Sunday, December 30, 2007

Canape Notes

For many years, I played with a few guys from Mansfield who all liked canape. The approach they had started with was a mess. I tweaked it into a system that worked very well, being "available" to relative novices (some NLM's played the system).

I no longer use a canape approach, largely because of new partners. However, I did save a 2000 "book," of sorts, that I had put together for the small group of Ohio canape players.

The sad thing is that I lost the electronic version of the thing. I do have a scanned version, however, one that could be converted, I suppose.

If anyone out there happens to be interested in my thoughts on canape bidding (from almost eight years ago), let me know. My email, again, is I could send you the scanned version.

Tweaking Super Standard

I don't like the handling of 4-4-4-1 hands entirely. I doubt they did (let alone most of us) either.

An idea:

Define a sequence 2♣-P-2D-P-2NT as "both minors," but precisely "4+ in each minor and unbalanced." This allows 2NT to show 4-1-4-4 or 1-4-4-4 (the trouble patterns).

Responder can bid 3M as described by Bennet-Wirgren (natural), or 3D just asking for the minor. However...

Responder can also bid 3♣ as "Mini-Puppet Stayman." The responses by Opener:

1. 3M shows four cards (3♥ = 1-4-4-4 or 0-4-5-4 or 0-4-4-5; 3♠ same thing, but short hearts)
2. 3NT denies a three-card or longer major; Opener can instead "flag" his short major (4♣=♥, 4D=♠) if too strong for 3NT; 4♥ maybe 1-1 majors?
3. 3D shows an undisclosed three-card major (and stiff in the other major); 3♥ asks; 3♠ shows three spades, 3NT shows three hearts, and 4♣ shows three hearts but too strong for 3NT.

This seems better to me. The 3NT calls that showed these hands now are different, whatever you want them to be.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I had been tinkering around with an idea to better handle the hand opened 2♣ in standard and 2/1 GF, with the idea of a strong 2♦ ("♦" = diamonds) to show an unbalanced hand with spades (and strong). After I worked out the kinks, I was informed that Anders Wirgren and Johan Bennet had come up with this idea years ago. I was tickled, but disappointed that my "innovation" was already spotted and developed. Nothing new under the sun perhaps.
That said, I cannot find any write-up of the newest version (called "Pioneer," apparently). But, I found a Swedish-language version of the slightly older "Super Standard," upon which Pioneer is apparently based, with an explanation of their approach.
Because I really like the idea, I did a rough translation. Some of the follow-up bidding is not developed but logical to work out, and some of the "translation" is tweaked (because these are personal notes more than a translation). But, for those who cannot read Swedish and are not as weird as me (I used a word-by-word translator at points), but who may be interested, I have attached my notes hereto. I think that this approach has great potential. The cost is the weak 2♦ opening, but many have ditched that anyway. The gain is that strong hands now are not a liability and patterns can be handled properly.
My "translation" is broken down into hand-type categories, to all analysis in such a way as to see the parallel structure (you will understand as you read this), which makes memory work lesser. It seems very logical.
My own version seemed a bit more fluid at points, but this version seems to handle some patterns better. I handled balanced hands much better, at the cost of handling minor two-suiters and generally two-suiters without quite the same definition (at least initially). The Swedish version, in all, seems slightly better. I'm curious to see whether the Pioneer notes solved some of my concerns or not. (Anyone have this?)
Anyway, here goes:

Majors, after Positive Waiting (2♣-P-2♦ or 2♦-P-2♥):

Heart-focus hand types:
1. heart-minor canapé
2. 5-5 hearts plus a minor
3. 6-5 hearts plus a minor
4. single-suited hearts (6322+)
5. hearts-minor, shorter in minor

Spade-focus hand types:
1. spade-minor canapé
2. 5-5 spades plus a minor
3. 6-5 spades plus a minor
4. single-suited spades (6322+)
5. spades-minor, shorter in minor
6. 5+ hearts, 4+ spades spades only (2♦)
7. 5+ spades, 4 hearts spades only (2♦)

With category #1 (major-minor canapé):
Open 2♣ with hearts, and then bid 3♣/3♦
Open 2♦ with spades, and then bid 3♣/3♦

With category #2 (5-5 major-minor):
Open 2♣ with hearts, and then flag the minor (3♥=5♥/5♣; 3♠=5♥/5♦)
Open 2♦ with spades, and then flag the minor (3♥=5♠/5♣; 3♠=5♠/5♦)

With category #3 (6-5 major-minor):
Open appropriate minor, then jump in minor (4♣/4♦)

With category #4 (single-suited hand) or #5 (major, plus shorter minor):
Open 2♣ with hearts, and then bid 2♠[1]
Open 2♦ with spades, and then bid 2♠

With category #6 (spades only – 5+♥/4+♠)
Open 2♦ and then bid 2NT.
Rebid 3♠ later with 5-5
Rebid 3♥ later with 4-5♠, 6♥

With category #7 (5+♠/4♥):
Open 2♦, rebid 2♠, introduce hearts later

Handling Minors after Positive Waiting:

Open 2♣. Responder’s 2♦ is waiting.

With both minors (5-4/4-5 or greater, no 4-card major), bid 2NT next.
Responder might bid 3♣ as “stayman,” asking for a three-card major, if any.
Responder might instead flag a minor of choice for slam interest.

With a one-suited minor:
Opener rebids 2♥, sort of like Kokish, but without hearts.
(Opener will have one minor, or some 4441’s, or balanced)
After 2♠, Opener rebids his minor. Will not be 5-4 in minors, but might be 6-4. No side 4-card major, though.

Note: Responder can reject “Kokish” by showing a minor or minors:
-2NT shows diamonds. Opener, with clubs, bids 3♣. With diamonds, the celebration begins.
-3♣ shows clubs. Opener, with diamonds, bids 3♦. With clubs, the celebration begins.
-3♥/3♠ shows 5-5, bidding stiff

Handling 4-4-4-1 hands after Positive Waiting:
With 4-1-4-4 and BIG (24+), open 2♦ and then rebid 3NT.
With 1-4-4-4 and BIG (24+), open 2♣, then “Kokish” 2♥, and then rebid 3NT.
With 1-4-4-4 and decent (21-23), open 2♣ and immediately rebid 3NT.
After all three above:
4♣ = shows a weak hand and is a relay to 4♦. Responder will pick the suit contract, or 4NT as general quantitative invite to possible 6NT contract.
4♦ = major slam try (LTTC)
4♥ = club slam try (RKCB?)
4♠ = diamond slam try (RKCB?)
4NT = RKCB for the major

With 4-1-4-4 and decent (21-23), treat as balanced. Life sucks.

With 4-4-4-1 or 4-4-1-4, open 2♣, then “Kokish” 2♥, then flag the stiff minor.
3♥ = 4-4-4-1 3♠ = 4-4-1-4
Handling Balanced Hands after Positive Waiting:
Open 2♣. After 2♦, bid 2♥ as “Kokish” parallel. After 2♠, bid 2NT.

Response structure will be the same. Puppet and the like. Frequent super-acceptances encouraged. “Super-accept” of 3NT to a transfer is BIG balanced.

Note: We may want to scrap/modify the 2♣…2NT as minors. That would make 2♣…2♥…2NT 24+ and 2♣…2NT 22-23.

If so, then a “one-suited minor” could be 5-5 minors. No great solution, but perhaps better than lumping all of the balanced hands together.

Wirgren-Bennet alleviated the strong, balanced to some degree by establishing:
1. 2NT open is 22-23
2. 2♣…2♥…2NT is then 19+ to 21 OR 24+
This split range may be easier to handle than 22+ plus would be.

After the 2♦ opening and a Negative Rebid:
If Responder has 4+ spades (and thus a fit), he bids 3♥. This shows an intention to pass 3♠ or a bare minimum raise to 4♠. Opener bids 3♠ is not interested in slam under these conditions, or 4♠ is game-only no matter what, or 3NT/other as slam tries (other=natural). 3NT just gives room for cues of values, if any.

If Responder has 0-3 spades, he will bid 2♠, which can be passed. Or:
2NT through 3♦ = transfer to next-up suit. Opener might pass or continue pattern description.
3♥ = also a transfer, showing 6+ spades
3♠ = 24+, with 4-1-4-4
3NT = To play
4♣/4♦ = BIG 5-5
4♥ = BIG 4♠/6+♥
4♠ = To play

After the 2♣ opening and the Two-Way Double Negatives:
2♥ shows double negative and 0-3 hearts
2♠ shows double negative and 4+ hearts

If Opener has hearts, 2♠ gives him lots of information. If he does not have hearts, Opener will have a one-suited minor, both minors, or balanced. Thus:
2NT = Balanced, not four hearts (might be 21-23 and 4-1-4-4)
3♣/♦ = One-suited minor or light both minors; passable
3♥ = To play
3♠ = Strong both minors
3NT = Best guess contract (to play)
4♣/♦ = BIG minor
4♥ = To play

If Opener lacks hearts (2♥):
Opener can pass.
Opener can make any bid as above, except…
2NT shows BIG hand (24+)
2♠ shows:
A. 22-23 (or 20-21 if…)
B. Heart-minor
C. Heart GF
After 2♠, Responder usually bids 2NT, after which Opener:
A. Passes with weak balanced
B. Bids minor with 5-4/5-5
C. Bids 3♥ GF, 6+ hearts
D. Bids 4♣/4♦ with STRONG 5-5

The Positives:
After 2♣ opening:
2NT = Positive with Spades
3♣/♦/♥ = Positives, natural

After 2♦ opening:
2NT shows heart positive
3♣/3♦ shows minor positive

Note = 3♥ shows negative with spades; 4bids would be minimal splinters with spade support

After these positives, logical bidding. Possibly splinters.

[1] Responder can bid 3♦ (transfer) or splinter to support hearts.
3♥ by Responder is described as a bare bust heart acceptance and passable, but I don’t see the merits. Makes more sense to me as a power raise, with something in all side suits (Ace, King, Stiff, and/or maybe one suit Queen-only).
Describes 2NT as a general denial of fit/waiting, after which Opener bids:
1. a minor (3♣/3♦(
2. rebids hearts
3. 3♠ for 0544, or
4. 4minor as strong 6-4.
Responder’s 3♣ shows a minor without hearts. Opener can ask (3♦, flag answer) or bid own way (naturally).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bridge Without a Partner Available

If you are interested in purchasing Ken Eichenbaum's "Bridge Without a Partner," I have set up a paypal account to handle orders for him. It is available in the items on the left side of this page, bottom. I must admit, though, that I just set up this "paypal" account and have no idea how it works. So, please excuse me if I get confused and it takes a bit longer than 2-3 business days. LOL I'm sure that it will get easier as I do this more often.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When to Exit the Asking Bids

A discussion on line recently induced a thought. I think that there is great importance in agreeing with partner when pattern completion ends and cuebidding begins, if you use pattern bidding.

The discussion focused on a Jacoby 2NT response to a 1♠ opening. Opener rebid 3♣, showing a balanced hand. 3D asked for more info, and 3♥ showed a minimum. Responder then bid 3♠, which was the point of discussion. Should Opener introduce a four-card suit with 5422, or bid 3NT with 5332 or 6322? Would 4♣ after 3NT ask for spade length, with perhaps 4D showing 5332 and 4♥ showing 6322? Maybe we could even work out a method for showing the doubleton when 5332 or the three-card suit when 6322?

The problem on the hand was that Responder needed to know if Opener held (1) both minor Aces and at least the heart King, or (2) one minor Ace and the heart A-K, or perhaps, if brave, (3) one minor Ace, the heart Ace, and the spade Queen (50-50 slam that way, about).

You can ask for pattern all you want, but you will never find out about specific cards unless you eventually start cuebidding.

On the actual deal, cuebidding from the very start would have worked better. However, it is not necessary to force that issue forward. What seems necessary, however, is for partnerships who do embark on pattern asking bids to have some point in the auction where someone can change the focus. In the discussed sequence, that point was with a 3NT call rather than a 3♠ "waiting" call, apparently. That's workable.

If you do have pattern bidding as part of your approach, I advise that this topic be discussed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A New Yummy Toes Situation?

In my book, I noted that a Picture Jump supporting a minor might be done but that no "Yummy Toes" asking bids would be used. I now think that this is lazy, and I have thought this through some more, with a proposal to consider.

Take, as an example, a simple auction of 1S-P-2C-P-3D. The 3D call is a Picture Splinter, showing (1) good trump support, meaning two of the top three honors, (2) a great holding in the major (at least two of the top three honors), (3) a stiff in the splinter suit that is the Queen or worse, and (4) no first-round or second-round control of the fourth suit (at best the Queen).

Asking bids can be effective IF a few parameters are agreed and, at a minimum, if the Picture Splinter is below three of Opener's major. This will happen when the supported minor is clubs and there is a 3D or 3H Picture Splinter, or when the agreed minor is diamonds and there is a 3H Picture Splinter.

The first parameter is that Responder can bid three of Opener's major to agree that major, with Opener "answering" that bid using a new tool -- the trump answer. Opener has already shown three of the top four in the trump suit. Opener will bid his quality in steps: STEP ONE is two of the top three, plus the Jack. STEP TWO is three of the top three. STEP THREE is all four top honors. After Opener defines his trump holding, Yummy Toes kicks in, modified. The "yu" asking bid, "your suit," has been replaced by the trump answer and is thus "done." The "mmy" or "my suit" question concerns the "agreed" minor, asking in that minor in the same way as a normal "our suit" answer. The "toes" questions are both handled like "their suit" questions -- asking for the Queen. The priority is first to the fourth suit and second to the stiff.

The second parameter is that 3NT is a playable contract and, therefore, will not be an asking bid. The third parameter is that four of the opened major is a playable contract and, as well, will not be an asking bid.

The fourth parameter is that other calls agree the minor and are Yummy Toes asking bids. However, we drop the "my suit" as that is "our suit" and add two "their suit" asks, in the same priority as above (fragment, then stiff).

Thus, assume the example auction of 1S-P-2C-P-3D. The bids would be as follows:

3H = "Yu" (YOUR SUIT) asking bid; agrees the minor; Opener bids in steps indicating which top honor he lacks (A, K, Q, J, none)
3S = Sets spades, trump ask
3NT = to play
4C = "T" ask (THEIR SUIT) for the first priority -- fourth suit (No Q, Q)
4D = "T" ask (THEIR SUIT) for the second priority -- stiff (No Q, Q)
4H = "Oes" ask for the agreed minor (OUR SUIT)

You may also opt to wrap-around answer. However, you may want to discuss parameters for wrapping, as you may not want to bypass thereby the last, best escape, which may be back to Opener's major.

You may also want to consider whether additional (similar or different) techniques might be effective after higher Picture Jumps. Flag thinking might be useful there.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Note on Alerts (ACBL)

After a very lengthy email discussion with Mike Flader, I have finally gained some advice regarding the alert procedure as it would be used to advise the opponents during a cuebidding sequence using the tools I have proposed.

The Alert Procedures leave much to be desired. However, it appears that most cuebids below 3NT do not require an alert, even though they are not usual methods. However, Flader suggests that the 2NT "cuebid," showing poor trumps (fewer than two of the top three) should be directly alerted. Further, he suggests that a failure to bid 2NT, inferring thereby at least two of the top three trump honors, should be post-alerted.

None of this can be gleaned from reading the ACBL rules as to alerts. Thus, I am sharing this information. If anyone wants a copy of the Flader email response, let me know.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flags: Not Just for Slams

A "flag bid," again, is a call that "flags" a specific suit and sends another message. A classic example might be a 1NT opening and a 3S response, if 3S shows 5-5 in the majors and GF. Opener could decline a major (3NT), or pick a major (4H or 4S). However, a more sophisticated approach would allow Opener to "flag" a major (4C for hearts, 4D for spades) as a super-acceptance.

But, flags are not necessarily only for slams. Consider other situations.

How about a flag as a lead-director?

The opponents open 1C to your right and respond 1H to your left, partner intervening with a 1NT call, Sandwich, showing spades and diamonds. Simple is to bid 2S or 2D, picking your preference. However, consider this. What if you want to support one suit but would prefer the other suit for lead? Maybe xxxx-Kx? One could easily imagine that you "transfer" into a suit to show one thing and bid it directly for another. 2C might say, for instance, that you prefer diamonds but want a spade lead, and 2D says that you prefer diamonds and want a diamond lead. 2H shows spade preference for play but diamond preference for lead; 2S preference for spades on both accounts.

How about to distinguish preemptive or preference from game-invitational?

Partner overcalls 1NT by bidding 2H, majors. You could pass or correct. However, maybe you want to jam the auction (3H or 3S). Maybe you actually want to invite game. 2NT might work as the invite call, but how about flags? Or, what about if 2NT shows the majors and a strong hand? You could simply guess the level, or use flags to invite.

Now, I'm not going to suggest a whole new system, where 1C and 1D openings are flags for the majors, but there are a lot of uses for this approach beyond the simple slam try.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pattern Mesh

I have been fascinated by the mesh of complimentary patterns. So, I have decided to think out loud about them.

Consider 5-4-3-1 pattern.

If partner has 4-3-3-3, We have a nine-fit. We are missing, in the high-honors, AKQ-AKQ-AKQ-A, for a total of 31 HCP's. Drop one high honor and we are in slam territory. That yields 27-29 HCP's. We need nine covers for slam, meaning three tricks from shape. The stiff and a three-card suit means that A-AKQ works as well as AKQ-A, or AK-AK.

Switch to 3433, though. We have two eight-fits. We are missing, in the high honors, the same AKQ-AKQ-AKQ-A, for the same 31 HCP's. The same stiff analysis works. If we play in the 5-3 fit, the same basic trick expectancy is there, albeit a bid shakier in trumps.

However, if we play in the 4-4 fit, the fourth and fifth cards in the long suit might replace the King and Queen of the three-card suit. With as little as AKQ-AKQ-A, we get to 11 tricks, and a bad lead gets us to 12.

The conclusion, then, is the 5-4-3-1 opposite 4-3-3-3 is much weaker than 5-4-3-1 opposite 3-4-3-3.

This is the pattern the leads to theory like the Empathetic Splinter, Serious 3NT by the hand making a simple raise (serious for the natural second-suit GT), and the like.

So, are there other pattern meshes?

One obvious is any set of opposing 5-3's. Consider 5332 opposite 3532. AKQ-AKQ-A-A makes 12 tricks. That's quite a nice combo, but it is still 26 HCP's. If you note above, the 5431-4333 combo was stronger. Of course, a stiff always helps, but I still find this interesting.

Some folks get excite by 4441's. How about them? Well, toss it against a nice 3253. AKQ-AK-AKQ-A, minus one, makes slam. Still not quite as strong as the 5431 holding.

This 5431 is quite a beast.

Let's try 5431 against other holdings. 4432? AKQ-AKQ-A-A? The extra card across from the 5-card suit gains little. If anything, it persuades us away from the more powerful (as to potential) 4-4 fit. Might have dummy reversal value but for the inability to take two ruffs. Switch 4432 to 4423, and we are getting somewhere.

Take from this what you will. But, I've sat and thought about this sort of thing for a long enough period of time to be taken away for my own protection and/or to conclude that 5431 is a pattern that has very unusually strong trick-taking ability, one that should receive more attention. It seems to produce magic tricks.

To see the magic, create a 5-4-3-1 opposite 3-4-4-4 that makes slam. Then, count the hand out by LTC. I'll bet LTC is off more than on.

Another beauty of the 5-4-3-1 is that is offers the dual possibility of the 5-3 + 4-4 OR 5-3 + 3-5.

Do you pay 5-4-3-1 its propers in your thinking and system?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Strange Last Train

I was just reminded of a strange little treatment.

Your partner opens 2NT. You start to transfer to hearts, when he suddenly super-accepts by bidding 4C. You have systemically agreed that 4D by you is now a re-transfer, either to sign off or to right-side the contract before you start asking for Aces. Makes sense.

However, a problem exists. The re-transfer takes away your ability to make a Last Train 4D call. Maybe you won't ever need on in this auction, but then maybe you will. What to do?

When a re-transfer is in play, you could use the straight bid of the suit, here 4H, as Last Train. The wrong-siding of the contract might not be as much of an issue when you are that close to slam anyway, of course.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jack ask?

No, I did not make a spelling error.

A thought for today. A recent deal got me to thinking.

Suppose an ideal auction start (2/1 GF, two-level major suit trump agreement). One might plausibly have the trump situation known well, by virtue of a 2NT call or bypass, a cuebid or lack thereof at the three-level, and/or an answer to RKCB. If the existence or the lack thereof is known, should the call normally reserved for a queen-ask be a "Jack Ask?"

The classic scenario where this would occur is when it looks like we have a need to reasonably ensure no more than one trump loser. For example, if you have Axx opposite Qxxxx, this is not so good. Or, KQx opposite xxxxx. Whatever -- you get my point.

You might even want to take out insurance at IMP's. The situation came up yesterday for me. Holding Q109 in trumps, I knew that we held everything we needed on the side to make the slam. I knew that partner had just one heart honor. I also knew that the slam would not be bid at the other table. I elected to go, but partner caught KJ8x behind the Q109 and had to lose two trumps. A big swing against us, and perhaps unlucky. However, after partner's 5D response, it might have made sense for 5H (spades were trumps) to ask about the heart Jack, because the A, K, and Q were already known by prior cues.

Plus, can you imagine the response by the opponents? You are explaining, after the auction, your sequence. This means that, that means this, blah-blah-blah. All very impressive, but the opponents are having aneurysms following this. You get to the 5H call.

"Now, my partner's 5H call -- do you want to know what that is?"
"Of course!"
"That's a Jack Ask bid!" (Ever so slightly hint at the "K.")
"I'd say! And what did your 5S say?"
"I ain't got Jack."

Seriously, though, I'm more and more convinced that I like this. How often do you have a sequence of bids leading up to an ultimate 4NT RKCB, finding out that you are missing one key card, and hoping that it is the side Ace that you are missing or that partner has the trump Jack? Slams with only two of the top three honors can be anti-percentage when the honors are split and one is the Queen.

When the ability is there to check on the number of top honors (Ace, King, and Queen) before 4NT, would it not be wonderful to be able to check back on the Jack when you need it?

One key consideration, however, is that you better not show the trump Jack by bidding 5S when hearts are trumps, unless partner knows that your answer will be at best two keys (from prior bidding).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shanghai Deal #14

Another deal for system, of course. One team reached the slam; one team missed it. The issue was that Responder had to make a call -- conservative or aggressive. It would be nice to have a means to invite.

Opener: A10xx-AK10x-AJ-AJ10
Responder: K98x-x-xx-K98xxx

Opener has a hand that on its face looks like 21 HCP's. Personally, I think that the control count and two well-placed 10's merits a clear upgrade. However, in either event, that is not critical to the auction. Either open 2NT if you do not upgrade, or open 2C and rebid 2NT (after, for me, a GF 2D waiting response).

Both Responders now bid 3C, apparently Puppet Stayman. The USA I response of 4C is one I have never seen, so I am not sure what that meant. The 3S Norway response was typical, and it left no real apparent invite -- go or fade.

I like a version of Puppet Stayman that I learned from Jim Batchelder, of Columbus, Ohio. It is designed to find all major fits, including all 5-3 or 3-5 fits, always with Opener declaring, and sometimes with enhanced ability to show super-acceptances.

3C asks Opener about the majors. If Opener has 4-4, he bids 3NT. With five spades, 3S. With 4-5 hearts (and not 4 spades), 3H; this allows Responder to bid 3S to ask if the hearts were 4 (3NT) or 5 (above 3NT, super-acceptances enabled). With 2-3 hearts and 2-4 spades, Opener bids 3D; this allows 3S to ask about hearts (3NT=2, above=3 with super-acceptances enabled); it also allows 3H to ask about spades (3S=3, 3NT=2, higher=4 with super-acceptances enabled).

Opener will bid 3NT to show 4-4. To retain Opener as declarer, South African Transfers are used (4C=H, 4D=S). This is also a "flags" approach. Note that bidding two under allows Opener to bid the intermediate call to super-accept. Sure, that wrong-sides the contract, so the super-acceptance is reserved for very good super-acceptance situations.

In practice, then, Opener rebids 3NT, Responder flags spades (4D), and Opener has a clear super-acceptance situation (4H) if he had opened the weaker 2NT direct. He might even decide to super-accept after the 2C start, but that may have done the trick.

No guessing, no gambling. Straight-forward.

Shanghai Deal #13

Another interesting system hand for me from the Bermuda Bowl Finals.

Opener: x-AJ10x-AQxx-Axxx
Responder: AJ9xxxx-Kx-void-KQJx

I like to open 1D as an unbalanced opening, meaning 6+ diamonds, or 4+ if also holding a stiff or void on the side. After almost 20 years playing this way, I believe that the benefits in the 1D sequences outweighs some of the possible ambiguities of 1C sequences. Actually, the ambiguities of 1C sequences often helps, in creating more difficult lead problems for the opponents.

So, Opener starts 1D. As the diamonds are 4-card in length, Opener must have a stiff or void.

Responder has an easy response. He knows that this is Opener's stiff, most likely. Still, 1S.

Opener can now rebid 1NT. Unlike in standard, where we are loath to rebid 1NT with a stiff in partner's suit, 1NT here promises a stiff in partner's suit, easing the pain. Liability into an asset, and all that.

Responder now bids 2D, GF and artificial.

Opener shows the heart suit by bidding 2H. Strangely, perhaps, for some, he also denies that his stiff spade is an honor. Opener actually would be able to rebid 2S, instead, if his stiff spade had been an honor.

Responder suggests clubs, 3C.

Opener agrees, as he has a maximum and primes. 3D (two of the top three honors).

Responder continues with 3H (one top heart honor).

Opener has already denied a spade honor, so 3S would not show one top spade. The only question is "stiff or void?" Lacking void, he bypasses that. He might think of bidding 3NT. His 3NT bid would seem to deny (1) ability to show two top clubs (4C), (2) ability to show a third top diamond (4D), and (3) enough info to start the Ace-asking sequence. It is the last meaning that is troubling. His hand so far is relatively under-described, and he has a great hand.

The solution is to reconsider that 3NT would be "non-serious" in implication. Thus, any call above 3NT is "serious." He may therefore make a Last Train bid. 4H seems right. This sounds like Last Train, because hearts is technically somewhat "in focus," such that 4S would be RKCB for diamonds. That would be my call if the partnership was very well tuned. If not, I suppose I'd bid 4C and hope that partner realized the pinch here -- no way to cue hearts.

Anyway, Responder will quickly, after asking for Aces, realize that Opener has x-Axxx-A(K/Q)xx-Axxx, and he can ask for the diamond situation if he wants.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shanghai Deal #12

You have to wonder sometimes. It is the Bermuda Bowl, finals. Best in the world.

Opener: AKJxx-J9xxx-void-QJx
Responder: x-Q10x-AQxx-AKxxx

The contracts? USA I tried 6C, down three tricks. Norway also tried 6C, but down five.

Are these people insane?

The auction for Norway seemed logical enough, at the start. Opener tried a 1S opening, very sane. Responder, appropriately, bid 2C. I like that. Opener introduced the hearts, 2H, a good second bid. Responder bid 2NT, which makes sense. Opener now bid 3C. So far, all of this seems rather normal.

Responder now bid 3D. This might have been misunderstood, but I'm not sure how. Maybe Opener thought that this was a waiting bid? Anyway, Opener rebid the hearts, perhaps taken as a cuebid? The follow-up of a 3S call by Responder with a stiff and a 4H call from Opener with Jxxxx boggles my mind. Responder, with this interesting start, leaped to the slam with no void in hand. Sick.

OK, what about USA I? The start through 3D was identical. However, this was doubled and redoubled. This redouble advertises an obvious void, I would imagine, when Responder is looking at the Ace. So far, this makes sense. Responder now shifts tactics to bid 3H, apparently taken as support (he did have support), as opposed to a cuebid.

Anyway, Opener could not stand this and raised hearts. Again, this might make sense. It depends on what 3D showed. West, liking his hand for relatively good reason, decided to ask for Aces. This is apparently an innovation that Norway has yet to pick up. So, Opener, looking at the greatest piece of junk he could have, contextually, having already shown the void in diamonds, leaped to 6C to restate that fact and force the slam. Who needs better than Jxxxx in hearts, anyway?

Quite embarrassing.

I'm not sure why 3D makes sense, personally. I would expect that a 3D call should agree clubs absolutely. If you want to keep hearts in focus, bid 3H.

But, if you are comfortable focusing clubs, fine. Bid 3D. If that happens, though, Opener must respect that and allow the contract to play in clubs unless we back out later.

This reminds me of the "problem" faced by many folks of the 1S-2H-2H-3S auction. Hearts are agreed, period. No switching back and forth, or you end up in 6C down three or five in front of a world audience.

Lesson #1 for cuebidding -- agree on parameters for when a suit is agreed, how you bail out in a major if a minor was agreed, and what calls mean when a minor is agreed. For me, the use of an out-of-focus RKCB (1430) for minors means that one of the majors may well be "in focus." Here, hearts will be "in focus." So, after the 3D call and lots of club-focused discussion, someone might show unexpected heart length and interest in a stop by bidding 4H, but a 3H call is unambiguously a cue.

I checked on the Venice decisions by the ladies. One team bid to 4H, a sane contract. The others made the very poor decision to defend 3D and let that make for a horrible result, but at least no bizarre 6C contracts by the ladies.

The Seniors split the ticket, USA opting for that club slam again.

So, If I do my math correctly, half of the world class field decided that 6C was a great contract to try on these hands. Not really -- rather, half of the world class field apparently cannot deal with this sequence. Anyone else have the willies???

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shanghai Deal #11

Neither USA 1 nor Norway, in the finals of the Bermuda Bowl, could find this slam, in an uncontested auction:

Opener: QJxx-Axxx-KQxx-x
Responder: AKx-KJ10x-A-Jxxxx

For me, this would be a fun one. I would have a great start with an unbalanced 1D opening, promising 6+ diamonds OR 4+ diamonds with a stiff or void somewhere.

Using Golady 2C, Responder bids 2C, showing any pattern without a 5-card major. As a bonus, he happens to have real clubs, in case that ever matters. It won't on this hand.

Opener bids one under his cheapest 4-card major, if he has one. So, 2D. Note that 4+ diamonds and 4 hearts means that Opener must have a stiff somewhere if the opening is unbalanced.

Responder, who has heart support, agrees hearts by bidding 2H, starting a cuebidding sequence.

Opener lacks a spade control, and he shows that by bypassing 2S; this also denies a stiff spade and, accordingly, shows that the stiff is in clubs. He lacks two top trumps, and he shows that by bidding 2NT.

Responder lacks the club Ace, so he bypasses 2C. He does have a spade control, however, so he can continue cuebidding, showing his control thereby. He has one of the top three diamond honors, so he cuebids 3D.

This lets Opener know that his diamond suit is solid for three quicks. He also knows that Responder must have something in hearts, because his possession of at most one top heart is not fatal. Opener does have one top trump, so he cuebids 3H, showing that.

Opener has already shown the stiff club, has already denied the possession of two top trumps, and has already denied a spade control. His cue of 3H shows that he has the best holding he can have in hearts at this point, one of the top three honors. Because Responder's 3D cuebid did not deny any holding that would be required for slam, 4H by Opener could not be a signoff and therefore must be a Picture Jump. The only meaning for a Picture Jump in the context would be the Picture Splinter in clubs. Thus, the election to cuebid 3H instead of jumping to 4H denies either holding three of the top four diamonds unless Opener has a club void.

Responder can cue 3S, showing that his spade control is first-round.

Opener has shown the club stiff, one top heart, no spade control, and nothing about diamonds. His spades are as good as they could possibly be in context. His hearts are already known. His diamond quality is as good as it could be, at least at the top, and his club control is shown.

Opener, therefore, has two options to consider. He might cuebid 4D. This would deny serious interest (because he bypassed 3NT) but would show, ultimately, two top diamonds (and complete the three-top-diamonds partnership picture for partner), a club stiff rather than a void and not the stiff Ace (he inferred the stiff already and could not re-cue 4C), and the one top heart with which he started. The denial of a void club or the stiff Ace of clubs would also deny the diamond Jack, inferentially.

Or, he could look at the spade situation and decide that 3NT better tells his tale. The problem with a 3NT call is that it sounds like a stiff club Ace or a club void PLUS semi-solid diamonds. Serious 3NT calls often suggest touching-suit messages, and this situation seems to scream of that.

Further, think through what Responder will know. Opener's hand will be known to be as follows:


Responder will surely visualize the spade Queen as extremely odds on. That card makes the five-level relatively safe. Technically, the hearts could be Qxxx, but that would be rather poor luck, a hand like QJxx-Qxxx-KQxx-K, perhaps. With that hand, partner might have opted to show a balanced hand by opening 1C.

Responder could ask for Aces, and he could even consider an uncertain 4S call, but I like a straight-forward 5H. He needs something more. This seems to focus spades, and QJxx looks like the right holding to move.

Not an easy one. But, a very fun hand for my methods.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shanghai Deal #10

A very fascinating hand came up in the last round of the semi-finals between USA 1 and South Africa.

Opener: KJx-AK10xx-AK-A10x
Responder: Axxx-x-Qxxx-Kxxx

Opener has a roughly balanced hand (especially is using Puppet Stayman) with at least 22 HCP's in strength. However, I think it is stronger. Using a tool I learned for re-evaluating the strength of Aces, I multiply 3.33 by the number of controls (A=2, K=1) to get a result. Here, that result is 30. I subtract the actual HCP's from that number (30-22=8). If that value is positive, I will adjust up; negative, I adjust down. The up/down is +1 for a 2-5 sum, +2 for a 6-8 sum, or +3 for a 9+ sum. This would give me a +2 adjustment up, for a 24-count. I'm OK with that because this hand features two working 10's and a very strong 5-card suit.

So, my intention will be to open 2C and bid Kokish 2H to eventually show a balanced hand with 24+ HCP's (as adjusted).

Partner responds with the systemic 2D response, artificial and GF without a positive in a suit.

I start with Kokish, but partner surprises me by not bidding 2S. Partner is allowed to reject the relay with a 4441 hand, bidding his stiff, or 2NT with a stiff spade. The 2NT with a stiff spade call saves valuable space. In any event, he bids 3H, showing a stiff heart.

So much for this heart suit. I now have no fit. Had I held hearts with a second suit, it seems that I would agree that second suit by bidding it, establishing a GF below game (so we can cuebid, of course). If I held a sixth heart but no side suit, or a heart suit that fell apart opposite the stiff, I might bid 3NT. I also will bid 3NT with this type of hand.

Partner cannot stand it, however. He is looking at a nine-count. Surely he will invite slam, eh? Maybe a 4NT call?

I'm not all that certain where this one will end up, but it would be nice for Opener to know that his heart suit is not coming in. Maybe we end up in the 5NT or 6NT contract that USA 1 and South Africa tried and failed. Maybe we stop. That's that damned judgment popping back in. But, I think I like my chances better after this sequence than after either of their sequences.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shanghai Deal #9

It Could Have Cost the Match

In the amazing defeat of the Italian team by South Africa, South Africa danced with the Devil on one deal.

Opener held Kxx-AQJxx-KQx-xx
Responder held AQJ10xx-109-AJx-xx

Obviously, 5S is a poor contract. If the heart finesse fails, 5S will likely be set, even on a passive diamond or spade lead. If the heart finesse works, 6S makes if the opponents do not find the club lead. If you are going to gamble, might as well blast. But, prudence is called for.

The South African auction:

2S-P-4S(mild slam try)-P-
5D-P-5S-all pass

This sequence not only landed South Africa at the five-level. It also directed the defense. Fortunately for South Africa, the heart finesse worked.

A better auction would be to use the "other major" as a slam try. Responder transfers, and then he bids 3H (three of the other major) as a slam try. When someone declines to cuebid clubs, a signoff results and all is well.

Another Type of Picture Jump

It just dawned upon me that a strange situation might develop in a Golady sequence to enable yet another type of Picture Jump.

You open a minor, and partner bids 2C. If the opening was 1D, 2C is artificial, GF, with no 5-card major. If a 1C opening, partner might have limit only with clubs, or GF, artificial, no 5-card major. In either event, you bid one under a major, and partner accepts.

Take the simplest auction for the point:


What if Opener jumps to 3NT? Normally, this would show Qxxx or worse in "my suit" (clubs), good trumps (HHxx), a good fragment in "your suit (what is that here?), and a stiff in the fourth suit. So, what is "your suit" when the call is artificial? This is especially obvious as a problem when the artificial suit happens to be clubs, "my suit" that I opened.

My idea here is for 3NT to show this pattern, with "your suit" being unknown. Responder can simply ask, and I show which "your suit" I had in mind. 4C is the asking bid.

Return to the example:

3NT(HHxx in spades, Qxxx or worse in clubs, HHx(x) in one of the suits, stiff in the fourth suit)

Responder then can bid 4C to ask for the good side fragment:

4D = good diamond fragment, stiff heart
4H = good heart fragment, stiff diamond

Yummy Toes follows.

If the opening were 1D, same principles. 2C was artificial, so there seems to be no reason to force 3NT to only show a good club fragment. 4C still asks, but:

4D = good club fragment, stiff heart
4H = good heart fragment, stiff club

If the agreed major is hearts, same principles. However, the 4H call now shows the spade fragment. Thus, after a 1D-P-2C start, hearts agreed, 3NT-P-4C, Opener bids:

4D = good club fragment, stiff spade
4H = good spade fragment, stiff club

If the opening were clubs, hearts agreed:

4D = good diamond fragment, stiff spade
4H = good spade fragment, stiff diamond

There may be similar parallels in other auctions, for natural systems or for other systems.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Shanghai Deal #8

Those Damned Preempts!

Dealer starts with an obvious 1C opening with his xxxx-AKx-x-KQ10xx.

Responder, with AKJx-Qxxx-Kx-AJx, has quite a fine collection. Spurning traditional methods, where establishing the GF is a slow and laborious process, Responder is happily playing Golady, such that he can bid an artificial 2C, showing either any GF hand with no 5-card major OR club support and invitational.

Opener is not impressed with his own spades, but the transfer rebid must still be made. 2H.

Responder, on the other hand, likes that a lot. He can set the GF immediately, establish trumps, and keep the two-level still open. 2S.

Opener, of course, next bids 2NT, denying two top trumps. But, Responder knew that already.

Responder can show trumps sufficient to have hope opposite Hxxx or worse and one of the top three club honors. 3C.

Opener does find that interesting. His spades are still quite lousy, but this club development looks quite nice. In any event, the clear next call is 3D. A splinter would be wrong, as he uses Picture Splinters. In this case, that would show a completed club picture, which he has. However, it would also show Hxxx in trumps and would deny a heart control. Wrong on two fronts. 3D works, though.

Responder lacks a heart control, but his spade are two of the top three. He denies the heart control by bypassing 3H, and he shows two top spades by cuebidding 3S.

Back to Opener. His spades are REALLY lousy. But, his overall hand is quite nice, actually. Not quite enough for a serious 3NT, he thinks. 4C works well -- non-serious, with the remaining two top clubs and the implied heart control.

Responder has the serious hand. With a diamond control, he might as well check first as to whether Opener's heart control is first-round. 4D, a showing bid, gives Opener room to clarify.

Opener, in fact, has first-round heart control. Because Opener did not show the serious interest, his 4H call is not Last Train, but rather it is real -- first-round heart control. Of course, Opener could have predicted this auction, which is why he chose to describe rather than ask.

Responder now visualizes a worst-case scenario of xxxx-Axx-x-KQxxx or xxxx-Axx-Axx-KQx. The former seems a tad light on HCP's, so there would likely be an additional major key card somewhere, whether the spade Queen or the heart King.

Opposite the former, then, Responder expects five clubs, four spades, one heart, and a diamond ruff, at a minimum. Strangely, he wants the missing major card to be the heart King, obviously. That makes the hand turn on a spade hook, which seems a fair bet. We might even avoid a diamond loser if the lead is something else. A nice call might be 5H, RKCB in a sense, but Opener looking at the heart suit for the King (and Queen) instead of the spade suit. If Opener hold just the heart Ace, his answer (thankfully playing 1430 here) will be 5S, which can be passed. If Opener has both Ace and King, the "two without" answer of 6C will not be too high. 5H cannot be Exclusion RKCB because Responder previously denied a heart control (and hence cannot be void there).

But, what about opposite the alternative worst-case hand of xxxx-Axx-Axx-KQx? Three clubs, two diamonds, a heart, four spades (if the spade hook works), and a diamond ruff (if spades split 3-3), for only 11 tricks. The 11th trick is clearly in jeopardy, as well, such that the five-level is not all that safe. Plus, if Responder bids that neat 5H call from earlier, the answer will be too high.


Back way up. Opener held a very strong hand at the point when he elected to bypass 3NT and deny serious interest. That election should suggest the flat hand, not the 4315 hand. So, if the auction were to end up at this point, a trusting Responder will have given up.

Opener, with the actual hand, really should show serious interest, despite the cruddy spades. After his 3NT, Responder will cue 4D, showing a diamond control and denying (obviously) any second top club honor. This allows Opener to bid 4H as Last Train, which should now induce Responder to safely make that nice 5H call discussed earlier.

Beautiful teamwork in the bidding, eh?

Damn shame. Could not happen. Opener's LHO held seven diamonds to the AQJ and ruined the potential fun. Nasty Preempts!

Shanghai Deal #7

Flowers Sent with Empathy

Three passes. You hold AJx-x-AK109-Axxxx and open 1C (standard). Dealer intervenes with a 1H overcall, and partner jumps to 2S, a Flower Bid, showing good club support (at least Qxxx), five spades, shortness somewhere, and some general values.

You expect a classic hand to look like KQxxx-xxx-x-H(H)xx.

This sure looks like a potential slam hand. You agree on spades as trumps by bidding 3H (artificial, agreeing spades), asking for the shortness and whether partner has a control in the fourth suit. Partner shows a stiff diamond without a heart control (4D). Now what?

Your obvious call seems to be 4H, Last Train. If partner holds better-than-expected clubs, he will accept, and you will probably declare, and make, 6C. As it is, his hand is KQxxx-xxx-x-Qxxx, and he resigns to the 4S contract that is played almost everywhere.

In the match between Australia and USA I, Australia seems to have used a fit-showing Flower Bid of 2S, as described, but Opener jumped to 4S. Unless they systemically have agreed that this call is weaker than in my methods or that 2S simply shows spades and not a side club fit, 4S seems uninspiring, but lucky.

USA I reached the poor slam with a strange auction. The three passes and first two calls were the same. Responder, however, doubled 1H, whatever that means. Advancer then jumped to 3H, inducing a double from Opener (support?). Responder next bid 4H.

This 4H call is curious, as it looks like an Empathetic Splinter, a call that would make sense in this sequence with this hand. Opener, uncertain about the overall strength, bid 4NT, apparently asking for Aces. Responder leaped to 6C.

I'm not sure what precisely was going on for USA I. Whatever was occurring, it seems that one of the two overbid the hand. I am leaning toward a guess that Responder overbid, as the leap to an Aceless 6C, with the mere club Queen, seems a bit rich. If 4H was, indeed, a slam try, and perhaps even an Empathetic Splinter, the tale has been told, and quite loudly. I wish that I knew what was actually occurring.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Shanghai Hand #6

Intriguingly Familiar Start

Argentina reached a nice slam using an auction that looks familiar to me.

Opener Palazzo held Axxx-AKxx-K-KJ10x and opened 1C.

Responder Lambardi held Kx-J10-xxxx-AQxxx and responded 2C.

So far, fairly normal stuff. However, things got interesting, as Opener's next call was 2D! Those who use Golady, however, will find this auction fairly normal. Responder showed any GF hand with no 5-card major OR invitational with clubs (check). Opener then bid one under his cheapest four-card major, hearts. I'm not sure what Argentina was playing, here, but it happens to be identical to how I would bid this thing.

LHO decided to intervene by doubling the diamond call. Nothing like advertising the value of the opponent's stiff, eh? So, Responder clarified his hand with a 3C invitational call.

Opener, undoubtedly sensing from the friendly double that 3NT was a bad idea AND that the stiff might be quite useful for a club contract, next bid 3D. Maybe this was a cuebid, or maybe this was asking for stopper help for 3NT. Either way, Responder has a clear 3S call. He lacks the diamond stop, but he does have a spade control.

South's next call of 6C seems a bit premature, but maybe Opener predicted a problem in their techniques. I see one also, frankly. 4H might be construed as not the bid of an "out of focus major," as the rejection of 3NT might suggest a Moysian 4H. If 4S is the clear RKCB call, an answer of 4NT or 5C (1430 or regular) will not allow a Queen-ask anyway. So, perhaps Opener trusted Responder to not cooperate with a 3S cuebid unless he held good trumps, which makes a lot of sense.

South could continue cuebidding, instead. After 3S, Opener could bypass 4C to show poor top trumps. 4D sounds like LTTC, which might make sense, but perhaps that would be misconstrued as a true cue (first-round control) if the heart ambiguity problem is not resolved.

In retrospect, I think that 6C is the practical call. Responder should also have been on a wavelength of this sort and should have realized the possible ambiguity problems himself. The 3S cue sounds like more than simply a spade control. As a limited, invitational-only hand, this is a whopper. (Note the "empathetic splinter" nature of the hand, as well.)

Well done, Argentina.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Shanghai Deal #5

Live by Your Convictions

You are dealt Kxx-AJx-AKxxx-Ax. Your opening bid?

I think, as did USA II, that this qualifies as a strong 2NT opening. Eight controls, plus a very good five-card diamond suit, certainly suggests an adjustment upwards.

Partner, with Axx-Kxxxx-Q-J10xx, certainly has a strange hand. Stiff Queens are difficult to evaluate. 5-4 hands do have play possibilities. However, the practical sequence seems to be to transfer to hearts (3D) and hope for a super-acceptance. If not, bid 3NT and hope that partner, if he has the golden hand, takes action.

That was the start:


Once deciding that this hand is strong enough for a 2NT opening, why back off now? Your strong control count has not changed. If anything, your hand now has a technical distribution point (Ax in clubs), and you have a trick source. I would consider this about as strong as one could imagine for this sequence, as you would evaluate up a stronger HCP hand and open 2C (or a Precision 1C, if that is your approach).

Suppose that Opener uses my technique of "de-nebulizing" a balanced opening when super-accepting. Opener has a clear 4D call, showing two of the top three diamonds and a three-card heart super-acceptance.

How interesting for Responder. His stiff Queen now can easily be evaluated. It fills in the diamonds. Even if Opener only has three diamonds, Responder can play well opposite xxx in spades for no spade losers. This certainly will re-interest Responder in slam prospects.

Do you really want to hand 13 IMPs to the opposition?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Shanghai Deal #4

Opener: KQx-10xx-xx-KQxxx
Responder: xx-x-AKQJxxxx-Ax

One pair bid this hand to 6D.

I cannot really explain why they bid this to 6D, as I'm not really sure what the first six alerted bids meant. I'm fairly certain that something went horribly wrong.

And, I don't really have any suggestions on how to better bid this hand using good cuebidding techniques. An uncontested bidding sequence to a slam off two Aces, with no voids, speaks for itself, I'd imagine.

I just posted this hand to remind myself that competing for many long days against the best players from your country, ending up at the top of that group, and earning a trip to Shanghai does not mean that you are incapable of causing folks to scratch their heads and wonder about your sanity.

There's hope for the rest of us.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Shanghai Deal #3

Opener: x-AKxx-Kxxx-AJxx
Responder: K10xx-Qxxx-AQ-Kxx

In the Brazil-Sweden match, 11 IMP's were gained by Brazil for finding this slam. The Brazilian auction was not entirely convincing to me, personally, but success is success.

My auction:

1D-P-2C(GF artificial)-P-
2D(hearts)-P-2H(agrees hearts)-P-
2S(A/K/stiff/void)-P-2NT(not two top trumps)-P-
3H(two top hearts)-P-3S(A/K/stiff/void)-P-

At this point, to recap:

Opener has shown two top hearts, plus control of spades and clubs.
Responder has shown a top diamond plus a spade control.

No one has been able to make a Picture Jump.

Opener, however, has a monster opposite a GF. He clearly seems strong enough to make a serious move. The continuation:

3NT(serious)-P-4C(club control)-P-

With each side having control of each suit, Opener very strongly considers slam an option. However, he really doesn't have enough information himself. Plus, both partners know all that has been claimed so far; Opener need not take unilateral action because of what is known. Opener does know that he needs the heart Queen and more help in diamonds. So, a 4D LTTC call should work.

Responder, with both critical unknowns in the reds, must move. Because the heart situation is known by Responder, but not diamonds, 5D as Exclusion not being possible, Responder bids 5D asking for "key cards," the key cards being Aces and the missing diamond King.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Shanghai Deal #2

Another deal from Shanghai:

Opener: AK10xx-x-AKQxx-Kx
Responder: QJx-AQx-Jx-AQxxx

The auction for me:

3C(good trumps, club honor)-P-3H(heart control, no diamond A/K/Q)-P-
3NT(Serious Interest)-P-4C(two top clubs)-P-
4NT(1430 RKCB)-P-5S(two with Queen)-P-
5NT(King ask/grand try)-P-7S-P-

Shanghai Hand #1

Round Robins, Shanghai.

Opener: AKQJ9-x-Kx-KQJ109
Responder: xxx-x-A109x-Axxxx

Compare the three auctions -- the two that occurred and the one using my methods:

Indonesia: 1S-2S-3C-3D-3H-4C-4H-6C. Not bad. I'm not exactly sure what the inferences were, but the write-up in the Shanghai Daily Bulletin suggests that Responder used good judgment.

Brazil: 1S-2S-3C-4C-4S. I have no idea why anyone would sign off without a stab with that Opening hand and a club raise, whatever that means.

My techniques are a tad better.

First, Responder has the option of bidding 3NT to show four clubs and 2-3 cover cards. 4C, instead, would show five clubs and 2-3 cover cards. You cannot miss the slam after that sequence, and you are even checking on a grand.

Second, had Responder only held four clubs, this slam would have been easily bid when Responder accepts by bidding 3NT. Opener could then, if desired, bid 4C to agree clubs for slam purposes and asking for the control count (4S = minimum; 6C = maximum; cue new side King; splinter; etc.).

If using the constructive raise version, the auction is slightly different. As Responder does not have 3-4 cover cards, he cannot bid 3NT. However, the 4-level raise in this version shows an unbalanced 2-cover raise with shortness somewhere. In that approach, 4C is the call. Opener will again have no problem finding this slam.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Superaccepting a Relay

There are many opportunities to make a "super acceptance" when you do not know what you are super-accepting, in a manner of speaking. This might occur, for instance, if you make an unusual response to what normally would be considered a relay. A few examples, perhaps?
Consider the Kokish Relay. Partner opens 2C, strong, forcing, and artificial. You bid 2D, artificial, game forcing. Partner now bids 2H. Using Kokish, this is a relay to 2S, after which partner will either bid 2NT, showing any balanced hand with about 24+ HCP (and maybe only two hearts) or will bid something else, natural, confirming that the 2H call included a real heart suit. So, most people simply bid 2S and see what happens.

Why? Why not clarify holdings here, in a way that might be useful. My personal preference is to play splinters. So, if I do not bid 2S, I'll bid my short suit from a 4441 hand. Thus, for example, 2C-P-2D-P-2H!-P-?

2S = not 4441
3C = 4441
3D = 4414
3H = 4144
3S = 1444

These are tough hands to bid after a balanced 2NT call, so why not gain something here? For that matter, I also play that 2NT shows a 6-card, non-positive spade suit (preserve the lead-direction).

There are many other examples. Another favorite is after this sequence:

2NT(strong)-P-3S(relay to 3NT for a minor or minors slam try)-P-???

Responder is about to bid his minor of interest (4C or 4D), or his short major if holding both minors. Why not do something intelligent as Opener? A simple solution is for 4C to show extras for slam purposes, with great cards for the minors. This gains in many respects, including the ability of Responder to push slightly with a 3S call, planning to pass if Opener cannot bid anything other than 3NT.

You might also, after this 2NT-P-3S-P-? auction, use Empathetic Splinters, of course. Thus, 4H or 4S by Opener would show primed-out minor-oriented cards, with no wasted cards in the bid major. Same principle. If you know where partner is going, why sit back and wait?

Take the time to think through relay sequences, and decide with partner whether any offer chances for these types of "Relay Super Acceptances." You may find a lot of options for improving definition that were never recognized. Sometimes, maybe shoprtness-indicators are available. Sometimes you might use paradox super acceptances (bidding the suit that you would not super-accept, for instance). But, there are probably missed opportunities that you will find.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Look Inside the Book

Google Books now carries a look inside Cuebidding at Bridge, A Modern Approach, with portions of the book produced for review, if you are interested. The link is provided on the left under Links.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Unwinding the Queens

Problems keep popping up. The problems are rarely discussed. You mess it up, or flail about, and maybe forget about it. Maybe you discuss it, but only after the bad result. Most problems can be resolved, however.

Here's a case in point. You open 2C strong, forcing, artificial. Partner bids 2D, artificial, GF, with at least one King or two Queens. You bid 2S. Partner bids 4S, showing a dead minimum with no controls (no Aces or Kings, no stiffs or voids). So, he has two Queens. How do you unwind the Queens?

The answer seems to be to bid 4NT. This cannot be ace-asking, as partner has already told you the answer. Partner is expected to bid Queens up-the-line. If he bids 5H, you will know that he has the heart Queen and the spade Queen.

If partner bids 5D, you know that he has the diamond Queen and either the spade Queen or the heart Queen, but which is his second Queen? If you bid 5H Last Train, is he supposed to go with the heart Queen? How can that be more important than the trump Queen? If you needed the trump Queen, how would you ask for that without inducing acceptance because of the heart Queen? It seems that Opener would bid the slam if he needed both red Queens, so 5H seems to ask if Opener's second Queen was the trump Queen, not the heart Queen.

If partner bids 5C, you know that partner has the club Queen and some other Queen. You can unwind this as well. If the club Queen and diamond Queen would work, bid 5D. If partner hears 5D and has the minor Queens or clubs and trumps, he bids slam. If partner hears the 5D call but has the club and heart Queens, he bids 5H. If you need the club Queen and the heart Queen, but not the diamond Queen, you bid 5H. Partner accept with the club Queen and either the heart Queen or the trump Queen. If you need the club Queen and the trump Queen, but not the diamond Queen or the heart Queen you are stuck.

If you need a specific Queen and the trump Queen, you bid the specific Queen that you need.

If you need both red Queens (the two directly below trumps), you bid 5S. Partner should go with both of these Queens, or with one of them and the trump Queen.

This seems to cover all situations. Note that the trump Queen is always deemed useful.

Now, suppose hearts are trumps. You do the same thing, except that you start with 4S. 4NT by Responder shows the spade Queen. 4NT by you asks for specifically the spade and heart Queens. 5H asks for the two-below Queens (club and diamond).

This same unwind should work whenever partner, for some reason, is known to have precisely two scattered cards.

Again, the structure of the unwind:

5M = Bid slam if have a card in the suit immediately below this and a card in the suit two below this, or either one and the trump Queen
5new = Bid slam with this card and the missing trump card
4NT = Bid slam with the spade card and the heart card (hearts trumps)
4M+1 = Bid Queens up-the-line
4M+1, 5M-2, 5M-1 = bid slam if you had the 5M-2 Queen and the trump Queen
4M+1, 5M-3, 5M-2 = bid slam with this Queen or the trump Queen, or show the next one
4M+1, 5M-3, 5M-1 = bid slam with this Queen or the trump Queen

Friday, August 24, 2007

Major-Minor Slam Tries


This sequence formed a BBF question today. My thoughts:

If Responder has spades and diamonds, Opener will bid 3H with diamond support. With spade support, Opener can bid 4H with the Empathetic Splinter holding and a heart-shortness cater (no wasted values in hearts), 4C with the E.S. and a club-shortness cater, or 3S with other hands (followed by cues, Serious 3NT, and LTTC by the serious partner).

If Responder has spades and clubs, Opener can bid 3H as natural, or 3D with club support. Four-bids are the same, but obviously Opener's E.S. is in diamonds, not clubs.

If Responder has 5350/5341 pattern, he bids 3C Puppet, Opener bids 3H with no 4-card+ major (3NT shows five hearts, instead), and Responder bids 3S. This enables 3H to agree diamonds in the discussion above.

If Responder has hearts and clubs, Opener can bid 3D to show club support or 3S as natural. 4D is an E.S. agreeing hearts, catering to diamond shortness. With a spade-shortness E.S., the partnership makes a decision to either bid 4H (this increasing the number of hands where 3H must be bid) or 4C (increasing the number of hands where 3D must be bid). In this specific sequence, the low-level 3D is very appealing, so that I would make 4D the spade E.S.

If Responder has hearts and diamonds, this is the worst situation. The red suits strike again. Anyway, 3541/3550 is very difficult to handle with alternative methods. If you have a tool, like the one I have for the spade-longer variety, then great! I do not usually have that tool (unless I get people to play full "Batchelder Puppet," which I can explain if anyone wants that). So, I give up on spades as a contract and have 3S show diamond support.

This leaves 3H, 4C, 4D, and 4H for showing heart support. I'll use 4C as the club-shortness-catering E.S., for consistency, and 4D as the other-major E.S., again for consistency.

BTW, when four of Responder's minor is not conventional, this is different from the below-3NT support bid. This shows a very slammish hand.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


System decisions can have enormous impact upon follow-up auctions. Sometimes, these systemic decisions are extremely subtle but may be powerful. A case-in-point recently popped up in a problem auction.
You open a minor, Responder bids 1S, you respond 1NT (11-14 balanced, say), and partner bids 2D, the GF part of 2-way checkback. What do you rebid with four hearts and three spades?
Folks may have different opinions, of course. However, when electing a partnership style, it probably pays to think through the ramifications of various decisions. Consider the impact, for example, of a decision to always support if you have support (bidding 2S with three spades and four hearts). If you do this, then a failure to bid 2S denies three-card support, right? If you do not, then a 2H call may have 2-3 spades, right?
If 2H denies three spades, and if Opener will not bid 1NT with a stiff spade, then 1D-P-1S-P-1NT-P-2D-P-2H-P-2S is an auction where Responder shows six spades and Opener shows two spades. A spade fit is established. Cuebidding may begin. Without this agreement, 2S does not establish a spade fit, Opener must bid 3S (or jump) to show spade support, and an entire level of cuebidding is lost.
In my book, I describe this auction of Checkback 2D (GF) such that Responder may set the major that Opener shows by bidding 2NT, three of the major, four of the major (signoff), a jump, or a cuebid of the other major (at the three-level). What is not discussed is when Opener rebids 2H and Responder rebids 2S.
The way I play is that Opener's first duty is to support the major first bid by Responder. Failure to do so denies three-card support. Thus, after 1minor-P-1S-P-1NT-P-2D-P-2H, Opener has denied three spades.
Once this occurs, you could agree that 2S by Responder agrees hearts and is a cuebid. This would seem to require a direct 3S after 1NT as GF and setting spades. OR, one could play that 2S after 2D promises a sixth spade and establishes trumps. It is, obviously, a choice, but at least discuss this sequence. My personal choice is for the latter -- 2S shows a sixth spade.
The parallel auction is slightly different. After 1minor-P-1H-P-1NT-P-2D-P-2H, hearts are agreed, so 2S is an unambiguous cue. However, after 1minor-P-1NT-P-2D-P-2S, Responder may need to bid 3H as natural (setting trumps). This means that the other-major non-jump cue is not a cue, but natural, when Opener's rebid is in the other major. In other words, Responder cannot bid his own first-bid suit as a cue in support of Opener's rebid of the other major.
All of this turns on a nuance, namely the answer to the first question. With four of the "other major" and three in Responder's major, what is Opener's priority after 2D?
Oh, yeah. One more problem. You also may want to consider some kind of escape plan for the 5431 problem hands. As I play it, the rebid of the minor shows this hand in two sequences.
1minor-P-1major-P-2major-P-2NT-P-3minor shows that I had 3-card support with the side stiff and a rebid problem (4-card suit would have been a reverse).
The parallel here: 1minor-P-1S-P-1NT-P-2D-P-2H-P-2S(thinks he's setting spades as trumps)-P-3C(not so quickly -- I have the 1435/1453 problem hand!). This has two impacts. First, 3C negates the trumps-uit agreement that Responder thought he had established. Second, the bypass of the non-cuebid of 3C obviously does not deny two top club honors.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just a Quick Comparison

Years ago, I learned the Greek alphabet by accident, as I needed to know the Greek alphabet to understand Precision. Alpha Asking Bids, Beta Asking Bids, Gamma Asking Bids, blah-blah-blah. It all sounded very intriguing. But, it seems that I was always running out of space to ask the questions I needed to ask.

So, a deal popped up on BBF. Opener holds AKxx-Axx-x-AKxxx. Playing Precision, Opener starts 1C and is graced with an uncontested auction somehow. Responder bids 2D, a transfer positive (5+ hearts, 8+ HCP's), pretty standard modern Precision so far, right?

So, off to the asking bids:

2H (hearts are trumps -- how many controls?)
2NT (3)
3H (how good are your hearts?)
4C (HHxxx)
5C (how good are your clubs?)
5H ( third-round control)
6C (what kind of third-round control?)
6D (a doubleton)

No more space! And, not a single question about spades. Sure, Responder might have xxx-KQxxx-Axx-xx, were even slam is not assured, or QJxx-KQJxx-Ax-xx, where a grand is fairly impenetrable. This asking-bid approach seems flawed. I tried messing around with the choice of what first to ask, but the same end problem existed -- space vanishes.

So, let's try a simple cuebidding sequence after Opener sets trumps, when Responder has the golden hand:

1C (strong, forcing, artificial)
2D (positive with 5+ hearts, 8+ HCP)
2H (hearts are trumps)
3D (no spade control, no club control, two top hearts, diamond control)
3H (spade control, club control, at least one first-round black-suit control, the third top heart honor)
3S (third-round spade card -- the Queen)
3NT (serious interest)
4C (the club Queen)

Wow -- both or just one black queen can be shown here, below game! Further, there is plenty of space for showing black-suit jacks, both of them, below 5H.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Nice Little Nugget

A nice little nugget that I learned initially from a friend and partner, Kenny Eichenbaum:

"A minimum signoff says that your answer to RKCB would be worse than Two-with-the-Queen."

This is a relatively simple rule to use, and it may be of interest to many. A simple example might be a Jacoby 2NT call, Opener jumping to 4H to show a minimum. But, what precisely is a "minimum?"

A hand where you have "Two-without-the-Queen" might not be a minimum, of course. You might have serious extras in the form of Kings and Queens in side suit, or great shape, or both. However, the definition, if you will, of a "minimum" is "a weak hand, but not two with the Queen or three+ key cards."

This is a helpful guideline in many sequences. A recent BBO forum question shows the value. Responder, after partner opened One Heart, held KQxx-xxx-KQx-AKx. Some bidding styles involved Opener jumping to 4H to show "a minimum." But, what "minimum?" Would AJx-AKJxx-xxx-xx be a minimum? That's only 13 HCP's, but slam is really close. How about Axx-AKQxx-xx-xxx? That's 13 also, and slam looks even better.

In the actual situation, many Responders decided to bid 4NT, ending at 5S when Opener turned up not having one of the two missing side Aces and only holding KJxxx in trumps, making the five-level very precarious. Had this rule been in place, Responder would know that Opener's response was going to be 5H at best and would never have even asked the question.

In the actual situation presented on the BBO forum, my techniques would have made this rule unnecessary, as the heart problem and lack of a spade Ace would have been revealed through a normal cuebidding sequence. However, this rule does have a place, such as when Opener is balanced and hears a Jacoby 2NT call from Responder, or when a major is agreed after a complicated or contested sequence.

BTW, Kenny is apparently in the process of re-writing "Bridge Without a Partner." The original version took some heat for a number of reasons, but the stories were incredibly hilarious and all real. His goal this time, among other things and in addition to including some new tales, is to have a kinder, gentler treatment of the intriguing "partner." I look forward to this new version, for a good laugh at ourselves.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Inference from Redundancy, Part IV(C)

What kind of hand is best for a Jacoby 2NT call, rather than cuebidding, considering the Response Structure to Jacoby 2NT and the possible problems with a cuebidding sequence?

The "ideal hand" seems to be a balanced hand with "primes," with "primes" defined as Aces and internal suit honors (A-K-Q of trumps). These are hands that often need pattern from Opener (coverage of xxx on the side, for example), and Quantitative Bash is OK when Responder has all suits controlled. Thus, consider Kxxx-Axx-Axx-Axx or AQxx-Axx-Axx-xxx. In either situation, Jacoby 2NT would work wonders.

You don't always have primes, though. What factors might lead to use of a Jacoby 2NT sequence instead of a cuebidding sequence?

On factor might be slow values in the other major. Hands with KQxx, for example, in the other major are difficult. You often cannot bid or do not want to bid that major as your first call, which will result in a cue from partner biding "Ace or Shortness," which is not really that helpful. This is a problem situation, with Jacoby 2NT often being the best course.

Another factor might be a troubling minor-suit option. With, for instance, Axx/xxx in the minors, bidding one, planning to support Opener's major at your second call, will induce a cue from partner that might be the King, or Ace opposite xxx, but it might also be the Queen. That does not help much. Similarly, with Qxx in a minor, you might cause a problem because partner cannot cue a stiff here, what you may want to hear. Thus, with Ax+, xx+, or Qx+ in each minor, you might be better of with a Jacoby 2NT start.

So, a Jacoby 2NT start seems best when Responder has one of the following hand types (always balanced or semi-balanced, it seems):

Primes and a space
Primes plus slow values in the other major
Primes plus minors that are each Ax+, Qx+, or xx+
Primes plus any two
Primes plus all three

The idea, however, is to think through likely auctions and plan accordingly. If you have a desire to describe your hand, then one course might be best, as opposed to a desired to ask what partner has.

Consider holding AKxx-xxxx-Qx-Axx or AKxx-xxxx-Ax-Qxx, after partner opens One Spade. These seem very similar, but they are not. Consider likely auctions.

On the first, suppose that you bid Two Clubs, planning to raise spades at the next opportunity. It would be tremendous if partner could bid Two Diamonds, right? Now, you can bid Two Spades, setting trumps. Partner will clearly bid 2NT (poor trumps), and you can cue your diamond Queen by bidding Three Diamonds, bypassing Three Clubs to also deny two top clubs. When it matters, partner will cue Three Hearts, and you can cue Three Spades to show two top spades. When it matters, partner will cue Three No Trump, Serious, and you can complete your picture by showing the club control (Four Clubs). Excellent auction. The auction is similarly easy if Opener rebids Two Hearts instead, or Two Spades, or whatever.

On the second, life is more difficult after Two Clubs. The auction is identical up to a point, but you cannot cue Four Clubs. You gain nothing by starting with a cuebidding sequence. Plus, any call by Opener that bypasses your ability to set trumps at the two-level will deny any ability for you to clarify whether you do or do not have a club control. Partner may bid too much thinking that you must have the Ace or King for your initial call. Jacoby 2NT might be better.

So, although the hand types described for good Jacoby 2NT considerations are rough guides, it still seems that planning, meaning auction prediction, is key.