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.