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All comments by Randy Thompson
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No – all system-on bids, including transfers, are invite+ – we let THEM do the preempting and if they do partner knows we have at least game invite values. It might be different if playing a micro no trump, but ours is a robust 12-14, where we subtract a point for 4-3-3-3 and thus if 4-3-3-3 are 13-15 and if we have only 12 we have at least two quick tricks. Once responder has as many as 5 points, there is no big return on preempting. The key is to let partner know when we are “just competing” (e.g., redouble then bid 2) or are looking for game (e.g., transfer to spades immediately).
Sept. 6, 2014
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IMO, having played 12-14 NTs since 1974, every 2-level response should be the possible beginning of an escape, an invite, a gf, or a slam try. When that isn't the case, (e.g., 2-way stayman) then it is much easier to defend. Also, weak NTs are no better than a 50% device at match points but are MUCH better at IMPs. Folks imagine that -800 is the downside of weak NTs but that couldn't be more wrong. +90 when cold for +140 is the nightmare of weak NTs and that matters only at match points. Weak NTs can dominate your match point results – giving you a huge edge or huge disadvantage with about the same frequency. That sets you apart from the field and helps you win some games but will doom you to a dreadful score now and then.

You need good methods for auctions when they double. I recommend that you handle all escapes with either pass or redouble and keep your constructive system “on.” Redouble should deny invite values, show some 5+ suit and opener bids 2 and responder passes or corrects. Pass is more complicated. It MIGHT be an invite+ hand (but with no major suit interest), might be one where you expect to make 1N, or might be one where you are really hurting – no 5 card suit and very weak. Opener is required to: Pass with any 4-3-3-3 (we won't have a better place to play); bid a 5 card suit (and if he can't have a 5 card major then bid 2 with 4-4 in the majors); or else redouble to show 2 (or 3) four-card suits (and if 2 would have shown the majors then at least one of those suits is a minor). If opener passes or bids a 5 card suit the auction is over unless responder had a game-going hand with no major suit interest (any free bid by responder shows such a hand). If opener bids 2 to show both majors, then responder passes or corrects to spades. If opener redoubles, then the dancing begins if responder is too weak to pass the redouble. If responder has 2 four card suits, he bids his cheapest one and we look for our best fit. If responder has 3-3-3-4 or 3-3-4-3 he bids his minor and then passes thereafter. If responder is 4-3-3-3 or 3-4-3-3, he starts with 2 but if they double and partner sits (showing clubs) he then redoubles (to show one of those two hands) and opener places the contract in opener's second four-card suit. When evaluating escape methods, remember that WHERE you find them matters a LOT – finding a 4-4 club fit at the 2 level is super; finding it at the 3 level hands you one more undertrick.

Some of the power of those methods aren't obvious. One primary goal of escapes is to encourage one opponent to bid something and take us off the hook. When responder MIGHT have a game going hand for his pass and Opener MIGHT pass the double when responder passes, there is tremendous pressure on a busted partner of the doubler to rescue us NOW, even when doubler had us destroyed all on his own. When responder MIGHT have a game-going hand when opener redoubles, a light doubler is under pressure to run now if he has a suit, even if is partner has a ton of points. Each time WE bid a suit, it could get passed out, so if unable to double for penalties, there is often pressure for them to bid something NOW (from either side).

Don't get so caught up in YOUR methods that you forget how easy or hard they make life on opponents. For example, bidding 2M to play leaves TWO opponents a turn to bid with the knowledge that they have about 1/2 the deck. After a jacoby-then-pass sequence, only ONE opponent has a turn to bid and may well have an awkward choice. Or if passing a double DENIES values and FORCES opener to do something other than pass, then the doubler's partner is under no pressure to help us out. I spent a lot of decades working on this and changed a lot over time before settling on the stuff described above in the mid 90's. Last time we were “numbered” – about 2 or 3 years ago (can't remember but know it was a long time ago).
Sept. 6, 2014
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It feels like I should alert, as partner knows WAY more than the opponents about my hand. I've often said that it “feels like cheating” to know that pard's opening bid in 3d seat has opening bid values. But, we have been told in even-clearer situations that negative inferences need not be alerted. Example: Nonvul, over big no trump openings, the ONLY shapes where we pass (except in rare state-of-the-game situations where we have a KO match or matchpoint event already won) are: 4-3-3-3's and 5-3-3-2's. So, first board out, when my partner passes 1N, I know he has one of those shapes. “Not an alert” say several national directors. When I open a weak NT in first second or third seat and partner passes, I know with about 95% certainty that his hand will fit the description “6-10 HCP, no five card major,” yet that's “not an alert” say several national directors. (The opponents' silence makes it unlikely that we need to take evasive action as responder to a 4th seat weak NT.) One advantage of our full-values 3d seat openers is that unlike many drury addicts we CAN double you if you get frisky over our 3d seat openers (leave in a balancing double with knowledge that pard has 13 HCP or else 2+ QTs, etc.)

Is 2 still drury if they bid 1N? Fantastic! You can't double me for penalties if you have a fit? What if they make an preemptive-by-agreement but intermediate-by-tactics jump overcall? Now you don't know if partner even has 5 pieces for his “opening bid” but you think he does …if the preempt has preempt values…. and on and on.

The smoke screen is the one that YOUR (drury-induced) doubts create, not their actions.
Sept. 5, 2014
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I can preempt 1N on 12-14 (well, not ALL 12 counts, as they can't be 4-3-3-3 or have <2QT), so with hands with only 4-card suits I often can do that . . . or I can make use of one of those magical green cards in the bidding box that let partner know I don't have an opening bid, don't have 5 diamonds and don't have a five-card major, other than maybe a very bad major.

Nonvul in third seat, any hand with 5 diamonds can be bid 2 and in my youth (long long ago, in a galaxy far, far away) I DID open 2 on QJxx a time or two but the ACBL got stodgy about that so I stopped. I reserve the right to do it again, as it has been decades since the last instance and can't be called a “pattern.” (partner will play me for at least a low straight flush in diamonds). Now, both of the following are clearcut nonvul 2 openers in 3d seat: Kxxxx, Ax 65432 x and Ax Qxx KJxxxx Jx. Nothing quite like a side 5-card spade suit to keep shape-double opponents from doubling, and that is the suit that can be bid at the 2 level if they do reopen with a double or leave in a take-out double when it's back to me. Partner expects at least Qxxxx for a 2 opener nonvul in 3d seat and QJxxx for a 2 opener there. If 5-5 in the reds, I prefer a !2H opener with a diamond bid to come later if they give me a chance.

The payoff for playing 5-card majors and having opening bids in 3d seat promise opening values come on the constructive hands where partner doesn't have a good fit and on competitive hands of all varieties and on the constructive hands where the fourth seat hand takes a bid (and it always should if possible, including psyching 1N, etc. to take advantage of the smoke screen created by drury addiction).
Sept. 5, 2014
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We play 3-way immediate non-drury in 3d seat (undisciplined weak 2's), so that opening 1M in 3d seat shows an opening 1M bid and system can stay on, including a natural 2. We do dump Bergen raises for fit-showing raises and old-fashioned simple and limit raises. We have been using 2N as a 3-card limit raise, but I don't like that (preferring 1N then 3M instead, as partner will only pass 1N with a minimum flat hand). Still fishing for a good use and reading here to try to find one.

For all those relying on Drury to let their 3d-seat opening bids range from 8 to 20, I usually ask what is Drury after P-P-1S-2H? Do your opponents really let you just bid upside down flip flop 2-way Drury or must responder guess whether opener has an opener or a drury-induced 4-card psych? Just asking.
Sept. 5, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Sept. 5, 2014
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I'm a passer. Whether partner's pass was intended as forcing or not, the force, if any, was based on my stretched-beyond-the-max 3N. I choose to unbid that game! If partner couldn't bid 4N or double, then I'm betting that we weren't making the game I bid at my last turn. IMO, we can't come within two tricks of making a (likely doubled) game and we would at best beat 4 one trick, so the imp odds on double are dreadful and bidding 4N or 5 when we MIGHT beat 4 is worse than doubling. We may have only two tricks for partner in 5. I don't see how partner could have intended a pass-and-pull slam try given my club holding, but if he did, maybe he was slicing the salami too thin with his pass.
Sept. 3, 2014
Randy Thompson edited this comment Sept. 3, 2014
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From what I've read, tables are close together and smokers wander among them while hands are live. Not an atmosphere where some would want to play for lots of money.
Sept. 3, 2014
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We MIGHT have five tricks on defense. No chance whatsoever we have 9 tricks in spades or 10 in a minor unless partner bids it w/o prompting.
Sept. 3, 2014
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Encyclopedia of Bridge suit combinations suggests low to the 9 is best. I always hope my partner has this play to make and that if this is all we needed to make the game, then I must not have bid it all that badly. :)
Sept. 2, 2014
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I don't think it's worth investing a lot of energy in defining the various strengths of raises here, unless you are playing against frequent psychers. We would just bid 3 as often as possible (take their bidding space and suggest a save) and in the rare case where you have enough defense that you thought it could be our hand, perhaps cuebid 3 along the way. Double should just show a high honor (likely a doubleton) and ask partner to underlead if they bid 3N.
Sept. 2, 2014
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You apparently assume that a 3m rebid by responder is forcing. If playing WEAK NT, then should not be forcing. Therefore Stayman is clear. If partner rebids 2, or 2, you smile and pass; if partner bids 2, you bid 3 and hope.
Sept. 1, 2014
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If playing my favorite methods, I'd bid 3N (3+ hearts, 12-14 HCP and no stiff/void) – a “Flat Rat Raise.” The ability to hide declarer's hand from the opps can result in a tenth trick. If forced to commit a 2 bid if forcing game, I'd rather call it a 3-card limit raise (which was how I voted). Also, if our opening bids weren't very sound than I'd also vote for the 3-card limit evaluation.
Sept. 1, 2014
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“When the kibitzers don't know what trumps are, the last bid suit is trumps.” That rule has worked well over the years. My partner just sent me this question by e-mail and we were pleased that we both said “spades.” To avoid this confusion, we have agreed that cuebidding of cheapest first/2d round controls in support of hearts begins with 4 in this auction, not 3. We already have the firm agreement that you can never commence a cuebidding sequence with a cue of shortness in partner's suit. This just adds a no-cue policy where you have not denied support for his first-bid suit.
Aug. 31, 2014
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I'm not as down on this auction as many apparently are. The 1 opening is a matter of style (I'd open it a 12-14 1N or a 14-16 1N or 1, depending on system and partner.) 2 is clear. 2 is a reasonable choice, although it has a lot in reserve if we are playing diamonds and not no trump. If 3 was a game try, rather than an attempt to unring the 1 bell, then it's only a little pushy. If 3 was a game try then 5 isn't all that bad, tho maybe a 3 cue bid would be better. Opener MIGHT have been 2-1-5-5 after all. If 3 was meant to unring the diamond bell, then it was the big error here, as partner's negative double showed hearts and a minor and he has said that diamonds is that minor. If we must hang someone for this auction, I suppose it is South, but this auction might happen in the best of families.
Aug. 29, 2014
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If this hand is possible for a negative double, then the partnership should never never never convert a negative double to penalties by passing. I can go either way on this issue (can negative doubles just be based on shape or must they have some convertible values) if partner has a strong preference. As I like to take out takeout doubles, I mildly prefer to allow one on something like this. But, IMO, either way can work, so long as you and partner are on the same page on this sort of double (see also 5-5 in the unbid suits with similar values).
Aug. 29, 2014
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Try using your fingers, but on your lap, out of sight while continuing to look only at your cards. You don't have to look at your fingers; you can do it by feel or leg taps, leaving each finger on the leg until done. I find that when I'm using Redwood or RKC Gerber or Kickback instead of 4N, I have to do something like this to help my aging mind not just resort to the bid that would be right in response to 4N. Yet another huge advantage of bidding screens!
Aug. 29, 2014
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Undiscussed, this is not lebensohl.
I think it shows their suits and wants me to bid a 5+ card suit. Pard could be say 3-3-4-3. I bid 3.
Aug. 28, 2014
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It's rude and obnoxious to leave the table for any reason other than necessity (bathroom or water come to mind). If it slows down the session, I'd call the director on the second time the person left for any reason and every subsequent time.
Aug. 27, 2014
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It makes NO sense to play puppet stayman over a weak no trump as there is just no reason to open a weak no trump with a five-card major.
Aug. 27, 2014
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On a side note – Whatever happened to the hundreds of bidding screens newly constructed for the world championships held in Philly a few years ago? We had high hopes they would have been purchased by the ACBL and used more extensively at NABC events. Pity that so few can be available for those. Did those get shipped elsewhere in the world? Destroyed? Stored somewhere until there is another world event here?

I don't know anyone who didn't love bidding boxes as soon as they got to use them once. My first time was in 1983 and it took about one session to love them. Most everyone I know loves screens, but few get to use them. Bridge with screens is way better – just not seeing partner's face when I put down another of my disappointing dummies makes them worthwhile. It is way easier to be ethical with screens, so long as you don't get too carried away and volunteer “usually” when you mean “usually, but not this time.” :)
Aug. 26, 2014
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