Netherlands wins the Yeh Cup and a lesson on bidding theory

March 3, 2009 at 6:37 am 3 comments

There we were talking about system and making things complicated and if it is worth it – and well, this happens.

The thing that’s all the rage at the moment in bidding theory is transfer responses on account of how much extra you get out of it. Well, quite. But nobody who uses these bids seems the least bit concerned about how much easier transfers make life for the opponents. This came into play on various hands in the match, including this one.

Session 3 of the Yeh Cup Final
Board 3
Dealer North
NS Vul






h1 1097



When Netherlands sat EW, East opened 2S. South didn’t have an action over that, partner being a passed hand. North balanced with 2NT – I don’t know what that would have meant as a non-passed hand, but the meaning here was obviously the minors. South took quite a punt on 3NT. With the contract wrong sided an opening spade lead by East settled matters quickly, one down.

At the other table, East opened 2D. That permitted much easier auction entry by South to show values. North bid 3C and again, an aggressive punt by South ended the auction. Now 3NT was played the right way up. The extra room the slow opening bid gave NS helped. West began with the SQ which ran to the king. When he played a heart next, West won and could have beaten the contract with a heart continuation, but of course he continued instead with another spade and that was one of the many double-digit swings to Netherlands.

At least, though, the auction was intelligible. NS knew what they were doing…but then THIS happened….:

Yeh Cup Final
Session 4
Dealer South
All vul


This time, South passed, West began with 2D doubled and redoubled. I’m at a loss to account for why South would now bid with his collection – at the very least, why not wait for now? But he decided to bid 2NT. North bid 6C over that, thinking it was for the minors (again, why would partner have diamonds?) After dummy came down declarer offered 5 down which was accepted.

The artifical bidding question is – when is 2NT natural and when is it not? My partnership tries to have clear rules about this – but we’ve got a couple wrong lately. Here we have a world class pair using artificial methods which cost them almost as much when they got it ‘right’ – wrong siding 3NT – as they did when they got it wrong and landed in the silly slam.

I really do think there is a moral here. Keeping your system simple and consistent is not theoretically best way to win all auctions but it may well be practically best. Knowing what your partnership’s bids mean is far more important than whether or not they are the best bids.

More on transfers and their usefulness for the opponents tomorrow when we look at another hand from the Yeh Cup final.


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

When does a mistake become a mistake? More on transfers – a hand from the Yeh Cup

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. andrew  |  March 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Cathy, I agree with all your points, but are you sure they are connected? The transfers have a lot of downsides, but you have shown 2 hands where the problem is what does 2NT mean, and none of the options appears to be a transfer. Mind you, if it were, the issue of wrong siding would be the same.

    NT pivot bids, also visible in Lebensohl structures (and popular for competitive raises at the moment) also add wrong-siding risk, in addition to the problem of working out when they are pivot bids & when they are 2-suited takeout.

    Additional problems with xfers are they give the opponents more bids (a free X + extra cue-bid) and the bids are not always entirely memorable. 13 imps out for forgetting a transfer is a huge cost – can the gain of such methods really be more than .1 imp a board, in which case you need 130 auctions where your transfer methods work to make up for the one error.

    In fact, my gut feel is that the gain is LESS than the .1 per board postulate above.

    And that leads me on to another question – if .7 imps per boar were a meaningful measure of a career expert (and I’m getting a feeling from looking at datums that it is), would it be interesting or useful or even both to try and break that .7 down int components. Seres; cardplay .3, defence .2, stamina .2, intimidation .2 (OK, that’s .9 already, but hopefully you get the idea)

    • 2. cathychua  |  March 25, 2009 at 5:24 pm

      Andrew, How nice to have you home!!! Re your last points, it is interesting that you include intimidation in your components of how an expert gets his IMPs….I was just a few minutes ago speculating with Gill as to whether this isn’t necessarily as important as one might assume. In particular we were talking about two pairs: Hans-Nunn and Meckstroth Rodwell. The former are as pleasant and polite a pair as one could hope to play against and according to Gill the same can be said of the latter. These are pairs that never make you feel worked over. You never walk away from the table feeling like you’ve been murdered. In fact, once or twice I’ve been rather surprised to see just how badly my partnership has done in a session against Nunn-Hans. This brings me to a theory….I’m off to bridge right this moment, but I will come back to it tomorrow.

      • 3. andrew webb  |  March 26, 2009 at 11:05 am

        Intimidation – actually I wasn’t thinking so much of the overt intimidation of, say, I don’t know, think of a bully, but more the “panic effect” that some players inspire simply by their reputation. I’m pretty sure that people play worse against some people just because they are in awe of them; I know I suffered from that problem the first time I played against Seres. If you are, say, 60 imps up in the last set, I’m sure playing against Meckwell or the Italians, with all the tales of their astonishing comebacks that float around the game, cause most players to be more likely to spend more time looking over their shoulders than paying attention to the cards in their hand. Partly this is in my mind from having watched the final set of the Nickell-Diamond Vanderbilt on BBO, with Gitelman & Ross giving a fair impression of spotlit wallabies. Still, they had enough in reserve to get through.

        Actually, on bullying, I think it can very often cause players to dig in their heels & try their hardest, which suggests that the pleasant table manner is the best. I think the chairpeople of a number of disciplinary tribunals tried to point this out to me when was younger, but alas, I’m a slow learner.

        I once saw an expert player holding Ax opposite Qx, and in his hand, lean across to the opponent with Kx and say, oozing charm, “it’s your lead”, thus successfully making the contract. Who could question such a famous & nice person? (The contract was in fact scored as one down, but it was an entertaining demonstration of what might sometimes be possible).

        To give an example of how it make work at a more sophisticated level of play, I think that if you find yourself playing against a known “good declarer” there is a strong temptation to engage in more active defence – but often it is the active defence that concedes the 8th trick that allows declarer’s technique to find the 9th.


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