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.