Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kaplan Inversion by Opener?

Has anyone ever thought of this?  A Kaplan Inversion after a minor opening and One Heart response?

I was thinking tonight about the sequence 1D-P-1H-P-1S as opposed to 1D-P-1H-P-1NT.  For many of us, 1NT rebids might be made with a four-card spade suit.  1D-P-1H-P-1S, then, is unbalanced. 

Assuming this, I wondered whether a Kaplan Inversion by Opener might open up some interesting opportunities.  Opener rebids 1NT with an unbalanced minimum, four spades and five diamonds.  With the hand with which he would normally bid 1NT, he bids 1S instead, forcing to at least 1NT.  How would this gain?

Well, assume that Responder has the hand with which he would pass 1NT.  In that event, he instead simply bids 1NT after the inversion, and we wrong-side the contract, probably.  That's bad.

But, a lot of good things could then happen if we add in alternative holdings for Opener.  See, if 1S is forcing, then Opener can use this inversion as a relay before a next move with some of the tweener strong-ish hands.  Assuming, again, the simple auction, you have:


What can Opener rebid?

Pass = would have bid 1NT (probably wrong-sided)
2C = 18-19 balanced with either three hearts or four spades or both,  CHECKBACK!  If Responder has five hearts, he bids 2D as a transfer suggestion (Opener can reject this).  If Responder has four spades, he transfers to spades.  With neither, he transfers to 2NT and then can bid again as appropriate.  This allows nice stops on occasion at the two-level, a rare pass of 2C as well, and averts the somewhat preemptive 2NT, which now shows 2H and 2-3S and hence allows more focus for Responder's 3-bids.
2D = Intermediate, with diamonds.  This is the normal 3D call (jump rebid), but we can get out lower if Responder has a bust, and Responder can even rebid hearts.  This allows the direct 1D-P-1H-P-3D to be forcing, avoiding manufactured jump shifts.
2H = Intermediate hearts raise (anywhere from would accept a game try by Responder to would make a game try himself).  This allows stops at the two-level more often, more descriptive game tries (Opener is not forced to bid 3H with any number of hands but now has space to show stiffs and the like), and a different meaning for a direct 1D-P-1H-P-3H call (maybe GF).
2S = Spades and diamonds, enough for a reverse but nor for a jump shift.
2NT = Solid diamonds, needs something more.

Of course, we would need to work out the kinks as to what happens when responder has values or takes other actions, but this seems capable of working out.

Extend this, then, to 1C-P-1H-P-1S as another inversion.  This allows, after the 1NT relay:

2C = Club intermediate
2D = 3145 with extras but not good enough to reverse
2H = Invite raise
2S = Spades and clubs reverse-not-Jump-Shift hand
2NT = Balanced with four spades (direct 2NT denies four spades)

This time, the inversion solves the 3145 problem hand as the focus of the new minor call.  I mean, the same exact approach is possible, but perhaps it is more useful to handle this difficult pattern rather than super-tweaking strong balanced hands.  Plus, 2D gets messy anyway when you start thinking through the loss of re-transfers.  A smaller tweak works fine.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stepping Stone Bids, Bootstrap Bids, and Standoff Bids

I have previously described an idea that I call a "stepping stone bid."  The name comes from the similar situation of throwing an opponent in to gain his card's value as an entry to Dummy (or hand) that you do not yourself have.  Similarly (in a sense), a "stepping stone bid" is a call that does not take shape unless the opponent takes action, usually relying upon the need for the opponent to actually take action.

An example might be if you were to play that a 2C overcall of 1NT is a one-suited hand (Cappelletti, for example) but without any agreement that Advancer bids 2D to find out what you have.  Instead, 2C just says you have a one-suited hand, and Advancer is free to pass.  This would only make sense if we are white on red and limited severely as to strength.  In that condition, the opponents cannot simply pass this out and defend a silly 2C contract, even if the score will be "down eight" for +400 to the opponents, because the opponents would be missing their vulonerable game bonus.  Hence, 2C is not forcing on Advancer but rather conditionally forcing on the opponents.

A stepping stone bid, then, uses the condition of a force on the opponents as a means of having a "forcing" auction.  This actually has some space-saving merit, in that this allows you two extra layers of description at a lower level.  Consider the Cappelletti auction.  If 2C is forcing on Advancer, the 2D relay means that we play 2D, 2H, 2S or 3C.  If 2C is forcing on the opponents by the conditions that exist, however, we can bid 2C and play 2C, 2D, 2H, or 2S.  Hence, you gain the ability to play one level lower in clubs when that is your suit.  For that matter, you gain another step -- the redouble -- such that 2C could (in the situation of a conditional force on the opponents) safely show any one-suiter with the ability to play at the two-level and one additional meaning, perhaps weak with both majors or weak with both reds or something like that.

The point, though, is that a conditional force on the opponents is something we can in theory take advantage of in designing some isolated sequence options.  As another example, consider a passed-hand Responder to a third-seat, whoite-on-red weak Two Hearts.  You could decide that a 2S response is a weak escaqpe showing spades, clubs, diamonds, or both minors, non-forcing.  If the opponents pass this out, they lose.  So, they are conditionally forced to double.  If they double, you can pass with spades, bid your minor with a one-suited minor, bid 2NT with both minors of equal length, or redouble with 6-4 in the minors (allowing Opener to bid a side 4-card minor or bid 2NT to ask for your minor).

Related to the Stepping Stone Bid is the "Bootstrap Bid."  This is a call that boostraps onto the force actually created by the opponents.  A simple example is a cuebid made by the opponents.  If partner opens One Heart and RHO cuebids Two Hearts, this establishes a force on Advancer.  Responder can use that force to facilitate more descriptive bidding himself, with free calls meaning one thing but passes-then-action another.  There is nothing all that tricky about a Bootstrap Bid, but understanding the concept as such might create some interesting options that might not have been thought of before.

A third related concept is one I would call a Standoff Bid, which is related to the Boostrap Bid.  A standoff is a situation where perhaps neither side likes the status quo.  However, someone must blink.  Because someone must blink, this requirement establishes a force itself.  Moreover, one can use the forced blink as a defining tool, albeit with some risk of the Bluff Defense.

Let's consider an example.  RHO opens a Multi 2D, guaranteeing a major.  You play that a double shows "the other major."  RHO cannot pass 2DX, so he must show his major.  That, then, reveals your major to partner.  Opener could use a "Bluff Defense" of bidding the major he does not have, of course, but that might get messy.

The point, though, is that the standoff creates an ability to stack meanings because the opponent not only must blink but in so doing must tell partner what you have.  The standoff exists because in theory everyone could pass 2DX in the example.  But, we expect them to blink first, so we send 2DX out there as a possible contract.  I suppose that the other defense is the "All In Gamble," where 2DX is passed and played.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Restructuring 1NT Responses

It has been a long time since anyone really seems to have considered a complete revamp of the basic building blocks for responding to 1NT.  In thinking through some ideas, the area of 1NT responses popped up.

Is there a possible alternative core to potentially replace Stayman and Jacoby Transfers?  How about something like this:

2D as Stayman, with invitational+ values.  Opener bids 2S with four spades, 2H with neither major, 2NT with four hearts and a minimum, 3C with both majors (re-transfers), 3H or 3S with four and a maximum, 3D with neither but a maximum. 

2C as one or both majors.  Opener assumes 5-5 and bids 2D with spade preference, 2H with heart preference (2S for 22 majors).  If Responder has both weak, he places contract.  With just one weak, he bids it.  With both invitational, raise preference.  With just one but Opener preferenced, raise that.  With just wrong one and six, jumps.  With just wrong one and 5, notrumps.

2H as one or both minors invitational+.  Opener picks minor preference to decline invites by bidding 3C or 2NT for diamonds, after which Responder places contract or can bid 3M as stiff from 5-5 and GF.  If Opener would accept some invites, bids 2S, after which Responder bids 2NT minors, bids minor, or bids 3M shortness GF.

2S as one or both minors weak, or 3-1/1-3 majors GF.  Opener shows minor preference, after which Responder places weak contract or bids stiff major if GF.

This is just a rough draft brainstorm.  Much more would need to be filled in, of course, like perhaps Puppet 3C.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mechanism of Competitive Two-Under Sometimes One-Under

In a competitive sequence, a Two-Under call may be made by way of what appears to be a one-under "call," in a sense. 

If you double an opposition two-under call, this works as a surrogate for a two-under call.  Hence, for example, a double of 4C could show one or both majors, or crunched cappelletti (any two suits), effectively.

A forcing pass of either a one-under call by the opponents, or a double of a one-under call from partner, also works, as it allows a double or redouble from partner to be the preference call for the higher suit.  One example is the runout of 1NT doubled, where a forcing pass enables that one-under 1NT to be escaped into a one or both minors holding.  So also, consider 2C-4D-?  A forcing pass here would allow opener's double to show spade preference and therefore would enable a cunched cappelletti forcing pass of the one-under 4D call.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just How Much Definition is Possible Over 1NT?

I included a list of wildly descriptive options over 1NT using a 2-Under approach.  But, non of them included a double as an option.  I wonder how detailed one could get with a doubkle also included.

For example, consider one scheme:

2C = both majors or one major and a minor.  Advancer preferences major (2D for spade preference).  If Overcaller had both majors, we play in Advancer's preferred suit.  If Overcaller has a major-minor and Advancer preferences his major, we play in that major.  If Overcaller has major-minor but Advancer preferences the other major, Overcaller bids his major and Responder elects contract (possibly bidding 2NT for the minor).  This handles all hands with five of a major and 4+ of another suit (including the other major)

2D = four spades and longer minor or just long spades.  Advancer bids 2S if he would want to play spades opposite spades and a longer minor or 2D if he would prefer the minor in that situation.  Overcaller acts accordingly.

2H = just hearts

2S = just spades, stronger

X = both minors or just diamonds or 4414/4441 or 4144.  Advancer preferences minor.  If Overcaller has both minors, he passes Advancer's preference.  With just diamonds, he corrects 2C to 2D or passes 2D.  With 4414/4441, Overcaller bids 2H.  With 4144, 2S.

That's a lot of coverage.  Can even more be shown?

What about the same 2C as majors or major-minor.  X as both minors, just diamonds, or four of either major and a longer minor.  2D, then, could be 4-4 majors, 1-4 or 4-1 minors.  2M as natural.

If 2D is allowed as one major (either), then 2H could be 4414 or 4441 and 2S 4144.

These allow all but one Ripstra shape at the two-level.

How about double as canape major-MINOR, or one major?  Advancer bids 2C if he would prefer the minor in the major-minor canape, pass-or-correct.  With both majors, Advancer bids 2D (or to ask for the major); after 2D, Advancer can return to the minor.  After either 2C or 2D, Doubler can instead bid 2M as natural, one-suited.  2C is crunched Capp, still.  2H still 4414/4441.  2D as 1444 or one or both minors; if Advancer bids 2H, 2S shows one or both minors.  If Advancer bids 2S, 2NT shows both minors but 3min is one-suited.  (2D might promise four diamonds, perhaps, and thereby become a natural "treatment," GCC legal -- bid 3C immediately with just clubs.)  2S, then, as 4144, and all 4441 hands are handled.

The possibilities seem almost endless.  Granted, some of this is so tight that it hampers Advancer bidding his own stuff.  So, maybe the insane detail is best for pass-out or opposite a passed partner.  Or, maybe it is just a curiosity or a brainstorming start.  But, wow can you stack if you want to.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Flags/Transfers After 2NT in 2/1 GF

An idea that might be worth considering.  In any 2/1 GF sequence where trumps have not yet been agreed but both major strains are possible, a 2NT call forces one-under calls by the other person, with 3C as a minor flag.

An example from BBF is 1S-2minor, 2S-2NT, ?  At this point, Opener rebidding 3C to agree Responder's minor, 3D for hearts (6-4 weakish), or 3H to rebid spades allows three-level agreement of all suits, which solves some problems.

Similarly, 1S-2H, 2S-2NT is a good start for this.

If only one major strain is possible, but both minors are possible, then bidding the minor naturally but always 3H for whichever major (and 3S as a confirm call) makes sense.  E.g., 1M-2C, 2D-2NT, ?

If all four suit strains are actually possible, one-under still might make sense, with 3S for clubs.  This hurts in club sequences but helps in all others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two-Under Plus Fishbein Defense to 4C/5C

The opponents open 4C.  The standard defense is natural overcalls, plus double as takeout.

An alternative structure could allow for more description, at the cost of converting the takeout double for penalties:

X = both majors, or one major and diamonds
4(5)D = takeout
4H/4S = natural one-suited

After the double, partner assumes both majors and shows prewference in the two-under method; bid 4H with heart preference or 4D with spade preference.  If doubler had both majors, we get to the right major.  If doubler had the other major and diamonds, he now bids 4H after 4D spade preference, or 4S afetr 4H heart preference, and Advancer picks.  If doubler had a major-diamond two-suiter and Advancer prefers his major, we play there, which is probably OK.

This method could also be used in the event of a call that is practically forcing.  For instance, after P-1NT-4C, we could assume that 4C will never be played undoubled, in which case pass is forcing and the risk of not doubling 4C is solved.  Similarly, 4C (or 5C) after a strong, forcing opening might be a good time for this defense.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two-Under Run-Out Pass

I am not familiar with every run-out method ever devised for a weak notrump doubled.  However, most that I have found require playing at the three-level if Responder desires to show both minors.  A two-under forcing pass may do better.

1NT-X-P = suggests run-out to a minor.  Opener responds by bidding:

2C = club preference
XX = diamond preference

If Responder started with a one-suited minor hand, he passes 2C with clubs, bids 2C after a redouble with clubs, or converts the redouble or 2C call to 2D with diamonds.  If Responder started with both minors, he passes 2C or converts the redouble to 2D.

Responder could also pass with a minor-major combo.  With, for example, 4H/5C, Responder could pass and then either (a) pass 2C or (b) convert redouble to 2H to show four hearts and longer clubs.  I'm not sure that I would do this, but it seems like a plausible move.

Responder might even opt to convert the redouble for penalties.  If, for example, Responder felt that 1NT XX'ed was a good bet if Opener prefers diamonds but would prefer to play 2D otherwise, then heck -- pass and pass.

If Responder has values, instead, he redoubles himself.  1NT-X-XX.  Otherwise, systems on.

Maybe this works; maybe not so good.  But, it's a two-under forcing pass option, and I like that as a theory discussion.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two-Under by Strong Hand

The normal two-under approach has the person not bidding the two-under call bidding the lower suit if he prefers that but the one-up artificially to show a preference for the higher suit.  Thus, if 2C shows one or both majors, partner bids 2H with heart preference or 2S with spade preference.

If the stronger hand bids the two-under, you could reverse the meanings, indicating your least preferred suit.  Thus, if 2C was bid by a strong hand to show one or both majors, Responder/Advancer would bid 2H if he prefers spades but 2D if he prefers hearts.  As a pure coincidence, this happens to mean that the weak hand transfers to the suit he prefers.  If the strong hand has both suits, he accepts the transfer.  With only one suit, he bids that suit.  Using this "transfer to the suit you prefer" method, the strong hand always plays the hand when the strong hand is two-suited, and the strong hand usually plays the hand even when he is one-suited, as the transfer is to the least-preferred suit (which is more often what the strong hand actually has).

It might be rare for a strong hand to use the two-under approach, but it could happen.  For example, one might devise a scheme where a 3S rebid after a 2C opening is forcing beyond 3NT and shows one or both majors, and huge.  2C-2D, 3S-?  In that scenario, as an example, Responder could transfer to the suit he prefers, and the two-under scheme still works great, just with the two-under bidder more often declaring. 

Your reaction might be to suggest that transferring to the suit you prefer is easier to remember and maybe should be used all the time.  But, the most common use for a two-under (one or both of two suits) approach is in situations where the person bidding two-under is weak, and where therefore you generally want the lead into the stronger hand (and the less described hand hidden).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Different Multi

Two-Under for One or Both could also be used with an alternative style of Multi, if one were so inclined.

Consider a standard 2C approach.  Many use 2D waiting, plus Kokish.  Thus, with heart hands and strong balanced hands, Opener starts with 2C, bids 2H, and then makes a call at the three-level. 

Well, suppose, then, that your TWO CLUBS opening were multi, showing:

1. Weak with hearts,
2. Weak with spades,
3. Weak with both majors, or
A. Very strong, balanced
B. Strong with hearts primary

In that structure, Responder would assume weak and would normally bid:

I. 2H with heart preference
II. 2D with spade preference

If Opener has weak with majors, Responder's preference ends up the spot.  If Responder has just spades, he bids 2S next whatever Responder prefers.  With just hearts, he bids 2H or passes if Responder prefers hearts.

If Responder preferences a major but Opener has the strong hand, he next bids 2NT or higher, which shows the same thing that would be shown had Opener started a standard 2C, heard a waiting 2D, bid Kokish 2H, heard the 2S relay, and then bid.

If Responder has extras, sufficient for a game try opposite the weak hand, we are probably bidding a grand opposite the strong hand and can work it out.  But, assuming a weak hand, Responder can bid 2NT as an unwind.  Opener with a maximum for a weak hand bids 3D with both majors or his one major naturally.  With a minimum weak hand, Opener rebids 3C instead, and the same unwinds normally available are still available, just one level higher.

Responder with one-way extras bids 2D with interest only if Opener has spades and then bids accordingly, or with a hearts-only interest bids 2S as a paradox bid.  This seems somewhat better than regular multi because only one suit requires paradox bidding, and you get the bonus of the two-suited major hand.

If Opener has a strong hand of other varieties, he opens 2D, with 2H as the relay.  This does not preempt anything, because the hands where Opener would have wanted to rebid 2H are bid through a 2C opening.  Opener, after the relay, continues normally.

This alternative core for multi players might be better than the traditional approach, in that you ad yet another type of weak hand. 

(One might also use the "Rexfordized Kokish" approach with this multi, where the 2C opening following by 2NT is not the big balanced hand (bids those through 2D) but rather a MINOR-major canape hand.  See my articles here: and here: and for details.)

Any thoughts from multi players?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


One concern with cuebidding is that the more you reveal to partner in a cuebidding sequence to fine-tune the contract, the more you reveal to the defense.  This is a tough problem to resolve.

So, I got to thinking on this problem.  There might be a way to structure cuebidding sequences so as to avoid disclosure of useful defensive info until after we have resolved less useful data sufficiently to warrant entering the extended discussion.  How?

Well, consider a normal cuebidding sequence using my methods.  Partner opens 1H, you bid 2C GF, partner rebids 2D, and you agree hearts with 2H.  Cuebidding now starts.

Using my methods, 2S is a cue showing spade control, 2NT is a trump quality denial cue, 3C is a cue of an interior suit -- clubs, and 3D is a cue of an interior suit -- diamonds.  Or:

Step 1 = spade cue
Step 2 = trump denial cue
Step 3 = club cue
Step 4 = diamond cue

Why the "Steps" analysis?  Well, the cue definitions are, in fact, steps.  But, the steps are defined by the call made rather than by some pre-ordained rules tied to steps.  Defining the cues by the call made means that the structure of cuebidding, if observed from the standpoint of steps, is not necessarily ideal.  (This same type of issue arises with showing stiffs, where the steps approach might be low-middle-high, but the strain approach might make the steps become low-middle-high or high-low-middle or middle-high-low, depending on the sequence.)

Well, suppose that one organized cuebidding by steps instead of by strain?  Maybe the acronym AORTA might work -- Agreed suit, Opener's suit, Responder's suit, Their suit, Asking bids.    In that structure, consider, again, the basic auction 1H-2C, 2D-2H.  Now:

2S = A = Trump denial cue
2NT = O = Diamond cue
3C = R = Club cue
3D = T = Spade cue
(4NT = A = RKCB)

This, then, could be reciprocated.  For example, consider the basic auction after 1H-2C, 2D-2H, 2NT (trump denial cue).  Responder uses the same AORTA approach:

3C = A = trump denial cue
3D = O = diamond cue
3H = R = club cue
3S = T = spade cue

This then kicks back even again.  Suppose 1H-2C, 2D-2H, 2NT(denial)-3C(denial), ?  At this point, we know that the partnership is missing a trump honor, at least.  Opener would restructure again:

3D = no trump honors
3H = diamond cue
3S = club cue
3NT = spade cue

In contrast, a step can become "closed."  E.g., 1H-2C, 2D-2H, 3C(diamond cue, but the 2NT bypass promises two top trumps)-3H(diamond cue, plus the bypass promises the missing third trump).  As Opener has shown two top trumps and Responder the third, the trump suit is "closed."  As Opener also showed two top diamonds and Responder the third, the diamond suit is also "closed."  Thus, with Opener next to bid:

3S = R = club cue
3NT = T = spade cue
A suit can become "closed" by cueing all cards or by a complete denial. 

Using this appproach, plus bypasses as denials, would seem to prioritize resolution of the solidity of trumps first, the solidity of Opener's second suit second, the solidity of Responder's suit third, and then lastly control of the fourth suit.  That might be ideal, in theory, as it might avert disclosure of useful info until later in the cuebidding auction.  As the steps approach simply restructures the sequences, the same number of calls would be available and used, such that it seems that the steps approach would be as efficient.

The tricks, though, would be:

1. Determining the best acronym, meaning the best structure of priorities (not really priorities in the sense of importance but in the sense of least-damaging-disclosures).
2. Deciding when serious (or frivolous) enters in as a step.
3. Thinking through the possible auctions and any nuances that develop from this sort of structure.
4. Maximizing the usefulness of jump cues in this structure.

Just thinking out loud, though, it seems easy enough to cuebid using this technique without much adjustment.  Simply make the trump denial cue (normally 2NT) the first step, use AORTA because it is easy to remember and sounds good, and keep 3NT as serious when you get to that point in the auction. 

If anyone likes this idea and tries it out, let me know how it works, even if trying it out means running through deals on your own and seeing what happens.

MINORS and major frag

One classic approach to handling patterns with 3145/1345/3154/1354 is to jump to three of a major (some play this as the stiff, some as the fragment).  The immediately-observed problem, however, is that focus on a strain with extras is difficult.  For example:


If Opener wants to suggest a slam move with a minor agreement, he bids the minor.  But, with heart agreement, Opener has insufficient space to pursue that strain.

Consider, then, Minor Suit Stayman.  Many will play that 1NT-2S, 2NT/3C/3D-3M shows both minors and a stiff in the indicated major, typically 5-5 minors.  In that situation, we have an abundance of space, especially when Opener indicates a four-card minor, as the strain for slam is already known. 

This structure might possibly be improved.  I am concerned a small bit with interference with what I am proposing, but that might not be a large problem.

The simple idea is to first make the immediate 3M (1NT-P-3H or 1NT-P-3S) show the 5-5 minors hand, slam interest, indicating the stiff.  Opener can resolve strain easily, by bidding the respective minor at the four-level, or perhaps Flags as RKCB with really good hands (meaning, 4H RKCB for clubs, 4S RKCB for diamonds).

Next, have 1NT-P-2S be the two-under minor or minors call.  If Responder is weak, he has one or both minors.  Opener will bid 3C with club preference (Responder passing with clubs only or both minors weak, bidding 3D with diamonds only weak) or 2NT with diamond preference (Responder bidding 3C with clubs only weak or 3D with diamonds only weak or both minors weak).

If Responder has the 3145/3154/1345/1354 hand and slam interest he bids 2S first, to isolate the sole minor that might be the strain for slam purposes.  After Opener's call, Responder next bids three of the (short or fragment, depending on style) major.  This way, space is opened up for Opener bidding the other minor as a flag if needed.


2NT(diamond pref)-3S(1S/3H)
4C = heart super-accept
4D = diamond slam move

3C(club pref)-3S(1S/3H)
4C = club slam move
4D = heart super-accept

3S = spades agreed slam move
4C = both minors slam move
4D = just diamonds slam move
4H = RKCB diamonds
4S = spades, but really poor slam cards (might be Moysian)

3S = slam spades
4C = slam clubs
4D = both minors slam move
4H = RKCB clubs
4S = spades, poor slam cards (Moysian?)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Three-Under for Three-Suit Situation?

Wow is this getting interesting to me.  OK, the challenge now is to find a common situation where a three-under call (sort of) is enhanced by the theory of three-under bidding.  A simple one is a redouble of One Spade!


To escape effectively, the three-under approach for three suits can be used.  The redouble makes 2S "three under" the three suits shown by the double, in the sense that it adds pass as the additional level.

If escaping Advancer has one or both minors and wants to play at two of a minor, perhaps two of the right minor if he has both equal minors, he passes.  Doubler then picks his minor of preference, bidding 1NT to show preference for diamonds, to allow this move by Advancer safely with either one minor or both minors.

This enables 2C or 2D to show, instead of just that minor, equal length with that minor and hearts.

With just hearts, Advancer bids 2H.

1NT by Advancer, then, could be used to show a desire to play 1NT.

Alternatively, 1NT could show hearts and an equal-length minor with a weak hand, scrambling-style, with 2C or 2D then showing the same pattern but enough stuff that the redouble does not negate game prospects.

This same basic structure could be used after 2S-X-XX, of course.  

Three Under, plus Responsive Asking Two-Under?

Is a "three under" approach possible and sensible as a means of including and asking bid?  Sure.  The situation would be one where Overcaller makes or doubles a three-under call, with room for Advancer to use the two-under call as an asking bid or relay on weak hands, other calls being invitational.

Consider your problem if the opponents open 2NT as a light opening, both minors.  This is a tough situation to defend, and I have thought long about the most effective defense structure to that opening.  Well, what about incorporating a two-under and a three-under plus asking approach?

Overcaller could bid 3D for both majors, values, or 3M with that major and values.  Advancer moves accordingly.  So far, rather normal.

We then add the two-under for Overcaller, who is light.  3C shows a lighter overcall with one or both majors.  If Advancer has spade preference, he bids 3D, which allows some unwind and a decision from Advancer.  With heart preference, 3H is the call, or 3S as a "paradox" call (I have interest in a heart game but not a spade game if you just have long spades).  4C would be the game-force unwind.

Next, consider the double of 2NT, a "three-under plus asking" double.  This shows a takeout hand, but the majors might be of different lengths (4-4, 4-5, 5-4, 4-3, or 3-4, or even 3-5 or 5-3 are possible).

Advancer, hearing this double, could bid 3M as an invitational call, agreeing the indicated major with tweener values -- he needs extras for game to be a good bet.  With equal majors and game interest, Advancer bids 3D after the double, asking doubler to pick the strain and level.

If Advancer has a weak hand and wants to get out at three of one of the majors, he bids 3C, a Herbert Negative asking bid.  Advancer has either a specific major he wants to play at the three-level OR a weak hand with equal majors, wanting to play the right major at the three-level.  Doubler bids 3H with longer of better hearts, 3D with longer or better spades.  After either, Advancer places the contract.

A similar approach could be used to compete over Flannery.  One could play that a three-under 2H cue of a Flannery 2D opening shows both minors.  If this were used, Advancer could bid 2S as a Herbert-negative two-under signoff, allowing the 2H cuebidder to pick his longest/best minor (2NT with longer/better clubs), to make sure that the contract ends up being the best minor fit if Advancer has equal minors.  The 2Nt call allows room, again, for Advancer to bid the Herbert Negative with the asking bid tool while maintaining the ability to get out at 3C.  If Advancer has game interest, he could bid three of his preferred minor, showing extras.

How about after a Roman 2S opening, showing clubs and spades?  Three-under for the reds is a double.  If 2NT is then Lebensohl-style, you end up in the same scheme.  After 2NT, doubler can bid 3C to show better/longer hearts, and the weak hands end up played in the right strain.

In summary, the three-under plus asking bids is a way to have the person bidding (or doubling) a call that is three-under his two known suits, with Advancer using a counter two-under call as a weak relay with an added asking-bid included safely, to enable other calls to have values attached.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Using 2- and 3-under as 2C Responder

Another possible use for the two-under or three-under (for transfers) might be in responding to a strong 2C opening.  Suppose that 2D is waiting and GF, 2H bust.  That leaves 2S, 2NT, and the three-level for positives, and possibly for "preempt-ish" hands.  Stacking is facilitated by some two-under and three-under techniques.

Two Spades as One or Both Minors

Here, a two-under approach is used, with a Smolen style of follow-ups.

Opener generally will bid 2NT if he wants to agree diamonds or Three Clubs to agree clubs, assuming initially a two-suiter.  After 2NT (prefers diamonds), Responder can use a "Smolen" style to unwind his hand, bidding 3C as a "transfer" to agree diamonds, 3D to suggest clubs, or 3M as shortness.

Two No Trump as One or Both MAJORS

With a one-suiter and a major, Responder uses a three-under, enabling transfers.  Opener assumes a two-suiter and picks his major of preference, bidding 3H to suggest hearts or 3C to suggest spades.  If Responder has both, he can bid 4C or 4D as shortness.  Or, to simply agree spades (possibly one-suited), he can transfer with 3H after 3C.  3D after Opener's 3C shows just hearts. 

If Opener shows heart preference (3H) and Responder has just spades, Responder can bid 3S in a simple version, which is no worse than the usual method where Responder bids his own suit.

If Opener wants to reject both majors and show a long minor, he bids 3D with diamonds or 3S with clubs.  If Opener has his own spade suit, and cares not if Responder has hearts, he bids 3C and then insists with 3S after a transfer.  If Opener has his own heart suit and cares not about a one-suited spade suit from partner, Opener can bid 3H and then after 3S bid something above 3NT.

Major-Minor Combo
With a major-minor combo, Responder bids 3C.  Opener usually shows which major he would prefer, bidding 3D to preference spades.  If Opener wants to agree both majors, he bids 3S.

If Opener bids 3H and Responder has hearts and a minor, he can bid the minor next as a slam move.  If he has spades and a minor, 3S does the trick.  Opener can then agree spades with 4C to ask for the minor.

If Opener bids 3S, Responder can bid up-the-line.  3NT = clubs and hearts; 4C = diamonds and hearts.  4D = clubs and spades; 4H = diamonds and spades extras; 4S = diamonds and spades minimum.

If Opener bids 3D to preference spades, Responder bids 3H with hearts and clubs, 3S with hearts and diamonds extras, 3NT with hearts and diamonds minimum, 4C with clubs and spades, 4D with diamonds and spades.

Other Three-Level Calls

This allows 3D, 3H, 3S, or 3NT to show other holdings, whether 4-4-4-1 hands or perhaps one-suited but weaker.  Thus, for instance, 2C-P-3S could be played as 1-4-4-4 or could be played as seven spades but a bust.  Something like that.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Two Under Plus Transfers? Or, THREE-under?

Just because I am thinking about it...

One could incorporate a "two under" approach with transfers into a THREE under.  For instance, suppose that partner opens 2NT.  You might play that a 3S response is a relay to 3NT, as the means of getting to 3NT.  Then, 3NT would be available as a THREE-under call to show one or both majors, game-only:

2NT-P-3NT = one or both majors, game only.

If Opener prefers hearts, he bids 4H.  In that instance, Responder would play spade contracts, unfortunately.
If Opener prefers spades (or equal preference), he bids 4C, after which Responder transfers to the suit we agree to play.

Using that approach might then allow Responder to use four-level calls (4C, 4D, 4H, and 4S) for other meanings, such as perhaps Texas showing 5-5 with that major and five or the opposite color minor, 4C as diamonds and hearts, and 4S as blacks, all slammish.

Again, this is not necessarily a matter of suggesting a good idea.  It is a matter of brainstorming methods.

A three-under with transfers to show both minors would be a heart call, which is perhaps rather rare to imagine.  A three-under for spades and clubs would be a club call; a three-under for reds would be a spade call.  These might make sense in the context of a cue or double of the opponent's suit.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two-Under Reds

The two-under approach has some good apps when the two suits are both minors (and the artificial call is made in spades, with 2/3NT for diamond preference) or both majors (and the artificial call is clubs, with 2/3D for spade preference).

What about the red suits?  This would be of more limited application, as it is not easy to think of circumstances where you would want to dedicate a call to showing both reds or just one red suit and where ypou would want to give up another meaning for the call -- notrump -- that is two under.

An example of how it would work, whether useful or not, might be to ovbercall 2NT after the opponents bid and raise spades as a red(s) call:


Overcaller would have diamonds, hearts, or both red suits, with Advancer bidding 3C if he prefers hearts to diamonds.  That might allow 3D or 3H directly to show extras.

Another similar example might be in a more competitive auction.  Suppose that you open 1D and the opponents compete in spades:


This might be the way to show:

(1) diamonds, competitive
(2) four hearts, competitive
(3) THREE hearts, competitive

Responder would then "prefer hearts" if he doubled with five hearts.  That gives up showing clubs naturally for Responder, or Opener using 2NT possibly with clubs, such that it might not make sense to use this method.  My purpose, however, is more to discuss how it might work if you did, simply to think through the methodology.

The remaining, touching two-suiter is clubs and spades.  But, they do not really touch, as notrump is between them.  But, one could imagine nonetheless using diamond calls to show both and hence a heart response as club preference:

1NT-2D as spades plus clubs, or just one of them
1NT-2D-P-2H as club preference

Again, the usefulness of this tool seems dubious, but the mechanics is what interests me.  I find this interesting to think about because I did not think of the clubhs-for-major(s) parallel to the spades-for-minor(s) despite playing the latter for years now.  Maybe diamonds-for-black(s) or notrump-for-red(s) might fit in somewhere I have not yet recognized as a curious solution.

UPDATE:  After thinking this over with my morning coffee, I thought of something where a lot of this could be used; after a 1NT opening, if you wanted to be very precise:

X = red(s).  Advancer bids 2C if he prefers clubs.  Doubler then places the contract.  This handles reds, hearts, and diamonds.
2D = blacks.  Advancer bids 2H if he prefers clubs to spades.  Doubler then places the contract.  This handles blacks, clubs, and spades.

So far, all one-suited hands are covered, as well as two of the two-suited hands.

2C = majors, or either major and the non-matching color minor.  Advancer picks his major of preference, bidding 2D to preference spades.  This is a limited Crunched Capp, keeping the major-minor to a specific major-minor.

So far now, all normal two-suited holdings are covered, except both minors.

2M = canape with shorter major, longer minor
2NT = minors

This structure (again, only allowed if not GCC) allows the partnership to show any one-suiter (clubs at the three-level, which is a common problem), allows specific identification of the minor when major-minor, and allows showing canape major hands.

To make this fully GC legal, have 3C direct to show just clubs; 2D would then show spades, or spades plus clubs, such that 2D guarantees spades.
Again, this might not be ideal, and perhaps even more could be stacked on, but you may see the potential now and why I am thinking about it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two-Under Double?

The two-under concept might also be applied to Precision/Neapolitan 2C openings and the defense thereto, or to 3C openings.

Double = one or both majors, competitive only.  Partner bids 2/3D (cheapest) with spade preference.
2/3D = majors, extras
2/3M = intermediate overcall.

This is the rough sketch structure.  Tweaks might include that the cheapest diamond call is Michaels-style and the double takeout-or-major.  The idea would be to solve a problem with a 2C opening, namely that 2M might make sense with a weak two hand up to an intermediate with six-bagger.  Forfeiting diamond overcalls and diamond responses to the double vastly improves major sequences.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More on Two Under

The more I discuss the two-under concept with others, the more I like it.  a few schemes have come to mind over 1NT openings:

(1) Distinguishing Major(s) and Strength

2C = weak with one or both majors.  Partner bids 2D with spade preference, which allows Overcaller to bid 2H with just hearts.  Responder's direct 3C asks for unwind, strong hand.
2D = majors, stronger
2H/2S = one major, stronger

(2) Crunched Cappelletti plus canape

2C = both majors or one major and either minor.  Partner picks the major of preference, again bidding 2D with spades.  If you started with both majors, go to the major partner prefers.  With extras, raise that major.  If major-minor and partner picks the right major, go to that major or bid the minor with extras.  With major-minor and partner picks the wrong major, bid the other major; partner continues as if Cappelletti.
2D = hearts or spades, multi-ish
2H = four hearts, longer minor
2S = four spades, longer minor

(3) Crunched Cappelletti plus Stronger Majors

2C = same as for other Crunched Capp
2D = majors, values
2H = hearts
2S = spades

(4) Crunched Capp plus Crunched Minors plus transfers plus leaping Ripstra

2C = Crunched Cappelletti
2D = hearts
2H = spades
2S = one or both minors (2NT prefers diamonds)
2NT = majors, values
3C = 4414-ish, values
3D = 4441-ish, values

(5) Razzle-Dazzle

2C = Crunched Capp
2D = one or both majors
2H = 4H/longer minor
2S = crunched minors
2NT = majors, values
3C/3D = leaping ripstra

(6) specific minors crunched capp

2C = Crunched Capp, but if major-minor the minor is diamonds
2D = multi major one-suiter
2H/2S = major plus clubs

The 2C for major(s) and the 2S for minor(s) both get featured a few times.  But, the opportunities are quite vast for using this two-under method.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Some Thoughts on 2NT Openings

A couple of thoughts from last night.

First, Super-accepts after transfers.  With a very tight range available to Opener, the most likely problem for Responder more and more seems to be the two-suiter hand.  A case in point for the opponents last night was a Responder holding 5-5 reds, K10xxx in each, with xx-x outside.  Opener has 5-3 and 5-5 support for the reds, with AK-A outside, so six of either makes (5-5 in hearts).

Opener did super-accept, but their call blew up the auction.

I think a reasonable structure would be:

+1 = I have a hand where a stiff would be interesting (meaning, a hole suit)

E.g., 2NT-3D-3S or 2NT-3H-3NT

If Responder hears the +1, he is forced into shortness-based slam tries below game.  He bids 4C with club shortness, 4D with diamond shortness if the agreed suit is spades, 4H for diamond shortness if the agreed suit is hearts, 3NT for spade shortness, 4S for heart shortness, and re-transfers.  Responder can also re-transfer and then cue above game if he wants to know the hole for control reasons.

This +1 option keeps the hole secret for as long as possible.

The other option is a fit-oriented call.  Opener bids suits up the line across from which he would accept a slam move if Responder had so moved, with 3NT after heart agreement being a spade-acceptance call.  This strongly implies control of all suits, but the call might mean that one suit features KQx or Qxx or something fit-dependent.  If Opener bypasses a suit Responder has, Responder on shady slam interest can resign.  If Opener has not yet reached a suit, Responder can introduce it, with re-transfers but not re-transferring showing the re-transfer suit.  Opener also does not bid the re-transfer suit, instead bidding the agreed suit at the four-level with only slam acceptance for the agreed suit and the re-transfer suit.

I kind of think this would work better.

The other thought is a brainstorming idea of having 2NT-P-4C show 5-5 in the majors, with Opener bidding 4D if he prefers spades.  If Opener bids 4D, Responder re-transfers.  This might seem silly, but there is a reason.  Doing it this way allows 4C to be mutli-purpose, as 4C...4S makes little sense otherwise, no matter what major Opener picks.  I'm not sure what purpose this would serve, but I just thought I'd share the idea because it seems to be an interesting occurrence.  With some partners, I play that a 2S response to a 1NT opening shows one or both minors, with opener bidding 2NT if he prefers diamonds, and this works wonders.  This seems like a theme, where a call two below two suits asking for Opener's preference of the two suits and Opener bidding next-up to show the higher preference allows space for the "asker" to have only one of the two suits in reality.  This same type of auction could happen after 2NT-P-3S.

Another example of this struicture might be a 2C overcall of a 1NT opening showing one or both majors, with Advancer bidding 2D if he prefers spades.  That would allow Overcaller to know which major is best in the two-suiter scenario and to not be preempted in the one-major scenario.  That might also allow for an interesting approach over a weak 1NT opening: 

2C = weak with one or both majors
2D = strong with both majors
2H/2S = strong with the indicated major


2C as both majors OR one major and a minor.  Advancer picks the major (2D for spades).  If Overcaller had both majors, he goes to where Advancer likes.  If he has a major-minor, and if Advancer prefers his major to the other major, we play in the major and the Opponents are lost.  If Advancer picks the wrong major, the 2D call is low enough for Overcaller to bid the other major as Cappelletti.  2M immediately is one-suited; 2D immediately is majors, stronger.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cue-Enabling "Last Train"

Your partner opens 1NT, and you transfer to hearts.  You now bid 3NT, and partner bids 4C, obviously a cue with extras and heart support.  (This was an auction from a BBF discussion.)  What should 4D mean by you?

This is sort of a strange auction.  Ideally, if Responder held three spades, with slam interest, he might have considered a manufactured 3C call rather than 3NT, which has a lot going for it.  You might find the heart fit early, and you might find a 3-5 spade fit if partner rebids 3S.  That is usually my call.

So, if Responder is interested here, he almost assuredly does not have 5H/3S, in my opinion, as 3NT just seems wrong with that.  Also, with slam interest and a 4-card major, why not mention that?  So, if Responder has any interest, he has precisely 2-5-3-3 shape, it would seem.

Now, obviously this is not universal, as many would not bid a faker 3C with 5332, wherever the doubleton might be.  I think that is a mistake, but whatever.  One thing is for sure, though -- Responder just cannot logically have a stiff anywhere.  That would be too weird, to bid 3NT with some 5431 and slam interest.

4D is often treated as Last Train, which makes some sense.  But, Last Train might be somewhat subject to interpretation in this sequence.

This auction is rather pinched.  Opener only had two possible cues -- 4C and 4D.  Looking at a club control, he obviously had to bid 4C.  But, there is no space available to cue both diamonds and spades without bypassing 4H.  Plus, the specific situation is one where the only true cue available did not deny anything, meaning that two suits could not be shown control-wise.

In this situation, it makes some sense to think of 4D as not just "Last Train" but rather as "Cue-Enabling Last Train."  In other words, 4D shows sufficient values that if Opener is still interest he might continue cuebidding into the five-level safely, whether cue of 4S or of 5D. 

This nuance might come up ion other sequences, as well.  I mean, technically one might look at a forcing pass of 4S by the opponents, after agreeing hearts, might be a "Cue-Enabling Forcing Pass."

Similarly, consider:


Responder has an unlimited hand at this point.  But, a fit is agree, and only one call is available below 4H to seek slam -- 4D.  That call might be construed as Last Train, but also as Cue-Enabling Last Train, to encourage entering the five-level to make cuebids.

The nuance to this is that this QE-LTTC call is one that invites slam where control cannot be established yet.  As such, it strongly suggests considering cues at the five-level rather than simple RKCB, and it likely also erases any default agreements suggesting Exclusion RKCB or other asking bids.

In some situations, this QE-LTTC might not actually say, "Do you have extras?"  Rather, consider the original auction that started this discussion.  Opener showed extras already.  So, the QE-LTTC call could also be one of captaincy.  "Huh?"  Yep.  Responder might want to control the auction and might therefore bid a QE-LTTC to induce partner to continue describing his hand rather than describing the other way.  In other words, whereas Responder might cue 4S to ask for a diamond control, or 4D and then keep bidding to infer the need for a spade control, a QE-LTTC approach has 4D induce Opener to keep describing, maybe because Responder knows more already or something like that, especially if this occurs in a different auction.  In some situations, this might even be construed as a "Cue-DEMANDING Last Train," or QD-LTTC.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Surrogate Fit Non-Jumps

So, I was sort of egged into a theoretical analysis on BBF that amused me.

The problem was this.  As a passed-hand Dealer, you hear partner open 1D in third seat and a 3H overcall by RHO.  With Axx-x-Jxx-AQxxxx (why you did not open is a mystery, but the challenge has these conditions), you must (for the fun of the argument) respond by bidding 3NT.  The challenge is to explain why 3NT is the right call.

So, thinking through theory, I found a plausible explanation (perhaps).  The fun of the challenge is to think through principles of theory and to reach this conclusion in a "somewhat" supportable manner.

My thinking went along these lines.  First, with spades, I would double or bid them.  So, spade-based hands are out.

Second, to commit us to anything at this level, I must have a landing zone.  This usually means diamond support, for the obvious reason.

So, it seemed that there were a few possible scenarios to consider here.

I might have long diamonds and a heart control.  But, with that hand, it seems that I would have opened 1D or 2D (weak).  Thus, the "I just have lots of diamonds and a heart control" scenario seems reasonably out.  Granted, I might have just five diamonds, and a near maximum, but I open 1D with 11 HCP, so what am I getting all excited about on lesser values? 

The other alternative is reached by considering what a 4C call would mean.  IMO, introducing a new suit at the four-level, as a passed hand, is absurd if it stands on its own.  Rather, 4C would only logically make sense as a fit non-jump (clubs, with diamond support). 

If we assume that 4C means this, the obvious downside to bidding 4C as a fit non-jump is that you just bypassed 3NT, which might be the ideal end contract.


3NT would make some theoretical sense, then, as a surrogate for a fit non-jump with clubs, getting at or below 3NT to allow partner, with the right hand, to convert to 3NT or to pass as that conversion.  If nothing else makes sense other than a "surrogate fit non-jump 3NT" call, then clearly (lol) that is what 3NT shows.  Challenge met.

Now, this is all somewhat nonsensical (or is it?!?!?).  But, the fun was in the challenge and using actual theory concerns to reach the required (by the challenge) result.

So, for the sake of argument, I then started thinking.  Is there something to be said for actually using a fit non-jump surrogate in some sequences?  If the idea has some merit this seems like a reasonable sequence to use it.  Maybe there are other situations.  A recent discussion on BBF suggested after P-P-1H-(2NT)-? that 3D operate as what could be called a surrogate fit non-jump, meaning heart support with spades (Justin Lall mentioned this).  The surrogate is needed because 3S bypasses 3H.

Other of these beasts might be out there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Super-Accepts are for the Suit you Cannot Short-Raise

An auction came up recently with a pickup partner.  At the end of the auction, we were at the five-level, mercifully making when the opponents missed cashing an Ace.  But, it need not have been that way.

After the auction was over, my pickup partner acknowledged knowing that a call was a cue in support but claimed to have no idea which suit I was supporting.  This seemed odd to me, but I suppose a general rule of thumb is worth noting, again.

When one of two strains can be agreed below game easily but the other cannot, odd cues general support the inconvenient suit.

The example from the near disaster.  After a minor opening and spade response, I jumped to 2NT, 18-19 balanced.  Partner then rebid 3H naturally.  I bid a minor next.  As 3H was GF by agreement, 3S could agree spades with space to cue, but I could not support hearts as easily.  Therefore, cues support hearts.

A second, related corollary.

When two suits can be supported easily, cues and other slam moves generally support the suit that is least economical to support.

This happens where, for example, partner could support spades at 2S or hearts at 3H in a GF sequence.  Splinters in this situation support hearts, the least economic raise.  With shortness and spade agreement, support spades and then splinter if you can.

Using this parallel, had my pickup partner used transfers, 3D would show hearts, and hence either suit could be supported below game.  An immediate cue by me in that instance, using this rule, would support spades instead, as this would be the least economical raise.  It is only by a sliver less economical, and arguably not even so.  But, a rule of thumb applied even when it has no technical advantage has an advantage nonetheless of consistency and expectation.

A caveat, though.

When neither can be supported economically, flags probably apply.

Suppose that partner had longer spades and naturally bid 3S at rebid.  Now, neither hearts nor spades could be supported below game.  If I wanted to make slam noise in this event, I would ideally be able to use flags, with 4C super-accepting hearts and 4D super-accepting spades.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

MICS as Overcall Structure?

For a while, a partner of mine and I dabbled with the idea of playing our entire system on if the opponents opened a "short club."  In fact, we tried this out and found it at least fun.

MICS has something going for it for an overcall structure, as well.  With RHO opening a short 1C, a "MICS Overcall Structure" would have a modified structure:

2NT for minors, weak
2M for that major and DIAMONDS
2D for majors (like Sparts or Flannery, or Michaels for that matter)
2C for 4-4-4-1, any short suit!
1NT balanced (probably strong better, but maybe even a weak RUNT approach instead?)
1M for 4+, could be canape
1D for either diamonds or clubs one-suited, or rare CLUBS AND A MAJOR
X for strong

This is probably not completely ideal and could be radically tweaked.  But, the idea of incorporating a canape-style simple overcall structure with a three-suited cue/takeout of 2C seems to have intuitive merit.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Canape Transfers with Both Majors Invitational

One auction seems troubling to me:


I play this as game invitational.  But, this auction seems troubling because the chances of a 4-4 spade fit seem lower than the chances of the 5-3 or better heart fit.  So, you end up in 3H a lot more than in 2S, it seems.

So, let's suppose that this auction is a canape sequence.  In other words, if Responder bids this way, he has four hearts and five (or more) spades, invitational.

The benefit is that pass happens more often, allowing the two-level stop more often.  That seems good.

One objection might be that Opener could super-accept hearts, the four-card suit.  So?  If you have invitational values and partner super-accepts your four-card heart suit, this is a good thing!  Not only do you simply bid game, but the opponents have no idea about the side spade suit trick source.

The corollary to this is that you now need to handle the invitational hand with four spades and five hearts differently.  OK -- same deal.  Transfer to spades and then bid three hearts.  Again, passing occurs more often, even if this gains nothing really.  But, you get that added benefit of the super-accept non-disclosure.

And, the benefit of this super-accept is not without substance.  Whereas most super-accepts occur in the context of a 9-card fit, these super-accepts will occur a tad more often, because only a four-card fit is needed to induce the call.  So, the non-disclosure will probably occur quite frequently.

Transfers, then, would show five or more of the major OR four cards if invitational values and both majors.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Context and Theory

A discussion on BBF interested me.

Partner passes as Dealer (not vulnerable), pass, and you open One Club.  LHO overcalls a strong 1NT, and partner bids 2H.

Now, for my part, this sequence is often discussed and shows five hearts with five clubs.

But, the interesting part was analyzing what it would mean logically if the auction were not discussed and if no general agreements for this sort of situation were available.  In other words, what is the LOGIC of the situation?

You start with one principle for any and all analyses.  Partner is sane.  I know, this is dubious, but you have to start somewhere in the hypo.  Sanity implies something to say and safety saying it.  A landing zone should be contemplated for dangerous action.

One aspect of the analysis is partner's predisposition and style in making weak two's.  If strict, maybe 2H shows cruddy but long hearts.  But, if cruddy but long hearts is just fine, then that's out.

The second rule: Partner cannot have later what he denied earlier.  This is not like Poker.  You cannot hand three cards to Dealer and ask for three new cards.  You start with what you end with.  So, bids are defined by prior actions and by prior inaction.

When would partner NOT open 2H but be safe bidding 2H?

One option is that partner's hearts are as good as he says.  If he has that, he was good enough to open 2H.  So, he has a flaw.  The likely flaw is holding four spades also.  So, one logical interpretation is "six hearts with four spades."

Another option is that 2H describes a hand with insufficient hearts to open 2H (hence five) but a logical landing zone.  That might mean a "DONT" or Brozel approach (hearts and spades), a Cappelletti approach (hearts and a minor), or a "fit bid" approach (hearts and clubs). 

Which is used might be a function of discussion, but it might be a result of applying parallel structure (we use Cappelletti normally, so Cappelletti makes sense here).  It might be a function of percentages (6H/4S makes sense, but the two-suited situations occur more frequently).  It might be a function of limited space (Cappelletti makes sense IF 2C agrees clubs, which it does, but DONT and Brozel do not because we need double for penalty, for example).  It might even be a function of the opening bid context (fit bids making sense if the minor is real, but capp if the minor is short or Nebulous).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Empathetics Via Flags

In Philadelphia, a deal showed a rare example of the handling of the empathetic splinter matrix via a flag to identify the fit suit.

My LHO had opened 1NT (strong), and partner doubled to show (a) both minors, (b) just diamonds, (c) both majors, or (d) some other very strong hand otherwise unbiddable.  After a pass from RHO, holding Kxx-Jxxx-xxxx-Ax, I advanced 2D, as my normal "first duty" was to pick the preferred minor.

Opener made a shocking rebid of 3D, and partner doubled, showing both majors and extras.

At this point, I have an incredibly valuable hand.  Thinking along the empathetic splinter matrix, hearts is the "4-4 fit suit," with 5-4 being of course acceptable (and preferable after a 1NT opening by the opposition).  Spades is the 5-3 side source.  Clubs the "ace only" side; and diamonds clearly contextually the short suit.

Contextually, the matrix is known, except that partner cannot know which is the 4-4 and which is the 5-3.  Thus, in this sequence, I opted 4C, a flag for hearts indicating that the matrix was as it was.

Partner held Axxxx-AKxxx-void-Jxx and just enough for the slam.  With the 3D call by Opener, Opener was likely to hold 2-2-6-3 shape (he in fact held 2-2-5-4), which meant that both hearts and spades were cooperating.  As long as partner made sure to right-side the contract by forcing me to bid hearts first, the slam was unstoppable; LHO held the King and Queen of clubs.  (On a small club lead, hop Jack.  On a club honor lead, win the Ace and then lead a club toward the Jack, establishing a pitch for the third spade.)

In the World Open Pairs, no one reached this slam.

This same concept may apply in other sequences where (a) one partner has shown a two-suiter, (b) a specific known suit is clearly the short suit contextually or by definition, and (c) no one has been able yet to define fits.  For example assume for the sake of argument that a 3C response to a 1NT opening shows 5-5 majors and invitational.  Assume, for example, that after a 1NT opening and a natural 2C or 2D overcall, 3H by Responder shows 5-5 majors and game-invitational; in that sequence, Opener's 4C or 4D would seem to be empathetic flags.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Old Scribbles

I found an older convention card and located in this a few scribbled notes.  I'm not sure if I ever posted the idea, but I kind of like it.  The idea concerned a better way to find major fits after Opener starts a strong Two Clubs and then rebids a minor.

First, after a 3C rebid, 3M promises 5+, with 3H possibly showing 5H/4S.  So far, nothing exciting.

Second, after 3C, Responder's 3D is "modified Stayman."  Opener bids 3NT with hearts or 3S with spades.  With no 4-card major, Opener rebids 3H.  This allows Responder to then rebid 3S with 5S/4H.

So, after 3C, Responder has these options:

With just five spades, bid 3S.
With five spades and four hearts, bid 3D modified Stayman and then, if necessary, bid 3S after the 3H-no-major rebid.
With just five hearts, bid 3H.
With 5H/4S, bid 3H and see if opener bids 3S.
With one or both 4-card majors, bid 3D.

The simplicity of this is the key.  Everything is natural, except that Opener rebids 3NT to show four hearts and rebids 3H to deny a four-card major after Responder's artificial 3D rebid.

So, next to the 3D rebid.  Opener solves the problems himself, by describing his major holdings, a reversal of roles!

2C-P-2D-P-3H = diamonds with four hearts, and might be 3451 (Responder needs five spades to introduce them).

2C-P-2D-P-3S = diamonds with four spades, with fewer than three hearts.

This eliminates some holdings from the 3D rebid.  Not all that the one common method uses are included (which leaves a problem finding the 5-3 heart fit if Opener is 4351 or 4360).

Opener's 3D call, with these methods, becomes a "natural but Puppet" call.  Responder can bid 3S with five spades (as usual) or 3NT with five hearts!  (With five hearts and extras, a higher call would work.)  With no five-card majors, Responder rebids 3H.  This allows Opener to rebid 3S with 4351.

This method allows Opener to distinguish/handle the "other major" sufficiently for Responder.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Go Where the Experts Dare Not?

A funny email just came to me.

You have xx-Qxx-10xxx-AKJx opposite a partner who opens a limited (max of 15 HCP) 1S, 2D overcall.  What do you do?  If you opt to pass, what next when partner reopens with a double?

The question has been asked of several people, including experts, with a wide variety of answers, including:

Bid 2S the first time;
Double 2D negative;
Pass twice;
Pass and then bid 2S;
Pass and then bid 2H;
Pass and then bid 3D(!);
Pass and then bid 3C.

When asked about this, I decided to apply a rule.  When experts have six or more ideas of what to do in a given situation, avoid all six (or more) options at all costs and look for yet another option.

I think this rule works here.  I opted for pass and then 2NT.

Pass and then 2NT seems to show extras without spade support, without four hearts, and without five clubs (and hence four diamonds).  Plus, it seems to show insufficient diamonds to sit for penalties.  Tada!

Now, maybe pass...2NT is not the best answer, but maybe it is.  The rule of ignoring all options of experts when they pick six or more different answers seems to be the best argument, though, for pass...2NT.  I'm convinced!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


In thinking through a bidding sequence for possibilities, a somewhat strange thought occurred to me.  I am not sure what to make of it, but the thought process was unique.

Suppose one decided that the ability to bid a natural 2NT after a weak Two Hearts is doubled by partner is a good thing.  Suppose, further, that to cater to this, one decided to use Two Spades in this sequence as the alternative for Lebensohl.  This might not be ideal, but that's not the point that I reached.

In that scheme, you end up forced to the three-level to play spades.  This is the obvious downside.

But, the thought process was not simply along these lines.  What I thought about was whether playing 2S by Advancer as artificial and forcing would be the description.  Or, would Doubler simply be forced, in a sense?  The nuance might be elusive at this point.  "Is 2S forcing, or is the Doubler forced?"  What's the difference?

If the double commits to play at the 2NT level or higher, then there is nothing in effect "different," in a sense.  Advancer can bid 2S, knowing that the auction is alive.  However, 2S is not the forcing bid, but rather the Double forces a set level as a minimum end point, in the thought process. 

This is sort of like a Standard American sequence.  Opener starts 1S.  Responder responds 2D.  Opener bids 2H.  This is "forcing," but the 2H call does not establish the force.  2D did that.

I am still working out the implications, but it alleviates some analysis.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Responding to a Weak Two

The other night, a friend of mine and I, who do not play all that frequently, had an auction where one of us forgot whether we played RONF or new suits non-forcing after a two-level weak opening.  The specific auction was 2H-P-2S-P-?  Opener opted to show secondary diamonds, feeling that the auction was forcing and that, without discussion otherwise, a diamond call should show diamonds.  Responder, thinking that 2S was non-forcing, logically construed 3D as agreeing spades and showing extras, perhaps a feature, perhaps shortness.  Needless to say, the auction got a tad out of control.

This then caused an initial discussion of "what do we play?"  Looking at the convention card resolved that.

The secondary discussion, then, was "why do we play that?"  This resulted in a debate as to the merits of escape calls and of constructive calls with stronger hands.

It then dawned on me that perhaps a new style of responding might be worth considering.  Responding methods are often easiest to remember if they parallel other structures for other sequences.  This actually made for a relatively easy method.

The idea:

After 2H, 2S by Responder is a relay call, showing one or both minors.  This parallels our 2S response to a 1NT opening.  Opener picks the minor of preference (bidding 2NT with diamond preference, to get under 3C).  After this, Responder can then pass 3C to play, convert 2NT to 3C to play, or bid 3D to play, all of which cater to either one-suited minor (clubs or diamonds).  Opener's preference call (2NT for diamonds, 3C for clubs) allows Responder with weak minors to select the minor of choice as if that were his one minor.

With extras, Responder hears the response and then bids 3S to agree the minor Opener showed, forcing (Opener might have started with both minors), bids 3NT if Opener "picked wrong," or perhaps even bids the other minor at the four-level (also forcing).  Returning to Opener's major is to play, suggesting that the 2S call was actually tactical, wanting to spot a feature perhaps (this might instead show the other minor and forcing, if that makes more sense, or flags method).

That handles one or both minors and weak or strong, at the sole cost of not being able to show spades cheaply.  To show spades, Responder could bid 3C with one hand, 3D with another (perhaps one is 5-card, the other 6+) or perhaps 3C is simply "asking," with Opener agreeing spades with 3, rebidding his major with a sixth card (for the 5-carders), or waiting 3D with neither.

After a 2S opening, the methods described in the Rexford-Eichenbaum system notes works.

After a 2D opening, we do not need a means to show both minors.  However, criss-cross has some merits.  2H would then show spades (a simple transfer), which allows spades to be shown as weak or as GF.  2S would show hearts, which eliminates the ability to get out at 2H, but if you play RONF otherwise, this is no real loss.

Perhaps something like this is best.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yet Another 2D Opening Method???

I love coming up with new meanings for opening 2D.  A sick hobby, perhaps.  Well, here's another, inspired by my thinking again on "delayed canapes."

There are two 5431's where delayed canape does not help:

1-3-4-5 and

Interesting.  This suggests that a 2D opening could show these.  14-17 or so HCP, with 1345 or 1435.

But, then you could add in 1-4-4-4 fairly safely.

You now have a three-suited opening, flexible like the Precision three-suited 2D opening (not strictly 4-4-4-1), with like Precision a known shortness (here, spades).  2D as 1345/1435/1444, 14-17 HCP or so.

Unlike the Precision 2D (3415/4315/4414/4405), it is easier to pass this 2D call.  Plus, the available asking bid of 2S (retaining the meaning of 2NT as natural) is much less painful.

2S asking?

2NT = 1345
3C = 1435
3D = 1444

3S after answer as slam probe?

Something like that.  This could be coupled with 2H as H+C and 2S as S+minor to solve all high-reverse problems.  Perhaps r-on-w or 4th seat?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Delayed Canape

I was pleased to see some extra interested in one of the concepts that I have enjoyed developing somewhat.  The link:

I responded to an inquiry from the "Bridge Guys" recently, which you may find true:

If you notice, most of the examples are ones that feature a 5-4-3-1 shape with the four-card suit being higher ranking than the 3-card suit. (As a side note, this is also the precise pattern that is the best argument for occasional 1NT openings with a stiff, when the stiff is the Ace or King.)
With 4531 or 4513, you have (1) open 1H, (2) typically rebid the minor, and then (3) rebid/raise spades. This might also happen, in theory, as Responder, but NMF or XYZ usually is used instead.
With 4153, this could also develop (1D-1NT, 2C-2D, 2S...). In fact, spades could be the end contract (Responder maybe 4333).
With 1453, delayed canape very possible, as described.
With 3145, delayed canape is possible.
Beyond these, however, are two possible preempted second suit scenarios.
With 5314, for instance, you might start 1S, rebid 2H, and then bid 3C. Similarly, with 3514, the same sequence might occur. These would seem to be less frequent with 2/1 GF, but I have had these sequences with standard or other methods, especially as a solution for a high reverse problem, and especially if the first suit is lousy.

For example, consider a problem. You open 1S with Jxxxx-AKJ-x-AKxx, and partner rebids 2D (as a passed hand, perhaps, or playing Standard American). Rebidding 2H makes sense. If partner then bids 2S, rebidding 3C makes a lot of sense as showing four clubs (possibly only three hearts).
Assuming this sequence type, the "delayed canape" sequence may also, therefore, occur when the sequence has preempted (or preempted in potential) the four-card suit even if the four-card suit is below the long suit. The preemption might come from an actual call (2D preempting the ability to bid clubs at the same level), through an artificial call (2C as Drury preempting Opener's ability to rebid 2C, for instance), or through the rebid being an artificial call (2C old-school drury preempting the ability to bid 2D as a natural values call, for example).

In theory, then, "delayed canape" may have a lot more occurrences.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Having a Baby

My wife and I are having a baby soon.  We are very excited, of course.  I already have (sick) visions of the "youngest life master" as a Rexford.  Who knows?  Eh, she'll probably have nothing to do with bridge (if she's smart).

Pregnancy has lots of potential complications, one of which is "gestational diabetes."  It is a condition where you can develop an inability while pregnant to process sugars because hormones block the effectiveness of insulin.  One solution is to eat lots of small meals per day rather than our usual one big dinner and snacks late at night.  Work causes a dumb eating schedule, you see.

As always, I see bridge parallels to life.  So, is even this capable of a bridge parallel?  Sure.

Take matchpoints, for example.  Healthy eating might be shooting for average plus all night.  If you could maintain just a 65% on each board, you would surely win most games.

On the other hand, shooting for tops all night long usually results in tops and bottoms, feast and famine.  If you have three 100% scores, but also three 0%, you end up with 50%.  To get to 65%, you need about six 100% scores for every three 0% scores.  That's a lot of work, and it is definitely not healthy.

The thing is, from experience, 100% never seems to be 100%.  It ends up second to top or tied for top.  0%, bottom, however, tends to be full blown 0%.

In contrast, the "average plus" never seems to be 65%.  Rather, you end up with a lot of 75% average plus results.

IMP scoring, however, seems different.  A top yields a lot IF the top is big scorer.  Lots of less costly bottoms cost less.  Plus, the margin seems different. IMP scoring, to some degree, is more like GETTING PREGNANT.  The boys either swim or not.  There is no 65% pregnant.  So, with IMP scoring, you go for the BIG SCORE.

This parallel seems to play out even more.  Matchpoints is like bearing a kid.  Constant headaches over little things.  Sickness.  Cramps, constantly.  Little achievements here and there.  Estimations of scores, somewhat like sonograms of the game.  And then, a lot of screaming when the results come in.

IMP games, however, are more like sex.  Big scores that you brag about.  Complete disasters that you pretend did not occur, and frankly blame on partner anyway.

I suppose that's why I like IMP games better.  My wife, though, complains that I play the hands too fast.  I like to get to the smoking faster, I say.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weird Begets Weird

Bridge is a funny game.  One aspect of it that is quite humorous to me is the Principle of Consistent Weirdness.  This principle establishes that weird bids or plays have a tendency to induce further weird bids or plays.  Remember this.

My favorite problem of this sort was in a suit contract.  I was in Dummy, but I would opnly be back there one more time.  In a side suit, Dummy held KJ109xxx opposite my stiff.  So, with nothing better to do while over there, I decided to lead one of these cards toward my hand, ruffing and hoping for something good to happen.  But, which card?

I could try the King, hoping to smother the stiff Queen.  I could just play small, hoping for the stiff Ace or for RHO to hop the Ace.  Or, I might even try the tricky Jack.

I tried the 10. 

Why?  Because the 10 is weird.  And, by application of the Principle of Consistent Weirdness, the 10 was fhe most likely weird card to induce a weird card from RHO.  Weird begets weird.

In practice, RHO hopped the Ace, I ruffed, and I later enjoyed the King.  Did the 10 have any impact at all on this situation?  Did RHO think I was being tricky with the stiff Queen?  No.  RHO started with both the Ace and the Queen.  There was absolutely no reason to play the Ace rather than the Queen.  Except, that is, that the 10 was so very weird that the PCW forced that Ace out of his hand.

The same thing happens, of course, during the bidding.  However, be careful trying to whip out the PCW in the bidding, as partner has a tendency to be sucked into the weirdness vibe.  The same can be said for PCW on defense -- be careful to ensure as much as possible that partner's weirdness cannot hurt.

Finally, if you check, you will probably find PCW principles at play with the opponents' convention cards.  generally, people who play weird conventions play a lot of weird conventions.  If you can only find one weird convention on their card, expect their seemingly normal sequences to in fact be weird nonetheless.  Plus, if you see weirdness on their convention card, be quick to make the first weird bid, or at least a reciprocal-weirdness call, as this usually induces an equal reaction of enhanced weirdness from these opponents.

Don't get me started with directors.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Regular Stayman Auction and Idea

Playing with a friend who is not a regular partner, the following auction and problem arose.

Partner opened a strong 2NT.  Playing Stayman, with 4450 pattern, I trooted out Three Clubs, played as regular old-fashioned Stayman.  Her rebid was Three Hearts.

Being not too familiar with old-fashioned Stayman these days, but with slam interest, I decided to cuebid Three Spades, believing that this must be a cuebid in context.  Partner bid Three No Trump, causing me grave concern.  The auction broke down after this, and we ended up in Six Hearts, needing a diamond hook to work (it did not) and for an intrafinesse in trumps to result in only one trump loser (hearts split 4-1 the bad way).  So, a disaster.

But, the first five bids gave me a thought.  I kind of like the idea that Three Spades by me, in this sequence, using these methods, should be a shortness slam move.  Partner's 3NT call, then, would ask for the shortness (I would bid Four Hearts to flag spade shortness).

That seems like a relatively easy concept.  You might want to add this IF you play old-fashioned Stayman after a 2NT opening.


! = shortness slam try, hearts agreed
* = asking for shortness

But, it could get even more complete.  Suppose, for instance, that Three Spades is instead a relay to 3NT.  In other words, Three Spades is natural.  That seems really easy to remember.

If that is the case, then 3NT would have no particular meaning.  For that matter, calls above 3NT would have no particular meaning.  If Responder had a hand with four spades and a minor and slam interest, he could first bid Three Spades to check on a fit and then, if opener bids 3NT, show the minor.  That saves space when the major fit exists.

Using that more natural approach, Responder's 4C and 4D would be immediate shortness bids.  3NT could be "spades or general slam bump," with Four Clubs asking for clarification, Four Diamonds showing general but Four Hearts showing spade shortness:


3S = natural
3NT = hearts agreed, spade shortness of no shortness (4C asks; 4D = general, 4H = short spade)
4C = hearts agreed, short club
4D = hearts agreed, short diamond

This alternative has the downside of wrong-siding spade contracts, but it enhances all slam sequences when hearts are agreed or when spades end up agreed.

Some food for thought, maybe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Prioritized RKCB?

I have for some time thought that a bit of structure might save space when asking for Aces. 

Consider spade agreement and launching into RKCB.  One might have a structure at the four-level like this:

5C = Exclusion RKCB, void in clubs
5D = RKCB switching focus to suggest showing diamond keys rather than spade keys
5H = Asking for a heart control

The idea in the above is that calls at the five-level, if not cuebids but rather asking bids, are generally tied to the suit you bid.  Is that ideal?

One might, instead, simply adopt a sort of "Yummy Toes" pre-determined set of priorities.  For example:

Step One Asking Bid = 4NT = RKCB
Step Two Asking Bid = 5C = Exclusion RKCB for the known or only contextually possible void
Step Three Asking Bid = 5D = Re-Focused RKCB focusing on the obvious focal side suit or only unknown side suit (as to controls)
Step Four Asking Bid = 5H = Control Ask (their suit)

Obviously, with Kickback, you drop a level or more.  Also, this order might not be your preference for orders, and context might suggest other orders.  For example, if you like having Exclusion as priority #2, but there are two possible void suits, then you might have Step #2 = lower exclusion, Step #3 = higher exclusion.  Similarly, if voids are not possible, then you might have a switch-ask run Step #2 = Opener's other suit, Step #3 = Responder's other suit, or vice-versa.

Establishing priorities might seem somewhat daunting, perhaps.  Which set of priorities is the best for the most possible auctions?  Well, I am sure that the educated guess is better than the random draw of what happens to be established by rules of the game -- rank.

One might decide that the best acronym resolves doubts, or that the acronym is better than a perhaps technically better structure because the acronym is easier to remember.

Ideas for Acronyms, anyone???  I'll try some. 

REST?  RKCB, Exclusion, Switch, Their (Suit)

REMY?  RKCB, Exclusion, My Suit, Your Suit

ACES?  Aces, Control, Exclusion, Switch

I really like "ACES in Comp."  With spades agreed, 4NT would be "A" for Aces; 5C "C" for Control (answer RKCB with control), 5D "E" for Exclusion (probably void in their suit), and 5H as "S" for Switch (which would be rare in competition, I would imagine).

Out of Comp, a lot of sequences might make for ASSET.  4NT for "A" for Aces; 5C for "S" for SWITCH (my suit), 5D for "S" for SWITCH (your suit); 5H for Exclusion of the fourth suit, and 5S for "T" for "TRY" (a general try not otherwise covered). 

I'd love to hear some better ideas.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reverse Optical Illusion

An optical illusion is interesting.  Your brain for some reason wants to generalize data to save energy and processing time.  So, you can be tricked into seeing something that is not really there because of shortcuts.

An optical illusion sometimes is ruined because you know what is going on with the illusion.  If you have looked at the picture of the old lady and the young lady before, you can easily see both the second time.

There is something that exists that one could call a "reverse optical illusion," perhaps.  I recognized this recently during a jury trial.  The litigants in a jury trial know the facts; the jury does not.  As a result, an "optical illusion" of sorts can develop for the jury.  That part is perhaps normal.  The example was complicated, but the essence was that the jury could conclude that three people were shysters, even though they were not, because the evidence available to the jury was insufficient to see reality and because the ambiguous state of the partial information could result in an incorrect view.

The "reverse optical illusion" was the difficulty in recognizing the existence of this illusion if looking at the evidence from a standpoint of more complete information.

Consider, for example, a color blindness test.  Circles form a "7" in a field of circles, with perhaps red circles making the seven and random green circles surrounding the red "7" of circles.  Without color blindness, you see a seven easily.  With color blindness, you cannot distinguish the circles' colors and hence miss ther "7."

Well, if you never heard of color blindness, could you see that this test was ambiguous?  Of course not.  It would not even occur to you that someone could be confused by this.  Hence, in a sense, your possession of extra information obscures your ability to spot that others, without this extra information, might run into a problem spotting what you spot.

In the jury trial, the "shysters" were known to be people having no axe to grand but simply used by the person thought to be the true shyster.  However, we all knew this, except for the jury.  Without being told this, the jury could have thought that the three innocent bystanders were actually running the game and tricking the one alleged shyster.  Spotting that possible misconstruction, enabled by a lack of information, was not obvious because it is difficult to empathize with someone lacking facts if you do not think about all possible fact patterns lacking sopme information that you have and the implications of this missing information on possible conclusions.

Often times, life and bridge have parallels.  This of course made me think, next, about bridge "reverse optical illusions."  I mean, if you have Qxx in hand opposite Axx on Dummy, do you easily spot the fact that LHO might think that you have QJ9 in hand instead and might duck the Queen?  You might after reading about it or seeing it come up of having a fortunate eureka moment.  But, this is not easy, because you see what you know and not what the opponents might not know.

I thought about how to develop this ability, or how to add this into Declaring as a "step."  One classic approach is "ARCH," for Analyze the lead, Review the bidding, Count your losers and tricks, and How are you going to play this.  Maybe a missing step is to sort of hide your hand from yourself and study Dummy from the opponents' perspective.  Give them cards you know them to have or to possibly have, and place your cards plus their missing cards into their unknown stack.  Then, imagine possible defenses that you would consider from their illusion.

The same, of course, if possible on defense, but even trickier.  It even arises in bidding (classic being the short-cards raise of partner to make each opponent think that their 3-card holding must be opposite a stiff).

But, the key might be simply in understanding the concept of the reverse optical illusion.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Courtesy" Focus Shift

I realized in a discussion on BBF that I had not ever mentioned another concept (I don't think, anyway) that you might like.

The auction starts with a raise of a major (presumably constructive), Opener now bids a natural suit, ostensibly GT but potentially ST.  As I mentioned in Cuebidding at Bridge, I like 3NT as a power "focus shift" showing 3+ "key cards" (6KCB, ncluding Q's) and a fit for this new suit, suggesting a focal shift to possibly pursue slam.

With a lesser hand, but still cause for a focal shift, one can use a "courtesy focus shift," typically two key cards and a side King, where Opener needs shortness to make this interesting.

When spades are the agreed major, 4C is the "courtesy" focal shift, allowing Opener show either suit as shortness and agree the focal shift and slam interest.

When hearts are agreed, 3S serves this function, to get below both minors.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More on (moron?) "Impossible Two Spades"

A discussion on BBF underlined yet again a concept that I believe to make sense.

The origin to the idea was a combination of a discussion with Ken Eichenbaum in Philadelphia concerning a specific "exception" where one might suppress a 4-card spade suit after a 1H opening, coupled with a Bridge Bulletin hand with the same principle.  The idea is that with a light hand, a practical response to a 1H opening with four spades and six clubs is occasionally 1NT, planning to bid clubs later.  (For the skeptics, the hand in question in the expert forum was handled frequently with that approach).  This suggested that a "impossible two spades" is no so impossible:

2D-P-2S = weak with four spades, six clubs?

This could be tweaked somewhat to include 3136 hands.  This caters well to the hand where Opener (not playing Flannery) has 4531 shape and finds himself "forced" to rebid 2D, disliking this, of course.

The first question, then, is whether Responder or Opener should have the fourth spade (to bid "impossible 2S" or to pass the same).  It seems that the hands where Responder bypasses a 4-card major are less frequent than the 3-card options for Responder, such that Opener should be 4-card to pass.

This, then, leads to the BBF problem.  Opener has a trashy hand with 4630 and lousy (9-high) hearts.With the "not impossible two spades" approach, 2D comes to mind, as it seems to increase our chances of landing well (you could end up in 2S for a fine result, and 2D therefore is less frequently passed when that is bad).  One concern was propelling the auction when Opener has 5-5 reds, but it still seems that you end up OK when and if Responder hits Opener with the "not impossible two spades" response.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Cue a Side Queen? Or, "Almost Last Train?"

I may have erred in my bidding ecently, but I think I was right.  If so, an interesting sequence came up.

Critical to the problem is that Responder initially passes, advertising less than an opening hand.  After two passes, third seat opens One Heart holding:


The opponents pass throughout.  Responder bids One Spade. Opener now leaps to Four Clubs. 

Initially, I thought that perhas my 4C call was perhaps poor.  This hand is extremely powerful.  But, two factors convince me (feel free to comment if you disagree) that 4C is right.  First, the splinter is opposite a passed hand, which by definition is limited; hence, the splinter should probably be a tad richer than a similar splinter opposite an unpassed hand.  Second, the space available for more exploration is maximized after a cheapest possible splinter, which allows Responder space to dangle carrots with les cause.  (After 4C, partner can bid 4D, bid 4H, bid 4D and accept-or-reject 4H; after 4D, only 4H is available to invite slam back.)

In any event, back to Responder, who held:


The other problem to consider with the splinter is that the holding of the AK-AK-K in trumps, hearts, and diamonds means that partner is less likely to have traditional cues available.  In my cuebidding style Responder can cue 4H with the heart Queen (if that call is a traditional cue), but he will only be able to cue diamonds with the Ace.

Or will he?

This sequence made me think of two alternative possibilities.

First, one might decide that a cue of 4D simply shows one of the top three honors in diamonds.  The idea would be that a splinter bid inferentially is the same (or similar) to bidding the suit (or suits) that are not short.  For example, if you assume a pure splinter in rsponse to a major opening (e.g., 1S-P-4C) as showing a pure 4441 pattern (it does not, but bear with me), then this is sort of like bidding spades, diamonds, and hearts at the same time, at least in theory.  Thus, cuebidding "partner's shown suit" would show (per my agreements) one of the top THREE honors, not one of the top TWO.  Extending this out too much would perhaps be insanity, but the general principles could be that a space-deprived cue of an inferentially-shown suit might be the Queen.  In this situation, using that idea might justifya 4D call by Responder (planning to reject a 4H last train try).  Opener would accept any sniff.

Alternatively, I wonder whether a different principle might make sense here.  When only two calls are available (the three-under splinter being the classic example), should cues be cues?  Or, should cues be Last Train and Almost Last Train?  LTTC and ALTTC?

ALTTC allows a counter LTTC.

It seems like a "critical card" concept might work well in this situation.  LTTC might deny the critical card but show extras otherwise.  ALTTC might show that critical card but not necessarily defining "extras" versus "EXTRAS," with a counter LTTC (CLTTC?) asking for general strength.

In the actual auction (1H-1S-4C), the "critical card" might be diamond control or it might be a missing heart card.  I'm not sure which would be more important in the long run.  I think the missing honor (assuming a ore frequent semi-solid hearts than solid) in a splinter-maker's long suit (if one had been shown) is probably a good candidate for the default "critical card."  Assuming this:

1H-1S-4C-4H = LTTC = extras but no heart honor
1H-1S-4C-4D = ALTTC = at least mild interest, plus a heart honor
1H-1S-4C-4D-4H = do you have mild or strong interest?

What about a non-descript sequence, like 1S-P-4C?  Now, there is no focal side suit.  In that event, the default might be internl trumps:

1S-4C-4H = LTTC = extras but poor trumps
1S-4C-4D = ALTTC = good trumps, extras to EXTRAS
1S-4C-4D-4H = extras, or EXTRAS???