Monday, February 21, 2011

Review in Bridge Magazine (UK)

I was pleased to see a nice review of New Frontiers for Strong Forcing Openings forwarded to me by Ray Lee of Master Point Press.  It apparently is in Bridge Magazine (UK):

New Frontiers for Strong Forcing Openings Ken Rexford

One of the most popular methods amongst club players in this country is Acol with Benjamin two-bids – usually described affectionately as “Benji”. Having accepted that Acol 2♣ and strong two-bid hands have a relatively low frequency, these are now handled with an opening bid of 2♦ and 2♣ respectively. In addition, there are a number of players who play “reverse Benji” – this has the advantage of retaining the Acol 2♣ opening and responses, with the 2♦ opening now used to describe any Acol 2-bid in a suit. Unfortunately this brings further problems, particularly where the opener has an Acol 2-bid with hearts.

However, even those pairs who have been playing these methods for a long time often have nothing more sophisticated available that a “2♦ relay” response, and hand definition following one of these strong opening bids is often clumsy and at an inconveniently high level.

In this book, American expert Ken Rexford describes a new way of using these two opening bids (2♣ and 2♦) for strong hands. The basic idea is easy to grasp: the 2♦ opening bid shows a strong hand including at least four spades, while the 2♣ opening (with one exception) denies four spades. This one simple idea now gives the following results:

1. You will have no problem handling strong hands with four hearts and five or more of a minor. In fact, you will be able to agree hearts at a level low enough for all calls above 2NT to be cuebids. You will also be able to agree the minor, instead, at a level below 3NT, and often with space for some cuebidding below 3NT.

2. You will be able to set spades as trumps when Opener has four and Responder has a fit, at a level low enough for all calls above 2NT to be available to help look for a slam, no matter what Opener’s pattern may be. If the major is not agreed, you will be able to agree any longer second suit held by Opener below 3NT.

3. You will not bypass 2NT to show five hearts after opening 2♣, even if Responder shows an immediate double negative by bidding 2♥.

4. You will be able to find any major fit, whether Opener has four, five, or even only three of the major, below 3NT when Opener has a balanced hand with 20+ HCP’s. Puppet Stayman has a problem when Responder has five spades and four hearts. You will not even have a problem finding either possible fit when Responder has, for instance, five spades and three hearts or five hearts and three spades.

5. You will be able to identify a specific minor with slam interest, below 3NT, when Opener has 22-23 balanced.

6. You will occasionally even be able to identify a specific four-card minor with slam interest, again below 3NT, opposite an Opener with 22-23 balanced, and even after asking Opener about the majors.

7. You may be able to agree a major below 3NT, and start cuebidding, when Opener has 20+ balanced.

8. Responder will never have a problem deciding whether a new major shows, or should show, four or five after Opener shows a long minor.

9. Hands with 4-4-4-1 pattern will not be that difficult after a strong, forcing opening.

10. You will be able to show both minors below 3NT.

I believe that any regular partnership playing a form of “Benji” would benefit from adopting the ideas in this book. In particular, those hands that have been difficult in the past (e.g. strong 3-suiters, strong hands with a 4-card major and a longer minor) can now be handled efficiently. This book is highly recommended.