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Stop! Thief!

If you don't wish to or don't have the time/ patience to read some of the background to the main issue of this article, Please just skip to the 6 paragraph that begins, "This is one reason..."

I need to preface this article with an admission that I have always had issues with certain types of memory/ working memory/ remembering what I learned or read.  When I first started learning how to play Bridge about 50 years ago, give or take, I was soon struck and dismayed as a beginner by how much of what I learned about bidding with out competition often had to be modified (if not abandoned) whenever the opponents interfered or competed.  And that required new or additional learning and memory work.  I was much younger and was pretty much able to handle the additional information processing provided that 1) I had access to the information and 2) the information was explained or presented in a manner that made sense including when to use it and how it related to what I already knew.  This is a basic paradigm of teaching and learning: building off what you've already learned  Of course the information and options back then were significantly less than they are now: "today's modern is tomorrow's obsolete".

Throughout this whole process I always hoped to find ways to make it so things stayed as close to usual when the opponents competed as when they didn't.  I had tried/ felt (and still do to a significant degree) that I didn't want to let the fact that the opponents bid to be able to disrupt the foundations of what I was playing.  To put it another way, I wanted to try to minimize having the opponent's competitive bidding move me out of my comfort zone as much as possible.  So, as we were still relatively limited-skill players, we adopted a few approaches that might not have been optimal for more skilled players but helped us to at least know what we were doing and handle most situations with minimal disruption.  For example, we ignored the opponent's takeout doubles and maintained our basic system (many still do this), after a double of 1 or 1.  We played that XX showed a 3-card limit raise or better.  We gave up potential penalties (which didn't seem to occur when responder had trump support anyway as he/ she usually wound up raising the suit the following round anyway).  We hadn't really learned that much about follow-up bidding after redoubles anyway, so this just wasn't a biggie for us.

Temporarily shifting topics:

It seems to me that a lot of people on bridgewinners are always asking questions like "what is the best way" to handle something, "what is the expert way", or what methods do the top, world class players and BW members play.  What new innovations are currently available and being used at the top levels.  Assess the blame, aka, "where did we go wrong?" What is the scope and breadth of information that I might use to help my game, my partnership?  I can only speak for myself but, beside all of the great people on this site, things that I particularly love about BW is the immense source of information that is available and shared, the way that people will refer you to resources, and the ability to converse, share ideas, ask questions, and receive feedback from people, most of whom are much more knowledgeable than I (or is it me?).  That being said, I also realize that not every idea, method, or innovation is right for everyone.  There are so many variable in play there with regards to what's right for you or me.

One of the factors, imo, that affects the latter is (besides finding someone to play the things that people suggest with you) is one's ability to remember the information.  A number of years ago I believe there was some conversation or a thread or two about what helps make a person a highly successful bridge player/ winner/ champion.  I felt that a number of people that responded seemed to minimize the importance of having a strong memory, or at least a working memory.  It reminded me of when some of my brother's MIT friends used to ask me why I studied so much, so hard in junior and senior high school.  It ws almost as if these super bright people were almost taking memory for granted.)

Well, I disagree strongly with any who might minimize the importance that working memory might have on bridge skills.  The thinking, reasoning, logic, problems-solving skills that are involved in success would be less effective if one had difficulty holding information in working memory, especially as bridge proscribes use of memory aids.  


This is one reason I, a non-expert bridge player with working memory that seems to be getting worse, am often looking for ways to reduce brain drain.  I also play with a few people online who have limited bridge skills/ bridge education/ knowledge of methodology as well as memory skills that ain't getting any better.  Two of them, one especially, don't know the lebensohl convention or really what to do if the opponents interfere over a 1NT opening bid.  I am seeking to provide them with something that might work for them (and I am interested in it as well.)  They like to play Shadow, Mirror, or Stolen Bid doubles (hence the "stop thief" title).  Now I am aware that such methods are frowned on by most more skilled players (I have and have read the 2008-09 article by Mel Colchamiro where he includes the quote: "Warning.  The Surgeon General has determined that mirror doubles/ stolen bid doubles are detrimental to your bridge health."  He proceeds to report that his survey of 20 of the top players in the US say that they don't play them and that they play either Negative or Penalty Doubles after 1NT-overcall, acknowledging that system is on after double or 2C overcalls.

But what if one could combine Negative and Stolen Bid doubles into one convention, albeit with a few weaknesses?  Even those who play stolen bid Xs know what negative double are, just maybe not how they are adapted to when the opponents overcall partner's 1NT opening bid.  If this could be made to work, then the player would be able to keep the basic set of responses to 1NT that they use without competition with just having to learn what a neg X after a 1NT opening is, how to respond to it, and how responder's followup bid clarifies what the double meant.

The structure that I am trying to develop will at least apply to 2, 2 and 2 overcalls of 1NT, and for simplicity's sake, probably after a 2 overcall.  (It would be nice if these lesser skilled players could learn leb and/ or transfer leb, but it causes them more brain drain).  Simply put, a double of an overall of partner's 1NT opening bid is made on either a hand that wants to transfer to the next suit (or whatever the next bid would mean) or on a hand that qualifies for a negative double.  It could be either.  Opener responds under the assumption that the double is a transfer and either accepts the transfer with 2 or 3 cards in the suit, or makes one of 2 pre-acceptance calls with 4 cards in the suit. (Currently, the idea is to rebid 2NT with the notrump hand that would not accept an invitation to 3NT, and to bid 3 of the major with a hand that would accept a game invite).  Any bid by responder (doubler) after the 1NT opener merely accepts the transfer shows a Neg X-type hand and is forcing to at least 2NT.  This would even permit opener to find a fit in the other major as well as in a minor, to check for stoppers with a max NT: some of this needs to be carified further.

There are a few caveats or things that opener can NOT do after the double:  1) opener may not convert the double to penalties as might be possible if playing negative doubles because opener doesn't know which type of hand partner has.  2)  if responder takes a 2nd bid, opener can not convert back to 3M,  3)  the partnership would have to decide what further bids would mean if the 4th hand raises his partner's overcall after the 2-way double.   Opener may not bid 3M just because of holding 3 cards in the M: responder could be less that invitational.  Discussions of what doubles in such situations would mean would be up to the partnership although, imo, if the doubler was implying shortness in the opps's suit with invitational-plus values if his/ her double was negative, then double there should be convertable.  And you give up penalty double in immediate seat although there's no law against the 1NT bidder reopening with a double on the right hand and having it converted  :).  I don't know how vulnerable this approach might be to preemption, but the doubler might well know what to do if the opponents try to up the ante.

What are the benefits?  Reduced brain drain, ability to make a minor suit transfer or show both minors (something that is hard to do playing leb or leb variants), ability to show 2-suiters, etc.

I would appreciate feedback, ideas on how to make this crazy idea work (you don;t want to know what I do with Bergen Raises in comp).

Recommended for highly advanced, expert, world class players.  No Way.  But it might be interesting to compere how playable or effective this idea is to what is currently at various levers even if this suggestion might be theoretically much less sound.  To compare the theoretical with the practical.  Anyway, this is just an idea that I've been thinking about and decided to risk sharing it knowing the general lower regard for stolen bid doubles among many skilled players.

Thank any and all of you who actually read through to this point.



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