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.