Friday, July 31, 2020

Robot Bridge on BBO

I found the BBO interview with the man who won the recent 2020 NABC Robot Individual quite interesting and have posted part of it below:

Jordan Chodorow is a bridge player, film critic, crossword champion, tax expert, lawyer,  and winner of the 2020 NABC Robot Individual tournament on BBO. Here’s how jcwla won the title – and some questions about where he finds time for all of it.
JC: I’ve entered all of them. To me, robot bridge is the purest, truest form of bridge. Don’t get me wrong; I love live bridge and other forms of bridge on BBO, but they contain a huge element of chance (whom you play which boards against, which system they’re using, how they choose to evaluate a hand, what mood they’re in…). And a club game? You’re a leaf in the wind.
AJC: Did you have a playing, preparation or practice routine for the Bot Individual?
JCAlmost every day, I play the five 12-board ACBL daylongs and the 18-board daylong. I won half a dozen of those in the week leading up to the NABC, so I was in good form. 
To that, I would only add that the top 40 finishers in this event hold a combined 38 NABC+ and 18 NABC titles, with many more among the remaining 3,202 players. That kind of competition is as serious as a heart attack.
After I read it, I contacted him and we had a brief correspondence regarding the topic of robot bridge. I told Jordan that I agreed with him and also enjoy playing with the robots.  I noted that I appreciate playing the relatively simple convention card used by the robots, and having the opportunity to use old-fashioned hand evaluation skills, such as Losing Trick Count, to get to the best contract. I also opined that I find it to be a luxury be able to take all the time I want to play a hand.  During the ordinary time limits and general chaos of a "live" bridge game, it's not unusual to miss the best play due to too-quick calculations and analyses.

I was also interested in his preparation routine for the tournament, and found it impressive.

That being said, here are a few hands from a "near-miss" win in a robot IMP game I played with 482 players.  As you can see, although I racked up 45.34 IMPs in 12 boards, I missed winning by less than 1/2 of an IMP!  As a confession, I had the win locked up, then got distracted by an incoming text, and pulled the wrong card on a hand I was playing.  This costly error lost a lot of IMPs, and I am chagrined to admit that one of the things I most emphasize with serious bridge students is:  STAY FOCUSED!

1. Although some slams were bid, this 3NT contract scored a hefty 9 IMPs.

I had a good auction with the robots and was able to get to the best contract of 3NT. I received a spade lead and got off to a good start by inserting the ♠10, won by the ♠A.  This gave me 2 spade tricks.

3 clubs, 3 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades led to a good score of plus 600. (An alternative line of play would be 4 clubs, 2 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades.)

About half of the field in my section got to the game, but only two pairs made it.

2. Another 9.8 IMPs beefed up the IMP total with this slam.

After I opened 1♠ and partner bid Drury, I looked at my 4-loser hand and wasted no time asking about keycards.  My hand was suitable for this inquiry and I was comfortable that my kings were protected from attack on the opening lead. The 5 response gave me the information I needed to bid the slam.

A club was led, and in the fullness of time, East made a fatal discard of a club which enabled me to score the slam rather easily.  Barring that, discarding a club on dummy's hearts, plus a winning guess in diamonds would bring it home.

Four pairs out of nine in my section bid the slam, and only two pairs made it for plus 1430.

3. And later, another slam.  Bidding and making slams is how you rack up big scores in these events!

I liked the bidding on this hand.  After North passed and I opened 1, North responded with 3, a "fit-jump", showing good heart support as well as diamonds.  As I had the K and another great 4-loser hand, I bid 4NT, asking for keycards.  The 5 response enabled me to bid the slam.

Again, I had a spade guess on the opening lead.  I finally decided that "no one" would underlead a king in this auction, so inserted the ♠10.  This eliminated my spade loser and the score of plus 980 topped the section and scored 7.6 IMPs.

Although 45 total IMPs and a virtual tie for the win was very good, I'll pay more attention next time to eliminate silly errors and try to get the outright win!

Let me hear from you. How do YOU like playing with the robots?

See you at the table!

Monday, July 20, 2020

New! "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" now available on Bridgebee!

My new advanced/intermediate lesson, "Bidding Secrets of the Experts" is now available on

It's a topic I have wanted to write about for a while.  Experts have many bids in their arsenal that are not taught in lessons, and are even difficult to find in books.  They are certainly outside the "four-corners" of the convention card.

It is not easy for intermediate, or even advanced students to learn these "secrets", but I was able to include many of them in this 10-lesson set.  Check it out!

See you at the table!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Squeezing out IMPs

I've been writing up a fun set of hands for BridgeBee entitled "Expert Bidding Secrets".  It will be available soon on their site.

Played an instant IMP game the other night and had this fun hand.

I opened 1 and got to declare 4♠  with a diamond lead. I drew trumps in two rounds and cleared diamonds ending on board.  How can I get 10 tricks?

I tried a low heart to the 9, trying to sneak through a trick.  East won the 10 and returned a heart which I won with the A.  I tried a club to the 10.  No luck.  East won the J and returned another heart to the J, K and I ruffed.

Now I think I have a count on the hand.  West started with 2 spades, 6 diamonds, probably no more than 3 hearts, and therefore 2 clubs.

Thinking about the cards that East has left, I think I see can see the light at the end of the tunnel. East should have Kxx and a heart left.  If I cash my two spades East will be squeezed!

Here is the ending:

I cash the A and East pitches a club.  On the 8 he pitches another club.  Now when I lead my 3 the ♣K is played, perforce, and I win the last two tricks with the A and Q.

(If East had discarded one club and a heart, then my last heart on the board would be good.)

Plus 620 was worth 10 IMPs, part of a 41 IMP total and an easy win.  Out of the 15 individuals in the game, only six bid game and only two made it.

It's why we play this game!

See you at the table!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Wild Ride in an Instant IMP Game

I often play in ACBL instant games on BBO as they are quick and I like to see how my placement moves up and down throughout the 12 boards.  This game was wild as I made it to the top spot early, then plummeted to the bottom, will see.

I was in first place by board 3 as my robot opponents overbid and went down four in 4.

Then...disaster on board 5.

I jumped to 4 with the strong South hand and went down 3 for -300.  This was a loss of 12 IMPs and plunged me to the bottom of the pack.  I looked at how pairs got to the best spot of 4 and saw that at other tables, my hand made a jump rebid of 3.  I think my hand is far too strong for that, but when North then rebid 3, South had an easy 4 bid. With an expert partner I would rebid 3, a strong jump shift, but I was worried about doing that with the robots.

I started making a comeback with hands like these. Here are a couple of 3NT hands that won IMPs.

Plus 600 won 10.6 IMPs. As you can see, I only had to lose 3 spades and 1 heart.

Plus 430 won 6 IMPs on this board.

I regained first place with the penultimate board.

A tricky 4, but if you keep in mind that you have 3 trump tricks to lose, and so can lose no others, it gives you a guide to the play.  I ruffed 2 diamonds and was happy to see trumps break 3-2.

Plus 420 was worth 9 IMPs and I was back in first place for the final board.

The situation was simple.  If I got a good score, I would win.  If not, I wouldn't. The last hand was amazing.

With my 24-point monster, I was unsure what to rebid after I opened 2.  You can never be sure of bidding with the robots (unlike humans..ahem...), but at least you can click on all of the bids to see what they are supposed to mean.

At any rate, I rebid 3NT, and my robot partner transferred me to spades.

The J was led, covered with the Q and K and won by my ace. At first glance I could see there was plenty of work to do, but I had no idea what was in store for me.

I started with the A, followed by the 3 which West won with the K.  And then the sky fell...RHO showed out! Spades were not only 5-1, but West started with the KJ1092!

Before I could bemoan my fate, West returned a diamond which I won with the 10.  Was there any hope for this doomed contract?

I started thinking about all of the possibilities and realized that it was noteworthy that West hadn't cashed (or returned) a heart.  With nothing better to do, I cashed a high diamond, and...East showed out! 

Wow!  Now I have a count on the hand! (Pause here if you are practicing counting.)

West started with 5 spades, 4 diamonds, presumably only a singleton heart, so therefore, 3 clubs.  Maybe there is something I can do. Maybe I can score some of those spades with ruffs.

I cashed another high diamond and ruffed a diamond with the 6.Then came the K and A followed by a club ruff with the ♠7.  I now have 9 tricks and...drumroll please...the Q is my 10th trick!

Plus 620 was worth 8.8 IMPs.  One other person made 4 and a few made 3NT (the best contract).  All others went down. Looking back on the hand, the West hand, that held all of the good spades, couldn't use them as I went back and forth to the board cashing my minor suit winners and ruffing them.

Needless to say, I won the instant IMP game and retired with my hard-won .90 masterpoint.

See you at the table!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

New Bridge Teaching App

Have you heard about Baron Barclay's new bridge teaching app, bridgebee?

Here is how they describe it:

BridgeBee provides interactive, teacher-guided playable hands focusing on specific topics and strategies. This gives players a streamlined learning environment which allows them to strengthen their abilities in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible. Its modern design is easy to use for both players and content creators. Teachers who are already involved in creating lessons through BridgeBee include Robert Todd, Marti Ronemus, Jennifer Jones, and Patty Tucker.

I had fun writing a couple of lessons (which went live today) on Losing Trick Count. There are new lessons each week, and often an opportunity to play a hand before you buy the lesson.

Check it out!

See you at the table!