences to 1NT or other such trivial matters. You can do without those. You can't do without a forcing raise.This applies even to beginners. Generally you would like to teach a beginner basic natural methods, leaving any unusual conventions to people who have reached a more advanced level. But for raises it's totally the opposite way round. A beginner is hopelessly lost without a bid which shows this hand, whereas it takes expert judgement to play delayed game raises. This is a rare example of how adding a convention actually makes the game much easier to play. Club players are often criticised for using Blackwood too early in the auction; but in many cases this is because they have no reasonable alternative. If they haven't been taught a forcing raise, what else would you expect?The good news is that the EBU's teaching methods now appear to be recommending 3NT over a major-suit opening as a "pudding raise" (showing a raise to game without a shortage to splinter in). But this hasn't yet permeated through to the ordinary bridge player in the way that splinters have. A pudding raise is excellent for beginners or for a one-off partnership, though it doesn't solve all problems and so a lower forcing raise would be preferable (but requires more complicated responses). When I played with David H at Cambridge we thought we couldn't afford to give up our natural inviatational 2NT response (I might have a different opinion now!) and so we used 3C as a raise instead. We started winning IMPs every time it came up. I've never seen a convention which made such an immediate improvement to a system as this one did.This was all assuming a major-suit opening. And indeed it is more important to have an artificial rais[...]



Stayman v. Keri

2008-05-17T17:35:07.986+00:00

Keri is Ron Klinger's system of responses to a 1NT opening, as described in his book "Bid Better, Much Better After Opening 1NT". I played this in my partnership with Mark. But since then I've gone back to ordinary Stayman, and in this post I'll try to explain why.In Keri a 2C response forces opener to bid 2D. There are then three basic sequences which take care of the hands which would have bid Stayman in standard methods:1NT : 2C , 2D : 2M shows an invitational hand with 4 or 5 cards in the major.1NT : 2D , 2H : 2S shows an invitational hand with both majors. (The 2D response in Keri is a transfer to hearts, but differs from a standard transfer in that in can have only 4 hearts if it is invitational with both majors.)1NT : 2C , 2D : 2NT shows a game-forcing hand.The first of these sequences is the one we need to focus on, since it is the only really fundamental part of the system. (There are variants of Keri which deal with game-forcing hands differently to the "book" version above.)The idea is that after 1NT : 2C , 2D : 2M opener will pass with a minimum hand with 3 or 4 cards in the major. Thus a big advantage of Keri is being able to stop in 2M - particularly when this is a 4-4 fit (where a Stayman auction would have reached 3M after 1NT : 2C , 2M : 3M) or a 5-3 fit. There are plenty of examples of this in the book. The disadvantages, on the other hand, are not so clearly spelt out!The main problem with the 1NT : 2C , 2D : 2M sequence is the ambiguity in responder's major-suit length. It could be either 4 or 5 cards - and having to cater for both is a little uncomfortable. In particular, it makes a difference to the the type of hand on which opener wants to accept the invitation. When responder has only 4 cards in the major he is mainly interested in whether opener is minimum or maximum in high cards. But when responder has a 5-card suit, fit tends to be more important. In an attempt to cater for both types, Keri uses a 3C bid by opener to show a minimum with good fit - but of course when you do this you are losing the chance to play in 2M, which was supposed to be the advantage of playing Keri. And in any case this still doesn't solve the problem that there can be a big difference between 2- and 3-card support when responder has 5-cards, but there isn't when responder has only 4.Another issue is that you frequently play in a 4-3 fit. Opener passes the 2M bid whenever he is minimum with 3-card support. As Klinger's book points out, this often works quite well. But it does rather depend on the hand. Playing a 4-3 fit looks great when responder has a good suit and opener has a weak side-suit doubleton. It looks rather less clever when responder's suit is bad and/or opener is flat. The difference is highlighted at matchpoints where you are going very much against the field (and if 2M makes the same number of tricks as no-trumps you will score badly). Unfortunately the system forces you to play 2M every time. So you end up with some good results and some bad results. Klinger's book seems to be trying to persuade us that it is a winner on average; this wasn't my impression from playing it.There is no doubt that when responder has a five-card suit and the invitation is rejected, you are pleased to be able to play in 2M. But here Stayman can be even better than Keri, at least when the suit is spades. Playing Stayman we can use 1NT : 2C , 2red : 2S to show an invitational hand with 5 spades. When this comes up we get all the benefits of Keri but without the ambiguity about spade length. As mentioned above, this helps opener in knowing when to accept the invitation. But, even better, it means that opener can pass with a doubleton. A 5-2 fit does tend to play better than no-[...]



L&E Minutes for Feb 2008

2008-05-17T16:59:53.086+00:00

So, this post is the second instalment of my not-so-regular feature discussing what's going on with our L&E. The latest meeting is particularly interesting for me because the main thing they discussed was the issue I've ranted about more than anything else on this blog. (You know what I mean.) The minutes are on the EBU's website here.There were some other things of interest. In particular, there is the very important job of explaining to the EBU membership what the changes are in the new Lawbook. The job has been given to DWS and Mike Amos. This is promising. I wish them luck!It also looks like there may be some new stuff allowed at Level 4.But let's cut to the chase.It's fantastic that they are now discussing the problems with alerting of doubles. There seems to be a genuine enthusiasm to do something about it. Even though they failed to make significant progress at the meeting, it seems that the issue is still very much on the agenda.The concern now is that, while they have spent plenty of time discussing what to do, they haven't yet come up with a viable, specific proposal. And there really isn't much time left if they are trying to do this by August 1st (given that it would have to be properly advertised).But what was really disappointing - and the reason I actually felt the need to post about this - was what happened to the idea of alerting only "highly unusual" doubles. This idea is probably not optimal, but it would be workable if done properly, and it's surely miles better than what we have at the moment. And yet it was sabotaged.David Burn had produded a paper on this idea. And the paper was pretty good. I agreed with more or less all of the points he made, and in a couple of places I felt he really hit the proverbial nail on the head. The problem was, the paper was manifestly not about alerting only highly unusual doubles. And I don't mean just in the wording - he changed from defining "unusual" to defining "expected", which ought to end up with much the same thing - I mean that the effect of his suggestions didn't have anything to do with alerting only unusual doubles.He gives as an example:1D : (Pass) : 1H : (1S) , Double.which he defines as "expected" to be penalties - thus a take-out double would be alertable. The problem is, a take-out double is not unexpected. If a pair plays this double as take-out they will not believe they are doing anything "highly unusual" - because they aren't. The whole point of the idea of alerting only highly unusual doubles is that it will only affect the (minority of) players who play weird methods. Once you start defining perfectly normal methods to be alertable this is no longer the case. Mr Burn writes, "The idea is that players will alert the doubles their opponents need to know about without actually having to read the list at all, let alone memorise it." I couldn't agree more with that philosophy. But you can't achieve this if you arbitrarily define some perfectly normal agreements as being alertable.It seems that Mr Burn fell into the trap of wanting just one agreement to be "expected" in any given situation. But in examples like the one above, a double might be take-out or penalty or value-showing: none of these things would be unexpected. So if you were actually going to base your rules on the idea of only alerting very unusual doubles, none of those things would be alertable. Indeed I would say that trying to have just one expected agreement is the mistake which causes all the problems in the current rules. This is precisely what we need to get rid of!My point is that alerting only highly unusual doubles is a workable approach, but it isn't what the L&E was presented with. So they ma[...]



Systemic Opening Pass (part 2)

2008-05-17T17:35:07.986+00:00

Following on from the previous post, let's assume we are playing a system which uses a natural 2C opener, and have agreed to pass hands of minimum opening strength with 1=4=3=5 or 4=1=3=5 shape.The reason we might pass 1=4=3=5 hands was explained in the previous post. Hands with 4=1=3=5 shape are very similar: in particular, the singleton heart gives us a way to get back into the auction later if opponents bid hearts. The 4=1=3=5 shape is not quite so good for passing as 1=4=3=5, but the problems with finding an opening bid are the same. (In a standard "natural" system, on the other hand, it would be ridiculous to pass 4=1=3=5 hands with opening strength: there is no problem with either the opening bid or the rebid.)Now, if a pass can be made on up to 13 HCP, we need to make some changes to the methods we use as a passed hand. In particular, there is a problem if partner opens 1-of-a-suit in third or fourth seat. Here we have the values for game unless partner has made a tactical light opening, but using traditional methods it is difficult to see how we can bid the hand. A natural 2C would normally be played as non-forcing by a passed hand, and in some circumstances a 2C response might even be played as artificial (Drury).Since the "strong" hand types have such specific shapes, I think the solution is to use a specific response to show these hands. For example, over a 1S opening we could use a jump to 2NT to show the 1=4=3=5 type with 11-13 HCP. Normally most jumps by a passed hand are used to show hands with support for partner, but these do not come up particularly often, and with both opponents passing there is no particular need to have lots of bids which show support. So it makes a lot of sense to use some of the jumps for a new purpose.If it is the opponents who open the bidding, there is not so much need for specifically-designed methods. If they bid one of our long suits there is no need to come into the bidding at all. If they bid our short suit, on the other hand, it is quite safe to come into the bidding even at relatively high levels, since a take-out double describes the hand very well. A take-out double does not necessarily show the "opening pass" type of hand - it could just be a normal maximum pass with ideal shape - but partner will be aware of the possibility.The systemic pass on minimum 1=4=3=5 and 4=1=3=5 shapes makes a big difference to the 2C opening bid. The traditional Precision 2C opening shows either 6 clubs or 5 clubs and a 4-card major. Playing a systemic opening pass we can guarantee that if the hand does have only 5 clubs, it will be at the maximum end of the range. This is because, for weaker hands:With 1=4=3=5 or 4=1=3=5 we can pass;With 2=4=2=5 or 4=2=2=5 we can pretend the hand is balanced;With a hand short in diamonds we have an alternative opening bid available: a three-suited opening bid in traditional Precision, or a 1C opening in Polish Club.When responding to a 2C opening this information is very helpful: it means we can investigate game with an invitational hand knowing that if opener does not have the values for game, he will always have a six-card club suit for us to fall back on. Whereas in standard Precision we might play an uncomfortable 2NT contract after 2C : 2D , 2M : 2NT, if minimum 5-4 hands are passed this sequence should probably be played as forcing, which in turn makes life easier for responder when he holds a strong hand.Playing this agreement means that a 2C opening bid will only very rarely have precisely 5 clubs. Ideally we would like 2C to absolutely guarantee a 6-card suit. Some versions of Precision do this by putting the other hands into 1D, but a systemic [...]



Systemic Opening Pass

2008-05-17T17:35:07.987+00:00

Suppose we hold this hand as dealer, playing Polish Club:

S 8
H KQ73
D AQ7
C JT653

What do we do? The normal opening bid with this shape is 2C, but the club suit doesn't really look good enough for that. Alternatively we could consider opening 1C, but then partner will expect a balanced hand, not a small singleton in spades.

I believe that by far the best option is to pass this hand.

Now, certainly, this hand is better in terms of playing strength than a typical balanced 12-count which is an automatic opening bid. But when deciding whether to open the bidding it isn't all about strength. In particular it is perfectly appropriate to consider how well our system deals with the hand. Hands with this 1=4=3=5 shape are particularly bad for systems with a natural 2C opening, so there is no need to open them on minimum values. With only 12 HCPs, passing is not an unbearable risk.

As well as being a bad hand type for opening the bidding, there are also some reasons to think that passing will work quite well. This is essentially because of the singleton spade. The singleton improves the prospects for a pass in two ways:
  1. We are not so worried about the hand being passed out - firstly because the other players at the table are more likely to open if they have length is spades, and secondly because there is a good chance that if the deal is passed out, it actually "belonged" to the opponents in a spade contract.
  2. If the opponents do bid spades, this hand has a good way back into the auction via a take-out double.

So if you were ever going to consider passing a hand with opening strength, a 1=4=3=5 shape is the best candidate. Indeed the same is probably true in a natural system, though there the problem is not so much in finding an opening bid, as finding a rebid after 1C : 1S.

Having observed that it can work out well to pass, we could just use this as an occasional alternative on borderline hands. But it becomes much more interesting if it is an agreed part of the system. The systemic opening pass works like this:

  • We identify some specific shapes where passing seems to work well with minimum opening strength. (Let's say just 1=4=3=5 and 4=1=3=5.)
  • We agree that pass is allowed with these shapes on a little more strength than normal - say up to 13 HCP.
  • Now when a passed hand shows this sort of shape, partner will be aware that it can be relatively strong.
  • We can also define some specific bids which show these hand types as a passed hand.

Although partner will be aware of the possibility of a stronger hand, it would be a mistake to let this affect things like our style of opening the bidding in third seat. The relevant hand types are very rare. The whole point is that we would expect passing to work well even without partner doing anything differently - at least until the passed hand gets a chance to clarify what he has. So on the first round at least, partner should just bid as normal.

Once the partnership's methods are designed to cater for these hands being passed, the pass becomes even more attractive. So we could pass hands with these shapes even when the club suit is not so bad, perhaps even with a hand like this:

S AJ96
H 5
D 753
C AQJ63

Note that these hands are still relatively bad for opening a natural 2C, because of the difficulty in investigating whether we belong in spades.

In the next post I'll go through some more implications of this agreement.




Interference over Natural Suit Openings

2008-05-17T17:35:07.987+00:00

There is an old debate about whether a new suit by responder (e.g. 1S : (2C) : 2H) should be forcing or not. Either method is very useful when the appropriate hand type comes up - and causes difficult problems when you pick up a hand of the opposite type. If forced to choose one or the other throughout, I would prefer to play a new suit as forcing (which is standard in most parts of the world). Though non-forcing free bids do look very attractive when the suit is a major that can be shown at the 2-level.

But there is no need to choose. By using artificial tricks such as transfers we can usually show both hand types at an appropriate level. Unfortunately, different situations require different gadgets. Below are the methods I'm currently using for 2-level interference over 1D/1H/1S openings, which demonstrate all the various ideas that might be used.

1. Over a 2C overcall.

Here we use switch: that is, of the two unbid suits, a bid in one of them shows length in the other one. So:

Over 1D : (2C), 2H shows spades and 2S shows hearts.
Over 1H : (2C), 2D shows spades and 2S shows diamonds.
Over 1S : (2C), 2D shows hearts and 2H shows diamonds.

This essentially gives us both a forcing and a non-forcing bid in the higher-ranking suit, while not raising the level on the lower-ranking suit.

Note that the "switch" relies on both unbid suits being at the same level. So if you are fond of this method you could use it over spade overcalls as well, and also over 1S : (2H) and suchlike. But we actually do different things there.

2. Over 1M : (2D)

Here we free up some space by giving 2NT an artificial meaning. This allows for the following structure:

A bid of 2 of the other major is natural and not forcing.
2NT shows clubs.
3C shows the other major (stronger than the NFB).

3. Over 1D : (2M)

Again it makes sense to use 2NT as a transfer to clubs here. Unfortunately this time there is a real shortage of space, since while we would like to use 3C to show the other major, it would also be nice to have a way to show a good diamond raise below 3D. We can't realistically do both.

I currently play 3C as the diamond raise, so over 1D : (2S) we have to play 3H the traditional way, natural and forcing. Over 1D : (2H) we have 2S as a NFB and 3H showing a stronger hand with spades.

4. Over 1M : (2OM)

This is where transfers really come into their own. Again starting from 2NT we can play

2NT shows clubs
3C shows diamonds
3D is a raise. (When we have two artificial raises available below 3M, as with 1S : (2H) : 3D/3H, we use them to distinguish between 3- and 4-card support.)

Exactly the same transfers work if opponents bid 2M Michaels over our 1M opening.



The Monkey Option

2008-05-17T16:59:53.087+00:00

Congratulations to the 94 EBU members who managed to vote for

"2-level suit openings should all be alerted"

in the EBU's online survey.

I would like to think that they were making some ironic statement about the deficiencies in the EBU's polling methods.



Half-Astro

2008-05-17T17:35:07.988+00:00

This is a simple defence to 1NT that I've been playing recently. It's my own invention, though given how simple it is, it would be surprising if no-one had tried it before. It works like this:

2C = both majors
2D = spades and a minor
2H/2S/3C/3D = natural

Double is normally for penalties. (A possible variation by a passed hand, or perhaps against a strong NT opening, is to play double as showing hearts and a minor.) And a 2NT bid would probably show the minors, though there are other possibilities for this as well.

The advantage compared to other Astro variants is that it is easier to play. In particular, overcaller's partner is is a better position when one of the two-suited bids comes up. For example, we can compare it to "Asptro" where 2C shows hearts and another suit and 2D shows spades and another suit, showing the weaker suit with both majors. Asptro is good at finding the right major to play in when overcaller has both majors (unlike "Astro" or "Aspro"). The problem is that for both 2C and 2D there are three different possibilities for the second suit, and it is not always easy to cater for all three. It is particularly difficult over 2D, where overcaller's partner can be faced with problems like these:
  • Holding 3 spades and 3 or 4 hearts, and no interest in game. Here we want to play in 2H if overcaller has hearts. But bidding 2H invites partner to bid 3 of his minor if he has a 5-card minor. This may not be what we want: we would often prefer to play in 2S in that case (for example with 3=3=5=2 shape).
  • Holding a decent hand with 4+ good hearts, where we are interested in game if partner has hearts as his second suit but want to stop in a part-score otherwise. This is impossible to handle because if we bid 2H (or 2S) then partner will pass when he has hearts, which is not what we want.

Playing Half-Astro there are not so many hand-types to worry about: instead of three possible two-suiters in each bid, we have only one (for 2C) or two (for 2D). And after either of these bids, overcaller's partner can use the next step to ask which suit is longer.

Of course, what Half-Astro does not have is a way to show hearts and a minor. With these hands we have to bid naturally (or pass if we do not have a suit good enough to overcall). But this is not such a huge disadvantage, since showing two-suited hands without spades is less important - sometimes when we could find a heart fit opponents might be able to bid spades over it.

I play this defence because it is effective and yet very simple. You could agree it with a new partner and expect not to have any mishaps. It's one of the very few conventions I've come up with which has been taken up by people who aren't my partners!




Polish Club: Responding to 1C

2008-05-17T17:35:07.988+00:00

Since I posted the link to the Polish Club system notes last week a few of us have been practising bidding on BBO. Some parts of the notes have been clarified, and we've made some slight changes to the auctions after 1C : 1D , 1M. I expect there will be a few more details changed while we get used to playing the system. The latest version is on the webpage.This post is about the response structure that we've chosen to use.The responses are built around a 1D negative; 1H and 1S are natural with 6+ HCP. This is not the only possible way of doing things, but it is by far the simplest, and it's not obviously worse than anything else. When playing Polish Club, a 1D negative is very useful so that all the other responses can promise enough strength for game when opener has the strong hand. With more natural systems many people have started to use transfer responses to 1C, but if these were incorporated into Polish Club you would have to worry about how to show a strong hand while leaving open the possibility of playing in a part-score. While it is interesting to investigate how you might get this to work, I don't feel it offers any improvement on the simple negative. Another possibility is to keep the 1D negative but invert 1H and 1S; this seems to be more trouble than it's worth, forcing the bidding to 2S when opener has clubs and spades, which is worse than forcing to 2H when he has clubs and hearts.So, our 1D, 1H and 1S responses are essentially the same as in most Polish Club variants. The other responses are perhaps a little more unusual.In WJ05, the 2C response is forcing (with at least invitational strength), and weaker hands with clubs have to start with 1D. We prefer to bid an immediate 2C on the hands which want to play in 2C when partner has a weak NT. So 2C shows about 6-10 HCP with a 5+ suit. This works particularly well if the opponents interfere: then we are pleased to have got the club suit in immediately, whereas if we had started with 1D we would be worried about missing a club fit and do not have a strong enough hand to compete at high levels without help from opener. Even if the auction is uncontested, the 2C response is an excellent way to start when opener has a strong hand, because responder has shown a suit and limited his hand, and opener's rebids are all very easy, forcing to game with 18+.Of course we have to find somewhere else to put the strong hands with clubs, and we use the 2H and 2S responses for this. These bids are not particularly useful as natural bids. In WJ they are natural and show strong hands, but this does not come up very often, and if opener has a weak NT (as usually happens) we have so much space available after 1C : 1M , 1NT that there is no problem showing the strong hands there. In a natural system I like to use 1C : 2M as weakish (maybe 4-8 HCP), but the main advantage of this is that 1C : 1M , 2C : 2M can then be an invitational hand (rather than having to jump to 3M). This is not needed in Polish Club because the 2C rebid promises extra strength. Using 1C : 2M to show an even weaker hand would just pre-empt partner in the very likely event that he has the strong type. So none of the normal, natural meanings for 2M make much sense in my opinion. This, then, is the perfect place to put some strong hands with a minor suit. In fact we use 2H to show precisely 5 clubs and 2S to show 6 or more.Next we need to think about the 1NT response. It's actually rather difficult to find a suitable meaning for 1NT. Here are two possibilities that we consid[...]



Latest Developments in EBUland

2008-05-17T17:00:51.618+00:00

For the bidding theorists amongst us, this minute from the latest meeting of the Tournament Committee is of interest:

The committee considered a letter from Bob Rowlands, addressed to various parties, including the Laws & Ethics Committee. The issue raised was the use of a system of transfer openings and responses [presumably moscito or something similar - DC] by a pair competing in the National Pairs Final. The pair was also the subject of previous similar correspondence regarding the National Inter-Club Knockout.

Mr Rowlands felt it was totally inappropriate that such a system should be allowed in events involving short rounds, when opponents have little chance to prepare themselves, and also in events such as the NICKO, which should be used to encourage club players to participate in national tournaments. If the EBU should stand by its decision to run all events at level 4, then this system should not be allowed at that level.

The committee unanimously agreed with Mr Rowlands’ sentiments, and wished to strongly recommend to the L&E that they reconsider their stance.

Despite playing a Level 4 system myself, I have to agree with this - in fact I said so in an earlier post. It just reinforces my belief that the "correct" level for general tournament play is somewhere "between" Level 3 and Level 4. It will be interesting to see what the L&E has to say about this, since they previously decided that it was "a Tournament Committee matter" ...



Polish Club System Notes

2008-05-17T17:35:07.989+00:00

One of the reasons I haven't posted much on my blog recently is that I've been writing up my system notes for Polish Club. This is a system that I've been playing recently with Mike Bell, and we've tried to come up with a version which is an improvement on standard Polish Club variants such as WJ.

The notes can now be downloaded from this page.

The notes focus only on the 1C opening, and are very detailed, with a particularly extensive section on dealing with interference.

A few things that make our version different from other Polish Club variants such as WJ05 are:
  • All balanced hands without a 5-card suit in the 12-14 HCP range are opened 1C.
  • Not all 18+ HCP hands are opened 1C: some are opened 1D or 1H instead.
  • The 2C and 2D responses to 1C are not forcing; we have artificial sequences to deal with game-forcing minor-suit hands.
  • The 1NT response to 1C is invitational.
  • After an overcall, we use a mixture of natural bids and transfers by responder.
  • There are many other artificial sequences, both in an uncontested auction and in competition, including frequent use of opener's diamond rebids as artificial.

Some of the reasons for these things have already been discussed in this blog. I might write about a few of the other ideas at some point.




Doubles Webpage

2008-05-17T17:00:51.619+00:00

I've created a new page to explain why I believe the EBU rules need to be changed.

Alerting of Doubles

Hopefully this means I'll be able to avoid cluttering up this blog with further rants on the subject. :)



Invitational Jump-Shifts

2008-05-17T17:35:07.989+00:00

This method is quite popular amongst players of 2/1 GF: after a major-suit opening, a jump to 3 of a lower suit is invitational and shows a good suit (6+ cards). Personally I think this is a truly dreadful idea.The problems aren't too difficult to spot. It's a very space-consuming response. This means that it will make subsequent bidding difficult, and you can't afford to make the bid on too wide a variety of hands.In my experience the invitational jump-shift is almost guaranteed to put opener in a difficult position. Let's try these very ordinary hands, after the bidding starts 1S : 3D -S AJ974H J3D Q5C AKT4Here perhaps partner can stop the hearts and you can run lots of tricks in NT. Or perhaps he can't. How are you going to find out, with no bid available below 3NT?S KQJ52H AQJ83D 3C 84Here if partner has heart support you might belong in 4H, but alternatively the hand could be a complete misfit not making anything higher than 3D. Make the hand a little stronger and you know you should be in game, but will you find 4H if that's the best spot? How will partner know you have five hearts?S AK965H A53D K842C TA lovely hand in support of diamonds, but how do you distinguish this hand from all the other different shapes that might want to raise?Of course, if you play a 2/1 as absolutely forcing to game, you do need somewhere to put these invitational hands. But not all invitational hands with a good suit are suitable for an IJS. It is dangerous to make an IJS on hands with tolerance for parnter's major, or with four cards in the other major, because of the possibility of missing a major-suit game. So playing IJS does not really solve the problem of what to do on these hands.Much better, at least when one of these invitational hands comes up, is to be playing a system where a 2/1 is not absolutely forcing to game, with responder's rebid of his suit showing the invitational type. Starting at the lower level gives you so much more flexibility: not only does opener have an extra chance to describe his hand, but responder can make the bid on hands which are not such pure single-suiters, because he is not committed to showing the IJS type. For example, over 1S, hands with four hearts and a six-card minor are no longer a problem, because after a 2/1 response, responder can afford to raise a heart bid to game, and will only rebid his minor to show an IJS hand if opener does not have hearts.Naturally this would make life more difficult when you do actually have a game-forcing single-suiter. But personally I think it is relatively easy to find a way to bid these hands. Even if constrained to play natural methods, I would much prefer to be playing 2/1 "GF except rebid" than absolute game-force. And with a bit of artificiality there is plenty of room in most cases to distinguish invitational from game-forcing hands without having to invent suits or NT bids. Certainly in a natural GF system, responder's 2-level rebids (when available) tend to be underused, and can be redefined to include the game-forcing single-suited type. Really I think that using a cheap response like 2C solely for natural game-forcing hands is a serious waste of space.An alternative for people who want to keep their 2/1s as game-forcing is putting the invitational single-suiters into the 1NT response. This has several drawbacks. You don't get to show either the suit or the strength immediately, and if you later bid your lo[...]