Bridge Error

We were playing a hand in a pairs game at favorable vulnerability recently when we picked up a hand with six hearts headed by the KQJ and four spades with the ace and three little ones.  Our left hand opponent (LHO) dealt and she opened a diamond.  Our partner bid two spades indicating a weak hand with six spades.  Our memory is cloudy but our right hand opponent bid three of a minor (diamonds or clubs).

The our analysis was right.  We almost all the major cards, they have almost all the minor cards, they have enough points for a minor game, and being quality opponents they will bid it.  They might even see the small slam that was obvious to us and bid that.  Despite this good analysis, the hands revealed that we make ten spade tricks and they make 12 diamond tricks, we proceeded to make at least two and perhaps three wrong bids.

We passed on our first bid instead of bidding four spades.  It was within the realm of possibility that it would get doubled and we make a top.  It is more likely that LHO will bid five diamonds as she did.  We should have bid five spades with our second bid after five diamonds but didn’t because we felt they would make six diamonds and we would force them to bid it.  This was stupid.  If five spades was a good sacrifice over a diamond game then six spades would be a better sacrifice over a diamond slam.  Assuming the courtesy double (see ACBL scoring), we lose either 100 for down one doubled or 620 for a diamond game with an overtrick at the five level.  So five spades was the right bid because we are 520 points better off.  We lose 300 for down two doubled or 1370 for opponents making a small diamond at the six level.  So if they bid six diamonds then six spades is the right bid.  For novices at scoring, you get the tricks plus the game plus the slam to get to 1370.

We feel good about the analysis but really bad about the thinking.




Knowing and understanding the scoring system is important.  The right decision in bridge depends on whether you are playing match points or IMPs.  The right decision in golf could depend on stroke play versus match play.  Scoring is an important reason for the effectiveness of capitalism.

Today at the Dell Technologies Championship we saw an odd example of that.  Justin Rose birdied the 15th hole to go four under and improve his Fed Ex standing from ninth to first.  The odd part about the projections is that the PGA tour projects a tie for X as everybody getting X.  In real life they have a playoff for first and everything else gets divided up so if there is a three way tie for second then those three guys split points (or money) for second, third, and fourth.  So when Justin tied for first then all four tied got first place points and Justin is currently first in Fed Ex standings.

Scoring is critical.  Pay attention to get ahead.

Open And Closed

The folks over at Unherd have a number of articles on open versus closed led by Peter Franklin’s The Deeper Meaning Of Open And Closed.  Many other folks have made our point that leftist claim to be more open minded but really aren’t.  We are sure that Jonah Goldberg has plowed this ground but we are not willing to spend the time to find it.  Peter starts off:

Following Brexit, Trump and the formation of a populist government in Italy, there would seem to be an open-and-shut case for open-and-closed.

Then he follows up with the obvious.  Open and closed terminology is a brush to try and discredit the right:

At least the terminology of left-and-right sounds neutral to modern ears.1 The language of open-and-closed, by contrast, is one-sided in the impressions it conveys – and is intended to convey.

Yup.  The problem is that it isn’t representative or even useful.  Folks that have a consistent world view have effective ways to focus.  In the current terminology, they have closed minds.  The most obvious example of folks with a consistent worldview would be academics.

If you ask a physicist about perpetual motion they will immediately dismiss the idea because it is contrary to the laws of physics.  Well, at least Newtonian physics as we are not up to date on our physics.  The point is that academics, like other experts, have a framework for identifying interesting questions.  They have a closed mind towards others.

Another example would be the opening lead of a king against a three no-trump contract in bridge.  A novice declarer might win the first trick with his ace but a more expert declarer is unlikely to win that first trick.  Here we have a slight difference between the (expert) physicist and the bridge expert.  The bridge expert is open to a couple of alternatives, the most likely concern is if a change of suits on the second lead would cause problems.  It is highly likely but not certain that the expert will quickly decide to refuse the first trick.  If the dummy has two small cards in that suit and the declarer has the ace plus two small cards then the decision to duck approaches certainty.

What is true in our political environment is that folks on the left are open to one set of things and folks on the right are open to another set of things.  It is because they often have a set of principles that they use to think about problems.

Sidebar: Yes there are folks that are unprincipled generally.  Jonah Goldberg writes about principles and bigots at NRO.  Yes there are difficult political decisions that test an individual’s principles.  We think that untested candidates are in vogue because they have not had to make those difficult decisions. It is not our preference but that is what we see.  End Sidebar.

Although there are many ways to slice and dice each wing, those sets don’t have much overlap.  For example, consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Charles Cooke does at NRO.  To the left, her hyphenated name and ethnicity are enticing.  Her socialism is exciting.  Her behavior can be used to castigate The Donald.  To the right, to overstate it slightly, socialist is another word for a fool.  Her behavior that Charlie describes buttresses that initial take.  Neither side has claim to being the open side or the closed side.  When they have principles they are different and that is part of what causes our disagreements.  The other part is lack of principles.

Bridge Dilemma

Last week in our duplicate club game we had great but insufficient information.  We were West and South had bid One No Trump and there was no additional bids.  We won the tenth trick and it stood that we had four tricks and declarer six.  Our hand contained two clubs, the ace and ten, and the jack of diamonds.  The dummy, North, had no significant cards.  Our partner surely had three clubs including an honor.  Declarer had the queen of spades and two clubs including an honor.  Our opponents use 15-17 HCP for One No Trump openers and two queens or queen and a king would fit in her hand.

Here is the first step of the dilemma: Who has the king of clubs?  If South has it then I should lead the spade and we get the last two tricks as South is endplayed.

Sidebar: South is endplayed because if she leads the king we play the ace.  If she leads low we do too and East wins the 12th trick and we win the last with the ace.  End Sidebar.

But if East has the king then we should lead the ace followed by the ten and we get the last three tricks.  But if South has the king that action leads to South getting two of the last three tricks.  In party bridge you should lead the ace because of the scoring but duplicate has ordinal scoring so there is no obvious reason to play it either way based on scoring.

The night was not going well so we led the jack and, of course, South produced two black queens and we ended up with one instead of three.  We had really good information about everybody’s hands but not quite enough.

Free Finesses

The the bridge table yesterday we saw an example of how costly a free finesse could be. We were defending four spades and partner (West) led a diamond.  Dummy tabled the ace and three little ones.  Declarer had the queen and jack.  It was unlikely that partner led away from the king but declarer must have thought, “What is the worst that could happen?”

Sidebar: Because they are the only pair that regularly plays a version of precision they were the only pair to have the opportunity to make that mistake.  End Sidebar.

Declarer found out by playing low.  We produced the king of diamonds followed by the singleton ace of clubs and led a little diamond.  Partner ruffed the diamond and produced a club for us to ruff.  Trying to turn five into an unlikely six became down one as declarer ruefully claimed the rest of the tricks.  Free, finesses and otherwise, can be very expensive.

Wisdom In Sports Too

Heather Wilhelm (here she is at NRO) is the Happy Warrior in NRODT.  She quotes Thoreau approvingly, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”  We approve too.  It might be a characteristic of expertise in general and sports in particular.  For the sports we are most active in, golf, handball, bridge, it rings true.

Sidebar: OK, bridge might not be be classified as a sport:  “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”  Of the five bold words or phrases it surely meets four but would have trouble with physical exertion.  On the other hand, playing 26 hands in three hours has some exertion.  End Sidebar.

Expertise lies in deciding that doing the same thing and expecting different results is crazy but finding something else that isn’t crazy or desperate.  It is a fine line between a calculated risk and desperation.  In golf, a low percentage shot over the water is likely to be desperation in stroke play but a calculated risk in match play.  In handball trying a shot as a return (the second shot of the point) might be desperation but on the 14th shot when both players are tired it could be a good risk.  Bridge with its long events almost always rewards avoiding desperation.  Wisdom is knowing that a bottom score is a bottom score.  We are on board with avoiding desperation.

One Hand, Two Lessons

At last night’s duplicate session we had one hand with two lessons.  We were the only pair to bid a makable four heart game with MWG as the declarer.  Left-hand opponent (LHO) led a diamond as RHO had bid them.  The bid makes it likely that RHO has the king of trump.  The dummy came down and things looked good.  We had two diamond losers (dummy has three and the hand has two), the king of hearts to finesse, solid clubs (nine with the top three), and the ace of spades.  It looked like four or five heart winners, five club winners, and a spade leading to making the contract.

First lesson: It is OK to give a ruff and a slough sometimes is the lesson for the defense.  RHO won the first two diamonds and led a third.  It was likely that LHO was out of diamond as was declarer.  Declarer had the queen-ten and three other trump.  Dummy had the ace, jack, and two.  Opponents had king, nine and three little hearts between them.  We ruffed with the eight, LHO produced the nine and when RHO had the king we were down one.  We, however want to consider what happens if we went up with the ten and tried the finesse.  If we lead the queen and it loses to the king then RHO must lead another diamond despite nobody else having diamonds.  It is their best chance for a trump promotion.  It gives declarer a chance to make a mistake.

Second lesson: declarer play.  We should have ruffed with the ten or queen.  Then we play a low heart to the ace.  Then we play the two from the dummy.  If RHO produces the king, then we play low from the hand, ruff the diamond lead high in the hand, draw the last trump with dummy’s jack and claim.  If LHO produces the king then life is great except folks that didn’t play safe will make five.