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.