Archive for September, 2009

The modern psyche.

Opportunities abound these days for creative psychic activity which attempts both to exploit the new technology and punish it.

Take this hand:

sA103
h1A10
d15
cAKJ10843.

The occasion is the final of a pairs event and you are vul versus not. RHO opens 2NT showing a preempt in either minor. What now? Anyone for 3NT?! Well, I couldn’t resist. How often do you get dealt such a perfect opportunity? The sophistication of the opponents’ convention lends itself to psychic action that is a good chance to work. You have turned the tables on the opponent. He has said with his opening bid “Here, have a guess what’s going on” and you’ve replied “No, you guess”.

There is no such thing as a perfect bid. Precisely because some parameters are attached to a bid, others perforce must be lost. If the advantage of the 2NT opening is its economy, then its disadvantage is the ambiguity that results from that same action. The way to punish ambiguous bids is to maintain their ambiguity.

West easily led a club and on this occasion the whole layout was:

NORTH

sK86
h1J9532
d1107
c975

WEST

sQ75
h1K87
d1KJ62
cQ62

EAST

sJ942
h1Q64
d1AQ9843
c

SOUTH

sA103
h1A10
d15
cAKJ10843

The monumental gravity of West’s error on opening lead was immediately apparent to all. It cannot be said that the opponents took the misadventure in the best of spirits. Before a card was called from dummy, East (a player of reputation) screamed, “You idiot, you know you must lead your shorter minor!” West, as angry as East at the layout, yelled back “But I did lead my shorter minor!”

This was a useful top, the field going down in 5C, a contract in which West found it far easier to take a trick with the protected club queen.

It was playing a Moscito style system that the following auction took place. If the first example is something of a sledgehammer, this next one is so subtle that it required just the right sort of opponent to arrive at the trap answer. Artificial methods create opportunities for artificial psyches. There was no need for the brazen psychic action of bidding what one doesn’t have. Here it was enough to intimate a holding that was far from the truth….

WEST

sAKQ3
h1A2
d1K105
cAKQ5

EAST

sJ1064
h187
d1Q98
c8432

Again the scoring is matchpoint pairs.

West……….East
1C (1)……..1D (2) …….1) 15+, any 2) 0-8
1H (3)… .. ..1S (4) ……..3) 18+, any 4) 0-4
1NT(5)…. . .2H (6) …….5) relay 6) balanced
2S (5)……. 3C (7) ……..7) 4 spades
3D (5)…… .3S (8) ……..8) 4 clubs
4C (5) …….4H (9) ……..9) 2 hearts
4NT………. Pass

At the point when relayer found out that partner was 4-4 in spades and clubs, it was not clear to go for the spade fit. The bidding might frequently go 2C 2D 3NT and if East holds the king of hearts (or sometimes the queen) doubleton, 3NT will make the same number of tricks as four spades. Courtney attempted to continue the bidding in such a way that he could play no trumps without the worry of a heart lead.

The four club and then 4NT bids combine to provide an example of how subtle and creative the modern day psyche can be. Together these two bids gave the following message to the opening leader: the relayer found out that responder had only two hearts rather than three hearts and then he signed off in no trumps. The inference to be received from this information was that West was looking for a five-three heart fit!

Some defenders would remain blithely ignorant of this message. In this case the opening leader was a thoughtful junior who worked out with no assistance the implications of the auction. He stayed off the otherwise natural heart lead for the quite sensible reason that it appeared his hearts were sitting over declarer. Having inhibited the only lead to trouble no trumps, 4NT made eleven tricks and an equal top after declarer guessed diamonds.

It seems to me, having suggested that opportunities for interesting development of the psychic bid are rife these days, that in practice it is not the case. I’d like to think I’m wrong, so, please, if you have interesting creative examples of psychic bidding, do share them with us.

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September 28, 2009 at 9:49 am 3 comments

Pain

I’m not sure how many of you can answer the question I put forward today as you have to have had a particular relationship to bridge which few do. But still.

GM Ljubojevic once said ‘I have won many games that have not made me happy, and when I lose, I am also not happy. My friends ask “so when are you happy?” That’s the way chess is, you are happy only rarely, the rest is grief.’

And this, from GM Nigel Davies: ‘Several years ago at Wijk aan Zee, I asked GM Hulak why (his compatriot) Boris Ivkov seemed so bored. He looked at me in a rather concerned way and explained: “Chess is a very boring game and Ivkov has been a professional for thirty years. Now he has no choice but to continue and he hates it”‘

Do these comments fit into bridge? If not why not?

My first thought was that perhaps they don’t. Chess, after all, is about a monumental struggle on a game by game basis where you put so much in that it can’t but give back much hurt. Whereas bridge is about many little struggles, none of which matter on their own, any one or more of which can be brushed aside….

But then I went to the theatre last week and saw Ronnie Burkett’s new show, Billy Twinkle, which is autobiographical. The scene set is one where Billy, who is a puppeteer, is deeply unhappy and at a point he admits the inadmissible: he even hates puppets. The horror of this statement is not lost on the audience. Everybody could understand, even though almost nobody would have been in any sort of similar position. We all knew, though, that it was his life he really hated, not his puppets.

That made me think more about bridge and remember a professional player at a club I used to go to in London. He was a bitter, bitter man who saw bridge as something the very purpose of which was no more or less than to torture him. At some point, however, he was lucky enough to find somebody who fell in love with him and that changed his life. It followed that it changed for the better his relationship to bridge. His unhappiness in bridge was merely a manifestation of his unhappiness in life.

At the same time I think that there are people of whom we could say the opposite. It is genuinely the game they hate and when they free themselves of their attachment to it, their lives improve as a consequence.

I hope this is a worthy topic to while away some time on the weekend.

See you Monday.

September 25, 2009 at 8:42 am 6 comments

Angel of mercy

Sorry, I’ve been asked to babysit somebody today who’s been in hospital. Back tomorrow.

September 24, 2009 at 8:44 am Leave a comment

A lot rides on this…continued.

The question is this.

Sitting West you pick up:

s2
h110765
d1QJ85
cAJ108

West….North….East….South
…………………………..1S
Pass…..4NT…..5C……..Pass (one keycard)
6C……..6S…….Dble…..All Pass

What do you lead?

To set the scene. As Khokan so correctly points out, it is the round of 16 in the NOT. In 2002, to be precise. At my table, East didn’t bid over 4NT and West began with the wrong red suit, even though the auction surely demanded the ace of clubs. Plus 980.

At the other table, the auction above ensued and the opening leader guessed the wrong red suit…thirteen tricks, doubled to boot. This cost us the round of eight and it reversed the result of at least one other match. Ouch.

It can all be so nicely reasoned, however, as you can see from yesterday’s comments. Ace of clubs should be standing up and then you won’t have to guess at all. If you didn’t think of the ace of clubs, then it makes far more sense to try the weak red suit as the stronger one is more likely to be a trick. Perhaps also because it is more likely that the opponents are bidding on with a good suit.

Indeed, this is the layout:

NORTH

sAK65
h1AKQJ93
d143
c4

WEST

s2
h110765
d1QJ85
cAJ108

EAST

s8
h1
d1109762
cKQ97532

SOUTH

sQJ109743
h1842
d1AK
c6

See you tomorrow.

September 23, 2009 at 7:30 am 10 comments

A lot rides on this.

Sitting West you pick up:

s2
h110765
d1QJ85
cAJ108

West….North….East….South
…………………………..1S
Pass…..4NT…..5C……..Pass (one keycard)
6C……..6S…….Dble…..All Pass

What do you lead? I’m suppressing comments for now….look forward to everybody’s thoughts!

September 22, 2009 at 7:44 am 7 comments

Apportion the blame.

It’s off the topic, but I’d like thoughts on what went wrong here:

Board 19
EW Vul
Dealer South

NORTH

sJ
h1AJ10642
d1986
cK76

WEST

sK109432
h198
d1AK
cQ102

EAST

sQ8
h1K5
d1J753
cAJ954

SOUTH

sA765
h1Q73
d1Q1042
c83

EW’s system is Acol

West…..North….East….South
……………………………..Pass
1S……..2H……..3C…….3H
Pass…..Pass…..Dble….Pass
3S……..All Pass

September 20, 2009 at 9:17 am 15 comments

Is this statement true?

I will get back to psychology next week, I’d like to ask more questions and get some answers out of you!

Meanwhile, I read this statement in an academic paper published in the early 1990s about bridge-playing computers:

Human players seem to reason about single suits first,then combine the plans to form a plan for the entire hand.

That doesn’t sound anything like how I set about playing the hand, but what about everybody else? Thoughts please.

September 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm 8 comments

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