Sunday, June 24, 2007

Showing a Stiff Honor?

Theory is often useful to study, even if from those who use techniques that are different from your own. A study of Precision bidding can give insights into a Kaplan-Sheinwold system; understanding canape thinking can help with problem hands in natural sequences.

So, I'm not sure how many out there use an unbalanced diamond opening, but one strange auction that seems to have recurred recently came up in a completely different context, suggesting, yet again, that theory can often be translated.

For those unfamiliar with an "unbalanced diamond" opening, I am not speaking of Mr. Miles' new "My System." I am speaking of a more mundane agreement where, in a 2/1 GF or standard/natural system, minors are not opened "better minor," or "short club" in the sense of opening clubs with 4-4-3-2 only. With the unbalanced diamond approach I use, a One Diamond opening is reserved for hands with 6+ diamonds or with a stiff or void somewhere. This makes a One Club opening possible with 3352, 4342, 3442, and any other balanced hand, regardless of the minor situation. One benefit of this approach is in knowing that partner has shortness in most auctions.

For instance, after 1D-P-1S-P-2S, Responder knows that Opener has shortness somewhere; he can bid 2NT to find out where. This seems at first blush to help Responder make game tries, which is true. The real benefit, however, is that Opener need not feel like he must stretch to bid 3S, instead, because of shortness -- that is already known. Jumping to 3S both hides the whereabouts of the stiff (and the existence of one also) and also may land us too high already. When Responder knows that the simple raise features a stiff (and thus extra strength above expectation already), he can ask when interested (passing on those "too high already" hands) and actually know the location of the shortness below three of the major.

So, let me give you a strange auction. 1D-P-1S-P-4S. What on earth is that? Surely Opener, if good enough for game, would have splintered to let us know where his shortness is, right? Or, he might also have made a 4D call, a Walsh Fragment showing spade support and a great six-card trick source in diamonds, right? How can he have neither call?
Well, the simple solution is that Opener must have a stiff, but that this stiff is the Ace or King of that suit. Rather than discouraging you from valuing honors in that suit, he simply jumped to game.
This auction found a parallel in a recent on-line discussion. 1H-P-1S-P-2C-P-2S-P-5S. If the partnership is using weak jump shifts, then 1S...2S would be constructive. The slam try must be based upon 3514 pattern -- how else can Opener have a comfort zone at the five-level but could only bid 2C earlier? So, why no diamond splinter? Using the theory parallel, it seems that the 4D splinter was a bad option because the diamond stiff was the Ace or King of diamonds. Responder, who held AQxxxx-x-Kxxx-10x, can now feel good about accepting the slam try.

Something to consider for your personal system.

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