Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some curiosities

I went through about 100 deals where the auction started P-P-P, checking to see if there were any strange anomalies that popped up.  A few perhaps interesting observations are listed here.  Some might not be shocking, and a lot intuitive.

1. Second hand has exactly 9 HCP a ton.
2. Fourth seat is balanced a ton.
3. When fourth seat is unbalanced, he seems to be in the 16-19 HCP range a lot.
4. Strangely, a partscore in diamonds as the best end contract seems to recur quite remarkably often.
5. You need about 16 HCP if balanced to have a fair shot at the auction being a game auction.
6. Second hand has a lot of Queens and Jacks as a general rule.
7. Stiff honors are frequent.
8. Spade-club two-suiters are fairly frequent (and often in that 16-19 range).
9. Partner often has a difficult hand to respond with because of his HCP strength and a major opening.
10. Hands with both red suits are especially difficult for Opener.
11.  5-5 majors never came up.  For that matter, no 5-5's came up except spades+clubs.
12.  Hands with 6-card suits rarely had a second suit of 4+.
13. Balanced 21-23 hands were fairly common, but partner seemed to have 0-3 a lot.
14. Slams were very rare.
15. 4-4-4-1 hands were more common than I would expect, and often in the 16-19 range.
16. Interference is rare in real life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I have not posted for some time on this blog, largely for two reasons.  First, I am writing and playing a lot less because of my children.  Second, my main focus is now on the local bridge club Newsletter, which I edit and for which I write.  For those who miss my posts, you might check out the Newsletter, which is uploaded once per month at the website  You can also ask to be added to the massive Newsletter mailing list by contacting Ruth Odenweller at

The articles in the Newsletter go back several years now.  Last year, I started and then finished a small mini-book I called "Gil's Epic Game," which was intended to be a humorous spin on bridge in the vein of the Epic of Gilgamesh; the entire ebook is available free lower on the Lima DBC website.  I am now working on a more general "Theory" series. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Accepting?

In line with my latest prior post, what should a "Super-Accept" look like?

You open 1NT with 15-17 HCP (occasional upgrades), and partner transfers.  What is your "range?"

I showed how the "normal" range would be 2-6 cover cards as far as strength, with 2-5 cards in support of the major.  Suppose that we took the cover card range and added to it the variance off of an expected simple 3-card fit.  For example:

3 cover cards.  3-card fit (0 variance).  3+0=3.  Net of 3 Super-Accept Credits (SAC's).

4 cover cards.  4-card fit (+1 variance).  4+1=5.  Net of 5 SAC's.

2 cover cards.  5-card fit (+2 variance).  2+2=4.  Net of 4 SAC's.

4 cover cards.  2-card "fit" (-1 variance).  4-1=3.  Net of 3 SAC's.

If we do this, then perhaps the worst SAC count is 1 SAC (2 covers, no fit), while the greatest is probably only 7 SAC (4-card fit plus 6 covers or 5-card fit nut then only 6 covers), because a 5-card suit with six covers would have upgraded to open the major and jump rebid 2NT.  Thus, the SAC range is 1-7.

With 7 SAC, force game.  With 6 SAC or 5 SAC with something else, show a strong super-accept.  With 5 SAC without something extra or 4 SAC with something extra, show a medium super-accept.  With less, do not super-accept unless you have 4+ support and a means to show a weak super-accept.

Notice how a 3-card super-accept is possible in this approach.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No Trump "Ranges"

What is the "range" for a strong 1NT opening bid?

A lot of people will knee-jerk out "15-17."  Some will start a discussion of upgrades and downgrades for this or that honor collection, will speak about tenaces and length cards and the like.  You might even have discussions of controls and "three and a third's" with some.

All of this is fine when opening the bidding, before anyone has said anything.  But, that only gets you so far.  If partner shows you an unbalanced hand, and if you have a fit, the situation radically changes, such that your analysis should also change.

I mean, if your 15-HCP hand features the KJ2 in clubs, that seems nice.  If you later find out that your partner has a stiff club, however, the KJ2 looks not so useful.  If he has AQxxx, however, you love the KJ2 more tha you thought.

If the auction and knowledge changes, the "range" for a 1NT opening can wildly change, therefore, when viewed as a function of how good it fits with partner's hand.  From a "Losing Trick Count" perspective, the "cover card" count probably could change by as much as three cards.


Consider a normal-looking Qxx-KQx-Axx-Axxx, a 15-HCP hand.  If partner has something like 5-3-3-2 pattern, your hand has five cover cards -- the two outside Aces, the spade Queen (the agreed trump suit), and both the King and Queen of hearts (a side fragment held by partner).

What if, however, partner holds 2-1-5-5 pattern, a minor two-suiter?  Now, your cover card count looks more like 2, one for each Ace but nothing else.  At most,m if partner has both major Aces, you might contribute a cover card for the diamond King.  This might also help if the opponents defend incorrectly.

Now, the cover card count is not as important unless Responder has an unbalanced hand and we end up declaring a suit contract, but the point seems apparent.  In this rough example, the number of useful cards for a minimum hand of exactly 15 HCP was somewhere between 2 and 5 covers.

Thus, as far as cover cards is concerned, a "tight range" of 15-17 HCP is not remotely tight at all.

Keep this in mind when developing bidding agreements and when analyzing a given auction.  A "maximum" in terms of cover cards is probably about six cover cards (one Ace, one side King, plus two internal King-Queen combinations.  A reasonable "minimum" might be a 15-count with K-Q-J opposite a stiff, Q-J opposite a doubleton, and then only two useful cover cards.  I am having trouble imagining a 1-cover-card 15-HCP hand.  So, the "freak extreme" hands are 2 covers or 6 covers.  Hence, the normal range is probably 3-5. 

If you have the freak extreme 6 covers, go crazy.  If freak extreme only 2, you might pass a forcing bid.  But, 3 is a minimum (regard;ess of HCP strength), 5 is a maximum (regardless of HCP strength), and 4 covers is middling, needing more analysis.

So, the range for a 1NT opening is 15-17 HCP, or 2-6 cover cards.

BTW, notice that this phenomenon is not at all unique to 1NT openings.  It is just with 1NT openings (and 2NT openings) that Openers get especially lazy, feeling that they have somehow showed their tight range by the act of opening.  Not so.