Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is the Cat Dead or Alive?

I've never heard of anyone using this method, but an idea occurred to me for a method to better teach some aspects of Declarer play.  Suppose you are teaching someone how to find the missing Queen, with the point of the lesson being to avoid the guess by using a throw-in.  Maybe you have KJx opposite A10x in the trouble suit, and the point is to throw someone in, where the guess is solved by the opponents being forced to break the suit.

The traditional approach seems to be to use question marks.  "Who has the Queen?"  RHO has ?xx and LHO has ?xx.  That seems confusing.

Why not do it the way we really think?  I am convinced, sometimes, that both opponents have the Queen.  I cannot prove my theorem, but quantum physics seems somehow involved.  The point is that whoever I guess to not have the Queen actually has it, no matter what logic tells me.  They both have it.

So, why not present the problem as if the opponents actually both have the Queen?\

The position ends up like this:


Qxx                                                 Qxx
A                                                    K


If you gave the problem this way, as a double-dummy problem, people could work out the problem.  You exit your side pip.  West wins and plays a third best from the Queen, forcing East to rise with the Queen, won with the King.  Now, simply finesses against West's second Queen, winning three tricks in the suit despite the opponents both having the Queen.

This may seem like silliness, but the idea can be expanded, and it starts to approach a concept that better players grasp and use all the time.  In essence, the learning player has a lot of question marks all over the place, and that makes life rather confusing as a Declarer.  The advanced Declarer, however, kind of juggles a set of likely hands for East and likely hands for West simultaneously, and he caters to as many possible actual positions as he can.  In other words, compare layouts:

Learning Declarer

?xx                                        ?xx
?                                           ?

Advanced Declarer


Qxx                                                xxx
A                                                    x

Qxx                                                xxx
x                                                    A

xxx                                               Qxx
A                                                  x

xxx                                               Qxx
x                                                   A


The second layout is how the advanced player "thinks."  He sees all four layouts, in his head, and he caters to each.  The developing player thinks about all the question marks and tries to work out what to do.  The question marks get confusing, both on paper and at the table.  The juggled specific examples, however, reflect the real possibilities and express, in a sense, how the better player starts to think about these things.  So, who not teach using this type of layout?  Why not teach/write bridge using layouts that reflect an expert way of visualizing layouts, and thereby teach people to think that way, instead of using the layout method that best reflects what actually occurs in the mind of the learning player?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Strange that I never saw this, but a somewhat interesting parallel seemed to arise today.

On BBF, a problem auction was provided where Opener has 5332 and Responder a balanced monster, the partnerships of many ending in 6S down immediately on a club lead (missing Ace and King).  The short form of the story, IMO, was that Jacoby 2NT was flawed and thus ill-advised, whereas simple cues worked better (obviously).

The deeper story was the auction many of us will now use to get to thsat cuebidding spot:

O: One Spade
R: Two Clubs (real clubs OR just spade support)
O: Two Diamonds (real diamonds OR just balanced with a diamond card)
R: Two Spades (fit, start cuebidding...)

A "strong clubber" made a comment about how this type of bidding is why strong clubbers are better.  As a sometimes strong clubber myself, I found this absurdly humorous, as Opener starts 1S either way and as my methods in a Precision-style strong club would mean the exact same start.

Furthermore, and the point of this post, I noticed that there would be a strong parallel using canape, albeit slightly different:

O: 1D (if diamonds and a major, diamonds could be 3-card if 5332)
R: 2C (GF, artificial)
O: 2H (diamonds plus spades; diamonds might be 3-card)
R: 2S (fit, start cuebidding...)

Strangely, then, a parallel arose.  On the same hands where with 2/1 GF (or Precision for that matter) I would rebid 2D after opening a major and hearing 2C, I would open 1D canape and then show the major.  This of course seems right -- canape means essentially getting to the second bid first.  Sending in the reserves and holding back the main army until later.  But, the decision-making is the same.

This is an example illustrating why I think learning multiple systems, and playing them enough to be competent in each, actually helps thinking in all systems.  In other words, Precision helps your 2/1 game, and 2/1 helps canape, and K-S helps Standard American.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gatlinburg for New Year's Eve

My wife and I and a couple who are friends of ours are doing the Gatlinburg New Year's Eve this year.  Apparently, the party on the streets is incredible, with a ball drop and fireworks and live music, all free.  Of course, the drinks in the various venues are not free. 

I am looking forward to this.  It is weird, though.  Growing up with Gatlinburg, TN, as part of my life (I consider it my other home and even thought about not leaving one time), I have a fondness for the various seasons, the hiking, the pancakes, the cabin in the hills, the hot tub, the outlet malls, the kitch, and all that.  But, I canot help but feeling a bizarre attachment to two locations in Gatlinburg, namely the steps on the north side of the convention center (where you get the smoke and talk during the regional) and the bar stools at Calhoun's (the post-mortem).  Just plain weird, to find yourself in such a fun city, with so much to do, and yet long for the next round to be called, eh?

Our friends are not bridge players.  I sent them the ACBL's link to Fred Gitelman's Learn to Play Bridge, hoping maybe somehow this would stick.  I wouldn't mind a few run around the table on a cold night, you know?

This past Thursday, our local club had a LM party for a man who returned to the game and made LM just a couple of months after his wife.  (Yes, ribbing occurred.)  The format was a "pro am" game, with the regulars each paired up with a beginner, meaning someone who does not play duplicate.  This made for a lot of fun.  There is nothing like remembering back when duplicate bridge was a new thing, eh?  I absolutely love playing with rookies.

My partner announced that he knew Blackwood, but Stayman not so much.  He was apparently the "fill in" when the men's club needed another body, the "short straw," if you will.  When we ended up winning the game, he was bursting at the seams, having earned bragging rights for at least a year.  I personally have not felt as good with any good performance in some time as I did that night.  This was not because I dragged a newbie across the line but because he kept up.  Decent defense.  Good leads.  Reasonable judgment.  I mean, sure.  By our usual standards, it was frightening.  But, I could see his mind working, and he used the assets he had very well.  I could not compliment him enough.  There were times when he would overbid a hand a bit, which meant that I needed to find the squeeze or ruse or coup or whatever, but the 21-point game was playable, and THIS night it made.

My favorite was the 6C slam on the second board of the night.  After a 1C opening from partner, I responded 1H with void-KQJxx-Axx-Qxxxx.  After 1S by my LHO, partner jumped to 2NT.  RHO raised to 3S.  Of course, I expected partner to have overbid his hand a lot, but wow was this a possible slam.  So, I leapt to 6C.  Partner thought long and hard about this and finally said, "I thought I was supposed to bid 4NT to ask for Aces, and so I don't know what to do now."  He finally shrugged his shoulders and passed.

Partner's hand was Kxxx-10x-KQx-AKJx, and clubs split 2-2.  Obviously, the slam is easily made (hearts split 3-3 as a kicker).  Partner lost the timing by ruffing the spade lead, pulling three rounds of trumps (lurker check), and then ruffing a second spade before tackling heats, for down one.  The key, though, was how he reacted.  He was fascinated by the hand and asked if he could make it.  I commented, "Render unto Caesar...lose that heart Ace as soon as possible, while you still have control of every suit."  He understood this and found it exciting.  From that point through the evening, he was golden.  And, he was never shy of trying that slam out.

There is something refreshing from that experience, and something to learn.  All too often, we get discouraged and obsessed with a squeeze line that should have worked but we forgot to cater to one more risk than was seen initially.  Anyone reading this post on this blog would run circles around Tom on this hand, easily working out the percentages and lines governing how to handle a 4-0 trump split or a bad heart stack.  The auctions to get to 6C might have included some sort of flag, cues, exclusion RKCB, some forcng pass analysis, or some other such move.  Heck, maybe some of us would have ended up with a lead problem against a spade contract.  If we miss capitalizing on a play that adds another 0.035% chance of an overtrick, and should have known, we should probably have a different reaction than self loathing throughout the rest of the session. 

Instead, how about this?  The next time you drop that trick, reflect upon how much you have developed in this game that you actually know why that 0.035% chance of an overtrick really should have been spotted.  Who else is of your ability to spot your own micro-mistake that quickly?  Boy, have you developed as a Player!

Oh, and I strongly recommend doing anything you can to get a game every so often with a rookie.  It is refreshing to remember, and I bet that rookie will get a story for his or her friends when reminiscing about that 65% game at the local club!  If you make sure that they know (or at least think) that they contributed to that game, with compliments from that scary expert, you just might create a monster, one like you were years ago.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clear Direction?

An irony.

So, a post on BBF noted a commentary about the difference in theory between a splinter auction and a Jacoby 2NT auction, as it pertains to captaincy.  It makes sense.  A splinter call is a very descriptive call and hence yields captaincy almost entirely to partner.  Conversely, a Jacoby 2NT call seeks description and is almost entirely, therefore, a captaincy grabbing call.

I tend to agree.  As a result, I tend to be pure in my "type" for splinter actions, and I (ironically) hate Jacoby 2NT auctions.  The irony is that I have been accused in the past of masterminding or of not being partnership-oriented in my bidding.  My take, however, and fairly easily argued, is that my usual "error," if anything, is in being "too partnership oriented."  In other words, I often go way out into the netherworlds of theory to make calls that cater to partner having maximal description or that cater to partner's various (but sometimes remote) possible hand patterns.  This often catches a partner unaware of "WTF."  To me, though, this is the ultimate in partnership bidding rather than "masterminding."

To me, a masterminding call is something like bidding 3NT too early while hiding a fit or blasting a slam (or signing off) because you think you know better than partner.  In contrast, consider the type of call I often make that is not made by many.  For example, partner bids Stayman and then 3NT when you show hearts.  If you have both majors, do you make a call on route to 4S in case partner was borderline, or do you just bid 4S?  If you make those 4C calls, they might be revealing too much, or too pie in the sky at times, but these are CLEARLY partnership-oriented calls and not masterminding calls.

In any event, back to the captaincy idea.  To me, I love 2/1 sequences precisely because commitment to captaincy is deferred.  I consider this critical in circumstances of impure holdings, but I also consider it difficult but appropriate partnership-oriented bidding. 

So, I would group three types of sequences.  Ones that seize captaincy, ones that yield captaincy, and ones that defer captaincy.  I prefer the last, because I trust partners more than I trust structures (whether that trust be warranted or not).  Which category do you fall into?  Yielders?  Seizers?

This is also perhaps why I disliked pure relay structures so much.  The worst of all possible worlds seems to be pre-determined captaincy rules.  Having three options in any given situation (I'll seize, I'll yield, or I'll defer) seems ideal for those random and unexpected new situations that arise.  Developing structure with a pre-determined default captaincy before the deal even hits the table seems horrible to me.  But, to each his own.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Parallel Structure, but Unparallel Application

Too often I think that folks have a tendency toward an unwarranted parallelism as it pertains to application simply because of parallel structure.

Here's a simple example. You open One Spade, and partner makes a splinter response of 4C, 4D, or 4H. What do these calls show?

Well, a parallel structure (often needed for memory reasons) will likely mean that:

1. 4C is a splinter, support in spades with shortness in clubs
2. 4D is a splinter, support in spades with shortness in diamonds
3. 4H is a splinter, support in spades with shortness in hearts

Easy, right? So, what's the problem?

The "problem" is that parallel structure does not equate with parallel application, or at least it should not. In practice, it often does, but that seems to be a mistake.

Consider that within what appears to be a "parallel structure" there is an unparallel circumstance.

1. After 4C, Opener has two bids available below game as slam tries -- 4D and 4H. Two steps of available space actually means three levels of inquiry. 4H as a slam try, 4D as a slam try, and 4D as a slam try with a 4H re-try. Whatever these sequences mean, three levels of inquiry are available.

2. After 4D, one level of inquiry is available -- a 4H slam try.

3. After 4H, there is no level of inquiry below game.

If you consider a 3S splinter in support of hearts, the levels of inquiry atre even higher. 3NT, 4C, and 4D are available. 3NT can be rejected outright, sent back as 4C, sent back as 4C with space for 4D, or sent back as 4D. Hence, seven levels of inquiry exist (I think).

Thus, a one-under splinter leaves no below-game inquiries. Two-under gives one. Three-under gives three. Four-under gives 7. 0, 1, 3, 7.

This should start the thinking that the lower the picture action, the more flexible the picture action can be. Conversely, the higher the picture action, the more pure the picture should be.

This translates, then, into alternative sequences. Suppose, for instance, that partner opts for an alternative 2/1 sequence and ends up revealing a hand that seems to have been potentially suitable for a splinter. If the splinter would have been a one-under splinter, then his range of possible holdings for the alternative 2/1 sequence is higher, as he might be just shy of "pure splinter." If, alternatives, his 2/1 sequence reveals a plausible splinter candidate that would have been a four-under splinter, then his hand likely does not resemble a pure splinter at all, despite the shortness. The difference is probably tactical (meaning, the likely sequence after a four-under splinter could not have revealed the nature of his hand, so he has some feature or feature not otherwise describable via the splinter).

So, when you design a system and opt for a parallel structure, recognize that the goal of parallel structure is self-defeating, in a sense, because you cannot effectively create a true parallel structure when unparallel circumstances necessarily arise from stepped structure, as the degree of step away from a decision point creates necessarily unparallel application. Cater, then, to that unparallel application if you want to design an effective system.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Muiderberg by Responder?

Just a thought...

For a few years I experimented with what could be called "Muiderberg by Responder," at least when Responder already has a passed hand.  An example:

P-P-1H-P-2S as Spades plus a Minor.
P-P-1S-P-2H as Hearts plus a Minor.

I really liked this a lot, and I wonder if this could be usefully extended into unpassed-hand auctions.  I mean, I really like 1H-P-2S as intermediate with a six-bagger, as this solves a lot of problems.  But, there is something to be said for Muiderberg, as well.

When I started thinking about this, however, I end up with the lack of knowledge of the minor seeming to be more problematic in these auctions.  A "specific minor Muiderberg" might work.

I don't know...just some rambling thoughts for a Wednesday morning.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Montreal Relay

For some reason that I still don't really understand, the ideal of the "Montreal Relay" seems to have fallen out of favor with most experts.  I learned to play Montreal Relay some 30 years ago, and I taught it to my wife.  It just seems so much easier than all the nonsense of today's world.

For those who don't know this, it is sort of like a Puppet 1C opening, in a sense.  Partner responds 1H or 1S with a 5-card suit, or 1D to deny a 5-card major.  As 1NT would show 8-11, 1D is bid with a 4-card major (or both), just long diamonds (and not right for 1C-P-1D as 8-11 or so), or balanced with a range other than 8-11.

The pundits seem to suggest that this approach somehow is prone to problems with interference or something, but my experience is otherwise.  First, when I play Montreal Relay, I don't ever need Support Doubles for these situations.  Second, I never need to check back to see if partner really has 4-card support.  Third, checkbacks generally are not needed at all.  I mean, auctions are extremely easy.  Imagine playing bridge where the most common opening (1C) comes up a ton, and yet I never seem to have any occasion where I need checkback, xyz, support doubles, structured game tries with pattern asks, or any of the things that usually take up 20 pages of notes.  No "Kranyak Jump Reverses" to show 3-card support and a great minor.  You just raise with 3 and have a fit established.  EASY.

These sequences are SO friggin' easy that most of us use a short club, and most of my partners only open 1D when unbalanced.  This actually creates another interesting twist -- you end up on occasion opening 1C and then rebidding 2D to show just a balanced hand with long diamonds.  This happens in competition and almost never seems to cause a problem (one instance being because I made a foolish bid). 

The amazing thing is that this structure works better, IMO, than anything I play with "better players."  I sit down with people having 5000+ ACBL Masterpoints, and we play xyz and support doubles and 2NT game tries with unwinds and all that jazz.  Pages and pages of discussions and notes.  Odd situations that arise. 

Then, I sit down to play Montral with my wife, who has 150 masterpoints.  Never a problem with strain or level.  Easy.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Here's another one, with a timing issue.

Partner opens 1NT and you bid 2C stayman.  Partner bids 2D, so you bid 2NT invitational.  Partner bids 3D.  What now?

This is an easy one, for the first call.  Partner has six diamonds.  What you do next seems more troubling.  A partner of mine suggested something I think to be fairly good here.  A new suit probably should "super-accept" diamonds and show shortness.

The "timing" issue is the other thing.  You may be thinking that partner might have bid 3D directly over 2C if this was his intent.  However, the problem with that is that 2C covers a lot of territory.  By bidding a mere 2D first, YOUR hand was able to define general parameters well, which THEN allows your calls AFTER 3D to have more understandable meaning.

In other words, showing the exact same thing in one round as opposed to in a different round of bidding has consequences.  Late unusual action, as opposed to immediate unusual action, does not help define YOUR call sometimes, but it may allow partner to better FIELD his options after your descriptive call.

So, what should the immediate pounce show, if anything???

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


So, here's an example.

You sit down with partner and agree to play that a 2NT response to a 1NT opening is a relay to 3C, possibly weak with clubs but possibly a 4441 with slam aspirations.  So, you hear a 1NT opening and bid 2NT, ready to go, expecting partner to bid the 3C relay, when suddenly partner bids 3H.

What kind of nonsense is this?

Actually, partner has done that which he should do.  Rotely bidding 3C on every hand seems wrong.  Sure -- 3C is the "agreed" call, but then there must be room for thought.

So, think.  Partner is showing something in a way that seems safe but that is constructive, with a hand that cannot afford your one end-the-auction action of passing 3C.  So, he must he clubs.

Give yourself an average bust-type club hand.  Maybe 6322 with nothing but honor-sixth in clubs.

What would make partner move opposite that hand?

How about three side Aces and the rest internal honors?  Maybe KQx in clubs, with three side Aces?  Opposite that hand, you don't need much for 3NT to be right.  Consider two possible hands:


Nine tricks.  Easy.

OK, so the first step is that partner could easily have a super-accept of clubs.  But, why 3H?

Well, if he had the perfecto, he might have opted 3NT.  So, perhaps he has a problem?  Maybe:


Still 9 tricks, as long as hearts are under control.  But, why would 3H send that message?  Couldn't you simply bid where you live instead?  In other words, bid stoppers up-the-line?

Perhaps.  But, there is something else going on here.  Partner also needs to cater to your possibility of being 4441, right?  So, perhaps with any perfecto he should bid a focal suit for that contingency.

For example, consider a slightly different Axx-Axx-Axxx-KQx hand.  3D could operate as a call that super-accepts clubs but identifies diamonds as a suggested strain opposite the 4441 hand.  3NT, then, would "flag" or identify clubs as a strain suggestion in the event of a 4441 hand (typically 3-3-3-4 or 5-card clubs).

So, let's just assume that 3D flagged diamonds for the 4441 consideration while also super-accepting clubs.  How would you proceed under that assumption?

With no interest in 3NT, you should be able to rescue to 4C, but otherwise bidding 3NT to accept the game try (honor sixth) works.  But, you would also bid 3NT with a 4441 hand with club shortness (because Opener should have two top clubs, one would think).  Does it matter that partner does not know which?  Of course not.

What if you had that 4441 hand and diamonds is a good strain?  No problem -- bid the shortness, if it is a major.  so, 3H or 3S would logically show that 4441 hand with shortness in the bid major, right?

What about a 4441 hand with short diamonds?  Again, you may want to bid 3NT.  But, you might be missing a 4-4 major fit.  Wouldn't partner think of that problem also?  If he has THAT hand, he would typically bid a 4-card major before diamonds, if he had 4-4 in the major and diamonds plus clubs super-accepted.  So, 3D would seem to eliminate a major out, making 3H and 3S continuations purely shortness calls.

But, partner bid 3H.  Could he not, then, have four hearts and diamonds?  Or, 4H/4C?  Or even 4H/4S?

This seems to call for some slightly different situational handling.  With the 4441 hand with short hearts, you would bid 3S and let partner unwind this appropriately, as all will work well.  With hearts, you can bid the shortness or bid 4H with short spades!  Problem solved, when 3H is the call.  But, you cannot bid 4C to show club shortness!!!  That shows an escape.  No problem -- you now kick into your meta-agreement.  If up-the-line, 4D for short clubs, 4H short diamonds, and 4S short spades.  If "natural," reverse 4D and 4H.

What about partner bidding 3S, then?  Well, you can eliminate having both majors, as 3H would have stood out.  So, if he has two suits, they are spades and a minor.  Maximizing space for the unwind, you could bid 4D with the "short spades" 4441 (if too good for 3NT), because 4C is again that escape.  With a spade fit, then, the shortness calls start at 4H.

Now, all of this sounds like quite a bit to make up at the table.  And, it is.  And, perhaps you would assume or reach different conclusions from me.  Ideally, these situations are discussed, but that is not realistic.

In my opinion, however, it is tough to draw a line as to when the assumptions to make during an undiscussed sequence are "too much."  I would expect that a well-tuned partnership might know well how to anticipate assumptions in sequences like this and to get fairly deep into the analysis.

This is, of course, quite dangerous, but then NOT taking advantage of this type of thinking during the bidding is perhaps just as much of a loss, for you end up simply bidding 3C every time and missing opportunities.

An idea might be to run a few odd examples through the partnership.  For example, take an auction like this and run with it.  Have each partner write down their thoughts independently, and then compare.

A good starter example might be Kokish.  You might write down this question:

"Opener bid 2H as the start of a Kokish relay, but Responder whips out 3C.  What should 3C show, and how should Opener react to this?"  If you have never discussed this, which would be great, see how you and partner respond independently and then discuss this.  Allow no "that call cannot exist" lame escapes.  This is a theory test, not a bidding test.  Play along, and then see where you end up.  You might discover a lot about partner's way of thinking, and about your own.

Plausibility Defaults

One of my favorite experiences was playing with a pickup partner in a midnight swiss who played a home-spun strong club system.  His base structure was odd.  I agreed to play his system (why not?) and asked for the meanings of the opening bids.  When he started to tell me the responses and rebids, I cut him off and said, "Let's play -- that works."  We ended up winning the midnight swiss, with almost no bidding misunderstandings.  How?

Bridge theory is fairly predictable, I think.  There are a set of general principles that will emerge from context, often very complicated but nonetheless present.  These can be predicted.

Granted, some situations call for choice.  For instance, consider a Mini-Roman 2D opening.  There will be a shortness ask, and that will usually be 2NT.  The shortness will be told in steps, either bidding ther stiff or bidding one under the stiff, usually. 

Within the context of any start, therefore, there is a predictable set of defaults.  Partnership agreement seems to be a combination of tasks, therefore.  First, we start with definition of various starts.  A "start" could be mid-auction, but nonetheless it is a "start."  The start will usually call for a logical set of follow-ups, based on general plausibility defaults.  However, there may be two or more plausible defaults, which call for meta-agreements.  Some plausibles are "better" than others, and sometimes understanding the reasons for calls provides and answer to the PD's.  At times, however, discussion yields a more artificial "improvement" to the PD.  These are discussed and perhaps memorized.

Good structure involves a combination of these factors intertwined in as consistent a manner as possible.  Thus, if shortness asks tend to be in steps, they should probably be in steps always.  If shortness bids are "one under," this should be a repeated theme.  Repetition of theme and defaults enables understanding in undiscussed parallels.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Possible Stayman Tweak?

Just an idea...

I think that it might be possible to re-structure Stayman to have a 2S rebid by Opener (1NT-P-2C-P-2S) show four spades and a minimum.  2D, then, would show either no 4-card major OR if spades a maximum.

For examples of how this would unwind...

2S-P-P-P  (stopping at 2S is good)

3S = four spades, accepts game try

3H = five spades, maximum

4S(four spades maximum)

2D-P-3H(4-4 or 4-5)-P-
3S = 3 spades
4C+ = 4 spades

2D-P-3NT (not four spades; spade situation kept secret)

This type of tweak might allow some stops at 2S and might further allow some degree of knowing whether pener has minimum or maximum, in some sequences.

I am not sure whether this is worth it, but ideas are ideas.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Impossible 2S Not So Impossible

In the ACBL Bulletin, a problem hand was given.  Something like xxxx-x-xx-AKJxxx after a 1H opening from partner.  A large number of expert votes came in for a forcing 1NT, because focusing clubs even at the cost of burying spades seemed right.

If we assume this to be reasonable theory, an exception to the general Walsh thinking, then why not expand this further?  It seems that the "impossible" 2S is not so impossible.  Why not, in theory, 1H-P-1NT-P-2H-P-2S with 4-0-3-6 pattern?  Focus the clubs, but mention the spades.  Could not partner have 4-6-3-0?

If you take this out, then any 4-6 holding could be handled this way, and perhaps even 4-1-3-5 (perhaps passing 2D but converting 2H to 2S).

I am not sure where this thinking leads me, but the thinking is nonetheless suggested.  Namely, there is nothing "impossible" about the "impossible" 2S.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Other Blogs

Two blogspots that you might find interesting.

My friend, Ken Eichenbaum, has made some additions to his blog at http://www.kensclubbridge.blogspot.com/, including info on ordering several new e-books by him, as well as some smaller e-pamphlets.  These include books and articles on slam bidding, 2/1 GF structure, defense, bridge comedy, etc.

Also, my local club newsletter for each month is available at http://www.limadbc.blogspot.com/.  The newsletter has a lot of articles that many have enjoyed and is more than just a list of who did what (but it has that too, of course).  This month, for example, the newsletter is 13 pages long and has articles on cuebidding in a 2/1 GF system, "the Bickersons on Bridge," Ruth's Bridge Tips (largely rules-oriented), play of the hand shorts, analyses of a couple of deals from the instant MP event, Roman Gerber, avoiding the Stumble Bunny, etc.

Chek these sites out!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cuebidding the Stiff Trump King

Opener: A109xxxxx-Ax-void-AQx
Responder: K-10xx-AKQxx-K10xx

An enjoyably curious sequence yesterday...

Opener started with One Spade, Two Diamonds response.

Opener repeated spades; Responder showed clubs.

Opener repeated spades yet again (never jumping), to Responder.

The curious solution was the cue of Four Hearts.  Four Hearts operated as a trump cue, contextually, at least in a sense.  This was just what Opener needed to hear (and thus the good decisions to not blast Four Spades at any point), and the slam was reached.

Not that tricky, except for the rest of the field.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Anders Wirgren's Review of Modified Italian Canape System

I have absolutely no idea what he said, as it is in Swedish.  But, maybe someone can translate it for me?  (If the translation is something like, "It sucks," feel free to NOT translate this.  LOL)

I de flesta system bjuder man sin längsta färg först, både som öppnare och svarare. De framgångsrika italienarna började på 1950-talet använda system som byggde på den franska canapé-principen, då man i stället öppnade med sin näst längsta färg och nästa gång visade den längsta.

De italienska systemen slog aldrig igenom på bred front, eftersom de var ganska krångliga, ibland rentav ologiskt uppbyggda. Det är det Ken Rexford hoppas rätta till med hjälp av en förenklad version av ett system uppbyggt på stark klöver och canapé-öppningar i ruter, hjärter och spader.

Författaren börjar med att beskriva hur ett canapé-system fungerar. Det lyckas han bra med. Men när han går över till att beskriva specifika sekvenser i sitt eget favoritsystem, saknar jag ett kritiskt öga. Det är lätt att göra exempel, som visar hur utmärkt systemet
är, men om en beskrivning ska göra anspråk på objektivitet måste de knepiga situationerna också tas med. Det saknar jag.

Trots denna reservation, är det en bok som den systemintresserade säkert kan ha glädje av.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Muppet Extended

Muppet Stayman is simple Puppet stayman but with Opener's 3NT and 3H bids reversed (3NT shows five hearts; 3H denies a 4+ majors).  This allows Responder, over 3H, to bid 3S to show 5S/4H, an otherwise unbiddable shape below 3NT when playing Puppet.

So, suppose you have 5S/4H and partner bids 3D.  You have both majors, but they are imbalanced.  so, bid 3H to show spades.  If partner also has spades, he can make sues, which could be nice for slam purposes.  If he does not, you can next bid 4H to complete the picture.

Now, suppose that you have 5-5 in the majors.  Muppet still works.  If partner has a 4-card major, nothing can go wrong.  If he has a 5-card major, wow.  A lot, you hear 3H.  So, bid 3S to show 5S/4H.  If Opener declines (3NT), you can bid 4H to complete this picture, as well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Funny Things!

I was reading Bob Mackinnon's blog (http://bobmackinnon.bridgeblogging.com/?p=656) and saw the deal from the 2010 Canadian Senior Teams Championship where 7C was reached.  It made me think of the recent change Eichenbaum and I just made.

Opener: AQ-Axxx-Axx-AQxx
Responder: xx-KQ-KQJ10-K10xxx

The auction Michael Yuen and Maurice De La Salle had was:

2NT-3S(minor slam try)
4H(RKCB clubs)-4NT(one)

Ours could be quicker:

2NT-3S(transfer to clubs, maybe both minors; could show precisely 2245 this way if lighter)
3NT(super-accept, meaning playable in 3NT opposite xx-xx-xxx-Jxxxxx)-7C

Of course, Responder is allowed to ask questions...

OK, I Gave In!

One of the more "questionable" ideas that I had in Cuebidding at Bridge was this auction example:

2D-P-3S = stiff spade, diamond support

I still like it, but Eichenbaum has convinced me of a perhaps better treatment, one that we now use.

I have always played that a jump here is a splinter for Opener's SECOND suit.  hence:

2D-P-3H = stiff heart, support for diamonds

The theory was that I can support spades with a 2S call and THEN splinter.

So, the logical idea is that 3S IMMEDIATELY handles all splinters with spade support!

2D-P-3S = stiff somewhere (not clubs, obviously) with SPADE support

Now, after the suggestion, it seems obvious.

The beauty of this is that the "spade splinter" stiff exists:

2D-P-4C = diamond support, SPADE shortness!

That's easier to remember.

You may of course then say, well what about the Picture Jump in clubs?  Well, because you erased all of the splinters from the 2S call, voila!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interesting Suit/Lead Situation

Eichenbaum and I have added a new twist to "Suit/Lead."

I open a minor; partner responds a major; my RHO doubles.

Now, for the trivia buffs, this was a situation where Eichenbaum and I years ago (while drunk) came up with an insane set of agreements, eventually published (for God knows what reason) in Bridge World magazine.  Today's version is much better, I think.

The idea is that calls at an above 1NT, up through Responder's suit, are Suit/Lead.  An example might explain this.


Opener can redouble as a support redouble.

If Opener has four hearts, he has several options.  First, he might transfer to hearts, by bidding 2D.  This shows a hand that leans "extras plus lead."  In other words, Opener has a hand with a non-minimum and the Ace or King in hearts.  A solid, lead-catering, maximum heart raise.  This call will help when partner ends up leading against whatever my LHO might intend on bidding, will help when partner is considering game in a jammed auction, when partner considers inviting game in a non-jammed auction, and when partner considers doubling.

If Opener has four hearts but not this, meaning poor trumps (no ace or king) and a weak hand, he bids 2H directly.  "Fast Arrival." 

If Opener has a desire for a diamond lead, or a reverse, he bids 2C, one-under diamonds.  Responder will assume bad hearts and a desire for a diamond lead -- if Opener has a reverse he will make noise later.  so, with something like xx-Qxxx-AKJ-Kxxxx, 2C stands out.

With real clubs, Opener just bids 1NT, a relay to clubs.

If Opener has a hand that doesn't quite qualify for any of the above, he makes the closest call, defaulting to 2H when in doubt.

What if Opener's minor was diamonds?  Same basic approach, but Opener's 1NT call (relay to clubs) might just be a minor two-suiter.  He cannot make that call as a pure lead-director unless he is willing to solo-compete to 3H if the opponents intervene.

If Responder's major was spades, one additional "transfer" pops in, a "transfer" to hearts, which adds more definition to the calls.

We are fairly inclined to believe that this will be a winner in the long run.  There is some risk to disclosure, of course, but this really seems good to us. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Partscore Before Slam?

You know the advice, "Game Before Slam," but what about "Partscore Before Slam?"  When we're talking GERBER as the alternative, well...

Partner Eichenbaum and I decided upon a switch this weekend.  2NT-P-4C had been "Gerber."  2NT-P-3S had been some sort of minor slam try.  In thinking this through, we NEVER bid Gerber here.  Usually a transfer, a 3S call, or at least Puppet happens.  So, is there a better use?

Sure -- partscores before slam!

We have now switched to 4C as a transfer to diamonds.  with a poor hand and long diamonds (e.g., xxx-Q-xxx-Jxxxxx), Responder can bid 4C and then pass 4D from Opener.  With slam values, 4H next is RKCB, 4NT quantitative, and 4S or 5C simple cues from unbalanced invites.

3S, then, is a response promising clubs.  Opener bids 3NT with AKx or better, but 4C otherwise.  This also could be weak (will pass 4C or convert 3NT to 4C).  4D is RKCB.

With the minor two-suiters, Responder wtill bids 3S and then bids 4M to show the stiff from minor two-suiters.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Finally got the final WBF Convention Card done, for Philadelphia.  I am considering hiring thugs to take my partner on a long drive if he tries changing anything again.

FYI, it is uploaded here:
It should be available at Ecatsbridge when others are uploaded, as well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

cuebidding for the defense

An old friend of mine and I several years ago had an auction that was a thing of beauty.  It may have been insane.  But, the fine line between insanity and genius is not for people like me to define.  The auction was one where partner and I made "cuebids" not for the purpose of slam or game exploration, but for the defense.

The situation was one where we are white, the opponents red.  We can take a sacrifice at six of a minor, which beats their red heart game, as we are down only three.  The opponents can make five hearts unless we get off to the best defense.

So, the real-world results were varied, but the most common scores were 5minor our way, doubled for -300; 5H their way making 650 with normal defense; or 6minor our way, doubled for -500.  Ideally, -300 looks great.

So, the auction.  My RHO opened 1H, and I, with both minors, bid 2NT unusual.  LHO raised to 3H, and my partner bid 4D.  Opener bid 4H, to me.

I wanted to know which minor to lead.  Maybe a club lead was best, but I had K-empty and did not want to spoil that card unnecessarily.  Maybe a diamond was best, but I also had Q-empty there.  Something like void-KJ-Q109xxx-K109xx.  What to do?

Well, 5D seemed too lazy.  I could try 4NT, which in theory should allow partner to pick the minor for lead, as 4D already set trumps, I figured.  But, assuming a lead to partner, won by him, I wanted a spade back as an option to consider.  So, my caqll was 4S, a cue for the defense.

LHO passed, which helped the plan along.  Had partner no interest, he could bid 4NT.  With a desire for a club lead, 5C.  With confirmation of diamonds for the lead, 5D.  In practice, his void in clubs screamed club lead.

The opponents would now be screwed.  If they bid 5H, I would lead a club to partner's void, ruffed.  He would lead back a spade, setting up a trick in spades.  When he gets in with the trump Ace, the spade is the setting trick.

That was the only defensive line to beat 5H.  The opponents, knowing that we had exchanged this info, would be forced to pick between a bad double and a worse 5H.  Sure, we might panic and bid 6D anyway, not knowing that the defense would work, but we would be better set.

In practice, partner had no idea what I was doing and just bid 5D.  Typical.  Though, it is hard to blame anyone for not living in my world constantly, and he usually kept up with my insanity/genius.

That said, don't forget opportunities to cue for the defense.  My partner, Ken Eichenbaum, recently trotted out a 5C call in competition for a club lead-director, which put a screeching halt to the opponents' thoughts of bidding 5S.  A club lead to his stiff Ace would have primed us for a juicy defense, a defense I would not otherwise have found.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Deep Thoughts

Here's a thought.  Not sure how to crystalize this into practice.

Every so often, you see the hand where two possible strains offer reasonable trumps.  For instance, maybe you find out that you have a minor fit and a major fit.  Maybe 1S-P-2C-P-3C-P-3S as the start.

In this situation, a recurring theme is that of deciding ultimate strain in a potential slam.  For example, if Responder has Kxx in spades, and Opener has Axxxx, perhaps a spade can be pitched from the short side in a club contract, allowing the spade suit to be played for no losers, if the contract is 6C.  Or, maybe 6C simply reduces the risk from a 4-1 spade stack.  What's worse is if we only have the spade ace and are missing both King and Queen, where 6C might be able to handle that.

Alternatively, however, 6C might not be as good for the same reason, and maybe a club pitch or two might help 6S to make.

The key to these situations is in the Queens, primarily, and secondarily in the Kings.  So, what sometimes happens is that you use RKCB in spades, find out perhaps the bad news, and then bid 6C (and hope that partner takes this as a placement of contract and not a grand try).

It seems to me that there might be an alternative to consider.

Let's take the auction out a bit, in general terms.  1S-P-2C-P-3C-P-3S start.  Cues and seriousness and the like end us at the point of, say, someone bidding 4H as Last Train or as a cue.  Whatever.  Now is the witching hour.

Suppose, also, that something about the "cues and seriousness and the like" suggests or proves that Exclusion RKCB is not an option.  So, at this point, you might end up in a situation with an "ask or answer" structure.

What is that, you ask?  Well, simply put, 4NT is RKCB, but anything above 4NT is an answer to an "assumed 4NT" from partner.  Hence, if partner bids 4H Last Train (spades agreed), I would bid 4NT to ask questions, or I could bid 5H to instead answer, "Two without."  I can ASK or ANSWER.

So, why "ask or answer?"  I mean, which do you elect to do?  I typically, in these situations (where partner and I have agreed to do this) answer with primes but ask with body.

There might be a slightly better way to handle this in the two-fits scenario.  Or, a more precise rule. 

If I am looking at the spade Queen, I am not as concerned about the "which strain" question.  If I am not looking at the spade Queen, though, I can ask and place the contract in clubs if I have the club Queen.  But, what if I have neither (and cuebidding has not answered this question, yet)?

Or, what if some Queen is unknown, but important?  In some auctions, for instance, the spade queen might be known, but not the club Queen, because no cue was available to show that card.  Finding that card later might be quite a task.

Here, then, is the thought.  One might decide that you ask with the key unshown key Queen but answer without the key Queen.  The side-suit, alternative-strain Queen is the default "key Queen."  The part about asking with the key Queen is tactical, as captaincy is with the person looking at the key Queen.  The part about answering without the key Queen is definitional, as captaincy is transferred to the person who may or may not be looking at the key Queen but now knows the answer as to the partnership holding by virtue of the definition.

I am still not sure how this would develop as a theory, as far as designation of the key Queen, handling a two-queens scenario, and the like.  But, I think there is something to think about here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

LDBC Newsletter Links

The local bridge club where my wife and I play on Thursday nights has a Newsletter, yours truly as the "Editor."  The pdf's of the monthly newsletters are now available at http://www.limadbc.blogspot.com/, in case anyone is interested.  a lot of folks like "the Bickersons on Bridge," which is intended to have a touch of self-depricating humor.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fourth Seat Openings

It looks like I have finally convinced my 2/1 partner to venture into the world of Fourth Seat Intermediates!!!

The fourth-seat weak two is such a bizarre bid, IMO.  I have seen "treatments" that raise the weak two to a minimal opening, or even a "tweener" opening, always with length in the major.  It seems to make a lot more sense to solve a real problem or two.

For Philadelphia, it looks like we will be incorporating a fourth-seat 2H and 2S opening showing five of the indicated major, 4-5 of either minor, and intermediate strength (about 14-15 plus or minus).  We considered the same shape but weaker (11-12 plus or minus), as well.  Either way, this takes some stress off of other auctions.

Our response structure is to have 2NT as an asking bid with values (with garbage, 3C is pass-or-correct).  After 2NT, Opener bids the minor with any minimum or any 5-4 (minimum shape).  These calls in 3/4 of the occurrences allow a next-up "game last train" to see if partner has the maximum 5-4, and Opener in that instance can show the shortness with the max 5-4.  The exception is the heart-diamond hand, in which case Opener can treat the max 5-4 as a max 5-5 if appropriate.

With maximum 5-5 hands, Opener shows the minor and the shortness, flagging the minor with shortness in the other minor (3H for clubs, 3S for diamonds) or jumping in the minor (4C/4D) with shortness in the other major.  3NT is allowed, with a "gambling" hand -- stuff in the short suits, maximal, player.

Unfortunately, the ACBL does not allow THAT treatment in your average game, so this is limited for us to Philadelphia (or some other appropriate event).  But, for the everyday game, this is allowed if the second suit is known, perhaps always clubs.  That would help with a Gazilli-like treatment.

Why the ACBL bars such a natural bid, simply a treatment, is a mystery.  Perhaps it just sounds too European?  We North Americans just cannot apparently handle any European exotic bids, you see.  How canape snuck in is a good question, though.  We do eat a lot, and someone at Headquarters might have been confused.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Clubs as Length or Shortness

Themes seem to arise in bidding.  An odd one resurfaced for me recently -- bidding 3C as "length or shortness."

One example I have played is when partner raises my 1D opening.  We have played that 3C in this sequence shows "length or shortness."


Responder then bids 3D to ask for clarification:

3H = length, this shortness
3S = length, this shortness
3NT = shortness in clubs

We are trying out a new spot for this, after transfers.



In these situations, however, Opener has two asking bids.  Bidding Responder's major asks, but agrees the major as trumps.  Bidding 3D also asks, suggesting clubs as trumps.  Bidding the other major "asks" in a way, suggesting a 5-3 strain in that other major.

Maybe you have spots where 3C as "length or shortness" makes sense?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Play Problem!!!

I almost never comment on play problems.  Bidding is my passion.  But, one from the US Team Trials written up in the ACBL Bulletin caught my interest.

Dummy: Kxxxx-K10x-x-KQ108
Declarer: x-AQ9xx-AJx-A7xx

Moss-Gitelman ended up in 6H by an auction that makes my head hurt.  My auction would not resemble theirs.  But, I'll refrain.

On a diamond lead, Moss won and attacked spades at trick two, King won with the Ace, spade back, and a late trump promo set the contract (LHO held two spades and Jxx in hearts).  The Bulletin commentary was that "Double Dummy" the line could be to ruff a diamond, pull a trump, club to hand, ruff another diamond, and exit a spade, which makes on this layout.  What a poor analysis!

I asked my friend Eichenbaum his line, and his was what I saw. 

Win the diamond and ruff a diamond.  Trick three -- small spade off table.  This is a timing play and deprives the opponents of any ability to create any stinkers, whether a spade tgrump promo, a diamond trump promo (the Bulletin concern), or clubs 4-1 and a simple trump in clubs.  Plus, it give RHO a problem when he has the Ace of spades but no Queen and must make a trick-three big duck.

Suppose that the small spade catches air, however, and someone wins it cheap.  Again, no harm can be done, but it gets interesting after this.  Suppose a club comes back.  You have to win in hand even if the 8 would win, because you cannot risk a 4-1 club split.  So, you win and ruff the last diamond, play the top heart, and ruff a spade back to pull trumps (one remaining in hand if they split 3-2).

One ending is to simply save KQ10 in clubs and a spade.  If LHO has Jxxx in clubs, you can win the club Queen, finding this out, and cross back with a spade ruff to hook clubs.  But, there is a sexier line, I think.

Save KQ tight in clubs, and the Kx in spades, as the last four cards.  On the same play to the Queen, clubs 3-2 means a claimer.  Cash the second club, pulling the last club, ruff back to hand, and enjoy the good 7.

If clubs do not cooperate, however, after winning the club Queen, ruff a spade back to hand, hoping to see the spade Ace, and then go back to dummy's club King to enjoy the established spade King.

That line works whenever either opponent started with the Jxxx in clubs and the spade Ace, because they will be squeezed out of their small spade to have a now-tight Ace of spades.  Even if the person with the Jxxx doesn't have the spade Ace, the alternative line works when the person with the Ace started with only Ax or Axx in spades.
The straight hook line is superior when LHO has Jxxx with no spade Ace and fewer than four spades.  My alternative line is superior when RHO has the Jxxx and either the spade Ace or 4+ spades.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Transfers by Advancer

It sometimes amazes me how thinking through one issue in one context often translates into an unexpected idea for a different sequence, completely unrelated.  I have found through the years that experience with various systems and conventions has expanded my thinking in this way, and I was recently reminded of this when considering a specific circumstance.

In my book, New Frontiers for Strong Forcing Openings, I realized that limitation of strong balanced hand pattern by splitting these between hands with known spades and hands without known spades did wonders for minor-suit sequences. 

Then, I though last night about a much more mundane sequence.  LHO opens a weak two in a major, and partner overcalls 2NT, passed to you. 

As a quick but related aside, this reminded me of a funny sequence.  Playing with an insane partner years ago (more insane than me), a 2S opening was passed around to me.  I balanced as an unpassed hand with a 2NT call with a questionable holding.  I had 1534 pattern with the stiff spade King, nice primed values.

Partner advanced with 3S.  What the heck was 3S?  We had forgotten to discuss this sequence!  RHO doubled, and it was up to me.

This seemed great!  I bid 4H.  This could never go wrong.  If partner took this as natural, I have five hearts.  If partner took this as a "flag" showing great clubs, I had great clubs.  If partner took this as RKCB for clubs, same happiness.  If partner took this as a cuebid, I was looking at the heart Ace.

4H was passed out.  Partner had a void in hearts and took me for balancing with a solid heart suit and the spade King.  Huh?

The funny thing was that the other top-flight team that we played for those 7 boards ended up in a 4-1 heart game two hands later.  When Declarer flipped out on Dummy, I commented that at least he got a stiff!

Anyway, back to the bidding.  It dawned on me that a good tweak to advancing 2NT overcalls makes sense, along the lines of "New Frontiers" when a major is already out of focus:

3C = Puppet Stayman.  Partner bids three of the other major with 4, three of the major with 5.  If partner bids 3D, 3H and 3S become flags (3H showing clubs, 3S showing diamonds) with either slam interest or game strain uncertainty (meaning, no stopper bolster).

Transfer to other major = normal.

Transfer to THEIR major = clubs (and either slammish or strain uncertainty, or even bust)

3S = diamonds (and slam or strain or bust)

This seems so obvious now...

Monday, July 26, 2010

General Principles

Discuss with partners weird auctions and ask for their take.  Being "right" is less important than being on the same page.  A case in point.

Last Thursday, a friend (who shall remain nameless) and I perpetrated this nightmare auction:

3H-all pass

This, of course, made no sense.  3H cannot be to play, can it? 

I asked my wife about the sequence, giving her my friend's hand.  She passed 3H also.  Weird.

So, I then had a more sane discussion with my regular tournament partner.  Of course he agreed that 3H was clearly a fit bid of some variety, supporting spades.  But, what meaning?

My take was "bid where you live."  I wanted to show heart values naturally, implying a stiff club, honor-third in spades, Ace or King of hearts, with good diamonds headed by the Ace.  That way, when partner has something somewhat like his actual hand (AJxxxx-K10xx-x-xx), he likes his hand, which is a good thing.

Eichenbaum's take was that 3H showed shortness, as many calls in similar sequences tend shortness.

I don't know or care so much whether "where you live" or "shortness" is the better in theory.  The best is whatever we agree and whatever springs from consistent thinking.  In retrospect, I would probably expect shortness with Eichenbaum but expected a "where I live" approach with the friend.

Maybe toss this sequence at your partner?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"New Frontiers" Now Available in Print!

My newest book, "New Frontiers for Strong Forcing Openings," is now available in print (paperback) for those who do not want the ebook version (or want both).  You can find it at Amazon:


Also, my friend Ken Eichenbaum's new book, "Winners Losers and Cover Cards," is also available now as a paperback through Amazon:


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Michaels Rethought (yet again)

I have been thinking again about Michaels.  I think I have an easy tweak that y'all might like.

Partner cuebids spades, showing hearts and an unknown minor.

2NT asks for the minor. BUT, partner bids the OTHER MINOR. Advancer will bid 2NT with either a weak, LONG minor (trying to get out) or an INVITATIONAL hand (where he wants to explore game but primarily wants to know WHICH MINOR).

Example #1:

1♠ - 2♠ - P - 2NT!
P - ?

If partner has hearts and diamonds, he bids 3♣ (diamonds).  If you have the hand with long, weak clubs, you
PASS.  If you have the hand with long, weak diamonds, you bid 3.  If you have the invitational hand, you bid whatever you would bid had partner bid 3 to show his diamond suit: 3 = wrong minor; 4 = right minor.

If partner instead has hearts and clubs, he bids 3 (clubs).  If you have the hand with long, weak diamonds, you PASS.  If you have the hand with long, weak clubs, you bid 4♣ (trust that the 12-card fit is sufficient for that level).  If you have the invitational hand, you bid whatever you would bid had partner bid 3♣ to show his clubs.

You can see that the 2NT call, if tweaked to show the OTHER MINOR, works extremely well to handle any hands with a long, one-suited minor (wanting to get out) without any real problems. Partner almost always bids your long minor, which is fine. He should get the lead anyway.

But, what about the hand where you simply want to escape into partner’s minor? Bid 3♣, a WEAK pass-or-correct bid. This speeds up these sequences half of the time, which is a good thing, and it is ever-so-slightly more preemptive. Splitting the asks and the escapes between two bids helps somewhat if Opener intervenes. For example, consider these two auctions:

1♠ - 2♠ - P - 2NT!-3♠


1♠ - 2♠ - P - 3♣!-3♠

In the second, Advancer is known to have no interest in game, which helps the Michaels Cuebidder to better guess what to do.

In the former, Advancer cannot be certain which focus Advancer had, but he may be able to guess. With shortness in spades, however, he likely has at least tolerance for the weak-get-out-one-suiter scenario and can more comfortably bid four of his shorter minor, “accepting” the game try with the hedge of playing in four of that minor if Advancer had the weak one-suiter holding. Advancer might, for instance, bid 4♣ with ♠x AKJxx AQJxx ♣Qx.

This approach would also free up another call – a 3 call. Because 3 is not a call needed to show long diamonds and a weak hand, this could show a general invitational hand (or perhaps some other range) with support for partner’s major and no particular interest in the minor (not critically fit-dependent). So, compare these sequences:

1♠ - 2♠ - P - 3 = to play
1♠ - 2♠ - P - 3 = heart support, values (whatever range makes sense)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Modified Italian Canape System Paperback

I am pleased to announce that my new book, Modified Italian Canape system, by Master Point Press, is now available in paperback form, at Amazon:


So, if you were thinking about getting it but were unsure about the ebook format, this may be for you.

The "New Frontiers" paperback is expected shortly, also via Amazon.  Both may be available in other locations -- not sure.

Friday, July 9, 2010

WBF Convention Card Notes, Partnership Bidding, Etc.

I have added a new page to my blog, where I have placed a copy of the most recent version of the WBF CC "Notes" for my partnership with Ken Eichenbaum for the WBF Open Pairs in Philadelphia, in case anyone is interested.  The system is a fusion of styles, which is what most good partnerships become.  In many ways, there are likely aspects that are not perfect, and that perhaps one or the other of us would have preferred slightly different.  But, when you couple the need to cater to a partnership, and the strengths and weaknesses of each partner, and realistic memory loads, you end up with something like this.

That said, I feel very good about the end product.  I think we have reached a level of sophistication that will prepare us well for many contingencies.  Some of our most recent ideas are perhaps somewhat novel, and we have been testing them out with good experience on BBO on monday nights (partnership bidding area).  Feel free to kibbitz.  Be warned, though, that I like to smoke, and Eichenbaum likes to talk, so you might see occasional lulls while one or both are occurring.  For some strange reason, I cannot see who is kibbitsing, but Eichenbaum can.  So, he occasionally send comments to those who have been watching, including some of his students.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Predicting Jammed Colleagues

The other day, I faced a unique problem.  My hand was AQJ-AQJxxx-AK10-x.  I opened One Heart, and partner raised.  With this particular partner, methods were undeveloped and expected judgment poor.  He would never expect me to have this strong of a hand, and even if he did he would likely underbid the hand.  So, I went along the lines of trying to induce some sort of call that would interest me enough to launch a slam probe, bidding as cheaply as plausible myself.  First 2S, then over 3C biding 3D, then over 3H bidding 3S.  All sick, but plausible and calculated to get some action from partner.

The part that I did not think about until later was the alternative auctions at the other tables.  This was a club game, so the other auctions were likely to be (and were) inferior.  Everyone opened a Strong 2C (you do have 21 HCP, after all) and then heard a "step response" of 2H, showing 4-6 HCP.  Yes, very good methods.

This, of course, crammed their auctions.  Three Hearts was the obvious next move, but I do not know what Responder's solution was for xxx-xxx-x-AQxxxx.  The auction that followed also is unknown.  However, my guess is that Opener overbid (tactically) the hand with the opening call and then followed this up with another overbid, because that's what they do.

I could have opened 2C myself, to get into the same nightmare sequence (with the nightmarish methods we were using).  But, in the context of this particular partnership, I made a good decision to go slowly to control the auction and maximize my information.  However, I missed one concept.  When I reached a certain decision point, I should have taken some freedoms because of the likely alternative auctions.

In other words, I should have realized that this field would be ending up at the five-level or higher with these cards, whether safe or not.  If so, then I could have continued to force partner to make calls into the five-level, or asked for Aces, despite a lack of safety, as the end contract would be at least the same as the field.

In the end, I declared 4H for 13 tricks, against a field of 6H contracts, when partner rejected the game try and then did not even cooperate after my 3S slam try (1H-2H-2S-3C-3D-3H-3S-4H-P).  Now, I would NEVER have this auction with my normal partners, but I was trying to be practical.  (My wife, over a proposed 2S call, opted 4D as a splinter -- good for her!)  In thinking through the "field safety" idea, I probably should have made another try of 4S.

This auction is of course nonsensical, a "bobcater auction."  But, the idea was interesting to me.  Five-level safety is not necessarily, at matchpoints, a question of whether it makes or not but rather a question of whether the field will be at least at this level.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dan Dopps

I recently learned of the passing of a friend and former partner, Dan Dopps of Mansfield.  He was one of the four original contributors to the Modified Italian Canape System and played this regularly for many years. 

One of my fondest memories was our continuing debate about whether Losing Trick Count, or counting Winners, made more sense when dealing with unbalanced hands.  I ended up winning that debate, in a strange fashion.

Dan opened One Diamond, showing any number of possible hands (long clubs, long diamonds, or diamonds with a longer major).  I made some response, and he made a jump rebid showing, and now the debate...

1. Dan's position: 9 winners.
2. My position: 4 losers.

Seems like not much of a debate?  Dan thought that my approach was bizarre, and pessimistic.  I thought his approach was the exact same thing (I thought it was) such that using terminology of "losing tricks" made sense.

However, we soon found out why I was right.  With a CLEAR three tricks, I forced the small slam, which failed by one trick.  Dan thought that my hand was not good enough to force the slam, which seemed odd to me.  I mentioned that my three covers took care of three of his four losers, which suggested that the slam would make.  He retorted that I should count winners.  So, I added 9+3 and got 12.  He grumbled, I went for a smoke.  Next round.

Well, mid-auction on the last board of the next round, the director came over to ask Dan which of the 14 cards in his hand was not supposed to be there.  In the end, all 14 were in fact in his hand when he bid and played the hand earlier (a claim, and two people who could not count).

This sealed my victory in the debate.  Counting winners, he had my 3 tricks plus his 9, for 12 tricks.  But, counting losers, he had 14 cards, minus 9 winners, is 5 losers!  Thus the one-trick set.

So, if 14-card hands and 12-card hands occur much for you (especially in Rubber or party bridge), then I propose that LTC works much better in the long run than Dan's optomistic winners count.

But, I suppose that Dopps Count might help in some situations, where you need tricks and can claim, as long as the opponents do not grab theirs first.

I also remember two incidents that amused me.  We always discussed theory and missed the world around us.  In one event, we left with a round to play because the last hand in the next-to-last round was too fascinating for us to focus on the game, and we got confused.  We also accidentally entered a novice game for a similar reason, scoring up about a 260 on a 156 average (playing canape in the novice game).

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Strange World of Delayed Canape?

In practicing for Philadelphia with my good friend and partner, Ken Eichenbaum, we have discussed a very unusual phenomenon, the second-round canape.

Here's a few examples:

You are dealt 4-5-1-3 pattern and a fairly decent hand.  You open 1H and partner makes a forcing 1NT call.  Without sufficient strength to reverse, you opt for the clear 2C call.  Partner now trots out the "impossible 2S," showing values and club support.  So, you launch back 3S, which we now play as showing four spades and only three (or possibly two?) clubs, but a maximum.  A canape, in that your THIRD SUIT is longer than your SECOND SUIT.

How about another one?  You start with 1453 pattern with extras.  1D, but then partner bids 1S, which causes you to slow the auction down a bit.  So, you opt for a 2C rebid.  Partner courtesy-corrects to 2D.  You now bid 2H, agreed as showing 4H and possibly only 3 clubs.

Another.  You start with 3145 pattern, extras, but not quite sufficient for a 2D reverse after 1C-P-1H.  (You also spurn the idea of the tendency canape 1D opening.)  Your 1NT guarantees balanced (2-3 hearts), and 2C seems unappealing.  Not good enough to reverse because of the wrong stiff, but close.  No problem!  You have already discussed with partner that a 1S call is possible with this pattern.  When partner bids something below 2D, you complete your pattern with a 2D call, again showing longer in diamonds than spades.

I'd bet there are other situations where the 5431 "second and third suit canape" approach might make sense, but this is a new thing, at least for me, that I find fascinating to develop. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rexfordized Kokish, Part III

So, let's assume, now, that you have bought all of this so far.  What would happen after all of this if you were to reintroduce back into this approach the really big, balanced hands possibility?  Or, some of them?

This gets interesting.  Suppose Opener has the really big, balanced hand and can also bid 2H with THAT hand.

If Responder hears 2H and has a 5-card major, you will recall, he either bids 2NT (spades), 3C (hearts), or 3D (both).  If Opener is able to have the really big, balanced hand for the 2H relay, and if he has at least 3-3 in the majors, then any of these calls will be easy for him to handle -- he supports the major.

Suppose that Responder bids 3H or 3S showing a stiff or void in the indicated major, 2-3 in the other major, and 4+ in each minor, with values?  Again, if Opener has a hand with at least 3-3 in the majors, he should be well-placed to choose between 3NT and four of a minor, or 4NT.

Let's suppose Responder, instead, bids 2S waiting.  Opener now bids 2NT, even with the really big balanced hands.  If Responder has both four-card majors, he bids 3D.  If Opener does not himself have a 4-card major, which only occurs with 3-3 in the majors and a really big balanced hand, Opener bids 3NT, and all seems well, again.  If Opener has a four-card major (4-3), he bids his major and all is well.  With 4-4 in the majors, Opener could perhaps bid 4C or 4D or 4H of whatever makes sense.  Again, no problems.

Let's suppose Responder, instead, just bids 3C, asking Opener what he has.  Opener can now bid 3NT to show the really big balanced hand.  This creates one problem -- Responder could have one four-card major but not both, and Opener might have no 4-card major, one four-card major, or both four-card majors.

That's not great.  But, at least we are getting somewhere, and on many sequences we are doing great.  In this instance, sometimes we would play 3NT.  But, Responder has the option of a 4C call as Stayman when he can afford the next level to check on the major.  If Opener denies a major (bid 4D), Responder now can bid 4H or 4S as a minor flag, which would be nice, as well.

So, one might reintroduce some of the really strong balanced hands back into "Rexfordized Kokish," limited to maybe 24-25 HCP, with 3-4 in each major.  With a 5-card major, 2-2 in the majors, or 4-2 in the majors, Opener would rebid 2NT directly (2C-P-2D-P-2NT), as with 26+ hands.

Of course, one might decide to include some other balanced hands that do not wualify into this structure.  For instance, Opener might treat a hand with 4-2 in the majors as a major-MINOR canape with, say, 2425, 2452, 4225, or 4252.  He might even treat 4243, 4234, 2434, or 2443 as a "major-MINOR canape" if that seems right and manageable.  The auctions where this would create a problem would be when Responder shows a 5-card suit in the short major (bidding 2NT or 3C directly after Opener's 2H call), which seems to be not all that bad.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rexfordized Kokish, Part II

So, back up.  Opener starts 2C and Responder bids 2D.  Opener now bids 2H.  If Responder has a 5-card major, he can show it immediately, in case Opener has 4-3 or 3-4 in the majors and a long minor, or a 5+ hearts and unbalanced hand, with three spades.

We save space, however, to give room.

With 5-5 or better in the majors, a major fit exists, one way or another.  So, Responder bids 3D.  Whatever Opener's options, he has a major of at least 4-card length.  Opener simply sets trumps, and cuebidding follows.  Maybe Responder bids his stiff, though.

With five cards in hearts, and 0-4 spades, Responder bids 3C.  When Opener has the hearts-and-unbalanced hands, we have a fit.  With the heart-minor canape, we have a fit.  With the spade-minor canape and a 3-card heart fragment, we have a fit.  In all three circumstances, and to be consistent with what follows, Opener bids 3D to artificially agree hearts, and cuebidding follows, or Opener could blast 4C or 4D to show maybe the heart-minor canape and a "picture bid."  With no heart fit, Opener has spades and a longer minor with 0-2 hearts; in this event, he flags his long minor (3H = clubs, 3S = diamonds).

Why the flags?  Consistency.  For, if Responder has five spades (and 0-4 hearts), he bids 2NT.  If Opener has the heart-minor canape with 0-2 hearts, he flags the minor (3H for clubs, 3S for diamonds).  With the unbalanced hands with 5+ hearts (and 0-2 spades), Opener bids his longer minor (3C or 3D), but 3C might be bid with 2623 (Responder bids 3D to express interest in clubs, Opener bidding 3S to confirm real clubs).  With spade support, Opener bids 3NT or something at the 4-level (maybe canape completions).

Responder calso has two other main rejects of the relay -- 3H or 3S to show a stiff in the other major, two or three cards in the bid major, and 4+ in each minor, with promising values.  The reason why this shows shortness in the other major is to allow Opener to focus hearts after the 3H call:

2H!-3H(short spades, 2-3 hearts)
3S(I have five hearts)...
(or 3NT = hearts agreed)

So, in summary so far:

Opener bids 2C
Responder bids 2D
Opener bids 2H (hearts and unbalanced, OR four-card major with 5+ minor)
Responder bids:

1. 2S waiting
2. 2NT with 5 spades, 0-4 hearts
3. 3C with 5 hearts, 0-4 spades
4. 3D with 5-5 majors
5. 3H with 0-1 spades, 2-3 hearts, 4+ in each minor, values
6. 3S with 0-1 hearts, 2-3 spades, 4+ in each minor, values

If Responder bids 2S waiting, Opener bids:

a. 2NT = 4-card major with longher minor
b. 3C or 3D = natural with 5+ hearts
c. 3H = six hearts
d. 3S = 6H/4S
e. 3NT = 5H/4S

If Opener bids 2NT, Responder bids:

I. 3C asking
II. 3D with 4-4 majors

If Responder bids 3C asking, opener bids:

i. 3D with diamonds
ii. 3H with hearts and longer clubs
iii. 3S with spades and longer clubs

A Different Spin on "Kokish"

Or, call this "New Frontiers Light."  Suppose we decided to change the Kokish Transfer to handle problem patterns rather than a problem range for balanced hands.  Could this be effective?  I think so.

The basic idea is this.  When Opener starts 2C, hears 2D (waiting or GF waiting), and then bids 2H, this would instead show either the classic Kokish half (rebids above 2NT show unbalanced hands with hearts) or a new meaning for 2NT -- minor canapes.  Thus:

3-bid = unbalanced with 5+ hearts

2NT = 4-card major, plus a 5+ minor

There is more to this that I have worked out, which I will share later.  But, the basic idea is that Opener's 2NT shows a hand with four of either major and 5+ in either minor, problem hands that have caused difficulty for years. 

The most frequent unwind is for Responder to just bid 3C to find out what Opener has.  If Opener has diamonds (with either four-card major), Opener bids 3D.  Responder can then bid 3H to check on a 4-4 heart fit or 3S to check on a 4-4 spade fit.  If Opener, instead, has a hand with clubs and a 4-card major, he just bids the major.  So:


3D = diamonds, plus a major
3H = clubs plus hearts
3S = clubs plus spades

So far, so good.  The second most common unwind for Responder is a 3D reply, showing 4-4 in the majors.  When that happens, Opener just sets trumps.


3H = hearts agreed, I have a long minor
3S = spades agreed, I have a long minor

There is more to this, including what Responder does with a 5-card major, what Opener's direct 3C and 3D bids mean (no 4-card major), some special treatments, and another hand type that can be handled through this "Rexford-ed Kokish."  That will come next.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Frontiers is Up at Ebooksbridge

I long ago promised a "coming soon" release of a book that I wrote about a two-way strong opening structure, one that I believe competes with Precision as to effective description of strong hands, if not surpassing Precision.  And yet, relatively easy.  I hope you enjoy!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Re-Thinking 4SF

I was asked to think about 4SF sequences.  The question was whether this should best be GF or forcing to 2NT, or something else.  I realize that most people define all 4SF sequences the same.  But, this did not seem to make sense to me, as each is different.  My suggestion in response to the proposed question is still in discussion, but you may find this worth considering, as well.

For sake of discussion, I have assumed that the 4SF sequences we are concerned about are those with a one-over-one response, no reverse by Opener. The following sequences are the entirety of the qualifying sequences:

1. 1♣ - 1 - 1 - 1♠ (and what is 2♠?)
2. 1♣ - 1 - 1♠ - 2
3. 1♣ - 1 - 1♠ - 2
4. 1 - 1 - 1♠ - 2♣
5. 1 - 1 - 2♣ - 2♠
6. 1 - 1♠ - 2♣ - 2
7. 1 - 1♠ - 2♣ - 2
8. 1 - 1♠ - 2 - 3♣

This set need not all be handled the same, as each has somewhat of a unique set of parameters. However, some consistency makes sense.

Two of these sequence have a unique similarity:

4. 1 - 1 - 1♠ - 2♣
7. 1 - 1♠ - 2♣ - 2

In these two sequences, the 4SF call is below two of Opener’s long suit and is below two of Responder’s first suit. In both of these, Opener can:

1. rebid his long suit with a minimum and no fit for Responder’s suit,
2. can bid two of Responder’s suit with a minimum and a fit for Responder’s suit,
3. can bid 2NT with a maximum and a fit, or
4. can bid anything else (logical) with a maximum and no fit.

If we use that approach, then I think these two sequences should be invitational or better. If Opener shows a minimum, with or without a fit, the Responder can:

1. pass or
2. bid 2NT to play, but
3. any other call is GF.

One sequence is nearly identical, in theory:

3. 1♣ - 1 - 1♠ - 2

In this sequence, Opener could:

1. rebid his shorter suit (2) with a minimum and no fit,
2. bid 2♠ with fit and a minimum,
3. 2NT with a maximum and a fit, or
4. any other with a maximum and no fit (logical).

This would allow the same basic approach, with Responder bidding

1. pass, or
2. correcting 2 to 3♣ as NF, or
3. bidding 2NT to play, or
4. any other call as GF.

In all other situations, excepting the weird 1-1-1-1 sequence, I think 4SGF is probably the best approach, because of the space concerns.

Thus, this type of analysis would lead me to a conclusion:

1. Fourth Suit is Forcing to Game if the Fourth Suit is a major OR is 3♣.

2. Fourth Suit is Invitational+ if the Fourth Suit is a MINOR at the TWO-LEVEL.

a. If 4SF is a MINOR at the TWO-LEVEL, Opener can:
i. Bid Responder’s major at the two-level with a 3-fit* and a minimum
ii. Bid his own cheapest suit at the two-level with no fit and a minimum (this will always be the “relay,” the next-suit-up)
iii. Bid 2NT as an artificial bid showing a maximum with a 3-fit for Responder’s suit (GF)
iv. Any other call is GF and logical

b. If Opener shows a minimum, with or without fit, then:
i. Responder can pass Opener’s call
ii. Responder can correct to Opener’s long suit to play
iii. Responder can bid 2NT to play
iv. Any other call is GF

*We might tweak this such that Opener’s “minimum with 3-fit” is actually “minimum with 2-3 cards in fit.” The “non-fit minimum” option would then be 0-1 in Responder’s suit. This might make sense if unbalanced 3-fit raises would be common.

Special Case of 1♣ - 1 - 1 - 1♠ or 1♣ - 1 - 1 - 2♠:

I like the latter (1♣-1-1-2♠) as GF with the true 4♠/5+hand.

The former (1♣-1-1-1♠) maybe should be 4SF, with 1♠ artificial. Probably just a one-round force, actually. If Responder runs into a problem, he can always rebid 2♠, which cannot be natural (because he did not bid 2♠ the first time).

Suppose 1♣-1-1-1♠ start, and Opener rebids 2♣. If Responder bids 2♠, this is clearly forcing, again, because Responder could have jumped to 2♠ over 1. So, 1♠ as a one-round force only is not a real problem. We could stop at 1NT, even.

[This, howevetr, is also where I have consiodered a one-level "Kokish" style of auction...]

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recognizing Assumptions

I ran into an interesting problem in a sequence last Thursday night.  The most interesting part for me was the reminder of the assumption problem.

What I mean by this is that there are sequences where at some point you or partner makes a bid that is the assumption bid.  The bidder may think that the bid shows X, but the partner may think the bid shows Y.  Or, perhaps partner is uncertain as to whether the bid shows X or Y and is therefore stuck.

Now, we all know to avoid, if we can, a call that is unclear, but the assumption bid is a call where one partner thinks it is clear and therefore does not recognize that partner can have a problem.  An assumption bid can result in arguments when bidder and partner both think the bid has a specific meaning, different from each other, not recognizing the alternative.

The example was 2C-P-2D(GF)-P-2S-P-3NT.  Is Responder showing a tweener hand (8-9 or so), kind of a Baby Quantitative, or is this Fast Arrival (2344 with two queens)?  Either is perfectly playable, reasonable, and logical. 

On the one hand, you might have a thought as to what this should be, or maybe a thought that a conventional or artificial meaning might make sense. My point, however, is that this actual sequence involved an assumption bid at the table.  The person bidding 2NT had an assumed meaning, whereas Opener did not know and recognized the problem with interpretation.

I think one skill at this game is in recognizing "assumption bid" situations.  Places where discussion is unlikely but where general principles could lead to a combination of results.  This skill allows you to better discuss sequences (getting deeper into esoterica, perhaps).  It also allows you to track a regular partner's thinking, such that you can predict his interpretation better in these assumption bidding situations.  It allows you to avoid assumption bid options in favor of perhaps inferior but safer non-assumption options.  It allows you to better structure your own calls to exhibit consistency as to assumption bid situations ("bid where you live," "flags rather than cues," "shortness third").  If you can sing a jingle after the assumption bid call you elect, that's a good thing.

If you can spot assumption bid situations, this will allow you to track partner (if he goes there).  If you find that partner has a consistent track, you are that much better as a partnership.  If, on the other hand, partner seems to run wild across the field, apparently inconsistent in his interpretation of assumption bid resolution, then perhaps ask him his thoughts as to why Call A showed X but Call B showed Y.  Maybe he concedes inconsistency and corrects it.  Maybe he explains a nuance that you missed, clearing up the inconsistency as actually consistent for a deeper reason, and you either grow or realize that he is way out there.  Maybe he stares at you with a dumb look, calls you an idiot, and displays his own ignorance, in which case you run like a deer for the woods, finding a new partner.

If you find assumption bids hard to spot, I can make it easy for you, as a starter.  I bet you and partner reach points where a bidding misunderstanding occurs or where a really bad call seems to have been made.  Someone might have been an idiot, or you both may have been fools.  Or, this may be a situation where one or more assumption bids occurred -- two people can bid intelligently to a ridiculous contract because they made sane but ionconsistent-with-each-other assumption bids.  So, if partner seems to have bid something screwy, stop.  Don't write this off as insanity.  Grab this opportunity as a case study in assumption bids and figure out where the assumption bid(s) is/are hidden, figure out the reasoning behind them, and learn from the situation.  Maybe your "obvious call" was an assumption bid or was based on a different interpretation of an assumption bid by partner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One-Level Kokish?

I was looking for something else, deep in my computer files, and I found something I had forgotton about.  By the way -- consider setting up computer files for random ideas that pop up.  You might be surprised that crazy ideas from a drunken night years ago amazingly solve a problem that emerges years later.

Quite a few years ago, I dabbled for about a month with something sort of like "One-Level Kokish."  The idea was that if the auction started 1C-P-1D-P-?, Opener's 1H would be an artificial relay to 1S (exceptions allowed), after which Opener completed his story.  In a Walsh approach, this seemed to make a lot of sense, but I kind of left this alone for, oh, about 10 years.

Has anyone dabbled in that idea?  The reason I gave this up was that it seemed like a relatively rare sequence to get concerned about, especially with no competitition, and a relatively non-interesting sequence, in a Walsh 2/1 approach.  But, I also imagine that this type of relay might be even more useful in a strong club sequence, or even in a strong diamond sequence (if 1C is nebulous or stacked canape or something).

Eh, probably made the right decision ignoring that idea for 10 years.  If the file doesn't get corrupted in the next 10 years, maybe this will be interesting in 2020.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Strange Little Unwind

There was for a while a strange little unwind that I played with a partner of mine, one that you might find a liking for.

Simple auction, really.  You open 1D, partner raises to 2D (limit+).

Suppose that you have a desire to show an unbalanced hand and focus the second suit.  That's easy -- bid 2H, 2S, or 3C.

Suppose that you want to focus the stiff or void, instead.  Easy again -- bid your stiff at the three-level.  3C, 3H, or 3S. 

Wait a minute.  3C covers both a real suit and a short suit.  What to do, what to do?

Easy!  Make 3D by Responder an asking bid, seeking the shortness.  If Opener has real clubs, and an unbalanced hand, he must have shortness in a major.  If he doesn't have shortness in a major, but he is unbalanced, then he must have shortness in clubs (and bids 3NT).

This was a fairly unusual solution for this problem, one that may well be worth adopting, if you also sense this problem.  I mean, there may be other solutions, like an immediate 3NT rebid to show the short club hand, but this approach just seems so symmetrical, like it was meant to be.

It kind of reminds me, though, of one of my favorite results with my wife, when she was learning to play.  I taught her splinters, but i forgot to mention that 3S would be a splinter when I open 1H.  So, she launched a 3S call on me with seven spades and a relatively weak hand.

We ended up in 6H, because I had the right hand for it.

When hearts split 3-3 with the Queen onside, my AKJxxx was just enough to pull trumps.  Her spades were just enough that I could run the suit after losing one spade.  With control everywhere else, 6H made.

Of course, it sure seems like 6H and 6S both should make, right?  Well, it turns out that my side A-Q provided ample control in 6H, but 6S fails on that lead, which was found at every other table.

This was the first occurrence (and last) of the either-or splinter-preempt, a 3S call that denies 2-6 spades and shows "15 by Leah Count," similar to Cansino Count.  You add your HCP to your spades.  If the total is 13-15 LCP, you can bid 3S.  Simple, really.  How many conventions have a 100% success rate?