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.

Friday, October 03, 2008

One way to make the playoffs

If you want to "game" the conditions of contest for the Worlds, and try to make the playoffs with just average talent, your best approach is to play a strange, but round robin legal, system.  Why is this your best chance?

You have average talent: nothing is going to boost your talent to a top team level quickly
Edge: you need an edge over the other average talent teams in your group

Playing strange methods gives you advantage over the many second tier teams in the events. That's because these teams can't afford the time and effort to determine effective methods to use against the strange methods, and to practice them.  In many cases, teams you will play against will have only given a cursory look at your methods. 

What might a strange system be?  Here's a made-up example:

1C: 10-11 no 4 card major or 17+ any
1D: 0+Ds, 10-16
1H: 4+Hs, 10-16
1S: 4+Ss, 10-16
1NT: 13-16 balanced, may have a singleton
2C: 4+Hs, up to 11
2D: 4+Ss, up to 11
2H: Both majors, 8 to 12
2S: 6+Ss, 10-13
2NT: Both minors, up to 11

Now we see the second part of the "game" - this system, as disclosed on your cc, will be vague. For example, what does the 2C opening really show - could it be a flat hand with 4Hs and 0-11, or is it always unbalanced, and will it sometimes or often have a second suit?  In what seats and at what vulnerability can 2C be opened in the 0-5 range, and when is 2C opened with 10-11, given 1H is described as 10-16?  Does a pass in 1st or 2nd seat always show less than 10, and, given that, could 2C be strong in 3rd seat, and especially 4th seat?

Since your team only has average talent, and there are over 70 teams in the open event alone, most with 3 pairs each, nobody has enough time to verify that all the cc's are up to the detail they should be.

Next imagine you are on one of the other teams in the event, and you have not been prep'ed about this strange system, before you sit down against it. It goes 2C opening on your right - you ask, and are told its 4+Hs, up to 11. Now is double takeout of hearts?  Is 2H by you Michaels, and if so, how strong, or could 2H be natural, since their hearts could be terrible. Fortunately you don't have opening points, so you decide to pass.  Now the player on your left passes, which you find out means either long clubs, no game interest, or any very bad hand without 3 or longer hearts.  Now your partner bids 2H - is this natural, or Michaels - if you now bid 3C is that a cuebid?  How much do you need to bid 2NT and which suits are stopped?

As you can see the strange system puts opponents at a considerable disadvantage - it places them into situations of confusion and uncertainty - and even if they spend a little time getting ready, such as deciding to play their defence to a weak 2 in hearts over the 2C opening, they could not be ready for the ramifications of the 2C-Pass-Pass-? sequence.

Say you have 17 other teams in your group - against 5 other teams you plan to do average, or not get killed.  Against the other dozen teams, you hope to win, sometimes big, with your edge generating errors by the opponents.   If all works well, you slide into the last playoff spot in your group, while a team with better talent, but just playing boring 2/1 or big club methods hits the sidelines.

Success?  Yes, but just temporarily.   Now you are in the playoffs and playing teams with super talent, often with team support such as coaches. Your team is approached to clarify your methods, and in the meantime your playoff opponent arms themselves with countermeasures. Super talent prevails, and your team is out, with everybody wondering in the aftermath of the carnage how you made it so far.

Now you can't use this approach that well in the Bermuda Bowl, since, you are already in the playoffs, in a way, given the reduced number of teams entered.  It also doesn't work that well where the field is open, and then littered with super talented teams.  It works best when countries are each limited to one team, and most countries send a team - now there are quite a number of teams to be taken of advantage of, by playing legal methods, but that are strange and vague to the opponents.

Can the WBF rectify this concern?  Yes, they can, but since it will rarely, if ever, change the overall winners, it is not necessary.  To rectify, they need to first establish a standard system to be used as a default, such as is used in the World Individual events:

Then, the WBF needs to have a vetting approach where a panel (communicating via the Internet) reviews each submitted cc, and insists on each cc being clear.  For the example system above, it might turn out the one bids of the system really are:

1C: 10-11 5-4/4-5 in the minors with a 5-4-3-1 shape, or 17+ any
1D: 0+Ds, 10-16, no five card or longer major, if balanced 11 to 13, and if 10-11 unbalanced must have a 6 card or longer minor with no 4 card major
1H: 4+Hs, 10-16, 10-11 rare, 4Hs only in 3/4 seat and only if a great suit in a balanced/semi-balanced hand
1S: 4+Ss, 10-16, 10-11 rare, 4Ss only in 3/4 seat and only if a great suit in a balanced/semi-balanced hand
1NT: 13++ to  16 balanced, may have a singleton if 1-4-4-4 exactly 14-16

If the panel is not complied with by the deadline, the WBF imposes the default cc on the pair - the pair would be able to appeal this decision, but it will be up to them to show how their cc meets the requirements for clarity and disclosure.

Third, the WBF arranges for defences to be prepared and made available to all teams for any new wacky openings being used in the event.  These would be at most a page long, per defence, and provide the basis for teams to be prepared, if they want to.

Will this happen?  No, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good idea for the WBF to consider it for world championships in the even years, such as Worlds 08.


  • At 9:21 AM, Blogger DeScheveToren said…

    I disagree with your conclusion that the WBF should regulate this, theoretical?, practice. In chess, for example, even at the very amateur level I play, preparation gives one an considerable advantage. At strong amateur level, let alone at professional level, preparation is absolutely mandatory. Therefore I don't understand that for teams that want to compete in a bridge WORLD championship, study of the convention cards of their opponents proves to be too much trouble. Full disclosure yes, but regulation no. Work on your bridge!


Post a Comment

<< Home