Ray Lee

A Gift for my Son

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

When Linda and I started our family, and managed to produce a girl and a boy, I know we both secretly thought, ‘Ah, a mixed team!’  It was not to be.  Jennifer worked briefly at a bridge club while in high school, decided bridge players were all very strange people, and wanted nothing more to do with the game. 

Colin took after us, though.  In the course of earning a degree in mathematics, he became part of the bridge crowd at Waterloo University, and went on to play in two World Junior Championships for Canada.  A career in software development and raising a family has left him little time to play seriously since those days, but Colin still takes a serious interest in the game.  He’s been very useful to me on several occasions when I was working on a book that involved bridge mathematics and probabilities.

Which brings me to David Bird.  David has written many books for us, but when he first mentioned the idea of two books on opening lead theory based on computer simulations, I really didn’t think it would fly.  He pressed his case, and eventually we agreed to make it part of our Honors Books series, where the author does most of the prepress , editing and proofreading work (and gets a much bigger royalty, of course).  I don’t mind admitting I was dead wrong about the project – Winning Notrump Leads and Winning Suit Contract Leads have both been very successful, proving that people will tolerate books with a mathematical basis as long as there’s a practical application for the math that they can take away.

Winning Duplicate TacticsWhich brings me to David’s latest book for us, Winning Duplicate Tactics. This is a book Linda has wanted to do for several years – she feels that many bridge players don’t really understand matchpointed pairs and how different the game is from IMPs (of course, she bases that on many years of playing with me, and I certainly don’t understand matchpoints).  This is the kind of technical intermediate-level book at which David excels, so I was delighted when a gap appeared in his hectic writing schedule and he agreed to do it.  What we didn’t expect when the project started, though, was that David would make extensive use of computer simulations as the basis for his advice in this book, which covers the right approach to matchpoints in every aspect of the game: bidding, opening leads, declarer play and defense.

Let me give you an example.  He has discussed the use of Stayman on 4333 hands, concluding that prevailing wisdom is correct, in that it is better simply to raise partner to 3NT with this shape even though you have a 4-card major.  However, he does note than when partner is not 4333, you are better to play in a 4-4 major fit at matchpoints, in the long run scoring 52.9% compared to the 47.1% that 3NT offers.  The book continues:

Was Terence Reese right?

Many experts decline to bid Stayman on 4-3-3-3 shape. Terence Reese went further. When watching top invitational events such as the Sunday Times Pairs, he would pour scorn on contestants who used Stayman on certain 4-4-3-2 hands. ‘Did you see that?’ he would exclaim, far too loudly because he was deaf in his later years. ‘Absurd! The man bid Stayman.’ Was this another of his famed eccentricities or was there some sense to it? Let’s find out. Partner opens a 15-17 point 1NT and you hold this hand as responder:

K 9 7 4    K J    Q 10 7 2    J 8 3

Should you raise to 3NT or use Stayman to seek a 4-4 spade fit? The fact that the heart doubleton contains two honors reduces the chance that a heart ruff will provide an extra trick. The presence of minor honors and the lack of an ace also tilt the odds towards notrump. These are the results from a simulation that evaluates 5000 deals where Stayman would locate a 4-4 spade fit:

3NT or 4, in a 4-4 spade fit with this responding hand?

Contract Makes Avg Tricks MP’s IMP’s (V) IMP’s (NV)
3NT 61.2% 8.8 48.9% +0.3 +0.2
4 55.5% 9.6 51.1% -0.3 -0.2

Ah, not so eccentric, then! 3NT is more likely to make and is the better contract at IMPs. 4 has a small advantage at matchpoints. The most common result, occurring on 21% of the deals, is a swing of +20 for 420 against 400, or 450 against 430 (or the matching scores when vulnerable). Now look at this responding hand:

Q 6 5    10 8 6 3    A Q   K 8 7 3

You have a strong doubleton, your major is weak and there may be too many trump losers in 4 . Should you make a Stayman response? Let’s see.

Playing in a 4-4 heart fit, with this responding hand

Contract Makes Avg Tricks MP’s IMP’s (V) IMP’s (NV)
3NT 76.4% 9.3 46.5% -0.4 -0.3
4 70.6% 10.0 53.5% -0.4 -0.3

As on the previous hand, 3NT is more likely to make and is better at IMPs. Playing pairs, you should still choose the suit game. On 33% of deals 4 will give you the matchpoints with a +20 advantage (620 against 600, for example).On 23% of the deals 3NT will give you a +10 advantage (630 against 620).

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I know this one is right for Colin!

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