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Articles about Polish

I’ve decided to post a series of articles describing my partnership’s unique take on Polish Club in more detail on Bridgewinners, in case you are interested.

Written by taogaming

March 27, 2016 at 10:29 am

Posted in Bridge

Problematic hands

While I think that Polish Club is a good system, it has a few weaknesses. One big one is strong hands with primary diamonds and a secondary major, or two suited hands with the minors. (Standard American also has problems handling these in the strong and artificial 2 Club opening). So … while we open 1 Club with “Most” 18 point hands, we will sometimes open 1 diamond with a hand up to about 20 or 21 HCP. But normally those only show up a few times a year.

Playing at the club, I pick up S:x H:AK D:KQTxx C:AKJxx

Tough. If I open 1 Club I won’t be able to show both minors below 4 Clubs, when 3N is the right place. So I open 1 Diamond. Partner bids 1 Heart and I bid an artificial 2N. (Since we open all balanced hands 1 Club or Notrump, this bid is free). This shows an strong (18+) hand, either primary diamonds or a minor two suiter. Partner bids 3 Diamonds, showing that if I have a minor two suiter, he prefers diamonds.

That’s excellent news. Unless partner is 4=3 in the minors he likely has a doubleton club and 3+ diamonds, taking care of a diamond loser. No point in fooling around. I bid 4 Hearts, key card blackwood in diamonds (kickback) and partner bids 4 Spades, showing one ace. Since we have a loser,  I settle for 6 diamonds, which should be pretty reasonable.

LHO leads the spade king and I find out that partner has pretty much the worst hand.

S:ATx H:T9xxx D:8xx C:Tx

Partner took a shot at improving the contract, but not only does he have the ‘wrong’ ace he has no extras. But he could have a lot more points and this would still be dicey, so I have no complaints.

I win the ace and have to decide how to play. I can finesse the clubs, but then I’ll need something good to happen in diamonds and I may still have a club loser. But if the diamond ace is onside (or maybe the jack) I don’t really need much in clubs. Any 3-3 break or the long hand to have the long trump. So I play the diamond off dummy and RHO follows with the jack. I win with the diamond king.

If the diamond jack was stiff I’m down, but I think it was from AJ tight, so I can make if RHO has two or three clubs (because if he over-ruffs dummy he won’t be able to pull dummy’s last trump). I lead the AK and a small club and LHO stares at this and shows up with the diamond nine. Ah well.

Amazingly I pick up another problematic hand later the same session.

S:AKxx H:– D:AQTxxx C:AJx

I open 1 Diamond again, and LHO bids 1 Heart which goes Pass Pass to me. I bid 2 spades, which could be weaker than what I actually have but partner will strive to keep the auction alive. Partner bids 3 Spades and I reveal the monster hand by making a slam try with 4 Clubs. Partner bids 4 Diamonds — possibly a singleton but likely the diamond king. I don’t have quite enough to force, but I try again with 4 Hearts. Partner bids 4 Spades.

After some thought, I pass. If I give partner the diamond king, what else can he have. If he has the club king and the spade queen (as well as four spades), he wouldn’t have passed over 1 Heart. Even with two kings he may have bid with a spare jack, especially). Realistically the best hand he could have is the spade queen + diamond king or two kings.  And Hank isn’t shy. If he had that he might have taken control.

I don’t think he has it.

I get a spade lead (the ten) and I see I’m right:

S:9xxxx H:Qx D:Kx C:Txxx

I win the Spade A and K (RHO following once, but then discarding), so I have a spade loser, but when diamonds break I can pitch three clubs from dummy and make six.

Still — a club lead would set the slam (unless spades split) so it’s reasonable to not be there.

Even though we were in the non-making slam and out of the making (on this lead) slam, I still feel like we acquitted ourselves well enough.

Written by taogaming

December 21, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Bridge

Tagged with ,

CHO is a bigger threat….

Mrs. Tao and the TaoLing had a day trip, so I called around the usual suspects and find a partner I hadn’t played with a few years. When I arrived at the club she’s talking to Hank, asking “What does Brian play in this situation?”

“He’ll play whatever card you put down in front of him,” Hank says. He knows me pretty well.  Despite our reputation of being weird bidders (because of the Polish Club) for the most part I just play whatever card my partner plays, with a quick review of what I’m playing before hand.

I pull out our old card and we play that. To make sure I remember what “that” is, I hand copy it more legibly into a new card before the game.

It starts well enough. Against Hank and his partner, my CHO passes my 1NT opener with 9xxx KJx JTx Kxx. A flat 8 count means that we have 25 points maximum. I turn up with an average hand that combines for exactly seven tricks with no hope of an eighth, and my +90 is good for 7.5 out of 8. On the next hand 6 Hearts can make, but it’s tricky and lucky. I’m in four hearts, but one of only two people to find the line for six.

Then the bad hands start.

On one hand, I’m two levels too high because CHO didn’t respect my first or second signoff.

Dummy: S: AKxx H: 2 D: KTxxx C:AQx

Me   : S: Jxx H:QJ87653 D:9 C:Jx

1D   1H
1S   2H
2N   3H

I could have shot 4H over 2N, but I was expecting more points for partners 2N bid.

LHO led the H4 to RHOs Ace, and RHO returned the diamond 5 to LHO’s Ace, and then LHO tracked the five of clubs.

And there it is. My opponents are a married couple. LHO is the wife and a better player, arguably good enough to know that if she’s underled the club king, she just handed me the contract (if I have the jack). I doubt she has a stiff club, that looks like an automatic lead. But if she has the spade queen as well, she may have a tough lead.

This is the worst part of my game (apart from obvious inattention) — understanding how others think. If LHO is looking at the club king, this seems like a mistake, but she may trust that I can’t take the finesse. Urgh. My options are let it ride to the jack, which will let me make if trumps behave, or fly the club ace, pitch my remaining club, and then try to navigate my spade loser, which is unlikely.

I honestly have no idea what’s right, and in any case, I get it wrong. The finesse would have worked.

Partner then forgets that we play support doubles (what else could it be, I wonder. It turns out the answer is an SOS double, which practically nobody has good agreements on) so I’m in the wrong contract. Another zero.

Later on I pick up

S:Axxxx H:Ax D:Jxx C:Axx

I open 1NT and LHO (the strongest player in the room, but also prone to hideous hog style masterminding, trusting his card sense and skill to save him) bids 2 Clubs alerted as a single unknown suit.

Partner bids 3 Hearts.

I copy the convention card in order to look at it carefully, so I know the following:

  1.  After our 1N if the opponents bid 2 clubs, we play “systems on” (with double being stayman)
  2. After 1N, our system defines 3 Heart as 4=1=4=4 distribution (stiff heart) and game going values.

I’m just not sure I believe it. But I duly alert.

RHO passes and I’m in a pickle, but my rule is “When in doubt, assume partner didn’t forget.” And LHO could have six hearts (or seven bad ones) and RHO may not have doubled with four hearts. She didn’t ask what the alert meant (possibly correctly guessing that we’re on rocky ground).

I bid 4 spades.

Partner lets me play it in four spades, but my rule has failed me again. Partner has forgotten the card, and assumed that Lebensohl applies (so 3 Hearts was a forcing heart bid). Thankfully we don’t play kickback. I have to play the hand wide open, but with spades 5-1, its hopeless.

(In hindsight was a bit hasty, I should probably bid 3 Spades to see if partner can cue bid if she really has a better hand. Ethically 3 Spades is probably the right call, then treating 3N as a serious slam try. In either case the rails would have come off).

I shrug and mention my rule and LHO archly replies “Even when playing with a woman?”

My partner laughs noticeably more than his wife. The other two hands against them are thankfully straightforward, and on one hand LHO makes a masterminding pass instead of a game try with a good hand (but terrible trumps) and buys the wrong dummy, so makes +200 instead of +650. Who knows how we are doing? I do know that too little of our good results are our own fault.

I botch a contract when I miscount a hand, so its not all one-sided, and we are playing against the lovely LOLs (one of whom is a great-aunt of mine) that have no idea what’s going on. On the first hand I open 1 Spade, LHO bids 2 Spades. I have no idea if they play that as Michaels or strong. Apparently neither does RHO, because she passes. I know enough to not double and just take the vulnerable undertricks.

After the dust settles, LHO says she meant to bid 2 Clubs and only realized after my partner had bid. I inform her that — thanks to a recent rules change — she can correct mechanical mistakes until her partner bids.

(She didn’t have a 2 clubs overcall either, either in suit strength or points….)

On the second hand at that table, I pick up something fun:

S: -- H: xx D: KQ98 C: AQJT984

LHO opens 1 Club, CHO passes and RHO bids 3 Spades. I don’t know what the means, but I do know that asking won’t get me a good answer and may let our opponents figure it out. I honestly have no idea how partner will take 4 clubs, but in any case I think 5 clubs may have an outside shot and may be a decent sacrifice. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard these two make a penalty double in their life. I bid five clubs.

LHO bids 5 Spades and they play it there.

Five spades can make, but its not automatic. Even if declarer took full advantages of all the inferences, it would only point towards the right line. Off one. Five clubs would only be down one against typical defense, despite a 5=0 club rail.

We’re back up to average-ish.

It is not to be. A few more average rounds we’re in the home stretch.

Against a solid declarer I preempt with KQJTxxx xx xx QJ and declarer gets to 3N. I lead my spade King and when partner gets in she plays a club 8. I’ve already decided to play clubs randomly (as per Restricted choice) and partners spot makes me think declarer has AK of clubs, so I see no reason to change. I toss the queen.

Partner gets in again and … cashes the club king, killing my only entry. We both played deceptively, but I think partner could have gotten it right. The club jack was about as much as I could have, and an underlead would have been safe (in that the trick would have come back if my queen was stiff).

Next hand ….

S:xx H:KJxx D:QT97xx C:x

RHO opens 1N. I should pass this, but our system lets me show my two suits exactly. (Another one of my rules, “when your system caters to your hand, take full advantage.”) Yes, I’m light on points, but my shape is good. I bid 2 Diamonds, showing diamonds and hearts. I could go for a number, but LHO is a new player.

LHO bids 3 Diamonds … has she learned Lebensohl? Partner bids 3 Hearts and now I really may go for a number, but RHO bids 3N.

I feel like he’s got a double heart stopper, and decide to trust my instincts. Upon learning that LHO did know 3D was stayman (without a stopper!), I know that RHO didn’t show a spade fit, so I lead my top spade.

Dummy is S:Q9xx H:xx D:xxx C:AKJx. Impressive for a novice to bid so accurately.

The spades goes Queen-King-Ace, and declarer shoots back a spade to dummies nine and partners jack.

Partner tables the heart deuce. Declarer inserts the ten and I win with the jack and return a heart. Partner is showing an honor, almost certainly the queen.


CHO returned the 2 from 9xx2 and after my return goes to the 9 and declarer’s queen I’m riled. My spade lead wasn’t great (declarer hid a 4-4 spade fit) but only saved declarer a guess he’d likely get right (since I’d shown the reds). But partner had an easy return of the heart 9 and I practically hiss as much.

“I wanted to show my count.”
“Do you think I’d imagine you bid 3 hearts with only 3?”

Last hand at the table I pick up

S: KJxx H:AQT D:AQxx C:xx

Partner opens 1 Club (could be short, but shouldn’t have four diamonds unless clubs are real), RHO overcalls 1 Heart. This hand seems earily similar to last one. I also have a (possible) 4-4 spade fit that materializes, but I shoot 3N rather than looking for it. I’ve a flattish-hand and showing my 16 HCP (3N shows 15-17) seems more likley to help than hurt.

Also, I have the opponents suit double stopped. (With the AQT of hearts, in fact, just like the prior hand). If a spade fit does exist there may still be a 4-1 break that lets me take the same number of tricks in NT to win the board (since we’re also a bit heavy, that should help). And in any case I need to win back something.

When dummy hits I discover there is a spade fit, and its a near slam hand.

Only too late I realize my likely double stop inflated my HCP, my AQT are practically worth AKJ. But my “backup plan” pays off. Spades break 4-1, so I make the same number of tricks as I could in spades. I win a top board, but that still leaves two zeroes and a top, and we’re in too deep a hole for anything good to happen.

Written by taogaming

October 15, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Bridge

A well bid hand

Playing online against random opponents, red vs white (at IMPs) I pick up.

S: x H: Ax D:AT8 C:AJ65432

A straight flush in clubs, with a few good ones to boot. And three aces.

I open 1 Club naturally enough (no Polish club tonight!) and partner responds 1 Heart.

RHO steps in with 1 Spade and I bid 2 Clubs. I really want to bid 2.5, but I decided to go a bit low. In hindsight I think it may be better to stretch to get to a game, but either could work. I’d be happy if it came back to me and I could bid 3C.  Also, since we’re playing support doubles, my bid tends to deny 3 or more hearts.

LHO raises his partner to 2 Spades, and partner bids 3NT. RHO is back in it with 4 Spades.

Hm. Partner may have taken a chance, but we are white and they are red. I believe we are in a forcing situation. Partner bid a game, so we won’t let them play undoubled.

Given that, I pass. That must be suggesting not doubling and playing somewhere else. It should imply a singleton spade. It pretty much should ask about clubs, although I could also be 4=6 in the minors. I expect partner to double, and I won’t be unhappy if partner doubles — three aces are three tricks (hopefully), but who knows? We could make a club slam and 4 spades could earn us almost nothing or — heaven forfend — make.

Partner thinks for a bit and bids 5 Clubs, which ends the auction.

I get the three of spades lead and after dummy hits there isn’t much to the play


                    S: AQx H:QJTxx D:Q C:QT97

S:9xx H:Kxxxx D:J9xxx C:--            S:KJT8xx H:7 D:Kxxx C:Kx

                   S:x H:Ax D:AT8 C:AJ65432

With the club king onside I could make six. Taking the hook is totally safe (if it looses then I can at most lose one more trick) and I probably should have, apparently there was more to the play than I noticed, but its a measly overtrick and I’m playing online and in any case this article isn’t about the play and shut up.

Four spades likely won’t make, but will be a cheap date. (Diamond ace, diamond ruff, heart ace, diamond ruff and we get the spade ace for down 2, +300, instead of +620. The club ace lead looks terrible but will likely transpose into the same line, club ace ruffed, spade and partner wins high and leads the DQ to get a ruff, heart ace, another ruff. Although … after the club opening lead ruffed a declarer who peeks at the cards can lead the HK to hold things to off one).

East likely figured the save should be cheap, and he was right, although if West had a touch more defense. A further bid of 5S starts to look bad. It might be a phantom or push us into a slam. West’s bids are defensible and he self-rated as novice (I didn’t check East, but he seemed like a reasonable intermediate). Considering the poor bidding I see by “advanced” players I think both acquited themselves well.

And — of course — partner’s bid of 5 Clubs was correct.

I comment “nice bidding all around,” and go to the next hand.

Written by taogaming

May 17, 2017 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Bridge

Bridge Wonkery

(This will make no sense unless you play bridge at least semi-seriously.)

Last fall I started a new partnership playing Polish Club. Now that I’ve played half a year (at least a few sessions a month), I have thoughts.

In general — Polish Club is like Precision in that the major suit openings have a narrower range. So responder won’t have to cater to rare strong hands when we open 1 of a major.  Also, if we have a minimum opening with great playing strength, we can bid aggressively without having to worry that partner will expect lots of cards and get us too high (or double the opponents expecting lots of defense). Finally, we can just bid game and safely skip slam investigation on some hands, which keeps the defense in the dark. Precision does this better than Polish, since it has an 11-15 range, whereas Polish has 11-17, as compared to Standard’s 11-20(ish).

Also (like Precision), we can show moderate strength (18-21) hands at a lower level. Just today I played in two spades holding

S:AKQxx H: AJxx D:Kx C:xx opposite S:Jx H:xxx D:xx C:AQxxx. Depending on your variant of standard american, you’ll probably be in a touchier contract, and if you are in two spades opener will worry until dummy hits that he’s missed something. (I was disappointed to find that every card was on; every reasonable contract was foolproof. Our opponents were in three spades for a push. With average luck we’ll likely lose 2 hearts and 3 minor cards, to make two exactly, for a solid swing).

We also gain the ability to quickly set a game forcing auction at a very low level.”Two over one Game Forcing” has that as a big advantage, but only  when both partners have opening values (13 opposite 13). With 18 opposite 8, a forcing club system lets you set a low level game force to look for the best game or investigate slam without jumping. Being able to do this when the points aren’t evenly divided is huge. Again, Polish and Precision share this feature.

So what happens when you open 1C in either system?

In Precision, opponents hog as much space as they think they can get away with. The hand probably belongs to you. If responder isn’t totally broke, your side has the balance of points.  So you’ll get at least one hundred, and maybe a game. Slam isn’t out of the question. Offering a few hundred points to muddy the waters is a good bet, particularly since you can make the offer to your partner at the one level, where even huge hands don’t get rich doubling.

In Polish, since the 1C opening includes weak and strong hands, the opponent’s can’t jump in wily-nily. More importantly, the weak hand is usually a balanced 12-14 count. One of the strengths of any 1NT opening is that responder knows instantly which level the hand belongs at (part score, invitational, game, slammish) and which suits may be playable as trumps. So if the opponents do pre-empt,  responder is well placed to make a positive response, a negative free bid (showing shape, but denying game values unless opener reveals a strong hand) or double under the simple assumption that opener has a balanced ~13 count. If partner isn’t balanced, he’ll be stronger, which compensates.

The opponents face a dilemma:

  1. If opener has a weak hand, when an opponent steps out of line (by bidding too aggressively) responder is well placed to compete or double, and they may find they’ve given us several hundred points on a hand where we could only earn 100 or they deserve to get a positive score. Whereas an undisciplined bid against precision probably won’t miss a game (since the opening side has a minimum of 16 points, often more) that’s not true against polish. Blatant psyches (and routine stretching, like pre-empting heavy) are much more likely to catch a strong partner who gets taken in, instead of the opposite side.
  2. So, when opener does have strong hands, he’ll often get to convey good information while the level is low, at which point intervening is too late.

Given all that, our opponents in general seem content to only interfere with our 1C bids when they’d do so against a “Standard” 1C. Our big hands face much less obnoxious competition. I’ll take Polish with little competition over Precision with heavy competition.

One hand jumps out at me. I had the king of spades (with two small) and no other points. Partner opened 1C, I responded 1D (usually showing less than 7 points, but also including some awkward bigger hands) and partner bid 1S. I still didn’t know what partner had, but it was capped at 21 points, so I passed. Now my LHO asked some questions:

“What does your partner have?”
“Most likely 12-14 points with 4 spades. But it could be 18-21 with 5+ spades.”

My LHO was staring at a balanced opening hand, but had no idea if his partner was almost broke, or had an opening hand. He hadn’t bid after my 1D bid because he had no good suit and was worried that opener had a strong hand. But now passing meant possibly missing a game or, more realistically, a making partscore. Re-opening risks finding partner with a misfit trash and opponents who know they have half the deck. My opponents, in this case, guessed wrong. Bridge is all about risk and reward, but this is complex and tough to evaluate …. for the opponents.

We do pay a price for that, namely when partner opens 1C (strong) and an opponent has a classical pre-empt. Then responder has to cater to a weak hand and can’t always show values. But these happen much less frequently than 1C-(frisky 1 or 2 level bid)-something-(raise). We’ve had numerous auctions where we are investigating slam or probing for the best game on hands where a precision pair would be having to name a first suit at the two level or higher. I’ll take it.

Finally, a minor difference from precision — Precision’s 1D opening is nebulous, showing possibly only two diamonds, but constrained with 11-15 points. In Polish we promise four diamonds, but have a wider range. 11-20. (While 1C can be any hand with 18+ points, it’s difficult to bid 18-20 point hands with both minors or unbalanced with 6+ diamonds). So our 1D opening is effectively like standard in range. Is it better to have a confined range or to show a real suit? I suspect for expert pairs the precision way is better, slightly. Not being an expert, having a real suit works out well.

Finally, playing at the club level, it has to be said that Polish (like the weak NT) will provide a good result from time to time just because opponents blunder. Also, from necessity of learning a new system, partner and I made a detailed set of system notes; so we have much better defined agreements as compared to other non-expert partnerships with similar playtime. (Yay for google docs!) (Not particular to Polish, but we both have decent memories, and enjoy system tinkering and have had shockingly few cases of one partner just forgetting an agreement. We’d probably get decent results no matter what system we played).

Basic Polish isn’t difficult. You learn the 1C system and responses (and the 2C opening), practice the bidding for a few hours, and you’ve got it. You can use the same system you like for the rest of your one level openings and can keep your two level openings (except 2C) the same if you like. You can add as many (or few) gadgets as you like. I recommend it.

One convention (not part of the system) I also recommend for serious players — Raptor 1N overcalls. These occur much more often than 1N overcalls, the negative inferences are useful, and often when you have to pass (or double) with your strong NT hands your opponents tend to get too high. Especially at matchpoints, where the frequency of occurrence (and fighting fo the partscore) it’s a handy little agreement.

Written by taogaming

February 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Bridge

Tagged with

2010 Year in Review — Games Played

Looking at my games played in ’10:

I played a good amount of bridge. about 1.5 sessions a week. It helps to finally have solid partnerships, obviously. (I should write an update on what I think about Polish Club as a system, but I imagine only a handful of people care. I may anyway).
I got in ~60 games of Dominion, not counting the hundreds of games I’ve played on Isotropic. I’m late to the party, but I crashed it hard. I also think I’m swinging to Lou’s opinion on Alchemy … it slows the game down a bit more than I’d like (not every card in it, obviously, but potions add a layer of purchasing, not to mention the slowness of several of the card effects. I don’t actually mind Possession as many people do).

My favorite ‘new’ game was Mimsy Electronica, with 17 plays. For all that, I still want to house rule the game a bit. Perhaps make tokens worth zero points (since my prior nerfing didn’t go far enough, in my opinion).

Other games that earned dimes just narrowly made it:

  • Campaign Manager (sold)
  • Innovation (soured on, slightly)
  • Race for the Galaxy Brink of War (I like it, but Race fatigue has hit a bit. Keldon’s excellent server also means I’m not desperate to play this face to face. I expect Dominion to suffer next year for the same reason).
  • Settlers of Catan (which I played exclusively with the Taolings).

The only new nickels were Ascension (which I’m done with, at least until I see if an expansion adds game depth) and 7 Wonders (a nice filler).  I also managed a nickel on Homesteaders, most of which early in the year when it was still new, but it got 10 plays without being cast off.

So I guess that makes this a fairly weak “year.” (With the usual caveat that I see most new games ~6 months behind the bleeding edge these days, which is fine). I’ll think about this more later.

According to the excellent Friendless stats page: I’ve played ~142 games (these count expansions, I think, so it’s probably closer to ~130). About 60 of these games were new, so as usual I sampled a lot of games, and most of them were “OK” or “Fine.”

If I narrow my focus to the last quarter, only Labyrinth stands out as a potential ‘good game for this year.’ But I’d need another 5+ plays to determine that. I did do a solo turn at a harder setting (with double recruits) and it seemed much more interesting, but I had to take it down. I’ll probably revisit that this weekend….

Written by taogaming

December 25, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Ramblings

Tagged with

The future of Bridge

I have a vague hope that Bridge will take off in the next decade, that some fervent media savvy multi-millionaire will form a big stakes cash game, sell the media rights to ESPN. This isn’t a new thought. I doubt the future of bridge is with the ACBL.

But what inspired my renewed thinking about this? Being asked not to play a non-mainstream system at the “Pro-Am” game.  I totally agree with restricting things at newcomer/novice games, but:

  • The Pro-Am game is open to everyone (just that the winning pair that includes an “amateur” gets a bonus prize). Amateur is defined (here) as having less than 200 master points. (A Life Master rating requires at least 300 points). I barely don’t qualify as an amateur, but I don’t play many tournaments. Averaged over my bridge lifetime, I’ve barely played any.
  • The main points of Polish Club are legal in ACBL events that are limited to 20 masterpoints!

While clubs are free to ban (or allow) whatever systems they want in general, the ‘fraidy-cat, mincing attitude bodes poorly for the game’s future. Hell, even the PBA cultivates a bad boy image.

“Bridge — We’re not as cool as bowling.”

[To be clear, the club wasn’t banning the system or us, just asked us to not play in that one game. And one local pro mentioned that our system was banned in South Africa. So, good for the ACBL … at least one organizing body has more bizarre restrictions.]

Bridge — a complicated game whose governing body actively discourages people from exploring parts of it’s complexity.

Written by taogaming

August 31, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Bridge, Rant

Wspólny Język

Not much in gaming recently; I’ve started two new bridge partnerships. One is fairly standard, but for the other we’re both interested in esoteric systems and we’re using Polish club as the basis (hence the title) with a high amount of gadgetry. I’ve been thinking about bidding, which satisfies my system exploration urges. So I haven’t been thinking much about other games.

Written by taogaming

August 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

Posted in Bridge

Musings on Bridge Bidding

(This is probably not of interest to non-bridge players. Tough. Learn to play).

Over the course of the years, I’ve read quite a few bidding systems. This week I read Marshall Miles book “The Unbalanced Diamond.” It’s interesting, particularly the aforementioned diamond bids.

Standard American (at least, the 2/1 variety that most experienced tournament players use) actually handles things quite well, but it’s interesting in that there is only one strong forcing opening (2 Clubs).  Precision (and other Big Club systems) also only have a single strong forcing opening, but it has to handle moderately strong hands (16+) as well as the huge hands that 2 clubs openings cover.

[I’m ignoring the 2 No Trump opening which shows 20-21 in most systems, and any openings above 3 Spades. Some tournament players tack on some openings to show a long major suit that can almost make game (The Namyats convention) OR 3NT to show a long running minor. And some hands can just open Blackwood, to ask about aces].

So what’s interesting to me is seeing systems that have multiple ‘big opening’ hands.  The Unbalanced Diamond actually has three big opening hands, 1C usually shows 15-19 (strong, but not overwhelming hands) but can include a few well defined hands that show more. (24-27 point balanced hands, and game forcing hands with both majors), 2 Clubs shows 20+ hands with a five card major (or two), 2 Diamonds shows 20+ hands without a five card major (excpet hands that are exactly 22-23, with 5332 distribution).

In the old days, of course, any 2 bid was strong. Four strong opening bids (for 20+ point hands). The problem is that these hands are pretty rare. Better to condense all strong bids into 2C (and use the rest for something else, typically pre-empting).

Bidding requires space — consider it an auction from 1-35, where each number affects play (and scoring). There’s an argument to bidding “1” say “I have a great hand” like precision does, but then your opponents will typically use their bids to quickly reach the highest safe number possible without worrying that they could have a bonus available. (Your bid has told them they probably can’t). Which may not be that high, but it’s often around 9-13. So precision’s advantage isn’t the big club. It’s when you open something else and get all those negative inferences. When a precision player opens 1 Spade, you often don’t have to worry about whether you can make a slam and bid slowly, you just bid your game. (Sure, you may rarely miss a slam with a perfect fit, but you’ll probably wind up making enough games because the defenders have no information that a revealing auction would have). Also, when a precision player opens one spade, the opponents compete, and then he bids at the three or four level, his partner knows that he’s doing it on offensive strength, not just high card points.

So in some sense, the strength of precision is every time you don’t use the big opening. I’m intrigued by the Polish Club systems, (where 1C shows all the big hands, but also shows the “balanced, barely enough to bid” hand, which puts some uncertainty for the opponents.  If they have a “compete quickly based on shape” system, often they could miss a reasonable game, or sacrifice when the opener can’t make much of anything. Or they could bid reasonably and then discover opener does have a huge hand.

Miles system works the opposite way. The 1 Club is usually moderately big, so the partner of opener will often be able to quickly determine that the opponents have gotten too high, but there’s no shot at slam (or game) and be able to punish them. Opener’s tightly constrained hand (almost all opening bids in this system have a 5 point range, except for the few exceptions on 1C (which are rare) and the 2C/2D bids technically have a 17 point range, but effectively 5 points.  (Only 1.5% of the hands have 20+ HCP, and only 0.02% have 26+)

Anyway, there’s very little discussion online about this system (at least, not that google can see), although I know that sometimes commenter JeffG plays with Marshall Miles (and in fact they were on the same team for the Vanderbilt’s a few weeks ago). The ACBL regulates bidding at tournaments somewhat draconianly (although I understand the reason behind it, it does annoy me), but this system is (apparently) legal. I guess I enjoy tinkering with systems, just like as in other games.

Anyway, in my mind, the unbalanced diamond compares with Precision (since they are both “Big Club” systems) and seems to compare reasonably well. It’s certainly interesting.


Written by taogaming

March 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Bridge

Tagged with

Bridge in Corona

I’ve played on BBO (and earlier on OKBridge) for over a quarter century. I finally played a sanctioned tournament online. A few thoughts:

  • From a strictly time/money perspective, a big win. Although the tournament was only 18 boards (boo!) it took 2 hours. A full 24/27 board tournament still keep it ~30 minutes faster than a club game. And there’s no time driving too and from, etc. Cost was several dollars cheaper.
  • This is partially due to the fact that nobody has to get out/sort/put back cards and the clock is 7 minutes a board feels generous (instead of a touch rushed for most people). Also, the enforcement is automatic, after 14 minutes the hand ends. I assume it goes down as an average (unless the director can see timing and adjust).
  • The ACBL/BBO did well to make games sponsored by clubs. So most people go to “their” club and you know everybody. This does help a bit because when Hank and I are playing Polish we still have to alert, but most people aren’t surprised/asking a lot of questions (which takes much longer). So you are still “seeing” your regulars, but only a few sentences of chat between hands means the social aspect is much worse.
  • There is a big discussion about cheating. See Bridgewinners. What needs to happen is an automated way to fill out a recorder form (basically “I smell something funky, please investigate.”) These exist, but are such a pain to fill out nobody every really does. (Actually, I wonder. Jeff G. sits in review for national appeals committees, but maybe they only happen at high level). But by being automated BBO could provide a certified copy of the bidding/play to at least prevent “remembering with advantages” by either party. Right now there were a few questionable things that happened, but honestly in a club game I get a fair number. Most are just mistakes. But the ability to see exactly what happened is enlightening.

Anyway, I wouldn’t normally play a club game online and this doesn’t really change that. But you make do…

Written by taogaming

June 1, 2020 at 10:11 pm