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Experts open lighter?

#1 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 02:21

Many people have observed that in the elite events (Bermuda Bowl, late rounds of Spingold, etc) we see a lot of one level openings on much lighter values than are typical for intermediate to advanced players. Two related questions about this:

1. Why do you think the top players bid this way?
2. Why don't serious players (who are not close to elite level) emulate them more often and bid the same?

The usual explanation I see "they are much better declarers" doesn't seem right -- they also face much better defense and I suspect the gap in defense is actually more than in declarer play.
Adam W. Meyerson
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#2 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 03:05

View Postawm, on 2017-September-04, 02:21, said:

Many people have observed that in the elite events (Bermuda Bowl, late rounds of Spingold, etc) we see a lot of one level openings on much lighter values than are typical for intermediate to advanced players. Two related questions about this:

1. Why do you think the top players bid this way?
2. Why don't serious players (who are not close to elite level) emulate them more often and bid the same?

The usual explanation I see "they are much better declarers" doesn't seem right -- they also face much better defense and I suspect the gap in defense is actually more than in declarer play.


Think of the bidding styles that were in common use 40 years ago in the US

A. 2/1 systems based on sound opening bids
B. Roth Stone with even more sound opening bids
C. K-S with its very sound minor suit openings
D. Even a bunch of the weird stuff (Blue Club, Polish Club, etc) featured very sound opening styles

The teaching methods that were developed at this time all preached sound openings and these never changed.

The top players grew to recognize that the prevailing theories were wrong. They responded by adjusted their bidding so they could open more lightly.

However, this never got carried down into what was taught to the masses.
Combine this with a strong puritanical streak and ...
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#3 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 03:35

I don't think it's just opening bids, I don't think lower level players realise how much damage you can do cramping auctions where the opening bid is not very specific (2+ card club, strong 2), even more so at non expert level where the side using the bid probably doesn't have as many methods.

That said, if you play precision or Acol, it's easier to deal constructively with lighter openings than it is in some of the more standard US methods.
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#4 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 04:15

While Hrothgar is right about what was in vogue 40 years ago, I see plenty of non-elite tournament pairs playing stuff that wasn't around 40 years ago! There is certainly some degree of lag between top players and everyone else but I doubt this is the main issue. And while it's true that people are averse to "complicated systems" or "weird systems" in some ways, an awful lot of the pairs in Bermuda Bowl are playing some "natural" system and still bid this way.

My guess would be a bit different: in top-level bridge most pairs have good agreements and good judgment, and will find the best contract consistently if you pass throughout. This makes disrupting their methods really important, and worth sacrificing a bit on your own constructive auctions. In medium-level bridge a lot of people struggle to find the right contract even unobstructed, so the marginal benefit of jumping in early is quite a bit less. And if you struggle to find the right contract opposite even a "sound" opening style, opening more aggressively will make things even harder!

Another factor might be judgment -- opening "all ten point hands" might not be a good strategy and perhaps if you don't know which hands/seats/vulnerability justify it, you are better off just passing them (maybe take this a point or two lighter in the case of a strong club system)?

I'm still surprised more people don't open light though. Maybe it's bad for partnership harmony if you can't count twelve HCP?
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#5 User is offline   The_Badger 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 05:42

A number of reasons possibly:-

1. Players that use a strong club system automatically limit their hands
2. Judging a contract is easier as an opener and responder than as two overcallers, I assume.
3. Pre-emption in any form, even a light opener, means that you have just a 33% chance of blitzing one partner, and a 66% chance of blitzing two opponents.
4. Doubling for penalties at a both a low and high level is fraught with difficulties generally.
5. Aggressive bridge usually wins in the long run.
6. The partnerships that I 've seen do this are normally very well-established, Grue-Moss, Welland-Auken, etc, etc. so they have a sixth sense of what to do in edgy auctions.

and finally, there is a lot of theory out there now, not just stodgy Goren and Culbertson-type bidding scenarios. When it comes to limited openings the Scandinavians are pretty adept at it, and many players have adopted their style.
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#6 User is offline   steve2005 

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Posted 2017-September-04, 10:44

I think the biggest reason the masses are notopening really light is their bidding system doesn't handle it well.
People who play strong club/Acol or some other systems do routinely open light, perhaps not as light as at top level. Even playing 2/1 and standard a lot of people are willing to open hands lower than their normal range if distributional.
Also, opening strength has come down over the years, just not to weak levels.

Where strength has really come down is for overcalls and preempts where system isn't as important.
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#7 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 06:32

View Postawm, on 2017-September-04, 04:15, said:

My guess would be a bit different: in top-level bridge most pairs have good agreements and good judgment, and will find the best contract consistently if you pass throughout. This makes disrupting their methods really important, and worth sacrificing a bit on your own constructive auctions. In medium-level bridge a lot of people struggle to find the right contract even unobstructed, so the marginal benefit of jumping in early is quite a bit less.

I disagree with this quite a lot to be honest. In my experience, club level pairs will generally arrive at a perfectly respectable spot a very high percentage of the time if left to their own devices but often struggle and have to make a semi-blind guess with with even the lightest of interference. As a not-particularly-strong card player, I rely on this effect quite a lot to be successful!

My view is that the basis for the discrepancy lies in two areas - ignorance and fear. Ignorance is quite simple - most club players simply do not think very much about their bridge. They get taught a certain way and that for them is bridge pretty much until they die.

Fear is a little more subtle and comes itself in two forms. The first is the straightforward fear of getting it wrong through uncertainty. For whatever reason, most weak players see pass as a safe option when they are unsure about things. And weaker players love to take the safe option! The other form, which is strongly related, is the bridge effect. Everyone that plays this game is very aware of the oaf sitting opposite them and almost everyone has had a partner that has taken offence at some action or other. Fear of being a bad partner, or of upsetting the partner opposite, feeds into the decision-making process. If I have a 10-11 point hand, is it more likely that partner will be upset about my passing it (missing a contract or the opps making something) or from opening and ending up too high? I think it should be clear to everyone that the latter is more likely to attract partner's ire.

Taken together, these factors are, for me, the driving force keeping club play in the stasis field it enjoys. Innovators are more likely to be viewed with suspicion than seen as beacons of light marking a way forward. This is something that I do not see changing in the near future either although I can attest to having made a small dent in attitudes in one small corner of Bavaria....so maybe we will see some real progress more generally within our lifetimes.
(-: Zel :-)

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#8 User is offline   Geldmacher 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 08:27

On my observation, they open not only easier (eleven flat points), but their returns are weaker at points (5 or sometimes 4).

The reason is that an overlay in the bridge is less punishable than in any other game, on the contrary, to do little to do is to pay. Thus, for example, in the fight France against America II, where the Americans brought their most points in the brazen bidding of partial contracts and scarce slams.

So the elite in the bridge always tries to grab the initiative, it costs what it wants.
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#9 User is offline   Joe_Old 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 09:35

There are two major reasons experts jump into as many auctions as possible, and disrupting the opposition is by far the lesser of the two. Bridge is an information game, and your (legal) options for exchanging information are limited. Therefore, well established expert partnerships (with months of discussion and many pages of system notes) grab every and any opportunity to describe their hands.

Note that it isn't only the first bid that's meaningful: the hand is further described by succeeding bids (and passes), and everything must be judged in context. A one level opener followed by a series of passes or non-forcing, minimum bids might be defined as a sub-minimum hand, with the intent to be lead directional or showing a concentration of values. A new suit by opener at the second round might show that he has serious interest in declaring. Similarly, expert partnerships build in systems to separate garbage opening pre-empts from those that are sound. None of this can be taught in a few lessons or incorporated into a casual partnership. Expert partnerships also recognize the powerful potential of distributional hands, shortness, double fits, etc. that can transform a HCP challenged hand.

Therefore, players who jump into every possible auction simply to disrupt are largely missing the point. True, it can be very effective against weak players, but unless partner is clued in, strong opponents who have experience and methods to deal with interference will be the ultimate winners.

Solution? Advanced players should focus on partnership agreements, handling interference, how to identify fits and double fits, and most important: use the bidding to construct mental pictures of the other players hands. Learning a lot of conventions isn't nearly as useful.
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#10 User is offline   Kapi Blas 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 11:58

I think that professional players open lighter sometimes because they have much better judgment. I remember one deal of BB where Justin Hackett upgraded his 18 HCP balanced hand to 2NT 20-21 because he had good shape and his honors were well placed. I saw Meckwell's upgrading theirs 14 or 15 counts to 1 opening or Geir Helgemo opening 2GF on 14 HCP . I truly believe that most of the professional pairs play more sound than intermediate players. Let's see for example on this 2 hands, you play 2/1 with mini-multi 2
and 5-5 2M's:

Kxx
Axxxx
Kxx
Qxx

12 HCP, both intermediate and pro player would probably open this 1 but:

xxx
AKQxxx
xxx
x

I can imagine plenty of pro's opening this 1 but I don't think many intermediate's would.
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#11 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 13:51

Experts in the expert forum are discussing why I don't open light. I'll say a few words.

Some of it is system. Suppose I have an 11 count and I am considering opening it a minor. With just about everyone, I play that a 2NT response is invitational, presumably 11-12. That could be a little high. Quite possibly we can survive in 3m but after 1m-2NT I am not so sure if I should do that or pass. Or after 1D-2NT maybe we can survive in 3C but again I know too little of partner's hand to be sure. . An expert pair may well have discussed ways of sorting this out. For example, in Steve Robinson's Washington Standard, we find (in the extras part) that 1m-2H is artificial, showing either a strong jump shift in hearts, an 11-12 NT hand, or a 7-9 mixed raise of m. Regardless of the merits of this, I play it with no one. I suppose it helps in sorting things out. Steve also suggests that 1D-2C-2D-2NT be the one exception to a gf 2/1,lessening the chances that after a 1D opening we will end in 2NT when 3C would be better. Again I play this with no one

With my current f2f partner, I am still trying to get him to play Drury.

But another reason is more basic. If I am playing mps, I expect to get a decent number of good boards by shutting up and defending carefully. In the games I play in, Jeff Meckstoth is seldom the declarer. So getting in light and landing in some hopeless contract that anyone can beat is not all that appealing.

Do I ever open light? Well, it depends on what the meaning of light is, but I suppose I do. I pick my spots, the default is that I have my bid.
Ken
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#12 User is offline   odisseus5 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 14:06

If we think about most common distribution, it will feature 10 Goren points for each player, hence, 9-11 points are ok to open. 13 points in this setting is a strong hand, and the best system using that I am aware of is Reversed Roman Club using PASS as indication of a strong hand. Other strong club bidding systems suffer from club disaster - one should open with 2 clubs if you really have club suit. Unfortunately strong PASS systems are forbidden in official competitions...
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#13 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 15:56

View Postkenberg, on 2017-September-05, 13:51, said:

Do I ever open light? Well, it depends on what the meaning of light is, but I suppose I do. I pick my spots, the default is that I have my bid.

That is a bit of a circular argument Ken. If you play a system with light opening bids then you also have your bid when you open a minimum and partner can allow for that; if you play sound opening bids and open light then naturally the result has a higher chance of turning out badly.
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#14 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 16:00

View Postodisseus5, on 2017-September-05, 14:06, said:

If we think about most common distribution, it will feature 10 Goren points for each player, hence, 9-11 points are ok to open. 13 points in this setting is a strong hand, and the best system using that I am aware of is Reversed Roman Club using PASS as indication of a strong hand. Other strong club bidding systems suffer from club disaster - one should open with 2 clubs if you really have club suit. Unfortunately strong PASS systems are forbidden in official competitions...

The most common basis for strong pass systems is to divide hands up into 3 equal groups with pass typically taking the strongest of these (13+). There are a number of such methods around and while often banned in tournaments, there are also many clubs around that will accomodate their use if the members are given due notice.
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#15 User is offline   Joe_Old 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 16:12

View Postkenberg, on 2017-September-05, 13:51, said:

Experts in the expert forum are discussing why I don't open light. I'll say a few words.

But another reason is more basic. If I am playing mps, I expect to get a decent number of good boards by shutting up and defending carefully. In the games I play in, Jeff Meckstoth is seldom the declarer. So getting in light and landing in some hopeless contract that anyone can beat is not all that appealing.

Do I ever open light? Well, it depends on what the meaning of light is, but I suppose I do. I pick my spots, the default is that I have my bid.


This thread is addressing the fact that expert pairs don't usually land in hopeless contracts. Studying their techniques, and trying to sort out their reasoning can help any advancing player. It's not for players who "play down the middle".

It has advantages: for instance, you might be surprised to find how often light openers (or the inferences associated with not bidding) can aid the defense. If that style wasn't so effective, experts wouldn't use it.

If you're "picking your spots" now, that's good. If you've had success, maybe you'll find more "spots".
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#16 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 18:30

It's a bidders' game. In principle, opening light is effective. But if you open 10 counts, then partner must not bid game whenever he holds a 12+ count. You need to adjust your system. Conventions like Gazzilli and XYZ can help. After 1 bids. for example, you might agree
- 2 = ART. 12+. Opener rebids 2 with a sound opener. Other rebids are natural and weak.
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#17 User is offline   dokoko 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 23:24

View Postkenberg, on 2017-September-05, 13:51, said:

Do I ever open light? Well, it depends on what the meaning of light is, but I suppose I do. I pick my spots, the default is that I have my bid.


It's not about experts "picking their spots". When they open light they usually "have their bid", because they open light by design. Their methods cater for that (e.g. they might not invite with 11-12 but perhaps with 12-13 or 13-14 depending on how light they are supposed to open).

Whether they reach "thin" or "sound" contracts depends on how they respond not on how they open, as responder is expected to know what he can count partner on.
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#18 User is offline   dokoko 

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Posted 2017-September-05, 23:25

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#19 User is online   nullve 

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Posted 2017-September-06, 05:46

1. Overcall methods tend to be very crude even at the top level, so even a 1 opening may have considerable disruptive value. Also, conventions like T-Walsh and Gazzilli make it easier to handle lighter openings and responses. (E.g. instead of

1-1 ("10-21", 3+ C \\ 5+, 4+ H)
2N (17-19 BAL, 2-3 H)

and

1-1 ("10-21", 5+ H \\ 5+, 4+ S)
2 ("10-17", 3-S4+D),

the bidding might go

1-1 ("10-21", 2+ C \\ 0+, 4+ H)
1N (17-19 BAL, 2-3 H)

and

1-1 ("10-21", 5+ H \\ 5+, 4+ S)
2 ("10-15", 3-S4+D),

respectively, using what might be a typical NAT-or-BAL 1/unBAL 1 system with rule of 19 openings, 14-16 NT, T-Walsh and Gazzilli.)

So those could be a couple of reasons.

2. One possible reason is of course that it may not be entirely obvious that a light opening style is better, given that many of the world's best pairs, like Levin-Weinstein and Lauria-Versace, can be so successful with their book-sound, rule of 20-ish, opening style. Even recent BB winners Moss-Grue, who when not vulnerable (i.e. when they play a version of Precision) seem to open all unbalanced 9 counts and all balanced 10 counts, including beauties like

972
KQ42
Q62
K85

(1st seat, board 19, BB-RR8),

QJ
KJT84
QJ7
987

(1st seat, board 1, BB-F1) and the upgrade(?)

94
KJ4
AT982
JT3

(1st seat, board 30, SF4), actually have a very sound opening style when vulnerable (i.e. when they play a 2/1-like system). E.g. on board 26, BB-SF2, Grue passed in 2nd seat with

---
AJ832
AJT942
72,

which is pretty extreme.
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#20 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2017-September-06, 07:28

I got quoted several times and, since I am so far the only acknowledged non-expert on the expert thread, I will say a bit more in response to Adam's question 2, why non-experts don't emulate the experts. I'll move beyond the obvious "If we did, we would be experts".

I'll give a couple of examples of what I see as normal for me:
1. The other day I opened 1C on an 11 count. But my clubs were something like KQTxxx. This relieves my anxiety of that partner might respond 2NT on an 11 count, since I will simply rebid 3C.
2. playing in the Swiss at the recent Baltimore Regional I opened a Flannery 2D on a 10 count. Our card says 11-15. But all ten highs were in the majors. A better hand than an 11 count with Kx in both minors, I think. Being a Regional and playing againt people unknown to me, I was concerned there might be a director call but there wasn't.

Both of these worred out fine and I do not consider either a light opening. Sometime back an opponent opened a Precision club against us and afterward my partner (not my current partner) mumbled something about calling the director since he had only a 15 count. I considered the hand he had and said it looked like a fine 1C to me. We get to use our judgment, at least I hope so.

So when I said I pick my spots to open light, what I really meant was that I open hands that I don't think are light but that someone with a fetish for high card points might describe as light. This works in the other direction as well. If I have a 20 count that includes 5 points for a doubleton KQ I might open at the one level and rebid 2NT. A doubleton KQ looks to me like one trick. Yes partner might have Jxx, but then again he might not. He might even have Jx, so 6 highs go to one trick. That would be unlucky, of course.

I will assume matchpoints for a moment. Where do they come from? When I look over my results, good and bad, mostly they come from the play, not from the bidding. This might be a difference between expert play and non-expert play. Michael Rosenberg, in Nridge, Zia and Me, says (I am not looking it up so this is approximate) "I don't know whether bidding or play is the most important, but I know that I wish it to be the play" Clearly he finds the play more interesting than the bidding, and so do I. I like getting to a normal contract and doing my best, or shutting up as the opponents reach their contract and then we do our best. Among other things, it saves us from having long discussions about bidding that might or might not be remembered.

An example: I recently checked with partner about 1C-(P)-1D-(1M)-X. My preference is that if M=S then the double shows four hearts, if M=H then we show spades by bidding them so the double is a support double for diamonds. He did not recall any such discussion. Fine. No support doubles for diamonds, KISS. I now have no idea what X would mean in 1C-(P)-1D-(1H)-X but who cares, it is not a frequent auction. The trick is to not have artificial auctions that we forget. I don't like playing in the 3-1 fits that can arise from the misunderstood artificial call.

So I would say that a lot can be explained by a desire for simplicity. Adam referred to the serious but non-elite player . I definitely qualify as non-elite, it's a judgment call whether I qualify as serious. Sorta serious, I suppose. Right now I play with one f2f once a week or so when we have the time, and I play with this person or that on BBO. . Certainly there are more serious players.

Anyway, I found Adam's question interesting and I thought I would offer a non-expert view of why I don't bid in the expert style.

But I am opening
---<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; background-color: rgb(248, 248, 248);">AJ832<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; background-color: rgb(248, 248, 248);">AJT942<br style="color: rgb(28, 40, 55); font-size: 13px; background-color: rgb(248, 248, 248);">72,
whatever Grue might think!
Ken
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