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In the board game Go, there are two basic styles, high and low. "High" is all the rage for about ten years, until people have forgotten how to play "low." Then "low" gets "rediscovered," and people win tournaments with itfor about ten years until high becomes popular again.

In bridge, people used to "underbid" in competitive situations. That is, they failed to overcall, make takeout doubles or "balance," even when it was to their advantage to do so (that is when the penalty for going down was less than the opponent's probably game). Then people learned these techniques and did them a lot. Have they ever overdone such competitive techniques (that is, give away more games or gone down more than they should have)?

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There is a famous anecdote of Hans Kreijns (playing with Bob Slavenburg) overcalling Benito Garozzo's 4 Spades pre-empt with a 4 Spades overcall, on 4 to two top Honours, sometime in the 1960's. That's an overbid.

Seriously, when I learned to play bridge in the early 1970's, overbidding was everywhere. Precision had just become famous, and everyone was opening ratty 10 and 11 counts because C.C.Wei's Precision team did it.

Since then overbidding has declined in the bridge company I keep, and so has underbidding. Of course, it is not the same company: the quality has increased substantially, and the bidding has generally become more accurate. Less overbidding, and less underbidding, because the bidding is simply better.

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In the "old days" (before duplicate became popular in the 1960s and 1970s), people used to UNDER bid in competitive situations.

That was partly because the "Law of Total Tricks" hadn't yet been discovered (by Jean-Rene Verne in 1966), which stated that if both sides had (potentially) eight trumps in their best fit, (at least) ONE side could take eight tricks; if both sides had nine trumps, then nine tricks; and if ten trumps, ten tricks; even though they would average only 20 HCPs a hand.

The other reason was the likelihood of a "set;" people shied away from small minus scores, even though they might "save" a larger-scoring game which was reported as a PLUS score (for their opponents).

When duplicate became popular, people started to understand that what mattered was performance on the "curve," down two doubled non-vul (-300) was preferable to letting the opponents score a game. And techniques were developed for competitive bidding, including "pre-empts," takeout doubles, overcalls, "balancing," etc.

Nowadays, I believe that the spread of the above techniques may have caused the pendulum to swing the other way; that people pre-empt, overcall and balance with "junk," e.g. suits headed by QT (or less). That's not a bad idea at "favorable" vulnerability (non-vul vs. vul.) but may be overdoing it at other vulnerabilities. Down three doubled, is no fun, unless its for -500 against a 620 game. And if you overcall at the two level with QTxxxx, and partner has "nothing," it's two easy for one opponent to double you with AKx. Besides, you don't really want an opening lead to your QTxxxx (one of the main purposes of an overcall).

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