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.