Super Misfit Means WAG

By BBOer roman99 (Roman L. Weil)

In my day job, WAG refers to a version of Wild Guess. I am too new at BBO to know if that acronym has currency with BBOers, many of whom have first languages other than English. The pertinence here results from my inability to judge how often mis-fits ultimately involve guesses. Or, if analysis can lead to informed judgments. I don’t know, but I suspect the deal presented here can lead to a lively discussion between readers. I played this deal in an ACBL Instant Tournament. I was new to BBO and had been playing exclusively IMPs, but had recently switched to matchpoints, because all my in-person games were matchpoints and I figured I needed matchpoint practice. Still, I’d learned that such BBO games don’t exert time pressure on human players and I can take as much time as I like to think about anything, including whether it’s time for coffee.

First, the bidding problem facing South, Vul vs. NV, whose partner opens one diamond. South holds ♠A10965 AQ654 – ♣KQ10. I trust you respond 1♠, although I admit I bid 1 thinking to reverse into spades on rebid. I’ve since decided that was somewhere between silly and stupid, but if any of you wants to defend me, let me know. (I didn’t get the chance to test GiB, but I don’t know if I had responded 1♠ initially and rebid 2 whether that would have been forcing in GiB, as it would be in Bridge World Standard.) Partner rebids 3.

Now what? Think about answers for IMPs and for matchpoints. Given the luxury of time at the BBO table, I thought about both. WAG. For IMPs, I think maybe I’d bid 3♠ on the way to 5 , but pass partner’s 3NT if he bid that. At matchpoints, I bid 3NT, for sure a WAG, informed only by the teaching that, at matchpoints, if 3NT is in the ballpark of reasonable guesses, then bid it.

Now, consider North’s problem with ♠ – K10 AQJ85432 ♣864. I think it’s easy to pass 3NT in matchpoints, but IMPs? Partner likely does not expect seven tricks from solid AKQxxxx, or six from AKQJxx because if North held such, he would have jumped. I don’t have that—better in some ways and worse in others. Seems to me that if 3NT is going to make, then so will 5. I decided that at IMPs, I’d convert to 5 because there will be deals where 5 makes where 3NT fails but not so often vice versa. Here, I’ll welcome discussion.

In the 15-table BBO match point tournament, 8 declarers played 3NT, 4 played 5, 1 each played 4, 6, and 6NT.

Focus on the eight, including me, who played 3NT from South. I assert that the three who received a heart lead have two plays for game:

  • hope the heart finesse wins, giving two entries to dummy and that diamonds break 3-2,
  • [long shot, stated for sake of completeness] hope the heart suit runs, with 3-3 split and after winning heart king in dummy, cash diamond Ace [dropping the singleton King, but if not…], exit dummy with a club, and finesse the club Jack, its being with East.

Those who received a spade lead have the same chances as those who received a heart lead, as above, plus some more chances from the spade suit, which I shan’t analyze because none received one and it would divert me from where I want to go, which is.…

What to do when South, in 3NT, VUL at matchpoints, receives a club lead, as five did, which runs to the Ten. I see two main strategies, which I refer to as “HF”, for “heart finesse” and “RH”, for “run hearts”. HF means lead to the heart Ten; when it holds, cash diamond Ace and play Queen, setting up another diamond trick or more. With bad breaks and adroit defense, the contract might go down one, but more likely than not will make. When the finesse fails, I judged the contract would fail by two tricks or more. Do you agree? Think about the defense required. I’ll tell you later what I think.

RH means play like Mrs. Guggenheim [are BBOers’ old enough to know who she is?], go to heart King, cash the diamond Ace, return to hand in hearts and set up the fifth heart. Take at least eight tricks: one spade, four hearts, one diamond and two clubs. Down one at worst and making if the heart split 3-3. I don’t want to take a chance on the HF’s losing and going down at least two, VUL. At least that’s how I thought at the table. Lucky for me, the HF failed and RH succeeded as hearts split 3-3. 3NT making three earned 82%; down one earned 32%.

Four declarers played the HF strategy, but none of their defenders found the adroit way to set them two; instead these defenders relied on poor play for the declarers to boil in their own water.

Even double dummy after an opening club lead, East’s play to beat HF declarers by two tricks may not be obvious. South needs to get back to his hand after doing some work in dummy and the only entry he can make for himself will be in clubs. East can deprive South of later entry via clubs by shifting to clubs on gaining entry at trick two with the heart Jack. Play the club 7 on which South will play the Queen. West must duck, giving South the club entry now, when it’s not useful, rather than later after he’s cleared the heart King from dummy.

This super mis-fit has provided me with the opportunity to engage you in discussion on five possible fronts:

  • As South, do you respond initially with 1 spade, or do you plan to reverse?
  • If you respond initially with 1 spade, is your rebid of 2 hearts forcing [as it is in Bridge World Standard, but I don’t know in GiB]?
  • At IMPs, how do you assess North’s choice between 3NT and 5? This one, I judge, is most useful for forging partnership relations.
  • At matchpoints 3NT, how do you play with a club lead?
  • Do you agree with the analysis of the correct defense for E-W against 3NT after a club lead and South’s losing heart finesse?

A rich hand, indeed.

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12 comments on “Super Misfit Means WAG”

  1. Hopefully this hasn't led you to moderate your approaches too much...there are enough boring accounting classes out there.

    Dan Mytelka, Weil class of '97

  2. I've been teaching since 1963 and used it for decades in class. And other things even less PC. In recent years, I've been surprised by the things I say that prompt students to turn me into the dean for being offensive. Since offensive is in the eye of the beholder and the deans these days have no balls [or should I move up the anatomy and say 'guts'] there is no defense. I've had deans tell me that I'm right in what I say, but I have to be careful not to offend the p--- w----, my term, not the deans'. If I were to say "Pussy Willows," I'd get turned in for that, even though that term has been used for at least two hundred years as the common name for a kind of deciduous shrub whose fuzzy buds emerge in the spring. It's the fuzzy part I allude to. And, surely you must be aware that colleagues have been suspended [since 1999] from the faculty for using a word --ggardly, meaning ungenerous, because the complainers don't know that word.

    1. Hopefully you haven't used that as a reason to moderate your approaches...there are enough boring accounting classes out there.

      Dan Mytelka, Weil class of '97

  3. Such a shame that so much meaning must be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. First heard WAG from a mathematician fifty years ago - and felt foolish when he thought it common parlance. Have not been able to use it since without scandalized reaction.

  4. Shame on me.

    The best book I ever read on any subject is SJ Simon's "Why You Lose at Bridge," 1946, wherein Mrs. Guggenheim makes her appearance. I read this book first in 1958 and more then ten times since. On page 53, Simon says, "The moment there is a balance of evidence to show the hand is a complete misfit, stop bidding." I'm embarrassed that I didn't refer to this advice in my report on misfits. I follow this advice when I play and urge it on my partners. The South hand in this report is so strong that I thought it was worth carrying on to game in spite of the misfit. I have difficulty constructing opening 1 diamond bids for North that don't give some play for game.

    I never thought to comment about North's opening bid. I think I'd not pass nor open 3D, but would love to hear others' comments on this. If I held the South hand opposite a 3D opener, I'd pass.

    I hand out copies of Simon's book the way Johnny Appleseed handed out seeds. Most recently, I gave a copy to a new partner just last night. A little research will tell you that a 1994 poll of experts by the ACBL named this the best bridge book of all time and a 2007 ACBL survey of "experts" put it in second place among their favorite books.

    1. I think your choices with the North hand are 1D or 4D. I'm OK with either one. If NV, I would open 5D.

      North's hand is too strong for an opening 3D bid, even red vs. white. You have an 8-trick hand; overbidding by only one is a bit cowardly, even at unfavorable.

      Passing with the North hand is horrible. It's losing bridge -- period. You don't win at this game by letting the opponents off easy.

      1D is fine, planning to rebid diamonds at every opportunity. 4D is fine, too. If my partner opened 4D and I held the South hand, I would hope I had three tricks for him, add those to the 8 he presumably has, and raise to 5.

      1. Michael Day is right in his analysis of the defense and counter; 3NT need not go down more than one even using the HF strategy. And I like his bidding remarks, but that's judgment, not analysis.
        Michael Day, please write me via ChicagoBooth. RLW

  5. Hi Professor:

    At least they could spell your last name right in the messages. E before i for accountants 🙂

    As for your questions:

    1. 1S is automatic. With 4/4, you bid up the line (hearts) so that partner can bid spades. If partner rebids 1NT with four spades (as some, including me, will on certain hands), there are various ways to uncover the spade fit if you have at least a game invite.

    With 5 spades, however, you bid spades first unless you have 6+ hearts.

    2. What 2H means on the second round depends on partner's rebid:

    a. Partner rebids 1NT: 2H is non-forcing, showing a weak hand with 5+ spades and 4+ hearts (at least as many spades as H and likely more). With this hand, you want to force a heart game, so you would bid 2C (playing NMF or BBO standard) or 3H (playing two-way NMF to show 5/5 gf).

    b. Partner rebids 2C: 2H is fourth suit forcing. It may or may not show anything in hearts, but it forces game. Partner will generally bid 3H with four of them. If he doesn't, then when you rebid 3H, that would show 5/5 gf on this auction. What is 3H over 2C? Some people play it as this hand. Some play it as a splinter. Either one is fine, but I think most prefer the splinter treatment (I do).

    c. Partner rebids 2D: Now it depends on your methods. There are literally dozens of methods here. Most of them treat a 2H bid as some sort of artificial, game-invite or game-forcing bid (third suit forcing, Bourke relay, TSAR). BBO treats it as an artificial, quasi-game force. On your third bid, 3H would show this hand.

    Some players do play 2H here as some sort of weak major two-suiter, but in the long run, that is losing bridge. If you are that concerned about weak major two-suiters, play Reverse Flannery over 1m.

    3. At either MPs or IMPs, 5D is a far better contract than 3NT. It depends only on a 3/2 diamond split.

    On this bidding, I would also try 3NT with the North hand. South rates to have at least one diamond, so hopefully he has the Ah, too.

    But on this bidding:
    1D 1S
    2D 2H(artificial)
    3D 3H

    we end up in 5D.

    4. At either MP or IMPs, after a low club lead, I think I would play H from the top (cashing the Ad while in dummy), but it's close. If you play like Ms. Guggenheim, you have about a 42% chance to make (2.5% for the stiff Jh, 7% for the stiff Kd, and 36% for the 3-3 split; when you do the math, it comes out to 41.9%).

    If you hook the H, I think your chances are lower. You still have the 1.25% chance of stiff J on your left. Other than that, if you hook the H and it loses, the opponents will just force out your club entry and now you are dead. The opponents will get at least 2s, 2c, and a H.

    But even if the H hook wins, you still only make if diamonds are 3-2. If they are 4-1, the opponents just play black cards when in with the Kd, and you get at most 4H, 1D, 1S, and 2C.

    So your chances here are .0125 + (.07)((.5)(.9875) + (..68)(.953)(.5) or about 38%. It's a little higher, because if D are 5-0, you will abandon diamonds and go back to hearts, but this is offset by the odds of the H hook likely being slightly lower than 50% on the lead of a low club (if West had worse than Jxx, he would lead high, so it's a bit more likely he has four than East does).

    5. It looks to me like South can always escape for -1 after losing to the Jh. If the opponents play clubs and duck, South just plays to the Kh, takes the Ad, and exits a diamond, pitching a spade. The opponents can take a diamond and two clubs (South pitching spades), but then they have to let South back into his hand, so he ends up with 1S, 4H, 1D, and 2C for eight - off one.

    Mike (miamijd)

  6. i respond 1s, and when p rebids 2d, now 2h. When p now bids 3d, I pass. As N i do not open 1d, preferring pass or 3d (my choice). Misfits belong to the opponents.

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