The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

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Let’s see …

  1. (For bridge players) Danny Kleinman has a series of articles comparing 2/1 Game Forcing to Standard American Bidding. (“Should you play 2/1 Game Forcing?” and “Subtle Benefits of 2/1 GF.” Both are PDFs) I may write up my thoughts on those articles in a while… I should write up my thoughts on Polish at some point, too, but I want a few more sessions.
  2. Grimoire sounds good. Actually, it sounds like an interesting game I’d hate, but I want to try it. Thanks to Hiew for reviewing it.
  3. A “Boardgame Netflix?” Well, I guess I’m not their target audience … I have a large collection of games and, more importantly, no strong desire to try every new thing. Good luck storming the castle!
  4. Happy Birthday, Robot — A brilliant idea that I think I’ll get for my nephews’ birthday. But $25 MSRP is a bit steep…at $10 I think this could be a huge crossover hit (very good for the RPG community). The price of a small publisher, I s’pose.
  5. And also, “Happy Birthday, Robot” is just a cracking good phrase. I try to say it every day to all the robots I like. (Which excludes those I went to grad school with, but any other robot is OK in my book). And you definitely want to get it before Robot Passover.
  6. I need to try the 6×2 or 4×3 Ascension variant.
  7. Oh, and there’s a contest to improve on the ELO tournament ranking system.

Written by taogaming

September 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Bridge, Misc

10 Responses

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  1. Happy Birthday, Robot! is a little pricey, but the production values are over the moon. Full colour throughout (again, this is a small press production), the cover is sturdy hardcover, not PoD softcover like most indie RPGs, and it has a thick lacquer protecting it and giving it a high gloss. Thew art is gorgeous, charming and absolutely appropriate to the subject matter and target audience, too.

    I review it, at length and glowingly, on Critical Hits


    September 23, 2010 at 7:43 am

  2. For what it’s worth, there is a digital download of “Happy Birthday, Robot” to be had for $10 at This link was found via Linnaeus’ previous link, and therefore contains his affiliate ID, for those who care about such things.


    September 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  3. I’m way unimpressed with those monographs. If Danny’s going to make a comparison between 2/1 and SA, he really ought to show strengths and weaknesses of each. For example, playing SA, 1S-2C; 2x-2NT is non-forcing. And when does opener know to pass? When he opened something really awful (in which case, game still might make) or when he guesses well. The non-forcing 2NT rebid after a SA 2/1 is a total disaster. Opener simply does not have enough information to get this decision right. He doesn’t know if responder has a five-card suit (1NT can’t be bid on a balanced 11) or not, a partial fit for opener’s major or shortness, or real stoppers in the unbid suit(s) or not.

    Furthermore, 2/1 systems mostly have solved the invitational 1-suiter problems. But even if they haven’t, so what? Those are not common hands, and pretty much, if opener has a stiff in that suit without substantial extra values, even 3 of that suit is going down. Maybe not as much as 3NT, but neither is making. If opener has a fit, game is on. And SA doesn’t have a way to handle determining this below a safe level anyway. When opener has precisely two small and a minimum, you’ll want to play three of responder’s suit, but the one time a year you do, the suit will be 3-2 with the queen onside and 3NT will roll. And what does opener do with a decent six-card suit of his own and a singleton in responder’s suit? He has to guess. Most of the time, he’ll guess to pass, so if responder doesn’t have a good suit and shortness in opener’s suit, he’ll have guessed wrong.

    Danny complains about the forcing 1NT response. I don’t see his mentioning that playing 1NT after 1M-1NT-pass has managed him any decent results. The most frequent times I’ve seen this work out is when responder had a 3-card limit raise. If he’s weak, 1NT is often a dreadful contract and is almost never the best contract. Note that in SA, 1NT cannot include any 3-card limit raises. 1NT forcing is not a panacea by any means, but 1NT non-forcing isn’t any good, either.

    Then again, 2/1, while a pretty clear improvement over SA, isn’t much of a system, either. But SA is dead and dead for good reasons. The changeover happened thirty-forty years ago, simply because the guys playing 2/1 were beating the pants off the guys playing SA. Again, this is not because 2/1 is such a great system, but because SA is such a bad one.


    September 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    • Well, without going too much into it, I do think that 1N semi-forcing (opener can pass when he’s opened balanced crap) is an improvement over 1N totally forcing, and you’d still be playing 2/1. He’s too quick to discount semi-forcing.

      Also, to be fair to the original articles, it’s stated in that Mr. Kleinman believes that 2/1 is superior to Standard American. Having recently started a partnership that uses SA, I’m beginning to see first hand some of the differences.

      And I think that glossing over the differences between Hardy and Lawrence style 2/1 confuses the issue. That’s what I’ve been pondering the last year or so (as I’ve mainly played Hardy style (2/1 is always forcing) but recently started Lawrence style (2/1 can be cancelled if opener rebids 2M or lower, and responder rebids 3m). I’ve been a Hardy proponent, but it may be worth muddling the auction on minor suit (near) slams to clarify things for invitational hands. (Actually, I think Hardy style covers them well enough, but I’m not sure).

      Has 2/1 really solved the 2N problem? Not to my mind. If it goes 1M-1N-2m-2N you know that responder has 11-12, but he could easily have 5 cards in the other minor, a fit for opener’s minor (even with 4 card support, you wouldn’t raise 2C to 3) and the stopper situation is still ambiguous. Responder can bid 3m (assuming you don’t use direct jumps as invitational) to clarify some of the hands, but if opener has a minimum with a stiff he’s still stuck.

      I wonder if SA might be a better matchpoints system, and 2/1 IMPs.


      September 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      • Semi-forcing doesn’t help much, I think. If you play it, to get anything out of it, you need to use the quality of your major as a major determinant about whether to pass. For example, with KQ109x Axx xx Kxx, don’t pass a semi-forcing NT. But with Jxxxx KJx AQx Qx, do. Even then, you’ll gain maybe a couple of percent. 1NT will still be a goofy contract pretty often. But if you know two of your major will be a goofy contract most of the time, it’s percentage to pass.

        The big difference between 1x-1NT; 2y-2NT and 1x-2z; 2y-2NT is not that responder has more choices (he does, but that is only a small gain), but that 1x-2z; 2y-2NT is forcing. Now opener can bid out his hand and the partnership can make an intelligent decision about which game to play. The extra options (even in SA, you really have to play 1S-2C; 2H-3H as forcing or you bury slams right and left) do help a little. The best solution to this in SA is simply to treat that 2NT as forcing. So you overbid anytime responder chooses to start with a 2/1 and a moderate hand. Too bad.

        Lawrence style isn’t needed over 1H openings. 1H-1NT; 2any-2S can be used as a relay to 2NT, after which responder can bid a minor to show the intermediate hands. And if a 1S opener promised to rebid 2C over 1NT, using an artificial 2D will get you there, too. So there are only two starts at issue: 1S-1NT; 2H and 1S-1NT; 2D. If you agree to rebid 2C on 5332 exactly, then even those auctions are not a big problem. Most of the time, opener will be short in responder’s long suit (unless opener bids it), so taking the low road is a reasonable guess. Of course, if the opponents have a huge fit they haven’t found, the chance that you hit a fit goes up.

        Danny assumes Hardy style. Bergen style is a third choice.

        Even if I agree somewhat with Danny’s conclusions, the monographs state them poorly and make the arguments poorly. But I don’t agree: 2/1 pretty much dumps the SA auctions which don’t work. It doesn’t solve everything by any means, but it’s way better than SA.


        September 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

  4. Also, he didn’t clarify whether he thought a 2/1 response (in SA) promised 11 or merely 10 HCP. He’s written about that before, an so you’d think he’d clarify.


    September 24, 2010 at 6:46 pm

  5. The big difference between 1x-1NT; 2y-2NT and 1x-2z; 2y-2NT is not that responder has more choices (he does, but that is only a small gain), but that 1x-2z; 2y-2NT is forcing.

    OK, now I’ve found the point of confusion. When I learned SA, that was a non-forcing auction. So either you are talking about 2/1, or we’re discussing a different SA. Since I learned SA at college 20 years ago, perhaps the “State of the art” has advanced beyond what I know. (Certainly I’ve been playing 2/1 for the last 17 or so years).

    Also, I’m not entirely sure if I follow your thesis. You “don’t agree” with Danny, but both you and he are stating 2/1 is superior. I guess that means you don’t agree why. Perhaps I’ve lost the thread of your argument.


    September 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    • I assume that Jeff is saying that that auction is forcing in 2/1 (which it obviously is, by definition). Otherwise, in SA, I can’t imagine that 2NT can be anything but invitational.

      Then again, he says you need to play 1S-2C; 2H-3H as forcing in SA, when again, I would say 3H is clearly invitational (I’ve got support for your second suit, but not enough for game; you can pass with a minimum). So maybe things have gotten more aggressive since we learned good old SA, Brian.

      Larry Levy

      September 26, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      • Yes, 2NT rebids are not forcing in SA, and that simply does not work. 1S-2C; 2H-3H NF also does not work. What would you bid with x AKxx Qxx AKJ10x? You could easily be laydown for a grand, but 3H isn’t forcing, 4H ends the auction and is an ace heavy, 4D doesn’t show hearts, and nothing else fits. Partner can have an 8-count and you are cold for slam (Axxxx Qxxxx x Qx). Or he could have AKQJx QJxxx xxx — and be in danger at the 5-level. The upshot is that even SA players bite the bullet and agree that after a 2/1, if someone catches a raise with the one exception of a simple preference to opener’s suit at the 2-level, that creates a game force. So 1S-2C; 3C is forcing.

        I agree with Danny in his top-level claim (though the essay is so badly written that it doesn’t appear until the end, and even then is weaseled), but not with many of the details. For example, opening 1NT with 4522 is pretty silly. Kaplan Interchange (switching the meanings of 1S and 1NT after a 1H opening) is a useful tool, but it’s Midchart in the ACBL, and it’s not a good idea to play without real discussion. For example, you play New Minor Forcing, right? What’s forcing after 1H-1S; 1NT? How do you invite game?

        Maybe the real issue is that I simply disagree with his statement near the end: “SA is playable.” It’s not. And today, 2/1 Game Force *IS* “Standard American,” so the whole discussion is pretty pointless. Marshall sometimes pines for the bad old days, and there is no reason to take him seriously when he’s doing that.


        September 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

  6. Whoops…”4D doesn’t show hearts”…I meant “4D is shortness.”


    September 28, 2010 at 11:18 am

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