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?

Friday, April 23, 2010

It seems like there should be a way

After a 1D opening by the opponents, I overcalled 1S with A10xxx-Axx-xx-AQx, a fairly hefty collection, but we play rather sound overcalls in this seat at the colors we had (I jump to 2S on any excuse).  Responder passed, and my partner splintered 4D.

Here's the rub.  I was fairly certain the the whole problem was whether partner had a hand like she actually had (KQxx-Kxxxx-x-Kxx) or the other hand she could have (KQxx-Kxx-x-Kxxxx).  If the bidding seems insane at this point, give Advancer any number of my cards that makes her hand look like you would expect -- maybe AKxx in spades, and me Qxxxx.  Maybe Axx in clubs, and me Kxx.  The point remains -- the whole question is whether I have the right Queen.

I find this to occur a lot.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Talk, talk, talk, and play, play, play

There is and never will be anything that quite compares with partnership experience. 

A discussion hand presented itself the other day, on a telephone call with a favorite partner of mine, Ken Eichenbaum. 

The problem was this.  Your partner opens 1S, opponents passing throughout.  You respond 3D, which conventionally shows an invitational hand with hearts (looks like a high-end weak two to an ugly one-level opening you should be ashamed of, perhaps).  We do this to gain a smidge of extra preemption in the 1S-P-3H auction, with one-under being the high "Bergen" option.

Anyway, that specific call could be 3H -- the point is the same.  Opener next bids 4C.  What's that?

As if in sync, we both kind of just knew the take on the auction that we would each have, if playing together.  4C is either a slam try agreeing hearts or a spade-club two-suiter with values.  That part seems obvious -- it has to be one of these.  But, it could be either.  Responder, uncertain which, would clearly opt for a 4D call to unwind this, Opener bidding 4H when he has the power heart raise but 4S when he has the black suits.  Because Opener knows what Responder would do out of the context of discussion, and because he KNOWS what THIS PARTNER would do, he can "safely" bid an undiscussed 4C in either situation, knowing that this will be unwound properly.

Partnerships benefit from a lot of discussion.  "Weird hand came up with Johnny last night.  Here's the hand.  Blah-blah blah to you."  "Um, I suppose 4D works."  This type of discussion, and the actual experience at the table, gives the partnership a comfort level that expands the realm of "undiscussed sequence" into "undiscussed but with principles and theory known."  Practical works a lot.  But, sometimes practical just won't do.  Sometimes, discussion just wasn't likely (who discusses this sequence?!?!?).  In those situations, the only thing you have is logic to resolve situations where only one meaning is possible, despite discussion, or understanding of style, when two options are plausible, often coupled with unwind opportunities.

There of course is always a risk of a misread or a panic.  But, sometimes that possible risk is lower than the known risk of NOT trying out the ambiguous, undiscussed action. 

Of course, CRITICAL to this sort of partnership is one key requirement.  You can be aggressive or passive.  You can be naturalist, scientist, or a madman.  But, be internally consistent and predictable to partner.

That's not to say that variation is not a good thing -- situations call for different action and some level of randomizing.  But, "consistently randomize" in the right situations so that partner will know that this is a situation where randomizing is possible, or even likely, if that makes sense.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Update on Books

Honors Ebooks ( through Master Point Press has been up and running now for a while, and it seems to be working out great.  I was able to update and modernize my 2001 canape book into a newer 2010 version, now running on MPP through the Honors Ebooks program.

Ray Lee has been working on another cool venture, as well, which will soon make the canape book, and others, available in hardcopy print.  We are not sure what the timeline will be, but "soon" is the key word. 

I have also decided, for various reasons, to switch publishers for my previously-announced book describing a two-way strong opening structure (2C and 2D as both strong openings) to MPP and Honors Ebooks.  The ebook version will also be released "soon," with a print version following, as well.  See prior announcement

The ebook format has a non-obvious upside, namely that in many situations books tend to be available in ebook format before print format, because creating the ebook version is faster than the print version.  For the impatient, ebooks has that additional attraction.  But, for those who prefer the feel of an actual book in hand, the print versions will be coming, as well.