The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A very tough, quite hard, almost impossible bidding problem.

Jeff may get this, but only because he’s an expert.

Your partner opens 1H, RHO overcalls 1 Spade and you hold
 S: Jxx
 H: Axx
 D: xx
 C: Q9xxx

Whatever do you do? How do I know that this is a tough bidding problem? Because my online partner, who clearly identified himself an advanced player, got it wrong. Did he support hearts? Oh no, he did not. He bid 2 clubs

I can portray myself as a basketweaving expert, or Le Bron James, or whatnot online, and nobody can dispute me. You can fudge a little here and there on bridge, but really, if you claim “Advanced” then I hope that you can at least keep up the appearance for two hands. His first hand, with two points, he played well. And although his bidding didn’t turn out so well (failing to double blackwood bid for the setting lead), I can totally sympathize. In a sane world I’d claim “intermediate,” but given that I can find my Merrimac coups mere seconds after I play the wrong card, I feel I’m entitled…

(That prior hand saw an “Expert” open 1NT see his partner bid a game without expressing slam interest. Said expert invoked blackwood and found his partner with a perfect 13 count that could have splintered.)

Update — And because Jeff may ask, I opened in second seat, not 3rd.


Written by taogaming

April 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Bridge

7 Responses

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  1. I am not what anyone would call an advanced player. I would bid 4H over the overcall, but I would also fear I would be under-valuing my hand. If we had another agreed-on forcing bid, I would make that instead, perhaps 2S.


    April 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm

  2. Andy, Brian’s partner’s hand isn’t strong enough for a 2C bid. Whether or not there’s an overcall, he needs 10 points in order to make a 2 over 1 bid (at least he does in Standard American). He has fine support for his partner’s suit, so he should happily bid 2 Hearts. Not only does that properly state the value of his hand, it gives his partner the information he needs in case there’s a competitive auction.

    Ekted, you may be misreading the hand. With 7 HCP, unexciting shape, and only three cards in Hearts, a bid of 4 Hearts is a huge gamble. It’s simply not the right sort of hand for that action. Change two of the Spades to Hearts and then it’s a fine bid.

    Larry Levy

    April 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm

  3. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a competitive auction or not. This is a textbook raise to 2H if 1H guarantees 5 (which it does in most modern bidding systems.) The goal of the bidding is to uncover a 8-card major suit fit (because you need less high-card strength to make game in a major), and to determine how high to play. In Standard American, 2H tells partner your side has enough hearts for them to be trump, and gives a perfect description of how much high-card strength you have (6-10 points). Partner can then make an intelligent decision on how high — if the partnership is guaranteed to have at least 25 points, he’ll bid game; if the partnership can’t have 25 points, he’ll pass 2H; and if the partnership might have 25 points, he’ll make a game try by bidding something else. Any other call besides 2H indicates to me that this person is intermediate at best.

    Eugene Hung

    April 22, 2009 at 1:57 am

  4. Maybe he had a heart in with his diamonds and was making a Negative Free Bid. In online bridge…


    April 22, 2009 at 9:28 am

  5. Others have covered this point, but I’ve been thinking about the Hueristics of bidding systems recently, so I’ll elaborate. The goal of bidding is to find a) level and b) suit (or NT). An 8+ card fit is good enough (in a major), and partner has enough to make a bid (6+ points), but not enough to make a strong bid (less than 10). So a minimum raise in hearts is required.

    Even with the overcall, Andy, 2 Clubs shows at least an invitational hand (10+ points).


    April 22, 2009 at 10:35 am

  6. Update — And because Jeff may ask, I opened in second seat, not 3rd.

    It doesn’t matter if partner is in third seat. You can’t be afraid to bid in case partner might be joking. If he is, and you get in trouble, that’s just too bad. He risked a disaster to gain on other hands; you have to live with the paybacks. Or if it happens too often, perhaps he ought to adjust his sense of humor.


    April 22, 2009 at 10:57 am

  7. I, too, have sometimes wondered about the more or less standard self-rating system which has appeared in on-line bridge. The levels are “beginner,” “intermediate,” “advanced,” and “expert.” These appeared in the very early days of OKBridge (OKB, the first large on-line bridge site) and continue to this day. I don’t think anyone promulgated them; they just happened and seem to have become standardized without any action on any authority’s part. To some extent, they were perpetuated by an OKB feature which allowed users to search for tables with specified ratings, but by the time that appeared, the categories were pretty well entrenched.

    Being that they are self-ratings, they are, of course, usually optimistic. Even if a player’s ego didn’t encourage him to choose a level higher than others might choose, it’s in a player’s best interest simply to lie in order to get better partners. Furthermore, since there are no hard guidelines about accomplishments associated with each level, it usually doesn’t take much to convince oneself one belongs in the next higher category.

    Is there a solution? When OKB was more or less the only game in town, it used an ELO-like rating system and encouraged players to keep their ratings public. (They still do, I believe, btw.) That worked OK, but it also caused snobbery and encouraged cheating. The powers-that-be at OKB also encouraged players to list their ACBL or other sponsoring organization rating. We all know those are far from perfect, but they do help with ballpark evaluation. BBO (Bridge Base Online) has chosen to stick mostly with self-ratings, probably for the reasons above.

    Ought there be a solution? I suspect most enjoy rating themselves positively. Players who over time are unable to raise their posted level may get frustrated and leave. Some players may be embarrassed by a low automatically produced score. Such ratings are an incentive to cheat or misbehave. All in all, it’s a tough call, and I understand why BBO chose as they did.

    I can, however, understand your (Brian’s) frustration not being able to adjust your expectations about a partner. On the other hand, it typically only takes a hand or two to figure out that partner is a moron (technical bridge term actually meaning “any other player”), so it’s not a huge loss not to know it a few minutes earlier.


    April 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

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