Friday, December 19, 2008

Quantitative DIamond Raise

BBF is a great forum. The talent there is quickly obvious, and it is a great place to bounce ideas out there. One recent discussion convinced me of the merits of a new idea.

The concept is simple. We are all familiar with a 5♥ or 5♠ call as a "quantitative" raise of the major, asking about trump quality, whether we use it much or not. The diamond suit, however, does not allow us to make that call, because 5♦ is game.

However, what if 5♣, in a diamond-focused sequence, served the function of the "quantitative" raise? I mean, if the alternative is Exclusion, that's lousy, rare, and possibly meaningless anyway.

An example. You hold AK-AK-AK in clubs-heart-spades, with a stiff diamond. Add in a Queen for good measure. Partner opens 2♦, weak. What now? If partner an play diamonds for one loser, you can count 12 tricks. However, nothing will really allow you to find out exactly how good partner's diamond are.

So, you bid 2NT, which you play as Ogust. Fine. Partner shows a good suit but bad hand, the latter being obvious. But, what is a "good suit?" If partner needs two of the top three honors and three of the top five honors, he could have KQ10xxx, and that's not good enough. With the new tool, however, you can bid 5♣ to show slam interest, with a small stiff in diamonds. If partner has KQ10xxx, he signs off. With KQJxxx, he signs off. With KQJ10xx, or AQJ10xx, or AKJ10xx, however, he has an easy 6♦ call.

Suppose that your stiff is the Queen. If partner's response to Ogust is 3♣ (bad suit also), then he could still have what you need. Now, however, 5♣ should show a stiff honor (because you are not allowed to be an idiot, by agreement). If partner has something like AJ10xxx or KJ10xxx, he can probably play this for one loser, and he accordingly bids the slam.

This same approach would work after a 3♦ or 4♦ opening, as well as others.

I'm not sure that there is an easy solution for when the focus suit is clubs. But, the diamond solution is so friggin' easy and obvious. A 5♣ call is so obviously strange looking at the table that it would be hard to forget. I cannot imagine 2♦-P-2NT-P-3♣-P-5♣ not triggering partner's mind to think hard.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Warning!!!

1♠-2♥-3♥-3♠-3NT-4♣-? (opponents passing throughout)

Opener has agreed hearts. Responder cues spades, yielding a serious 3NT from Opener. Responder now cues 4♣. What is the difference between Opener bidding 4♦ and 4♥?

On the one hand, you could interpret things along these lines. Opener's 4♦ sounds like a cuebid. If he needed a diamond control, he would not cuebid 4♦. Hence, 4♥ essentially asks for a diamond control. 4♦, in contrast, is a sort of "Last Train" bid but definitely shows a diamond control, seeking generally "more stuff."

On the other hand, you could interpret things another way. Opener's 4♦ sounds like and should be "Last Train." When control of a suit has not been showed yet, Last Train implies a lack of that missing-suit control. Hence, 4♦ "asks" for a diamond control. By process of elimination, then, 4♥ becomes a "general stuff" invite, showing a diamond control. The bypass of what is essentially an "asking" bid, or a "denial" cue, shows that which would otherwise be requested/denied.

The risk is that you interpret this auction under the first reasonable approach but partner interprets this auction under the second reasonable approach. Better to agree.

Personally, I see little merit to going one way or the other. I see a small technical advantage to the second line, in that I might want to "ask" about a diamond control even if I have one, and only the 4♦ as asking approach allows that. I also, for perhaps strange reasons, feel that the second theoretically is more consistent, not with cuebidding generally but with Last Train theory specifically. Hence, I lean toward option two. But, reasonable minds can differ.

Again, this is probably a very good discussion point. Save yourself from having a silly argument when it comes up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Relay/Cue Idea

An auction got me thinking.

Your partner opens 1♥ and you bid 2♣, game-forcing. Partner rebids 2♥, and you bid 2NT. Partner repeats 3♥.

At this point, the contract will either be a notrump strain or a heart strain, right? So, any call except 3NT would be a cuebid in support of hearts. So far, so good.

However, what is partner's strength? This seems like a sequence where partner's strength is fairly unlimited. He might have a bare minimum opening. Or, he might have a powerhouse that is not right for an immediate 3♥ jump. This seems like a really good sequence for using Serious 3NT, but you just cannot do that.

Or, can you?

Suppose that you make a 3♠ call a relay to 3NT. If Responder wants to play in 3NT (or would have bid 3NT in this auction as "to play"), he bids 3♠, expecting that Opener will bid 3NT. If that was his intended contract, that's where we end up. Note that this relay would not risk a lead-directing double, because the person making the double would be on lead.

Using that approach, 3NT by Responder would instead be a cue of spades.

What this gains is that Responder can now relay to 3NT and then cue a minor if he has mere "cooperative" values. 3NT, 4♣, or 4♦ directly would be serious cues (3NT as a serious spade cue). With mere cooperative values any no minor control, Responder relays and then bids 4♥.

What if Opener rejects the relay? If Opener would not have passed 3NT, then he bids whatever he would have bid instead of 3NT. However, he should probably stretch to make a cue in support of himself if he would have bid 4♥, in case all was well in the world.

This same idea might work whenever hearts is agreed or is the sole focus suit and where the person bidding 3♠ over a trump-setting or focus-setting 3♥ call will be the declarer if the contract will be 3NT.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flexible Inversion?

I have occasionally been asked if there is merit to inverting the meaning of a 3♠ cuebid and a serious 3NT call when hearts are trumps. I have thought this through a bit more and have a thought to share on this topic.

If hearts are set as trumps, after a natural spade call, then I believe that cuebidding spades naturally at the normal, "cheap" level of 3♠ is more important than the serious cue, largely because the existence of that spade cue is critical to partner deciding how serious he is.

As an easy example, consider a very basic auction. 1♠-P-2♥-P-3♥-P-3♠. If 3♠ is just a spade cue, then Opener can better decide how serious he is by reference to his spade holding. If 3♠ is "serious," then Responder is deciding how serious he is without reference to whether Responder does or does not have a spade card. It seems to me that the better course is for Responder to first tell that critical fact before the partnership decides seriousness.

Another example. 1♥-P-2minor-P-2♠-P-3♥. Here, again, it seems that Opener should define his spade suit quality as his primary function at this point, with Responder then showing seriousness in light of that fact. Arguably, however, this might be different, where Opener might want to show serious interest with a 3♠ call, to "get under" the ability for Responder to now cue the critical spade honor for him. I'm still undecided here.

So, perhaps the inversion should occur (if you like that idea) unless 3♠ is Responder's first chance to cue a spade suit opened by partner?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Three Diamonds as Stayman

A lot of people probably already know about the Muppet Stayman solution to Puppet Stayman's inability to handle Responder with 5♠/4♥. Opener bids 3♥ when he has no 4-card or five-card major (instead bidding 3NT with five hearts), to allow Responder to bid 3♠ with 5♠/4♥.

This same restructuring principle (3NT=hearts, 3♥=negative) can be used in other situations, to solve other, similar problems.

A classic problem example would be in formulating defenses to when your 1NT or 2NT opening faces a 3♦ intervention. Playing Responder's double as negative only goes so far. If you treat the double as "Stayman," and have Opener bid 3NT with four hearts, 3♠ with four spades, and 3♥ with no four-card major, then Responder can, again, better handle the hand with 5♠/4♥.

This same structure works if a strong 2♣ opener rebids 3♣. Responder can bid 3♦ as "Stayman," asking about the majors. If Opener does not have a four-card major, he bids 3♥ (3NT would show, again, four hearts), allowing Responder to better handle a hand with 5♠/4♥.

How about after 3♣ interference of a 1NT or 2NT opening. My usual defense is for a double to be Muppet Stayman, with transfers (3♠ showing diamonds). One could, however, decide that ditching transfers and an easy way to show diamonds allows a possible improvement of 3♦ as a modified (as discussed) Stayman bid "with a stopper," making the double of 3♣, Muppet, deny a stopper.

Another instance of this big principle might include the sequence 1♣-3♦-? If the double is negative, inversion of the 3♥/3NT meanings allows Responder to, again, better handle 5♠/4♥.

A more convoluted example carries this even further. Suppose that 2♣...3M shows a four-card major and longer diamonds (Belladonna?). There is still a problem when Opener has 4-3-6-0 or 4-3-5-1 shape if Responder has five hearts. The solution to that problem is to have Opener bid 3♦ with those problem shapes, reserving 3♠ for hands with four spades, five or more diamonds, and less than three hearts. When Opener does bid 3♦, this time Responder, if he is not about to raise diamonds, acts sort of like 3♦ was actually Muppet Stayman. If he has a 5-card major, he bid 3♠ (spades) or 3NT (hearts). If he does not, Responder bids 3♥, allowing Opener to now bid 3♠ if he has that 4-3-6-0 or 4-3-5-1 hand. Note the secondary benefit that Opener declares more of the 3NT contracts this way.

There may be many other instances where this may pay off. A very obscure one to consider is an inversion of 3♥ and 3NT as advances of a takeout double of a 3♦ opening. 3♥, in that situation, could grab onto and also include hands where Advancer might be struggling between a 3NT advance and a 4♣ advance. By putting these into 3♥, you allow Partner to, in a sense, make an insufficient bid of 3NT after your "4♣ call." If he wants you to tell him what you were thinking, he bids 3♠, and you end up at the same spot. The downside is that 3♥ is no longer a possible contract, but strain and not unnecessarily bypassing 3NT might be sufficient compensating benefits.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My 2001 Canape Book

Because of a number of requests for this, I have attached links to pdf's of my 2001 canape book. See links to the left of the main page.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mirror Auction

Opener: ♠AQxxx ♥KQx ♦xxx ♣Kx
Responder: ♠Kxxx ♥Axxx ♦x ♣Axxx

This set of hands was provided to me for analysis. I found something interesting here.

The auction with the opening bid as indicated in easy, whichever route you take.

Option #1: Opener starts with a 1NT opening. 14 HCP, five-card suit, three hearts - sure. Responder bids Stayman; Opener shows spades. Responder splinters; Opener accepts. Easy.

Option #2: Opener starts with a 1♠ opening and a 2/1 GF sequence commences. 1♠-2♣. At this point, I am a tad weird and like 2♦ by Opener. It works well when Responder can now bid 2♠. Opener bids 3♣ (two of the top three spades for bypassing 2NT, one of the top three clubs). Responder bypasses diamonds (none of the top three honors) to cue 3♥ (heart control). Opener cues 3NT (serious because tactical), allowing Responder to bid his stiff diamond (4♦), also denying two top clubs. That should be enough.

Option #3: Immediate or delayed splinter. 1♠-4♦, or my way (1♠-3♣ ,multi-purpose spade raise; 3♦ asking; 3♥ for undisclosed stiff; 3NT asking; 4♦).

The one "bad" auction would be 1♠-2♣; 2NT-3♠; 3NT(maximum for a minimum)-4♦; 4♥-??? This is why I really like the 2♦ call.

In any event, switch who opens now. This makes it a lot more difficult, unless you are empathetic.

1♣-1♠; 2♠-? Responder should visualize that a perfect minimum with a stiff diamond is possible and bid 3♣ as a cuebid of a club card to give Opener space to splinter. Opener should remember that 3♣ is not always just a game try and should now kick into slam try bidding (since he will accept), jumping to 4♦. A lot of people, however, will typically mess these auctions up.

In practice, no one facing these two hands found the slam. I'm not sure, in the real world, who opened. Heck, some people may have auctions where the long-spade hand opens after a pass from partner. That would create, I suppose, a third possible sequence:


Again, Opener should know his partner well enough to realize that a pass is possible with this partner. A fair finish:


Well, 25 HCP slams are a bit tough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Focus Clarifying Responses to RKCB?

A possible treatment to solve a possible problem sequence dawned on me. I'm not sure how to formulate rules to handle this, but I'll give an example.

Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that the sequence is something like:


Perhaps Opener made a "fake reverse" for some tactical reason and holds a spade fragment. From Opener's perspective, the trump fit is going to be spades, but from Responder's perspective hearts is agreed.

Suppose further that the partnership agreement is that a 3♠ call by Opener is best treated as a cuebid, with Opener free to correct any heart contract to spades later if appropriate. Thus, Opener could simply bid 4♠ now or later as a "focus correction."

As an example, the auction might be...

4♠, where 4♠ is treated as showing a contextual minimum and a spade fit (2♥ being thereby proven to have been manufactured).

Or, the auction might be...

3♠(cue)-4♦(cooperative cue)
4♠(focus clarifying, no club control)

Something like that.

These sequences seem to have some merit, from Opener's "I have a problem" perspective. Whereas your approach might not result in problems like this, it seems that sound bidding could feature such auction types with such problems in an intelligent, if minority, approach.

So, assuming that this type of (nonsense?) bidding appeals to you, there is nonetheless a problem -- what if Responder bids 4NT (RKCB) first?

One solution is for Opener to not bid this way unless his answer to RKCB would be 5♣ or 5♦ (and perhaps some also specific-kings limitations as well).

An alternative idea is for the partnership to have certain discussed sequence types where "focus clarifying responses to RKCB" are used.

Thus, assume the auction described above (1♦-1♠-2♥-3♥-3♠...) but where Responder now leaps to 4NT as RKCB. The "focus clarifying" responses (if agreed for a sequence like this -- where Opener makes a reverse into hearts after a spade response) would be:

5♣ = 0/3
5♦ = 1/4
5♥ = 2 without (hearts confirmed)
5♠ = 2 without (spades now agreed)
5NT = 2 with (trumps still in limbo)

Notice how Kickback by Responder would help in this specific situation.

A similar situation might occur after a jump shift to 3♣:

3♣-4♥(RKCB for clubs)

4♠ = 0/3
4NT = 1/4
5♣ = 2 without (clubs agreed)
5♦ = 2 without (diamonds refocused)
5♥ = 2 with (still unclarified position)

When precisely to use this tool (if ever) should obviously be discussed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Herbert Negatives -- The Easy Ones

Do you play Lebensohl?

Well, consider this one. Use a diamond advance to a passed double of a club opening as "Lebensohl," also called a "Herbert Negative."

How would this work?

Consider the simplest auction. LHO opens 1♣ and partner doubles.

This double might typically show a three-suited hand with opening strength, of course, but "three-suited" is VERY flexible. This is not remotely the Min-Roman 4-4-4-1 with a 5-4-4-0 exception. "Three-Suited" means, in practice, anything with three cards in each suit, although the "other minor" is suspect even to that degree, with possible lop-sided "equal level conversion" holdings, and maybe as strange-looking as 4-3-3-3 with four cards in Opener's suit. How about range? If you are three-suited, the range is something your partner will not shoot you for up to 40 minus whatever Opener has. But, the bid also might not resemble this definition if partner has the "almost a strong 2♣ opener," the "just about a 2NT opener," or the "ACOL-style two-bid opener" variations of the double. So, he has some amorphous interesting hand.

Back to the auction. RHO passes.

This sequence creates a silly problem. Responder might have a hand worthy of a cuebid or a jump. If not, however, his range is somewhere between about a 9-count down to a 0 count with a sick three-card least-of-all-evils suit.

Using the Herbert Negative 1♦ bid, however, we now have some structure:

1♦ = weak, bust, run for the hills
1♥ = heart suit, values (maybe 5-8 or so)
1♠ = spades, values
1NT = normal
2♣ = normal
2♦ = diamonds, with values

This way, partner knows a little more about your hand in the event that either (1) he has strength and wants to know how to proceed or (2) Opener has strength but partner wants to know how to compete.

How about after a Precision 2♣ (11-15 with clubs)?

Same principle. 2♦ is the bust hand, making 2M show "values." This allows mild game tries without leaving the comfort of the two-level.

How about 3♣-X-P? Same thing, with a 3♦ "lebensohl" or "Herbert Negative" bid. Advancer can now distinguish between "three-please-don't-double-hearts," "three-wanna-try-four hearts," and "four-really-mean-it- hearts." That's better than "three-ugly-or-promising-you-guess-hearts" and "four-maybe-you-have-my-bid-hearts."

What after the relay? After 1/2/3♦ as "Herbert," partner is expected to usually bid 1/2/3♥ to allow you to pass/correct at the right spot. This forces us up one level when the contract should be a low-level diamond contract, but that loss is met by many gains.

A tweak might be for an immediate jump to diamonds (e.g., 1♣-X-P-2♦) to be weak, such that the non-jump (e.g., 1♣-X-P-1♦) shows either a weak hand OR a hand with promise and diamonds. Or, you might treat an immediate 1NT as a positive with diamonds and a delayed 1NT (through 1♦) as a positive without a suit. There are some merits to these treatments -- I'll leave anyone interested to decide.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Super Stayman?

The more I think about this, the more I like it.

My wife, who is a new player, quickly learned one of the core principles of bridge early. Gerber sucks. She hates Gerber. "Gerber is stupid!" Such a natural...

So, we ditched Gerber quickly. But, what should 1NT-P-4♣ show, then? Can't leave a bid without a meaning, after all.

Well, she also has this strange other rule -- 4NT is always Blackwood. I can live with that, I suppose. Blackwood has been tested over time. RKCB is too, well, Roman. As a former Catholic School Girl, which is a plus in some ways, she is not that keen on things Roman. Whatever. So, Blackwood it is.

But, this left no simple 4NT-as-natural-and-invitational, or "quantitative." She even laughed at that term -- "Quantitative." It is really a silly word. Why are other invitational bids not called "Quantitative?" 1NT is "quantitative" for that matter.

In any event, we needed a "slam invitational" bid. Her solution was that 4♣ was "Super Stayman," of sorts. Maybe "Baron," buts she's much too young to remember that name, and, being from Cleveland, much too power-of-the-people to have any positive reflection of title on her card. So, "Super Stayman" works.

How, precisely, does "Super Stayman" work?

4♣ shows slam interest. If Opener lacks slam interest, he bids an immediate 4NT. If he has slam interest, he bids 4-card suits up-the-line. If Opener rebids a suit (1NT-4♣-4♥-4NT-5♥), he promises a five-card suit. If Opener jumps in a suit (1NT-4♣-5♦), he promises a six-card suit. Opener can bid 5♣ with a five-card club suit and slam interest, or 5NT with 3-3-3-4 and a maximum, or 6♣ with six clubs.

Responder can reciprocate by introduction of suits herself. However, 4NT by either side, after initially showing slam interest, after a 4-level call (4♦, 4♥, or 4♠) is Blackwood (although you may use RKCB if that does not offend you as much). Opener can also do this, if he already showed slam interest (e.g., 1NT-4♣-4♥-4♠-4NT).

This works nicely. Notice how this also erases the need for 1NT-P-5NT as "Super Quantitative." She plays that as pick-a-minor-slam, which works fine also.

I like it. I mean, after years of thinking through cuebidding and asking bids and TAB's/CAB's and the like, maybe a lot can be learned from a newbie's simple observation that "Gerber is stupid."

Maybe she should run for office. "Bailouts are stupid" might turn out to be a winning idea...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

More on Michaels

I thought this would be met as imminently logical, but...

It seems to me that the #1 invitational bump after a Michaels bid for the majors and simple preference to hearts (e.g., 1♣-2♣-P-2♥-P-?) should be 2♠. Here's why:

1. If partner has a 2-2 yarb, he can pass.
2. Advancer can bid 2NT, 3♣, or 3♦ as a "try back" bid.

The main objection was "but that shows 6♠/5♥." Why? I mean, sure, it sounds like longer spades, if not discussed. But, then if you must have that meaning (rather than just having someone bid 4♦ eventually as choice), then perhaps make 3♥, the expensive bid, show that.

This also allows Advancer, with that 2-2 yarb, to always bid 2♥, smelling the likely bump, but saving the two-level. Eight tricks might be the limit, or worse. I recently played 4♥ (which was an overbid) with that 2-2 yarb, -500 (I should have settled for -400 rather than taking the insane line), where 2♠ would be -200 and a fair result. Actually, 2♠ makes, apparently.

I have no idea why this was resisted. It seems obviously superior.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


After discussing general principles with a regular partner of mine, I realized something rather stupid.

My general rules had been that a leap to the five-level was Exclusion RKCB if I could be short in the suit but, if not, then RKCB for this suit. In other words, assume a cuebidding sequence where spades are trumps. 4NT would be RKCB for spades. Obvious. However, what is 5♣? In some situations, such as where I could be short in clubs, 5♣ would be defaulted as Exclusion RKCB. If, however, I am known to have length in that suit, then 5♣ would be RKCB, except that partner is expected to treat the King and Queen of clubs as the key cards and ignore his King and Queen of spades. This would typically make sense if, for example, we already know about the spade secondaries because of trump cues, or because I as the asker am looking at them.

My partner suggested another level to this general rule, one that made me say, "Duh!!!"

If partner has already denied, say, a club control, then what the heck would be the purpose of 5♣ as Exclusion RKCB? Similarly, if we have already shown all of the top three cards in clubs, or have denied these, then how can 5♣ be asking that question?

The rules should make more sense.

I still believe that the general defaults should apply. If, however, the normal default would make no sense, such as if the default would suggest Exclusion in a way where Exclusion would be stupid, and where RKCB in that suit would be illogical, then the bid should mean something different.

What precisely these should mean are worth considering.

It dawned upon me that one reasonable default is to look to the next suit up, using the "useful space" principle. Consider as an example a sequence where spades are agreed as trumps. Suppose that the normal defaults would suggest that 4NT is RKCB, 5♣ is RKCB (but answer club secondaries), 5♦ is Exclusion, and 5♥ is RKCB (but answer heart secondaries). If 5♣, however, would make no sense as RKCB for club secondaries (because Opener has denied the A/K/Q of clubs) or as Exclusion (for the same reason), then look one up. Bump the 5♦ meaning down on, to save space, such that 5♣ would be Exclusion now, but excluding diamonds. If that meaning also make no sense, bump down the meaning of 5♥ to make 5♣ be RKCB for the heart secondaries. If the 5♦ meaning is bumped down to 5♣, then the 5♦ call now would likewise grab hold and pull down the prior 5♥ meaning.

This might be a tad difficult, as then partner, if hearing a 5♥ call, would have to think through whether 5♦ or 5♣ would have made sense, and similarly you would have to assess the same thing before bidding the otherwise obvious 5♥. A safer technique might be to have an impossible ask (like 5♣) always flag the highest other option. How would this work?

Well, consider the example again. If 5♣ makes no sense under the existing defaults, then it shows the normal 5♥ meaning or, if that makes no sense either, the 5♦ meaning. This is safer for a few reasons. First, if you forget or do not realize that 5♣ would have worked, you bid your normal 5♥, risking only partner looking at you scornfully for forgetting that 5♣ would have worked just fine. If you bid 5♣, partner knows that this makes no sense and then knows to figure out what you really mean, according to the agreements. Plus, perhaps most importantly, the 5♦ call is unaffected, such that you do not have to think about the possible meanings for 5♣ as asker or answerer to a 5♦ call.

The second way is much safer. The first way technically seems to have more options, such as defining cleared bids at the top in new and creative ways.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Be Practical (Me?!?)

A discussion on BBF went unresolved, as each side took their view and stuck to it. For my part, I am firmly convinced, especially having run this by my regular partner and having read Fred Gitelman's agreement.

The situation, Part I:

Your partner opens 2♣, and you respond 2♦, played as waiting but GF. Partner rebids 3♦, presumably 6+ and very very strong.

What call would you make with something like ♠AJ10xx ♥x ♦xxx ♣Kxxx? (With a spade suit not good enough to make a positive response)

My view (shared by some in the debate) is that this calls for an immediate splinter (4♥) in support of diamonds. Sure, you might miss a spade fit. Sure, partner will not know that you have a trick source in spades. But, this is a critical situation to be practical. You have three controls, a stiff in hearts, and great diamond support. The question will be 6 or 7, not strain. With space at a premium, do not box yourself out of the ability to share incredibly good news.

Part II:

You, instead, have ♠QxxxxKQxJx ♣xxx, so you decide to show that spade suit, bidding 3♠. Partner bids 3NT. Now what?

At this point, the debate was between 4NT and 4♦. Obviously, with slammish values and a stiff diamond, 4NT is your call. Equally obvious is that 4♦ would be your call with three diamonds and, per force, a side doubleton. This hand is in the middle. Which way to go?

My view is that 4♦ is right. Partner is known to have a long diamond suit that lacks the Jack. Give him any number of possible diamond holdings, and he almost always will be primarily concerned about whether his suit will produce to maximum expectations. When partner is known to be huge, tell him what he needs to know. 4NT will sound like a stiff to him, which will assuredly be overly discouraging.

Also, when in doubt, opt the lower option -- you will have more space to explore options.

Part III:

So, you opt 4♦. What should happen next?

Presumably, partner will usually be able to cue 4♥. Let's assume that. What should Responder's calls mean?

IMO, 4♠ should show a spade control, not two top spades. This is a lopsided-strength sequence. Opener is not likely to be concerned about your spades to get to 12 tricks.

IMO, 4NT should (deny a spade control and) show poor trumps in this sequence. This would be a parallel to 3NT in a minor slam-probe.

IMO, 5♣ should (deny a spade control but show one of the top three diamonds and) show a club control.

Part IV:

So, you hear 4♥ and cue 4NT (no spade control, poor trump contribution). Opener cues 5♣? That should be last train, seeing if you have 5332 or 5233/5323.

You sign off.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Funny hand from tonight -- would have been easy

I am not providing the hands or the actual auction, because the bidding was silly and the result absurd. Suffice it to say that the opponents ended up in 6NT doubled, missing three Aces.

However, the problem was intriguing. I'll give the patterns:

Opener: 3154
Responder: 5503

Assuming that Opener is strong enough to open a strong forcing 2♣ (standard), how is this pattern resolved (also assuming that Responder's majors are too weak to positive)?

This is not all that difficult if 2♣ tends to deny a four-card spade suit and 2♦ shows a hand with four spades (strong), with my methods.

2♣-P-2♦(waiting, GF)-P-
3♦(natural, no 4-card major)-P-3♥(five hearts)-P-
3♠(no heart fit, three spades)-P-4♠(or cue if stronger)

Easy. (Opener would have bid 2♠ with four hearts and a longer minor or 1-4-4-4.)

The actual problem faced by my opponents was a 4♦ overcall of 2♣. Now what?!?!?

This also is rather simple:

4♠(spade fragment)-all pass

Now, maybe 4♥ is wrong, and maybe Opener should pass 4♥. But, you see the point. If Opener has four spades, he must be balanced, where he could pass 4♥. If he bids spades, then, he must have only three of them but unbalanced.

Neat, eh?

I liked 6NTX, though.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Interesting Discussion Hands

From a discussion on BBF:

Opener: ♠Axx ♥Ax ♦KQJx ♣KQJx
Responder: ♠KQxxx ♥xx ♦Axx ♣Axx

As you can see, agreeing spades, having Opener bid 4NT as RKCB, and getting "three" and then "with the Queen" makes bidding 7NT (13 top tricks if spades behave) easy. Add the spade Jack to Opener's hand if you want.

However, after a 2NT opening by Opener, this task is more difficult and resulted in the discussion.

My initial thought was that this is a good problem explaining why 3-card super-acceptances after a 2NT opening make sense, IMO. If Opener can set trumps immediately, such as with a 4♣ cue, Responder can reciprocate with a 4♦ cue and we are off, well-placed to bid this hand. The risk is in reaching 4♠ without much play, such as opposite trash on the outside and weaker spade honors. However, that risk seems somewhat worth taking, because of cramped space. After 1NT and a transfer, Responder might have options like three of the other major or a fake minor or a splinter to get things headed in the right direction. Nothing is available over 2NT below game if Opener does not super-accept.

An interesting alternative, or an additional tool if you will, was suggested by "pclayton" as from Meckwell, apparently per Walter Johnson, namely that a transfer followed by a five-level call by Responder is immediate RKCB answering. I assume that 3♥...5♣ would show a five-card spade suit with slam interest and 3 key cards, 5♦ then as a queen-ask, whereas 4♥...5♣ might be the same start but with six+ spades. Not sure. I'm also not sure precisely how Opener gets out at 5NT if that is right. Presumably 5NT is to play, whereas 6♣ might be the specific King ask.

This seems workable. It gives up on Exclusion, but that seems rare. Maybe Texas and then the five-level is Exclusion? Not sure what Meckwell does or what makes sense. I just found this idea interesting. I have used similar concepts myself in some sequences, and I have even found the usefulness of occasional calls that demand that partner ask. This seems like a good solution for a difficult problem.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A BBF problem with a solution

The more I see problem after problem crop up, the more I like my ideas for using 2♦ as a second strong opening.

An example hand, from BBF:

Opener: ♠KQJxAJxxAKQ10x ♣--
Responder: ♠AxxxQxxxxxKxx

The discussion was as to what should happen after an uncontested start of 1♦-P-1♠. One stand out option was a 4♣ preempt, which excites Responder little. Even if Responder does have interest, his only option seems to be a 4♥ last train call, showing general but insufficient interest without a diamond card. Maybe that works.

Fred G. suggested using a rebid of 4♣ not as a Walsh Fragment (roughly, a strong 6-4 game raise), but rather as a general, all-purpose super-power slam invite. I have no idea what that means, or what Responder should do about that.

My auction:

2♦ (Strong, artificial, forcing, with 4+ spades)
2NT (GF, with spade fit. Sets trumps. Promises better than a "minimum game raise.")
3♥ (Shows hearts and spades for cuebidding purposes. In other words, Opener wants to hear about spade and heart honors, whether Ace, King, or Queen)
3♠ (One of the top three spades; obviously the Ace)
3NT (Serious -- tactical, to get under 4♣)
4♣ (club control)
4♦ (club control not enough -- I have a diamond control)
4♥ (heart Ace, King, or Queen; obviously King or Queen)

At this point, Responder has gotten off his chest the club card. He has also been able to establish trumps low enough to have cuebidding occur. He has been able to show the heart Queen. This is good. Opener can now make a more informed decision.

An alternative choice early on leads to another decent sequence.

2♦ (same)
2NT (same)
3♣ (general non-informative cue -- asks for cuebidding of controls to start)
3♠ (no first or second-round red control, one of the top three spades -- the Ace obviously)
3NT (serious, with sufficient red controls)
4♣ (club control)
4♦ (diamonds really controlled)
4♥ (tertiary heart control)

Because Responder cannot have just the spade Ace and club King (would bid 3♥ over 2♦ as a minimum game raise in spades with at most one internal card and one external King), Opener knows that Responder cannot simply have a doubleton heart. There must be some other redeeming value.

Notice how Opener has no problem with this three-suited hand. In fact, a GF is set up with general strength parameters and fit established and the entire three-level still available for slam probes and cues.

Had Responder bid 2♥ over 2♦ (waiting, no spade fit), Opener could rebid 3NT to show 4441/4450 and not super-huge (would bid 4♣). Responder could then agree diamonds or hearts below game in either suit, if he wanted.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Easy Problem?

On BBF, the following pair of hands was posted, with the question being whether anyone could avoid the trap of playing in 7♥. I thought this was somewhat interesting, in the solution, but incredibly easy, despite a number of convoluted sequences and "he should she should" analyses.

Opener: ♠ KQJxx ♥ xxxx ♦ A ♣ AJx
Responder: ♠ Ax ♥ AKQx ♦ KQx ♣ K10xx

The auction, 2/1 GF, started 1♠-P-2♣-P-2♥-P-3♥. Good start. At this point, however, the two auctions at two tables diverged, one Opener electing a 4♦ cuebid and the other 4♣. I don't get 4♦ at all. In the end, some guessing was required.

This seems so easy, though. But, there is a nice nuance late in the auction.

The obvious continuation seems to be for Opener to first cue his spades (3♠) to show two of the top three spade honors. Responder then bids 3NT serious. Opener can now cuebid 4♣. This should be enough for Responder to launch into RKCB.

After the 5♥ response (two, without), Opener can bid 5♠. Now, whatever agreements you have for 5♠, this leads to a nice call.

If 5♠ is a cheaper way of bidding specific Kings up-the-line, then Opener should bid 5NT to "show the King of spades." This shows something completely different, however. As Responder is making a grand slam probe, we must have all of the Aces. Therefore, Responder must have the spade Ace. If he has the spade Ace, then he knows that we have the spade King-Queen. Therefore, bidding 5NT to show the spade King would be redundant. It would be equally redundant to bid 5NT to show the spade Queen. Therefore, 5NT must show the unknown additional spade value of the spade Jack.

If 5♠ is an asking bid, asking for the spade King, then in this situation, for the same reason, 5♠ should be understood by both parties as actually asking for the spade Jack.

You will notice that this is a unique sequence, in that Opener, only because he lacks the spade Ace, knows from the grand slam try that 5NT shows the spade Jack, because Responder must have the spade Ace and must, therefore, already know about the top three spade honors. Otherwise, had Opener held the spade Ace, this nuance would not be known, and this 5♠ bid would be seeking the spade King (as opposed to the Queen). Responder should equally be in on this nuance.

In any event, look what Responder will now know. He will be able to count five rippers in the minors (diamond A-K-Q plus club A-K). He can count three heart tricks, now up to eight tricks. With the known four spade tricks (A-K-Q-J), he has 12 tricks, with three trick sources for a thirteenth -- spades coming in, hearts coming in, or something in clubs coming in -- plus all sorts of squeeze possibilities. The multiple options in three suits seems to clearly outweigh placing all of your eggs in the basket of hearts splitting 3-2 or partner having the Jack (and hearts not being 5-0), and no immediate spade or club ruff on opening lead.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Strong Forcing Opening

I have been working quite a bit on an idea I had a while back for improving the handling of strong, forcing openings in a natural system. While doing so, I have noticed that a lot of questions posted on BBF and a lot of trouble hands from international competition involve this same theme.

The trouble with strong, forcing openings is similar for natural systems and for strong club systems, although in the strong club context interference is necessary to create this problem and sometimes mitigates this problem somewhat by the intervening bid having definition. The problem is strain.

Sure, if Opener has a five-card major and Responder has a fit, strain is less problematic. However, I would imagine that everyone has gripes about their strong auctions and matters of strain. Even when strain can ultimately be resolved, which is not always the case, the space needed to resolve strain robs us of space necessary or prudent to then turn to the second question of level.

I mean, 2/1 GF auctions are easy. Auctions where one partner is blessed with a huge hand are a mess. This seems terrible, but the problem of strain remains always present and always meddlesome.

There have been numerous attempts to patch-solve strain matters within the context of a strong 2♣ opening, like the idea from Giorgio Belladonna to have jumps to 3♥ and 3♠ as major-diamond canape bids. I think Belladonna was onto something in using canape as a tool for handling strong hands. However, I don't think he went far enough.

There have also been those who realize that 2♣ cannot effectively handle everything, incorporating something like Multi to grab off some hand patterns. Or, the French methods of 2♦ for major hands. I think that this is the right general course, having two strong, forcing openings, and incorporating an element of canape bidding into the approach.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Smell 'em? Write 'em down!

Do you sometimes smell unexpected slam potential during an auction and then just sit there for a minute, somewhat helpless? Ultimately, you probably sign off if there seems to be no route to a slam, at least not one you have thought of yet.

I'd suggest writing these hands down, when you smell a slam, whether it exists or not. You might also keep track of deals where slam does make but you did not smell anything.

Hopefully, those who are reading this are noticing an increasing aroma of slam potential, if nothing else other than that you are thinking outside of the box most people are in (33 HCP).

However, the "smell test" could be useful for a few reasons. First, maybe you are not sniffing around enough because you are not picking up enough on holdings and sequences where slam potential is actually present. Writing this stuff down, and seeing patterns, may help.

Second, you may start noticing trends. Those trends translate into ideas. For, if every time you hear some specific strange sequence there is a slam that is on or not on depending on whether partner has the club or diamond Queen, maybe you should have some bid ask which minor-suit Queen partner has. You understand what I mean, I'm sure.

Third, if you are smelling things that are not there too often, this could be a good reason to restrain that enthusiasm. If a specific sequence seems interesting to you all the time but always ends up being a mess of nothing, then hopefully you will stop being so enthusiastic if that same auction creeps up again.

One caveat, though. Do not fall into the trap of being excited about the one hand analysis. Look for trends, not a single case. If the single case is interesting, run a deal generator or something.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interesting Idea

Interesting idea. Let me see if I have this exactly right.

After Responder shows diamonds (4♦), Opener can bid 4♥ as a spade flag, albeit without shhowing extras necessarily. This allows Responder to simply bid 4♠ as a mild slam try, or, after learning of the fit, take some other more aggressive action, including 4NT (RKCB), presumably 5♦ as RKCB for the diamond suit secondaries (spades still agreed), or Exclusion 5♣/5♥, or possibly a quantitative 5♠. If Responder opts mild only (4♠), Opener could continue on with 4NT (RKCB), 5♦ (RKCB diamond secondaries focused), or maybe 5♣/5♥ as something else (Empathetic Splinter?).

If Opener has a diamond focus, he flags diamonds via 4♠. Responder can suggest a signoff (4NT or 5♦). I'd suggest 5♣ by either side (5♣ immediately by Responder or 4NT-P-5♣ by Opener) as Last Train, myself, with 5♦ a decline again, 5♥ accept with 2, 5♠ accept 2 with Q, 5NT accept 3, 6♣ acept 3+Q. Something like that.

Opener can also bid 4NT as natural.

Nice idea.

From: A.H. (may want privacy)
Subject: about the bidding
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2008 00:38:58 +0000

Hi Ken
this is alex, i am the fan of your book "Cuebidding At Bridge ", thanks for sharing those bright ideas,
I have some think about 2NT--3H--3S--4D, on page 154, I am currently using transfer after the sequence like this, thinking may works better

2NT 3H
3S 4D
4H Now opener's 4H is trsfer to 4S, flag of Spades,perparing stop at 4S or strong hand will bid 4NT
as RKC for Spades.Responder can refuse trsfer if he has stronger hand instead of mildly slamish.
if responder bid 4NT it is RKC of spades.
4S Now it is flag for D, RKC . Or we can use as D flag, but not a very good hand to bid RKC,
or strong hand(will bid 5C as RKC if responder signoff)responder can rebid 4NT as signoff , 5C is
4NT Natural



Friday, July 11, 2008

Tough Hand -- Any Solutions?

At BBO, my wife and I ran into an interesting hand.

The essence was that Opener has a three-loser hand (xx-void-AKQ10-AQJ10xxx) and Responder has a nice collection with a double fit (Ax-KJxx-xxxx-Kxx). The same basic problem could also arise with any other long suit and any other 4-piece.

The auction started with the 7-4 hand describing a long, powerful club suit via 2♣-P-2♦(GF)-P-3♣. As you can see, 6♣ is icy as hell, but 7♦ makes on a 3-2 split. Bidding 7♦ on this, when you need a 3-2, seems like a bit much, but give Responder five small diamonds. ♠Ax ♥KJx ♦xxxxx ♣Kxx.

The solution for this kind of a problem evades me at the moment. There may be no solution, for that matter, but I still wonder if there might be some general operating procedures for more frequently checking/showing alternative strains for slam purposes. Some conventions, like a 3M rebid after a 2♣ opening to show a 6-4 hand with diamonds and the indicated major, serve this additional function well.

The pattern bidding inverted spiral relay lunatics who can unwind a 6520 hand with four bids might like problems of this nature. As I am an empathetic cuebidding wrap-around yummy toes implied LTTC Type II lunatic, I am also curious.

Of course, this does remind me of the story I heard about Rodwell coming up with 30-some pages of system notes revisions to ask for a Jack for grand slam purposes and the reaction of almost putting the man out of his misery. Bah! 40-some pages might be too much, but only 30-something?

Anyway... Any ideas of thoughts? Maybe the auction is easier after a simple 1♣ opening. Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More strange flags

The use of flags can be quite powerful.

RHO opens 1♥ and you overcall 2♥, Michaels for spades and a minor. LHO bids 2♠, GF with heart support (2NT would have been limit). Partner bids 3♠, and RHO pops in a 4♦ cue. You want to compete to 4♠. Now, you could make a "Flag Fit-Bid" in this situation. 4♥ would be a raise to 4♠ showing clubs; 4♠ would thus show diamonds. That might help partner decide whether 5♠, passing, or doubling is right if the opponents compete to 5♥.

But, you may protest that disclosure is bad. OK, LHO cuebids 4♣ then. You could opt to bid 4♠ as a non-disclosing bid. Or, you could show the diamonds (4♦) but flag the clubs (4♥).

This same principle could occur at a lower level. After your Michaels 2♥ call, LHO passes this time, and partner picks 2♠. If his minors are 4-1, and he has Kx in spades, what do you expect? However, Opener makes a strange call of 3♦, alerted as a strong 3♥ call. Apparently, the opponents use transfers here, with 2NT as a transfer to clubs, 3♣ a transfer to diamonds, 3♦ a transfer to hearts (and strong), and 3♥ simply competitive. You like this, and you plan to discuss this idea with partner, but now you have a call to make. The auction may well not die at the three-level, but you may not want to enter the four-level yourself to show your minor. On the other hand, if partner knows your minor, he may be better positioned to consider a 4♠ sacrifice, or even a sacrifice in your minor, instead. Might as well take advantage of the opponents' techniques, eh? You know the drill now. 3♥ is a competitive raise to 3♠ with clubs as the second suit; 3♠ then shows diamonds as the second suit.

How About Paradox Flags?

LHO opens 1NT, announced as kamikazee (8-11, balanced). Two passes come to you, and you realize that your agreements are not exactly tailored to this opening. However, you have agreed to play that a double shows one minor or both majors, major calls are natural, and minor calls are takeout, of sorts. The minor calls show that minor and either just spades or that minor and two higher suits.

When the balance is 2♦, partner knows that you have diamonds and either both majors (Platonic ideal 1444) or diamonds and spades (would convert a 2♥ call to 2♠). When the balanced is 2♣, you will have clubs+diamond+hearts, or clubs+diamonds+spades, or clubs+hearts+spades, or clubs+spades.

Ugh! Well, shoulda coulda does not help here. You have to make a call.

So, suppose you have a hand where 2♣ is your call. After LHO passes, partner bids 2♦, which offers diamonds as a contract that is "acceptable," and showing presumably that his club support is not so good. Partner is expected to have some game plan if you convert 2♦ to 2♥ (to show clubs+hearts+spades) or 2♠ (clubs+spades). RHO, however, who was apparently sleeping, bids 2♠ out of the blue, which is alerted as a transfer to 3♣. Strangely, the opponents have actually discussed this sequence.

So, what now, if you want to compete? Should you not complete your pattern, in case partner, if he knows your pattern, has a better idea than 3♦?

Obviously, 3♣ sounds like a bad call. But, what should it show?

Well, think back to your possible hand types. It seems to me that flags come in handy here.

3♣ seems to flag hearts. 3♦, then, would seem to flag spades. Why would you flag a major? Because that's the only major that you hold. So, 3♣, to me, if Paradox Flags are in play, suggests something resembling 4441 and 3♦ suggests 4414. With 4144, 2NT comes to mind, not only because it covers the problem of not wanting to flag a specific major, but because it actually sounds natural after partner, in a sense, showed diamonds. Natural is good, in moderation. LOL

Yeah, but what about the club-spade hands? Double seems to scream out. As a bonus, it is both penalty for the artificial suit and for the suit shown. Kind of cute.

Now, obviously this is a contrived, but nonetheless possible, example. But, the principle is similar to the paradox situation described earlier. The notrump bid shows the holding that isolates the preference suit as the shortness. The available call is a flag for the higher-ranking suit, in that other case for hearts because a flag for spades is not particularly useful.

Note also that both examples so far have a strange result that appears. Natural calls in "agreed" suits tend to have incidental flag messages concerning rejected suits. However, calls in an agreed diamond suit may on rare occasion actually also be flags for spades.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Strange Paradox?

An interesting sequence was described to me.

Suppose you have five small diamonds, with the Ace or hearts and a doubleton clubs, or with the Ace of clubs and a doubleton diamond, nothing else.

Not very interesting.

So, LHO opens 4♠ and partner bids 4NT. You have a clear 5♦ call, so you do that. LHO comes back at you with 5♠ and partner raises to 6♦. This is passed around to Opener who persists with 6♠. Partner passes this to you. So far, this was the actual sequence.

The problem is quite involved, it seems. Partner's 4NT showed two places to play, either both minors or hearts and a minor. So far, so good.

When you picked diamonds, however, you might well have had longest hearts, medium diamonds, and short clubs. 4-3-1, 4-2-1, something like that. You picked a minor because, well, that's what you do.

When partner competed to 6♦, you know that he had both minors. Why? Because, paradoxically, it seems that he should bid 6♣ if his two suits were diamonds and hearts. If he has both minors, he just bids diamonds because he knows that you prefer diamonds to clubs. If, however, he has diamonds and hearts, he wants you back in the picture and, accordingly, must make the one call that gets you back in -- 6♣.

Now, you could protest that 6♣ could show both minors and 6♦, therefore, both red suits. But, you want to make a call in something other than trumps only when you might want to bid something other than trumps, it seems. Extra calls give extra space for informative doubles by the opponents. Plus, the preference already made for diamonds suggests shorter clubs than hearts, such that you only want to bid 6♣ on the rare hand, namely when overcaller has that unexpected length in the probable longer of Advancer's other two suits.

So, partner's pass, if you interpret it as forcing, seems to be from a minor two-suiter, making the heart-Ace-doubleton-club holding look HUGE. The club-Ace-doubleton-heart holding would have looked great after a 6♣ "heart flag."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2NT Super-Accepts with More Detail

Of course, when deciding what to use and what not to use, the question is weighing disclosure as a benefit against disclosure as a liability. However, the detail possible for super-accepts by the 2NT opener can be wildly increased, it seems.

Take the simple example of a transfer to spades. If Opener has a suit with a hole, a suit where a stiff or void from partner would be quite nice, he could bid 3NT. If Responder wants to know what suit, he bids 4♣, asking. Opener then replies, showing clubs via 4♠. Thus, 3NT would show an undisclosed Empathetic Splinter, with 4♣ asking for its location. With, for example, AQxx-xxx-AK10x-AK, Opener would bid 3NT, and Responder, if interested in the location of the hole, bids 4♣. Opener bids 4♥. After a heart transfer, 3♠ shows the undisclosed Empathetic Splinter (UES), and 3NT asks for its location, 4♥ showing the hole in hearts.

If Responder is not interested in the UES, he simply signs off.

You could even get a little more sophisticated. If Opener has the UES in the suit that can only be shown by bidding game, this deprives the partnership of LTTC. The same occurs if the UES is in the suit immediately below the agreed suit. So, if Responder has strong interest, he asks. If Responder has mild interest, where he would want to LTTC the sequence even if Opener shows the "right" stiff, then Responder shows the no-LTTC shortness. With the suit immediately below the agreed trump suit, Responder just bids the shortness with mild interest (4♥ is spades agreed or 4D if hearts agreed). With the other no-LTTC suit, Responder shows that stiff artificially by bidding the suit two below trumps. Thus, after 2NT-3♥-3NT, 4♣ asks and 4♠ responds club EP. So, Responder could instead bid 4D to show a mild slam invite with a stiff or void club. If 2NT-3D-3♠, the spade EP is shown after 3NT by bidding 4♥, depriving Responder of LTTC, so 4♣ by Responder instead of 3NT asking would show mild slam interest with a stiff or void spade.

If Opener does not have an UES, he cues normally (cuebid the lowest suit with KQ or better at the top); 3NT for spades if hearts is the focal major. The inference from the option of a UES relay is that Opener does not have a hole suit and thus must have control of all suits.

This also can get sexier. Again, we have a LTTC problem is Opener's only side suit with two top honors is the suit immediately below the agreed major. So, he bids game in the major with a mild slam interest and two top honors in the one-under suit, or bids the one-under suit with two top honors in that suit and very strong slam interest.

If you imagine that super-acceptances usually show 5 covers plus something nice, or six covers, this works rather nicely. Most top honor patterns can be described fairly well, with very little in the way of problem hands.

Consider a wildly uninteresting hand like Qxxxx-xxx-Qxxxx-void. After a 3♥ transfer, how nice would it be to hear a 3NT UES? If you are aggressive, you check back with a 4♣ call and then move past game if partner bids 4♠ to show no wasted values in clubs. If you are conservative (rational?), you take a tame position of bidding 4D to artificially show mild slam interest with shortness in clubs and trust that partner, with AK-AQ-AK will look to see if he has something else of use (3-2 in the reds with four trumps, the heart Jack, a fifth diamond suggesting the alternative strain, etc.). Amaxing how four-counts can actually be handled competently in slam probes, eh?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Last Train, a Weird Twist

A "Last Train to Clarksville" Cuebid (LTTC) is normally a cue of the suit immediately below game, sending a general message of lingering interest but inability to personally take that next step. Thus, for example, in an auction where hearts is agreed as trumps, a 4D call in many sequences will usually send a general message that the cuebidding so far as suggested that slam is possible but that the person bidding 4D does not have sufficient information to justify entering the five level. It is a stronger bid than 4♥.

However, a strange sequence sometimes develops where the bid immediately below the agreed suit should actually be the weaker bid. The classic situation would involve a two-under super-acceptance. Consider the auction 2NT-P-3D-p-4♣-P-??? Responder will usually want to re-transfer via 4D to have Opener declare, planning either to pass or to make some move (RKCB or something else). So, this seems to deprive Responder of LTTC, right?

Nope. On that rare tweener hand, Responder simply bids 4♥. The cost of this approach is the loss of the transfer effect, but that may be a no gainer anyway. Much better, anyway, to limit the non-transfer to LTTC sequences rather than to save LTTC but lose the re-transfer on all of the clear game or clear slam try sequences.

So, if the normal LTTC call would be a re-transfer, then the actual bid is slammish.

Another sequence worth considering; similar principle. Suppose that you have some sequence where, for instance, spades are agreed but 3NT asks for shortness. An example I would run into might help. After a Jacoby 2NT raise of a 1♠ opening, we use 3♠ to show a light splinter. 3NT asks for the stiff (bid the stiff).

So, in my example, if I bid 4♣ (stiff club), Responder could cue 4D or bid 4♥ as LTTC. If I bid 4D (stiff diamond), Responder could bid 4♥ as LTTC. However, if I have a stiff heart, I deprive partner of the LTTC bid. What's the solution?

Well, when the highest option in responding to an asking bid is in the suit immediately below game in the agreed strain, the person answering the question should distinguish the highest answer as "this answer and I like my hand now" or "this answer but I am unhappy about you asking stupid questions." Sort of like wrap-around answering to yummy toes.

So, which is the stronger call? Well, that's a partnership agreement. One might use steps (first step answers with disdain; second step answers with jubilee), in which case bidding the trump suit is sorta like LTTC. Reversing this meaning might make more sense, for a couple of reasons. First, you might want to minimize the chance of a lead-directional double unless you have the good hand (relevant when the future dummy is answering). Second, maybe bidding game sounds like a weaker bid to your usual style. Plus, maybe bidding game on the weaker hands syncs better for when partner is (or you are) lost in the auction.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mathe Asking Bid -- Another Instance

BWS 2001 and the 2001 WBF Standard Card both describe 1M-P-3M-P-(3M+1) as a shortness-asking relay. Some notes I found on line describe 1M-P-4♦("super limit raise")-4OM as a shortness-asking relay as well. I have assumed from discussions with my regular partner and mentor that 1M-P-4M-P-relay would also be a shortness asking bid. Apparently, however, there is not literature on this.

However, because of a debate on Bridge Base Forums, I checked with Eric Kokish about this sequence. I thought I would share his view, to perhaps get this issue "in print."

His view was that random cuebidding in this sequence is an inferior (but majority) position, majority because of laziness in theory application (I agree). The far better approach, he noted, is that of the minority who view the relay as in fact a shortness asking bid. A frequent corollary to this agreement is to have Opener's other calls (perhaps using 4NT as the for the other-major stiff) show Opener's shortness, allowing Opener to either ask for shortness or show shortness as tactics necessitate.

Do what you will with this information.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Impossible Two Spades Extended

A BBF discussion got me to thinking.


This sequence has a lot of possibilities. I think a lot of these can be compounded into a multi-purpose bid.

Purpose #1: Exploration of minor contracts.

Responder might have, for this category of uses, one of several hand types:

1. Weak, both minors (5-5)
2. Invitational, both minors
3. Weak, with diamonds

Opener's first duty assumes one of these three purposes. With a hand that has prospects opposite the second option (Invitational, both minors), Opener bids 2NT. With lesser values, Opener picks his preferred minor.

If Responder had #1 (weak, both minors), he passes Opener picked minor or bids 3♣ (pass-or-correct) after 2NT.

If Responder had #3 (weak, with diamonds), he bids 3♦ (or passes Opener's 3♦)/

If Responder had #2 (invitational, both minors), he passes Opener's preferred minor. If Opener had bid 2NT, however, Responder now can bid 3NT, which is not a statement of a desire to declare 3NT but rather a descriptive bid ("I have both minors and invitational"). Opener looks at his spade holding, and uses judgment, to decide what to do about that development.

Note that this agreement as to the relayed diamond escape allows 1♥-1NT-2♥-3♦ to reliably show diamonds and values.

Purpose #2: Exploration of a Heart Game

Responder could always simply raise 2♥ to 3♥. However, to isolate spade shortness (make a short-suit game try showing shortness in spades, the most likely shortness in this sequence), Responder bids 2♠ and then, after any call, bid 3♥.

Purpose #3: Exploration of a Heart Slam -- Delayed 5-card Fit Bid

The prospects of a heart slam may initially sound slim. However, a slam is very possible. If Opener has 6331 pattern, for instance, Opener will have one suit controlled by way of that stiff. The need in that situation is the other three Aces, running hearts, and four more tricks. These additional tricks could come from a running side suit (Responder could have a 5-card minor) or a min-running side suit (a 4-card suit with all four honors) and the missing King. The HCP contribution for these two possibilities is about 22-26 HCP, which is easily possible.


♠x ♥AKxxxx ♦Axx ♣Kxx opposite
♠xxx ♥Qxx ♦Kxx ♣AQJx (26 total HCP)or
♠xxx ♥Qx ♦xx ♣AQxxx 22 (total HCP)

The easier to describe, and the strongest position, is the 5-card side suit scenario, as little is needed in HCP for a slam. With invitational values and a side five-card minor, with all prime cards (top three in trumps or the 5-card suit, possibly one side Ace), Responder bids 2♠, hears Opener's call, and then leaps to show his minor.

If Responder has no side Ace, he bids 4♣ or 4♦, naturally. If he has the side Ace of spades, he bids 3♠, and Opener, with interest in the minor, bids 3NT to ask for the minor. With clubs and the diamond Ace, Responder bids 4♣. With diamonds and the club Ace, Responder bids 4♥.

Note that 4♣ shows either no side Ace or the side diamond Ace. From Opener's perspective, strangely, the only bad holding is the possession of the diamond Ace. If Opener has a stiff diamond, he does not want Responder to have the diamond Ace, as this negates the value of the stiff and takes away some card Opener was expecting elsewhere. If Opener needs the diamond Ace, then he must, per force, have a stiff in spades, as Opener must have the stiff in one side suit to move. If he needs the Ace, then he must be able to tell that Responder has it after a 4♣ call because Responder cannot have enough HCP in his suit and trumps to get to invitational strength without the diamond Ace or cannot have only invitational strength with the diamond Ace. Thus, strangely, this creates a LTTC bid for Opener that seems counter-intuitive. If Responder bids 2♠ and then 4♣, Opener's 4♦ invites the slam if Responder does not have the diamond Ace. A strange but beautiful thing!

Note, also, that Responder might have a 5-5 minor heart slam try hand. If so, Responder may elect to show the preferred minor (if one is stated) as the fit-bid suit, or pick the one that is not Ace-empty. Maybe there is something better, but this is a damned good start, anyway. Leave me alone. LOL

Purpose #4: Exploration of a Heart Slam -- Delayed 4-card Fit Bid

As mentioned, a heart slam may also be available on a tight 12 tricks by virtue of a running four tricks in a minor, as well. The key is a stiff from Opener, again, solid hearts, a side Ace and King in the non-stiff suit, and a combined A-K-Q-J in a 4-card minor.

This puppy is tight. Not enough space is available if the heart game try option is kept. If not, 2♠...3♥ could cover a world of options. But, I like the Mini-Splinter. So, I'll limit this to one auction. If Opener shows a non-suitable hand and names a minor (3♣ or 3♦ after 2♠), this is the sole auction where a bid is undefined (3NT). So, we use 3NT to cater to that sequence, as a slam try that makes the most contextual sense. A slam makes the most contextual sense, in my opinion, if Opener has a stiff in the other minor. So, that is the Empathetic Splinter suit.

Thus, if Responder has a hand with invitational values made up of a decent four-card minor, no wasted values in the other minor, the Ace or King of spades and nothing else, and possible heart honor contribution, he can bid 2NT and then bid 3NT if Opener picks the "right" minor. This invites a tight slam if Opener does have a stiff in the other minor and honor help in the chosen minor.

Ah! But what if Opener picks the wrong minor? Responder still bids 3NT. Opener must cue if he has interest. Responder is captain. Opener cannot take over unless Responder cooperates in the cuebidding or bids LTTC. So, the "solution" is that Responder lies.

Yes, but what if Opener is rude and bids 2NT? Now 3NT has a definition, right? Well, in that situation, Responder fakes a side spade Ace. Heck -- he might even have it. But, when Opener bids 3NT asking for the minor, Responder bids 4♥.

You will notice that this fake 3♠ bid and then 4♥ offers an interesting twist if Opener has actually bid three of a minor. My thought is to use this to distinguish the possession or lack of the minor Jack. Without the minor Jack, I'd bid 3♠ and then 4♥ after a 3♣/3♦ bid. With the minor Jack, I'd immediately bid 3NT, the stronger and cuebid-enabling sequence.

I'm sure more or other things could be done. This is my idea to get y'all started thinking also.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Don't Forget to Discuss Competition, Part 2

Years ago, playing 2/1 GF, Red on White, partner opened 1♣. My RHO overcalled 1♥, an apparent pick-off move, as I held AKQJxxx in hearts, and very strong general values. This created a problem. Fortunately, however, my strength was such as to justify good old Blackwood. 4NT.

LHO verified the ruse by raising the overcall to 5♥. Partner, playing D.0,P.1, rebid 5♠. Having all four Aces, and a trick source, I blasted 7NT.

This was quite interesting timing, as the MP event was in the last round, last board for us, on a late play. As we were doing well in the event, the crowd was gathered to watch this. When the 1♥ preempt had hit the table, the kibitzers were getting their standings worth. The 7NT call, the only 7NT bid on this hand for the evening, was quite remarkable, as it would easily be set eight tricks if my LHO simply elected a diamond lead, to his partner's AKQJxxxx in diamonds. Alas, a heart hit the table, and I scored up the grand.

Of course, one part of the story was the lack of a double by RHO for an unusual lead. Whether LHO would have worked out which suit to lead is another question, but RHO knew that passing was doomed.

The second part of the question is how reasonably competent people ended up in 7NT off the AKQJxxxx in diamonds. Is Blackwood too much?

Well, as it turns out, we had discussed a new treatment that my partner liked. With 5-5 in the black suits, he was of the school that opened 1♣ and then bid spades later, twice if necessary. Unfortunately, he forgot that the first spade rebid would technically be systemic, and I preempted him out of the second spade rebid.

I'm not sure what the point here is.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Don't Forget to Discuss Competition

Years ago, one of my favorite hands ever allowed me to post up the impossible.

I had a nice, balanced strong 1NT opening, and I opened 1NT accordingly.

LHO doubled as some sort of conventional something. Partner leaped to 4♦. She was an unusual lady, who thought Texas Transfers were too much to remember. Instead, she like 4♦ as an asking bid. OK. So, I answered 4NT, showing a maximum (4♥ would show a minimum; 4♠ a middlish hand).

She bid 5♦, asking for Aces. I dutifully showed my two Aces -- 5NT.

She bid 6♦, asking for Kings. I dutifully showed my two Kings -- 6NT.

She thought about this, and decided to bid 7♦. This troubled me. But, knowing her generally passive nature, I assumed that 7NT would make 17 tricks if she actually bid a grand in diamonds. So, I converted this to 7NT.

This was doubled with an echo heard a few blocks over. As it was matchpoints, I sent it back. 7NTX is not a contract at matchpoints. 7NTXX is.

When the opening lead hit, I realized that she forgot the system, or interpreted the double as changing things. Of course, few have seen a four-level preempt into a minor, when vulnerable mind you, after a strong 1NT opening from partner. But, here it was, apparently. This made 7NTXX not likely to succeed.

So, always one for the challenge of the game, I set forth on my task. Having reached 7NTXX intentionally (sure, the XX was on principle, but I "trusted partner" LOL), could I lose all 13 tricks? I cannot remember the layout, but I did succeed. -7600, somewhat legitimately.

All that said, the point is more practical. Do not forget to discuss the impact of competition and fall into the trap equivalence of doubling 4NT to force the opponents to remember if R0P1 or P0R1 is used.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Splinter GP's

I have recently seen a theme come up a few times. Worth restating general principles.

Some splinters are made as quantitative shape-bash bids in some sequences. In other words, "I have a stiff and slam interest" is all that we know.

That said, GP suggests that LTTC be available, at a minimum, if available.

Thus, consider a sequence where spades is (or will be by the splinter) agreed.

A 4♥ splinter sends that message, but the range should be rather tight, because partner must decide now, on this information alone, whether to resign to game only or venture into the five-level, often without a good safety net, on a slam try.

A 4♦ splinter, however, can be more flexible. This is because partner has three options. First, he could "Hell No!" your try and resign to 4♠. Second, he could giddily charge forth into the five-level. Third, and critical to the point, is that he can send it back at you with a 4♥ Last Train bid. The ability for partner to hedge here allows you to be more flexible with your two-under splinters, showing either a good sound splinter (will accept a LTTC bid) or a weakish splinter (will decline).

Three-under splinters (4♣ here) have even more room with which to work and can, therefore, be even more flexible. One might want to devise some techniques here to distinguish, for example, a 4♦ reply to a 4♣ splinter, a 4♥ reply, and, as to the 4♦ reply, the meaning of 4♥ by the person who splinters.

There are even four-under splinters, where LTTC and Serious 3NT are both available. 1♥-P-3♠ is a classic example. Opener can start cuebidding with or without a Serious 3NT if he wants.

The point, ultimately, is that there is not a need to define all splinters equally, or to treat them equally. Recognize this space principle, and recognize partner's recognition of the space principle.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Empathetic Auto Splinter?

An empathetic splinter is typically a bid of a worthless fragment to show great values everywhere else and worthiness of slam IF partner has a stiff in THIS suit.

An "auto splinter" is a splinter made in "support" of your own suit, such as a jump to 4♦ after transferring to hearts.

What about an "Auto Empathetic Splinter?" A bid of a worthless fragment, expressing the need for a specific stiff if partner can support your own suit? Yep, the beast exists.

The idea arose from a problem at BBF ("matmat" proposed the problem). You have ♠KxJxx ♦Ax ♣AKxxxx and open 1NT. Partner bids 2♣ Stayman, and you obviously respond 2♦. Partner bids 2NT, invitational. What now?

The vast majority responded with something like "3NT. What's the problem?"

But, give partner decent club support, a stiff heart, the spade Ace, and maybe the diamond King. It is easy to construct hands for partner where 6♣ is a very strong bet.

So, why not bid 3♣? The concern is that zooming to 3NT avoids helping the defense make a lead. Fair point, but I doubt that a club lead was coming, anyway. The 3♣ bid, therefore, probably does not help much. Responder bidding stoppers might, though. So, perhaps 3♣ should simply be a natural call expressing uncertainty, suggesting a hole, and asking a conditional question:

"If you have an unbalanced hand and support for my clubs, bid your shortness."

The parallel is a 3♦ call from Opener, instead of 3♣. As only 3♥ and 3♠ are available for Responder, however, a 3♦ call would suggest long diamonds and a worthless holding (for notrump) in one of the majors -- an either-or empathetic splinter if you will. A 3♦ call, then, announces a different question:

"If you have support for my diamonds and shortness in one of the majors, indicate your short major."

If Opener has diamonds and interest in short clubs from Responder, he can bid the cheapest unbid major. Thus, for instance, after the example auction of 1NT-2♣-2♦-2NT, Opener could bid 3♥ as an "Auto Empathetic Splinter," showing long diamonds and a worthless club fragment.

I say "the cheapest unbid major" to cover 1NT-2♣-2M-2NT sequences. Opener could rebid his own major because he has five of them. If Opener bid 2♠, then 3♠ is natural (five-card suit) but 3♥ could be the Auto Empathetic Splinter, with diamonds and a stopper hole in clubs. If Opener bid 2♥, and if 3♠ is not needed to handle 4-4 majors, then 3♠ would serve that function. Obviously, in this latter situation the diamond suit will be shorter because of the obvious length in the bid major.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Matchpoints is a strange game. +430 beats +420 as much as +980 beats +480. This causes unique concerns for bidding in the context of matchpoints.

A problem faced by my opponents illustrates the concern well. Opener had started 1♥ and received a 2♦ response in an uncontested auction. Opener raised to 3♦ (not my call, but a fair call) and heard 3♥ setting trumps. After 3♠ from Opener, Responder bid a serious 3NT. Opener finished the auction by bidding 4♥. My partner, of course, elected a club lead from Qxx(x) instead of a spade from J109x(x) [I cannot remember the exact lengths], allowing us to hold the contract to +450 instead of +480. Actually, the score was +420 for them because of an eight-ever-nine-never violation, perhaps done because of a fear that the cues had resulted in an unfavorable lead.

Now, I found this somewhat humorous, as it had been quite a while since any cuebidding sequence had a noticed detriment for me personally. The poor opponents!

I also recognized that my sequence would not have been entirely the same, as I would have opted to not raise diamonds (with xxx support and a minimum) and would not have made a serious slam move with Responder's hand. So, I technically may have avoided this problem. But, the reality exists that some sequences may result in a lead-direction that can be costly at MP scoring. As I hate MP anyway, my normal reaction is to find this to be a fortunately rare occurrence and to simply bid as I think I should anyway.

However, I do understand the concern. One possible tweak I considered at the time was to switch the meanings of 2NT and 3NT for matchpoints, and then making 2NT frivolous instead of serious. I don't think that this is ideal, but it might be a consideration at MP.

Imagine a sequence like 1♠-P-2♣-P-2♥-P-2♠. If Opener now bids 2NT, this could be a "frivolous" 2NT, rendering all other cuebids serious. (Picture Jumps remaining the same.) After a frivolous 2NT, Responder could sign off, or he could cuebid anyway with a hand that has slam prospects opposite a frivolous holding.

In either event, three of the major would still be a trump cue (two of the top three honors), bypassing of which would limit the major honor contribution. Also, 3NT would then be another "trump cue," showing extra trump above that already promised, or the the third trump honor, or two trump honors if partner has denied two, bypassing of which denies the same.

A direct 2NT-P-3NT sequence would seem to be a suggestion of 3NT as a MP contract.

The full permutations resulting from this MP tweak I have not worked out, nor will I because of my strong dislike of system impurity to cater to MP analysis and playing the (idiot?) field. Even if I were to try, my biases are too ingrained to allow me to do this effectively, I am sure. For anyone who likes this or a similar idea, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Interesting Deal with the Wife

AQ8xx ♥AKxxxQx ♣A :Opener
♠J9xx ♥Qxxxx ♦Ax ♣xx :Responder

1♠-P-2♠ started our sequence. Because of agreements with my wife, Leah, I cuebid 3♣ next, and she cue'd 3♦ (Ace or King and possibly a hedge). I cue'd 3♥, and she made a fine raise to 4♥. At this point, I have to admit that I made an idiot bid of 6♠. Obviously, I should bid 6♥. Judgment was just, as the spade hook failed (2-2 split), and the diamond King was well-placed. 6♥ makes, using spades to ditch her losing diamond.

I thought about the auction that I would have if she was up on all the "weird stuff you and your friends play." Assuming a 2♠ raise:

3♥-P-3NT (super-accept of hearts)-P-
4♣(agrees hearts, asking)-P-4♥(two covers)-P-

I don't think I'd see the power of this hand yet. I need a cover in diamonds, and she will have the Ace of anything for this sequence. If the King is placed right, it seems fairly good odds that I can ditch her diamond losers on the spades, and I might even make seven if the spades cooperate. If she has two internal covers, however, a diamond lead will be fatal to the slam. I seem to have several options. I could blast and pray (good living?).

One option is 4♠, RKCB for spades in this sequence, but that leaves me scratching my head. I might make slam opposite the diamond Ace and heart Queen, but not opposite the spade King and heart Queen. Bad option.

Better is 4NT, RKCB for hearts. If she has the diamond Ace, I am happy. Interesting...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Even Better Michaels Thoughts

As is often the case, thinking through a problem from one perspective leads to a better mouse trap. However, thinking through the problem again, from an entirely different perspective, improves upon that mousetrap. Systems, conventions -- they all evolve and grow, if one constantly rethinks.

Consider the circumstance of a heart-based Michaels call. 1♠-2♠-P-? This is a much more cramped sequence, of course. Is there, then, a method for handling the "general invite" that is not so much fit-dependent? For, 3♥ might simply be a simple preference bid, which seems to force 2NT...3♥ as the invite, or does it?

What precisely is the meaning of 1♠-2♠-P-3♦? Long diamonds? If that is what Advancer has, could he not simply bid 2NT, expecting the likely 3♣ (happily surprised if not), and then convert 3♣ to 3♦? It seems, therefore, that the 3♦ call could be put to a better use. That use? A constructive heart raise, equivalent with the 1♥-2♥-P-3♠ sequence I described.

Of course, you may see the obvious now. If that option exists for a heart-based Michaels, then can we not restore the preemptive spade raise in spade-based Michaels sequences? Could not 1♥-2♥-P-3♠ be preemptive and 1♥-2♥-P-3♦ be a bid to show a constructive spade raise? That actually is my preference.

Back to hearts. The same basic structure over 3♦ as a constructive raise as was proposed for after a constructive 3♠ makes sense to me, tweaked somewhat:

3♥ = ugly, ugly, ugly -- very passable
4♥ = acceptance
3NT = diamond fit-dependent
3♠ = ???

Now, notice that 3♠ can show the club fit-dependent hand. We end up, then, with a bid of the "other major" for the club fit-dependent hands and the bid of 3NT for the diamond fit-dependent hands.

As to spade-based, after 3♦?

3♠ = ugly
4♠ = acceptance
3♥ = other major for club fit-dependent
3NT = diamond fit-dependent

Notice how each saves space needed for cuebidding.

Also notice that 4♣ and 4♦ are available for showing something different. The stand-out option seems to be that bidding the minor directly shows a need for a heart control, as this will be the most jamming bid and the least powerful position.

What do you end up with, then, as a scheme?

After a major-based Michaels sequence (1♥-2♥-P or 1♠-2♠-P), Advancer can bid 3♣ to play, 2NT...3♦ to play, or 2NT...P to play the minor. With simple preference for the major, Advancer bids the major at the lowest possible level, or can jump to 3♠ as "preemptive." With game or better interest, but fit-dependent, Advancer can ask for the minor and then place the contract.

However, if Advancer has constructive or better values, he always bids 3♦. Partner is expected either to sign off in the major (garbage almost beyond belief) or to bid the game (minimum range, but acceptance values). With the high-end Michaels hands, a concept that is not all that "high end" as we have seen, partner can make a slam move on route to game. His options:

1. 4♣ or 4♦ identifies the minor but denies a control in Opener's major.
2. 3NT flags diamonds and allows cuebidding space, and partner has shown a control in Opener's major. This allows 4♥ to be LTTC when Opener's major is hearts.
3. Three of the other major flags diamonds and allows cuebidding space, and partner has shown a control in Opener's major.

Now, a couple of other points might be noted.

First, a 3♥ call flagging clubs (1♥-2♥-P-3♦-P-3♥) allows two additional bids of interest, namely a three-level cue of the major (3♠ by Advancer) and a Serious 3NT call by either side. This wildly enhances spade-based sequences.

Second, a 3♠ call flagging clubs (1♠-2♠-P-3♦-P-3♠) does allow at least a Serious 3NT bid by Advancer. As these heart-oriented sequences are not blessed by as much space, and as no LTTC call will be available, the ability to bid or not bid a Serious 3NT here seems to be very important.

I'll leave it to others to work out the finer details of the follow-up sequences. However, one point that I would add here is that this scheme seems to have similar application to any related sequences. Thus, for example, if you play Cappelletti as your defense to a Weak 1NT Opening, then this scheme, incorporating a constructive+ 3♦ call, makes sense after a 2♥ or 2♠ overcall.

So, how about Michaels sequences for both majors?


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some Michaels Thoughts

A sequence from a recent deal reminded me of some thoughts that I have had concerning Michaels sequences and gave me some new ideas as well.

Consider a simple start of 1♥-2♥-P, where partner has shown spades and a minor. The classic approach is for 2NT to ask for partner's minor, perhaps to sign off, but perhaps to gain more information for a game try. However, this leaves a strange problem. If you bid 2NT and then 3♠, partner will assume, correctly, that his minor was not interesting to you. Thus, this approach forces Responder to place the contract on the mere information of the suit alone. The problem is that there are many holdings where the minor is immaterial, such as when Advancer has Qxx/Qxx in the minors, but where the overall hand is still invitational.

Alternatively, Advancer might bid 3♥, but this seems to be a GF bid, especially (obviously) if the majors are reversed (1♠-2♠-P-3♠). So, this does not handle GI hands at all.

What about a simple 3♠ call? Well, the apparent usual meaning is "preemptive." This structure, however, seems to leave an inability to make any general invite and only allows a fit-specific invite.

Consider a hand like ♠AxxxAxxxxxxx ♣x. You "know" that partner likely has clubs. OK, but what is his strength? If he has ♥x ♦xx on the outside, you expect two quick losers in that suit. If his spade holding is good (maybe KQxxx) and his club holding decent (maybe Axxxx), then you expect to take five spades on dummy, the heart Ace, the club Ace, and, if trumps split 2-2, two club ruffs in hand, for a net of nine tricks. A tenth will come from establishing a late club when clubs are 4-3. So, if partner has ♠KQxxx ♥x ♦xx ♠Axxxx, game seems to be a fair bet. But, that's a perfect six-loser hand. Can't partner have something less remarkable, like ♠KQxxx ♥x ♦xx ♣QJxxx? Or, ♠Qxxxx ♥xx ♦x ♣KJxxx?

I just don't get the basic approach of simply asking partner for his minor and then guessing. The simple solution, at least for me, is to give up on the wild preference for always preempting to the maximum limit. Preempts are great, but a Michaels call sometimes does the trick without the need for Advancer to add his "I can preempt too" touch to the thing.

Consider this problem, as well, from the standpoint of when Partner has the very strong Michaels hand. You bid 2NT, and partner flags his minor (3♥ for clubs, 3♠ for diamonds). The upside is that partner has shown extra values. The downside is that you have no easy way to force game and agree upon a suit. It seems that about the only way to agree the major is to perhaps bid 4♥, a very ugly call, or four of the other minor, which is almost as ugly. The problem with the latter is that you then lose ability to make any sort of positive supporting bid for the minor.

This very Advancer's hand came up in Detroit. Fortunately, my partner and I had a general agreement ditching preemptive jump raises for constructive jump raises. So, I was able to bid 3♠ with the correctly-interpreted meaning of "I want to bid 4♠, but you might have a P.O.C. 2♥ call, in which case passing is fine." That approach seemed perfect with this hand. I show the game interest with a hand that is really not fit-dependent. If partner has diamonds, I have a side shortness values and an amazing double-fit. If partner has the more likely club holding, I have two clear tricks and a fourth trump coupled with shortness, which is nice. Either way, I have a strongly invitational hand, and partner should do the right thing. He will know that I am not so much fit-dependent, or I would bid 2NT and then select the right contract (hopefully).

As a bonus, if partner has the strong hand, I have focused trumps without ambiguity, such that any further calls are understood as spade-slam approach (if that is our course, as it was).

So, next issue. What are partner's options with the strong hand? Well, to define options, one must first decide what partner needs to be in slam territory. I like to think about this concern from the standpoint of assessing what "worst possible hand" provides slam hope. If we can reach slam opposite that hand, then all others will be easy.

My thought of the "worst hand" was ♠KQxxx ♥x ♦Ax ♣KJ10xx. Wow! A five-loser hand? How is that possible? Well, how about if Advancer has a simple hand like ♠Axxx ♥xxx ♦xxx ♣Axx? Five spade tricks is easy. One diamond makes six tricks. If the club hook works, which may well be odds-on as against Opener, then we have five club tricks, for 11 so far. Two diamond pitches on the clubs allows a diamond ruff on the short side, and 12 tricks. This amazing result occurs because Advancer covers two losers with the two Aces, one cover comes from the probable club hook, and a fourth comes from Advancer having six or fewer clubs+hearts and a fourth trump. Note how moving either Ace to hearts makes this slam hopeless on a diamond lead.

How about a similar holding, changing ♣KJ10xx to AJ10xx? That works, but now Advancer can have the King or Queen of clubs and the spade Ace. ♠Axxx ♥xxx ♦xxx ♣Qxx probably works. Again, the switch of the either cover to the heart Ace, or even to the diamond King, makes this slam hopeless.

It appears to me, then, that Advancer's exact cards are critical. Note how spade Ace and club Ace was necessary on the first, but the club Queen is enough on the second. Exact cards are necessary.

So, how does one work all of this out?

I have thought about this for a few days, and I have a suggestion.

First, a 4♣ call by partner, after 3♠, should show a presumably fit-dependent hand with clubs and spades. This seems obvious. If Advancer has two of the four top club and spade honors (♠AK, ♠A/♣A, ♠A/♣K, ♠K/♣A, ♠K/♣K, or ♣AK), he has it. RKCB seems called for. If Responder has two or three tenuous cards, like perhaps one of these four cards (♠A, ♠K, ♣A, or ♣K), plus a secondary blacks-suit card (♠Q/♣Q), plus the diamond Ace or King, he cues 4♦; if two tenuous cards only, he declines a 4♥ LTTC bid. If Responder has two tenuous cards but no diamond control, he makes a "LTTC" call of 4♥. Note that Advancer has no way to show or deny a heart control, but the heart Ace might be a third tenuous card justifying acceptance of a LTTC call. In other words, Advancer will note cooperate in a fit-dependent sequence unless he has at least one clear key cover and one tenuous card, but the holding of these two PLUS the heart Ace will merit acceptance of a LTTC call. Note also that 4♣ clearly implies heart control.

Second, partner bids 3NT with a diamond-oriented fit-dependent hand. This is huge, in my opinion. Advancer needs to be given space to cue a control in the other minor, and 3NT gets below 4♣. If Advancer does cue 4♣, this shows the same tenuous holding as before. However, partner can cue 4♦, repeating his suit, to suggest a need for a heart control (Advancer can bid 4♥ to show the heart control but suggest a tenuous internal card), or 4♥ as LTTC with a heart control. Same stuff, then, but an ability to check on a heart control when tenuous. Advancer can also bypass 4♣ (no club card) to cue 4♦ with two tenuous cards, allowing 4♥ as LTTC, presumably needing also a heart control (heart Ace, spade King, and club Queen, for instance). Advancer's 4♥ would seem to show the heart Ace and one key card.

These two bids and follow-ups might very easily need tweaking and improvement, but the idea is to handle fit-dependent hands in a way that maximizes space for description.

What, then, do 4♦ and 4♥ cover? Well, the one gap is the club-fit-dependent without a heart control. It seems to me that these should be somewhat split between 4♥, 4♦ with a hand that would decline a 4♥ LTTC response, and 4♦ with a hand that would accept a 4♥ LTTC response. One should seek primes, one should seek a high tenuous count, and would should accept a relatively low tenuous count. Just to agree on something, then, it seems that 4♥ is strongest, 4♦...P weakest, and 4♦...OK middlish.

So, what about handling hands that are not fit-dependent? Simple. One option is RKCB directly, obviously. The other is to get whatever information you can from whatever call is most likely to lead to an intelligent sequence. In other words, treat hands that are not fit-dependent as if they were fit-dependent.

A recap:

1♥-2♥-P-3♠ = constructive invite

Partner then:

3NT = diamond slam try
4♣ = club slam try with hearts controlled
4♦ = mild to middling slam try with hearts not controlled
4♥ = strong slam try with hearts not controlled

Advancer then cues his values and value types.

So, what if hearts is the major? That's next...