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.