This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Epic Fail at the Regional and Epic Fume at the Worlds

The use of the phrase "epic fail" has been growing exponentially on the Internet (over 2 million google hits for the exact phrase), especially among the young. At first one might assume it means catastrophic failure, and it could be mentioned in discussions about recent events in the financial world. However it tends to be used more to mean spectacular failure, where the actual failure doesn't have much impact, but is quite conspicuous.

I did something -very- stupid at the regional on Tuesday (I use -very- as a placeholder for any adjective that accentuates the stupid - fundamentally stupid) - in younger terms it was an epic fail.

For a while now I've been enamoured with finding hand types that are strong enough to open, but that one chooses to pass first and then enter the bidding on a subsequent round, potentially catching the opponents by surprise with the playing value of the hand. Trials of various hand types, not discussed beforehand with partner, have been a steady stream of dismal results.

Tuesday night in pre-game chatter with our upcoming opponents, I was given a decent 6-7 majors hand (i.e. both minors void) to bid. I suggested pass first, and then back into the bidding with a Michaels cuebid, or some other bid that shows both majors. This was probably rotten advice, as some bounces by the opponents will leave this hand badly jammed and denied an easy way into the auction.

Later that night, I held the South hand below:


I went to the well once more following this pass then bid concept. The idea was that bidding clubs initially would just help the opponents evaluate their hands better (no wasted club values), and if by chance I got on lead against a notrump contract, I would know what to do.

The problem was that after the auction 1D by LHO, 1H by partner, 2D by RHO, there was no call that could show my playing value, and so we languished in a part score. As dummy came down, I resolved to quit this -very- stupid bidding. Fortunately the hand did not cost us anything in the final result, but it was certainly an epic fail.

A board in the France-Canada match late Tuesday (or too early Tuesday depending on your time zone) has had me fuming for two days now - an epic fume you could call it. In his latest ACBL Bulletin column, Zeke Jabbour argues that at the top levels, bidding is the most frequent source of errors. This is not to say that Zeke Jabbour believes in system (see his quote I used here:, but he does believe in solid, you-can-count-on-this partnership agreements.

In the room France bid these hands to 3NT - the auction started 1C by East, 2D preemptive overcall by South, and this is one of the hands Stacy refers to in this blog post of hers , and the 3D call she had recommended as one of the commentators. Stacy liked the West hand to make a direct 3D cuebid over the 2D preemptive jump overcall, instead of the negative double chosen by the player at the table, which got the player stuck bidding 3NT on the next round as nothing else looked appealing - that was the end of the bidding.

In the other room Canada had a melt-up (same problems as a meltdown, but as result of going up too much). This is a board that Jabbour could use in his column as the poster boy of expert bidding generating errors. It also is a hand that the late Barry Crane could use as the example for his rule imposed on his teammates never to bid grands. The alert of 2H said that it showed 4+ club support, and 4C might be a keycard ask in clubs.

My rule for grands is to never bid them if they are a percentage chance of making - bid the sure things only, and some of those grands that seemed like sure things on the bidding, will turn out to require some luck when dummy comes down. Don't try to win the event by bidding a grand!

I've been fuming about this hand ever since it happened. How could the Canadian pair, with a few simple bids, be convinced that the grand was cold? Clearly the bidding went off the rail somewhere, but my suggestion here is to be extra careful in making that try for the grand, or your fans might get trapped in an epic fume. However just like hockey teams are forgiven for all their regular season transgressions if they make the playoffs, the team can play well on Friday to make us forget everything before, and this blog can be a no fuming zone.


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