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An opportunity …

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Playing in the Swiss Teams (with a new partner) I had an interesting defensive problem. I (as East) held the following

S: Txxx H: T8xx D: Axx C: Ax

and heard the following auction by the opponents

---   ---
1NT   2C  [1NT is 15-17 High Card Points]
2S    3S
4S    Pass

Partner led the club deuce and I saw the following dummy

S: Kxxx H: Txxx D: KQ8 C: xx

I won the club ace and continued with my club spot (the un-readable seven, IIRC). Partner — not being endowed with second sight — switched to a diamond … king – ace – small.

You’ve taken three tricks. Partner could have either major ace, in which case the hand is already over. But what do you do?

Amazingly, the correct answer is …. return a diamond and this is something you can figure out with the information at hand. Declarer has four spades (from the answer to stayman) and five clubs (assuming partner led fourth best). That makes her shape likely 4=2=2=5. Declarer has the Queen of clubs (since partner would have won the queen from KQxx) and the jack of clubs (since partner would have won the jack from KJxx.

If she has the diamond jack and the heart ace as well, she makes by 4 spades + 1 Heart + 2 Diamonds + 3 Clubs. So partner needs either the diamond jack or the heart ace. But not both! What if partner has the diamond jack and the heart king? You can see the end position after declarer runs spades and three more clubs…

Dummy H: J D: Q8

Partner H: K D: J9

Declarer H: Q D: T C: x (good)

When declarer leads the good club partner is squeezed in the red suits. Declarer doesn’t even need the heart queen or diamond ten … partner would have already thrown the queen of hearts earlier.

What if you lead a diamond and partner had the heart ace all long? Well, if declarer has the diamond jack, she only gets one pitch from dummy, so partner still gets the heart ace. The only time switching to a diamond costs a trick is if partner started with AQ of hearts … (if partner had the AK then the bidding makes no sense and partner would have led it). Even then we still set the contract (instead of down two). At teams, that’s fine.

What if declarer has a stiff heart and was 4=1=3=5 (allowable by the new ACBL rules if the heart singleton is an honor). Then declarer can’t get any pitches on the diamonds (if she has the jack) and will still lose a heart (unless she also has the ace, in which case nothing matters).

Nope, the absolutely correct play is to break up the squeeze at trick four by leading diamonds to break up communications. Now when declarer runs her black suit winners, partner can tell (once I pitch on the first club) what is declarers shape is and hold onto Kx of hearts and wait.

(You can also break up the squeeze by holding up the diamond ace at trick three, which means that the count is not rectified …this may get into some weird strip squeezes but in general will work).

Sadly, this was an opportunity lost because I woodenly shot back a heart at trick four. And partner had the magic hand J9 of diamonds and K of hearts. Making four on a squeeze. Only after the hand did I realize that I could have broken it up (two ways!).

Written by taogaming

October 12, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Bridge

“The thing about Bridge,” said the Rabbit …

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“is that you can get lucky. No matter how good you play at Golf or Tennis or Billiards, you aren’t going to beat the pro. But in bridge sometimes your mistakes work out. And,” he added in a lower voice, “sometimes you get all the cards. The experts really hate that.”

I’ve been playing with Roxie recently, and we’ve been doing OK but — contra the Rabbit — you can also get unlucky. In the morning session we bid a decent slam If my club jack is in diamonds, its cold. If diamonds break, its cold. Neither is true. I’m also playing against a national champion, so no misdefense. After six tricks everyone just shrugs, we all know its down one. We did well enough to scratch, but there had been warnings. Novices getting to the right contracts. Diabolical suit splits. I should have paid attention.

Playing in the evening session (against a strong married couple) I picked up

S: Axx H: x D: AKQJxxx C: xx

RHO in first seat opened 3 Spades. Well, there was nothing to it. While 3 NT could go down quite a bit on a heart or club lead, why should LHO lead a heart or club after her partner bid spades? Unless she had a solid suit (or near so), I figured I’d get a spade lead and on said lead I figured to make eight tricks.

And — as thee saying goes — where there are eight tricks, there are usually nine.

So I bid 3NT. LHO passed and Roxie seemed to have a bit of a problem. Eventually she bid 6 Hearts, and RHO passed.

Roxie could have transferred to hearts and asked me something, but she’d set the contract. No doubt she had a void to shoot a slam, and I had more than a strong suspicion that void was diamonds. My hand would not be particularly welcome, I thought. If hearts didn’t break we could easily lose a heart and some other things. But it would be a grave breach to pull her bid to 6 NT. The stiff heart would be a sad note, but two small would be normal, so perhaps the suit would play for no losers. Still, I considered bidding, but passed.

When RHO tabled his card I said as I put down dummy: “Sometimes nobody does anything wrong and yet you get a ludicrous result.” I could see how the play went. RHO would lead a spade and Roxie would have to take some number of discards on diamonds, her sole entry to dummy being hit. But likely she could only cash two or three diamonds, not the four (or perhaps seven) tricks I had thought my hand worth.

But RHO had tabled …. the nine of clubs!

I put down dummy and it went small small to Roxie’s Ten. She then played down the AKQ of hearts. LHO followed twice and RHO followed three times. Roxie then played another heart, both opponents pitching spades. Roxie played another heart ….

“Diamonds Break,” RHO said helpfully. LHO started to put her hand away, but neither of them quite conceded the rest of the tricks and slowly it dawned on everyone that there was a reason that Roxie hadn’t claimed the rest, and so they pulled their hands back to their chest.

It may help to see Roxie’s hand:

S: — H: AKQxxxxx D: — C: AQTxx

After leading out her hearts Roxie had to lead a small club. RHO showed out. LHO won and returned a club, letting Roxie take the marked finesse but with clubs breaking 5-1 there was still a club to be lost.

Off one.

“What you said when you put down dummy, how did you know” asked RHO.

“Signs,” I said. “And Portents.”

Update — I’ve been informed that partner was in fact 8-5 instead of 7-6 (which doesn’t really change the play. I have updated the above). And in fact 6 hearts can be made. After winning the club cheaply Roxie plays the AK of hearts then the ace of clubs. If RHO trumps the club, he is endplayed and must give access to dummy. If not, Roxie plays her deuce of hearts to endplay him. (You play the ace of clubs first in case RHO has 9x of clubs).

Written by taogaming

October 9, 2021 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Bridge

An unlikely bridge event

Playing with Roxie, in the second round the director is playing with a new-ish player (“Joe”) who doesn’t have a partner. As with any new-ish opponent, you hope they have to make decisions and it works out as well as we could have hoped.

  • The first board, Joe leads K from Kxx in partners suit. This gives partner a trick (that she could have technically taken herself, but would not have, on the bidding). We score a co-top. (7.5 out of a possible 8).
  • The second board Joe misbids to land in a contract he might have gotten to anyway for a poor score. He misplays to turn that into another co-top for us. 7.5/8)
  • On the third board, Joe makes a takeout double which I redouble (to show 9-11 points, as I’m a passed hand). When Joe bids again at the three level, I have an easy penalty double and don’t have to share the top with anyone this time. 8/8.

Roxie and I win N/S with 63% (one or two of our decisions don’t work out, but most of them are correct and do work out, and a near-perfect round like that certainly helps. We only have one below average round when I forget that a takeout doubler was a passed hand, and make a bad assumption based on it, and even that round was 40%…)

Winning East/West with 65% is … Joe and his partner! Their round by round percentages (remember, 50% is an average round) were 65, 81, 75, 77, 85, 04 (vs us), 81, 56, and 60! Amazing!

Written by taogaming

September 6, 2021 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports


At the Bridge Club yearly Luau I am playing with Roxie against very nice newcomers … so before the round I congratulate them for playing and generally encourage them. (New players are rare and valuable). Rather unfortunately, the first two hands against them have belonged to us, so we get to routine, average-ish contracts (although likely pick up a bit on one hand against a misdefense). In an earlier round the pair who don’t have a firm grasp of their own system have the hands, which gives us good results as they can’t bid them. I was hoping for a repeat….

Then I pick up the sort of hand that bridge players dream of, but rarely see….

S: — H:A7 D:AKJT9x C:QT762

Not many high card points, but bursting with potential. I am dealer, vulnerable vs not, and I have an easy One Diamond opening. My LHO bids One Spade and Roxie is there with Three Diamonds. We play that as pre-emptive, but red vs white it should have something of note. My right hand opponent bids Four Spades.

Roxie should have at least four diamonds for her bid, and five is more reasonable, so I’m losing at most a heart. Losing three clubs would be unlucky but possible, but it takes very little for my hand to make slam (particularly if I get a spade lead). KJ of clubs would do nicely. Red vs White its just possible partner has more (a side king, even).

Since I think slam is still in the picture (remotely) but also that I’m expecting to have a good chance to make, I bid Five Clubs. This should help Roxie know that clubs honors would be welcome offensively. LHO passes, Roxie declines to push for slam with Five Diamonds and RHO is there with Five Spades.

Is Five Spades making? Well, if Roxie doesn’t have anything in clubs, she should have a card or two in spades and hearts, and those would both work. I have two aces (although its possible the diamond ace may not cash). I think if five spades makes we’re getting a bad result, so I’ll try to protect our position. I double.

LHO passes and Roxie contemplates this and pulls to Six Diamonds. This goes to LHO, who bids Six Spades. This comes back to me, and I don’t think my logic has changed. Admittedly they are one level higher, but against that I suspect that someone is void of diamonds. And the new players may just be horribly misbidding. In any case, I’m likely only risking a matchpoint by doubling, so I double again and nobody has anything else to say.

Partner leads the eight of clubs….

Dummy: S: Kxxxx H:K8xx D:x C:Axx

Roxie: S:xx H:xxx D:Qxxxxx C:8x Me: S:– H:Ax D:AKJT9x C:QT762

Declarer: S:AQJT9x H:QJT9 D:– C:KJx

After winning the club in hand (covering my queen with the king) declarer pulled trumps in two rounds and then lead the H9 to the HK, which I won. When the diamond ace didn’t cash, I still had hopes that partner had the heart queen or jack (and that declarer misplayed), but eventually declarer took the rest for a score (for them) of 1660.

I should have simply passed five spades, I had already bid my (shapely) fourteen count to the five level opposite a pre-emptive hand (and while part of me wants to say that CHO should have perhaps bid four diamonds, that bid could easily be a disaster red vs white). The silver lining? Doubling did only cost a single matchpoint. Still, that number was a bit more encouragement than I like to give out, new pair or not.

Written by taogaming

August 8, 2021 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Bridge, Session Reports

Kibitzing on Realbridge

I spent part of yesterday watching the JLall4 Quarterfinals on realbridge ( Some thoughts:

  • The matches are delayed by 30minutes (and in the final session for multi-session events even longer) to prevent cheating. Which is nice but that also means that when one table has a problem they hold the other tables …. so one match kind of got delayed. (Of course I can just turn on a videogame until they restart, but still….)
  • They have commentators (watching on the same delay you are) which is nice. One is a local expert I’ve known and played against, and several well known experts also.
  • You can rewind the hand to watch, generally the User Interface is fine.

Written by taogaming

June 19, 2021 at 9:03 am

Posted in Bridge

Welcome Back, Pt 2.

A few more hands from yesterday.

Holding S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2 C:AQJ3 I’m not surprised when its three passes to me. I could open in diamonds and jump shift (and maybe I should, as this could easily be a minor suit slam), but I just decide to open 2NT. (The ACBL recently changed, so it is not an illegal agreement to open hands like this in NT, with a stiff honor). Partner bids 3 Clubs (stayman) and raises my 3 Spades to 4 Spades.

I get the 8 of hearts lead and see this.

Dummy S: Q654 H:Q752 D:87 C:K92

8 of hearts led

Hand: S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2 C:AQJ3

We’ve reached a good game, with only three fast potential losers, but its tricky. I duck the heart 8, RHO playing the 6 and win the ace. I could play either opponent to have the long trumps, and perhaps I should play LHO for it, but the play of the spades in isolation is to lead the queen. Perhaps the opening lead should dissuade me, but if RHO had 6+ hearts in 3rd seat non-vulnerable, I suspect I may have gotten preempted. I lead a club to the king and play the queen of spades. RHO covers this easily so I win the ace and LHO drops the “ominous eight.”

I note that this means that (apart from the jack) my spots are high. I continue with the spade 9 and LHO does indeed show out, pitching the diamond ten (standard signals). RHO wins the jack and obediently shifts to a diamond, king-ace-small. A heart comes back (the four) and I cover with the 7, and ruff the 9.

This is annoying. I have 3 high trumps but I don’t see a way to get rid of my losing diamond (even if I could pull trump, which are blocked). I need RHO to follow to two more rounds of clubs and diamonds, and that can’t happen unless LHO’s heart lead was a lie and in that case RHO would have had to follow higher on the first trick).

But I can’t see anything better and I play for it, but RHO ruffs the 3rd club and I’m down one. I think this may still be OK because people who banged down the spade ace lost two trumps plus a ruff, but those that did that likely used the entry to ruff an extra heart before pulling trumps, so it was a wash. -50 was a very common score. Still, an interesting hand.

          S:8 H:H843 D:AT9xx C:T8xx

S:AT97 H:A D:KQJ2  [4S-W]   S:Q654 H:Q752 D:87 C:K92

          S:KJ32 H:KJT96 D:65 C:75

One final hand. Against a weak pair I pick up S:KQJx H:JTx D:JT9 C:xxx and partner opens 1 Heart. I have an easy raise to two hearts, but …. there are a number of points against it.

  • I’m 4=3=3=3. That’s NT shape and a downgrade.
  • I’m aceless and only one king. Another NT shape and another downgrade.
  • By the losing trick count this is a ten loser hand. Terrible.

Breaking with the field is a risk … we’re a strong pair in this field and to throw the dice on the bidding means possibly giving up all chances to win the board on the play. But I have a few “extra ways to win”. The most likely is that if I raise to 2H partner will bid a terrible game (or invite) and we get too high. Or she may have her bid but hearts break poorly.

And I’m also influenced by the fact that we play Flannery. Our 2D opening shows 11-15 HCP, four spades and five hearts. So I know that partner probably doesn’t have spade fit (if she does, she’ll let me know in either case). I decide to go with my instincts and downgrade this hand. It could turn out poorly, but i would consider that unlucky. So … rather than raising hearts or bidding spades, I bid 1 NoTrump (semi-forcing) and hide my four card spade suit (if partner has spades, I want her declaring). I think the most likely outcome will be that partner bids two of a minor and I bid two hearts — ending the auction in the same place while discouraging partner from going high on borderline hands (since she’ll place me with only two hearts). If partner tries for game after that, it will likely work and it will be easier to get to 3NT instead of 4H.

If partner happens to pass 1 NT, well that’s a higher scoring contract anyway (and I have no ruffing value in hearts). AND I’ll likely get a spade lead, as I’ve hidden my suit.

As expected, partner bids 2 Diamonds and I take a preference to 2 Hearts and partner passes.

Looking at the hand and traveler after the game, I see that I did in fact risk everything. Partner had a 16 count 2=5=4=2 with terrible spots (xx KQ8xx KQ7x AQ). My jack-tens were pulling a lot of weight. We have three aces to lose and maybe the king of clubs, and there’s a decent shot at a ruff, so our 24 HCP game was not a favorite, but neither a huge underdog.

On this hand, it happened to be cold and the field got there.

But! As it turns out I had one more way to win that I hadn’t dared hope for.

My RHO decided to balance into 2 Spades. I had an easy double and partner (knowing I may have four spades on this auction) had an easy pass. When the smoke cleared our +800 was an actual top. You need a bit of luck to win.

Written by taogaming

June 6, 2021 at 9:07 am

Posted in Bridge

Welcome Back!

Playing in a (real) unit game I’m having a good session when we sit down against a Pro and his (expert, but non-Pro) wife who are the strongest pair in the field. We have two probably “touch below” average boards (I guess wrong on the first board; the pro takes the maximum number of tricks in a board that a few will get wrong) when I pick up:

S:A8xx H:J9xx D:9x C:Axx

With nobody vulnerable, it passes around to partner who opens 1 Club. With the opponents silent, I bid 1 Heart. Partner jumps to 2 No Trump, and I bid 3 Diamonds (checking back). Partner bids 3 Hearts, but I was checking for a 4-4 spade fit, so I bid 3 NT. Partner considers this and bids 4 Hearts. Uh-oh. We’re probably playing a Moysian, but I can’t correct it, so 4 Hearts it is. My LHO (the Pro) leads the diamond 8, but they lead second and fourth.

Dummy S:Kx H:AQx D:KQx C:KJT9x

Diamond 8 led

Hand S:A8xx H:J9xx D:9x C:Axx

I suspect LHO has led from ?8x of diamonds, but for now I have an easy cover with the king. RHO wins the DA and returns the diamond five to the 9, ten and the queen. This is ugly. I don’t necessarily need the king of hearts on side, but it looks like I need a 3=3 break. I’d like to come back in clubs, but that risks some ugly things so I think I’ll make the somewhat weird play of blocking spades and lead a small spade to the ace and then I take the heart finesse which wins, RHO playing the heart eight. That could just be suit preference, but it could also be T8x or KT8 simply waiting to see how I take the finesse again (the stiff eight is too ugly to contemplate).

I could just bang down the heart ace and a heart, playing for the 3=3 break. Then I’d have to ruff the diamond return and pick up clubs. But since I have to pick up clubs I think I’ll try to do it first. RHO has five diamonds (assuming that LHO wouldn’t lead 2nd from a bad four or five, which I think is true) so all I’ve got to go on is the principle of vacant spaces and the fact that LHO led from diamonds, so perhaps that was his safest lead and he didn’t want to lead from an honor. Both of this inferences make LHO more likely to have the queen of clubs, so I cross to the club ace and take the hook. When it wins (whew!) I play the heart ace and it goes 7-small-Ten. I don’t think I’m being jobbed so I play a 3rd round of hearts and when they break I claim the rest. Making five for an excellent score, as the normal 3N by partner will be have ten tricks on the (expected) diamond lead but not path 11, so +450 is the maximum. (Update — It being a club game this turned out to not be a top as a few pairs slipped up and let 3N make 5 (and in one case, six!) but it was still 14 out of 17 or so).

The rest of our session is solid (and our few questionable plays are never punished and in one case rewarded for +800 on a part score hand), so we get first overall. A nice return!

Written by taogaming

June 5, 2021 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Bridge

Results from my Slay-the-Spire/Bridge Training

As you recall (or can read), I was using techniques given by Kim Frazer in her Gaining the Mental Edge at Bridge in Slay the Spire. My goal was to win 25% of the games I played, and the results are in: I played the same # of games as my sample size (where I won 12%) and got

17W – 33L (34%)11W – 39L (22%)6W – 44L (12%)34W – 116L (22.67%)
Not quite…

So, I missed, but not by much. I won more games with each character from the fifty prior games, nearly doubling my win rate. (I’m still much better at Ironclad than the other two characters, but that’s because its easier to play).

So, did it work? Well, it’s complicated.

(There’s an XKCD for everything)

This shouldn’t be taken as a complaint about the book. The real stumbling block is that it is incredibly difficult to categorize strategic mistakes in Slay the Spire. Bridge is easy by comparison. While it has grey areas, many of the typical mistakes are easy to diagnose by simply replaying the hand. Bidding has borderline cases, but the play and defense can be fairly rigorously analyzed after the hand.

In this respect, bridge is like shooting. You get instant feedback if a shot was good or not. In this comparison, Slay the Spire is … not quite Calvinball, but at least Cricket as understood by Americans. So, to take some notes from a random loss. “I died hitting the worst possible elite at the time, then drawing poorly. Despite that I might have won if I’d not used my potion a turn too early in this case, if I’d saved it for a turn later — with the draw I got then — I would have won”. So, clearly some bad luck, but also a micro-mistake (any mistake inside a single fight I call a “micro” or “tactical” error). But if I hadn’t used my potion and didn’t draw that particular card (about a 50/50) I’d lose in all cases. So, should I have used the potion? Maybe? I could math it out, but that’s just inside one fight. Many of the StS issues are “Should I rest or smith” and you don’t get feedback (dying) until five floors later, but smithng did save some health, and you had a few random events. Feedback is incredibly noisy.

There were some losses that clearly had horrible luck. But how much? Difficult to say. After about 1/3rd of the trial I realized that my guesses as to why I lost were pretty random. Even right after the game I sometimes couldn’t tell. I suspect that (in the future) it might be best to track more specific information.

Another reason for caution is that this last month was fruitful one for my outside learning. In particular, three StS streamers talking shop about their respective recent win streaks for 3 hours was an invaluable resource, and I probably got a few extra victories after watching that (and reading Jorbs debrief after his Slay the Spire Marathon).

But certain aspects did help:

  1. Mindfulness. My checklist wasn’t perfect, but it did catch some common errors I made. I might revise it.
  2. The act of reviewing the notes. I haven’t done a detailed review of the most recent set of 150 games, but I suspect there is data to be mined. (Some StS streamers appear to have all their runs in a DB where they can run queries to answer it. I haven’t gone nearly that far).
  3. Instead of trying to quantify why I lost, I switched at some point to just writing down a one sentence summary. That may help in clarifying thoughts.

Anyway, with all that said, I suspect that the techniques from this book will work quite well to help the intermediate (or better) bridge player, or really any game where you can quantify the mistakes easily. (Perhaps some StS players who are better than me can, so this would help them more than help me).

So — What’s next? Clearly more Slay the Spire … (its pretty much my pandemic relaxation). I’ll try for a 30% winrate for my next 150 games and we’ll see if maybe my last set was just regression to the mean (as I think 12% was low).

Written by taogaming

February 27, 2021 at 2:46 pm

If you’ve been desperately wondering what I think of a few dozen bridge books…

Written by taogaming

February 19, 2021 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Bridge, Reviews

A Practical Test of ‘Gaining the Mental Edge at Bridge’ using … Slay the Spire

One of the most unusual bridge books I’ve read is Kim Frazer’s Gaining the Mental Edge at Bridge. Unlike the vast majority of bridge books, there is practically no advice on bridge. This is all about “how to think” (a topic that I love enough to have a category in this blog for). Bridge forms the majority of the examples here, but apart from that these articles would not be out of place in any coaching symposium.

Kim was an international caliber shooter who took up bridge and later represented Australia in International events, so she has definitely “walked the walk” in two separate sports. There are chapters on focus, positive mindsets, mental preparation, rehearsal, match preparation & fitness, relaxation, goal setting and tracking.

The book itself was interesting — I don’t think much of it will come as a surprise but having it all done in a nicely packaged book (and providing references to sports journals, etc for more information) is good. I’ve started to try and build up a routine for the playing of bridge hands (still more forgotten than observed) so as to reduce the number of stupid errors. In fact, the first night (on BBO) I did it, I think I played well and then I went and forgot to look at the checklist this week, didn’t use it, and had a large number of errors. (The checklist is just a routine to do at the start of each hand …. say “Focus” to start the routine, note the board information (dealer,/vulnerability) count the HCP, decide on my opening bid (should it pass to me), and my likely continuations, responses.

I normally do this (in some shape) on most hands, but not in a formalized way. But (as per the book) I wrote out a checklist and used it, to good results (the times I remembered).

While thinking about this training, I realized that I could run a quick experiment on the chapter on goal setting and tracking using … Slay the Spire. I mean, while this book is aimed at Bridge it is not specifically for it, and right now my StS play is much more prevalent. (And is a solitaire game). Consider it a training run.

So — what are my goals? I’d like to improve my win rate (a win defined as “Beating the corrupt heart at ascension 15” (which is what I normally play at). There is a “Victory?” where you win without getting to the heart, but I consider that a loss. It means I’ve forgotten to claim one of the three keys required to unlock the fourth act.

Control Data

Anyway, the first part of goal setting was to set a record keeping standard. I decided to review the last 50 runs I had for each of the three main characters I played (I do not particularly enjoy playing Watcher, so I rarely do). Fortunately StS keeps a record of runs, so I pulled out some basic information (like which floor I died on) and put them into an excel spreadsheet.

Here are the stats:

Died during….Character — IroncladCharacter — SilentCharacter — Defect
Act I (Exordium)1073
First Boss676
Act II (The City)111621
Second Boss335
Act III (The Beyond)335
Third Boss241
Act IV Elites113
The Corrupt Heart344
Not a huge sample size….

It struck me as odd that the Second Boss and Act III numbers matched, but I doubled checked and its just a coincidence.

First thought — I won at a 12% rate, which was lower than I thought (I would have guessed I won at a 20% rate overall), but perhaps I am just deluding myself. I do think I had some bad luck (a certainly have a better than 4% win rate as defect!) so I would expect over the next 150 games to improve the rate in any case. The book states that I should set a goal that seems difficult but achievable. Let’s try for a 25% win rate overall (doubling the control).

I also need to build a checklist for the game, so I did. (Commentary in Italics)

  • Start of Act
    • Examine the floor layout, pick likely path and alternates if I get good/back luck.
    • Note who is the end of act Boss!
    • (Act I only) Decide on Neow’s gift (a special bonus you get at game start), re-evaluate
  • Checklist for each fight/event
    • Upon revealing the enemies, decide on how dangerous this fight will be (win easily, win but take significant damage, likely die, etc).
    • Note relics that I have that may have an interaction
    • Set out my goal for the fight is (Not just winning while taking as little damage as possible, do I want to set up relic counts for the next fight, etc).
    • Decide on general fight strategy …. if I will likely be using a potion(s) (In general the fight strategy will be set by how my deck is built and not change much from floor to floor, but I wanted to explicitly call out this step).
    • Per Turn Checklist:
      • Examine hand, enemy action (if varied)
      • Is my luck good/bad enough to change strategy? (Maybe I’m getting killed an need to drink a potion or assume a good draw next turn….or maybe things have gone well so I can shift from “just win the fight” to “win the fight and set up my relics counts”)
      • Determine candidate plays, pick one (may iterate if plays draw cards).
    • (For events this is basically the same, but simplified since the fight is “picking which event outcome to take”)
  • Post fight analysis
    • Did I accurately judge the fight? Did I miss anything that I could have done better?
  • Post-fight rewards
    • Examine offered rewards
    • State how each option affects my deck. Do I need it to cover a weakness (a specific enemy/elite), or to solve a general problem (front loaded damage/scaling damage/blocking).
    • Double check for good/bad interactions. Look at your deck and relics when deciding!
    • Decide which is best and take it (or skip).
    • Determine a rough “State of the game” (my ‘equity’ in the game). (Don’t need an exact number, but has it gone up or down).
    • Adjust strategy based on state of game. Pick next floor.
  • Post-game analysis.
    • Record tracking information
    • Write up a quick summary as to why I think I won/lost
    • Think of at least one positive and one “need to improve”

Again, I probably did a lot of this automatically, but there are a few things I’m calling out to myself — Making sure to double check potions and relics (because forgetting to use them is a big mistake).

Things to track:

I’ll track everything as before, but also keep track of my mistakes and notes. (For the above, I didn’t show it but I also noted which enemy I died to).

“Oops” Mistakes — Playing too quickly (if I make a move I want to “take back” then that’s a mistake. You can quit a fight and restart, but I’ll only do that if I make an actual misclick. I’ve been somewhat casual about that, but the real goal of this is to slow down and think more — which is the one skill that translates directly to bridge). In order to make this more “Apples to Apples” I’ll divide this by # of floors which isn’t an exact measure since not all floors can have them, but is at least reasonable.

Why did I lose — For my losses, I will categorize them as follows. I’ve decided to assign points to each category, with a total of 10 points.

  1. Too Aggressive — Taking an upgrade when I should have rested, and in general not respecting that.
  2. Too Passive — The downside of that is not recognizing when I’m poorly placed and need to be taking more short term risks to be able to face the next boss, etc. Note that I think I can be too passive and aggressive in the same game (obviously at different times).
  3. Gross Oversights — I missed something and it got me (missed a relic interaction, etc). I’d really like this number to be low … that’s the point of the checklist. These are things that get me killed or a huge chunk of HP.
  4. Math mistakes — Sometimes you have to just run the numbers.
  5. Bad micromanagement of fights — Small errors in fights that cost a HP here and there, missing subtle interactions.
  6. Bad Luck — Sometimes you just don’t get offered great cards, you bottom deck the fights, etc. Things that are outside my control. In theory there should only be points in this category on half (or less) of my games, but sometimes you just lose without doing anything wrong. (Negative Points means I had good luck and wasted it), so if I assign less than 10 points, I’ll dump the rest here.

When I win I will assign a “Good luck” score, how much was it just destined (because I got great cards/relics, etc).

As I normally do, I will rotate characters (Ironclad, then Silent, then Defect), just to match the controls.

Final thoughts (before starting)

Just looking at the stats was useful, because I have noticed a few things:

I play Act I too aggressively as Ironclad. Ironclad’s “schtick” is that he does a lot of damage and heals a bit after fights, and I clearly rely on that too much and end up dying in the first act (or at the first boss) much more so than other characters. My Ironclad win rate is higher (caveat for small sample size), but many of the runs are short, quick deaths.

I may be too passive with the other two characters …. For the silent/watcher (who don’t automatically heal) my play gets through Act I but am not well placed and die in Act II. I suspect I am not taking enough fast damage or all out attack.

I need to respect the Second Act more and start looking “past the first boss” when I think I have it beaten.

Let the games begin.

Update — After thinking about it (and playing a round of games while I was editing this), I think that “Bad Luck” should probably average 3. Jorbs only wins 70% of the games, so assuming that 30% are unwinnable at my level of play seems reasonable. (He’s on a higher ascension, but a better player). I’m not going to agonize over it too much (especially since it would lead to negative thinking, a “no-no” in the book.) I had a few games where things just didn’t seem to line up….

Written by taogaming

January 30, 2021 at 2:59 pm