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.