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All comments by Randy Thompson
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The hand short in their suit should be aggressive. IMO, this is an automatic double, although I'm well aware that many don't share my view. This is why my partners are reluctant to convert my take-out doubles to penalties (we follow the advice of Edgar Kaplan to take out take-out doubles pretty strictly). I have 14 in support of any unbid suit. That's not enough? My partners wish I always had that much support. :)

BTW, many/most weak no trumpers won't open a weak NT with a 5-card major, so if flat, opener's range may well be 12-19, not 15-19. You gain very little opening a 12-14 1N with a 5-card major. Unlike when you open 1m, you almost never will get to rebid 1N to show a flat 15-17 if that is your style (only after 1-1), so you won't be able to show 15-16 flat any easier whether or not you would have opened 1N with 12-14. Either way, when it goes 1M-1N back to you, you could be hurting if you have 15-16 flat. One big advantage of a big NT is being able to open 15-16 point 5-3-3-2 hands with 1N. Where big no trumpers have rocking chair auctions here, we weak no trumpers must scramble and hope (usually ignore 15th point but make a delayed 2N bid with 16 and take a risk).
Aug. 24, 2014
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I've been giving some thought to treating non-vul 14-16 ranges as 13-15 because so many pairs playing 14-16 (usually associated with Precision) upgrade. But, for now we are still in the last category – our defense changes as soon as they might hold 16.

Vs strong NT, we don't have ways to look for power-based games but get into the auction with all but 4-3-3-3 and 5-3-3-2 shapes when nonvul. Simulations showed that when their range is 15-17, we NEVER had more than 23 HCP and seldom had more than 21 HCP. So, subtract your total from 21 and you have partner's likely max hand and subtract it from 23 and you have a max he won't exceed 99+% of the time. It isn't just their range but whether they frequently upgrade that matters. If a 14-16 is a de facto 13-15 because this pair has never seen a 13 or 16 count they didn't love, then shifting to weak NT defense would make sense. Wish the convention card had a box to check about frequency of upgrading. Even then, it would be fickle, as in some partnerships, one player often upgrades and the other seldom does. I seldom upgrade to 14-16 or 15-17; my Precision partner frequently does. I frequently upgrade 19 counts to 20-21; my 2/1 partner never does; and my KS partner seldom does. Part of this decision making process is who your CHO is for this session – when he's very aggressive, best not to upgrade; when he's very conservative, upgrade frequently. When I'm playing with my Precision partner I tend to subtract a point from my hand, as he is likely to have bid it already or soon will; with my 2/1 partner I tend to add a point to my hand because he will often have a point he “doesn't notice.” With my KS partner, I tend to stay pretty close to our ranges (except 2N openers) because he and I usually “count alike.” Bidding screens are great because you can inquire about such tendencies w/o giving partner UI.
Aug. 24, 2014
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I don't mind a stiff in a 1N opener (especially a stiff club honor); I don't mind a 6 card minor in a 1N opener; having both takes me out of opening 1N. There is more to a 1N opener than just getting the strength right – it also says something about shape and opening 1N on this hand could cost us finding 5 or 6 instead of a doomed 3N.

It is ALMOST strong enough for a 2 reverse; if down in an IMPs match, I'd bid 2 and hope that if we overbid to a game it would be a lucky make.

It would be an easy 3 if one of the hearts were a spade. 3 would get the strength right and the diamonds right but would make it impossible to find hearts. This is a poster-hand for playing Reverse Flannery. Or for playing Precision where you could rebid 1 forcing over a 1 response to 1 and then 2 non forcing to show this hand while staying low. If I knew partner couldn't have 4+ hearts without GF values, I think I'd rebid 3 with this hand. But, not playing Reverse Flannery and not being down in this IMPs match, I'd just dare to go low and rebid 2 while silently repeating the Al Roth mantra that “if I can just get by this round . . .” Hopefully, I could do this in a close-to-normal tempo. This is a tough problem and one to give any partner who is reluctant to play Reverse Flannery responses to 1m.
Aug. 24, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Aug. 24, 2014
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I got to watch several deals from the Sweden-USA1 finals of the under-21 event. A VERY impressive level of bridge was being played. Maybe I missed their errors, but it sure seemed to me to freer from blunders than even most Bermuda Bowl events, etc. Look for many of those ten players to rise to the highest levels in the world very soon. While the skill levels of the players seemed comparable, in the deals I watched, the Swedes seemed to have much higher-powered bidding methods and they used them relentlessly and precisely, especially in slam bidding. Congrats to Sweden on its impressive win and to the USA team for giving them a tough final match.
Aug. 23, 2014
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Guess I got lucky, as I thought double was right. If partner doesn't have four spades, then he might have a 5 card minor or might have extra values. He heard me bid 1, so how can 2 be right if he doesn't bid it over double? 2 should absolutely promise a fifth spade here. Pass could be right; double could be right; 2 has to be wrong.

Didn't expect his actual hand – that looks like a 1N overcall to me – last chance to show this power at the one level is likely his first turn to bid. If I had anything at all, I would have bid 2 at my first turn – a passed hand cue bid would show say about 10-11, so if I had something like 7-9 or 6-8 and 5 spades, I'd never have bid only 1.
Aug. 23, 2014
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System matters, but I would never raise hearts with 3. In my KS partnership, we always rebid 1N with flat hands to show the 15-17. In my 2/1 partnership, we normally would bid 1 here – but with xxxx might choose 1N to avoid bidding the only suit we can't stop. In my Precision partnership, after 1-1, we would always rebid 1. In all three partnerships, my partner would count on me for 4 hearts for a raise to 2. I know that others succeed with a style that permits 3-card raises, but we like to know when responder can revalue his hand “in support of hearts” and when he needs more HCP to go for a game.
Aug. 22, 2014
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I assume we don't have too many old-fashioned requirements about opening bids, so I prefer to overbid 1 now and then go passive, rather than pass now and try to catch up later. I'd rather put the opponents into competitive mode and I can rebid clubs easily over whatever partner might inflict on me if the opponents are silent. In a dream world, partner bids 1 and I can rebid 1 and then clubs as many times as need be to show weakness and length in clubs.

Playing Precision, this would be a comfortable 2 opener. I might have to pass and catch up later playing K-S (because I don't have 15-17 in support of hearts, don't have 2 QT and don't have 12 HCP), but would open 1 playing 2/1 with a partner with a sense of humor. 3 gets my secret admiration, but this hand is WAY too good in support of hearts for that not to be a pretty big risk and 3 would be a bad lead-director if they buy the contract.
Aug. 21, 2014
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If we have a game, it's in spades, so I bid 2 at IMPs. I'm willing to risk being in the wrong part-score strain to find a game. If I bid 2, partner might raise me; if I bid 3, the spade suit has been lost and partner likely won't be looking for an 11-trick game. Also, if I bid 2, partnr might bid 3 and it would be time to bid the diamonds then. At matchpoints, where the plus score in diamonds would matter a LOT more than a remote shot at a game bonus, I'd bid 3 and risk losing the chance at a spade game.

Not a chance 2N would be lebensohl for me – all the good hands and invitational hands would have bid much earlier. I would play 2N here as scrambling for a minor with something like 2-3-4-4 shape.
Aug. 21, 2014
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I would bid 2, but 2 might be right because of the suit quality of the spades. 2 would be my last choice (other than pass). I have a firm agreement with all partners that we don't make a negative double without 4+ of the only unbid major and we don't bid 3 card major suits as opener in response to a negative double. It may sometimes make life harder, but we NEVER play 3-3 major suit fits and when we do bid the major, partner knows for sure we have a fit. I don't think I'll be playing a 3-3 diamond fit here, as partner would surely have a correction to 2M or 2N if he has only 3 diamonds. If over 2 partner cues, I can still bid 3 but now partner will know for sure I have 3 hearts and might suspect my actual shape.

If I had committed a 2 call (echo of the late Edgar), I would now try 3, to let partner have room to put us into 3 down one instead of 4 down 2.
Aug. 21, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Aug. 21, 2014
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Tough problem, especially at matchpoints. I'm not stopping short of 6, but it seems tough now to get the spade suit in play without risking a pass of a game bid or going down in 6 when cold for 6. I'd like to bid 5N as “pick a slam” but after diamonds have been bid and raised and with not having suggested anything in the way of spades in this hand, the kibitzers would think diamonds are trumps so all my pards would take 5N as GSF. I chose 5 and plan to bid 5 if partner bids 5. Not perfect, but if partner fields this as choice of slams, then it will work out. It also should get us to at least 6.
Aug. 20, 2014
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I bid 6 for the same reasons others bid it. If playing that 5 was an asking bid, then I would only be using that bid to try for grands. Painting a bullseye on your butt and walking along a rifle range isn't wise – neither is telling the opponents what to lead against slams or 5 level games.
Aug. 17, 2014
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I bid 4 here and even if wrong-sided, making a game is better than whatever passing 3 might fetch. If partner has 0-3 spades, 6 hearts, and 1-3 diamonds, then he should have some clubs – I'd say normally he will have 3 clubs, with 2 being his second most likely number and 1 and 4 being remote possibilities. If partner persists with 4 over 4 he won't be unhappy with this hand (or else maybe he shouldn't have bid 3).
Aug. 17, 2014
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My partner couldn't hold 3-4-3-3 shape, as he would have bid 2 (cheapest non-exciting suit). But, he certainly could hold xxxx xxx xxx xxx and should hold a maximum of 4 HCP. It isn't possible to find out if partner has Jxxxx and a doubleton heart. We have to just guess here. At IMPs, I'd likely bid 2 and set forth on a search for a doomed game, but at match points I think it's wrong to guess anything that risks our plus score. Pass could work. 1N could work. 2 could work. 2 might work if you are willing to pass 2 by partner. If it's even remotely possible that partner could be 3-4-3-3 then I'd bid 1N and otherwise, I'd pass and double their next bid. (I don't do well at match points. :) )
Aug. 13, 2014
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Someone mentioned a weakness of 2 is that it permits a lead-directing double. For those who are interested in surviving such doubles, I have devised a way to cope (no doubt invented by others who use 2 this way). The general rule is “the more bidding room you consume, the more you have” (that partner might care about). Partner is presumed to care about one or more of Size, Spade stopper(s) and Clubs.

1) Pass…All minimum hands
2) Redbl…Max hand, but no spade stopper
3) 2N…Max hand, spade stopper(s) but <4 clubs
4) 3…Max hand, spade stopper(s)and 4+ clubs.

3) and 4) are easy –partner signs off in 3C if weak and bids 3N or whatever he had planned to rebid (above 3)if invitational or strong. (Number 3 came up last night on BBO!)

1) Using Pass to show the min hand leaves us the most room to find our best strain if all partner was doing was inviting game in no trump.
REDOUBLE BY RESPONDER initiates a scramble and identifies a “busted invite.” Opener can then bid 2N with a spade stopper and no 5-card minor or he can bid 3m (his cheapest four+ suit, with 3 usually showing 5). After redoubling, responder can bid 3 to play if he has 5 diamonds.
2N BY RESPONDER is to play, promises a spade stopper and denies a 5 card minor (having already denied a 4-card major). Opener can bid 3m over 2N with a 5-card suit.
3 BY RESPONDER is to play and may be EITHER a busted invite with 5+ clubs OR a weak hand with 6+ clubs that was always on its way to 3.
3X BY RESPONDER is GF with club anchor suit and whatever 3X would have shown if no double.

2) Using Redbl to show the max hand with no spade stopper leaves room for scrambles when spades are open. Over that redouble, Responder bids:
2N….busted invite, no 5 card club suit (can't want to play 2N as if he was inviting and has spades stopped, he would bid 3N). This tends to be 4-4 or 4-3 or 3-4 in the minors OR 5 diamonds (will correct 3 to 3. Can't bid 3 immediately w/o it showing what it would have shown w/o the double.
3N….To play (with spade stopper(s).
3…To play with EITHER a busted invite and 5 clubs OR a weak hand with 6+ clubs.
3/3…mean whatever they would have meant w/o the double of 2.
3…Strong hand with clubs, GF, should have shortness in spades.
4….Strong hand with clubs, invites 5 if opener has good controls

One other point about the lead directing double is that we tend to avoid using 2 with soft spade values – we just bid 3N “like a man” or pass 1N “like a mouse,” with form of the game and vulnerability used in this decision (3N vul at imps and pass in most other situations). Last night, when I bid 2 (and it was doubled), I had xxx so the lead wasn't going to sink our ship if partner could stop spades (he had AJx). With something like Qxx, I'd forego inviting and just bid game or pass. This has been working out pretty well.

We adopted the no-invite-if-they-could-profit-from-a-double approach after reading a District 6 website article by Steve Robinson where he polled top experts about inviting game over 1N. There was a very large contingent of world-level players who just would NOT invite if they had to go through Stayman, etc. that helped the defense, rather than just being able to bid 2N invitational. BTW, those Robinson polls and articles are purest gold for serious bridge players. Steve picks the brains of a LOT of top level players so that you get not only what they would do in common situations, but why they would do it and how they would make many critical decisions and you are exposed to differing opinions with reasons given for the differences that let you pick your own poison where there is a split.
Aug. 12, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Aug. 12, 2014
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I can accept other partner flaws, but I just won't play with anyone who can't defend. If we beat almost all of the opponents' unmakeable contracts, we'll do fine. To defend well, you pretty much have to be a decent bidder and declarer or you won't know what's going on. I like to give “freeform” signals, where the signal given is the one you think partner should expect to get, given the dummy, the bidding and the defense and declarer play up to this point. Obviously, this only works in an established partnership and only works if you and partner share a vision of what defense is all about.
Aug. 12, 2014
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We use redouble and all bids of 1 of a suit as transfers to the next highest strain. Transferring to 1N shows 6-8 OR 12+ GF values. A bid of 1N shows 9-11 and is natural. A transfer to 1N followed by any bid other than pass shows the strong GF hand. So, this takes the place of the values-showing redouble. If partner's suit was a major, then we play that a bid of the suit below M is a transfer to 2M with a 3-card raise (limit+). We will probably eventually use other bids of 2X in some way, but for now they just show a long suit and a fear the double might be left in.

Transferring to 1N with 6-8 appeals to us more than it might to some, as our 1m openers, if flat, will have 15-19 HCP.
Aug. 4, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Aug. 4, 2014
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Playing K-S, where opener cannot have a weak no trump, but has length in his minor if distributional, these nasty auctions are a bit easier to handle using transfers. This lets us bid the “negative free bid” hands and all invite+ hands (where the invite is of a Big No Trump range, so 8+ HCP is normal). When I designed the methods, I called this “ToTom” (Transfers over Two of the other minor) in our system outline. I thought about this in a 2/1 context and concluded that it wouldn't really work all that well and definitely wasn't worth the effort to learn a whole new structure. You have to work out the details, especially for when their advancer bids, so this is a lot of work. If your flat hands could be either 12-14 or 18-19, good luck!

With the 4-1-4-4 pattern you mention (and 8+ HCP), responder transfers to 2 (opener super accepts with all 4-card fits – to 3 with 15-16 in support of spades, to 4 with 17-18 in support of spades and to a jump-cuebid with 19+ in support) and then rebids 3 with 8-11 or cue bids 3 with more. To accommodate the negative free bid possibilities (4+ HCP and 6+ suit), opener accepts the transfers on almost all hands with less than 18 HCP (he must bid something else with 18+).
Aug. 3, 2014
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Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you.
Aug. 2, 2014
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Will BBO cover the pre-finals rounds? If so, then we can still check out their “movies” of matches played while we slept. Then we can just check the WBF website for finals results and wait for the Bridge World write-up of the finals. Not optimal, but I'm just not going to be downloading any software or paying any fees just for one match played while I'm sleeping.

The problem with even watching on BBO is the incredibly slow pace of play. I tend to watch more when I can hop among several tables, looking for pairs who don't go into extended trances at every turn. Short attention span? Ubetcha. Slow play (which sadly is part of the game) and complicated, artificial bidding systems (of which I wholeheartedly approve) are the reasons there will NEVER be a broad market for watching world level bridge matches. Any business model that depends on having lots of people pay to watch something where nothing at all happens for 5-10 minutes at a time isn't one in which I would want to invest.

BBO's chumming model that expands the market for what they do sell by giving away what would be hard to sell makes sense to me.

Aug. 2, 2014
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My pass just says "YOU pick our strain, as I don't have a clear preference. It's possible that I could have something like 4-4-4-1 (and not enough to cuebid 2) and will correct diamonds to hearts.
Aug. 2, 2014
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