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...