Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Interesting 4-card Ending

Notrump contract.  Last four cards in dummy were the King-deuce in diamonds, a small club and a small heart.  In hand, Ace, Queen, Jack, trey in diamonds.  How would you play this four-card ending to get your best shot at taking the last four tricks?

In case you are confused, a bit of context may be appropriate.

Earlier in the KO match, our opponents proved themselves to be quite the sticklers for stated lines when claiming.  Quite upset, in fact, if we ever claimed at all.  My partner played most of the hands.  On one, with the last three trumps and the Kx in a side suit, Ax in that same side suit on dummy, he tried to claim, rejected.  When he then cashed the three trumps and then tried again to claim, the opponents demanded his line.  He worked it out, which was impressive.

I later had the opportunity to play a hand.  With 17 tricks available, I offered to simply lean forward so that the opponents could see my hand in its entirety.  I even offered to allow them to discuss tactics.  This was rejected, as well.

So, on this last deal, with this four-card ending, not all was as it seemed. 

So, I opted the obvious finesse-squeeze line.  Diamond King, diamond to Jack, diamond Ace!  LHO had as her last two cards a winning club and a winning heart.  After a very long thought, considering options as to which card to save, she opted a club pitch.  I of course saved the club and pitched the heart.

When I cashed the diamond Queen at the end, I was polite enough to advise RHO that her partner simply could not escape the squeeze, which both of them agreed to.  Just an unfortunate layout for them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trouble with Tribbles

I ran into an interesting sequence, in an interesting context, this weekend.

I was dealt J10xxx-Kx-QJxxx-A, and partner opened 1NT.  This seemed to be a likely transfer-then-3NT sequence, until partner surprised me with a super-accept, in our methods 3C, which shows an unbalanced hand (relatively, some doubleton) and good controls.  Envisioning the right AKAK, I decided to show my diamond suit.  However, we had not discussed methods enough here. 

In practice, I re-transferred, by bidding 3H, and after partner's 3S bid 4D, hoping without discussion that this would be taken as a long-suit slam try (especially having not cuebid 3D earlier).  Partner hit me with a LTTC 4H, I declined, and 4H made.

We decided to change things.  The re-transfer starts cuebidding now.  Jumps are shortness tries.  With a suit to show, we either bid 3D (diamonds) or 3NT (clubs).  With both majors, we would have started differently.

The funny part of the story is Part II.  After the auction, with alerts and explanations and all, the ladies we were playing insisted that Responder bid spades first.  When we explained the auction, they screamed for the TD.  The TD arrived and asked me what happened.  So, as kindly as I could, I explained the actual auction, with caveats that this was solely our position.  I then gave their proposed auction, namely that my partner had opened 1NT, I had bid 2H as a transfer, partner bid 3C as a super-acceptance, I had bid 3H as a re-transfer, partner had bid 4H as a cuebid, I had then made an insufficient bid of 4D that no one caught, partner had rebid 4H, this time as LTTC, and then I had signed off at 4S.

When the discussion looked to get heated, we conceded (we didn't really care).  But, this gave me an idea.  Cuebidding could be really effective if insufficient bids were allowed, eh?  Last Train, followed by an insufficient start over to cuebidding, followed by another Last Train bid?  I love it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

15 to 17 Hearts

One simple bid, so much amusement.

Last night, I think I was playing at a table of insane people.  I can attest to being insane myself, and the opponents, plus my partner, joined my ranks.

The auction seemed simple.  LHO opened 1NT, partner passed.  RHO responded with a 2D transfer to hearts.  With spades and a minor, I decided to bid 2H Michaels.  Seemed like a normal start.

However, Opener asked my partner what 2H meant, and she shook her head, finally deciding that if it sounds natural it must be natural.  I'm not sure why 2H sounds natural, especially in this auction, but OK.

So, Opener, looking at five hearts himself, found this very odd.  He was looking at five hearts.  His partner transferred to hearts, ostensibly showing five or more hearts.  RHO, Ken Rexford, said he had hearts, and Ken knows what he is doing.  So, not sure how all of this works out, but trusting that my new "natural" convention must make sense, decided that a 5-5 stack was enough to make my 2H contract in jeopardy.  So, he doubled.

My partner, with two hearts herself, saw no reason to pull my contract, as she had at least tolerance.  This at least made some sense, as Opener might have the stiff King of hearts.  Her partner, me, was good, and he'd probably realize that the only possible layout was exactly this.  If dummy hits with two hearts, and RHO has five, and Declarer has five, then the 1NT opening was with a stiff, obviously the King, so that suit would be easy to play, via the "Rabbit Coup."  Drop the stiff King.  All very plausible.

Responder had no where to go, so he passed.

I decided that passing with a stiff heart was not a good idea.  So, I tried something.  2S seemed like a reasonable "second suit" to show, having started conveniently with five of them as well.

Opener passed. 

My partner, who had four spades and two hearts, was probably somewhat amazed at my ability to read the 4-4 spade fit from the auction, and so she passed with a glimmer of pride.

Responder, who had values, was stuck.  Doubling seemed like the only solution.  Values.

I passed.

Opener now went into the tank.  This was a strange development.  No one seemed to have spades.  Plus, everyone had hearts.  Even if they had a 5-5 heart fit, the five-card stack against them seemed to doom the 4H option.  Furthermore, something seemed fishy.

Opener then realized what was apparently going on.  He decided that his partner was quite the jokester.  Obviously, 2D was intended as a pseudo-psychic, intended to throw the opponents off of a heart lead.  The double clearly must have been penalty, because Responder's backup plan, in a pinch, would be to correct any unfortunate heart bids by opener to spades.  A master plan, indeed. 

So, Opener thought about whether passing for penalty or 3NT was best.  Because I was not vulnerable and he was vulnerable, 3NT seemed prudent.

3NT unluckily went down one, when 4H wopuld have made an overtrick, even with the 2-1 stack.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

MICS Ideas for 2/1 GF

I have had people ask, in the past, whether the Modified Italian Canape System has anything to help with a normal 2/1 approach.  I think so.

First of all, one could opt to play MICS only in fourth seat, as a pass-out structure.

More likely, however, some may be interested in certain aspects of MICS for improving some auctions in normal 2/1 GF.  In my new book, I describe a means of converting from 2/1 or standard to MICS.  However, some may want to go part way only.  Within MICS are three opening bids (2D, 2H, and 2S) that could easily be added to any standard system (or any of these three), with benefits to the standard system, by alleviating some of the problem hands in standard bidding and creating some new and unexpected opportunities for big gains.

For example, consider the 2D opening (minors, intermediate).  For a few years, I played a 2/1 system with a friend where 2D was MICS but the rest of the system standard.  This made for some fun results when we opened 2D (better game and slam bidding, quite a few lucrative penalty doubles against them), and it greatly improved our 1D sequences.  (The ACBL Bulletin ran an article by me about that one specific MICS method for standard or 2/1 systems.)

Similarly, the 2H and 2S openings have their own merits and are somewhat like a case-specific (known minor), heavy Muiderberg approach.  Lots of great penalty doubles, tight games and slams, and the like.  These two bids also gain advantage of helping to enable less costly use of Gazilli and other similar 2C rebids, or transfer rebids.  These help alleviate some high-reverse problems.  Even if the bids are isolated to fourth seat, or to red-on-white, or to IMP games, or whatever, the tools are useful imports into a standard or 2/1 approach.

Finally (I'm sure there is more), understanding the different response structure for MICS intermediates may cause you to have the same reaction I did.  Namely, I changed my response structure when I use Michaels or Cappelletti or other two-suited overcalls.  You might just find that you also re-think how you handle the advancing of these popular bids.

As MICS in its entirety is GCC legal, individual components of MICS, added to standard or 2/1 GF (or precision) are also GCC legal.

I also mention in my book that the MICS 2-level intermediates (and the 1D opening) can very easily provide an alternative Precision core, one that I think is much easier to use, without the need to actually convert to canape. 

Thus, I think there is something in MICS for everyone, even the timid.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Release

My new canape book is now available from Masterpoint Press at their ebooksbridge website,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Modified Italian Canape System

My 2010 updated version of my Modified Italian Canapé System book is expected to be released this coming week by Masterpoint Press as one of the Honors Ebook series.  It will be available at as an ebook publication. 

From the back of the book:

In this book, Ken Rexford introduces the strong club relay system with canapé bidding that he played successfully for years. His approach is novel, but it is also one that is easy to learn and play. Most importantly, the entire system fits within the ACBL General Convention Chart. As with his first book, Cuebidding At Bridge, Ken Rexford spends much time explaining the theory and thinking behind canapé sequences, so that the reader will understand the approach rather than simply memorizing a list of conventions.

The author also includes a basic scheme for converting your system from Precision to Canapé, or even from Standard all the way to Canapé, all in easy steps. For those who are intrigued but intimidated by Canapé, this extra material should help to ease the transition.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

pattern v. cue

There is an occasional objection/concern I hear with the idea that in a 2/1 sequence, trumps agreed at the two-level, cuebidding starts immediately.  Namely, there is some concern that pattern bidding might help on some hands and might be preferable.

Here's how I think about this, in a slightly different take than my usual response.

2/1 sequences typically start with some pattern development (we announce a few suits before agreeing trumps) and then convert into pure cue, albeit with some pattern possibilities (picture bids).

Jacoby 2NT sequences start with a premise that pattern is key, with cuebidding available only after pattern is developed.  (Hence why my own structure is as it is -- very pattern specific.)

I think this makes a lot of sense, personally, so long as you develop the Jacoby 2NT structure beyond the simplified versions usually used.  For a simple example, the methods I use (from Ken Eichenbaum) enable description of which stiff is held when Opener has a 5-5 two-suiter, a very pattern-oriented move.

This obviously means, of course, that your pattern development is somewhat hampered, because the 2NT call takes up so much pattern development space (you don't get to start the pattern development with a few other-suit calls before reaching 2NT, as in the 2/1 sequences).  So,if you wanted to maximize pattern development, perhaps reversing these would make sense.

However, I think standard theory has pattern first in both sequences, and then cuebidding, which results in too much pattern development and way too little in the way of cuebidding.

Plus, in my opinion, purity as to cuebidding is more conditional, meaning that the most effective cuebidding structure requires, to some degree, pre-work in the form of the few bids leading up to fit establishment.

It still boils down, I suppose, to focus and preference and what you are comfortable with.