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All comments by Craig Zastera
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Lebensohl does not apply when the doubler is a passed hand.
It is not important whether or not the double is in balancing seat or not.
So:
(a) (2H)-P-(P)-DBL-(P)-2N/3m
Lebensohl does apply here even though double is
in balancing seat because doubler is not a PH.

(b) P-(P)-P-(2H)-DBL-(P)-3m
No Lebensohl here even though double is direct
because it is by a passed hand.
Nov. 15
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My partner held the given hand and raised to 3 (not invitational). I find that bid hard to justify as it can never find a game (as 2NT might do), nor is 3 necessarily
safe. Further, the spade holding makes it unlikely that opponents can/will outbid us successfully.

FWIW, my actual hand was: x-QJTxxx-Kxx-xxx giving 3 little play (and, in fact, it cannot be made as the cards like and I was duly -1).

The opponents can make 2 but would never have bid it as my LHO, who has the hand most likely to risk a spade bid, had already passed my 2. I seriously doubt my RHO would have balanced after (P)-2-(P)-P-?? holding:
T74-84-J963-KQT8

-50 was worth 29% of the matchpoints, whereas +100 would have been about 70%.
Oct. 30
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I don't think given hand is a super maximum. Just a normal near maximum (could have the HJ as well).

That doesn't mean I'm advocating 2NT–just agreeing that it is possible for partner to have a good enough hand for game to be reasonable. It is also possible for him to have a bad enough hand that 3 will be too high. Hard to estimate relative probabilities.

Of course, 2NT has some extra potential benefits such as discouraging opponents from entering the auction.
Oct. 30
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I play both 3 and 4 as natural (promising 3+, not uncommonly 4) after 1-2-3.
The difference is that the jump to 4 is a “picture bid” promising strong hearts and spades (now very often four) with no minor suit control, whereas 3 is a more flexible (GF) spade raise.
If responder wants to make a *spade cue-bid* in pursuit of a *heart slam*, after 1-2-3, he bids *3NT*. This promises SA, SK, or/and SQ but does not promise spade length (he could have 3 spades, but 3NT is just a spade cue pursuing a heart slam).

This method does give up “serious” (or non-serious) 3NT on this one auction. True, that is a loss, but this sacrifice allow complete clarity w.r.t spade *cue-bid for hearts* vs. showing genuine spade support.
Oct. 26
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I'm not sure why you think 2nd hand weak 2 “should be relatively sound.”

I'd say it should be “relatively normal”, meaning good suit intermediates, no voids, no side 5 card suit (or 4 card major). But I see no reason why it should be near maximum rather than near minimum or right in the middle w.r.t overall strength.

If opener has something like:
xx-QJT9xx-Kxx-xx
which I would regard as a perfectly normal (albeit minimum) 2 opener, 3 will likely be too high. Perhaps such considerations explain the big vote for PASS.
Oct. 26
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For me, there is a big difference between whether my 5 card major is hearts or spades.

With spades, I rarely (but not never) open 1NT as I can handle all auctions without difficulty, since 2m over forcing 1NT on three cards is expected.

With hearts, I much more often will open 1NT since 1-1 may present a rebid problem as partner will not expect 2m with only three.
Oct. 25
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I think the old “saw” about who owns the 5 level applies to auctions where both sides are competing in their respective (big) suit fits. In such cases, the “saw” recommends letting the opponents play at the 5 level instead of competing further yourself.

I do not think it is a recommendation not to use the 5 level in your constructive slam investigations, although certainly one must consider the risk of gettting too high while pursuing more accurate slam investigation.
Just as getting to the 3 level when making game tries carries the risk of being -1 when the two level would have been safe and game proves out of reach.
Oct. 24
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The fact that the odds for 6 improve significantly when opener has a “better” hand (more controls, more hearts, maybe good spots), even within the narrow HCP (and shape) range that he has already shown, argues for using the 5 level to sort out how good opener's and responder's hands are before making the slam/no slam decision.

Responder needs to make some sort of an initial slam “try”, otherwise opener will never know that slam is even a possibility. But opener does not need to respond to that try with an immediate unilateral “slam or no slam” decision. There is still room to negotiate before the final decision needs to be made. It is important to use the five level to try to improve the accuracy of the final decision.
Oct. 24
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I did a quick (1000 random deal) simulation of this responding hand opposite random 20-21 HCP balanced hands with exactly 3 hearts.
I found that 6H made on 466 of these deals.
To me, that clearly indicates that this hand is worth a slam *try*. If partner has 3 hearts and “likes” his hand for slam, then the probability of a make will surely be above 50% (assuming partner can tell a “good” hand from a “bad” one).
Oct. 24
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I also would play that 2NT now would be “good/bad” so that responder can let opener know when he has perhaps unexpected values by bidding 3 of a minor now instead of 2NT G/B.

But that is not my reason for eschewing 2NT here. I assumed it would be “natural” as otherwise OP should have stated that it would not be.
But because I believe that opener's double does not promise any extra HCP values (just short hearts), if the hand was not good enough for 2NT the first time, it still is not.
This somewhat depends on partnership minimum requirements for opening bids. But I think most would open many (probably most) 5=1=(3-4) hands with 11 HCPs. Surely, we don't want to be in 2NT opposite such.
Oct. 24
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Partner's double does not promise any extra values (although, of course, he could have them). It does promise short hearts, though.

Thus, pass is contra-indicated by the LOTT as the opponents likely have 8 hearts.
Also, if the hand was not good enough for 2NT last round (assuming that is played as natural, invitational), then it is not good enough for 2NT now since (again), partner has not promised any extra HCP values.
Oct. 24
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How about the BW advice that you may consider leaving in partner's negative double when
your trump length + level >= 6

Combining this with LOTT principles, the above BW guideline suggests that doubler ought to have (at least) two trump to make a 2 level negative double, so that if partner, following the above BW guidline, leaves it in with four trump the opponent's (with only 7 combined trump) will be above their “Lawful” level.

Obviously, partnerships may decide to make different agreements where doubler's partner is *not* supposed to consider leaving in a (two level) negative double even with four trumps, as the partnership wants to be routinely making such doubles with minimal values and only 1 (or even 0) cards in the opponent's suit.
Oct. 23
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None of the offered choices seem right to me.
They all involve West's either passing or bidding slam, with a mention that a keycard ask won't provide useful information.
But there are other alternatives, which I believe are appropriate here. Why can't West cue-bid (e.g. 5) to show interest in a heart slam without (yet) committing to one?
That way, he can get more input from East.
For example a 5 continuation by East would suggest that he has already “stretched” to make his slam try, after which West can re-evaluate.
Conversely, if East has a “solid” slam try, learning that
West has interest (because his cue-bid) might be enough for East to commit to slam. Or, (if there is room), East might be able to offer a “last train” 5.

I do believe that East is right to make some sort of a slam try. Transferring to 4 and passing with a hand like this is not the way to win. He simply must let partner know that his hand is good enough that slam is a possibility.
I'll agree, though, that as slam tries go, East's is on the minimal side.

That said, it is not clear to me that 3 followed by 4 is necessarily his best slam try alternative.
The other choice is 3 followed by 5–a splinter slam try.
It is always hard to know whether a splinter will work well or not when the singleton is the A or K (or with a void).
Here, if partner has the CA, he will “like” (but not love) this as he thinks the CA is covering East's stiff but not providing any “honor combining” values.
Here, the CA may well be slightly more valuable than that.
Similarly, West will think CQ or CQJ are poor holdings when actually they are pretty good.
This suggests that perhaps the actual choice (3 then 4) is better than the club splinter option
Oct. 23
Craig Zastera edited this comment Oct. 24
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The question is, when making a negative doubble, is it better to have several cards in *their* suit and (perhaps) extreme shortness in partner's suit, **or** is it better to have a couple of cards in partner's suit and extreme shortness in their suit?
Even if we might make a negative double with either with hands where no alternative seems palatable, every partnership should have an understanding for cases where potential doubler has borderline strength whether some moderate length/strength in *their* suit (to better support a possible penalty pass by partner with no more attractive alternative) is a “plus” factor that would tip the balance towards doubling, or whether some “tolerance” for partner's suit (to better support partner having to rebid his suit on a 5 bagger with no better choice) is the “plus” factor.

From years of reading Bridge World, I believe their traditional position is that negative double is better with some defense (i.e. something in their suit) to support a possible penalty pass rather than extreme shortness in their suit together with some tolerance for partner. I do not know whether this orientation is still in vogue.
Oct. 23
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I don't know, Dave. I know a lot of good players, and as far as I can tell they play 2NT on this auction type (without the redouble) as “good/bad” (aka Lebensohl):
(1S)-DBL-(2S)-2N/3m
Obviously, if advancer has a terrible hand, he can just pass.
But that does not obviate the value of G/B. An immediate 3m can show ~ 9-11 (support points), while 2N can suggest
around ~ 6-8 (or you can adjust these ranges slightly according to partnership preference).

The point is, the ability for advancer to show two strength ranges without going beyond 3m can be quite valuable as doubler might have quite a good hand (or not), so game is still in the picture.

Whether G/B is more or less useful than “scrambling” 2NT on this auction is debatable (as on many other auctions).
Advancer does have “double” (responsive) available if he wants to get partner's input in a choice of strain situation. Given that, I think that the G/B use or 2NT is probably the better choice.
Oct. 22
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My agreements are:
1M (P) 1N(F) (2X)
DBL
and
1M (P) 1N(F) (2X)
P (P) DBL

are both *take-out* (but may be converted, of course).
But:
1m (P) 1N(NF) (2X)
DBL
is penalty.
I suppose
1m (P) 1N(NF) (2X)
P P DBL
is penaltyish also, but within the parameters of responder having denied a 4 card major and more than 10 HCPs.
Oct. 16
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Without your redouble, most people would play that LHO's 3 shows values (else 2NT Lebensohl). Does that still apply after your redouble? I'd sure want to know, but there is no mention in the OP.

Anyway, I would think that the logical meaning of your re-double is that you are not willing to defend an undoubled contract. That is, your XX means either we defend a doubled contract or else compete to 3, and you would like partner to make the decision based on his hand.

Partner knows this, yet he passed 3. This must be forcing, and he is telling you that he is neutral w.r.t defending 3CX or competing to 3. Annoying, perhaps (as your re-double was trying to get him to make this decision), but we must assume that he is doing the best he can by sending the decision back to you, saying that his hand, within the parameters of his original single raise, is about right down the middle w.r.t. defending 3CX or competing to 3.
I'd therefore expect three spades and probably three clubs too, and maybe 7-8 HCPs.

Thus, it would seem very weird for you to pass this out in 3C after having made an earlier call which explicitly says that this is not what you want. But I suppose no one can make you honor the logic of your previous action.
Oct. 16
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Richard,
I agree that *if* my partner is going to bid over my 4, that 5 is the best choice. I'm not terribly critical of my partner's actual pass though as I might have had weaker hearts.
Oct. 16
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Well, I did play the hand after the given auction, and I did drop the doubleton HQ in my LHO's hand.

It seems to me that this play is not anti-percentage. LHO led the S9. Now this doesn't have to be a singleton, but it seemed liked a reasonable possibility.

So I went up SA and played HK and a H to my HA.
If LHO has led a stiff spade and if he has 6 diamonds for his 2 opening, then LHO started with 1 spade and 6 diamonds while RHO started with 4 spades and 3 diamonds.
Thus, both defenders started with the same number of (spades + diamonds), hence have the same number of “vacant spaces” for (clubs + hearts).

After my RHO follows low to the 2nd round of hearts, he actually has one fewer “vacant space” than LHO, so it is slightly odds on to play for the drop in hearts.
Even if LHO has led S9 from a *doubleton*, the odds in the heart suit for finesse vs. drop are exactly 50-50 (assuming LHO has 6 diamonds).

I certainly don't understand the claims that this is a poor slam. It looks to be about 75% to me. All that is necessary is to play *one* of the majors for no losers.
Since each major offers a roughly 50-50 chance for no losers, that means about 75% overall chance of success.

Different people have very different pre-empt philosophies, but I don't think opening 3 with my hand in 2nd seat at unfavorable vulnerability is even a close call. For me, I'm supposed to have about 7 tricks in hand for a 3 opening under these conditions. This hand has nowhere near that (I'd say no more than 5 if that).
Further, this hand would make a dynamite dummy for a spade contract (give partner AKxxxx-x-xxx-xxx and 4 has play) which will be hard to reach after opening 3
Oct. 16
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Of the 11 times the deal was played in hearts, 12 tricks were made on 9 of them (four pairs in 6, two in 5, five in 4). All the 6 bidders made it.

The deal was played in NT three times. Twice 12 tricks were made (once in 6NT, once in 3NT). Once 8 tricks were made (in 3NT).

The deal was played in 4 once, making 5 (6 can be made).

Once, E/W played 5DX, down 800.

This supports my contention in another reply that real world players rarely finesse missing four to the queen.
Oct. 15
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