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Being Steve Weinstein
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At the recent regional in Monterey, Bobby Levin's planned partner was unable to play on Saturday and Sunday. I did not have dates for those days, so I agreed to play with Bobby in the team games. I had worked with Bobby and Steve previously so I had a fair idea of their methods, and I had a copy of their notes. So, instead of the usual hour-long discussion a new partnership has which is often more destructive than constructive, I suggested the following: We will play the Bobby and Steve notes, and it will be Bobby's job to judge what I know and what I don't. Bobby readily agreed. I spent a few hours skimming the notes to get most of the basics, but of course I didn't know them thoroughly.  Before the session,  Bobby asked me to rate my knowledge of the system on a scale of 1 to 10. I initially said 5, but when I admitted to studying the notes the previous night he upped the rating to 8 which was probably an overbid. This would lead to several interesting situations.

 

Put yourself in Bobby's shoes on this hand:

You hold: Qx KQ KQx KQJxxx, and hear me open 1NT, 14+ to 17. This is a perfect hand for Gerber. If partner has all the aces you want to be in 7NT (too bad if he has Ax of hearts and no fourth diamond trick). If he has 3 aces you want to be in 6NT (yes, you could conceivably be off AK of spades, but that is very unlikely and you aren't ever going to find that out.

There is one problem. Will there be a mixup? I will certainly interpret 4 as Gerber. But Bobby and Steve play an unusual responding structure -- 1430 responses, with 4 showing 2 aces and a minimum, 4NT 2 aces and a non-minimum. Do I know this, or will I think there is a different structure and make the wrong response?

Bobby did bid 4. I responded 4, which ostensibly shows 1 or 4 aces. Bobby tried 4NT, presumably a signoff, but he knew I wouldn't pass with 4 aces, or even 3 aces. I jumped to 6. And now he had to trust that I knew the methods. He finally bid 7NT, waiting for the red card from the opponents. It didn't come. I had remembered the Gerber responses (I think I noted them because they were unusual), and I had what I was supposed to have.

Did Bobby have a way around this dilemma? I think he did. He could have bid 4, Texas. When I then bid 4, he could follow with 4NT, RKC for hearts. I would certainly know the responding structure for this, and would not make a mistake. When Bobby then signed off in 6NT or 7NT after my response, I would have to pass.

Now over to my seat:

You hold: AJxxx Jx AKxxx x. Bobby passes as dealer, and you open 1 in third seat. Now Bobby bids 3. What is that?

I hadn't studied the passed hand structure carefully, since it didn't seem very important. If he weren't a passed hand, I knew that 3 would be a limit raise. I definitely remembered that we play 2-way Drury, so a natural 2 wasn't available. Beyond that I wasn't sure. I didn't think it was any kind of fit-showing jump, as they don't play many of those.

Logically, with 2 being 4-card Drury it seemed as though 3 should be natural. That appeared unlikely looking at my hand. But if it was natural, I didn't want to do anything which insisted on spades.

I finally decided that if I bid 4 that would cover most bases. If he had diamonds, he would likely go to 5 since he must know that I wouldn't be on firm ground. If he had some hand with spade support he would of course bid 4, and that would be that.

He did bid 4. I awaited the dummy with interest. He put down a mundane limit raise. What had happened? Very simple. He had forgotten he was a passed hand. I had it right -- 3 was supposed to be natural.

This was one hand where we were lucky to be a new partnership. If I had been playing with Fred I would have been 100% certain about the meaning of 3, and would not have hedged since I would know that Fred couldn't have spade support.

With both vul, I held: Axxx AKQxx KJ10 A. I chose to open 1, and heard the bidding go: 1-(2)-3-(4);?

I didn't remember if 3 was a mixed raise or a preemptive raise after an overcall. I knew they play a lot of mixed raises, so that's what I thought it was. Even opposite a preemptive raise, I have slam potential if the fit is good. So I made some slam try (I think 5 -- can't remember). When Bobby signed off I passed, and LHO doubled. It looked like I would have good chances even if his raise was preemptive, and if he had a mixed raise we might be competing against a slam at the other table. So I pulled out the blue card.

Not only was the raise preemptive, but Bobby put down the worst -- a near yarb, and a stiff club! J98x 109xx xxxx x. The queen of diamonds was onside and trumps were 2-2, but there was no miracle in the spade suit and I had to go down 1.

 

On another hand I held: AJx KQJx -- AKQ109x. This one I did open 2. The bidding started: 2-2;3-3;3-4;? 2 was waiting, but I remembered Bobby could bid a suit naturally with a good suit -- 2 wasn't mandatory. 3 was natural as far as I knew -- they don't play a second negative. I didn't need much for slam, so I tried a 4 Q-bid. Bobby came back with 5. I made one more try with 5. I knew he had bad trumps, so if he accepted he would have some cards outside which would be of value. Also his diamond suit couldn't be too good, since he didn't bid it immediately, which meant he would probably have either the ace of hearts or the king of spades if he accepted. Bobby bid 6 (whatever that was), and I of course bid 6. His hand wasn't exactly what I was looking for: Qxx 10xxx KQ109xx --. He was bidding 6 to suggest an alternative contract with his strong diamonds and weak hearts -- the strong diamonds I was convinced he couldn't have. Still, the contract had play, and had better play when LHO led the ace of diamonds. However, I was not able to handle the 4-1 trump split.

So, why didn't Bobby bid 3 over 2? In their notes, they invert the 3 of a minor responses. 3 would show diamonds, and 3 would show clubs. Bobby judged that I might not know this (he was right -- I didn't remember reading anything like that), so he decided to take what looked like a safer action. Unfortunately, I did "know" that he couldn't have the good diamond suit. Had he bid 3 to show diamonds, who knows what I would have done. I would have known that he couldn't have what I would expect for a 3 call, but I doubt if I would have figured it out.

This last hand cost us the event. At unfavorable vul, I picked up: QJx AKQJxx -- xxxx, and heard the auction go (3)-3-(P)-? to me. I could have tried 5 exclusion. But I wasn't 100% sure of that, and I definitely wasn't sure of the responses and followups. A 4 Q-bid seemed pointless. It looked most practical to simply bid RKC and get to a small slam if Bobby had either 2 or 3 keycards.

So I bid 4NT. Bobby bid 5 (1430) showing 1 or 4. Naturally I signed off in 5. And Bobby bid 6. Now what?

Clearly Bobby had 4 keycards. I didn't know for sure what 6 meant in their methods, but logically it figured to show the king of diamonds. If hearts split I could count 13 tricks in notrump, but hearts might not split. Also if Bobby has a 6-card spade suit and his expected king of diamonds there would be 13 top tricks. But if Bobby has something like AK10xx x AKx Axxx then we are a trick short in notrump on a bad heart split, but one ruff in my hand will come to 6 trump tricks, 4 heart tricks, 2 diamond tricks, and 1 club trick. Of course a heart lead could cause some entry problems, but why would RHO ever find that lead? So, after a very long thought I bid 7.

Bobby's actual hand was AKxxx -- AKJxx Axx. On a better day we might have survived. But today spades were 5-0 (of course the hearts split 4-3). Worse, they stopped in a small slam at the other table. So my choice of 7 instead of 7NT swung a full 30 IMPs. I still have no idea what my percentage action is. But at least this time I knew what Bobby had.

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