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.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tiny Meckwell

You can watch Meckwell and all the other stars of the Vugraph on a phone, as long as you don't mind them being a touch tiny. Here's one of this morning's matches on my new iphone:












Now for comparison, here is the iphone and part of the monitor running BBO on Windows:













Here is the iphone with BBO running in a browser, and I'm using Google's Chrome browser since it is quite fast:











You might notice that Meckwell's teammates are going for down 5 doubled, and we will discuss that not tiny -1400 in an upcoming post.

For details on trying this beta software:

Some tournaments are considering a time delay in show the vugraphs:

Fred Gitelman states:
I think it is safe to predict that the one and only reason we would have for making this change would be if a major tournament organizer (the WBF for example) said "introduce a delay or you won't be able to broadcast our events in the future".
I love BBO vugraphs, even on the phone if I'm away from a monitor, and if takes a delay so be it, but this will not come close to solving the security issues with wireless technology prevailing everywhere.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The USBF announced their decision in the Nickell team concern.

To quote the USBF site:

As a result of Dick Freeman's illness, and his inability to play in the finals to determine USA2, the USBF, in accordance with its General Conditions of Contest, named a Tournament Committee to review the circumstances and recommend a course of action to the USBF Board. Led by John Sutherlin, the Committee met, and unanimously recommended that Nickell-Freeman be permitted to remain with their team. The USBF Board unanimously accepted the Committee's recommendation, and USA2 in Sao Paulo will be the original six-handed Nickell team. We all wish Dick a full and speedy recovery. Bill Pollack, USBF President

imo, the General Conditions of Contest were clear, and this decision was the correct and proper one. If one believes that these conditions need to be updated, that is something to be worked on for the events of future years.

For a discussion, see both:


Sometimes the discussion tends to be harsh, with just a veneer of civility, but bashing out the issues will help in the long run. One thing is clear from it: we all greatly miss Edgar Kaplan.

--- ---

It is sad to see one of the bridge forums shuting down:

It is with regret that we have to announce that will be
closing down on 1st August 2009.

Sometimes people don't participate in forums or blog comments as the discussion can be strongly worded. That's just the way it tends to get sometimes. Here's some talk on a hockey site:
Your ideas are not silly and nonsensical because I disagree with them. In fact, there are a great many people I disagree with on a great many issues without considering their ideas silly and nonsensical. Your arguments, however, are silly and nonsensical, because, well, they fit the definitions of those words. They don't make sense. I've explained why. And I'm sorry if you've felt insulted by my criticism of your arguments and assertions. I feel that I've been entirely reasonable, however.

your comments make you look like a complete fool. They should take away your account and not let you post on (site). When I read what you write, I just shake my head and laugh at you.

and the very, very common:
are you on crack?
Compared to what we can see on sports or poker forums, the bridge forums are relatively tame, and, almost all discussion has, at least, a veneer of civility. Rarely will an argument degenerate into an uncalled for personal attack, and even when it does, most quickly return to a debate about the issues and concerns. When you do see a direct personal attack, ask yourself, why is this person moving off the issues and concerns - what is the agenda here and why don't they want to debate the subject?

Having said that, the demise of the bridgetalk forums might be in part due to too much civility. If one looks at the some of the longer threads on BBO forums, or in a very long stream of comments on a blog, often the discussion is a battle between various viewpoints, with some expressed elegantly and others nastily. Perhaps it is the nastiness, and the resulting blood sport, that gets the attention. Bridge players are amongst the most competitive people you can find, and perhaps they are drawn towards the battles. If you do participate in the USBF discussion, feel free to cut n' paste the hockey forum talk above into your postings.

Friday, June 12, 2009


The Canadian Nisbet Team Championships (aka the Canadian Women's Team Championships) was won by the Nisbet Team:

Pamela Nisbet, Karen Cumpstone, Joan Eaton, Barbara Clinton, Kismet Fung, Susan Culham

Last year I wrote about how Pamela owns this event:

This year's team is a super strong six, and I have great hopes for their match against Mexico (July 10-12, in Mexico), and success in Brazil.

Speaking of previous winners of the team championship, we have two teams in the CNTC final littered with former champions:

1. John Carruthers, Joseph Silver, David Turner, Roy Hughes, Nader Hanna, Jim Green
2. Nicolas L'Ecuyer, Kamel Fergani, Darren Wolpert, Jurek Czyzowicz, David Grainger, Daniel Korbel

Even though the team rosters had Carruthers #1, and the other guys #2, I will pick the L'Ecuyer team to win the two day final – I was 3 for 4 in the quarters, and 2 for 2 in the semis, so just go to your local bookie, say you want to bet on the CNTCs, and he will say "what you mean, the Canadian Nisbet Team Championships are over!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Board

It was a stunning comeback, the ten boards in the middle of the last set were wild, and the focal point was "The Board" - this amazing board is already being discussed on BBO forums (as a lead problem), and I really don't need to blog about it, as you will see it all over the net, and then in any newspaper that has a bridge column, and in all the best bridge magazines.

It was the round of 32 in the trials for USA2, and the Diamond team faced the Ozdil squad in a match that would send one of them home. Ozdil (Melih Ozdil, Jiang Gu, Xiaodong Shi, Mark Lair, Jonathan Weinstein, David Yang) had been playing since the start of the round robin. In the round of 32 for the USA1 spot, they had beaten Lewis, and then Ozdil had overcame the strong Jacobs squad in the USA1 Round of 16, and finally lost to Fleisher in the USA1 quarterfinals, which put them in this USA2 match. Diamond (John Diamond, Eric Greco, Fred Gitelman, Brian Platnick, Geoff Hampson, Brad Moss) had been seeded into the USA1 round of 16, lost to the Rogoff team, won their USA2 Round of 64 match against Beatty, before getting to this match.

After three quarters, Diamond led 118-80 (USBF line score, vugraph gives 114-80). After three pushes, board 49 had both tables in game by South:

Hampson in 3NT got a club lead, won by the jack, and declarer worked the majors to get 9 tricks in.

In the other room NS tried the 4-3 fit, and declarer almost brought it in, but having to make expensive overruffs had him run out of the necessary trump spot cards.

The Diamond team were now ahead 128-80 with 11 boards to play. On the next board both tables got to 3NT.

Against Ozdil, where Lair had bid 3S to show short spades, three hearts, and both minors, Hampson led a heart honor, ducked, and continued with the other heart honor. When North got in with a diamond, he played the heart king, assuming his partner had better hearts for the lead. After establishing a second diamond, and a with a later club finesse, declarer had 3Ss+2Hs+2Ds+2Cs for 9 tricks.

At the other table, Gitelman-Moss use the 2D transfer to show hearts, or to show a game force with both minors (2S showed this, 2NT was no minor, 3D showed longer clubs). North aggressively doubled 2D to get a diamond lead, and EW didn't have the machinery to play 2DXX, instead reaching 3NT.

South led a diamond to the queen, and North switched to the spade jack, won by declarer. The club jack was covered by the king and ace, and now Moss could play a club to the 9 - if South wins this declarer has 4Cs+3Ss+1D+1H at least, while if South ducks this declarer has 3Cs+3Ss+2Ds+1H at least. Instead Moss played the club queen from dummy, and the bad club split meant the play was a mess. He misread the end position, partly to the double on just 4Ds, and was down 1 for 10 IMPs to Ozdil,

And now The Board:

In the Open Room Gitelman and Moss got to 6H. I'm not sure what 4NT was - it might have been intended to show long diamonds and secondary clubs, but used here to deflect South from leading clubs against 6H. It could have been some form of Blackwood, but it had a void, and Moss's reply to 4NT doesn't look like a Blackwood reply of some sort. Against 6H, a club lead would get +100, anything else -1460. Instead South bid 6S, a phantom sacrifice if he would have led a club, and gave up -1100. How many IMPs were on the line for that -1100, instead of +100, or -1460?

The answer is not many.

In the Closed Room, Lair opened 2C with playing tricks, and the auction quickly reached the grand. Greco doubled, and later told the table he was hoping that this might steer West into bidding 7NT if some other hand was held. Instead East redoubled, and South had to lead. Double equals dummy's first real bid suit, right? South led a diamond, and was -2940. He told the table he was leading a spade if no double. 1840 was 18 IMPs. 3040 (2940 + 100) would have been 22 IMPs. 1480 (2940-1460) would been 16 IMPs.

The next board was 5 IMPs to Ozdil for 2H making against 2H down 1, the key play being Ozdil ducking a first diamond play with Axx, and able to later give partner, who had xx, a ruff.

Then on the next two boards, just 1 IMP to Ozdil for an overtrick, one board being a 21 point 4S game, the other a 29 point 6S slam. This match was not about being conservative.

Next on board 55, in Open Room, Gitelman and Moss settled into 4C, down 1. North had bid 2H over West's double to show a good raise to 2S, only 6 points but it was shapely.

In the Closed Room, the same 2H bid (here, described as a constructive spade raise), found East taking a shot a 3NT, and South taking a two-way flyer at 4S - it might make, and it might be a decent sacrifice.

Lair pulled out a X to give this contract a big ticket for speeding. -800 was 14 IMPs to Ozdil, now with a small lead in the match.

Board 55 found both EWs in 1NT, doubled of course in this match. Yang led a heart away from AQxxx and got -300, while Greco tried a diamond from J94, and the tempo cost a trick, just -100, and 5 IMPs to Ozdil.

On the next board, both tables were in 3NT. In the Closed Room, it was by East, and it was down 2 on a diamond lead.

Hampson remarked to Lair that 3NT would make from his side, and Gitelman tried that in the other room.

On a heart lead by North, Gitelman ducked in dummy, which seems natural, but now South won the heart king, and fired back a diamond. Again Gitelman ducked an ace, and South played another diamond to sink the contract. Still down only one was 3 badly needed IMPs back to the Diamond team.

Next came the final nail. In the Closed Room it looked like the stop in 3NT with 31 points would work, with the red suit honors not well placed.

However 3NT made 6 on a high diamond lead by West. In the Open Room they reached 6NT:

Generally I like passive leads against 6NT and 7 level contracts. However the score at the start of the set, and 6SX for 1100 at this table seemingly a phantom sacrifice, and the auction, gave it the reek of a shot at slam, and Gitelman went with a high diamond lead. He lost the first diamond trick to the ace, took the diamond ten with the queen at the second trick, and returned a diamond. With the bad spade split, declarer had 4Ss+3Ds+3Ds+1H. However West had to keep a spade, East a club, and thus neither player could guard hearts when the hand was played out (follow the cards with handviewer if you want to see how it all worked). The double squeeze was worth 13 IMPs for the victory. It was a stunning set of ten boards.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quant this

Thinking about Jonathan Weinstein's line of work (see previous post) and team trials, I decided to do some quant work on the Canadian open team trials, with the round robin ending today. The quant theory I used was that teams in bad/awful/impossible playoff position tend to care less about their final day bridge, while teams in the hunt tend to bear down (the careless/bear theory). Factoring in the positions, that gives us these 8 playoff teams (in team number order, not placing order):

1 Carruthers
7 Ballantyne
13 Marcinski
15 Gamble
16 Bart
17 Steinberg
20 Rayner
21 Todd

These are the quant Pendicton predictions after day 3, without considering the day 4 results here:

I'll update this post tomorrow with the playoff picture, and I hope the quant results are not perfect, as there are some teams I would like to see playing Wednesday.


The teams, in finishing order, with VPs given:
1 Carruthers - 395
2 Rayner - 391
3 Bart - 389
4 Todd - 387
5 L'Ecuyer - 384
6/7 Thurston - 375
6/7 Janicki - 375
8/9 Marcinski - 363
8/9 Gamble - 363
The 10th team had 362 VPs

Since Gamble had beat Marcinski 25-5 in VPs in the round robin it would be Gamble in the playoffs?

No, the first tie breaker is on wins - here's the two-way tie-breaking forumula:

a) All matches played will be scored on the basis of:
WIN - 1 point; TIE - .5 points; LOSS - 0 points.
b) The result of the match between the tied teams.
c) A playoff between the tied teams. The playoff must be five boards. If still tied after five boards, continuing sets of five boards will be played until the tie is broken
This put Marcinski is the playoffs, and now the top team could pick any of the bottom 4 to play against, and then the 2nd team could pick any of the bottom 4 still left for their match. When a team is picked, they want to say, at the bridge table, "picked us, eh?" (use google Canadian translation), "well think again eh!", and then they bid a toonie of Canadian slams.

Let's go with the teams running hot for the quarterfinals:

Carruthers to beat Janicki (final: 142-129)
Thurston to beat Rayner (final: 142-154)
Marcinski to beat Bart (final: 167-102)
L'Ecuyer to beat Todd (final: 138-111)

Update: I posted the final scores above - it was 3 out of 4 in the quarterfinals - Linda was also 3 out of 4, and I'm sorry her team is out in the CWTC.

In the open semis:

Carruthers takes out Rayner
L'Ecuyer takes out Marcinski

Yes, this is picking against our IMP league teammates, but a blog has to pick the team with the blogger (Daniel Korbel), correct? Except yesterday the Bart team with a blogger (Michael Yuen) was picked against, but the blog was overruled there.
Must Reads

It's not easy being a Weinstein playing in the US trials - Steve, Howard, or Jonathan. Jonathan is playing the 4th of 6 segments right now on the BBO vugraph, and he is listed as Howard as I type this (but has since been corrected).

Jonathan's blog is at:

Check out his older posts too, such as is posting that begins:

Have you noticed that your partners and opponents (not you, of course - you are a very sound bidder) seem to be more likely to have 14 hcp than 17 for a 15-17 notrump? …

Jonathan is a prof at the Kellogg School of Management (NorthWestern U) and one of the areas of his research is game theory. His bridge blog is not yet part of the Kellogg Faculty Blogs.

For the online vugraph, one of the best commentators is only 13: Adam Kaplan. He has quite the beer collection on his blog (no, not actual beer beers, but winning the last trick with the diamond seven). 2 of the 40 people who voted in the favorite system poll have voted for SAYC so older folks must read his blog too. Adam's blog is at:

Especially read the hand given in Palm Beach Gardens - Part 2.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

True Expert

Monday night found us playing an IMP league make-up match with playoff implications. Here's a problem for you:

S: A987
H: KJT87
D: 32
C: Q4

It goes 2D weak on your left (could be a five card suit), 2NT by partner, pass by RHO.

You bid 3D, Stayman in your methods. LHO passes, and now partner announces 3D as a transfer, and then bids 3H. RHO passes, and then you bid ?

The expert with the above hand was one of our opponents, and what he did next showed that he was a true expert. He bid 4H, bidding as if he never heard the announcement. He knew that announcements are for the opponents only, and he could not use that information to take another course of action.

Notice that he could easily have bid 3S here, making it look like he transferred to hearts, and then bid spades naturally. This would get his side to the best contract, while bidding 4H over 3H risked playing in a 5-2 fit, with perhaps 3NT better, or having a 4-4 spade fit. Nobody would be the wiser - the only person who would knew that he bid 3D as Stayman could just keep quiet, and his team's playoff chances would still be alive.

Instead he took the right action, and even though I said nothing at the time, I made a mental note: "Now there's a true expert".

The actual board was a push (they had a 5-3 fit), and after a lot of IMP exchanges we won the match which found us in the playoffs on Wednesday.

In the first half, I had:

S: KQT875
H: Q75
D: K83
C: 2

I opened 2S, a weak two that could be a five card suit. LHO and Karen passed, Karen usually not having 3Ss as we bounce the bidding with a fit. RHO bid 3C and played there, making 5 on our poor defense.

At the other table, holding this hand was Jurek Czyzowicz. On the same auction (but with 2S promising 6), he doubled 3C for takeout. This got partner Steve Brown to bid 4S with:

S: A2
H: AK932
D: 65
C: T876

That was 10 IMPs to their side, and we were well on the way to our playoff exit.

Jurek, Steve, and our teammates Waldemar Frukacz and David T. Willis all start play in the Canadian Bridge Championships today. Good luck to all. Rosters are at:

Linda's look at handicapping the team event is at:

On Friday night Karen and I won a ACBL BBO speedball that was notable because on board 2 we had handicapped our score with a -790 and -13 IMPs as result of our poor defense (tm).

Say the following occurs at your local club. Both opponents are very successful players. You finish a board with a good result for your side thanks to frisky bidding, and then one of the opponents calls for the TD (tournament director). The TD arrives but immediately goes away with the opponent and they have a discussion away from the table. The player silently returns, while the TD goes quietly back to their computer. Later, in checking the score comparisons, you find the result of the board you played has been changed to A+ (average plus) for the opponents.

This occurred, but =at a place that prefers to remain undisclosed, but not located in Canada=. The two opponents were US stars. While quiet handling problems can be cool in many cases, I think open communication is important when score adjustments are in play. =Sadly the place where this had happened has asked that everything remain private =

Update: the parts marked between = = are later updates to reflect the wishes of the place to remain private. If they had read the book, Brand Bubble, mentioned in this post:

they might realize that what consumers need to see is this loop:

feedback (good/bad) -- brand acknowledgement - brand improve/change/fix/update/repair

If a brand attempts to close down or hide this cycle, anywhere in the cycle, they lose consumer trust. This does not mean that the brand loses consumers, but just that consumers will not trust them to do the right thing. For contrast, see this Best Buy short clip titled "The Marketing Capability: the Future is Digital":

= end of update =

We now have a great set of days of vugraph to look forward to. The schedule is at:

Thanks to all involved with these presentations, and in particular the BBO folks and the tireless never-sleeps coordinator Roland Wald. Once I get the lawn cut (it is way too long), I hope to pitch hit as a commentator for a less popular event, the type where my typos are forgiven and frisky bidding is common place.