Squeezing The Dummy

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Site!

The new site is up (finally!) Thanks for all your loyalty, I am proud of this site, and think my new site will be even better. Go to http://www.justinlall.com if you're interested.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Tonight I'll be playing an exhibition match against the OzOne team on BBO. I'll be playing with David Grainger, Bart Bramley, and Jay Stiefel.

A wealthy donor founded the OzOne project in order to increase the standard of the Australian teams sent for international competition. They have recruited some of the best talent in Australia to work on their partnerships and become great, much like the Dallas Aces of old. Part of their training is playing exhibition matches on BBO which they do regularly.

Our opponents tonight will be Richman and Nagy with Hans and Nunn at the other table. I met both pairs for the first time last year in the Cavendish and have since seen them at NABCs (North American nationals). I even got to play a session with Hans on BBO.

Richman and Nagy play a variant of MOSCITO, a system that I have never played against since it is illegal in most of the tournaments I play in. As far as I can tell it is a very active strong club system with transfer openings, 4 card majors, and weak NT. I am really excited to play against this system and I think it will be a good learning experience. You never know, sometime in the future I may be playing against this system at a world championship so practicing against it could turn out to be very useful.

Needless to say I don't know the best way to defend against MOSCITO or the 1-level openers, so if anyone has any suggestions let me know before 7:00 central tonight. Thanks!

Update: We won 53-13 in a 20 board match. I'll try to post a match report at some point.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Bridge Documentary: Resolution

Many people have been asking me why the documentary is no longer available at YouTube. Perhaps this excerpt from an e-mail written to me by Andy Pedersen, director of In The Cards, will clarify:

I appreciate your desire to introduce the show -- and bridge -- to a wider audience, but the YouTube postings will actually limit the show's potential audience. It's no secret that television is a commercial business; no American, European or Asian television network will invest in a show and broadcast it to a mass audience if it feels that most of the core audience, bridge players in this case, have already seen the show. The YouTube posting could also damage my chance to make a longer and more bridge-accurate version of the documentary that I would then package on DVD with lots of extras (including a section about the Americans' very dramatic victory during the '05 world juniors).

But like I said, I'm afraid it's all jeopardized by the YouTube postings.

Essentially Andy is worried that overexposure will cause other markets not to want to air the documentary. Fair enough, but one could argue the reverse as well. If there was lots of interest on YouTube the networks may think the market for In The Cards is larger than they realized and it may encourage them to pick it up. Only a small fraction of the market would ever see the YouTube postings anyways, and those that did could create a huge word-of-mouth buzz. You see very similar things happen with free music downloads of relatively unknown artists.

This is not my call though, Andy is the copyright holder and has every right to choose to have the YouTube clips taken down, and that is what he has chosen to do. Hopefully Andy is very successful at selling the documentary to US and foreign networks, and hopefully other film-makers follow suit (no pun intended).

Before the videos were taken down part 1 of the documentary had been viewed about 5,000 times all the way down to part 5 which was viewed about 1,500 times. The small bridge blogosphere gave it a lot of hype including links here, here, here, here, here, and here. There were also posts on rec.games.bridge, the bridgebase forums, and netbridge.dk about it.

I even became a celebrity for a few days when bridgebase linked me on their main page inviting people to view the documentary. My traffic went from about 300 unique hits a day to 3,000.

I sincerely hope that the YouTube postings both exposed the bridge world to a larger audience and helped Mr. Pedersen's cause rather than hurting it.



Many months ago I formed a great idea for a website. It would be complete with book reviews, blog posts, articles, forums, news, link, and a lot more. Just as there was a need for quality bridge blogs when I started this blog, there is a need for more quality bridge sites now. I purchased the domain justinlall.com and began learning how to make websites. Unfortunately making a good website is a lot of hard work, who knew? Too bad I'm so lazy...

I still want to make this project happen and have decided to leave website building to the pros. If you are interested in designing my website then please e-mail me with the following information:

  1. Any examples of past sites that you have designed.
  2. A little background information about your web design experience.
  3. Your price.

I want a site that is easy to navigate and has a clean look. Nothing too flashy.

My e-mail is justin.lall@earthlink net. Thanks in advance!


Sunday, April 22, 2007


I have been thinking a lot lately about auctions that start 1-(2)-X-(p). This seemingly simple auction can quickly become one of the murkiest constructive bidding sequences in bridge.

The double can be made with both 4 card majors, one 4 card major, or a 1 suited hand with a major. It could even be made with 5-5 in the majors and a weakish hand. Opener can then bid a 3 card major himself or make a very nebulous cuebid. Fundamentally both the double and the cuebid are overloaded.

For instance, if the auction started 1-(2-X-(p)-? one might bid 3 with any of the following hands:
  1. KQ43 KQ2 A43 AJ2
  2. A2 A3 432 AKQJ32
  3. KQ32 KQ92 4 A652
  4. KQ3 AJ2 872 AKJ4
On hand 1 opener cannot just bid 4 as partner may have a 3 card suit, and 3N may be the right spot.

On hand 2 opener just needs a stopper and doesn't want to bid 4 and bypass 3N.

On hand 3 opener has an invitational strength hand with 4-4 in the majors and wants partner to pick a major. Some people may even be planning to pass a 3M bid by partner!

On hand 4 opener is strong and balanced with no stopper. and is hoping partner can bid 3N.

So the cuebid covers a GF with 1 major, strong with clubs, invitational or game forcing with both majors, or strong balanced with no stopper. Great! The first thing that is clear is that the cuebid needs to create a force. With hand type 3 you just have to bid game or bid 2 of a major. What's not clear is what responder's duty is; bid 4 card majors up the line or bid NT with a stopper? If he bids NT with a stopper then a major suit fit may be lost opposite hand type 1 (the most common). If he bids majors up the line then hand types 2 and 3 are screwed. Not to mention that 5-3 fits are going to be very difficult to find.

We also have the issue of finding 3N when opener has one 4 card major and a stopper and responder has no stopper and the other 4 card major. For instance if you have hand 1 the auction might go 1-(2)-X-(p)-3-(p)-3-(p)-3-(p)-? Should responder always bid 3N here, with or without a stopper? This risks some silly 3N contracts as well as wrongsiding the contract if the stopper is Kx or the like.

These aren't even the only problems with this auction. The other day I had an auction start 1-(2)-X-(p)-2-(p)-3-(p)-? My partner had 4 hearts and a diamond stopper and bid 3N, worried I had a hand like 4333 with no diamond stopper. I had 4 hearts and a game going hand and was worried my partner had bid 2 with only 3. If you don't believe this is possible, ask yourself what you would do with a hand like Kxx AKx Qxx xxxx. 2N is horrible with this hand type and 2 is really your only choice. Anyways, I passed 3N and we missed our best spot of 4. I pointed out to partner that he should bid 3 and I would bid 3 with 3 hearts and no diamond stopper. While he agreed with this he wondered what would have happened if our fit was spades and not diamonds; I would be endplayed over a 3 rebid.

There are no great solutions to this problem, but perhaps with some artificiality we can improve on this auction.

Bob Hamman has played for a long time that jump shifts are forcing after a negative double. In this auction 3M can be forcing, and that eliminates hand 1 from the immediate cuebid. Over 3 partner can bid 3 without a fit or diamond stopper and opener can bid 3N with a stopper. There is still a guess over a jump to 3 though.

This would leave the direct cuebid to show a strong hand with clubs or a strong balanced hand without a diamond stopper. This would leave responder free to bid 3N whenever they have a stopper, and bid 3M with a 5+ card suit. Definitely a big improvement.

Even better would be to use 2N as an artificial bid. Really, bidding 2N with a weak NT is not a good option anyways, you may have only half the deck and would much rather play 2 of a major. 2N could puppet to 3, then 3 could show 4-4 majors invite, 3M could be that major plus a stopper in diamonds, game forcing. 3N would be 18-19 balanced with a diamond stopper. A direct 3 would simply be GF in clubs or strong balanced without a stopper, 3M would be natural and forcing, denying a stopper, and a direct 3N would be based on club tricks and a diamond stopper (so partner won't pull with a 6 card major). This solves all hand types and eliminates guessing.

That would mean that 2M could frequently be based on a 3 card suit. Over the cue you only have a problem sorting out stoppers and 4-4 fits if opener has 4 spades and a stopper and responder has 4 hearts, less than 4 spades, and a stopper.

I think this is a great improvement for almost no cost on one of the worst auctions in bridge. You only lose a natural 2N (useless) and invitational 3 of a major bids (of very limited use), in order to gain a lot of clarity on the NT vs major decision. A nice advantage of forcing 3M bids is better slam bidding as well (as trumps are set earlier).

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blogroll Update

The blogroll was becoming a little haphazard so I decided to organize and update it. It is now broken up into three categories; bridge blogs, other bridge sites, and non-bridge sites. I ended up reading over all of them again and decided that a review was in order.

Bridge Blogs

DavidC's Bridge Blog- Written by an English junior player, this blog deals mainly with bidding theory and system design. The author has a very good grasp on bidding theory and expresses himself clearly. Some of the principles he writes about have never been written about before though very sound theoretically. The content is mainly for advanced players or higher. He also writes about the laws of bridge. This is probably my favorite bridge blog and I really recommend it to anyone interested in bidding theory. Updates fairly often.

Gavin Wolpert's Blog- Written by a young bridge professional and recent star of a documentary. Gavin writes mainly about his life as a bridge professional but also has some system related material. If you are interested in the life of a bridge professional this is a great read. Updates frequently.

Stacy Jacobs- This blog has both bridge and non-bridge related material. Stacy is an excellent writer and posts frequently. Her bridge posts are generally short discussing tournaments she's been to or hands she's seen recently. The bridge content is mainly geared towards advanced or better players, but she has some great stuff about writing as well.

Jinzhou's Blog- Written by the star of Singapore's junior team, this blog outlines his run to the bronze medal at the World Youth Championships in Thailand. A great story to read, but it is obviously not updated anymore. Obviously I enjoyed it.

Mike Develin
- Written by a former American junior internationalist, Mike pretty much discusses all of his recent sessions and includes lots of hands. The material is suited to players of all levels, and the blog is updated frequently.

The Korbels- Written by an expert Canadian junior couple, they write about interesting hands they play on BBO and in real life and include some tournament reports. Though one of the best written bridge blogs, it suffers from a lack of updates.

The Beer Card- Written by a keen Scottish player, Paul discusses lots of hands as well as random bridge news and issues. Lots of interesting content, and updated frequently and suitable for everyone.

Ulf Nilsson- Written by a Swedish internationalist, Ulf has great insight onto a lot of hands from high level play (though I don't always agree with what he says). He also discusses some theory. The only complaint I have is that his hand diagrams are hard on the eyes. Expert players will enjoy this blog a lot. Ulf updates almost every day.

McKenzie Myers- Written by a youngish bridge pro, mainly contains tournament reports and some hands. His writing style is very funny, and I think anyone with a sense of humor will like his posts. Updates frequently.

Jonathan Ferguson- Brand new bridge blog, but knowing Jon he will not be afraid to be very open and vocal about his thoughts. He says he will show you hands that are good, bad, and ugly. So far he averages about 5 posts a day; I doubt he will be able to keep that up though.

Jeff Miller- Written by an expert player from the Chicago area, Jeff posts very interesting hands and ideas and is very in depth. Mostly geared for advanced or better players, he doesn't update much anymore.

Glen Ashton- Glen covers some pretty esoteric conventions and systems. If that's your thing you will like his blog. Updates sporadically.

Badmonsters- The author of this blog is very unique because she is an intermediate player. She discusses her attempts at learning to become a better bridge player from that point of view. So if you're a beginner or intermediate you will really like reading her thoughts; you can probably relate.

Ken Rexford- Written by the author of Cuebidding at Bridge, Ken has a whole blog about cuebidding. His ideas are very far out in left field, but if you like reading about really strange ideas this is definitely the blog for you. He has not updated in a while though.

Raffles Bridge- A group blog written by intermediate or advanced players who are all part of the same bridge club. The content is mainly suitable for that level, and discusses some hands as well as theory. Updates are not frequent.

Other Bridge Sites

BBO Forums- By far the most active bridge related forum. Basically this is just a large community that discusses all aspects of bridge at all levels. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I have over 5,000 posts there. I really recommend this site.

Richard Pavlicek
- The most comprehensive bridge site out there. Includes several features like a card combo analyzer, suit break calculator, teaching materials, and play contests. Easily the best bridge site on the web.

The Cavendish Invitational- Website of the only big money bridge tournament in the world. This event is coming up in May and is very exciting even as a spectator. If you don't know about this event or want to see who's playing in it, go now.

ACBL- The American Contract Bridge League runs all the tournaments in North America (except for things relating to international play). Lots of information about upcoming and past tournaments, masterpoint races, and other things involving the league.

USBF- The United States Bridge Federation runs all the trials to decide who represents the US in international competition. Mainly useful for information regarding those trials.

Matt Meckstroth
- Personal webpage of the son of Jeff Meckstroth, some humorous content as well as interesting features like Hand of The Month and WWJD (what would Jeff do?). Hasn't been updated in a while though.

Bridge Is Cool
- The ACBL's attempt to market the game to juniors. Although I have been critical of this site, it is at least a start in a proactive campaign to make the game attractive to my generation as well as the next. I know the ACBL is trying to improve on this site as well.

World Bridge Federation- The Federation that oversees all world competitions as well as world rankings. To see the rankings or news from upcoming or past international tournaments go here.

Jerry Helms- Personal site of expert player and teacher Jerry Helms. Includes articles and a biography, as well as information on his seminars.

Poor Bridge- Hilarious site with articles about bad bridge. Lots of articles and features like "Poor Bridge of The Week." I never fail to leave this site laughing.

Cocktail Bridge
- Written in Croatian, but does have some english articles including an interview with me.

Mike Gill- Written by a former US junior player, includes a short biography as well as several interesting hands and a write-up of the World Youth Championships in Thailand. Mike has some really funny hands in the Amusing Deals section.

Siege- System notes for Mike Bell's system Siege. Very interesting system that has a natural base with lots of artificiality and transfer responses to 1 club. Similar to what I play with Josh Donn.

Inquiry 2/1- Inquiry's system notes. Includes some interesting stuff including MisIry transfer preempts.

Non Bridge Sites

Overcoming Bias- Great site which discusses many of the inherent and societal biases we have and how to try to overcome them in order to become more rational people. Updated every day and easily my favorite blog on the net.

God of The Machine- Written by a bridge player (using the term loosely) but containing no bridge content. Aaron writes about a lot of things including poetry, literature, ethics, philosophy, and culture. In my opinion his mini-blog is better than his actual blog. The mini-blog is updated frequently but his main blog updates are erratic at best these days.

If you have a good bridge related blog or website that I don't know about just e-mail me and I will consider blogrolling you.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Hard Work

Professionals at the top of all sports and mind games spend countless hours with coaches training to improve their games and keep their edge. For some reason this doesn't seem to hold true in bridge. Sure, the top players play a lot of hands (but not more than half of the year usually), but in general these are against weaker opponents and time is not spent critically analyzing the bidding and play. Is bridge inherently different from other games and sports?

I don't think so. Certainly there are diminishing returns from studying positions and analyzing hands, but that is true in all sports. The edge gained from studying is worth it to stay sharper than your opponents. In general I believe that once the paychecks start rolling in and your play reaches a certain level it is easy to become complacent and not work on your game. Your hunger and desire goes away, and your thought process turns to landing your next client.

The biggest reason the Aces were so successful is that they analyzed every card played and bid made together with a critical eye. They would have heated discussions that would sometimes result in hurt feelings, but it made them tough. It made them into a machine that would just make fewer errors than their opponents (except the Blue Team). Players on the Aces like Hamman, Wolff, Soloway, Goldman ended up becoming some of the best players in the world.

I have realized I don't want to become complacent, and I don't want my game to stagnate. To take it to the next level I have to practice and train every day with peers, essentially I can't just be lazy and be happy to get by with sub par performance. I have started training with Chilean junior Joaquin Pacareu and Josh Donn. I am also studying double dummy problems every day. Ideally we'd have a coach but no one fits the job, and if they did they would probably want to be compensated for it.

Yesterday we had several interesting hands. Here was an error I made that cost twelve imps. I picked up 2 AJ7 AKQT654 T6. I opened 1 and partner bid 2 which was game forcing. I chose to rebid 3 showing a solid suit and some extra values. Partner bid 3N. What would you do now?

I felt like I had shown my hand. I had shown solid diamonds and extra values, and that's what I had. At the table, I passed. After a lengthy discussion I believe that this was a mistake. Notably, my hand would be far worse if I had 2 spades and 1 club as opposed to my actual holding. Having 2 clubs is really important opposite a long suit; we have more chances to establish it and we won't be off 2 cashing tricks as often. For slam I really need very little, basically just good clubs. Also, it is very hard (but possible) to construct hands where 5 is going to go down so if I bid 4 and we end up playing 5 it's not the end of the world. Had I bid 4 that would catch a 5 bid from partner which would really turn me on (no spade cue means good clubs), and I could have bid the slam.

Without having Josh and Paca analyzing hands with me, I may have just continued thinking partners 3N bid was bad. Or I may have just been lazy and not tried to figure out what went wrong at all. I'm really excited about these sessions and am hopeful that I can improve my game and fix some holes in my thought processes.

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