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All comments by Randy Thompson
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I think trying for the grand is yet another attempt at a blame transfer, as we have no way to show what we have or what we need in this cramped auction. Only a few big clubbers and/or relayers will be able to sort this out without a guess being involved. The rest of us, caught in this auction, should just bid the small and hope for the best. As 5, 6 or 7 are all possible “best” contracts, 6 seems to me to be the favorite to be the Goldilocks bid. Why torment partner? Just bid it.

With the opponents “at the alter of truth” (red vs white), 2 is as reasonable a choice as 1. In a rare situation, fear of a 22+ flat hand might keep them out of our auction if we open 2 but 1 might let them risk a major suit overcall. I don't fear 1 all pass – someone has the majors – so 1 isn't much of a risk and might work out best if we are given a free run at a constructive auction. But, I think we could be forced to guess even more in a competitive auction than in this one.
April 12, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment April 12, 2014
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I like this and will have to discuss it with partners. There remains what is a min and what a max in this cramped auction where partner's “range” is about 15-21 and in a pinch he might have 14 with a suit to run or 22-23 and not want to go by 3N…….Probably ignoring any chance of more than 19 (which is unlikely when we are interested in slam) and just use a simple 15-16 is always a min, 18-19 (or more) is always a max and 17 you have to declare to be either 16 or 18.

In my crude current world, I could bid 4m natural and forcing, 4 to play, 4N to invite 6N, 5N to ask pard to pick a slam (bid a long suit if he has one); 6H or 6N to play and 4 to torture partner.
April 11, 2014
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Tough problem. Do we still have slam interest after partner drags his feet with 2? Just barely and only because partner's most likely soft points should be red. If partner cues 4 (cheapest 1st/2d round control) I'll drive it on with keycard; if he shows short diamonds by bidding 4 I'll cue 4, but if he then bids 4 or bids 4 directly over 4, I'm done. He can still have something like KQJxx KQx xx xxx and rebid only 2.
April 11, 2014
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Gary:

I bid 2 and it didn't feel nonsensical at the time. :) It wasn't as odd for me as for some – my partners would be certain I don't have 3 hearts (else would have raised to 2) so I am only 1 heart short of my max for this bid. But I would never face this problem because if my partner had a hand that required a Drury crutch he would have opened 2 in third seat. Oops, that's what he had. Our auction would go P-2H, 3C-P. Easy game this bridge. :) But if he had say another quack somewhere and opened 1, I could have bid 2 natural and encouraging but not forcing (and he would know I didn't have 3 hearts because 3 would have been fit-showing).
April 11, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment April 11, 2014
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Pass will never get you -800, but then it won't ever get you +620 or +600 either. I wouldn't consider bidding here at matchpoints, where -200 undoubled in 3 would fetch a zero, but vul at IMPs, the lure of the game bonus makes me commit a 3 atrocity. It's probably against the odds even vul at IMPs.

Note that over half of the folks can't bring themselves to pass; but then we bidders divide up and make 3 different dreadful calls. When there is NO good choice (pass, dbl, 2N and 3 each presents its own way to achieve disaster) it must be one very good bidding problem! Kudos.
April 11, 2014
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Thx for being in the Well and giving us things to learn from and things to laugh about. Congrats on your most recent big win. And a few questions:

1) What criteria do you prefer for exercising seating rights in the last quarter of a KO? Maximize system swings if ahead but minimize them if behind? Always switch if behind, never if ahead? Keep your most sensitive soul away from the other team's jerk? Never switch if it means a new pair must learn to cope with strange methods by opponents? Other?

2) Do you and Steve have a system outline? If so, how long is it; is it posted online anywhere; and how often do you review it? And does Meckwell's 800 page outline give you system envy or a sigh of relief?

Good luck in future events.
April 10, 2014
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It's 1N or pass, right? Dbl with 3-1 in the majors is not a “logical option.” At least over 1N, partner won't try to play hearts with fewer than 5. U are right that it would feel much better if clubs and hearts were reversed, but I hate to pass with this much, as it puts great stress on partner to discover we are cold for 3N but he had an inconvenient balance. This is what some call a “loose deuce” situation – move the 2 to hearts and 1N is automatic. So, how wrong can it be to bid it anyway?

I used to pass this hand, but have done better in recent years bidding 1N and hoping for the best. We likely have 5+ tricks for partner if he insists on hearts (actually we'll be playing it –another plus for 1N). It's not like we can have an easy way to bid this after passing – passing then bidding 2 natural is a diamond short of that being a good plan. I'd rather be a heart short of what partner expects and otherwise perfect.
April 10, 2014
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6 is a decent contract. Not sure why staying out of that contract should be a bidding goal. I guess we don't make it, but 6 seems automatic to me and dummy does NOT mean we will go down. If the AK of spades drops the queen, don't we make? If AK then ruff a spade with the J doesn't work is that a BAD slam?
April 10, 2014
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Gary: I think the mainstream agreement here is that 2N is either 12-14 or 18+ (more bidding later) and that 3N is 15-17. I don't know what is the optimal agreement. I'm sure good arguments could be made for a variety of treatments and I can't say that the 15-17 3N bid has been a friend of mine at the table – it has jammed some auctions badly. But then when I played 2N showed 15+, the auction-killing 3N bid hurt now and then and the 2N bid didn't come up often enough for something that cheap.

With the hand that you posed, my sound-opening 2/1 and KS partnerships would respond 3N to 1 showing 3+ spades, 12-14 HCP and no stiff/void. Opener then decides whether to pass 3N, correct to 4M while keeping the rest of his hand a secret to the defenders, or cuebid to try for slam. I call this type of raise a “Flat Rat Raise” and find that it really can help partner make some close games by keeping his hand a secret. My open-almost-anything Precision partnership would make a 3-card limit raise with that hand after a semi-forcing 1N response (so the auction might die in 1N!). I don't ever want to be in a partnership where partner hides 3-card major suit support from me for two rounds of bidding! To me that is too much of a puppet show where partner doesn't get to participate fully in the decision making. I'm NOT saying it wouldn't work on a hand like you suggested, or in partnerships with a different style, but only that I won't ever be playing methods that would allow it. If I had bid 2 then 2N on that hand, I'd stay with the lie and bid 3N because my whole hand is comprised of soft minor suit values.
April 8, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment April 8, 2014
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Partner should not sit for a negative double if he has 4 spades or 6 hearts or 5 clubs. If he has say 1-5-3-4 shape and sits with a couple of possible trump tricks and AKxx? Wellllll, our double may not work out very well. I'd probably bid 4 at the table, but here I answered double because I think it gets us our best shot at finding slam in the right strain. Certainly if partner bids 3 or 4 over double we will be glad we did it. Would 4 over a 3 bid by partner show this hand or just more extreme black suit holdings? I think something like this hand, as 4 could show the very-black hand.

Good problem!
April 8, 2014
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Partner cannot hold 3 cards in either major.

Partner has limited his hand with his 2N rebid to 12-14 HCP.

So, we have no 8-card fit and lack the HCP to make a slam just on power. There is no way to find out about the J or the Q and those will only matter if partner has AK A in the minors. Pard did claim a club stopper with 2N even if he expressed some skittishness about 3N with his 3 bid. I think 3N is our most practical game – making with ease if either of our majors runs for five tricks – and likely still making if neither one runs. 4 could get tapped out on a 4-2 spade break, even if partner has Jx unless he also has Qx.

Partner likely has xx Qx AKxxx Axxx, or at least that was what he had when we were given his hand as the bidding problem over 3. :) So, at the other table did they bid 6? Did they bid 6 and make it or did 6 go down? I got to 3N with both hands, so I'm losing a slam bonus to those who caught lightning in a bottle.
April 8, 2014
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In a weak no trump context, where partner's 1 would show either a distributional hand with 4+ diamonds or else 15-19 HCP, I play transfers (ToTom – Transfers over Two of the other minor, with redbl a transfer to diamonds, 2 a transfer to hearts and 2 a transfer to spades). This transfer shows EITHER 6+ spades and whatever points Bridgetta dealt us (Okay I'd probably pass with 0-3 and 6 spades, OR 4+ spades and a hand that at least would have invited game over a big NT hand (about 8+ HCP). Here, we have both. Partner must jump accept to 3 with four spades and 15-16 in support of spades, to 4 with 17-18 in support of spades or jump cuebid (here 4) with 19+ in support of spades. Completing the transfer shows less than 4 spades and less than 18 HCP (gotta bid more with 18+ and gotta show the support with 4 spades).

In a standard context, I'd double (negative) and correct 3 to 3 (reluctantly, and fully aware that playing hearts could still be right). Partner should have 5+ hearts and fewer than 3 spades to bid 4 over this 3 bid. I don't think we should correct hearts to spades with only a 5-3 disparity, so this hopefully will get the message across. If we aren't too high already in 3 we should be okay on determining our best strain.
April 8, 2014
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Yeah, the Washington DC area, where I played for 33 years, is known for its weak fields. If there are stronger places to play in North America, then I have yet to visit them. New York is probably as strong; These days Las Vegas must be strong given all the retirees and pros there. Chicago was strong for a while, don't know about now. Nowhere else is even close to as strong as Washington when it comes to top to bottom of the field. I played these methods into the round of 16 in the Vanderbilt; that was a weak field. I played them to a top 10 finish in the National IMPs pairs. That was a weak field. Don't let pre-conceptions substitute for having a clue about what you are talking about.
April 7, 2014
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Partner could have bid 4 with a 6 card suit at any point. He bid 3 in hopes of finding a 5-3 fit that may play better (say he has good hearts and bad spades). If you cue bid 4 how is he to know that you don't have 3 hearts and a good hand for slam (the hand you have but with one little black card transformed into a small heart)? He won't bid 4 now – ever – even if he has 6. That poor soul will now be sure you have 3 hearts. Now if you bid 3 he will know to do that but he will expect your majors to be reversed and might do it with a good five-card spade suit. The time when he can be most sure to bid 4 with a 6-5 or 4 with a 5-6 is if you bid 3N – denying 3 hearts and virtually denying honor-x in spades.
April 7, 2014
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Our explanation of 2N is: “Minors, weak or strong, or diamonds, strong, asks me to bid my better minor.”

The transfer to hearts on a 4-card suit has happened about 2 or 3 times in 40 years of playing with that partner and we super accept and make all LAWful bidding decisions on the basis that it will be 5 card suit, so that is no more of an explainable bid than 1S in third seat – “could be a psych!” Folks psych 1S against me way more often than this has happened.

Passing doesn't guarantee values – we might pass with a weak flat hand if opener was in second or third seat or if we thought the opponents weren't very good and might just let us stay there and bleed out one undoubled trick at a time in 1N. So should the explanation be “shows values – unless he thinks you are a weak pair or thinks he might be able to scramble to two of a minor if you double?”

I did alert those passes in the past and felt guilty enough about them that I asked more than one national director. I was told that it would be akin to coffee housing to alert the pass and that we should NOT alert them. Personally, I still think they should be alertable, but I try not to do things that national directors tell me not to do.

Guess we won't be playing on a team. Better check that with every weak no trumper with whom you play, as 90% or more of them will expect partner to have some values if he passes 1N.
April 7, 2014
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Passing with 2-6-3-2 is something I would rather gargle razor blades than do! Playing every size of 1N opener, my partners will bid 3C if they have 4 hearts and a max and will bid 3H if they have 4 hearts and a min. Over either response, I'd bid me a game in hearts! They will each play me for their partner's points. If partner bids only 2H, then they have no idea we aren't slamming until I pass his 2H bid. And only ONE of them still has a turn to bid. Take-out double is easy? Really? Not if he has 3 or 4 hearts. If he had been short in hearts, he could have made a take-out already by bidding 2H over my 2D. What he may have if not armed with state-of-the-art agreements over weak NT is a big flat hand – say 3-3-4-3 or the like. Those should double that transfer or stayman bid at the go (or double 1N at the go if sitting behind opener). If my choice was bidding 2H to play instead of Jacoby, then I suppose passing could make some sense. If 2H over 1N is to play, the secret is out of the bag and TWO opponents have a turn to bid. Yikes!
April 7, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment April 7, 2014
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Dean:

With 2344 I would bid 2N (pick a minor) – could be a slam try or a game force or a shapely hand just short of game invite or a hand like this that is just blowing smoke. Until I pass 3m they can't rule out the strong variations and even then they have no clue whether it's shapely or scared.

With 2335 I bid Stayman and pass 2H or 2D and bid 3C (to play) over 2S.

With 4333 or 3-4-3-3 or 3-3-4-3 or 3-3-3-4, I bid Stayman and pass the response.

With 4-2-3-4 or 4-2-4-3, I bid Stayman and over 2H bid 2S (to play with only 4 and some minor suit as another possible place to play). As I might also hold a 5 card minor here, partner usually bids 2N if he can't stand spades and only bids 3m with a 5 cd suit.

You didn't give the hardest tester of a resolve to run before the double – 2-4-3-4. With that, my partner has been known to transfer to hearts and pass.

There is NO way for the opponents to be sure we don't have an 8 or 9 card fit and if they have defined their balancing doubles here as take-out they could have a very uncomfortable shape – say 4 or 5 of the suit we are about to play – undoubled.

I've been doing all that and more for about 40 years and it works – because people DO balance with double on big flat hands; it's only those who know the secrets of the slippery weak no trumpers who pass with big flat hands. It is important for a newbie weak no trumper to learn to run first to confuse the issue and to isolate the competitive pressure on ONE opponent – the one who still has a turn after you reveal you have less than a game invite by passing something opener bids. It shouldn't take long at playing a weak no trump to work out that a moving target is much harder to hit than a stationary one. Note that you are here working out all your responses to a balancing double other than the one that frightens Weak no trump responders most if very weak – PASS. That is the 100% response to double if responder has stuck his head in the sand and passed with some uncomfortable shape when extremely weak.

Also, EVERY two level response to a weak no trump should be a possible slam or game try as well as an invite or escape sequence. If you play two-way Stayman, you will do well in bidding contests but real life opponents will want to hug you and bless you for being so easy for them to play against. Now they can double your 2C for cards and double your 2D for a lead and enter each auction freely with their partner knowing whether there is a game bonus to protect aggressive competition and whether a power-based game is still possible their way.

It may show that this is one of my pet obsessions in bidding theory. :) I don't know about the “pups” who play the micro NT for funsies, but we “old dogs” who have been doing this a long long time all are scramblers before the double – take it to the bank. The pups will learn as they score up their -500's when they didn't blow enough smoke to escape.
April 7, 2014
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The problem is that 4 will sound to partner like a hand that has one more heart and one fewer black cards and really likes hearts for slam! I don't agree with point (1) of your three points – this sounds like a cue for hearts not a don't-like-eitherl-major cue bid.
April 7, 2014
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Responder holds SIX+ while partner holds ZERO+. It doesn't matter what the no trump range is, 10-12, 12-14 whatever. Either way, if responder is weak he will NOT pass 1N if he has been playing weak no trumps for more than a month or two. Take it to the bank. Responder will have 7-12 HCP if their range is 10-12, so that will leave partner's MAX at 7 HCP if we have 17. 0-7 tends to be 3 or 4, which makes this a jump ball hand where 1N is much easier to make than defend. If you don't play the weak or mini no trumps then maybe you dream of responder having 0 but that will NOT be the case against any experienced pair using this range.
April 7, 2014
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I bid 1N, but it was close between that and pass. I lacked the imagination to bid 1, but might have bid it had it occurred to me. 1 would be my last choice – that's the one bid most likely to overexcite partner. That can result in a violation of the Law of Total Trumps (never name a suit trumps where the opponents hold more of it than we do). One meta-agreement of my partnerships is to never bid a 3 card major in response to a take-out double. When RHO passed the double, and we are broke, major suit bids tend to get us way too high – and in the wrong strain. Pards tend to hope we have 5 spades if we bid 1 here.
April 7, 2014
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