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Winning System Characteristics objective or anecdotal

Poll: What system characteristics win the most? (9 member(s) have cast votes)

What wins more in international events, so called

  1. Natural systems (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  2. Artificial systems (7 votes [77.78%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 77.78%

  3. Two-card systems (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  4. Other (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

What wins more in international events

  1. Agressive openers and games, philosophically (9 votes [100.00%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 100.00%

  2. Souund openers and games, philosophically (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. Other (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

What wins more in international events

  1. Canape centered systems (1 votes [11.11%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 11.11%

  2. 5-card major systems, primary suit first (8 votes [88.89%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 88.89%

  3. Other (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

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#1 User is online   billyjef 

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Posted 2019-January-07, 09:24

I started wondering how much objective evidence we have, if only measured by what wins the most statistically in the bridge world's most competitive events, because of a statement mentioned to me about the Neapolitan's philosophy of "First Double!" which advocates a, what I consider, unbiasedly, a conservative style described by them as a sound system that, "obeys the principle "first double": it's better to punish opponents instead of looking for our own game contract."

The only natural system I ever really enjoyed was Roth/Stone because we got to make penalty doubles a lot playing snake in the grass. But clearly, at least to me, the world seems to have decided that opening more and more marginal hands, now to the point where hands with only 3 intrinsic trick expectation, seems to be becoming popular avant-garde, is winning bridge, rather than more sound or conservative systems. I enjoy aggressive systems as well, although I haven't yet been able to grasp opening hands with less than 4 trick expectation.

My question is, is this still all anecdotal? Or, is anyone keeping track of which systems and philosophies are winning the bridge worlds most competitive events... Natural vs Artificial, sound vs aggressive, canape vs primary 1st/ala 5-card majors, etc.? If there is a book or site that does keep track of these statistics, could you please direct me to them.
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#2 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2019-January-07, 11:19

One quibble:

5 card major systems are hardly "natural", rather they are "common".
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#3 User is online   billyjef 

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Posted 2019-January-07, 11:54

View Posthrothgar, on 2019-January-07, 11:19, said:

One quibble:

5 card major systems are hardly "natural", rather they are "common".


Acknowledged. I thought I had avoided that implication, apparently not B-).
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#4 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2019-January-07, 16:15

View Postbillyjef, on 2019-January-07, 09:24, said:

My question is, is this still all anecdotal? Or, is anyone keeping track of which systems and philosophies are winning the bridge worlds most competitive events... Natural vs Artificial, sound vs aggressive, canape vs primary 1st/ala 5-card majors, etc.? If there is a book or site that does keep track of these statistics, could you please direct me to them.

I've never heard of anybody doing detailed studies. Occasionally somebody will review the convention cards for a specific event and give a synopsis of how many are playing strong club, 5 card majors, etc.

I'm not sure about world events, but for top US pair systems, look at

US Bridge Federation

Click on Past USBC's, then click on Results for a specific event, then click results until you can see players names. Click on the player's name and it should bring up pair's convention cards.
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#5 User is online   billyjef 

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Posted 2019-January-07, 17:37

View Postjohnu, on 2019-January-07, 16:15, said:

I've never heard of anybody doing detailed studies. Occasionally somebody will review the convention cards for a specific event and give a synopsis of how many are playing strong club, 5 card majors, etc.

I'm not sure about world events, but for top US pair systems, look at

US Bridge Federation

Click on Past USBC's, then click on Results for a specific event, then click results until you can see players names. Click on the player's name and it should bring up pair's convention cards.


Aww man, I wanted someone else to have already done all the work! :rolleyes: I will create a project out of it and add it to my lists of projects. Thanks John.
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#6 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2019-January-08, 14:56

The only quasi-serious attempt at studying this that I am aware of is Pavlichek's opening bid comparison: http://www.rpbridge.net/9x00.htm

Generally, weak notrump scores better than strong notrump, and a Precision 2 scores better than a (semi)-natural 1, but the downstream impact from playing Precision with weak notrump on other bids is not factored in.

Bidding contests fairly clearly favor strong pass or strong club systems, but it is very difficult to say something similar for real bridge. Too many confounders and downstream effects.

For example, compare the Flannery 2 to a natural weak 2 (and you may throw your own favorite 2 opening into the contest also). Both Flannery and natural clearly win when they come up, and one could conceivably compare the two gains to see which is better. But people who play Flannery has an advantage when they open 1 (as that opening is now more accurately defined) so you would need to analyse the results from 1 openings between Flannery and non-Flannery openers also. But then there may be confounding with choices whether to open 1NT with a 5-card hearts also. And the natural 2 openers have the advantange that their pass, 1 and 3 become more accurately defined. Etc. At the end of the day the only thing you can compare are systems.

But then you have the problem that if, say, Polish clubs appears to score better than SEF, it may simply be because it is played by better players.

Maybe someone could calculate, for each pair that regularly figure on BBO vugraph or other databases, the difference between their performance when someone opens in front of them in 1st seat to their performance when that doesn't happen. The idea is that if a pair performs relatively poorly when someone opens in front of them (as opposed to when they are in 1st seat themselves or 1st seat passes), it suggests that they play a good opening system and/or that they have poor defensive bidding methods. Now you could compare this metric between (say) strong NT pairs and weak NT pairs, strong club pairs vs strong 2 pairs etc.
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#7 User is online   P_Marlowe 

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Posted 2019-January-09, 03:56

Someone did a system comparison using Information Theory, but only one round of bidding, ..., rec.games.bridge, ...,
maybe someone else remebers better, the last time I read, may even be here on BBF, but 10 years have passed, and the
comparison was done several years before that.
With kind regards
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#8 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2019-January-09, 12:39

I like kibitzing Helgemo Helness. In my experience, simple 4card major systems are very successful.
Obviously we have a recall bias in favour of the assholes. -helene_t
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#9 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2019-January-09, 14:48

Internationals who devote their lives to Bridge can afford to hone complex systems that vary according to scoring, vulnerability, and position at the table. For ordinary players, simplicity and consistency are prime considerations.
Also most players might as well adopt simple successful ideas (e.g. Gazzilli) developed by world-class Italians and Americans, rather than re-invent the wheel for themselves.
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#10 User is online   billyjef 

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Posted 2019-January-09, 20:26

View Postnige1, on 2019-January-09, 14:48, said:

Internationals who devote their lives to Bridge can afford to hone complex systems that vary according to scoring, vulnerability, and position at the table. For ordinary players, simplicity and consistency are prime considerations.
Also most players might as well adopt simple successful ideas (e.g. Gazilli) developed by world-class Italians and Americans, rather than re-invent the wheel for themselves.


Practical advice for sure. Sadly, my curiosity consistently overwhelms such sensibilities. B-)
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#11 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2019-January-09, 20:43

View Postcherdano, on 2019-January-09, 12:39, said:

I like kibitzing Helgemo Helness. In my experience, simple 4card major systems are very successful.


In my experience, Helgemo-Helness are very successful. Their choice of system may not be the major reason though. :)
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#12 User is offline   Mkgnao 

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Posted 2019-January-11, 05:19

2/1 GF or Precision are the winning systems. When was the last time a pair won the Bermuda Bowl playing a different system without cheating? (In 2011, Verhees-Van Prooijen won the Bermuda Bowl playing Canapé but they played Precision as well, Ultimate Club. In 2016, they switched to Tarzan Precision.)

Being aggressive is better than being sound unless there's a big gap in skill.
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#13 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2019-January-11, 05:29

View PostMkgnao, on 2019-January-11, 05:19, said:

When was the last time a pair won the Bermuda Bowl playing a different system without cheating? (In 2011, Verhees-Van Prooijen won the Bermuda Bowl playing Canapé but they played Precision as well, Ultimate Club)


Poland won in 2015....
A Norweigan team including Helgemo / Helness won in 2007
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#14 User is offline   Mkgnao 

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Posted 2019-January-11, 05:50

View Posthrothgar, on 2019-January-11, 05:29, said:

Poland won in 2015....
A Norweigan team including Helgemo / Helness won in 2007


Yeah, I forgot about Polish Club. A playable system but as far as I know its popularity is limited to Poland.
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#15 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2019-January-11, 05:51

It’s hard to get good data because obviously the skills of the players matter more than system. What you can do is examine trends st the top level.

Five card majors have become pretty overwhelmingly popular, and this is despite the domination of the Blue Team canapé methods in the 1960s. This shift corresponds to more aggressive competitive bidding in general. There are still a few holdouts (Auken-Welland come to mind) but even from countries with a strong 4cM tradition that persists at lower levels, a lot of the top players use 5cM (ie England, Australia, Israel). So it really seems things have shifted and 5cM is superior in the modern game.

The truly artificial systems (Moscito, strong pass) are banned in a lot of places. When they are played, lack of familiarity can play a big role in how they do. So I think the jury is still out on that.

As for the 1C forcing approach, it is less common than 2C strong but some of the most successful pairs use it (most Polish pairs, many of the top US pairs) so I don’t think there’s a lot of clarity as to whether that’s better. Familiarity/comfort is huge of course but I feel like I see more “natural” players adopting big club than vice versa (Justin Lall and Fred Gitelman two semi-recent examples). There’s also a trend towards playing 1C as 2+ and almost never passing, which suggests some movement towards a hybrid system sort of like polish club.
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