Posts tagged ‘bridge’

Counting to Improve Declarer Play

I’m playing in a club game with a regular partner. In fourth seat, I pick up:
♠ Q873
♣ A1097

Dealer passes, partner opens 1C, and RHO overcalls 1S. I bid 1N, showing a weak, balanced hand with a spade stopper and no interest in hearts. Partner raises to 2N, and I’m at the top of my range and happy to accept the invitation to 3N, which everyone passes. LHO leads the queen of diamonds, and I get to see dummy:
♠ KJ102
♣ KQ2

About 6 HCP lighter than I expected! I later asked my partner why he bid 2N instead of just passing 1N with a balanced minimum opener like this, and he said he wasn’t thinking, and this was a mistake. Okay, we’re in the wrong contract, but let’s see what I can figure out. →

Counting the hand

I’m playing in a Just Declare tournament on Bridge Base Online, which means the hand has been bid by 4 robots, and I’m taking over the South seat after the auction has finished. The bidding is complicated:

Pass Pass 1 1♠
Dbl 1N 2♣ Pass
Pass 2 Pass 2♠
3♣ 3 Dbl Pass
Pass 3♠ Pass Pass
Dbl Pass Pass Pass

The 4 of diamonds is lead (robots play fourth best from length), and I see just what you can infer about the opponents’ hands. →

Remembering all the things I forgot

Yesterday evening, John, Jacob (though not Jingleheimer-Schmidt) and I had a bull shoot for an hour and a half. We started out with John proposing a memory caching system which was intended to make garbage collection and blocking irrelevant. From there, the conversation natuarally progressed to online algorithms, cache-oblivious algorithms, religion, free will, consciousness, Searle’s Chinese Room argument, Chalmers’ Zombie Planet argument, qualia, logic-based representations of object-oriented programming, the lambda calculus, machine learning, finite discrete universes, quines, the Gödel processor, complexity theory, the No Free Lunch theorems, and probably some other topics that I’m forgetting. It was fantastic.

However, this, along with a couple other conversations this week, have showed me just how much I have forgotten since college. I couldn’t remember the phrase “competitive analysis” when we discussed online algorithms. I couldn’t come up with a representation of linked lists that supported the head and tail functions in the lambda calculus, and worse, I mixed up the S and K combinators and couldn’t even give the definition for what turned out to be the S combinator. Last week I mixed up pipelining and instruction-level parallelism, and couldn’t come up with the phrase, “speculative execution.” Last week at lunch I couldn’t come up with the formal definition of temperature (something about the kinetic energy of the molecules relative to each other and maybe the amplitude of the interatomic vibrations within the molecules, but what do you do if you have a singe atom?). Today I couldn’t explain why (if?) bending a piece of metal makes it harder but more brittle, or why bending a polymer makes it more maleable (though in my defense, I could explain the difference between stress and strain, and what a polymer is as well as a bunch of examples of polymers). I remember why the X combinator is important, but can’t give the definition for it or the Y combinator. Yesterday I realized that something I was working with was a metric space, but couldn’t remember anything useful about metric spaces (I got as far as knowing that the triangle inequality holds, but I didn’t remember anything else). I can no longer use LaGrange multipliers to optimize a quantity subject to a constraint (you need the two to have parallel tangents at the extrema, but I don’t remember how to find the slopes of these tangents). Last week I forgot the name of Topological Sort, let alone how it works (something related to DFS, but that’s all I came up with).

Now that I’m writing this, I’m noticing all sorts of other things that I used to know but can’t quite remember (how Java does garbage collection, queen-asking continuations in Roman Keycard Blackwood, how the telephone lab in Baby Stems worked). It’s scary to realize how much I’ve already forgotten, and know that I’m only going to forget more things from here on out. Does anyone want to have a refresher session? If so, post your questions (or answers) here!

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Outclassed at bridge

I went to the New Barrington Bridge Club tonight, feeling a bit rusty after a month without playing. I had been a bit reluctant to go because my coworker, Fred, said that the bridge scene in LA is mostly senile people playing kitchen bridge. I don’t know what club he frequents, but I had the exact opposite experience! My partner for the evening was Danny Kleinman (director of the Master Solver’s column in Bridge World magazine and author of numerous books, including the Principle of Restricted Talent). Over the course of the evening, my opponents included Jennifer Einberg (editor in chief of the Southern California Bridge News) and a woman who helped invent High Card Points back in the ’50s (HCPs eventually became the defining feature of the Goren bidding system, which was a precursor to the Standard American bidding system). and that doesn’t include any people who were too modest to reveal who they really were. This club had more famous people than I ever imagined I would play with/against. It was amazing!

It was pretty obvious that I was rusty—I made several pretty big mistakes. The problem with playing with a nationally-renowned expert is that he points out not only your big mistakes, but your little ones, and many mistakes that you didn’t even notice you made. We finished the night with a 44.7% game, taking 11th place out of 13. I suspect we would have done better if we had gone over our conventions before the game started; I told him I play Standard American with most gadgets he wants to throw at me, and he gave me his regular convention card and left it at that. By the second round, I had to admit I don’t know Reverse Lebensohl, so we dropped that. Later in the evening, I messed up Hamilton (a defense against strong notrump), since although I learned it at one point, I have never actually used it. I also missed a mini-splinter bid (I’m used to splinters being double jumps by responder in new suits out of competition; this was a single jump in a new suit by opener after a minimum response by me). Woah! It looks like I have a lot to learn. Still, it was a pretty fun night. I wish they had more evening games; the only games I can go to are Tuesday and Friday evenings, and I don’t want to spend Friday nights with old people. Still, I’ll be back next week.

Excellent bridge results

Jim and I played bridge today for what I fear is the last time in the foreseeable future, since I’m moving in a week. We got last place out of 12 partnerships with a 40% game, but I’m marking this one as a win. I finally understand what an uppercut is, and although I didn’t perform one, I found one in the postmortem. But the thing that truly sets tonight apart is that on the first hand of the night, I got a double squeeze!! These are quite rare; I don’t expect to get more than one per year. Seeing it, executing it correctly, and having it work was absolutely thrilling, and it rattled our opponents to the core.

My first double squeeze in more detail →

Wonderful bridge results!

The title says it all. Jim and I had a 53.7% game tonight which placed us 3rd out of 10, and we each got 0.5 Black Master Points. Moreover, on the fifth board of the night, I got a squeeze play! Yes, I have now finally accomplished my goal of successfully executing a squeeze play in a sanctioned game! I got a simple squeeze against LHO, and while it scored below average (because we didn’t bid the slam), no one got more tricks than I did. \/\/00T!

The 4-card squeeze play (spots approximate) →

Disappointing bridge

I played bridge with Jim again this evening. We had a rather poor game (41% gave us last place out of 10 partnerships), at least partly because I had 29 points on the first hand of the night and got flustered (there are typically 40 points in the deck, so 10 points is an average hand, to put things in perspective). I opened this monster with 2C even though I could have opened 3NT. Jim replied 2D (we use the control-showing step response: he had no aces and at most one king, but I faltered a bit explaining it to our opponents, since I only use it with Jim and it almost never comes up). I bid 2NT (balanced, stronger than previously shown), to which he replied 3H (apparently, this was a transfer, but I missed it). I bid 3NT, he went to 4S (trying to correct for my lack of transfer), and I paused for a bit and bid 6NT. We made an overtrick. That hand gave us an above average result, but made me really nervous (particularly when I learned in the postmortem that I was the only one who didn’t interpret Jim’s heart bid as a transfer to spades), so I was a bit off for the rest of the evening.

One of the last hands of the night had a squeeze play in it. I saw the squeeze play. I set it up correctly. The last thing I needed to do was lose one final club trick. After that, I had a simple squeeze against my left-hand opponent in clubs and diamonds. However, LHO won the club trick, pondered for a very long time, and… gave me a free finesse. I had accidentally endplayed her while trying to squeeze her! Oops. I took the rest of the tricks, but this was little consolation after being robbed of my squeeze play (which would have worked if RHO had won the club trick or if LHO had returned a spade instead of a club). I’m still trying to execute my first squeeze in a sanctioned game, but at least I got darn close this time! I wish I could remember the hand in greater detail, but the third-to-last and second-to-last boards of the night are running together for me (I declared both of them in major-suit games, one making exactly and one making an overtrick).

The 5-card squeeze play, if I had been able to do it →

My first Silver Master Point!

Tonight I played bridge with Jim for the first time in about a month. It turns out that this week is the big Aquatennial tournament, so instead of the typical 6-table game, we had a huge 25-table monstrosity that was actually split into two different flights. Some of the tables were downstairs because they ran out of room on the ground floor! Jim and I didn’t have any unusually good plays, but we were consistently above average, and ended the night with a 52% game (5th of the 14 east/west pairs in our flight). This netted us each 0.61 Silver Master Points! All the ones I have previously gotten are Black, though at my rank, color doesn’t affect anything yet (it simply denotes that I got them at a larger tournament which presumably attracted stronger competition). Jim missed bidding two slams at which he instead signed off in game (only one of which I can fault him for; the other one was quite tricky), and I misinterpreted our opponents’ bidding in one hand, overbid, and went down two doubled tricks (this was our only bottom board). Other than that, though, we had no noticeable mistakes or miscommunications! We just had solid bidding and play throughout the evening. Hurrah!

One one hand, I managed to recognize a situation for a squeeze play (this was another Vienna Coup), and executed it correctly. However, it didn’t actually work (it would have worked only if the opponent with the Ace of Spades also held the Queen of Diamonds). Still, I’m proud of myself for recognizing the situation and responding correctly to it.

Also, remember not to hold up your winners too long, even in notrump: I made 12 tricks in a notrump contract because my opponent refused to take her king the first two opportunities she had, and I didn’t give her a third. This was our only top board of the evening, since everyone else made only the 11 tricks to which they were entitled. For the non-bridge enthusiasts who aren’t familiar with this strategy, a hold-up play is when you choose not to take your winner now, and instead take it later. Assuming you are still able to take it later, you don’t lose any tricks. However, this can cut the transportation between your opponents’ hands, so that one hand has remaining winners in the suit but no longer has a way to get to them (and hence cannot cash these winners). This is a particularly useful technique in notrump contracts, where the hand that becomes void in the suit cannot get in with a ruff.

Poor Bridge Results

Jim and I have played in two big bridge games recently, and even though I haven’t had a lot of practice this semester, we didn’t take last place either time! For those of you who didn’t know, the HMC bridge club kinda dissolved last semester, and I barely played at all. I only played one sanctioned game the whole semester, and Whitney and I had an atrocious 27% (typically, I don’t think people score less than 35%. Ouch! At least part of this was that Whitney was nervous about her first sanctioned game, and this threw off her rhythm. and I made a bunch of really stupid mistakes). Jim and I started off the summer with a disappointing 42% at a Sectional game, but still beat one of the 9 pairs. I don’t feel bad about that, because Sectionals bring out pretty tough competitors. This past weekend was the Worldwide Bridge Contest, where people all across the country play the same hands and are ranked nationally. Of the 14 tables playing in Minneapolis, Jim and I finished with a 48% game (just below average), which I’m quite content with. You can tell we’re not used to playing as partners: for the first half of the afternoon, Jim was sending me Rightside-Up Attitude Signals (we play them Upside-Down), and I was giving him Odd/Even Discards (we use Lavinthal Discards instead). Oops! Except for missing one loser-on-loser play that gave us a second-from-bottom board, I don’t think I made too many mistakes (though I had a few others). The neat thing about this particular tournament is that the committee that made the hands also made little booklets discussing how they should be bid and played, so you can learn what you were supposed to do from the experts.

At least the summer is starting off with an upward trend! Perhaps next game I’ll be above average. Also, I think I’m going to start looking for a second regular partner. Although Jim is a fantastic guy and I like playing bridge with him, he’s quite busy with work right now, and doesn’t have much time to play. Also, it seems like many people at the club (including Jim) have 2 or 3 regular partners, so they can play even when one of their partners is busy/sick/etc. I have no idea how to find a compatible one, but I’ll figure it out eventually.