Friday, November 12, 2010

The Best System (Part 3 - Conclusion)

I know I missed plenty of systems, but for a generic overview, there is only so much one can do. So now I guess I'll answer the three original questions:
"What is the best bidding system available?"
 This depends on your goal, the level of opponents, the form of scoring, and many other factors. In my opinion, the best system available is some form of relay precision, if played properly. What I mean by this, is that if you don't have extensive practice and discussion not only on handling interference, but followups to your side's constructive auctions, and detailed agreements in a very large number of situations, you will lose more IMPs from misunderstandings and guesswork, than you will gain from your system advantages.

Therefore, in most partnerships, I prefer a fairly standard 2/1 with a lot of gadgets and modifications. One thing that I would highly recommend is a Short Club with Transfer Responses. Although there are many systems out there, designed to do so many things, sometimes it's best to go back to the basics. Over the years, systems have developed to meet the changing styles of bidding, and to reflect the player's personal styles and preferences. In modern bridge, there is a lot more competitive bidding than there used to be. This makes many systems that used to be superior, ineffective.

A very good example of this would be CanapĂ©-style systems. Before the auctions were so lively, CanapĂ© players could open their shorter suits without any problem: They would have room in later bidding to sort out their hands. Nowadays, when the opponents are in the auction so much, showing the crucial second suit before the auction is too high, is often extremely hard, if not impossible. The style of opening a shorter suit first works in Constructive auctions where the opponents don't bid, however, the more intervention in an auction, the harder it is to actually resolve the opener's hand.

This is also true for a Strong Club system, which is why it does not fare so well with intervention. Even the top players in the world have trouble sometimes with auctions like 1C - (2S) - ?? - (3S). Without these problems, in a constructive auction, a strong club is clearly best. However, with these problems, I feel that a 2/1 style can handle most hands fairly well, and is not nearly as vulnerable to pre-emption.

2/1 has my vote for the best system. Simple is sometimes good.

"If you lived in a perfect world, where you had unlimited memory and practice, what do you think is the best system or combination of systems?"
The above logic brings me to my dream system, which I believe would combine the advantages of both a Strong Club system, and a 2/1 style system. I believe the best system is a combination of the two:
Strong Club when the opponents are Vulnerable, and 2/1 when the opponents are Not Vulnerable.
The value and frequency of pre-emption over a strong club when the opponents are Vulnerable is a lot less. Also, it is much easier to penalize them at this vulnerability. Therefore, when they are more likely to interfere (when NV), the solution is to play 2/1. My personal choice of 2/1 would be with a Short Club and Transfer responses, along with plenty of other gadgets and modifications.

"What would be the best bidding system to learn if I want to learn something new?"
 I get asked this question quite often. There seem to be "stepping-stones" for learning new systems, sometimes people skip them, but in order to have a full understanding of each system, I would recommend you focus on something that you can understand well.

If you currently only know Standard, or are not very comfortable with 2/1, I would highly suggest you learn and become very familiar with 2/1 before moving to other systems. These two systems are the base of most complicated ones, and understanding them before learning others is vital. If you are looking for some books on it, I would reccomend Eric Rodwell and Audrey Grant's book on 2/1. There is also Paul Thurston's book, and Max Hardy's book. Hardy's book is excellent for advanced players looking for more reading material on 2/1.

If you currently are comfortable with both Standard and 2/1, Precision is the next step for you. Learning Precision will increase your understanding of the system, and make it much easier to play against those who already play precision. I highly recommend David Berkowitz's Precision Today for a fairly simple version of Precision. It is extremely well-written, and covers all the important aspects of a Strong Club system. From there, you can explore other options, for the more adventurous there are Relay Systems available, Daniel Neill has put together an incredible collection of systems at his webpage. Most any system you could possibly want is available there.

If you are comfortable with Standard, 2/1 and Precision and are looking for something to learn for fun, or as a challenge, I'd recommend looking at Daniel Neill's page as well. There is some fun stuff on there that may interest you. Jassem has a very good book on Polish Club as well.

So basically I think there are stepping-stones, as you progress more and more, you'll learn more and more systems. If you're really bored, you can even create your own! Um, not that I've ever done such a thing... :)

The Best System (Part 2 - More Systems)

Continuing with the next installation of the Best System. It's a bit harder to clearly state/show pros and cons of most systems than I thought, but will try my best.

4. Precision
  • Strong Hands are shown immediately, and bidding starts at a lower level
  • Limited openings, which allows for much better competitive decisions for responder, and for Opener to be able to show intermediate 2-suiters accurately
  • Can be used along with 2/1
  • Allows a lot of room for system changes/additions
  • Can use a weak (or very weak) NT, and not damage the rest of the system
  • Allows for light openings, and pre-emption (Therefore sometimes tough to defend against)
  • As long as you know the system well, you can benefit from it, however it may take practice to reach this point
  • (for Relay Precision) Allows extremely well-defined auctions, where opener/responder can show full shape, strength, controls, honour location etc.
  • Very vulnerable to pre-emption by the opponents (Takes some time to get comfortable dealing with interference)
  • Not a universally-known system (Perhaps a advantage as well)
  • Depending on the level of complexity, it can be a very memory intensive system
5. Polish Club
  • Strong Hands are shown immediately, and bidding starts at a lower level
  • Limited openings, which allows for much better competitive decisions for responder, and for Opener to be able to show intermediate 2-suiters accurately
  • Can be used along with 2/1
  • If used properly, can be very pre-emptive, but yet very constructive
  • Can handle interference fairly well (since responder assumes a Weak NT hand-type), while allowing strong hands to be opened 1C.
  • Multi 2D and Polish 2 Bids allow for a much greater spectrum of hands you are able to pre-empt on.
  • Strong hands sometimes are forced to overbid after opening 1C, to show their values.
  • Some aspects (if playing Multi etc) are Midchart.
  • Not well known in the US
  • Memory intensive, and not much room for changes
6. Forcing Pass
  • Tough to defend against, especially since most people have very little experience playing against it.
  • Allows for light and (extremely) pre-emptive openings
  • Strong Hands are shown immediately, albeit in a bit of an odd way.
  • Extremely vulnerable to pre-emption and psyching.
  • Not allowed in almost all events (Certainly no ACBL ones...)
  • Memory Intensive
  • Very little pre-emptive value to "Pass", and opponents can bid early/often
Will follow with the conclusions in a little while.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Best System (Part 1 - Introduction and First 3 Systems)

I came across a few very interesting questions today:
"What is the best bidding system available?"
"What would be the best bidding system to learn if I want to learn something new?"
"If you lived in a perfect world, where you had unlimited memory and practice, what do you think is the best system or combination of systems?"
I've been asked these before, stumbled across them again, and figured it would make a good post. It's one topic that I think most bridge players don't consider too often, and if they do, they often don't have enough experience playing such systems to make an informed decision. I'm not suggesting that I am anywhere near the best person to answer this question, however I do have a fair amount of experience playing a fair amount of odd/non-natural systems as well as a reasonable amount playing standard stuff, and figured I'd write something on the general pros and cons of several systems, and what I think is the best system, and combination of systems.

As a general theory, one of the best ways to learn how to defend something, is to learn how to use/play it. This is especially true for systems and conventions. Often knowing what the opponents are doing, and their other inferences they may have from their partner's bidding is often very valuable. A simple example would be Multi 2D. When the auction goes (2D) - P - (2S), and it is alerted as "Pass or Correct", you are missing a negative inference that the opponents have, and may make your bidding/play easier on this hand. When responder bids 2S here, there is an additional inference that he has longer hearts than spades, and often an invitational hand opposite a heart pre-empt. The opponents are not required to tell you this (I don't think?), and there is no way you would know it unless you played Multi yourself.

There are often small inferences available in the auction that unless you have experience playing your opponent's system/convention, you would never know. This is just another reason to be well-read on systems, and to have some knowledge of what your opponents are playing.

I'll start with a general rundown of systems, not an extremely comprehensive list, however I think it covers most general systems, going in order of difficulty, with 1 being the easiest:

1. Passing Always

  • Easiest to remember
  • Can never misbid
  • People have tried this system in a local game, and gotten above average with it (Provided you are good at defense)
  • Able to practice defense (always)
  • Many boards are passed out, making for a faster game
  • Completely insane
  • Never any chance to practice declarer play (always)
  • Opponents have uncontested auctions
  • About 50 other downsides as well -- Not recommended!
2. Standard American
  • Very simple to learn (and play)
  • Mostly natural bidding
  • Allows some room for creative changes
  • Can play with most pickup partners, and is widely known throughout the world.
  • Handles inference fairly well, since you can bid naturally most of the time.
  • Hands with 10-11 HCP with invitations can often show their suit at a lower level, and find the right contract
  • Not enough forcing calls, often you are forced to jump and pre-empt the auction when it would be better to bid constructively.
  • Usually not well-defined bids, much more guesswork than preferred
  • Extremely easy to play against
  • Game forcing hands opposite a 1M opening usually cannot create a constructive auction, and instead must guess at the final contract sometimes (See the first Downside).
  • Strong hands cannot show strength immediately
3. Two-Over-One Game Forcing
  • Constructive and slow auctions when responder has a game-forcing hand
  • Fairly simple to learn (and play)
  • Mostly natural bidding
  • Can play with most pickup partners, and is the most popular/highly known system in the US, as well as most other countries.
  • Handles interference pretty much the same as SA, usually pretty well.
  • The most room for creative changes (One treatment I highly suggest is a Short Club with Transfer Responses, although it is not too popular in the US.)
  • Strong Hands cannot show strength immediately
  • Very easy to play against
I'll continue this later tonight or tomorrow with more. Headed off to an Ian Anderson concert now.

Greg's 7AM Squeeze and an Update

A friend of mine sent out this hand a few days ago, it's a very cool ending that I hadn't seen before... Figured I'd share. Apparently it came up in a BBO robot tournament around 7AM. It's a very fun four card ending, fast forward in the handviewer diagram to check it out. Enjoy!

On a separate note, I have been exceptionally bored lately, so I am going to try to keep this blog updated for real!

No, this isn't another one of my "I will post more" posts, that winds up in no more posts for several months/years. Hopefully not, at least. I'm playing a fair amount online, and working on some new relay systems with Owen. Orlando is coming up in a couple weeks, and I will post some cool hands and bidding problems from there as well. Then I have some time off before a cruise with the family, and lots more bridge.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Squeeze

So, with not much better to do on Christmas Eve, I was playing against some friends online when this hand came up. As usual, I overbid a little, and partner put me someplace dangerous.



After I had upgraded my 18 count, I had to justify myself by making 6NT. The lead was the S9, 3, J and I won with the ace. Basically I needed something to work for me. Based on the lead, I was fairly sure my RHO had the SQJ, and if the club honors were split, I was very well placed for either a squeeze or if they were 3-3 then it would be easy. The other option was the heart finesse. The heart finesse was obviously 50%, and the club position was interesting. 3-3 clubs with the honors split makes it easy. 3-3 or 4-2 clubs with the honors with LHO makes it easy. 5-1 clubs presents squeeze options. If the clubs are split and 4-2, then I only have trouble when LHO has four, since I can pick up 2-4 clubs. Anyway, I figured this rated to be roughly 70%, and clearly a better line.

So, I played the Jack of clubs and let it ride, losing to the king. Back came a diamond, which I won in hand, and led a club to the 8. When that held, I cashed the CA pitching a heart from my hand. Next I ran the diamonds except for 1 and cashed the SK, coming down to this end position:






When I cash my last diamond, there are two possibilities:

1: LHO has the HK. On my last diamond, LHO will be squeezed in Clubs and Hearts. If they pitch a club, I have a club winner in dummy, and if they pitch a heart then I win the last 2 tricks with the HA and HT without a guess.

2: RHO has the HK. On my last diamond, LHO can safely pitch a heart. Now once again, RHO either has to bare the HK or pitch the SQ. Either way I have the rest. What if RHO bares his HK... How do I know? Well, since I know LHO has 1H and 1C remaining, if the HK doesn't show up when I lead a heart up to dummy, then I know that RHO has bared the HK. I'm not exactly sure how to classify this one... 3 suit showup squeeze maybe? Either way, it was fun and looked good for all the specs ;)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Been gone soooo long, sorry!

I keep saying that I will keep this blog updated, and I keep being too lazy to do so. I'm fed up with myself and this must stop. I'm gonna try to start talking a little bit about my travelling that I do. I suppose I'll start with San Diego, and hopefully update more after Orlando+Myrtle Beach etc...

So, San Diego. I left on Thanksgiving Day, and it's a weird feeling to be travelling during the daytime, and the airport is completely empty! I flew American, which means that I have to lie about my age when I travel, since under 15 has to fly as an unaccompanied minor, which means I have to pay $100 and cannot take most connecting flights. I paid my fees for the first bag (ugh, I <3 Southwest), and went on my way. After making some phone calls in Tampa, I boarded the plane, with an aisle seat, and slept. My connecting flight was in Dallas, where there were several bridge players on my flight... after all, who the hell flies from Dallas to San Diego at 5PM Thanksgiving Day?! Both flights were nice, but the closest thing I had to thanksgiving dinner was the Chicken I grabbed for lunch.

Upon arriving at the playing site around 645PM, I tried to check in, only to be informed that people who are under the age of 18 cannot check in alone... So I grabbed a friend walking by, and asked them to be my "guardian" for my hotel room. This worked well, and I was checked in by 710PM... I decided to look around and see if there was anyone interested in playing the evening session. I bumped into a friend about 5 minutes to game time, ordered a little something to eat from the bar, and sat down to begin playing... I knew the tournament had begun as I was eating my food while playing cards. No other game is that... insane =)

After starting with like a 46% game, I didn't exactly feel great. I went to bed, and began the LM pairs the next day with Andrew Gumperz. We had an excellent game (59%) in the afternoon, but had a total disaster in the evening, and we didn't Q. It was a real disappointment, since I knew both Andrew and I were good players, and were a pretty strong partnership. We were both so ridiculously tired though, that there was no possible way we could do well. I missed his signals and he missed my bids, we were a comedy show. We played the "consolation" A/X pairs the next day, and were 2nd overall in that, which was a nice showing.

Then came the open BAM, my partner for the BAM was Mike Levinson, who is completely blind, and has to have his cards read to him before every board. It was quite an experience, but we did very well, eventually finishing 29th in the BAM. He was an amazing player (both physically and mentally) and great person. Our team was Andrew Gumperz, Richard Reitman, T-C Yang and Pat Galligan.

I was on a roll now, but didn't have a partner for the Blue Ribbon Pairs. Sunday night however, Jenni Carmichael posted that she was looking for a partner, so I wound up playing the Mini-Blues with her. We did well the first day, despite both being very tired and borderline sick. The second day however, turned into what I would call the worst thing that has happened to be at any bridge tournament... No, we didn't come in 2nd. I had to stop playing after the 2nd round of the first session. I had terrible Vertigo, and was delirious. My blood pressure was like 70/30, and I was going downhill fast. My roommate came back to the room to find me asleep on my bed. He knew I was supposed to be playing then, and so he woke me up to ask me what happened. From here it's a blur for me, but according to him, I was incoherent and hallucinating. He called the paramedics, and I spent the night in ICU at a local hospital, where they managed my blood pressure and kept a watch on me.

I woke the next morning, and began rearranging my trip and seeing when my father could come in. He flew in that afternoon from Chicago, and stayed with me. I was feeling insanely better, but still didn't know what exactly I had. It wasn't until a little later that day I found out that I had Swine Flu. I had no previous problems, but it just hit me like a ton of bricks. 0 to 60 in a few hours. My blood pressure had stabilized, and it looked like I might be able to get out of the hospital within a few days.

Friday was a good day for me. I was able to eat solid foods again without trouble, and I was able to walk again, which felt quite nice. I was discharged Friday night, and my father and I checked into a Residence Inn, our home for the next 5 days until I could fly home.

The next few days were relatively uneventful, I spent all my time in the hotel room, and my father spent most of his time washing his hands. He must have washed them about 10 times every hour, but needless to say, he is well, and never got sick. Even though he spent several days isolated in a room with me, amazingly he was fine. I spent some time trying to walk around more, and was pleased that I was able to walk much better than the previous days.

Our final day in San Diego was a welcome one. I'm not usually glad to come home after a bridge trip, but I was thrilled to finally be going home after what happened to me. The plane ride was nice, and unfortunately I flew American back. If I had flown Southwest, I think I would have worn my mask, and coughed the entire time while people were boarding... I'd have the whole row to myself!!

Anyway, that's all for now. I'm home and well, and back on BBO. My next trip will be to Myrtle Beach, then directly to Orlando for the regional there. After that I'll be going on a family cruise and then back home. More on that later (I promise!!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

(Yet another) Blog

I have another blog I created for System Notes with Sean. Both of us are admins and will post system related info when available, the new blog is at:

Feel free to read, post comments and ask questions. We are completely "renovating" the 1C responses, and will have another system notes avaibable after.

For everyone's benefit I will leave up the old system notes also, and continue to update them with most changes, however the new ones will be what we will currently be using. More on that when I finish them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adam Kaplan - Sean Gannon System Notes: Online!!

Here is a link to a webpage I will keep updated of Me and Sean's notes, anyone can view it, and it has some very interesting/useful material... Such as the 1D-2H Size Ask, our system for interfering with a strong club, Hitchhiker over 1NT, many relays and much much more :)


Friday, August 28, 2009


Sorry for not updating this in... well, forever. I just got back from Turkey on Tuesday, and spent a few days in NY before returning home yesterday. In Turkey, we spent 2 days touring around, visited some bazaars etc, and then played about 9 days of bridge... Quite tiring over periods of time. The USBF sent 2 teams... USA Blue (Justin Lall, Jeremy Fournier, Matt Meckstroth, Kevin Dwyer, Kevin Fay, Jason Chiu) and USA Red (Me, Cameron Shunta, Alex Hudson, John Marriott, Owen Lien, Zach Brescoll), USA Blue got off to a flying start in the Swiss, winning every match, they squeaked by in the Quarterfinal by 1 IMP, but lost in the Semi-Final to Italy. They won the playoff for the bronze medal against the Dutch. We on the other hand, failed to qualify in the swiss teams, so we played the BAM. After recovering from a 6.5/15 board session the first round, we won the Bronze in the BAM. Turkey was a success and I now have my BBO Star... what more could I ask for?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An update

OK, sorry for not updating this blog in like forever, I've been really busy, and I will continue to be. In fact, I will be home for about 2 or 3 days in the next month and a half. I will be in DC for the National Tournament, and may be on Vugraph the 2nd Friday... There is also a good chance I will operate vugraph sometime while I am there, so I'll try to keep everyone updated.

After that, I am headed home for a day, then I leave for NY, where I will spend a night, before going to MA for a few days for a relative's 80's birthday.

Finally I am going to be going to Turkey from NY on August 12th until August 25th. It is my first international tournament, and I'm really excited!

Upon returning from Turkey, I will spend a few more days to recover in NY, then will be home for about 2 days before I leave for the Atlanta regional! So, I will be insanely busy... I'm glad I have several suitcases.