Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Unusual Slam Try Type

A bidding problem presented to me made me think.

You are dealt ♠109x ♥x ♦AxxxKJxxx, and partner opens 1♠. This is a nice tweener hand, contingent value, that we often see. If you use a Mini-Splinter approach, great! But, often this is not the case. So, you undoubtedly start with a forcing 1NT, right?

Partner now bids 2♠.

This is getting interesting, now. A possible hand for partner could be ♠AKJxxx ♥xx ♦xx ♣AQx, right? Is that too much? Well, what about after a 3♠ rebid, instead?

In either event, you want partner to have a COV (concentration of values) in the black suits if you want this to be a fair slam gamble. A similar hand for Responder might be to remove the club Jack and replace it with the spade Queen.

As you can imagine, a simple splinter does not solve the problem. Partner cannot tell which minor needs a COV.

I have not thought through, yet, whether this is the most useful technique, or whether this is a net positive or a net negative (the value of the needed disclosure for the rare slam minus the cost of the disclosure when it does not matter). I have also not yet thought through when this idea might be of use, meaning in what auctions. However, it seems that the solution for Responder is to have a call that asks Opener if he has a COV.

This could be done in one of several ways. One technique might be to use a jump to 3NT (if not needed) to simply ask partner to bid a side COV if he has one (3♠ after heart agreement; 3NT for a spade COV). That would save jumps for some other meaning. A second technique would be a bit more straight-forward, and perhaps with less disclosure. That would be a "fit-jump" where the fit jump could be thought of as showing this type of hand or asking this type of question.

The key is to determine when, if at all, this makes sense. For example, one might decide that the auction 1♠-P-1NT!-P-2♠ can never result in a slam unless Responder has the hand type described above. If so, then 4♣, 4♦, and 4♥ should be fit-jumps, seeking a COV in spades and this suit from Opener, but only, of course, if the potential gains outweigh the potential costs. That's a judgment call, as always.

I'm still undecided about this idea, but it seems intriguing. It is somewhat related to the theory behind the Empathetic Splinter, when the ES is used in what appears to be an invitational-only sequence. Responder is showing the side source of tricks and is, in a sense, asking if Opener has an Empathetic Splinter for both side suits; a COV is also a COW (concentration of weakness).

Makes me think...



Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not Gerber, Silly!

A humorous occurrence.

I was sitting the wrong direction in a team game, meaning that I simply had the opportunity to pop up some popcorn and watch the opponents either shine or botch up a slam auction. The result was a horror flick, apparently also at the other table.

I cannot remember the hands even remotely, except that Responder has 4441 pattern (stiff club) and that Opener had a big 17-count. At one table, 1NT was the opening. At the other, 2D (17+ to 19, balanced). The goal contract was, of course, 7D. Neither team made it to the promised land.

So, I later asked my wife, who has 120 ACBL Masterpoints and is very much a newbie player, how she would bid the hand. I opened 1NT for her, and provided her hand.

Her approach was simple. She decided to use our 4♣ convention, not Gerber but quantitative. If I had held a minimum, I would bid 4NT to "sign off," and she would probably bid 6NT. As it was, I had a maximum and started bidding my suits up-the-line. 4D. This suited her, at IMPs. So, as my acceptance forced us beyond 4NT, 4NT by her was Blackwood (yes, Blackwood -- we have not stepped into RKCB yet). After my answer, she asked for Kings, and, what the Heck, "7D! Did I do good???"

Well, she outscored the two folks bidding in the finals of the top bracket KO.

Some neat little tools are not all that sexy, but effective nonetheless.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another Empathetic Splinter Situation

A problem from the Bridge Base Forum seemed too easy.

Opener: Axx-AJx-AKxx-Jxx
Responder: KQxx-Q-Qxxxxxx-x


Seems like an obvious 5C call -- the empathetic splinter. Primed out real estate, with great support and no wasted values in clubs. Responder easily will bid 6D. He can count 12 tricks and two losers.

Look for this situation. A similar auction:


In my opinion, it might also make sense to have a non-jump above 3NT in the fourth suit be an empathetic splinter if a jump would bypass five of the minor. Examples:




Saturday, February 2, 2008

Transfers After Puppet After Kokish

Nothing earth-shattering here.

You open 2♣, strong, artificial, forcing.

Partner bids 2D, GF and waiting.

You bid 2♥, intending a Kokish start.

Partner bids 2♠, the relay. As an aside, hopefully 2♠ denies something. It would be a shame to just bid 2♠ on any old hand and miss the opposrtunity for any number of other possible calls. But, that's another issue...

You bid 2NT, unlimited big balanced.

Partner bids 3♣, Puppet Stayman.

You bid 3D, showing some four-card major. I wish you were playing Batchelder Puppet, as then the issue I am about to discuss would not come up. But, your partner is lazy and refuses to play a decent version of Puppet Stayman. So, what can YOU do?

Partner bids 4♣, showing both majors.

If your partnership is lazy enough to have this auction so far (the jab is in good fun, of course), then you might not have discussed Opener's options at this point. However, it seems rather simple. Opener has already bid hearts (way back when he bid 2♥), and Responder has already bid spades (at 2♠). In fact, the LOL's you are playing against are giggling right now because you have bid every suit, and notrump, in order, almost twice over (until one of you decided to bid Gerber). So, it seems that there are two schemes:

1. Opener bids game the the major of preference or does something intriguing to invite or place a slam of choice, without any clue why.
2. Opener transfers to the major of choice and passes, answers RKCB for that suit if asked, or uses RKCB to ask in that suit if Responder does not but Opener is interested, or any other interesting and useful call, with the major agreed.

It seems fairly superior to use transfers here.

Note how dumb a 4D call by Responder, instead of 4♣, would be. Micropreemption, again. Even if Responder "ain't got no interest at all," that fact has no bearing on whether Opener might or might not have a 28-count. For that matter, Opener seems more likely to have a 28-count if Responder has garbage. So I suppose 4D should be a possible bid but should show some very specific holding, like one major King and nothing else, or two Queens and nothing else, or whatever specific meaning makes sense to y'all.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Micro-Preemption Concerns

Consider the ever-so-slight difference between a MIni-Roman 2D opening and a Roman 2♣ opening.

After a Min-Roman 2D opening, the usual first step for an asking sequence is 2NT. This, of course, forfeits 2NT as a natural call or as a semi-natural call. Furthermore, even if the partnership uses submarine answering, a response of 3♠ (short club) is quite a high call if the fit is hearts. Anyone experienced with using an "unknown shortness" Mini-Roman 2D opening has quickly learned how difficult these auctions are.

In contrast, in the past I used (in the context of a rather strange canape system) a 2♣ opening for a 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-4-0 pattern, with any shortness, where the range was 10-34 HCP. That range was not that difficult to use, and I remember no problems. The basic structure was for a 2D response to ask questions, Opener first showing strength in steps. Then, the cheapest call at or above 2NT asked for the stiff (sub-marine).

A simpler version was 11-15 (same range). 2D asked for strength and shape. With a minimum, Opener bid 2♥ with four hearts or 2♠ with 4144/4054/4045. With a maximum, Opener rebid one below the shortness (2NT=4441/4450, 3♣=4414/4405, 3D=4144/4054/4045, 3♥=1444/0454/0445). If Opener showed a minimum with hearts, Responder could ask for more by bidding 3D (3♥ = 4441/4450, 3♠ = 4414/4405, 3NT = 1444/0454/0445). You see that (1) Responder can bid 2NT naturally or semi-naturally, (2) the highest response is 3♥, (3) you also find out strength. Would you not rather sacrifice a 2D call (a bid that others use as the opening bid) than a 2NT call, and save that entire level of space?

Now, your system might not have this sort of capability. However, be aware of internal micro-preempts that may have negative impacts on your approach. These micro-preempts can be of much more impact than you may have recognized.