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.