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Simplified Meckwell Precision system (for students

#61 User is offline   scotty 

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Posted 2009-December-22, 22:01

Regarding the issue of whether system notes should be public or private:

I agree with Fred that publication is not currently required and that, hitherto, this has been the practical solution. I also agree that, as far as constructive bidding after the first couple of rounds is concerned, the advance information would not particularly help, or be of interest to, one's opponents.
But the following questions need to be answered:

1) What about ALL bidding agreements (some of which may be semi-obscure) in competitive auctions? Those would pretty clearly be useful to know advance. Such things as forcing pass agreements and 2-way doubles - these items do not appear on the ACBL card, yet are likely covered in system notes.

2) What about ALL carding agreements? Does it seem fair that a pair can base it's defense on things that a declarer would practically need ESP to find the right question to elicit the same information available to the defenders

3) What about all the stylistic issues (both in bidding and in cardplay), NOT IN THE NOTES, that become commonplace in a regular partnership, but cannot reasonably be divined by an opponent?

Now (3) has no solution, except for how forthcoming the actual partnership is. But it is because of (3) that it seems pretty clear to me that everyone should be entitled to (1) and (2) in advance. (3) already gives the partnership an (unfair?) advantage.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am in the tiny minority (how unusual for me) who believe that all system notes should be open. In fact, I usually respond to questions about what I play by offering to email my entire set of notes (and I have different sets for different levels of strength and intensity).
It just seems wrong to me that secrecy can be a part of "full disclosure". It's true there are things I have figured out that someone else may now gain a benefit from. But, for the purity of the game, I see no way round that.
Another point - pairs are often asked, or are happy, to produce their system notes in Committee to prove what their agreements are. So, while there is, as far as I know, no requirement to produce them, there is also, as far as I know, no law saying
"notes can be kept secret."

Sorry to put you on the spot, Fred (well not THAT sorry), but I'd be interested in your answers to, and comments on, the above.

Michael Rosenberg
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#62 User is offline   jonottawa 

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Posted 2009-December-22, 22:51

Funny, when this topic came up I thought of Michael Rosenberg and his 'which minor to open' from Zia and Me.
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#63 User is offline   nigel_k 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 01:17

Regarding the argument that all system notes should be made available as part of full disclosure, isn't this just rewarding people who don't write stuff down but nevertheless have agreements either made verbally or from partnership experience? In fact, people who currently write a lot of their system down might benefit from no longer doing so or even deleting what they have. To have this requirement and maintain a level playing field you'd basically need to make every pair write a book before they were allowed to play.

It would also be hard to enforce. If it turned out my partner and I exchanged emails six months ago about a particular situation and forgot to tell opponents, even supposing you somehow discover the emails, what are you going to do about it?

The status quo is that you have to know what to ask about and when to ask about it, even if doing so risks tipping off the opponents and/or transmitting UI. Obviously this isn't ideal but I think it's still less bad than any alternative I've seen proposed.
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#64 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 01:53

1. IMO, the ACBL system card needs a complete redesign. Also IMO, that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.
2. The real problem here, at least in my neck of the woods, is that the stock answer to any question about carding is "standard" and the stock reaction to any follow ups is "why are you wasting time? We still have boards to play!" :(
3. I've tried asking "tell me about your style". The usual response is a blank look. :(

What's needed is education about how to explain things, what to explain, and what need not be explained (that last lesson will be considerably shorter than the first two). But I don't see any signs of that happening, either.
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#65 User is offline   bluecalm 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 04:23

Maybe good solution would be that every "serious pair" on "serious tournament" would have to fill a form of questions/typical situations and publish it ?
Even if the poll is quite big (like 100 questions on bidding and 50 on defence) it would take 2-3 hours to complete and you need only to do that once.
It really can't be done in "non serious" tournaments but could be applied to say national leagues finals and major WBF/ACBL events.
I for one as aspiring recreational player would love to see this and read the notes of top partnerships especially if the questions were designed intelligently by good bridge players.

I also want to thanks Michael Rosenberg for his work on cc with Zia. It's the only convention card I saw which actually contains a lot of carding agreements. Very instructional. I haven't seen anything like that for any other partnership.
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#66 User is offline   fred 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 13:01

scotty, on Dec 23 2009, 04:01 AM, said:

Regarding the issue of whether system notes should be public or private:

I agree with Fred that publication is not currently required and that, hitherto, this has been the practical solution.  I also agree that, as far as constructive bidding after the first couple of rounds is concerned, the advance information would not particularly help, or be of interest to, one's opponents.
   But the following questions need to be answered:

1)  What about ALL bidding agreements (some of which may be semi-obscure) in competitive auctions?  Those would pretty clearly be useful to know advance.  Such things as forcing pass agreements and 2-way doubles - these items do not appear on the ACBL card, yet are likely covered in system notes.

2)  What about ALL carding agreements?  Does it seem fair that a pair can base it's defense on things that a declarer would practically need ESP to find the right question to elicit the same information available to the defenders

3) What about all the stylistic issues (both in bidding and in cardplay), NOT IN THE NOTES, that become commonplace in a regular partnership, but cannot reasonably be divined by an opponent?

  Now (3) has no solution, except for how forthcoming the actual partnership is.  But it is because of (3) that it seems pretty clear to me that everyone should be entitled to (1) and (2) in advance.  (3) already gives the partnership an (unfair?) advantage.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am in the tiny minority (how unusual for me) who believe that all system notes should be open.  In fact, I usually respond to questions about what I play by offering to email my entire set of notes (and I have different sets for different levels of strength and intensity).
It just seems wrong to me that secrecy can be a part of "full disclosure".  It's true there are things I have figured out that someone else may now gain a benefit from.  But, for the purity of the game, I see no way round that.
  Another point - pairs are often asked, or are happy, to produce their system notes in Committee to prove what their agreements are.  So, while there is, as far as I know, no requirement to produce them, there is also, as far as I know, no law saying
"notes can be kept secret."

Sorry to put you on the spot, Fred (well not THAT sorry), but I'd be interested in your answers to, and comments on, the above.

Michael Rosenberg

Hi Michael,

Nice to see you posting here. No worries about putting me on the spot - if you read Forums for a while you will see that I manage to do this to myself on a regular basis.

My short answer is that, in principle, I would not be against the concept ammending the notion of "full disclosure" to include the submission of a pair's entire system notes. In practice, however, I don't think this is even close to being a workable idea.

While I understand the reasons why some serious players are very protective of their systems, like you, I am not one of those players. That should be pretty clear to Forums regulars as I have made a lot of posts that reveal some clever bidding ideas that I have developed and that I use in my regular partnerships (at least I think they are clever). However, I am generally unwilling to give out copies of my system notes. That is because my regular partner has asked me not to do this and of course I respect his wishes in this area (not only for the purposes of partnership harmony, but because our notes are owned by both of us).

Nigel raised some interesting points about why the implementation of what you propose would be problematic. Here are some other problems that I see:

- As other posters have pointed out, the vast majority of top-level pairs are not even capable of filling out a convention card properly. In many cases their efforts are truly pathetic. It is not realistic to think that these people would be capable of putting together comprehensive and intelligible system notes.

- The first point may be hard for you to buy given how meticulous you are about such things. I try to do a good job with my WBF convention cards too and I think I also have excellent system notes. But I know of several top-level pairs who have been playing together for years who either don't have system notes at all or whose system notes are not even close to being comprehensive or intelligible to a third party. Of course these people understand the value of good system notes, but it seems that a lot of bridge experts are either very lazy in this area or they are simply incapable of writing up good documentation. I don't think you could ever get these particular leopards to change their spots.

- Even if you were somehow able to force these leopards to change their spots at gunpoint, there would certainly be a very wide range in terms of quality of system notes that were submitted. Arguably this would create some strange fairness issues that would be hard (impossible?) to resolve.

- As you know the WBF already makes a serious effort to get pairs to submit their convention cards well in advance, to make this information available to their possible opponents, to keep hard copies of all of this information on file at the playing site, to make sure system changes go through the proper channels, etc. I cannot say I fault the WBF for lack of effort, but IMO the system doesn't work very well. This is partly a function of the mountain of information that is involved and partly a function of the fact that many players do not take their responsibilities seriously. These problems would be multipied by 1000 (or whatever) if, instead of convention cards, system notes were involved.

- It would be a giant waste of time IMO to do this for any event I am aware of other than various World Team Championships. In a Vanderbilt, for example, a fact of life is that you don't even find out who your next day opponents are until after 1AM. You then have less than 12 hours to sleep and prepare for the next match. In my experience at least, such preparation barely if at all includes studying the opponents' methods. Maybe there are a few pairs out there who might make an effort to review their defenses to things like unusual 2-bids they *might* see, but I think very very few (zero?) would want more information than that which was available through a convention card in this situation.

- With respect to the above point, if you remove the word "giant" and get rid of one of the "very's" in "very very" the same would probably be true even at the World Championship level.

- Entire new branches of bridge litigation would be born. Imagine committees having to deal with issues like: 'Your system notes say "only if bal", but your hand was hardly "balanced" it contained a void! No - "bal" means "balancing" and I was in the balancing position.' Of course such problems would be magnified greatly for international events (where many players are not native English-speakers).

- It might not be workable at all unless some kind of "standard template" for entering system notes was created - otherwise it would be a great struggle in many cases for people to find the information they care about in other peoples' notes. But creating such a template means writing user-friendly and robust software, people learning to use it, modifying the software over time so that new bidding ideas can be properly represented, etc. Or I suppose we could forget about software and kill a lot of trees for the purposes of printing many tons (literally) of forms for people to fill out. Then there is the problem of some committee having to deal with designing and maintaining these (either software or paper) forms.

- I believe many people would seriously resist this change (both those who do not want the world to see their system notes and those who are either incapable or unwilling to create proper system notes).

Probably I could think of some other objections and probably there are reasonable counter-arguments to some of the objections above, but hopefully what I have written is sufficient to illustrate why I think your proposal, though perhaps desirable in a perfect world, would simply not work in the world we live in.

Fred Gitelman
Bridge Base Inc.
www.bridgebase.com

#67 User is offline   fred 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 14:10

Further comments on Michael's post...

I agree that convention cards in general (and ACBL convention cards in particular) do not do a very good job of providing space for detailing some areas of a pair's agreements that an expert opponent really cares about. As you note, info relating to style and in depth carding agreements are good examples of this.

For me personally this is not that big a deal because:

1) For the most part I play against the same players again and again and I already think I have a fairly good sense of what their style is all about.

2) I am not adverse to asking questions when I need to know something that is not written on the convention card. While it is true that one sometimes has to be concerned about "giving away his hand" when asking certain questions, I don't think that happens very often. Sometimes when it does you don't really care and not infrequently the opponents either don't clue in or choose to ignore possible inferences from such questions. When you are declarer there is not much to lose by asking questions about carding methods as long as you are careful with the timing of such questions.

Besides that, the concept of having to look through a book (ie the opps' system notes) at the table in order to find the information I want is not appealling to me (and this will also result in your hand being "given away" some of the time). Reading and memorizing key sections of a book before a match starts in an effort to avoid asking questions wouldn't work for me either.

3) Fortunately there are some opponents (you being a prime example) that go out of their way to volunteer information that the opponents rate to care about.

4) As important as this information is, in general I don't feel that I need to know it well in advance of actually sitting down to play.

I am actually OK with the far-from-perfect status quo, but if there is to be an attempt to improve the situation, I would much rather see it happen in the form of convention card redesign. That might not help as long as people continue to do a poor job of filling out their convention cards. Maybe it would also be desirable for the powers-that-be to try harder to enforce properly filled-out convention cards.

Fred Gitelman
Bridge Base Inc.
www.bridgebase.com

#68 User is offline   TimG 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 14:44

fred, on Dec 23 2009, 03:10 PM, said:

I agree that convention cards in general (and ACBL convention cards in particular) do not do a very good job of providing space for detailing some areas of a pair's agreements that an expert opponent really cares about. As you note, info relating to style and in depth carding agreements are good examples of this.

Can you give a couple more examples?

How much space (ACBL CC = 1 unit) do you think would be needed to provide the sort of in depth carding agreements you would like to see?
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#69 User is offline   debrose 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 14:56

[/QUOTE]

I second all of Michael's (scotty's) comments. I also agree with Fred that the more practical changes we might have some realistic hope of bringing about are redesign of the convention card to make it more useful, and meaningful enforcement of the requirement to properly fill out such a card. Though I'd imagine the latter would be harder to accomplish.

In the ACBL, I also think it's necessary to have the powers-that-be clarify that the convention card is intended for the opponents' benefit. A redesign of the card such that it is no longer convenient to keep one's private score inside the card would alone probably help a little with that. At NABC's, the Daily Bulletin always runs several paragraphs about the requirement to have two properly filled out convention cards. I'd like to have added to this a requirement that one hand one's opponent the card at the start of each round, and only ask to retrieve it at the end.

Perhaps this should all be in a new thread, along the lines of: Redesign of the ACBL conv card & enforcement of proper completion.
If someone has the time and know-how to move this comment, along with any relevant preceding ones from this thread to a new one I'd appreciate it. Unlike Fred, I'm not OK with the status quo, and I'd be interesting in posting and reading more on this subject. Fred, I appreciate your taking the trouble to make suggestions in spite of the fact that there is no problem for you personally.

Debbie Rosenberg
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#70 User is offline   jjbrr 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 15:14

debrose, on Dec 23 2009, 03:56 PM, said:

Perhaps this should all be in a new thread, along the lines of: Redesign of the ACBL conv card & enforcement of proper completion. 
If someone has the time and know-how to move this comment, along with any relevant preceding ones from this thread to a new one I'd appreciate it.   Unlike Fred, I'm not OK with the status quo, and I'd be interesting in posting and reading more on this subject.  Fred, I appreciate your taking the trouble to make suggestions in spite of the fact that there is no problem for you personally.

Debbie Rosenberg

You might remember and revive this thread.

Edit: and I realize that doesn't quite cover exactly what you seem to have in mind. I'm sure a new thread in the offline bridge forum would get a lot of discussion.
OK
bed
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#71 User is offline   fred 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 15:19

TimG, on Dec 23 2009, 08:44 PM, said:

fred, on Dec 23 2009, 03:10 PM, said:

I agree that convention cards in general (and ACBL convention cards in particular) do not do a very good job of providing space for detailing some areas of a pair's agreements that an expert opponent really cares about. As you note, info relating to style and in depth carding agreements are good examples of this.

Can you give a couple more examples?

A couple of simple examples:

1. Style-related

Under what circumstances, if any, might you open a 4-card major in 3rd position? The boxes for often/seldom/never (or whatever they say) don't help very much. It would be more helpful to know things like:

- Is a 4-card major opening with a weak suit possible?
- Is a 4-card major opening with a sound opening bid possible?
- Could you open a strong 4-card major with a very weak hand (say a flat hand with 6 HCP)?

2. Carding-related

- Do you give suit preference at trick 1 of a suit contract when the dummy has a singleton in the suit that was led and the opening leader is winning the trick? How about when the dummy is winning the trick?
- What agreements do you have in terms of splitting honors?
- What sort of remainder count do you use?

I just realized I probably didn't answer your question. I think you might have been looking for examples of other categories as opposed to examples within the categories I mentioned.

These are such broad categories that there can't be too many of them. Michael touched on one in his post - unusual competitive agreements which is also obviously a potentially very broad category. Off the top of my head nothing else comes to mind. In general I think there is already space for most constructive bidding agreements that the opps rate to care about in advance on the existing ACBL CC.

Quote

How much space (ACBL CC = 1 unit) do you think would be needed to provide the sort of in depth carding agreements you would like to see?


If I had to guess without really thinking about it...

My sense is that using roughly two to three times as much space as exists now on an ACBL CC while perhaps getting rid of some of the questionable uses of space that exist now would be enough to make a big difference.

I do think the existing ACBL CC is just fine for almost all of those who play in almost all ACBL-sanctioned events. Probably the vast majority of the ACBL membership would not appreciate having to fill out or look at a substantially more complicated CC. Also there is something to be said for the ACBL to have a single universal convention card similar to what exists now and for the top-level players to live with its flaws.

Fred Gitelman
Bridge Base Inc.
www.bridgebase.com

#72 User is offline   Echognome 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 15:35

Fred somewhat preemptively answered my follow up question.

But why not have different CC's for different levels of events?

Restriced Convention Chart - SAYC (pre-filled out)
GCC - Something similar to current ACBL cc (maybe even pared down)
Midchart - A more in depth cc
Superchart - Several paged cc
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#73 User is offline   TimG 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 16:12

fred, on Dec 23 2009, 04:19 PM, said:

I just realized I probably didn't answer your question. I think you might have been looking for examples of other categories as opposed to examples within the categories I mentioned.

I was asking about other categories, but was also curious about examples within the categories and am glad you gave a few. If you think of more and want to share, feel free!

In regards to CC redesign: I would appreciate more latitude in modifying the existing CC. Anyone who uses a 2NT opening to show something other than a strong balanced hand will know that the 2NT box on the existing card is next to useless with the stayman, jacoby and texas boxes taking up much of the space. I'd like to be able to wipe out those options and use the space to describe my 2NT opening. There is software that makes this possible (any image editor will do), but once the card is modified, its use is technically illegal.

In general, I think it would be better to have far fewer default options and more blank space.
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#74 User is offline   scotty 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 16:26

I guess I was not very clear. It was never my intention that system notes be provided AT the table as an explanation for system. That would be ridiculously impractical. I was saying that the notes should be "open" - i.e. previously accessible.

The points made by Fred are cogent. And there are so many of them, that, for almost all events, I agree with him it is unfair/impractical/unenforceable to compel system note disclosure. That's as opposed to it being just unfair to keep them secret.

The one American-run event where I think there should be full disclosure is the US Trials. Here, with early registration, I see no reason why system notes should not be lodged in advance in full. That way, a player who wants to study his or her opponents' methods (Meckwell springs to mind - they do always seem to qualify!) in detail has the ability to do so. Is that fair? I think so, but can see arguments both ways.

I will continue to not conceal my notes. But, having read all Fred's posts, I'm beginning to feel that my position, while perhaps altruistic, is just plain wrong.

Michael Rosenberg
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#75 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2009-December-23, 19:33

Certainly it's true that many pairs don't have (and will never have) readable system notes. But I don't think that necessarily matters here.

Compare it to disclosure at the table. Very often there's a sequence that a pair has not discussed. In this case it's perfectly acceptable for them to say "undiscussed" or "no agreement" when asked. But if a pair does have an agreement they are supposed to disclose it and not say "we have an agreement, but I'd rather not tell you what it is." Similarly the fact that not every pair has legible system notes does not seem to remove the obligation that pairs who do have such notes disclose them to the opposition.

Of course, there's nothing really stopping a pair from claiming they have no system notes when they do. But having made such a claim, one could forbid them from producing system notes as evidence in a possible MI case...
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#76 User is offline   debrose 

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Posted 2009-December-24, 12:43

awm, on Dec 23 2009, 08:33 PM, said:

Certainly it's true that many pairs don't have (and will never have) readable system notes. But I don't think that necessarily matters here.

Compare it to disclosure at the table. Very often there's a sequence that a pair has not discussed. In this case it's perfectly acceptable for them to say "undiscussed" or "no agreement" when asked. But if a pair does have an agreement they are supposed to disclose it and not say "we have an agreement, but I'd rather not tell you what it is." Similarly the fact that not every pair has legible system notes does not seem to remove the obligation that pairs who do have such notes disclose them to the opposition.

Of course, there's nothing really stopping a pair from claiming they have no system notes when they do. But having made such a claim, one could forbid them from producing system notes as evidence in a possible MI case...

Good points Adam. And it would be a bigger lie for a pair to claim not to have system notes when they do, than to say "no agreement" at the table when they actually have one. I think the vast majority of players have too much integrity to do either of those things.
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#77 User is offline   nigel_k 

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Posted 2009-December-24, 13:31

awm, on Dec 24 2009, 01:33 PM, said:

Compare it to disclosure at the table. Very often there's a sequence that a pair has not discussed. In this case it's perfectly acceptable for them to say "undiscussed" or "no agreement" when asked. But if a pair does have an agreement they are supposed to disclose it and not say "we have an agreement, but I'd rather not tell you what it is." Similarly the fact that not every pair has legible system notes does not seem to remove the obligation that pairs who do have such notes disclose them to the opposition.

I don't think this is a good analogy.

It's nearly always better to have agreements than not have them, because the advantage of knowing what you're doing outweighs the disadvantage of having to tell the opponents what you have. And experienced pairs will develop agreements through practice anyway whether they wish to or not.

The advantages of detailed written system notes are, primarily that you can study them to help you remember and you can use them in an appeal if needed. The downside is that the opponents can prepare in greater detail and the whole world gets to copy all your good ideas. For many pairs, the disadvantages will outweigh the advantages.

So a requirement to fully disclose system notes creates a perverse incentive not to create such notes in the first place. That is, at least potentially, a serious problem IMO. But a requirement to disclose agreements if asked doesn't create any perverse incentive not to have agreements at all.
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#78 User is offline   debrose 

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Posted 2009-December-24, 14:20

nigel_k, on Dec 24 2009, 02:31 PM, said:

So a requirement to fully disclose system notes creates a perverse incentive not to create such notes in the first place. That is, at least potentially, a serious problem IMO. But a requirement to disclose agreements if asked doesn't create any perverse incentive not to have agreements at all.

This is not entirely true. As an example, earlier in this thread someone mentioned Michael Rosenberg's book, where he talks about which minor to open with 4-4. Well really, he talks about not talking about it. To this day he has refused to ever have any discussion at all with me about which minor to open with 4-4. I believe he won't discuss it with his students either. It's not that our partnership couldn't gain from having such agreements, just that he believes the cost of having to disclose it would be greater than any potential gains.
Nonetheless, I do agree (and so does Michael I'm sure) that in most situations it is nearly always better to have an agreement than not to. And I think that the types of pairs who believe it's better to have detailed system notes than not to, are unlikely to be dissuaded from doing so by the requirement that said notes be fully disclosed. But if they are, so be it. The nature of our game is full disclosure. IMO, on balance it would be still be their loss not to have system notes.
As to the downside of people getting to prepare in greater detail, I don't think anyone could argue that this is a reason not to require the notes to be published. In theory at least, pairs are already required to include on their WBF convention card & supplemental notes anything the opponents might want to prepare against. A more legitimate argument is against allowing others to copy your good ideas. That I think is a legitimate grievance, but not enough so to warrant lack of full disclosure.
Carrying over the analogy from the table, if my opponents have a constructive auction, they have to tell me what all the bids mean if I ask, and I might then copy their good ideas. I don't have to prove that I actually needed to know for my bidding or defense. Yes, I know it's not exactly the same, but to me it's similar enough to make it a reasonable analogy.
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#79 User is offline   Phil 

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Posted 2009-December-24, 15:23

debrose, on Dec 24 2009, 03:20 PM, said:

As an example, earlier in this thread someone mentioned Michael Rosenberg's book, where he talks about which minor to open with 4-4. Well really, he talks about not talking about it. To this day he has refused to ever have any discussion at all with me about which minor to open with 4-4. I believe he won't discuss it with his students either. It's not that our partnership couldn't gain from having such agreements, just that he believes the cost of having to disclose it would be greater than any potential gains.

I take it you've never read his book then, because if you did you would know his personal tendencies, and would have to disclose this to the opponents?
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#80 User is offline   debrose 

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Posted 2009-December-24, 19:30

Hmm, there was a copy on the bookshelf earlier today, but Michael must have read Phil's post and burned it. Luckily I'd snuck a look before I posted before, to review exactly what he said - and didn't say - on the subject. He does list all possible criteria for making the decision, but doesn't say how he applies them. Some are contradictory. I don't think the book would help anyone guess which he'd open on any given hand. Now I'm sure I should have a guess from partnership experience, but perhaps I've made a point of trying not to pay attention, and perhaps we just haven't played all that many boards, but I honestly believe I don't know. In most other situations I feel I can guess what Michael would do, maybe because we have so much more experience based on discussion than actual boards played together.
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