Thursday, July 29, 2010

The HP incident and the forums (bridge)

I've been more vocal than ever before on the forums in this thread: Please read through it to get some idea of what's going on before reading my thoughts below.

While I do not really care about the actual guilt or innocence of HP, the witch hunting and bashing in the early parts of the thread are extremely distasteful in my opinion, while some of the concepts brought up overall are disturbing to me in terms of my future enjoyment of bridge.

Let's start with my initial reaction. When I was first told about the hand, my reaction was not that something bad had occurred, but that 6D was actually quite a fun swing action. I asked about the state of the match conditions, while a couple posters kept saying the equivalent of "it didn't matter".

I have a couple of problems with the OP's posts, and I attribute that to how personally he took all of this. I have all the respect for JL as a player and he would actually be my first choice if I had the money to hire a pro for the long term. However, his first post sounded to me as an objective observer to be strongly accusatory: "Something is wrong with bridge that this can happen." Making such accusations in a public forum is quite distasteful to me, and I certainly could understand the subsequent reaction of HP, to want to speak directly to his accuser and defend himself.

JL then replied that he had not made any accusations, but was rather interested in saying that the bid and result in themselves should have led to investigative action. This is the part that I have the most problem with. So he's basically saying if 0 of 100 of his chosen experts would not have made such a call, it becomes highly suspicious and so action should be necessary. My point is that expert testimonial is useless here. Bridge is not a science. In subsequent private messages with JD, it seems to me that the disagreement at heart is with how extreme of an action the call was. JD said that in all his years of playing he had never seen anything like that bid, which happened to work perfectly on that hand. On the other hand, if I was down a bunch in a match and decided we needed to go swinging, I don't think the 6D call would've been out of the realm of my consideration. I also believe that my partners would agree with me on that and that those who have had experience playing with or against HP would agree that he's certainly creative enough to come up with a bid like that.

I just don't want to be in a situation where the future of bridge is such that I can't make a call like that because 100 experts told everyone that no one else would do it. That's pretty much what groupthink is. The real problem is that this is already occurring. Look at the appeals process in bridge, where the final adjudicators have their own biases on how hands should be bid, and the polling process is incomplete at best because they only take into account an idea of "skill" defined by strata, but not style. I have rarely been taken to committee or made many appeals, but at the same time, I've discussed certain hands with people frequently on appeals committees and often the answer I get back is that they would never take my side because they wouldn't think like me, and any descriptions of my own thought process would be considered self-serving. It's ridiculous. Essentially the highest form of adjudication in bridge belongs to those same 100 or so experts.

There's also an argument about the bridge logic of coming up with the call. People gave all sorts of stats and numbers, etc. However, I need to point out that the EV shippers are useless here. The only thing that matters is the EU of the call. That a swing is actually generated should he be right. The negative value of being wrong is almost marginalized at that point if he thinks he needs to go swinging.


Jonathan Weinstein said...

Well, I agree with you a lot of comments were off-base. It doesn't matter if the bid was sane or even if it was state-of-the-match sane (I don't think so, there will be many superior ways to swing in 40 boards.) It only matters if *this* player might have done something this weird without a wire. Although I'm suspicious, I can't say *for sure* he wouldn't.

You really softened my stance on this one, initially I was as ready to convict as anyone. But really, you've softened it from guilty to probably guilty, and I agree it would be bad to convict with no other evidence.

One final point: why not bid 4nt planning to raise 5d to slam? This will earn you 90% of the plus swings available by bidding 6d. It will lose on this hand since partner happens to be 4-4. Hmm. Of course, this doesn't close the case by any means--HP *could* have just not thought of 4NT. People who are swinging definitely don't always do so in the most intelligent manner. HP projects a huge ego that probably masks a lot of insecurity, and doesn't often play in situations where he's not even close to being the big fish in the room. It could have gotten him into a state of mind where he just did something weird that he knew had a chance, and it just happened to come in.

The Pretender said...

I actually heard first hand from a source that at some break during that day, HP approached him giving the hand as a problem (including the state of the match) and seeming quite proud of his 6D bid stating that you need the club pitches. That doesn't sound like someone who had a wire on the board.

If you're going to punt, punting 6D is a lot more fun than going the safer 4NT route. Also, there are psychological considerations to having such a wild punt work, in the original manner of an intentional Grosvenor Coup.

Jonathan Weinstein said...

Yes, I've actually come full circle to thinking he probably didn't have a wire, though I would look closely at the video if there is one.