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.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Robot Battles Part IV - Full Nondisclosure

This is the fourth of a series of posts on battling the BBO Robots.

The Robots have some strange ideas on what to lead - they love to lead singleton trump honors, or trumps on no-fit auctions, or random suits instead of the suit you bid - perhaps this is just robot revenge rage from being cutoff in the bidding. However their specialty is the passive lead against notrump: they love to lead from Jxx, Txx, Qxx, Jxxx, Txxx, and Qxxx in an unbid major against notrump. Their passive leads can be quite effective against those who assume robots would lead fourth best from longest and strongest, but the leads don't work particular well against those who know to watch out for them.

Picture that you have KQT3 in hearts and 15 points balanced. Now you would love to have a lead away from Jxx or Jxxx into this holding. How can you make this happen more often?

Say you open 1NT, and "partner" bids Stayman - if you now bid 2H, the normal Stayman reply, and partner bids 3NT, hearts are no longer unbid, and the robot leader (not Optimus Prime of the Transformers leading the autobots, but the robot leading a card) will no longer heart you.

The solution I found was to always reply 2D to Stayman with a decent four card or longer major - this convention is called Staybot (formerly Stayrobot, thanks Chris for the name suggestion). The exceptions are: always give the correct reply to Stayman if you have both majors (strong chances you have a major fit), or if you hold a weak four card major (since you don't want this suit led). There are a three management issues with this convention:

1) After 1NT-2C;-2D, if the Robot now uses Smolen, you cannot backtrack into your 4-4 fit - the Robot will always correct back to the five card major now that you denied 4 in the other major. For example, you hold four decent spades, and fewer than four hearts, and use the Staybot convention: 1NT-2C;2D-3S(Smolen 4S&5Hs);-4S-5H;-5S-6H;6S-7H: regardless of how many times you bid spades, once you bid 2D, it will always put you back in heart land: the auction needs to go either 1NT-2C;2D-3S;-3NT or 1NT-2C;2D-3S;-4H.

2) You miss your 4-4 fits to play in notrump. However much of the time you will get a nice lead (not Optimus for the robots), and make the same number of tricks in notrump as you would have in the suit contract.

3) After 2NT-3C;-3D-?, the robot sometimes gets discombobulated and bids 4C or 4D on assorted junk - if you cuebid 4H or 4S, sometimes it will bid 4NT Blackwood and you can pass that, or you may find yourself in 6NT. The bad news is that these 6NT contracts can have no play. The good news is you may still make them with the helping hands (claws?) of the robot opponents.

The use of the Staybot convention is an example of nondisclosure - we deny a major suit in the hope we get a helpful major suit lead. The other main place to use nondisclosure against the robots is after partner opens one-of-a-minor. On most hands, regardless of major suit length, or stoppers, just jump to 3NT: 1C-3NT or 1D-3NT. On average these bids are highly successful, although occasionally you will get to a terrible spot: don't write for refunds.

Over the major suit openings, nondisclosure is harder. Usually I bid 1NT (forcing), then 3NT, but there are two problems:

1) The robot opener can pass 1NT forcing after 1H-1NT;-? when holding 4-5 in the majors. The big plus (aside from 1NT making 6) is nobody taught the robots Flannery.

2) On auctions like 1M-1NT;-any-3NT;-?, the robot will sometimes pull to 4M with just 5 in his major, and now you are in robot hell: wrong contract played by your "partner", and now if you bid 4NT, its Blackwood. Don't write for refunds.

Another way to get to 3NT when robot opens 1M will be covered in our next posting: tactical bids.


  • At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Chris Hasney said…

    Perhaps you should submit the "Staybot" convention to the Bulletin's Bidding Lab!
    This is good stuff, well done!

  • At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Chris Hasney said…

    email to you is being returned. Please email me at chris at simplicitybridge dot com

  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger Glen Ashton said…

    questions can be email to bridgequestion at gmail

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Memphis MOJO said…

    Actually, the Bridge Bulletin is canceling the Bidding Lab series. December will be the last one.

    I played extensively over the weekend -- perhaps 40 robot tournaments. What can I say, it's fun.

    My favorite hand, I opened 2C and rebid 2NT. The bot drove to 6C with xx, x, 1098xx, QJ10xx!!

    I had something like AQx, Axxx, AQx, AKx. I won the opening spade lead with the queen, drew trumps and guessed diamonds for one loser, making 6C!

    My biggest gripe about the bots is they won't raise with support, especially if I open 1H. Also, every double is takeout, no matter the level. The opponent bots had a misfit auction and kept bidding to 4C. I doubled and my bot partner pulled to (the unbid suit) 4H with J10xx and nothing else, yikes.


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