Monday, July 14, 2014

A nullo play

A nullo play in blackgammon is a play that can never be profitable.  The obvious thing to do is to avoid nullo plays, but what if you are making nullo plays without ever realizing it?

Playing the bridgez tournament, I got a pretty good board for bidding and making 4D when the field was going down in 3NT.  This was the bidding on the hand:

You can click "Next" to see the play as it develops.

The field had bid 3D on the first turn, and since that would be forcing, they saw partner bid a hopeless 3NT.  Passing and then bidding 3D was right on values, and allowed the robot to compete to 4D.

4D making was worth 85%, but then I noticed that the WBridge robot had made 5D.  5D?  What was the mistake in my play?  Did you spot it?

It was the nullo manner that I played the clubs.  Having stripped the hand, and lacking the 9 of clubs, the club finesse was a poor choice because it would win only if West had a doubleton club headed by an honor. Yet, with the preempt, it is East who is more likely to have the doubleton in clubs.  Small club to the Ace and low club from hand.  Now, I should get a ruff and discard to make 5.  This is how the play should have gone.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What's a point between robots?

Playing the bridgez tournament rather distractedly, I picked up:

How many high-card points do I have?

For whatever reason, I thought I had 17 and opened it 1NT (15-17).  The bidding now went:
All Pass

This was the hand:

4H making 7 was not a good  board.  And all because I undercounted one measly Jack!  And it is not as if I needed that Jack to make 7 ... 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't fake a reverse when you can open 2C

One of the recommended actions for a Bridge World Death Hand is to fake a reverse.  So, I thought I'd try it on this hand to avoid an auction that goes 1C-1S-3C:

As you can see, the 2D fake reverse was not a success. When dummy came down, I thought I had a chance, but then I discovered the diamond break ...

What's better?  Best, I think, is to open this 4-loser hand 2C and after the inevitable 2D, bid 3C.  Partner will probably put me in 6C then.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Easybridge flyer

The Norman Bridge Club is going to be running EasyBridge classes starting next Thursday.  I looked at the suggested flyers for advertising, and they are ... horrible.  The entire aesthetic is so 1970s.

I decided to create a more modern-looking flyer and in an effort to decorate it, went looking for cartoons or photographs for the flyer. I found a few including a pretty cool New Yorker cartoon titled "Turning Tricks". But, then I also decided to create one of my own using Tondoo, a company run by one of my undergraduate classmates:

Here's the full flyer.  What do you think?

In case someone else is running bridge classes and wants to use my flyer as a template, click the link to get it as a Microsoft Word Document.

More info on our EasyBridge lessons are on the club's Facebook event page.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Careful with the doubles when GiB is your CHO

Playing a 8-board robot tournament on BBO after a long-time, I got off to a rather poor start when my robot partner pulled my penalty double:

5H down 1 was a 38% board.  4Sx down 3 would have been a lot better of course.  But I had paid my 25c, and by golly, I was going to get my money's worth.  I decided to hunker down and finish the set.

By the 7th board, I was at 70% overall, and in first place.  This was the 7th board and after my RHO bid 4S, I had a decision to make.

Should I pass, double or bid 5H?  I recalled board 1, where my partner took out a clear penalty double.  What would the robot do with a cooperative one? I decided to bid 5H as insurance and when dummy came down, I thought I had blown it, and passing was the right call.  It turns out that 4S makes. Many of the other tables were in 4Sx, so my Center Hand Opponent would have passed the double this time, so 5H undoubled and down 3 was worth 82%.

The last board of the set was another double-or-not decision. This was the board:

After I doubled 3S for penalty and CHO took me out, I decided to not push my luck by doubling 4S for penalty.  It turned out that 4S down 3 was worth 95% anyway.  Doubling was not needed.

This sort of fielding partner's propensities is something that you always have to do with human players -- there are players who will sit and players who will run. It appears that GiB will take out his partner's doubles even at high levels.  And I can not figure what the robot's logic is regarding which doubles are for penalty and which ones are cooperative.  Any suggestions and/or pointers are appreciated.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Analyzing the common game

Finally, our club director signed us up for the Common Game, but I haven't been able to play much at the club.  But with a special Memorial Day game held on Monday afternoon, I got to try it out. Partner and I had a good game (63%), but another pair (who are often our teammates) had an obscene one (80%), so that was good only for second place.

For the most part, the boards fared about the same at the club as in the larger, nationwide field. The difference between the club and field was stark, however, on Board #3, I was South.  I opened the hand 1C.  West passed (!), partner bid 1H, I replied 1S and partner now bid 2NT.  He made 3 for +150:
This was worth 57% of the matchpoints nationwide but only 38% at the club. 

It appears that people at our club are bidding the two flat hands aggressively and ending up in 3NT (how?).  As it turns out, the defence to beat 3NT is extremely difficult.  The opponents need to lead spades, squeezing declarer before broaching either hearts or diamonds (depending on what declarer discards) to beat the contract.

When I bid aggressively,  on Board 15, it turned out to be a cropper.

I was West, and opened the hand 1H.  When partner replied with a semi-forcing 1NT, I should have realized that he might have a minor-suit bust and rebid a calm 2H. Instead, I got carried way by the good hearts and Aces and Kings and bid 3H.  Partner raised me to 4 and I got a diamond lead.

How do you play this thing? I decided to play for a doubleton heart honor with South.  So, I took the Ace and King of diamonds and played the third diamond.  Now, North won with the Jack of diamonds and switched to a club.  I took the winning club finesse, and discarded a spade on the Ace of clubs. I then took a heart finesse that lost to North's King.  Unwilling to give me one more club discard, North finally led a spade. When I got in with the King of spades, I plopped down the Ace of hearts, but unfortunately, South had a third heart and the queen did not fall.  4H down 1.

At the club, others stayed low, got a spade lead and easily chalked up 9 tricks in hearts.

The double-dummy contracts are always worth a think. On Board #17, the opponents bid 4S and made 7.

Double-dummy, they are supposed to make only six.  How? Assume that East is the declarer and South gets to lead. 

I led the King of hearts, but unfortunately, this gave declarer the entry she needed to run the 9 of spades and then a small spade to the queen and Ace of spades. She then came to hand with the Ace of diamonds and, after finessing clubs, was able to throw away her losing diamonds on the clubs. The way to beat the contract is to lead a diamond. This knocks out declarer's entry early.  If she leads the 9 of spades to finesse spades, she has no entry to her hand to take the club finesse (spades are blocked). If she leads a club to the Jack, the 10 is not a entry because I can ruff the third club. Leading the first spade low to the Queen fails because of the 2-1 split.

4S making 7 was a bottom, but I don't think others found the diamond lead. The declarer at our table just played it better than the field.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Estimating poorly

Playing in the Open Pairs game at the OKC regional, partner and I had a 62% game, winning our direction.  All through the session, though, I thought we were having about a 53% game.

Estimation is an important skill to have and I have been working on it. After every board, I estimate whether the board is a top (+2), a bottom (-2) or in between.  Because you have about 25 boards in a session, adding these scores can give a pretty good estimate of how you are faring.  Of course, it works only if your estimates (-2 to 2) are reasonable.

So, I went back and looked to see where and why my estimates were off.  In general, lots of boards I had marked as average (0) turned out to be Average+ (about 8 out of 12).  Essentially, getting to the right contract was worth an Average+.  Theoretically these ought to get washed out by boards where the opponents got to the right contract their way. Even though I consistently marked those also as average (0), they too turned out to be Average+ because the field was not taking all their tricks on defense.   Similarly, I would mark down a board where we dropped a trick as below average (-1) but it would turn out that the field was not picking up these tricks either.

Turns out that many of the stronger players were playing the first round of knockouts.  It may have been an "open pairs", but the field was relatively weak.

The only true mishap of the day occurred on a board where I made two bad decisions in the bidding:

I was West and had to decide whether to open this hand 1H or 1NT.  With a 15-17 balanced hand, I always open 1NT even if I have a 5-card major. However, I decided to upgrade the hand, open 1H and rebid 2NT.  That was mistake #1.  This is pretty clearly not an upgradeable hand.   Partner now bid 1NT (semi-forcing) and South overcalled 2S.  What's my bid now?  

I doubled (takeout) and partner bid 3C.  This is where mistake #2 happened. Forgetting that I had doubled (so 3C was to play), I bid 3S and put partner in a hopeless 3NT contract.  That was our only zero of the night.  Had I passed 3C on this board, we might have won the overalls too, not just the E/W direction, because 3C making 4 would have been Average+.

But I should not complain too much -- the other bidding misunderstanding of the night gave us a cold top (all 12 of the matchpoints).  It was on this board:
After North passed, partner (East) opened 1D and South overcalled 2S (weak).  I bid 3S.

Now, partner had a problem.  Was my 3S a limit raise of diamonds or a general-purpose force where his first priority is to bid 3NT with a spade stopper?  In any case, he had no spade stopper, so he bid 4D.  Back to me.  Well, if partner doesn't have a spade stopper, I can see a diamond slam if partner has a spade singleton.  So, I cue-bid 4H. Would partner cue-bid 4S? 

Partner was not on the same page, however.  Was 4H a cue-bid with diamonds agreed, or an offer to play? Partner passed my 4H bid.  Oops.

The Ace of spades was led and dummy came down.  What do you do?

"Thank you, partner," I said.  No one needed to know that I was in a 4-2 fit.

Ace of spades was followed by a low spade to South's Jack.  South then switched to his Q of diamonds. No surprise there.  Diamonds were 2-1 with the preemptor having only one diamond.  Chances were that his heart and club holdings were then 3-3.

Who rates to have the Queen of hearts?  North, of course.  Firstly, he has 4 hearts to South's three.  Secondly, with the KQJ of spades and Qxx of hearts, South would probably bid 1S, not 2S.  So, I took the diamond switch in hand, and played Ace of hearts and the Jack.

North didn't cover the Jack and I was home.  I ran the Jack, played a club to the Ace, pulled a round of trumps with the king and started running my diamonds. North could ruff in with the Queen of hearts, but I had the rest.

4H made on the 4-2 fit was a cold top.  The better pairs were in 5D while the rest of the field were in diamond part-scores or failing in 3NT.