Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ebook available

Masterpoint Press has launched, offering many titled, including Cuebidding at Bridge, a Modern Approach, in an ebook format. They are also considering publishing some books through this format only, perhaps for lower market books or lesser known authors. If you are interested, send me an email.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spoecific situation

A friend suggested an interesting treatment. Of course, I had to expand it even more.

The problem. Blah-blah-blah occurs. The opponents have shown spades. We have hearts. Partner's last bid was 4H. We want to explore slam, but we have not together worked out whether spades are controlled. What now?

My friend's idea makes sense. 4NT is RKCB. 4S is asking for a spade stopper and is RKCB if you have it. Thus, partner's replies to 4S will be:

4NT = 0/3 with a stopper
5C = 1/4 with a stopper
5D = 2 without the Q but with a stopper
5H = no stopper
5S = two with the Q and a stopper

I think this can be deepened even more, in a Meckwellian manner, if so inclined. You could also add in an immediate-answers with or without. For instance, Responder's 5C call could be 0/3 with a spade control. Opener could bid 4NT after 4S to ask or answer at 5C+. Something like that.

Or, a uni-directional. If the mover is weak, 4S asks, but 4NT+ answers with. If the mover is strong, 4S asks and is RKCB, 4NT asks and shows, 5C+ ask other questions.

In the end, though, I think the simple suggestion is easy and good. If 4S invites slam without a spade control, Opener answers RKCB with a spade control, skipping 5H as the decline bid. 4NT, instead, asks RKCB but shows a spade control. Simple, and effective.

BTW -- this solves a Bridge Bulletin problem (as noticed by my friend, Ken Eichenbaum).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Buried Slam Tries

Another good discussion on BBF.

The idea eventually arose -- how to make a rare slam try in a game try sequence for a side suit, without revealing too much too often?

The core issue. When Opener has invitational values and hears a raise of his major, the partnership may well have a slam in a side 4-4 or 4-5 fit, strangely. E.g., A-AQxxx-Kxx-KJxx opposite xxx-Kxx-xx-AQxxx. You basically need normal splits to make 6C. Add in the heart Jack, and this is nearly laydown.

My approach would be:

3C-P-3NT(super-accept clubs)-P-
4C(agrees clubs)-etc.

But, one objection was that 3C might reveal too much. So, what about a slower, non-revealing sequence, using some new tools?

2S(first step -- random GT or better)-2NT(relay -- I have interest in a side suit slam, if you care)-P-3C(I do. Where?)-P-
3H = clubs
3S = spades

Opener then either bids 4M, or cuebids, or relays again (Responder's call +1) to ask questions.

Seems like it might work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interesting Surrogate Bidding Problem

I found this deal to be a fascinating hand, at least for the possibilities involved. See the link to the BBF post.

This features a 5C call that ends up being RKCB for diamonds despite agreement that spades are "trumps," with the end contract (depending on the answer) being either 5S or 6D. This is enabled because of all the info exchanged during the cuebidding sequence, which follows a 4SF that sets trumps at the two-level. A really powerful auction. Now, admittedly it would be a better sequence as far as the clarity of the position to take) had Responder held three diamonds or the AJ doubleton, but fascinating nonetheless.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Internal strength Cue?

The general "rule" for my style of cuebidding is that a cuebid in a suit that the cuebidder initiated shows two of the top three honors.

So, for example, after 1S-P-2C-P-2D-P-2S, Opener only cues 3D if he has two of the top three honors in diamonds.

However, note that the failure to cuebid 2NT (a trump quality denial cue) means that Opener also has two of the top three honors in trumps, the latter known by inference.

So, let's cramp up the auction a bit. 1S-P-2D-P-3C-P-3S. A very similar auction, with one major difference -- we have lost a round of cuebidding. That major difference deprives us of both a 3S cue as a trump cue and the 2NT cue as a denial cue.

In this situation, there might be some merit to consider expanding the thought process for a 4C cue. Normally, a 4C cue shows two of the top three honors, in clubs. Also, this is a courtesy cue (Opener did not cue 3NT to show serious interest).

Well, it seems somehow strange to me, in thinking this through, to have a mmeans for Opener to define his external strength (his strength in clubs) but not his internal strength (his strength in trumps). In other words, it seems odd that a 4C cuebid cannot be made unless Opener has at least KQ, but Opener could have just about anything in trumps.

I have not thought through the permutations of an alternative approach, but it seems to me that it would be workable for Opener's cramped-space cuebid of a side suit to not show two of the top three honors in clubs but to rather show what could be called "internal strength."

"Internal strength" is a concept that looks both at clubs and at trumps. In this situation, clubs and spades.

"Internal strength" could be defined in several ways.

It could mean one of two holdings: (A) two of the top three clubs, or (B) one of the top two clubs and two of the top three spades. With this definition, Opener could cue 4C with AQ, AK, or KQ in clubs, even if he has no spade honor. Or, Opener could cue 4C with just the sole Ace or King of clubs, so long as he has two of the top three spades.

The problem with this definition is that the net honor contribution is variable. Another alternative might be more pure. For the "pure three" method, a 4C call could be made with either (A) two of the top three clubs and at least one of the top three trumps, or (B) one of the top two clubs and two of the top three trumps.

Suppose that Responder is looking at two of the top three trumps. If he hears a 4C call from Opener, Responder would know that Opener has two of the top three clubs. If, however, Responder is looking at two of the top three clubs, then he would know that Opener has two of the top three trumps, and the missing club honor. Thus, when Responder has two of the top three cards in one of Opener's suits, the meaning of opener's courtesy cue would be clear.

However, what if Responder only has one of the top three cards in each black suit? In that event, Responder would know that either clubs are solid or trumps are solid. Either one might be enough. However, there is a serious problem that you may spot. What if Responder has all three top spades?

Well, then maybe a third option for "internal strength" emerges. (A) Two of the top three clubs plus one trump honor, or (B) one of the top two clubs plus two trump honors, or (C) all three top club honors.

Either of the second or third options will limit Opener's opportunities to cue 4C, but they would each be more descriptive. The first option would allow the cue to be made more often, but then this would cost in description reliability.

I suppose a fourth option comes to mind, a variation on the first. (A) Two of the top three clubs, or (B) two of the top three trumps and the club Ace.

Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wrap-Around Answering

In my book, I described a "wrap-around" method of answering "yummy toes" asking bids (asking bids following a picture bid to fill in the blanks). The idea was to answer the next logical question if your answer to the present question was the highest answer possible.

It recently dawned on me that this is not that unusual, as it has been a part of RKCB for years. The steps to RKCB are 0(or 3), 1(or 4), 2. However, the "highest answer" has a wrap-around of the next logical question -- the queen ask. This makes the steps actually 0(or 3), 1(or 4), 2(without the Queen), 2(with the Queen).

So, wrap-arounds are not all that foreign, eh?

I think wrap-arounds can and probably should be used more frequently. A discussion of a deal recently provided an example. Responder has shown a negative (at most one queen) with a probability of shortness in hearts (at most two). He has already shown his queen in a cuebid after trumps are set. opener now asks for heart length, in steps. If Responder has 2, first step. With one, second step. It seems to me that with the void, third step, Responder can wrap by next answering the logical question (how many trumps do you have for me). Contextually, this would mean (trust me) that the third step shows a void with two trumps, then void with three trumps, etc.

I think simpler examples exist. If your answers to checkback stayman are to always bid 2D without support for Responder's major, 2H with a minimum, and 2S with a maximum, then it seems that 2S will not be the final contract. Why not then have 2S and higher bids be "wrap arounds?" If partner is slammish, this wrapping would start that process up earlier and save space.

Some "wrap arounds" are implicit. Consider a Jacoby Transfer. The "highest response" is accepting the transfer, which is only one bid. However, with support, you are able to "wrap around" to answer an implied next question. Maybe the partnership agrees that the next question is to show a doubleton. Maybe a different question. But, you essentially wrap around if enabled.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Not sure what happened here.

Opener: Kxx-A10xxxx-AJx-x
Responder: Axxx-Qxx-Qx-AQxx

USA 2 had an auction I hate. After a 1H opening, looking at three hearts and four spades, Responder bid a silly 1S. This resulted in a heart rebid and a practical 4H. Thus, there was nothing in the way of any communication, at all.

Give Opener the exact same hand, but reverse the black suits. x-A10xxxx-AJx-Kxx. With that hand, the contract seems to turn on a diamond hook and heart cooperating, which is a bad slam. Add one point, though. x-AJ10xxx-AJx-Kxx. Now, the slam is a 75% slam. Really bad to end up in 4H without a clue as to whether this is right or not. The spade bid, if anything, would discourage Opener if he has a stiff, which would not be a bad thing.

So, I dislike the USA 2 sequence.

I liked the start of the Italian sequence. 2C is my view of the right call. Set a GF when you have 3-card support for Opener's major, even with five in the other major, I say. Makes life easier. A common theme. I don't know whether 2C did set a GF, though.

However, a necessary requirement to this making sense is for Opener to not rebid in a 3-card major for some unknown reason. I don't know why Versace rebid 2S. This must mean something in their approach that I do not understand.

The resulting auction was strange to me. A 2NT rebid followed, by Responder. Opener rebid 3H, which I presume to be natural. Responder bid 3S, which might have been a cue or might have been natural. I just cannot follow the sequence:


The end was really bad.

If Opener opts to rebid a three-card suit rather than his six-card suit, which might make sense, then 2D stands out. If the sequence is GF, Responder sets trumps (2H), and cuebidding starts. 2NT by Opener (not two of the top three honors) lets Responder know immediately that there is a likely heart loser. He bids 3C anyway, also two of the top three honors. Opener bypasses 3D to deny two top diamond honors, bidding 3H to show one of the top three hearts.

Responder at this point knows that there is likely a diamond problem and a heart problem. However, the proposed hand for a 75% slam still is possible. So, he trudges on with a 3S cue.

Opener, had he held the club King, would be able to cue that card as a courtesy cue.

So, imagine two hands:


With the former, where slam makes, Opener cues 4C next and could accept a 4D "last train" call because of the stiff spade, great heart secondaries, and diamond Jack.

With the latter, where slam fails, Opener has no serious interest and no cues left, bidding 4H, which is passed.

Thus, the extra space from a 2D call would help tremendously.

Back up, though. If Opener rebids 2H instead, what happens? Now, Responder must bid 3H to set trumps. This allows less room to explore. Opener cues 3S, whether he has the Kxx situation or the stiff. Responder, with only a 14-count, and quacks, bids a courtesy 4C, showing two of the top three clubs.

Back to Opener and the two proposed hands.

With the stiff spade hand (x-AJ10xxx-AJx-Kxx), Opener has a fighting chance. The stiff spade looks nice, the club King looks really nice, and Opener has two Aces. Maybe slam is found, maybe not. But, there is a chance. At least sniffing occurs.

With the actual hand, however, Opener has no interest at this point. A slow spade control, stiff in partner's suit, lousy hearts. A signoff occurs without grief.

In sum, then, I hate the USA 2 sequence. I love the Italian start, but I lost them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A tough Sao Paulo grand slam to bid, unless...

Opener: AK109xx-xxx-AQ-Ax
Responder: Qxx-AQJ10x-x-KQJx

Half of the teams in the Bermuda Bowl found the grand in spades, half a small slam.

The easy opening is 1S.

Responder actually has a problem, IMO. On the one hand, the clear textbook call is 2H, for the obvious reason. However, 2C is really appealing. The suit is real, so there is no lie involved. If Opener happens to rebid 2H, tactics can change to a heart raise, if you want. However, after either a 2H or 2D rebid, the latter seeming likely, Responder can set trumps at 2S, which saves a lot of space for cuebidding. Personally, I really like 2C. Hold that thought for a moment...

Let's assume, however, a normal 2H response. Opener has problem #2. He wants to rebid his spades, especially with three small hearts and no honor. However, support with support seems to prevail. So, 3H it is.

Responder now has hearts set as trumps for cuebidding purposes. So, he cues 3S to show a spade honor. Opener, liking everything about his hand except the three small hearts, probably bids 3NT serious, although blasting 4NT makes sense, but this leads to an inferior small slam, it seems. After 3NT, Responder might sense troubles and take over himself, but how? 4NT still only answers the heart question. 4S, as RKCB but re-focusing spades for answers works, if Responder thinks this through. After a serious 3NT, slam will surely be bid. So, a 4S call, if a grand is there, will yield a response showing three Aces and the spade King. That's 11 easy tricks (five spades, four clubs, two aces), with assuredly a 12th coming from hearts or a diamond ruff. A grand try should result in acceptance if Opener has the heart King (with which he will be surprised to hear the 4S call) or a sixth spade. If Opener bids 7H, a correction to 7S works.

Thus, Responder ultimately needs to ignore the heart suit even after agreeing hearts.

Wow, is that difficult, though.

Back up to the 2C option. I tend to leap at 2C as my option whenever it is plausible, This hand shows another example of why.

I want to hear a 2D or 2H call and then to set trumps at the two-level. Instead, I hear 2S. Now, at least I know about the sixth spade already. As Responder, I set trumps by raising to 3S. Whatever happens, if I make sure that I ask questions, I will be able to count 12 easy tricks (the same four clubs, two Aces, and now six spades) and need only a doubleton diamond for the 13th, or the heart King, or the diamond King, or a finesse/squeeze decision.

So, strange as it seems, I again like the idea of temporarily ignoring five cards in the other major when you have three-card support for the opened major, when 2C as the GF is plausible. It almost always produces a better result in the long run.

Tough hand. The key to an easy auction is to ignore the hearts early on rather than to ignore the hearts later. People sometimes think I am insane for ignoring side five-card majors in these circumstances, but just think about and watch the results of doing this when you have problem auctions with this situation -- three-card support, five of the other major, and GF values. The auction is OFTEN screwy when you respond in the five-card side major, whereas the alternative auction is USUALLY easy and more successful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Weird problem at the WBF

Opener: xx-AKxx-Ax-QJxxx
Responder: AKQ-x-KQJxxx-xxx

The four top teams in the Bermuda Bowl played this hand. Two played in 3NT, one in 5D down one after club Ace, club King, club ruff. One tried 6D and met the same defense.

The four teams in the Venice Cup also played this hand. Two played in 3NT, one in 5D down one after club Ace, club King, club ruff. One tried 6D and met the same defense.

The Seniors had more variation. Only one opted a notrump contract -- 4NT-- making the same 11 top tricks everyone else in notrump claimed. Two tried 5D, one managing to slip through 11 tricks. One tried 6D, again.

So, of the 12 best teams in the world, presumably, only five, a minority, played in the normal notrump contract, and three actually tried for a slam off three cashing tricks.

Just plain weird.

I missed the bidding, but maybe I'll see a few later and have a better understanding of what went wrong. Anyone know?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Slam Bidding at the World Championships

Folks may wonder how important slam bidding is at the highest level of the game. In Round 4 of the Quarterfinals, three slam hands yielded 116 IMP's worth of swings between the eight teams. That's an average swing of 38.67 IMP's per board, and 9.67 IMP's per board per table. One additional slam hand resulted in everyone in the same small slam. So, four slams, wild swings on three of them.

Now, these three boards basically washed out in the Italy-Russia match, in the Bulgaria-Germany match, and in the Netherlands-USA2 match, as each match featured the same result on one slam hand, one winning another slam hand, and the other winning the third slam hand. Only the China-Norway match resulted in a net swing.

However, each actual swing deal is interesting in its own right.

The first was Board 26. Dealer held KQJxx-v-KQxxx-Kxx, Responder held A9xx-x-J9xxx-AJx. Because of a diamond ruff, four 6S contracts went set a trick, and one 5S contract went set, as well. Two signed off at 4S. One bid and made 5S. No one tried 6D, which is cold, or which induces a 6H sacrifice for only +800. Of course, +800 beats -100 or -200.

The second was Board 28. Opener held A10x-A-AK109xx-AJ2 and caught a nice Responder with Qxxx-KQ10-Qxxx-xx. Not a great contract, but just right when the spade KJ are together. Five found 6D, all making. Two settled for 3NT. One defended 4H for a measly +500.

The third was Board 30. Opener holding A9xx-AQx-AQ9xxx-v and Responder J10-Kxxx-Kx-AKQJx, 7NT seems reasonable, with 15 tricks in practice available. The extremely conservative might settle for 7D or even 6D. Strangely, however, although five teams bid 7NT and netted 1520, only one tried a small slam, the mysterious 6C bid by China (which happens to work when clubs split 4-4). USA2 tried the Moysian 4H, a VERY safe contract in practice, but perhaps the only contract that could be in jeopardy. USA2 scored up +480 on fine play. The last contract was 5D by Germany, a contract with at least strain resolved.

All of these three deals are tough deals, admittedly. But, there still seems to be room for improvement at the top levels of the game in the slam bidding department.

Twice in a Row???

Boards 14 and 15 in Round 3 of the Quarterfinals could have been better handled by USA 2 if they were using my two-way strong opening style.

On the first, the USA 2 Opener held AQxxx-x-A-AKQxxx, and his partner held K10xx-Jxxxx-KQx-J. After a Precision 1C opening and a 1S response (artificial, showing hearts), intervention of 2D caused Opener to bid 3C, Responder a practical 3NT, Opener 4C, and Responder 5C. This was fortunate to make, as a spade lead, heart return, and second spade ruff sets 5C. As it was, USA 2 scored up 440 for the game, losing 11 IMPs when the lay-down spade slam was missed.

In my methods, Opener starts with 2D, planning to rebid 4S to show a hand with 5S/6C and about two losers. In practice, however, Responder would immediately set trumps as spades and show extras, bidding 2NT. No diamond intervention would matter.

On the very next hand, South for USA 2 was dealer with KQJx-v-AKJxx-AQxx. Partner held xxx-xx-xxx-J9xxx. The opponents, admittedly, had a freak heart contract that made five (A-QJ98xx-Q9xx-Kxx opposite 109xxx-AKxxxx-x-x). USA 2 ended up defending 4HX, collecting -690 for a one-IMP loss when USA 2 at the other table was forced to the five-level.

I am not sure what the auction was, but in my methods, Opener starts with 2D. A three-loser hand with no rebid problems. He intends on checking first for a spade fit and, if none is found, bidding 3S to show both minors (and hence three-suited with short hearts).

If second seat overcalls hearts, North will double (whether "bust" or "support -- three-card spades) and fourth seat will blast hearts, after which Opener simply bids 4NT for the minors, and at least the 5C contract is reached. Whether 6C would be bid or not is a judgment call, but the 1-IMP loss here would either be a push or possibly a 4 IMP gain.

Two boards in a row, with 12 or 15 IMP's at stake at the highest level of the game. Still, USA 2 is up by 3 IMP's at this point.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another interesting slam hand in Sao Paulo

Opener: AKQxx-xx-AJ-Axxx
Responder: J10xxx-AQx-KQ109-x

This seems like an easy set of hands to reach grand, but not so much at the World Championships.

The first question is Responder's selection of a path. I dislike the splinter option with a fifth spade, poor spade honors, and slow values. I also dislike Jacoby 2NT, which I hate generally anyway. So, 2D seems rather obvious.

This yields an ugly-sounding 3C to Responder, although that could be predicted. What else but 3S?

Opener bids the obvious 3NT, so Responder shows his good diamonds -- 4D -- two of the top three. Opener likes that, but 4H ass LTTC seems obvious, lacking the heart control.

Responder has the heart Ace, which cannot be bad. sure, the stiff in clubs does not help Opener's club suit, but Opener knows that Responder lacks any honors and is till interested, and the stiff with five trumps seems nice. Seems like Responder has the best information, and no good way to show the fifth spades, so 4NT seems right.

Opener shows four. Wow. The Queen is not needed, but outside cards might be. Sounds like 5NT.

This is really cool. Recall that Responder already cuebid 4D, showing two of the top three diamonds. If Responder is now seeking a grand, we both know that Opener has the diamond Ace. So, all three top diamond honors are accounted for. This allows Opener to make a really nice call. He bypasses 5C because he does not have the club King. As he cannot have the diamond King or Queen, and is already known to have the diamond Ace, 6D shows the only thing left -- the diamond Jack!

You might think that Opener could just bid the grand, because Responder's 5NT call pretty much disclosed the fifth trump when Opener is looking at the Jack, but Opener does not know about the club stiff. Plus, why not describe your hand perfectly when you can?

Responder never knows about the spade Queen, but the 13th trick seems obvious now that the diamonds are known to run.

Back up if you don't like not asking for the Queen. Responder could do that also, bidding 5H (if regular RKCB) or 5D (if 1430). Opener will show the Queen and NOW can deny the club King but show the diamond Jack.

Back way up, though. after the 2D call, North held x-Jxxxx-KQxxxx-x, white on red. This might get messier. Not sure if that was the problem sometimes, but not always. The 2D start still works whenever Responder can bid 3S at his next turn. And, that was in fact available sometimes.

A biddable grand, but no one seemed to be in the RIGHT grand

From Sao Paulo:

Opener: 10xx-Kxx-Ax-AKJ10x
Responder: AKQxx-AQxx-Qx-Qx


First, the 3S call. Opener, although "minimum" by HCP, has a primed hand, support, and a trick source. But, with no spade card, immediate cues (4C+) are not a good idea.

Responder: 3NT(serious)
Opener: 4C

I like 1NT Openers to cue suits with two of the top three honors, as the first cue in a minor, to allow the "minor to emerge." In other words, this parallels a sequence where Opener had started 1C and thus was able to cue his club suit as his own suit. This method allows Opener's 4C call to do the same.

Responder: 4H (two of the top three honors, no diamond control)

Opener: 4NT (RKCB)

Responder: 5S (three with the Queen)

Opener: 6C (do you have the missing club honor?)

Responder: 6D (yes, and the diamond Queen, at least doubleton)

At this point, Opener has three reasonable contracts. 7S is the obvious, but that relies on spades working and no ruffs on opening lead. 7NT avoids the opening lead ruff and gives us a backup plan if spades do not cooperate -- five clubs, three hearts, three top spades, and a top diamond for 12 tricks, with a spade-heart, spade-diamond, or heart-diamond (or all three) squeeze available, that diamond Queen producing a better menace. Or, Opener could opt 7C, which is in jeopardy of a spade ruff on opening lead but that allows a simple line for the 12th trick, ruffing out spades.

As it was, some had trouble reaching the grand, and the grand was always 7S, making when spades cooperated. I did not see if anyone played 7C, which also makes, or 7NT.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What the Heck?

I assume this was a failed attempt to snow Meckstroth, but anyone know what was going on in the USA1-USA2 Bd 1?

Robinson opened with 10x-KJ108x-KQ-KQxx.

Boyd responded 2NT with Qx-AQ9xx-AJ10-AJx. Not my style. I'd respond 2C, hear 3C, correct to 3H, hear anything except 3S, and sign off. But, 2NT was their course, and fine.

Robinson bid 3C. Not sure what this showed. Maybe natural. Maybe artificial with no shortness. Maybe range.

Boyd bid 3D, Robinson 3H, and Boyd 4C. I do not know what all of this meant, but Robinson's next call, 4S, seems really strange.

The end result was a slam off the cashing top two spades. Any lead but a spade and the contract makes, so maybe someone got silly and hoped to turn off the spade lead.

I hope so.

Conditional Asking?

A thought just occurred to me last night, while playing at a local club and seeing the field miss two lay-down grand slams where there were more tricks available than in the red light district.

There seems to be a relatively modest number of times where you are fairly positive about reaching slam, with a primary real focus being a grand. In that situation, it often seems like ace-asking takes a while to get to the point. I mean, you bid 4NT, fairly certain that your answer will be encouraging for the grand, but then your 5NT call seems to grab a lot of space to unwind the rest. Occasionally.

So, sort of as a brainstorm idea, I was wondering back to the days in the Culbertson era where there was the 4-5NT convention and the days of the Neapolitan Declarative-Interrogative 4NT, in each case the asker saying something about his hand himself.

There seems to be some merit to this line of thinking, perhaps in some defined set of circumstances. In simply brainstorming, it occurred to me that perhaps some structure of "name the right answer" asking bids might save space.

For example, let's assume an auction where blah-blah-blah happens, and the person about to ask questions is fairly to completely certain that we have slam but is less certain about a grand. Assume also that, for the sake of discussion, no call above 4NT would serve any contextually useful purpose.

The person asking could name the "great response" as an immediate King ask. So, suppose 1430 answering. The person asking, instead of bidding 4NT, could bid 5D, asking partner to show specific Kings up the line if his answer to 4NT would have been 5D; if not, sign off at slam. Or, Asker could bid 5S asking partner to answer immediate Kings if his answer would have been "two with the Queen." Either way, space is saved.

You could even collapse this further. Suppose, for instance, that the asking bid of this type allowed a signoff at the five-level. So, the person asking questions could bid 5S, meaning, "If you have two key cards, plus the queen of trumps, answer immediate Kings." If partner, instead, had two key cards without the trump Queen, he would sign off at 6S. But, if partner held only one key card, he passes. Thus, you would not even need to be assured of slam to use this method.

This method might have a secondary, non-obvious benefit.

Suppose that your auction (recap so far of the auction: blah-blah-blah) is such that the person asking for Aces would be Declarer. When that happens, the person answering is required to bid all sorts of side suits artificially. This creates a lucrative ability for RHO to double as lead-directors and to pass as weak inferences as to lead.

However, if the anticipated Declarer makes this sort of "name the right answer" asking bid, RHO loses this opportunity whenever partner either signs off at five or bids only six. In other words, a "name the right answer" approach saves space while also depriving the opposition of lead-directing doubles and lead-inferencing non-doubles.

Fighting for every IMP

Recalling another humorous hand from years ago.

Another partner of mine was known for the exotic. He would play 24 boards solid, but the two that he tanked were usually story hands. No one could tank a hand with more style. An example was a hand where his decision at trick 2, although reasonable, yielded a net result of only taking two tricks, despite having started with three Aces and an eight-card fit, with no voids out there. A friend of mine and I, presented with the same problem, both zagged at trick 2 and ended up with 10 tricks.

Another deal was rich. A non-obvious slam bidding problem.

Favorable, I was dealt v-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxx. A powerhouse. Partner opened 1D, promising an unbalanced hand, and RHO overcalled 1S. Favorable, I peeked at the CC to my right and noticed "Rosenkranz XX" indicated. People often play Rosenkranz XX but have no idea what they are doing. So, figuring that a XX was likely, and wanting to be frisky, I doubled, negative. A tad light, but it will get better.

Sure enough, XX hit the table. Partner now made a 2C call. This was really getting interesting. When RHO passed, I was convinced that the opponents had a 9-fit in spades, which gave partner precisely 4-0-5-4 shape. There are a lot of tricks if partner has 4-0-5-4 shape. White on Red, time to get creative again. The obvious option is a 2S cue. Might as well show my powerhouse.

When partner resolved to bid only 3D with his xxxx-v-AKxxx-AKxx, RHO doubled. I erred by not redoubling, as the double was a striped-tail ape.

When the minors split 2-2, 13 tricks are usually available.

In practice, however, partner panicked, afraid that he would lose a bunch of tricks on a cross-ruff. That fear induced a line to actually enable a cross-ruff. So, he managed -1, for -100. Only five tricks dropped. Comparison revealed +140 for 3S, so we gained 1 IMP for the effort.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Just had a reminder of one of my favorite experiences at the table.

Years ago, I was a mad scientist. No -- really. I was playing with a good friend, who liked the bizarre. As a side example, we had an auction, never repeated I bet, where he opened 1C, pass, I bid 1NT, alerted as 2-5 HCP (why play the mundane 9-11? LOL). The explanation continued, that I would have "more minor cards the more vulnerable we were." We were red on white, so I should be contributing quite a few minor cards. After a double of 1NT, partner leapt to 6C!!! This was doubled. If a specific King was in the "right" place, we would have made 6C. Because the King was in the "wrong" place, we went -1 for -200, beating -450 (the overtrick coming because the King was in the "right" place for them, now). 1C-P-1NT-X-6C is unlikely to have occurred before, and even more so if 1NT was alerted as "2-5 HCP."

Anyway, we played a two-way takeout structure. Our 1NT overcall was a second takeout call, dubbed "RUNT" by my partner, for "Really Unusual No Trump."

So, at about board 2 in the seven-board match at the regional, I overcalled 1NT, alerted. Partner, who was loud especially when he was having fun, explained. "That's RUNT. Partner has either 5-10 HCP and at least three cards in each of the other three suits, or 19-22 HCP and any shape." So, we ended up doing something intriguing, like maybe some elaborate runout approach we had created when 1NT is doubled. Whatever.

A few boards later, in the same match, I doubled an opening bid, again alerted. "What's that?" Partner responded simply, "Son of RUNT." Responder then said, "OK, I'll bite." Partner then explained. "Well, he either has 0-4 HCP and at least 3 cards in the other three suits, or 11-18 HCP and takeout shape, or 15+ to 18 balanced, or maybe 15-18 and a very strong unbalanced hand as far as playing strength, or 23+ HCP and any shape."

Across the room, from the farthest corner, a voice rang out... "Of course that's what it means, you idiot!!!"

The room erupted.

I don't play RUNT any more. But, it was amusing for a time, and strangely effective. Maybe it was the six-pack that we always took with us when we played together.....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rough Structure Split Force

A short intro to my new idea:

The structure uses two strong openings -- 2C and 2D. 2D is spade-focused; 2D not.

So, you end up with, roughly...

5+ spades = 2D...2S
5+ hearts = 2C...2H

4 spades, balanced = 2D...2NT
Not 4 spades, balanced = 2C...2NT

4S, longer minor = 2D...3-bids
4H, longer minor = 2C...2S...3-bids

4S, 4441-types = 2D...other 3-bids
4H, 1444 = 2C...2S...3NT

Neither major, other unbalanced patterns = 2C...3-bids

Of course, lots more to this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Strange Theory Issue

In working up my new book, I ran into a situation that was unusual and that I have never seen before. You might find this interesting.

Suppose that you have an agreement where after a 2C opening and 2D response Opener's 3C rebid is natural but denies a four-card major. Opener will have 6+ clubs unless he has 5D/4C. In my new approach, that definition exists. But, for those who just play that Opener's 3M rebids show that major (four of them) and diamonds, your 3D bid will have that same limitation.

In the club-suit situation (3C), this creates an interesting handling issue. It seems to me that Responder, if holding a five-card major and four diamonds, should actually bid 3D rather than his major. Consider why. First, if opener has 5C/4D, your diamond call will allow Opener to know that the diamond fit exists, which can be held in reserve until later, such as if Opener makes some other call and only then bids 4D, with the added benefit that Opener could complete his pattern before setting diamonds as trumps. Second, Opener, whether he has a diamond suit or not, will still, if he knows that you would do this with a five-card major, bid his three-card majors up-the-line, both because he wants to find a major fit and perhaps because he wants to complete his pattern. With 5C/4D and 3-1 or 1-3 in the majors, wouldn't Opener bid that major, having already denied four, if he knows that you could have five of them? So, the major fit will be found anyway, but this way Opener will actually declare that possible major contract, which is a good thing. Third, if a major fit is discovered, then Responder will have added to the discourse by describing nine of his cards, which is also nice.

I don't believe I have seen an approach where three-level canape responses with diamonds and a longer major make sense, but this is one example.

By the way, you probably noticed that this same technique does not help when 3D denies a four-card major, which is the common experience of many people. In my methods, I handle this problem with a 3H rebid showing a heart fragment and 4C/5-6D and with a 3NT call showing the same pattern but spades instead (or 4S or 5S with huge hands) because these calls are not really needed for any other meaning, or at least not that much.

I, of course, have suggested follow up agreements. You can't introduce the wacky without answering the "what next?" question.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Coming Soon

I am pleased to announce that I am currently in the process of completing a project with Master Point Press to release a new book describing a serious way of handling strong bids through two separate openings, 2D for hands with 4+ spades and 2C for hands without 4+ spades (one exception -- very strong balanced hands).

I have mentioned this idea several times over the past year or so (see here and here), as I worked on developing some of the finer details of that approach, both in actual practice at the table and in the lab of the mind. I ran through a large set of vugraph archives and current event vugraphs to test out the approach. I am extremely pleased with the end product.

The beauty of this new idea, at least in my opinion, is that it solves many and almost all of the problems faced by strong 2C bidders, and in a way that may even be superior to a 1C system in many respects (including preemption insurance), but most importantly in a way that should be accessible to even intermediate players. One key aspect of the approach that needed worked out was to ensure as much parallel structure as possible, to assist in the memory load when learning anything new.

Also, however, the approach works extremely well in that it provides space for people to "gadget up" as they so desire, with of course some very detailed ideas I already have.

So, the goal, then, was an approach that solves all of the strong hand problems in a way that is easy to learn but also very malleable for tastes, whether simple natural or wildly complex. I cannot solve how to describe 0-9-4-0 pattern below 3NT yet, but I've covered quite a bit of real-world territory, including:

-showing both minors below 3NT
-finding major fits before leaving the two-level
-exploring 4-4 minor fits below 3NT when Opener is balanced
-describing all 4-4-4-1 hands without any problems
-having no problem finding any fit below 3NT even when partner has 5-4-3-1 shape (any order)
-being able to show hearts below 2NT even after a 2H double negative

The approach is also more preemption-resistant than any strong openings I know of. For example, consider that if 2D promises four spades (or more), Responder has no problem finding the right strain after a 5H preempt. How would you like to hear a standard 2C-5H-? or 1C!-5H-? with only four spades?

I'll update folks when I get a release date.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strong 2D -- A Canape Solution

If you open 2D to show any strong hand with 4+ diamonds, 2C instead tending to deny 4+ spades, then the approach resembles a tendency canape approach.

Consider opening 1S. If you open 1S with 5+ spades (five-card majors), you still might open another suit if holding five spades but six of the other suit. This is rare, but it can still happen and does happen.

If you play four-card majors, you do not open 1S any time that you have four spades. Rather, you will still tend to bid long suits first. However, some 4-card openings happen because of the structure of rebids.

With pure canape, however, a person will open any time they have four spades unless they have a second suit and spades are LONGER, in which case they keep the spades in reserve for the second round, as a canape sequence is one where the longer of two suits is bid second.

with "tendency" canape, however, you might open the long suit first or might open the shorter of two suits first, depending on some factor, such as perhaps range.

With a strong 2D opening used any time the person has four spades, the principle is very much tendency canape. Consider the rebids I use, after a "normal" 2H relay:

2S shows 5+ spades. This is a normal sequence, similar to 2C-P-2D-P-2S in standard. hence, this is NOT canape. However...

3C, 3D, and 3H each are CANAPE bids. Longer in the second suit. Whereas the "canape" aspect could be called "implicit" in the sense that 2D is an artificial opening that "just happens" to show 4+ spades, in reality this is an identical sequence to a theoretical alternative of a spade opening and a jump rebid to this level if the jump rebid was canape.

Similarly, my strong 2C idea has its own implicit canape, as to hearts, but on the second round. The opening is truly artificial, as it carries merely a tendency limitation (not 4+ spades unless 24+ and balanced). No suit is SHOWN; instead, the LIKELIHOOD of a suit (spades) is indicated negatively.

However, the heart rebids fall in two camps -- 2H (sequences for 5+ heart hands) and 2S (canape or 4-4-4-1 hands). Maybe, a double-delay tendency canape approach.

Thus, it seems to me that the two-way structure that best solves the strong-hand problem is structured most effectively with a tendency canape philosophy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Back to Strong 2D

Got to thinking general philosophy. I have been working a lot on the idea that I have had regarding two-way strong openings, with 2D handling strong hands with 4+ spades and 2C then reserved for hands with fewer than four spades. This structure seems to work wonders. So, why does this work so well?

Well, think about opening structures generally.

The strong opening bid is usually a problem for any system. Precision 1C sequences suffer when the opponents intervene (as they will quickly do). Standard 2C sequences suffer when the opponents occasionally intervene, but that opening itself preempts us.

The problem, in both instances, is strain. Even when strain can be resolved, and it often cannot, strain is often not resolved until we hit game level.

As a result, people tend to open a lot more hands at the one-level. Why?

The issue, again, is strain. People are less concerned about a pass-out, or about not showing strength easily, than not showing pattern and thereby losing strain evaluation.

The key to strain and shape is the start. An amorphous start, with little strain restriction, requires more "unwind" time. As such, these openings carry an instant message to the opponents that preemption will likely work because of the intense need to unwind.

In contrast, the more message about shape you can deliver in the first punch, the better suited you are to handle preemption and the less unwind you have remaining, as to shape and strain. The earlier strain can be resolved, the better level can be agreed.

So, what is the functional benefit of a spades-not spades split of strong openings? Strain resolution. This is sort of like one-level openings, crunched. Imagine playing that a 1D opening showed 4+ spades and that a 1C opening denied 4+ spades. That's not as effective as far as strain as 1S for 5+ spades, 1H for 5+ hearts, 1D for 4+ diamonds, and 1C for 2+ clubs, but it is a LOT better than 1C for anything. By dividing the world into two types, you have doubled your available tools to unwind the hand. However, and perhaps more importantly, you have also already said much about one suit, spades, the perhaps most critical of suits. Boss trumps.

So, the theory seems to be to refocus strong openings out of a pure strength-based opening structure to gain more strain-based opening structure. In all other opening bids, theory stresses strain primarily but strength secondarily. We do not have any serious systems that, for example, divide 1C as 10-13, 1D as 14-16, 1H as 17-18, etc., except as jokes. But, in all major systems, this strain idea is lost as to strong, forcing openings, whether 2C, 1C, or 1D. Of course, the ideal strain-based strong system is "Strong Two's," but be serious! No one does that any more! LOL

That said, it seems that a middle ground might well be the best approach, with two strong opening bids, giving up merely 2D as an alternative opening bid, to get back some of that strain focus that is so critical to every other aspect of bridge theory and bridge bidding.

I mean, if you are willing to play conventions like Bart and Support Doubles, which are largely motivated by strain focus, then surely you can see the benefit of re-introducing strain focus into strong sequences.

You find, as well, that strain focus actually increases the number of times you make strong forcing openings. Why? Without strain focus, you are handicapped. As a result, you avoid strength-first openings for strain-first openings, because strain-first makes more sense. However, if your strong openings are strain-first defined, then that primary concern is answered and you now have room, breathing space to unwind.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More on 2D for Spades and Diamonds, and "Opener's BART"

Got to thinking...

Suppose 2D openings show 5S/4-5D and less than high-reverse values, maybe a Rule-of-Twenty 10-count to an ugly 15-count. Responses fairly simple. Maybe 2H natural, NF, constructive. 3C as the ask: 3D minimum (4C re-ask), 3H/3S indicating stiff and max, 3NT no stiff max. Something like that. Maybe sexier, but whatever.

What kind of impact on system?

Well, the early idea was to alleviate the sequence 1S-P-2H-P-3D, a terrible sequence, by making sure Opener has extras for this sequence, and that the sequence is rare.

However, more is possible, very much more.

After a Forcing 1NT, many (like me) tend to have 2+ clubs for 2C, 4+ diamonds for 2D. Add in intermediate jumps (3C/3D/3H as 5-5 intermediates) and a GF 2NT relay, and you have a nice little approach. However, what if 2D openings show 5S/4-5D and light opening strength?

Then, 2D can now, by Opener (1S-P-1NT-P-2D!) be "Opener's BART." Ostensibly, Opener has a weak major two-suiter. 3H shows the 5-5 intermediate. 2H shows both majors, not 5-5, but extras. 2D ostensibly shows the major two-suiter and weak. That helps when Responder has values. The "do I bid 3H or 4H or pass?" becomes "I know what to do." The "do I bid 2NT" becomes "no problem."

So, after 2D, Responder usually picks a major. So far, so good.

But, Opener's 2D might also be a 4D/5S extras hand, with which he corrects 2H (if that is bid) to 2S, sort of like with BART. Now, there are other permutations and options and the like to work out, and I have a few ideas myself already, but this idea is to enable better sequences in a sometimes-tough auction.

How about after a 2/1 2C response, instead? A lot of us now bid 2C with either real clubs or just some gobbled mess wanting to GF. How about BART again, sort of. Opener's 2H rebid could now show 5H, which is nice for the obvious reasons. If Opener bids 2D, waiting, he has some balanced or semi-balanced hand, without six spades or five hearts in that event. If Responder bids hearts, Opener raises with four. Or, Opener has real diamonds (and extras per force), with which he makes some other call later consistent with that holding. This 2D waiting is coming around, but adding to it because of the 2D opening helps, as the "real diamonds" option is more rare and insured by extra strength anyway.

What about DRURY sequences?

Depends on how sick you are. P-P-1S-P-2C (3-card DRURY)-?

2S = minimum
2H = 4-4 minimum
2D = 4S/3H minimum (in case Responder has 5H/3S?)

Or, 2D could be reserved for the really big hands, slammish in context.

The idea is that using 2D openings to show spades and diamonds solves a relatively rare problem immediately (the worst-case high-reverse sequence), but it also frees up a 2D rebid in many sequences to help our side better handle major-suit strain problems, if you add in a strange-sounding concept I call "Opener's BART."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Diamond Slam

A reader from England posed a problem hand.

The issue: Opener has extras with six diamonds and a stiff club, but not THAT much. Responder has five clubs, four spades, 2-2 in the reds, and extra,s (15 HCP), but not THAT much, but he has no honors in clubs. Slam makes easily, but how to get there?

Opener starts 1D, and Responder bids 2C. Whether this is Golady and artificial, or real, Opener needs to be able to show the stiff club and extras. If he can, slam is easily bid.

When 1D promises a stiff or void (unbalanced diamond), which is how I like to play, this is easy. With a simple non-GF style, with real club bids, as I play with my wife, a 3NT rebid worked well. My wife, given Responder's hand, just bid 6D next.

Golady works also. 3H or 3S would be auto-splinters (extras, shortness here). A choice needs to be made as to how to show the stiff club. 3NT is still an option. Or, 3D (because 3C shows diamonds also) works well. Or, if 3D is used to show a minimum without shortness, say, then 3C shows either extras or a stiff, 3D asking.

I like 3D as the auto-splinter in clubs, personally, but that might be because I like my diamond openings to be unbalanced. If not using that method, I think 3NT as the club splinter (4C as a BIG club splinter) makes sense.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Neat little idea

You are dealt ♠xxx ♥Ax ♦10xx ♣AKxxx.

Partner opens 1♥, and you respond a forcing 1NT. Partner rebids 2♦. Now what?

At the table, the Responder with this hand in the story I saw responded 2♥, a practical call. After Opener rebid 3♦, Responder found a nice 4♠ call, a "Bluhmer," showing this type of hand. A "Bluhmer" is a specific instance of an Empathetic Splinter that is the easy kind, in that the empathizing of the stiff is rather easy when partner bids around it.

Nice auction. However, Ken Eichenbaum suggested a better auction, IMO.

The thought goes along logical lines. We all know about the "Impossible 2♠" call, when a Responder who bids a forcing 1NT in response to a heart opening later bids 2♠ to show extras and support for Opener's indicated minor. This makes a lot of sense, especially when the minor is clubs (a suit that is more and more suspect with 2/1 sequences like this, as people often promise four diamonds here and might even have a stiff club with 4531 shape). Bart in the club sequence also helps.

However, in the diamonds-rebid situation, especially with the "real diamonds" crowd, the concern is lessened. It seems reasonable that a greater concern in this situation is the situation where Responder would have made a simple 2♣ response playing SAYC but was forced to bid 1NT forcing because of 2/1 GF, now preempted out of showing the clubs.

Eichenbaum suggested that this 2♠ call, after a 2♦ rebid by Opener, would be more effective as a sort of "snapdragon" type of call -- clubs, heart tolerance, maximum (good enough for a 2/1 in SAYC, maybe). I like this.

With the actual hand, this takes a lot of pressure off of Opener to come up with that 3♣ call. In practice, 3♣ would now only be placing the contract. Opener, however, had such a great hand that he would likely bid toward slam at this point. His hand was ♠A ♥KJ10xx ♦AKJxQxx.

More interesting, perhaps, is if Opener had held a lesser hand, like ♠x ♥KJ10xx ♦AKxxQxx or ♠A ♥KQJxxAxxxQxx. With either of these, the auction after the 2♥ practical rebid by Responder would likely die. However, game in either hearts or clubs is fairly good if Opener knows that Responder's usual "look" is ♥Hx/♣HHxxx. Heck, on that second one, 6♥ or 6♣ seems odds-on to make.

Note, by the way, that the auctions 1♥-P-1NT!-P-2♦-P-2♠!-P-3♣/4♣ both seem to promise a stiff spade, such that there is no need for any sort of 4♠ "splinter" or even a 3♠ "splinter without the jump." It might make more sense for 3♠ to be some sort of game choice bid and for 4♠ to be immediate Exclusion RKCB, or something like that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

2D Openings -- Yet Another Idea

2D is the one opening that could be just about anything sensibly. Maybe a strong option. Maybe three-suited. Maybe Flannery, or Reverse Flannery. Maybe minors.

What the hey! How about another idea?

I at one time thought about solving the high-reverse problem by having 2M show that major and clubs, with 2D as the spade-diamond hand. all light openings. This way, for example, 1S-P-2D-P-??? Not a problem with clubs. If you have enough for a high reverse, bid 3C. If not, you would have opened 2S.

Well, people like weak twos a lot. But, people seem willing to give up 2D as a weak opening, often trying this and that along the way. Seat sometimes matters.

I still think this high-reverse solving idea has a lot of merit for fourth-seat openings, but maybe 2D as spades (5+) and diamonds (4+), not enough for a weak two, is the most critical of the three. And, perhaps the most likely to be accepted.

Why, you ask?

Consider 1S-P-2H-P-3D. This is the death sequence. No 4SF available below 3NT. No room for diddly-squat. Decide, and decide now.

So, maybe you like this idea. Maybe just red on white. Maybe just in fourth seat. Whatever.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A nice minor auction

N: ♠Axxx ♥KJ ♦AKx ♣Jxxx
S: ♠x ♥Qx ♦xxxxx ♣AKQxx

South opens 1♦. North responds 1♠
South bids 2♣. North bids 2♥, 4SF.
South bids 3♣. North bids 3♦, waiting, and below 3NT.

Now, South bids 3♥, a two-way bid. As a notrump probe, this suggests a lack of heart control. If South happened to have been slammish, then a notrump asking probe later proven to be a cue for slam purposes is a denial cue. (Had Opener bid, say, 4♣, instead, the BYPASS of a denial cue promises a heart control).

North decides to give up on 3NT and instead pursue a slam, which makes sense. So, he cues 3♠. This cue is sort of neat. Normally, a cue of a suit you bid would show two of the top three honors. However, in the context of a slam probe by a hand that has advertised 5-5 shape, that makes little sense. Rather, contextually this should show two things -- heart control (because of the denial aspect of the probe) and spade control, one of which is first-round.

South now bids 3NT, a non-serious 3NT call. With the minors, I prefer non-serious 3NT for the obvious reason -- partner can and often does want to pass.

North could pass now, which works out OK. But, suppose he bids on. IMO, the 3♦ call was ambiguous, as the last real call below 3NT that would be waiting. So, Responder should focus trumps. 4♣ by North, if he wants to move.

South now can now bypass 4♦ to deny good diamonds, bypass 4♥ (cheapest out-of-focus major would be RKCB), bypass 4♠ because he has nothing to contribute there, but bid 4NT as Last Train, because his clubs are so good. However, that call would make sense with the diamond Queen, not five small. Instead, he just bids 5♣.

A nice minor auction

The Highest Flag Bids Ever?

A friend of mine gave me a problem from the club game.

His hand was ♠AKQx ♥AJ10 ♦Kxx ♣Qxx. After his partner opened 1♦, RHO overcalled 3♥, red against white. The practical bid of 4NT quantitative was his choice, with which I agreed. His partner's next call was 6♣, which is a slightly weird bid. Whatever it means, the principle as to how to proceed, if at all, could also fit in had the auction been different (opponents actually favorable, with a 5♥ raise, for example). If the heart holding is insufficient for what I'm about to suggest, imagine AQ or AK.

In any event, 6♣ came as a shock. My friend, not sure what to do, just blasted 7NT (matchpoints), figuring that partner had to have the wood for that call.

I suggested a more calculated approach. If you are willing to bid 7NT on a guess, then 6NT can't be out of the question. So, why not use flags here?

6♥ would be a club flag; 6♠ a diamond flag. By a "flag," this asks partner about the quality of his holding, contextually, in the flagged suit. If Opener hears 6♥ and has that extra whatever in clubs, he accepts by bidding 7♣. If he hears 6♠ and has the extra something in diamonds, he also accepts by bidding 7♣ -- no reason to assume that the asking bid is about the eventual trump suit prematurely.

Now, you can actually improve on this in two ways. First, you could have Opener reciprocate with one of the highest Last Train calls imaginable. If he hears 6♥ as a club flag and lacks that "something extra" in clubs, but does have something extra in diamonds, he bids 6♠ LTTC to announce that. Responder might be wanting to play the grand in whichever suit has the best trump holding, to guard against the obvious chance of a bad split, using spades for the obvious spade-other-minor squeeze.

With the actual hand, this is a great solution for the problem. Responder assumes that Opener has something like AQxxx in diamonds and AKxxx in clubs for the 6♣ call. He wants to know if partner has the Jack also in one of these suits. So, he bids 6♥, an "asking flag" in clubs. If Opener held AKJxx in clubs, he'd accept, and Responder bids 7NT, planning to run a spade-club squeeze for the 13th trick. If Responder has only AKxxx in clubs but AQJxx in diamonds, he bids 6♠, and Responder again bids 7NT, planning to run a spade-diamond squeeze for the 13th trick. If Responder bids 6NT, meaning no jacks, Responder can only count 10 tricks if both minors split poorly. However, once he sets one up, he runs the spade-minor squeeze in the other suit for the 12th trick.

Sure, I know. A 10 might also do the trick. Opener might also take a position with a 10.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Almost Jacoby?

I got to thinking about a few sequences, and a recurring thought kept popping up. It seems like the two-card support problem is a recurring problem.

Partner opens 1♠, you bid 2♣, partner bids something, and you have some 4432 with 2-card spade support. Maybe his bid leaves spade length in question. Maybe you have the 2/1 style where partner's 2♠ says nothing about spades. Sure, you can get around to raising spades, but it takes a step or two and uses space/

Partner opens 1♠ and you have the same hand with 11 HCP. You bid a forcing 1NT and partner bids 2♦ (stealing BART in the process, which sucks). Your calls now are not reliable as to shape.

It seems like incorporating a means of showing 2-card support earlier would make a lot of sense.

One thought I'm dabbling with is a 2NT call (1♠-P-2NT) to show GF with 2-card support rather than 4-card support. I'm not all that enamored with Jacoby 2NT anyway. I mean, I like it all right, but I often bid 2/1 2♣ or something anyway, more than others. If 2NT showed some 4432 shape, Opener could do some neat things, like maybe 3♣ as agreeing the opened major and starting cues, 3♦ as the "other major" 4-card holding, suggesting that suit as trumps and inviting cuebids if Responder has support (immediate 3NT declining), and 3♥/3♠ as minor flags (4-card+ suit, inviting cues also).

Or, maybe 3♣ always for hearts and 3♦ always for spades. If hearts is opened, all is normal. If spades is opened, 3♣ could be implying 5-5 or 5-4, such that Responder can either cue at 3♥+ or bid 3♦ to show 2344, after which Opener can cue anyway to confirm a fifth heart.

If hearts is opened, 2♠ could be used as a similar bid (instead of 2NT, kept as Jacoby), but invitational+. If Opener wants to sign off, he bids 2NT, and Responder can raise to 3NT with GF values. If Opener would accept a game try, he bids 3NT or one of the flag-style bids. Responder's 2♠ could feature the other major if GF strength, in which case he probably bids 3♠ after a signoff suggestion (1♥-2♠-2NT-3♠ = 4234/4243; with any 4(♠)43(2♥) but invitational, bid 1♠ first).

Just thinking out loud, I suppose...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Resolving Pressure

Had an auction this weekend:


With the pressure bid, Opener was forced to raise clubs at a level that made it very uncomfortable for Responder to show that his club bid was "manufactured" and that he had spade support. I mean, 4♠ works, except that the range for 4♠ is now minimum GF to seriously interested in slam. How does one handle this, let alone moving toward slam?

Flags work here:

4♦ = club power acceptance
4♥ = spade power raise
4♠ = normal spade raise
5♠ = non-interesting club resolution

Then, a bit later, another intervention:


In this sequence, GP suggests a different structure than would be expected. The risk of further trouble (we actually heard 5♥ next from Advancer) is greatest when Opener has shortness in hearts. With length and an honor control, in contrast, high-level heart competition is of reduced risk. So, it seems that the fourth-suit splinter (4♦) would be better delayed through 3♥ to allow 4♦ to show something different, something heart-shortness oriented.

Our thoughts for spade raises:

4♣ = good clubs, maybe no diamond control, heart shortness control
4♦ = diamond control, heart stiff
4♥ = diamond control, heart void
4♠ = no heart control
3♥ = catch-all, typically with a heart honor control

In other words, focus on the immediate need to show as much as you can immediately when Opener has heart shortness.

In practice, the opponents were red and we were white. Advancer bid 5♥, doubled for +800, but our slam was making. Had Responder known that Opener had a diamond control and a heart void, his K-QJ combo of honors would have grown up and the slam might have been bid successfully.

I'm not sure how this translates into other auctions, but it seems like a steps structure works best when spades will be agreed. In other words, if the overcall had been diamonds, 4♥ would still show the void and 4♦ the stiff.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

lowstiff, highstiff, lowvoid, highvoid, done

A good meta-agreement, IMO.

When Responder to a 1NT opening shows a two-suited hand, and Opener picks one, then Responder can indicate his shortness in a set agreement as to steps.

Step 1: low stiff
Step 2: high stiff
Step 3: low void
Step 4: high void
Step 5: no interest

Consider 1NT-P-3♦(majors)-P-3♥(hearts set). Responder can bid 3♠(1) for 5521, 3NT(2) for 5512, 4♣(3) for 5530, 4♦(4) for 5503, or 4♥(5) to sign off.

How about a transfer and then a minor? 1NT-P-2♦-P-2♥-P-3♦-P-3♥ works the same way. If Opener agrees diamonds in this sequence (4♦?), the same thing could work as well.

The same general principle might work in many other sequences. The key is that when one person shows a two-suited hand, and the other person agrees trumps by bidding the focus suit one level below game, shortness bids in steps can be bid through this meta-agreement. Of course, you want to know when shortness indication is more important and hence the partnership default, rather than cuebidding.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Impossible 2NT?

An auction with which many of us are familiar:



2♠ here, of course, is a power raise of Opener's minor.

How about this permutation?




I mean, can 2NT to play be right? How much better to get under 3♣/3♦ to make a game try if your "practical pass" has just grown up? Partner might simply be competing, but he might have a very powerful hand. Game is still in play, but forcing the four-level to explore this possibility seems a bit rich, even if it happens to be justified. Why play 4♣/4♦ just because it really should make when a strange stack or surprise somewhere might limit the hand to 9 tricks?

If Opener hears 2NT, he can sign off with a hand that would decline an invite. With interest in this new enthusiasm, Opener can always do something intelligent to see what your basis for enthusiasm may be. A reasonable approach to this would be to bid the other minor as an asking bid, allowing Responder to cue a feature (including a 3♠ bid as "shortness"). Or, Opener could bid 3♥ to show that his short suit is void, 3♠ to show a suit playable opposite a doubleton (or maybe even opposite a stiff honor?), and 3NT to show a primed-out hand.

I really like Opener's rebid of spades at this point to indicate playable opposite a stiff honor. Imagine, for example, these hands:

Opener: ♠AKJxx ♥AJx ♦x ♣Axxx
Responder: ♠Q ♥Kx ♦xxxxx ♣Kxxxx

3♠(playable opposite stiff honor)-P-4♠-all pass.