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Best discard system for improvers/intermediates

#1 User is offline   Wainfleet 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 04:38

Why is it that (according to Andrew Robson and others), natural discarding (High encourage, Low No -lead something else) is what most top tournament partnerships use, yet at duplicate pairs at club level (in the UK at least) most play McKenney, Revolving, Dodds, Odds-Evens etc.?
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#2 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 06:56

I expect reverse attitude is far more popular with tournament players than traditional attitude.

I find that club players tend to play what is popular in their peer group, which is often based on a magazine article published thirty years ago that one of their crowd read. Club players like discard methods that allow them to explicitly show something and there is more chance of that with discards using another suit.

I teach my juniors to use reverse attitude and tell them that any signal is providing information to partner rather than a command. They are expected to think about the hand rather than mechanically lead what partner has suggested. Club players typically want to play faster than that.

I don't think there is a best system, but reverse attitude is nice and simple.
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#3 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 12:27

The Mr Bridge site includes a couple of articles by Julian Pottage on the subject in which he concludes (spoiler alert) that nothing is perfect.

untitled (mrbridge.co.uk)

untitled (mrbridge.co.uk)
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#4 User is offline   jillybean 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 12:59

I was taught, and have stuck with Upside Down discards at a time when "Lavinthal" was popular with newer players in North America. I think club players like to cram their convention card with cool named conventions, I do.

I like Upside Down, it is simple and seems very logical, I pitch the high cards in the suit I don't want.

Up Side Down, UDCA
Reverse
"High hate - Low like" (New Zealand)

are all the same thing.
Searching for your own mistakes is the only way to learn this game. - Fluffy

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SLOW DOWN! This is not a speedball :)
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#5 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 14:10

At my first Club, the playing director had a habit (almost a twitch) of crying out "What are your signals?" every single time I played with or against (it was generally the latter, whichever seat I was in) her.
Eventually, I just put my thumb on my nose and waved my fingers in the air and replied, "If I do this, it means I don't like my partner".

Possibly, it may not have escaped your attention that some Bridge players lack a highly developed sense of humour.

Early on, this Club (it was a short club Club) insisted that lo-like; hi-hate was the only way to play.
Later I added McKenney to my repertoire. Although, to be fair (not sure things have changed much), I actually had no idea what I was doing, but my partner thought that I was discarding McKenney and seemed happy. Sometimes I had an American partner; then I would switch to Lavinthal.
One pair played upside-down carding, reverse Bergen and reverse Drury: I asked them if they were left-handed. Obviously, in Australia, these methods are in fact the right way up.

Then, I started playing with robots. Here I discovered that signals and discards were of little value (bidding was somewhat useful).
The thing I like about GIB signalling is that there isn't any.
You have to fall back on native cunning and try to work out who has which cards from the bidding and play.

So now, unless I am playing with a partner who is incredibly enthusiastic about signals and discards, I just throw away the ones I don't want.
I just found this quote on the ABF site "Although these signals are often helpful, there is no substitute for using your own logic at the table. Take notice of what's in dummy, how declarer is playing the contract, and realising that sometimes you don't need a signal at all!".

It seems like good advice, but I'm not sure what is meant by "using your own logic" - is there a reverse logic that might be more helpful in some situations?

Given that during the bidding, we are meant to alert what our calls actually mean and not use terms such as "Jacoby", etc., does the same apply to "What are your signals/discards?"
It never made much sense to ask since the reply should be "he wants a Spade" (Wait for the smile or grimace).
Better to sit stum and try and figure out more important things.
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#6 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 15:03

Odd-even is popular because it is clear whether a card is odd or even. The argument against h-l or l-h that I always hear is "how do I know if the 6 is high or low?".

I find this backwards because if you have only small cards it is clear that "high" is the least small (and v/v), while if you have only odd cards you need to agree with partner that the smallest odd card is the oddest and the smallest even card is the evenest (or something else).

And playing H-L or L-H, with 852 you can maybe send a neutral signal with the 5 if you prefer. Of course, with 832 you can also send a neural O-E signal by playing the 8 if your agreement is that lower cards show the clearest message.

O-E has the technical advantage that if you have 9832 you can chose to unblock or to keep your valuable cards while sending a signal at the same time. But even that is dubious as you might need to play the small card anyway to send a clear signal. But OK, if you mostly want to prefer your high spots and you mostly want to send a clear signal, I suppose O-E is a bit more efficient.

Another apparent advantage of o-e is that you can combine attitude with suit preference, but I don't really see why that is more efficient than for example high-middle-low for enc-hiSuit-LoSuit. Maybe more to the point, experts don't need a single signal that can convey umpteen messages at the same time as they are generally able to distinguish a suit preference situation from an enc/discourage situation.

I do play a sort of revolving/reverseroman hybrid in one partnership where Even=enc and Odd=otherSuitOfSameColour, but I find that I too often don't have (or can't afford) the card that shows the signal I want to send.

Basically, it's just a variant of the theme Club-Players-Play-a-Lot-of-Silly-Conventions-which-they-dont-Understand. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter so much what you play as long as you don't switch system often enough to confuse yourself.

I absolutely would not recommend anything more complex than L-H and suit preference to intermediate players. Arguably, H-L is best for intermediate players as it applies to honours anyway, for example when you drop the Queen to show the Jack. I find it a bit confusing to play H-L for honours and L-H for spots, since there could be situations where I want to play the T as a natural way to show T-9, but partner may misinterpret it as discouraging.

On the other hand there are also teachers that prefer L-H because opening leads are also L-H, and because nobody is going to encourage with the T from KT32 so H-L will nudge players to discard the suit they don't want partner to play rather than the one they do want.

So please H-L for mortals like me but if better players can manage with L-H, revolving or even O-E then more power to them.
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#7 User is offline   morecharac 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 21:59

View PostWainfleet, on 2021-March-07, 04:38, said:

Why is it that (according to Andrew Robson and others), natural discarding (High encourage, Low No -lead something else) is what most top tournament partnerships use, yet at duplicate pairs at club level (in the UK at least) most play McKenney, Revolving, Dodds, Odds-Evens etc.?

I started with what's called standard in our area, discarding the suit one wants. The flaws of that are obvious.

My wife, when we started playing together about ten years ago, insisted on Odd-Even but left out the half of O-E that signals which other suit is preferred when pitching an even card. I wasn't impressed with the method because half of a method is often worse than none.

I read about Lavinthal and convinced her to start playing that. Then a year or so later somebody explained the missing half of O-E but I didn't want to go back.

Lately I've been pondering switching back to Odd-Even, now that we play so much more online than we ever did FTF.

I can say that one of the most useful thing with discarding is learning when it's best to ignore partner's discard (or suit-preference) signals.

The only definitive advice I can give is that if you're playing under ACBL regulations only the first discard is allowed to convey information.
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#8 User is offline   sfi 

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Posted 2021-March-07, 23:38

View Postmorecharac, on 2021-March-07, 21:59, said:

The only definitive advice I can give is that if you're playing under ACBL regulations only the first discard is allowed to convey information.

That's not quite true. From memory, only the first discard is allowed to convey information than high or low. So odd/even, Lavinthal, McKenney etc. can only apply to first discard. Later discards can send count or attitude messages but only by virtue of it being a high or low card.
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#9 User is online   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 01:24

OP: "Fancy" discards (or signals, for that matter) are very helpful for telling the table what to do. The entire table. I have said that (if I'm paying attention) a coded 9/10 lead and an odd-even first discard should give me a complete view of the hand as declarer. Now maybe what it tells me is that I'm going down, but who's (usually) in control of the play? Also, as an improving player, declarer is likely to be more experienced in understanding these signals than you or your partner. To answer your last question about high level play, the more you can analyze the hand just through the auction and play, the less help you need from partner's signals - so they only signal what's absolutely necessary, to help declarer as little as possible. So they don't tend to go in for the complicated and revealing signalling.

I would start by picking a signalling system (right-side-up or upside-down) and understanding it. Play it on your discards as well (attitude). If you need more information - and if you can remember to give it in tempo and use it when it's given - go to something else for the first discard. But you'll probably find that you don't have to (or you can't use the extra information, or you give the wrong information, or...)

For which way up, play what your mentor plays, or what is most common with people you're likely to play with. The former means that your mentor is slightly more willing to play with you; the latter means that it's easier to play with your peers (and find a good partner).

To the digression on ACBL legality (which is irrelevant to someone quoting Pottage like the OP), not from memory:

Quote

Except for the first discard, only high-to-low or low-to-high ordering strategies are allowed when following suit or discarding.
Note: Distinct meanings for middle cards (vs. highest and lowest) are permissible.
Note: Defining meanings for specific spots (2,4,6...), as opposed to relative high/low agreements, are permissible only on the first discard.

So, in particular, a dual-meaning signal (don't like this suit, do like that one) is only legal on the first discard.

Further discards can be other than attitude or count (frequent suit preference discards!) as long as a low card means one thing and a high card means one thing. And the attitude need not be for the suit played, even on any signal (for example, Smith echoes, where T2's signal is attitude for T1's suit).
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#10 User is online   AL78 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 03:47

View PostDouglas43, on 2021-March-07, 12:27, said:

The Mr Bridge site includes a couple of articles by Julian Pottage on the subject in which he concludes (spoiler alert) that nothing is perfect.

untitled (mrbridge.co.uk)

untitled (mrbridge.co.uk)


Same as everything, there is no perfect bidding system, no perfect convention. If there was, everyone would be playing it.

I have always liked revolving discards on account that there are two ways to make the same signal, so less likely to have the issue of wanting to signal but doing so would involve potentially signalling with a card you can't afford to throw. That is one advantage reverse attitude has over standard attitude, you are more likely to be able to afford a high discard from a poor holding, than a holding you want partner to lead.
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#11 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 03:50

View Postpilowsky, on 2021-March-07, 14:10, said:

Given that during the bidding, we are meant to alert what our calls actually mean and not use terms such as "Jacoby", etc., does the same apply to "What are your signals/discards?"
It never made much sense to ask since the reply should be "he wants a Spade" (Wait for the smile or grimace).


When I get an answer like this I say “Oh, so every card asks for a spade?”
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#12 User is online   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 03:54

View Posthelene_t, on 2021-March-07, 15:03, said:

Odd-even is popular because it is clear whether a card is odd or even. The argument against h-l or l-h that I always hear is "how do I know if the 6 is high or low?".

I find this backwards because if you have only small cards it is clear that "high" is the least small (and v/v), while if you have only odd cards you need to agree with partner that the smallest odd card is the oddest and the smallest even card is the evenest (or something else).
I couldn't agree more, I have a very hard time agreeing on which of my odd cards is 'the oddest'. Also upside down attitude signals are somewhat correlated with not being wasted, since a relatively high card of an empty suit tends to not win a trick anyway.

View Postpilowsky, on 2021-March-07, 14:10, said:

At my first Club, the playing director had a habit (almost a twitch) of crying out "What are your signals?" every single time I played with or against (it was generally the latter, whichever seat I was in) her.
Eventually, I just put my thumb on my nose and waved my fingers in the air and replied, "If I do this, it means I don't like my partner".

Possibly, it may not have escaped your attention that some Bridge players lack a highly developed sense of humour.

Early on, this Club (it was a short club Club) insisted that lo-like; hi-hate was the only way to play.
Later I added McKenney to my repertoire. Although, to be fair (not sure things have changed much), I actually had no idea what I was doing, but my partner thought that I was discarding McKenney and seemed happy. Sometimes I had an American partner; then I would switch to Lavinthal.
One pair played upside-down carding, reverse Bergen and reverse Drury: I asked them if they were left-handed. Obviously, in Australia, these methods are in fact the right way up.

Then, I started playing with robots. Here I discovered that signals and discards were of little value (bidding was somewhat useful).
The thing I like about GIB signalling is that there isn't any.
You have to fall back on native cunning and try to work out who has which cards from the bidding and play.

So now, unless I am playing with a partner who is incredibly enthusiastic about signals and discards, I just throw away the ones I don't want.
I just found this quote on the ABF site "Although these signals are often helpful, there is no substitute for using your own logic at the table. Take notice of what's in dummy, how declarer is playing the contract, and realising that sometimes you don't need a signal at all!".

It seems like good advice, but I'm not sure what is meant by "using your own logic" - is there a reverse logic that might be more helpful in some situations?

Given that during the bidding, we are meant to alert what our calls actually mean and not use terms such as "Jacoby", etc., does the same apply to "What are your signals/discards?"
It never made much sense to ask since the reply should be "he wants a Spade" (Wait for the smile or grimace).
Better to sit stum and try and figure out more important things.
Going from the bottom back up: the opponents are entitled to the same information on your carding as you yourself have. So if you give them a convention name and they reply that that is insufficient information you need to explain it. As far as I know you are not obligated to interpret the signals for them. So a correct answer when prompted would be something like "This discard is Lavinthal, asking for the lower of the remaining two suits" but not "Based on dummy partner would only signal like this with the A". One time at a local club my partner and I were defending a tough 1NT, and halfway through the play I discarded a middle card in declarers known long diamond suit. He asked my partner what it meant, and he replied "This is not suggesting any suit or switch, but it is not encouraging in diamonds" (when in fact I had the remaining two suits covered, so I wanted to leave future switches up to my partner). I think that was the correct explanation to give.
As for logic, you are of course correct that there is only one sort of logic (or, at least, only one sort of logic that lets you win at the bridge table. But who knows, maybe one day the choice of axioms will affect your play). The crucial interpretation is that you, as defender, should consider which lays of the cards are compatible with your partner's signal instead of just blindly following it. 'Encouraging in clubs' does not mean 'Come hell or high water, lead a club at your next opportunity'. Your signals should aim to give your partner sufficient information to decide on the proper line for the defense, which sometimes means switching after partner has encouraged or continuing after partner has discouraged.1
I think this is also part of the reason experts tend to not go for extremely fancy signals. A defender typically only needs a few signals, or 'bits of information', to decide between plausible defensive lines. Having clear signalling methods that give limited information each can be a lot more valuable than fancy methods that can be misinterpreted if all you need is one or two clues to begin with.

1As an aside, there are two different ways of playing attitude signals. One is 'card-showing', aiming to inform partner of the location of your honours so that they can make a clever decision on the play. The other is 'cooperative', where you forego the thinking by partner and directly suggest whether a continuation or a switch is best. Most people play the latter, but it is worth discussing if you and your partner play the same way. In particular the latter means sometimes encouraging with empty suits, or discouraging with honours.
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#13 User is online   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 09:14

"A high card means he wants a spade; a low card means he wants a club".
"Is the 6 high or low?"
"We have no agreement about specific cards, it depends on what other options he had." (or, "Depends on what spots you have in your hand", depending on how deliberate you think declarer's being).

You don't have to say what the card means - you have to describe your signalling system.

"If I don't know her attitude to the opening lead, that's low-encourage attitude to the opening lead suit. If I do, it's count in that suit."

Note that if you have an agreement that middle-means-something, you have to state that as well. But you don't have to explain what the card says - because it gives away your hand, and you might be wrong. Sometimes the three is the highest card partner could afford, with the two on the board.
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#14 User is offline   morecharac 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 09:53

View Postsfi, on 2021-March-07, 23:38, said:

That's not quite true. From memory, only the first discard is allowed to convey information than high or low. So odd/even, Lavinthal, McKenney etc. can only apply to first discard. Later discards can send count or attitude messages but only by virtue of it being a high or low card.

You are correct. [section deleted because Mycroft already quoted it]

The hazards of trying to remember something that gets mentioned less than once a year and never comes up in play...
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#15 User is online   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 09:58

If you're still reading the GCC, it's time to stop. It's coming up on the 3-year anniversary. My quote is from the new charts.

In this case, it says (basically) the same thing, of course. In other cases, not so much.
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#16 User is offline   morecharac 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 15:03

View Postmycroft, on 2021-March-08, 09:58, said:

If you're still reading the GCC, it's time to stop. It's coming up on the 3-year anniversary. My quote is from the new charts.

Sheesh.

Did I miss something in the Bridge Bulletin or was this one as well heralded as the new AP?
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#17 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 17:28

View Postsfi, on 2021-March-07, 23:38, said:

That's not quite true. From memory, only the first discard is allowed to convey information than high or low. So odd/even, Lavinthal, McKenney etc. can only apply to first discard. Later discards can send count or attitude messages but only by virtue of it being a high or low card.

"Following Suit & Discarding: Except for the first discard, only high-to-low or low-to-high ordering strategies are allowed when following suit or discarding." -- ACBL Convention Charts (applies to all four charts).
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#18 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2021-March-08, 19:27

Sadly playing with GiB almost destroyed my ability to signal. When playing with strangers I at least try to encourage the opening lead with a high or discourage with a low. I cant remember much else and am rarely even asked to discuss such things when I sit at a table. I like the reverse attitude for discards though. It makes sense if I remember and my partner understands what is going on. I used to understand count too - thats rather rusty too - even odd/hi-lo/lo-hi whatever

About the main tool in my defensive armoury these days is choice of opening lead :)
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#19 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 10:59

View PostWainfleet, on 2021-March-07, 04:38, said:

Why is it that (according to Andrew Robson and others), natural discarding (High encourage, Low No -lead something else) is what most top tournament partnerships use, yet at duplicate pairs at club level (in the UK at least) most play McKenney, Revolving, Dodds, Odds-Evens etc.?
IMO, UDCA has advantages e.g.
  • Attitude: Low=like High=hate is the best way round because you are less likely to be sacrificing a potential trick.
  • Distribution: Low = even High = odd. Sometimes a distributional signal will be more useful to partner but it can be hard to ensure that you are both on the same page.
  • Smith peter: Low = like your side's opening lead. High = ask for a switch, when following suit to declarer's lead. IMO this is one of the most effective signals.
  • Suit Preference (using parity): Odd = over, Even = under. A McKenney variation, which allows you to combine signals ...
  • Combined: Low=like, High-odd = suit over, High-even=suit under. The more complex your agreements, the less clear your intentions will be to partner.
  • Parity problems. With the latter agreement, you can sometimes overcome parity problems (when your cards are all even or all odd). Playing 2 high cards upwards indicates the opposite parity.

Initially, a partnership should keep it simple (e.g. just attitude). Later, we can consider adding some of the above nuances providing that the resulting structure is coherent and consistent.

Local regulations seem to influence local signalling methods. For example, when partner shows out, the ACBL has always allowed you to ask "Having none, partner?" Some players only ask when they can't see all the remaining cards of the suit between dummy and their own hand. Thus partner has an (illegal) inference about the distribution of the suit. For whatever reason, ACBL players almost always signal attitude :)

Signalling count is more frequent in jurisdictions where the "Having none, partner?" question is unpopular or illegal. Eric Crowhurst and other experts at Reading Bridge Club used count signals.

Local regulators pander to professionals and their sponsors (e.g. banning "Multi", or defining the popular "Short club" as "Natural", so that opponents can't employ sophisticated defences) . This is especially relevant for carding agreements. Some sponsors can't handle signals that combine size and parity, so local regulators ban them.

Players still use hesitations and mannerisms to refine carding-agreements. For example, when the Rueful Rabbit led a club, the Hog dropped his trey and deuce doubleton on the floor. As he retrieved them, to play 3, he said "High club coming up partner" :)

On-line sites can eliminate most of the UI from hesitations and so on, so there's even less need for signalling restrictions, providing partnership agreements are properly disclosed. Sophisticated signalling enhances the skill-level of Bridge.
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#20 User is online   johnu 

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Posted 2021-March-09, 13:13

View Posthelene_t, on 2021-March-07, 15:03, said:

Odd-even is popular because it is clear whether a card is odd or even. The argument against h-l or l-h that I always hear is "how do I know if the 6 is high or low?".


Odd-even isn't clear when you only have all odd, or all even cards. IIRC, the standard fudge is to hesitate and dither for a short period of time when you don't have the right card to signal. Not that standard and upside down signals have similar problems.
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