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All comments by Max Schireson
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I do think more national events specifically for newer players would be helpful.

That said, unfortunately many of the winners of such events are new-to-the-acbl players, but not new players. I know one player on my GNT-C winning team had played fairly seriously as a junior in France. He wasn’t able to hang with Bessis and Lorenzini, but he was sure a lot better than a typical player with zero masterpoints when he arrived here. He says he went through the process of reporting his experience to the ACBL and they didn’t assign him any masterpoints.

Unfortunately I believe many of the team that do well in these events have multiple players who learned and gained experience outside the ACBL.

I have discussed this issue briefly with Brian Platnick, who plays a leadership role in assigning masterpoints for foreign players and I think his approach is sensible and in principle should assign an appropriate number of master points to such players, but I don’t know that it is followed consistently, and not all new players signing up report their foreign experience. It is also possible that local teachers and directors who are signing the players up tell them that only very high level playing experience is relevant, contributing to the non-reporting.

If we want to increase the number of very low masterpoint events, and we care about the integrity of those events, we also need to do a better job of assigning foreign flight B players 500 or 1000 master points, which isn’t easy to actually execute.
Feb. 20
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While I understand the sentiment that playing against players who are not life masters shouldn’t qualify one for being a life master, when I looked back at the D21 GNT flight C teams that won four of the last six titles, I know almost all the players well enough to say that I would expect the vast majority them to be above average more often than not in a regional open pairs game, and certainly to be quite a bit stronger than the average newly minted LM wouldn’t bother me at all if each year the winners of GNT-C and NAP-C were all immediately made life masters.

Yes, the title ain’t what it used to be, and those events aren’t anything like open national events, and I understand that objection on principle but in practice the winning players are well well ahead of average LMs.
Feb. 20
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Ack, I misremembered because I was not yet eligible for Platinum Pairs when IMP pairs we as on Friday, and imagined that they actually had started when I thought they should have started!

While my weekday schedule is more flexible than most of the under 60 crowd, I share your frustration with the gaps for the non-seniors.
Feb. 20
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Peg,

I agree. The biggest change recently was the Nail LM pairs. In 2018 it was a very strong field, not much different than the premier events. 2019 opposite the start of the Soloway it’s a completely different field. IMP pairs also moved from a Saturday start to Sunday (where entering means skipping the Vanderbilt if you Q, and therefore rules the event out for many serious pairs) - a huge change (and a sad one for me because I now lose an event with a unique format).

I do think there is a clear difference between
- events that make it impossible to play in premier events vs
- events that are partially concurrent with major events, but some singing part of the field has already been eliminated

The difference between the Wernher and Silodor right now is only one day of schedule but they feel very different from each other - but both very different from a nearly-fully-concurrent event.

I also think that restricted or not doesn’t fully capture how tough an event is. The Senior USBC IMO has some excellent teams for example, and I might put it in the middle category if the goal was to capture difficulty and prestige rather than just premier/unrestricted/restricted.
Feb. 20
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IMO there are really 3 types of national events:
1. The unconflicted/premier events, where you face most of the top players: eg Vanderbilt, Spingold, Reisinger, USBC, Platinum pairs
2. Events where you face many of the top pairs, but there are significant schedule conflicts and possibly also shorter event formats; eg Silodor, open Swisses
3. Events where you face very few top pairs due to restrictions and/or extreme schedule conflicts. Examples would be mixed pairs starting opposite the Vanderbilt R64, as well as age and gender restricted events, and probably the IMP pairs starting 1 day before the Vanderbilt (so that you can’t play the Vanderbilt if you Q… but IMP pairs starting Saturday would probably be category 2).

There might be a few close calls - eg is Blue Ribbons still tier 1 with Soloway conflict - and within a category not all events are equal (eg Wernher I might still put in category 2 but Wed start makes it very different from Silodor starting Thu)… but I think we all recognize that there are “top” events as well as “lesser” events with many falling in between.

If I were going to create a new level I would probably call it “Elite Grand Life Master”, and I would say it requires something like
- 10 title points and 3 wins, including 1 tier 1 win or 2 tier 2 wins, where
- tier 1 win is 3 title points
- a tier two win or tier 1 runner up is 2 title points
- a tier 3 win, tier 2 runner up, or tier 1 top 4 is 1 title point

I think requiring multiple titles in addition to higher tier events would avoid bad feelings among GLMs who feel their accomplishment is being devalued.

All that said I am not sure it makes sense to do anything, but if I were going to make changes it would be along the lines above.
Feb. 20
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I am with Michael here.

Beside the risk of 2C being passed out, we might have slam and I want partner to get excited about KH + KC. That 6HCP makes slam good, and 10 well fitting HCP gives us an excellent grand. I like to have the goods when I force to game, but this hand has tons of playing strength.

I actually have some (granted not very good)play for 4H opposite fairly poorly fitting Yarborough. If partner has 5143 nothing, I need hearts for one loser and guessing which doubleton club honor.

If I have play opposite that dummy, I think I have my bid.
Feb. 13
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First order I think it comes to the same, assuming opponents aren’t involved. I think the minor differences are examples of thinking far too deeply.

I prefer the alert version a) because opponents might be involved (even if I think they aren’t) and b) it is more compliant with the regulations as written.
Feb. 7
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Michael,

While my odds arguing with you about this might be similar to arguing with you about a 5 card ending, I will give it one more round in hopes of learning what I am missing.

Let me first clarify what I mean by Kit’s policy, since I don’t think he fully elaborated it. To the extent my elaboration is wrong, it’s not Kit’s fault, so I will rename itself “alert whenever potentially ambiguous”.

With this policy, responder might be sure that the agreement is not support, but if they suspect that partner might not be sure, or might have it wrong, they alert. Therefore usually partner doesn’t see the non-alert to learn they are not on the same page.

This policy fails when one partner is gobsmacked to learn that partner had a completely different understanding of when the agreement applied, but I think there are at least many cases where both partners are fully aware of the possible mixup - the OP being one of those - where this policy would work.

Am I missing something?
Feb. 7
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Right, I know it’s a post alert so that auction isn’t itself relevant, I just supplied it as a top of mind example of the type of potential mixup where an alert in Kit’s style would not create UI. I think the auction given in the OP is a similar type of potential mixup, and would similarly benefit. Sorry not to have come up with an example below 3N.
Perhaps
1C (P) 1S (2S) X
Where the agreement is that the pair plays support doubles “up to two of partners suit” and hasn’t discussed whether “up to” is “up to and including” or “up to and not including”.

The relevant characteristics are that it is clear to both partners 1. that an alertable meaning might be in play 2. what that is and 3. that there could be a mixup about whether it actually applies. I think with these three characteristics Kit’s solution works, and I think the OP (probably) has these 3.
Feb. 7
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Cool problem.

Sadly, I “solved” #83 before scrolling down, then failed to pause when I read that Michael had said it was impossible so I missed the chance to “solve” that problem. Shame on me for not pausing my reading and thinking, but I think the article would be even better with your conversation with Michael pushed to a page 2.

In addition to the actual great 88 problems being interesting, Richard also points out that two of the 88 end positions can’t legally be reached. It is fun to find those.
Feb. 6
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Michael,

“I disagree. If you thought you were making a non-alertable bid then the UI is clear.”

IMO it depends. There are two types of mixups, and the answer depends on which type is in play.

1. “Totally forgot convention”: A partner just forgets that a convention is in play at all. For example, it goes (1C) 1H (X) and advancer intends to show diamonds, and bids 2D, which is actually by agreement a constructive raise of hearts. Here advancer has lost his mind, and an unexpected alert would wake him up.

2. “Unclear if convention applies”: Both partners know that a convention *might* apply, they just aren’t sure if it actually applies to this specific auction. For example it goes (with no interference) 1D - 3S, now opener isn’t sure if minorwood is on. If minorwood is on, then 4N is quantitative, otherwise it is keycard in diamonds. Now opener bids 4N. Both partners might be very aware of the potential for mixup; even if one remembers the notes verbatim they may not be sure (often based on experience) that their partner does. Now say responder is in the habit of alerting as Kit suggests, and alerts 4N. Their explanation if asked will start with “we play minorwood in some auctions; if 4D was minorwood then 4N would be natural and quantitative, but if 4D is not minorwood then 4N is keycard in diamonds. While we do have a written agreement that makes clear which situation we are in, based on my experience in this partnership it is possible we are not on the same page about which situation applies. Would you like me to explain our agreement about whether 4D is minorwood in this auction?”

If responder alerts like that whenever this type of situation arises, then all that opener hears is that responder sees this as a situation where there is a possibility they are not on the same page. Opener very likely already knew that, and could have confidently predicted that partner would alert, even if opener (correctly per the agreements) intended the bid as natural, and responder took it as such.

My view is that this situation feels like #2, and therefore Kit’s approach - if consistently applies - greatly reduces the UI transmitted.
Feb. 6
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I like Kit’s solution.

If you consistently alert bids where you have an alertable agreement that *might* apply, and your partner knows you do this, there is very little UI transmitted about whether the agreement applies to this case.

As for following the letter vs the spirit of the regulations when they diverge, I think don’t mind if truly top level players do what they think is right.

That said, I think those decisions are very hard to get right; while I agree that my comments to Michael were probably overthinking, at the table it is hard to know what is overthinking vs. necessary analysis of possible unintended consequences. I think the rest of us should follow the laws, and take Michael’s comments as an indication that perhaps the laws could be improved in this area.
Feb. 6
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Michael,

We are all human, but when your partner sees your failure to alert they should banish any possible doubt from their mind and proceed as though a non-serious was a completely ironclad agreement. If you alert, they should strongly consider hedging if it is at all possible you are not on the same page.

In that context judging what you think is to your disadvantage seems dangerous.

Of course when you fail to alert and partner hedges, you can lose a ruling… but what if your failure to alert causes your partner to act with confidence, and you have the auction you should have had, where partner might have hedged behind screens arriving at an inferior contract, and therefore felt duty bound to do so when you correctly alerted? Now you have actually benefited from UI, with your partner having done nothing wrong and basically no chance to lose a ruling.

To be fair, very few players will actually recognize their obligation to hedge at the table when you alert if they might have done so behind screens, but I would hope that many would recognize their obligation when you fail to alert… so perhaps in practice with an exceptionally ethically aware partner you might benefit, but with most normal partners it will come to the same thing, unless they take advantage of the UI from the non-alert in which case you are likely to take the worst of it (at the table or in a ruling).

A further perversity: imagine that your partner, having read this post, sees you not alert, and from that surmises that you do think it is non-serious (as partner intended), and decides that they might have hedged behind screens, and now feels obligated to do so, and it turns out to be winning. Good luck with that ruling!
Feb. 6
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Grainger found it below imo.
Jan. 28
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Naren,

Whichever black Q partner has I will come down to Jxx in the other suit.

If partner has the CQ, declarer can’t afford to lose a club trick to partner. When I get in with a spade, my club will be good.

If partner has the SQ, when I come down to Jxx it looks like declarer can set up a spade but it is stranded. I think the fact the pitch of the 4th spade is a bit of a red herring here, since they block. The spade blockage is why I think you can’t afford to cash HA before playing the club, much as you might want to.
Jan. 28
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I think this question is the most interesting thing going on.

I think taking the heart can also cost if partner has Qx of spades - which is right down the fairway of possible hands - and declarer decides to play partner for Hx spades… a third spade trick is declarers only hope and I don’t see another choice.

It seems you need to weight the odds of this being the layout and declarer finding this line against the odds of partner getting in with the CK and not cashing.

From partners perspective with that hand, the losing cases for cashing look like you having QJxx of spades and declarer can pick up the hearts and remaining clubs, or you have KQT of hearts. The losing case for not cashing is when you have HA, and declarer has SQ, or a 5th club, or maybe you have SQ and KQ of hearts but then declarer is a bit light (but maybe with a 5th club?)

I think there are more layouts where it costs to not cash than to cash, but I don’t know that it is by enough to make in clear at the table and partner could easily get it wrong.

I would really wish that I could cash the HA, but I think I can’t afford to pay off to partner holding Qx of spades, so I think I have to leave partner to their problem.

???
Jan. 28
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Thanks, I will look for it.

“both declarers were not paying attention” - its a hard game. That’s why I love it - and also why I take the under on whether a defender with KT is more or less than 83% likely to play the K.
Jan. 27
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I am assuming that when both declarer should played the 5 off the board in The NY Times deal, they had some reason to suspect shortness on their right? Otherwise they made a clear error in not catering to a stiff 6 or 7.
Jan. 27
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Avon,

It appears there is nothing new :)

Well, if the choice of what to do was split in a deal in NY Times column, and Belladonna would still be at the table thinking (in a somewhat different situation) it is at least reasonable for me to think that one should finesse, and also reasonable for me to be unsure!

Still quite cool imo that with the 4 rather than the 3 this issue doesn’t exist.
Jan. 27
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Thanks!

Being new to bridge I had heard vaguely about a famous KT hand in the Bermuda Bowl but knew no details. I also didn’t get the Kantar connection (I just assumed that this play was in one of his defense books).

As for math, finessing here when you play small and see the K is right if your RHO plays the K less than 83% of the time.

Richard estimates (roughly) than an expert would play the K in the Kantar situation about half the time.

It’s not clear to me whether this hand (which itself is incomplete, not stated which hand is declarer etc) would be very different, but my instinct was that it would be the majority of the time but less than 83%. You have much much more knowledge of what plays actually get made in top level competition, so I am curious what you (and others) think.

However, based on my instinct that an opponent would play K from KT less than 83% of the time, it is profitable to play low to the J and then finesse for the T if the K appears when you don’t hold the 4.

Playing this way you pick up stiff K, K7, K6, and K4, all of which you lose to if you (correctly) run the Q holding the 4. You correspondingly lose to KT (when they play K), KTx, and KTx3.

My observation that the winning holdings are entirely flip flopped is, however, an overbid; I neglected the stiff T on your left, which is picked up either way. Anyway still quite a change.
Jan. 27
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