Monday, February 22, 2010

Which Minor, Part II

OK, so we all know that a 1D opening can mean about anything, with just about any number of permutations for when and what.

How about minor rebids?  Those who debate ad nauseum about the merits or lack thereof of some particular tweaking of 1D versus 1C as an opening do not seem to have as much to say about minor rebids after a major opening after a forcing 1NT response.

Seems rather obvious?  Better minor?  Why?

It seems to me that there is quite a bit of play available here. 

Some, for example, require at least 4+ in diamonds to introduce them.  This would, in the case of a 1S opening, tend to promise 2+ clubs for the 2C rebid (the 5332 situation).  What about after a 1H opening?  With 4531, 2D, or 2C?  How strong are your (and partner's) convictions here?  Does the 4-card rule (if you use this) apply only in the event of a 1S opening?  Does your use of Flannery allow the 4+ agreement for 1H openings?  Is that concern a plus for Flannery (negatives exist, but a plus does go on the plus side)?

How about minor 2/1 calls?  1S-P-2C or 1S-P-2D?  If you assume 5+ for hearts for bidding 2H, then a non-fit minor call must have at least four (2434 or 2434).  But, against this you could, first of all, opt 5+ for diamonds and a possible short club, even in the no-fit scenario.  some, therefore, mean "real diamonds" for a 2D call, but 2C shows either "real clubs" or any balanced. 

Of course, other permutations seems plausible.  For instance, in the non-fit scenario, it seems plausible to have 2D mean "real diamonds," meaning "a hand with which I'd open 1D," meaning possibly 4+ but only if unbalanced, for example.  I am sure that many permutations for no-fit scenarios exist.

Add onto this the "with fit" scenario, where the 2C call (or 2D perhaps) is solely to establish a GF before raising Opener's major, because a 2/1 sequence seems best (or is the only option).  In that event, you might find that a minor response is wildly unknown.  I mean, with 4-5-2-2 pattern, I'd respond 2C often, whichever major was opened, because I'd want the GF and all the benefits that this brings.

Finally, what about jump shift minor rebids?

1H-P-1S-P-3C or 1H-P-1S-p-3D, for examples.  Either could be "artificial."  With a very strong 1-6-3-3, where you want to force game not, what else?  Or, 3-6-1-3/3-6-3-1?  Well, if both are available, is one "real" and the other "suspect?"  If 1H-P-1S-P-3D promises 4+ diamonds, then 3C in that sequence could easily be a stiff (3-6-3-1).

I would suggest discussing general principles here, with partner, and specific instances.

I remember hearing that someone noted how we lost the club suit years ago, and the diamond suit is fading quickly.  (Who said that, and what's the quote?)  Well, maybe we should discuss precisely what this means?  some of you may want to save diamonds, knowing that clubs will be hit even harder.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Which Minor?

There seems to be a lot of variance, and discussion, as to which minor to open.  Some open "better minor" regardless.  Some promise four to open 1D, thus opening 1C with 3+ except if 4432, and always opening 1C when 3-3 in the minors.  Some open 1D with 4+ except when 4432, thus opening 1C whenever 3-3 in the minors.

Those \are the major options.

In Montreal Relay+, and some other systems, 1D promises 5+ diamonds, such that 1C is opened with a rare 4441 or with any balamnced hand not containing 5+ diamonds.  Some modify this to allow a 1D opening with 5+ or 4441.

With an unbalanced diamond approach, the minor openings are split into types.  Balanced hands without a five-card major ae always opened 1C.  Unbalanced hands with club anchor are always opened 1C.  Unbalanced hands with a diamond anchor are opened 1D.  This limits the 1D opening to unbalanced hands with a diamond anchor.

Within that approach, there are variations.  Some are "purists," treating only hands with a stiff or void as "unbalanced hands," such that 6322 or 7222 hands with long diamonds are nonetheless opened 1C, or are rarely opened 1D, or are only opened 1D in 3rd/4th seat.  Then, there's the 5422 problem.  Some open 1D with all 5422 hands.  Some only open 1D with 5422 if holding both minors.  Some open 1D with 5422 unless specifically 2452. 

Some unbalanced diamond people even decide what to do with these problem hands.  Maybe long-diamond balanced hands are an easy-to-handle exception and therefore discretionary, whereas 5422 hands are more complicated, governed by honor spread, overall strength, or some other analysis.

And then there's the random people.  A "random" minor person would always open an unbalanced hand in the anchor suit, but a balanced hand could be opened in either minor if both minors have at least three cards.  A wildly random minor handler might even have clubs possibly short, or even either minor possibly short.

Situation specific issues also come up for many approaches.  For example, there are debates between whether 1D...2C might be canape (either minor could be longer) or even IS canape (clubs always are equal or longer).  There are debates (for those who don't use unbalanced diamond openings) as to which minor to open if balanced and 2344 or 3244.

Alternative minor openings (like Precision 2C, 2D for the minors, unusual 2NT opening, Schenken 3C opening) also might tailor what minor openings show.

Then, there's the Nebulous 1D, of course.

I have even seen (and played) that a 1D opening, if balanced, denied a 3-card major (could have one or both 4-card, but neither will be exactly three) and that a 1C opening, if balanced, promised at least one three-card major.  Or, this tendency was implied.

Of course, you also have styles where balanced hands are split between 1C and 1D by strength.  For instance, if a 1NT opening is Kamikazee (10-12, say), then 1C...1NT might show 13-15 or 18-19 but 1D...1NT showing 16-17.  Something like that, in any number of permutations.  Years ago, a few of us buried the Kamikazee into 1D, such that 1NT opening was 15-17, 1C...1NT was 12-14 or 18-19, and 1D...1NT was 8-11 (with at least three diamonds), balanced.  (This was a ton of fun.)  Or, there was a K-s variant of that (1NT was weak, 1D for kamikazee, 1C for 15+.)

Some artificial or canape systems have potentially wild minor openings, with either possible as the strong forcing opening, and with the other usually grabbing onto a hodge-podge of problem pattern hands.  For example, in my own canape approach, 1D shows either a diamomnd-major canape (longer major) or one minor (either one -- never both).

Any others?

Friday, February 19, 2010

A special case of fit-showing jumps?

Suppose your RHO opens 1NT, and you make some call that shows a specific major and an unknown minor.  Maybe Cappelletti.  (Same thing would come up after Michaels and other similar competitive bids.)

LHO now makes some sort of call or pass.  Does something, or doesn't.  Whatever.

Partner now leaps to game in your major.  All is good, except that one of the opponents bids again.  I hate it when that happens (unless they are bidding like fools, which is always nice).

Anyway, you are sitting there, now, wondering what to do.  Obviously, your hand is a player, but you really want partner's hand to fit your two-suiter.  Wouldn't it be nice to ask partner if he likes the fact that you have diamonds rather than clubs?  Damn problem is that you cannot bid those diamonds except at the five-level. 

A possible auction:


Let's say, instead, that your partner bid 2S and you were the one who raised to 4S.  Wouldn't you like to know if his suit is diamonds, which fits really well with your hand, or clubs, which sounds great for defense/penalty?

Seems like a problem.  What to do, what to do?


Seems rather self-explanatory, eh?


Easy one there, too.

The idea to these should be (IMO) that this fit-jump doesn't show a trick source.  What would we need that for?  Rather, this fit-jump shows spades with "stuff" in the suit indicated.  "I'm bidding 4S, partner.  If you have diamonds, I fit really well with you.  If you have clubs, think defense."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two-way void-showing?

A situation I have not thought of before popped up on BBF.


Grand Slam Force is so obscure here.  Responder cannot have that hand.

However, I could see merits to splitting "hands with void in hearts" between 5H and 5NT rather than simply having 5H as Exclusion, because Exclusion might be too much.

It seems that structurally, one could figure out the "problem key cards" situation.  Let's say, for sake of argument, that the answer "two key cards" is the problem response, where slam won't make.  With that hand, Responder bids 5H, allowing Opener to sign off with two key cards.

With one better than that (two key cards works), Responder bids 5NT instead, which is Exclusion RKCB, void in hearts.

But, better could be done.  If Opener hears 5H and has exactly that needed for slam opposite the hand shown by Responder (two with the queen in the example), he bids slam.  With three and the queen, he answers specific Kings at the six-level.  With three but no Queen, he bids 5NT. 

Make this even more interesting.  If two without works for the grand, Responder could bid 5H anyway, expecting a 5S rebid by Opener.  After this, 5NT by Responder could then ask for specific Kings, which saves space.

Exactly how to structure this is something I don't feel like working out right now.  Furthermore, I have not thought through the most likely problem answer spot or most workable problem answer spot.  But, the idea of sort of a Culbertson 4NT/5NT conventional mechanism for handling the one-under "Exclusion" call, with the addition of a 5NT call, seems workable.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ken's Club

My good friend Ken Eichenbaum has his "Ken's Club" up and running now. He already has several members, and his product is excellent.

I have added a direct link to his new site ( to my "links" and at the top left of my website. Check it out.

Ken's Club is an online "club" for advancing players who want to advance their game with the direct help of a professional player and teacher. Ken regularly sends out email articles, analyzing about two or three actual deals in amazing detail each day. He also offers a "free play" session per month for members. The most amazing feature (I think he is crazy, but he likes it) is that members can send (unlimited) email questions to Ken about anything bridge, and he answers every one. It is sort of like having a professional on call at any time. (That should help in the post-mortem, eh?) He even picks up the phone once and a while when the issue is complicated.

From my personal experience, he is quite an effective bridge teacher. Not only is he wildly talented, but he also has a way of introducing complicated concepts in a way that makes it "easy," often with humor thrown in. Add to that the "bonus" of a free game each month and an on-call pro, and you have quite a package.

He does charge for this, but not much. $25 per month is ridiculously low.

Ken is also working on an update of an older bridge comedy book that he originally published in 1993, as well as a new theory book (LTC-related).

His website has a link for free samples and other info.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wrap-Around Cue? ("WAC")

Ken Eichenbaum described to me a cue concept that makes some sense. I recently saw a post on the BBF that illustrates where this would make a lot of sense. The idea of a WAC is that an "impossibly negative cue" is actually an "absolutely positive cue," showing stuff everywhere with uncertainty about passing the game level.

Here's an example.

2C-P-2D(waiting GF)-P-

How on earth can Opener have a 4D cue? No black suit controls at all means at best (in HCP) QJ-QJ. To even have a 2C opening, Opener would almost need solid diamonds and solid hearts. Sure -- possible. Kind of a picture jump without the jump. But, really? Why not simply bid 4H with that four-loser hand? Or, bid 3NT and then 4D if partner bids 4C?

Well, maybe this call (one under game), when impossible (or practically impossible) should rather than DENY any club or spade control actually PROMISE control in every suit (with slam interest) but express uncertainty about the five-level. In other words, if a cue denies "too much," then it instead promises "all."

The problem presented was after a 3S cue, a 4D cue from Responder, and a 4H "signoff" by Opener, could Opener have a club control but not enough cause to enter the five-level. If so, then Opener can never check on a club control and yet assuredly stay at game if this is denied. If not, then Opener is in a pickle with controls everywhere but not enough general strength to justify entry to the five-level.

The WAC grabs all and solves this problem (or possible/perceived problem at least).

Funny thing is that this concept first was presented to me as a result of a humorous analysis of a bizarre cuebidding decision. Someone (who shall remain nameless) made a cue in a specific sequence that seemed impossible. A technical hand was possible, even if that seemed really unlikely. So, as we are prone to do, we decided that this might make sense if the person thought up and launched without discussion (as we sometimes do ourselves, admittedly) a "new concept" that "just had to be obvious." In reality, it was just a bizarre call, a decision to cue for the first call and then jump into an undiscussed pattern bid for who knows what reason. But, every once in a while an absurd call out of the blue can serve as a discussion point for some actually relevant idea.

Of course, a good idea is to discuss (if you like the WAC idea) when this should apply. For, a call that is "impossible" is rare. More often, the call would be "highly improbable" or for obscure reasons actually redundant. This specific sequence of a one-under-game-initial-cue after a 2C opening and a 2-3 raise of a major seems fairly "impossible." But, whipping this out mid-stream, unless you are into that sort of thing, would be somewhat unwise, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Just thinking out loud...

MANY years ago, I remember using mental "flash cards" to learn hand patterns at bridge. This is a common learning tool for getting used to the numbers at bridge. 4432, 5431, 6322. Stuff like that.

The next time this ever entered my mind was in learning parity signals.

Recently, however, I started thinking as to whether there are other ways to categorize patterns. Whether this would add any benefit or not is unclear. But, just getting a grasp on pattern type thinking might lead itself somewhere.

Here's an example of what I mean.

What do hands like 4432, 4441, 5440, and even 4333 have in common with some hand patterns like 6421, 6430, 5422, and 5431?

Well, nothing obvious. However, let's assume that the first group has a common theme, namely that the shortest suit is in one of the majors. Then, let's assume that the second group has a common theme, namely that the shortest suit is the same major as in the first group, the longest suit is diamonds, and the second-longest suit the other major. Now any similarities?

I'll pick one short major, the short spades example:

Group One: 2443, 2434, 2344, 1444, 0445, 0454, 0544, 3433
Group Two: 1462, 2461, 3460, 0463, 2452, 3451, 1453

Now, do you see any pattern similarities?

There is nothing numerically similar, at least not that I can see, other than the similarities forced into the example. However, from a bridge perspective, these two pattern groups are "related" in that all are appropriate for a takeout double, if an equal-level-conversion call is systemically allowed.

This is no great observation, in its own right. However, thinking about these groupings in a sort of brainstorming effort leads to some thoughts. (Might work better with pot.) Like, I notice that hands with primary clubs and secondary other-major do not fit into this grouping, which means that they are "left out," possibly needing a "solution." I think out loud about the "physical" qualities of this situation, where "weight" seems easily spread out or grouped at the top BUT with primary weight just below the top. It seems that the interests of bidding goals, coupled with practicalities and safeties, force certain "weight" tendencies to patterns suitable for certain approaches.

One might, then, plausibly devise a methodology where a certain call handles "convenient pattern holdings" but an alternative handles "inconvenient pattern groupings."

Imagine, for simple example, an overcalling structure over 1NT where immediate calls show "convenient grouping holdings," such as with, say, Cappelletti, whereas a double might simply show "inconvenient pattern holdings." After a 2C relay from Advancer, the Doubler might indicate some core feature of some "inconvenient pattern group." For instance, 2D after the relay might show some hand with diamonds plus a shorter major. Or, 2D might also cover some other diamond-focused "inconvenient pattern group" as well, if there is a way to describe the inconvenient pattern group because we know all of the diamond-focused entries into that pattern group. Of course, I don't know that group right now -- hence the thought experiment.

I mean, we all have these hands that pop up where we look at the hand and gasp at the complete lack of options. If we could somehow find that these "ugh!!!" hands have some "mechanics" causing the difficulties, we might somehow figure out a cure along the lines of some artificial capture technique.

Consider an example. Maybe a 2NT response to a major opening might actually serve better (than other ideas typically used) as a "flag" of a trouble pattern hand, with 3C asking to explain, and Responder identifying the difficult pattern.

Just a thought, perhaps.