When does a mistake become a mistake?

March 2, 2009 at 7:28 am 1 comment

I guess this fits in with yesterday’s post asking in what way Australia went wrong vs Netherlands when they suffered a large loss over a few boards.

There is a huge danger of overanalysing mistakes and investing them with meaning when there is none. ‘Mistakes happen’ might sometimes, at least, be an end to the matter. Equally are the deals on which you get a bad result but haven’t necessarily done anything wrong. There are a couple of scenarios which seem especially important to mention.

(1) This is really aimed at learning players who don’t realise that Deep Finesse is a dangerous tool. Just because Deep Finesse says you could have made, it doesn’t mean you should have. DON”T think you took the wrong line because you went down. That is insufficient evidence and Deep Finesse may or may not add to the useful data. I am really quite shocked from time to time watching inexperienced players ‘work out’ that they should have, for example, dropped the offside king rather than take the finesse.

(2) DON”T CHANGE YOUR SYSTEM just because you have a bad board, or even a few bad boards. This is insufficient data. Bill Jacobs touches on this in his latest VBA Bulletin, here.

If Norma Borin is reading this I hope she will forgive me for saying that her partnership with her husband Jim, much as it was one of the very best partnerships in the country for many years, suffered in the end from this. I can recall a hand in a Far East championship I played with Norma in maybe 1990. We were playing her Precision, I had a good hand with diamonds and discovered after the auction that, having opened 1D (2+) I had no way of showing a good hand with long diamonds! Even the most natural sounding jump to 3D next had been enlisted to take on an artificial meaning for one of the many options in the poor, overloaded 1D opening.

In my opinion the time Borin’s Precision was best was when it was simple, if not at its very simplest.

Don’t change your system to account for a deal you’ve bid inadequately unless it is very clearly an absolutely commonplace hand that needs to be sorted.

Scenario 1
If you open 1NT and find you miss 4-4 major suit fits on a regular basis by all means introduce Stayman.

Scenario 2
If you pick up 28-29 balanced and miss a slam, DON”T WORRY ABOUT IT. Even if you are Meckstroth and Rodwell you probably shouldn’t worry about it. Otherwise, even if you are quite serious players of ambition forget it.

It doesn’t bother me in the least if I find out my opponents have a specialised series of bids to get to slam with 29 and a certain shape opposite 4 and another certain shape. I’m perfectly happy to chalk that up as a loss on the basis that in the long run I am pretty sure this pair are focussed on the wrong things in bridge.

My expectation is that there will be lots of perfectly normal hands which come up all the time and they won’t be able to bid them. It’ll more than make up for the loss I get on one board. Well, in rubber bridge it will. With the luck element in teams scoring….hmm, ok, I AM a bit worried!

The difference between these two scenarios is that one is common and one is not. A few days ago I wrote about picking up an 11 card suit. DON”T work that into the system either. Muddle about with it as you please, and then forget about it. In your whole like you might not face that problem again.

So, when does a mistake become a mistake? An inferior treatment become an inferior treatment? SLOWLY. VERY slowly.

I guess I’m especially focussed on the dangers of this because I’m in the middle of massive system development. It is all late in the auction, complex and obscure. It is DANGEROUS. Whether or not it will be worth it and dangerous, my partnership doesn’t know yet. I guess you’ll hear about it here when we do!


Entry filed under: bidding, thoughts on bridge. Tags: , , , , .

Why is it so? Australia vs Netherlands Yeh Cup Netherlands wins the Yeh Cup and a lesson on bidding theory

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. phil markey  |  March 2, 2009 at 8:43 am


    if i was a immature homophobic self-important wanker from america i would type “FYP” now which translates to “fixed your post”

    “There is a huge danger of overanalysing mistakes and investing them with meaning when there is none”

    its trite to observe that sometimes you do the right thing but its wrong – same with any game based on incomplete information – its so trite that i think your kind of wrong and in fact you should always start by thinking that everytime you get a bad score you made a mistake

    “If you open 1NT and find you miss 4-4 major suit fits on a regular basis by all means introduce Stayman”

    hmmm – i would of said…

    “dont use staymen until you open 1nt and regularly find that you miss 4-4 major suit fits”

    probably the same thing but i prefer mine

    i have taken a survey to discover that the rest of the world thinks i’m mad but i still think that if you play any system without experiencing why you need it then your a bit of a chook


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