Scoring

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.

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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.

Failure To Alert

Duplicate bridge partners have a variety of conventions on bidding.  Each one carries a one-page convention card that identifies the agreements.  To ensure information symmetry, partners must alert most artificial bids.  For example, a two diamond opening might be artificial in that it does not show strength in diamonds but that the opener has five hearts and fours spades.  If your partner fails to alert then you must announce it at the end of the bidding.  Often the director is called on a failure to alert and sometimes bad things happen to your pair.  Often it happens because your partner forgot part of the agreement that you have.

In reading Rex Huppke and Dana Milbank this morning, failure to alert seemed like their common theme.  Here are a few quotes and [comments]:

I go into a Trump presidency as a straight white man — the only fear I should have is that I’m a journalist facing a commander in chief who has painted the press as the enemy. Big deal.  The people I fear for — the people my heart aches for — are entire groups of my fellow Americans who were demonized throughout Trump’s vitriolic campaign.
[Herself needed spreadsheets for enemies.  The Donald gets them to declare themselves.  Snide comment: Perhaps he meant white straight man?]

As soon as Barack Obama was elected president, Republicans unleashed angry swipes, and they never relented. They chose to question his legitimacy, to fight him at every turn, to do nothing.
[He did have lots of bad ideas like Obamacare.  Nothing was much better.  We should look at Obama’s conduct as well.]

To cower right now or to lash out in anger is not the answer to an outcome we don’t like. There are people who need us, and we all need each other, no matter how split down the middle we feel.
[He still decided to lash out in anger]

But there was something wrong with the chocolate confection. Alt was aiming to reproduce Trump’s pout, but she wound up making him look startled and sad.
After Tuesday night, that’s the exact expression worn by tens of millions of Americans and countless more across the globe.
[Millions were happy too.  We care about the other countries because?]

The theme from “Air Force One” played. From a balcony above the ballroom, Trump appeared, in the fashion of British royalty or a certain Italian leader.
[Really, folks need to learn about fascism.  Obama would never do anything like that.]

It shocked journalists. It shocked markets, which tumbled.
[Good job journalists!  Perhaps you should talk to other folks?  The market rebounded from its tumble.  The Dow is at a record high currently and the dollar is at an eight month high.  This information doesn’t mean that Trump will be a great president or great for the markets.  It just means that the writer’s inference was questionable.   The market looks to the future imperfectly and mostly reflects large cap companies.  The market was surprised too but has gotten over it.  This not so for Dana and Rex.]

Bridge conventions are rarely acronyms with DONT as an exception.  Generally they are named after people.  So rather than IAAEOTD (I Am An Enemy Of The Donald) we suggest three categories: With The Donald, Gloves, and Reverse Gloves.  The first one is obvious.  The second is evaluating The Donald on what he does.  Reverse Gloves means that you will fight The Donald on every issue every time.

Sidebar: Lots of folks were accused of being Reverse Gloves with respect to Obama.  Rex made the accusation too.  Given all of his terrible ideas and actions, it is hard to differentiate between Gloves and Reverse Gloves on Obama.  You will remember that we reluctantly supported him on trade.

We need information symmetry when reading commentary.  Associating with the Washington Post or CATO (no, not plus-size clothing) isn’t enough data.  Categories like Reverse Gloves would help but more details without information overload would be better. Another example is Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons.  We have very close to zero intersection with these folks but we are all called conservatives.  We really need is for commentators to have a convention card.  The challenge will be creating a political convention card with neutral terminology.  We suggests that you can pick either the Red Card (pro-life) or the Blue Card (pro-choice).  You have your homework.