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Some recent thoughts

I played the actual Shades of Tezla light and darkness scenario. I don’t like the new orc/monster/dragon tokens scattered into the base game (because they make the variability much higher) but in a scenario designed for them, it was fine. But the rulebook font is so small that basically the TaoLing has to read everything for me now. (It was tough to read even when I bought it….)

Played another game of Race: Xeno Invasion (cards only). I should play more Race. Ditto Baseball Highlights:2045.

Apparently Favor of the Pharoah was a gift at a recent game convention, because many locals now have a copy, so I played it a few more times. I think its an improvement over To Court the King, but the setup is a pain.

Reading many new bridge books. Most are on card play, but I did buy Five Card Majors the Scanian Way, and it has many new ideas and a definite philosophy. (‘Scanian’ approximates ‘Scandanavian,’ possibly meaning mainly Swedish. I think.)

Hank and I use transfer bids in competition (transfer advances and after takeout doubles); the Scanians have more including over 1C without competition, which has some proponents in ACBL land and I would play when playing Standard, if any partner wanted to. Scanian also includes switch bids: oftentimes hearts means clubs and vice versa, especially in competition.

There are parts that are likely not legal in ACBL-land (like Multi-) … actually I stared at the new ACBL regs and Multi seems to be legal by the rules but not by the commentary. Also putting 18-19 balanced into the 2C opening. But even if you strip it down to legal, building a system to allow more judgement and multiple ways to bid the same shape and strength (depending on how the HCP are distributed) is intriguing. Also fun are fit jumps (jumps showing the suit bid and a fit with opener’s suit). Of course this is likely for interest only to serious tournament players, and even then most won’t care.

Written by taogaming

November 2, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Can someone scan Shades of Tezla Faction Token reference?

I played a Mage Knight game with the Shades of Tezla tokens, which we don’t normally use because:

  • They are different sizes
  • They add a lot of variability (much harder, less scoring etc)

And I discovered I appear to have lost the reference sheet for the bonus faction tokens. I posted a request (with GG bounty) at the geek.

Also, I published a quick note on BGG giving an example of the math of comparing lines of play at bridge.

Written by taogaming

October 19, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Bridge, Mage Knight

Tagged with

Some Recent Bridge — Hearts or NT?

I’m playing a bonus game (the TaoLing and Mrs. Tao unexpectedly declared they would be gone today) with Roxie. I’ve played with her several times over the last month, and we do reasonably well. On the first hand of the day I pick up:

S: Txxx H:AKJ9x D:Tx C:Tx

Roxie opens 1 Diamond, I bid 1 Heart, and Roxie bids 1NT. I’m not going to game, so the only question is do I want to play in 1NT or 2 Hearts. Well, if Roxie only has two hearts, then my hand may be worth five tricks (if she has the queen or Qxx is onside) but it could be as few as two (if the Q is offsides and hearts don’t break). But in hearts I’m likely taking four tricks. And if she has a fit, then hearts is certainly better in case a minor is wide open. I bid 2 hearts and am pleased to find Roxie with S:Kx H:QTx D:AQxxx C:Kxx. I get the 8 of diamonds lead and when the queen holds I play the diamond ace and LHO follows with the nine. I ruff a diamond low and lead towards the spade king and when LHO flies the ace the hand is basically over. I make four. This looks (to me) to be pretty good, but every card was basically on (I lose two clubs as the CA is off), but later on I find that the people in 1N are making five! (Looking at the traveler I think it was just novice pairs, but even making four would beat the hands in hearts. If the cards weren’t well placed then 2H would play a trick better).

Later on I pick up another interesting hand with hearts:

S:QJ H:KJ942 D:J98x C:Tx

I’m in 3rd chair and the only interesting problem is what to do if partner opens 1NT. I have an 8 count and we play 15-17 1NT, so game would be very touchy, but partner could have a heart fit (even four of them). Then normal move would be to transfer and bid 2NT. But ….

  • The hand feels like a seven count. The QJ tight of spades is dangerous. I do have nice spot cards, but still…. (The K&R evaluator agrees,, calling this 7.3)
  • If I transfer and bid 2N, partner will likely go with most 16 counts, putting us in a 24 point game. Particularly in 3N, that’s ugly.
  • Unlike the last hand, where I expect us to have ~20 HCP, here we’re around 24, which means even if partner has two small hearts, then my other points are likely useful in NT. I may even have an entry or two.

I think the most likely result of transfering into hearts and inviting is 2NT (with partner having 15) or 3NT (with 16 or 17) or 4H. (Partner could bid 3H, but I’ve noticed that most people just bid the game with a fit). I’d certainly rather be in 1N than 2N or 3H and probably even 3N, I think. Even if partner has a great hand for hearts, there’s always the chance that hearts rail or the cards are poorly place (this is from Kit Woolsey’s Matchpoints).

Against all of that, I’m almost certainly breaking with the field. I may lose the board on my decision. Sticking with the field gives us the chance to win it in play.

I’ve recently splurged on several more books for my Bridge Library (the Bridge World had a sale) and I spent a few days reading “Master of Bridge Psychology: Inside the remarkable mind of Peter Fredin” and while I certainly can’t analyze at his level, one of the interesting points is that he’s willing to look quite stupid if he thinks he’s right. (The book has a number of truly weird bids and plays, and he does indeed get some silly results sometimes. He goes down in contracts any little old lady would make).

I decide to trust my judgement that this hand is not an invite. Therefore my options are transfer and drop partner in two hearts (barring a super-accept) or pass. I’m going to just pray partner doesn’t have a super accept. If I’m wrong, well, perhaps hearts rail.

I’m glad I started thinking about this, because partner opens 1NT (a bit before I finish my thoughts, but only just) so I pass (relatively smoothly) and we play in 1NT.

My RHO tables a card face down and as LHO says no questions I say “I’ve taken a position,” but I’m pretty happy when LHO flips over the three of hearts. Partner wins RHOs ten with the ace, then hooks a heart (RHO showing out) and comes back in clubs to hook the heart again. Later partner reveals that she had a long club suit and shows up with

S:xxx H:Axx D:Qx C:AKQxx

This means the opponents could have rattled off the first seven tricks (since spades were 3-5) but that meant I would have tied with those that went down in 4 Hearts (or 3 hearts, in one case). But with no information LHO reasonably (but unluckily) led his four card major, and so we rattled off the first ten tricks for a top. Of course one result proves nothing, but that felt good.

One final hand. I pick up S:Qx H:xx D:AQ9xx C:A8xx and have an easy 1 Diamond opening. With 9 cards in the minors I should bid 2 clubs if partner responds one of a major. But this is matchpoints so I think I’ll bid 1NT if partner responds one heart, since I have a partial spade stopper. I could do that after one spade as well, but I think in that case I’ll bid 2 clubs. Partner does bid 1 Heart so I respond 1 NT.

Partner bids 2 clubs, New Minor Forcing showing at least an invitational hand (and saying nothing about clubs). My first priority is to show a heart fit, but I don’t have that. And I haven’t hidden four spades (which I might do), so I show my fifth diamond (and relative minimum) by bidding 2 Diamonds.  I’m still deciding if I’m going to pass 2NT or retreat to 3 clubs when partner ends the auction with 3NT, sparing me the choice.

I get the ten of clubs lead and I see partner has also gone for the gusto, as dummy has

S:xxx H:AKQT8x D:x C:KQ9

Huh. Even after what I did earlier, I would have just shot 4H after my 1NT response with two weak suits, a stiff  and a known fit. But that’s in the past. I’m in 3NT. In 4H I’ll make five if the opponents lead and continue spades, but only four if they pull dummy’s trump and nothing good happens in diamonds and clubs (Assuming hearts break) That means I need to make at least 4 NT, maybe 5NT.

The club ten looks like a lead from shortness (since I can see the 9) and denies the jack (unless from JT tight), so I’m going to want to keep my A8 as a finessing position. I play the club king and RHO follows with the jack.

I stare at this for a while. LHO led T from T7xxx? Apparently.

Well, that’s solved one problem.  I hope hearts are breaking, so I cash two hearts and they do. I want to make RHO make as many discards as possible before I lead the diamond from the board, so I cross to my club ace, back to the club queen and run the hearts. (I wish I could have cashed the fourth club, but I need it for communication. (In hindsight, I should have gone all out and only played one round of hearts, cashed the clubs, and then used my last heart to enter the board and hope they split, since if hearts were 4-1 I’m likely getting murdered no matter what as the defense will no doubt find a spade switch after the auction).

RHO seems to have no problems pitching the five, seven, and eight of diamonds (after following to three hearts). LHO pitches her (non-winning) clubs and then the seven and two of spades. I can afford two diamonds, but then pitch a spade and finally the spade queen. It likely doesn’t matter, unless RHO has made a horrific mistake or LHO has the stiff king of diamonds. When I lead a diamond RHO plays the ten.

These aren’t particularly good players, but I can’t imagine RHO pitched away xxx from KTxxx of diamonds in a suit I bid twice. Actually I can imagine it, but she may have encouraged in diamonds then. In any case, I’m not finessing because cashing the diamond ace and my good club means I’m making five, beating those in hearts (unless they didn’t get a spade lead). I play the diamond ace and LHO follows low.

When I cash the club LHO goes into the tank. I don’t know what she was thinking but she eventually pitches the diamond king! (To keep her KJ of spades, which is most odd after I pitched the queen). So I make seven. No matter, making five was a top.

We have a few disasters (I’ve played with a few other new partners recently and mixed up “which systems I play right now,” and we have a rather spectacular mis-defense) but overall we have a reasonable game and end up in second….

Written by taogaming

October 12, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Bridge

The best suit I’ve ever had

Playing bridge I pick up S: — H:x D:AKQJTxxxxx C:Jx

Yeah, the hand wasn’t very interesting. In 3rd seat I’m torn between opening 5D and 6D, but as it turns out partner opened in front of my (1H) then reversed in spades. So I was never staying out of slam (which happened to be cold, partner having the black aces). Still, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a better suit.

Written by taogaming

September 27, 2019 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Bridge

The old slam killer in action

Playing Bridge with my Mentee, I witness the following monstrosity. My cards don’t matter. LHO is a Life Master who started playing when I moved back here. RHO is a few years newer, but also a LM (she was his mentee at one time, IIRC).

RHO opens 2NT. LHO bids 3 Diamonds. Not alerted. (They play transfers, I know). RHO bids 3NT. LHO bids 4H which ends it. If LHO has only five hearts, he’s using unauthorized information, but he has six hearts RHO has S:AJx H:AKT D:xx C:AKQTx and nothing we do matters (since declarer has the DA and everything breaks for six heart tricks, five club tricks and two aces). RHO has forgotten transfers are on over 2 NT openings, so I mark this as an average plus. That dummy looks too strong for 2NT, more like (2C-foo-2N to me), but even allowing for opening 2NT, the auction should be

2N - 2D* (*transfer)
2S* - ?? (*super-accept. My hand is now too strong to just accept.

It’s actually tricky after that. LHO (with the diamond ace, spade queen and heart queen) would like to cue bid 4D, but that’s normally just a retransfer. But 3N shouldn’t be to play (opposite a super-accept. so that should show slam interest. It’s still not an easy slam to get to (The 2N opening isn’t called “The slam killer” for nothing). But in checking the scores we get a touch below average. Literally no pair bid the slam. And two pairs — not realizing they had 13 tricks off the top if things broke — took the spade finesse to hold themselves to six. The “Winning” side didn’t even find their heart fit, and played in 3N for +720 instead of +710. Vhodjha moi!

But we also had a missed slam:

Dummy S:AKx H:AJ6x D:K94 C:AJx

Declarer S:xxx H:K8xxx D:AT76 C😡 (small club if you are seeing an emoji)

West opened 1 Club, dummy (me) doubled, and declarer bid 1 Heart, a borderline underbid, but certainly arguable either way (2H should show 8+ HCP, but the fifth heart and good controls make it correct, IMO). In any case when I came alive my mentee didn’t realize just how strong I was (in her defense, expecting her to have on average of 4 HCP, I masterminded in the hopes of playing 1N making instead of 3H going down when she was broke or had the wrong four HCP. But when she showed her fifth heart I put her in game).  So we played in four only hearts.

However — on the opening lead of the diamond queen it went four-five-ace and then, after pulling three rounds of trump (LHO with the stiff queen) and then leading towards the club ace and not seeing LHO split my mentee showed nerves of ice and ruffed a club back, finessed the diamond nine, cashed the king and — LHO having discarded a diamond on trumps — dropped the  jack to set up her ten for a spade pitch to ruff her losing spade. True, a totally marked finesse but LHO (a hyper aggressive bidder but reasonable card player) about fell out of her chair to see a new player do that. LHO had — once again — overbid with a terrible opening (S:QJx H:Q D:QJxx C:KTxxx)

Probably that’s why the rest of the field missed the slam. Their auction was harder because they had to open 2NT (and didn’t have most of the HCP marked as being in front of my hand). So making seven was a top in any case.

Written by taogaming

September 1, 2019 at 10:02 am

Posted in Bridge

Your typical hand, and typical result


This is now officially the best hand I’ve picked up. When partner showed up with at most one king (with a step response of 2 Diamonds over my 2C opening showing at most a king and not much else) and a weak hand I contented myself with a six diamond bid, since I had no way to tell which king he had, if he even had one. And, with a 4-1 diamond break and no way to finesse in clubs, even that went down. Typical.


Written by taogaming

March 6, 2019 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Bridge

Two Slam Swings and Misses

Playing a tune-up game (for the upcoming North American Open Pairs) with Hank I pick up a nice hand:

S:AKQT98x H:AQJ:D:x C:xx

Hank opens 1 Diamond, which is usually unbalanced (with diamonds) or 6+ Diamonds. I bid 1 Spade, and Hank rebids 2 Diamonds. I fudge a force with 2 Hearts and after Hank’s preference to 2 Spades I see no reason not to just check on key cards with 4 No Trump. Hank admits to 2 Aces, so I bid 5 No Trump, confirming all the important cards (the Aces and K/Q of trump). Hank bids 6 Hearts, which shows the heart king and denies the minor kings.

I think that’s likely good enough for a grand. If Hank has 3 spades and six diamonds, no matter how his hearts and clubs divide it’s cold. If Hank had 5-4 in the minors (either way, I suspect I’d have heard two clubs. And with 3=4=5=1, he’d have raised spades.

I bid 7 Spades.

My LHO leads the queen of clubs and dummy is not a delight.

S:75 H:Kxx D:AQ7xxx C:Ax

I have to win the club ace. With any other lead I could try to ruff out the diamonds, but now I only have one entry. The only two times ruffing out works is if RHO has a stiff or doubleton King. (Finessing works anytime LHO has the diamond king. I guess I’m 50-50. I play the spade to my ace, RHO playing the jack. I run all the spades and then the hearts and take the finesse, but it losses and I’m off.

It’s only after the game that I notice that because RHO played the spade jack on the first round, I could have ruffed out the diamond king! I play diamond Ace, ruff a diamond high, my small spade to the seven, ruff a diamond high, and the heart king is an entry. This works anytime diamonds are 3-3 (as was the case) or if the diamond king is in the short hand.

Overall there’s a lot not to like on this hand.

  1. Bidding seven was greedy, but it’s a tune up game.
  2. I had a better bid than 1 spade. We play that a jump shift of 2 Spades (after 1 diamond) is a strong bid. It comes up so rarely I forgot. This would have been perfect.
  3. I missed the fall of the jack meant I had another entry.

Later on I pick up a normal looking hand. S:Axxx H:Q9xxx D:x C:xxx

LHO opens 1 Diamond, Hank passes and RHO bids 3 NT. I pass and contemplate my lead, but LHO isn’t done. He bids 4 Clubs (Gerber), RHO bids 4 Spades. I could double this in case they get to six diamonds, but I wouldn’t hate a heart lead, and I think I’d just be telling the opponents how to play the hand. LHO bids 6 No Trump and that gets passed around.

I’m still on lead.

3N was showing 13-15, so opener has 18 or 19. That leaves Hank with … bupkis. Maybe a queen. If he could have 3+ points an attacking heart lead would be tempting. But on this auction I should find the safest lead. That gets rid of a major. A diamond could pickle Hank’s Jxxx. A club could also do that. Hank could have doubled four clubs, but if he’s broke (maybe with Qxxx of clubs) would he?

In the end I settle on a diamond, and dummy is not what I expected.

S:T9 H:xx D:KQJT9xx C:AK

(Fixed dummy).

Good news. I haven’t given up a trick. Bad news. LHO shot out a slam on a running suit. If I had known that ….

LHO wins the diamond on the board and after a bit of fussing runs the spade ten. Gross. I win but the hand is over. I flash my heart queen with a raised eyebrow. Partner flashes the heart king in response and shrugs.

“50/50” says RHO.

Neither Hank nor I correct him. Sometimes bad bidding is it’s own reward, but I guess the lesson (as always) is don’t trust opponents at the club.

Written by taogaming

December 26, 2018 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Bridge