Thursday, June 22, 2017

NEGATIVE DOUBLES, Part I






At its basics, a negative double is a double by you when your partner has opened the bidding with a minor suit (clubs or diamonds), and your Right Hand Opponent (RHO) has overcalled a major (hearts or spades). Your double tells your Partner that you have exactly four cards in the unbid major and a certain number of High Card Points (HCP).   It also implies support in the other unbid suit, but this is not an absolute requirement.

One level negative doubles

Let's say you're in third seat and the bidding has gone 1 Diamond by your partner, 1 Heart by your RHO and you hold the following:

KQ75
T9
J762
873

        Not wonderful, is it?  But you do have four Spades and you do have six HCP.  If your RHO had passed, you would just bid 1 Spade and let it go at that.  But how does your partner know how many Spades you have?  You could have five Spades, or you could have four Spades.

        When your RHO overcalls in this situation, the Negative Double takes care of that problem for you.  If you have at least five Spades and this hand, you bid 1 Spade.  But if you have this hand, with four Spades, you Double!

        This is a conventional bid that doesn't mean what it says.  It is not a penalty double.  You aren't saying to your partner, "Hey, pard, we got 'em.  We can set this baby, so I'm doubling!"

        No, it doesn't say that at all. Instead, it says, "Partner, I have at least six HCP and exactly four Spades in my hand.  Not five Spades.  Not six Spades.  Not three Spades.  Exactly four Spades."

        The requirements for a one level negative double, that is, a negative double that allows your partner to make a bid and stay at the one level, are as follows:

1) At least six HCP;
2) Exactly four cards in the unbid major;

Two level Negative Doubles

        The requirements become more stringent as you force your partner to higher levels of bidding.  So, look at the following hand:

T97
KQ85
73
KT64

Bidding goes like this:

P              RHO     You
1            1        ?

        Now, you know you can't bid a new suit at the two level without at least ten HCP.  If you were to bid a new suit with this hand at the two level you would be lying to your partner.  And you don't want to have one of those conversations when she takes action on your promised strength only to find out you lied.

        So what are you to do?  Your hand isn't bad and you do have four Hearts, which your partner might like to know about.  What to do?

        Ah, you're probably way ahead of me.  Negative double!   In this hand you have four Hearts and eight HCP, exactly what you need to make a negative double which forces your partner to bid at the two level.  The Negative Double is a terrific way to tell your partner what you have without lying to her.

You might have more than six HCP when you make a negative double at the one level and more than eight HCP when you make it at the two level, but you are promising that you have at least six HCP at the one level and at least eight HCP at the two level.

        Again, I am going to stress that you cannot lie to your partner.  If, instead of the hand above you had the following:

T97
KJ85
73
QT64

and the bidding went as above, 1 Diamond by Partner and 1 Spade by your RHO, you may not make a negative double because, if you did, you would be forcing your partner to bid at the two level and you do not have eight HCP.  Your bid here would be to Pass.  Partner has another bid so you have no obligation to keep the bidding open.  You can't bid a new suit at the two level because you don't have ten HCP and you can't bid 1 No Trump because you don't have Spades, your RHO's bid, stopped.  So all you can do is pass.

        I know a lot of players who would be tempted to make a negative double with this hand, even though they don't have enough HCP.  But I hope you are not one of these.  Don't lie to your partner.

Following is a chart showing point requirements for negative doubles:

Level         HCP
1              6
2              8
3              10

To recapitulate,
1) If your negative double will allow your partner to bid your suit at the one level, you can make a negative double with only 6 HCP in your hand.
2) If your negative double will force your partner to bid your suit at the two level, you must have at least eight HCP in your hand. 
3) If your negative double will force your partner to bid your suit at the three level, you must have at least ten HCP in your hand.

That's a start. We'll get into more variations next time.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Respond to a Reverse



A reverse is when opener for her second call bids a suit at the 2 level that is higher ranking than the suit that she opened at the 1 level. Example: You open 1 Club. Your partner responds 1 Spade. You bid 2 Diamonds. Diamonds is higher ranking than Clubs, and you have bid them at the 2 level, so you have reversed. It also promises more cards in your first bid suit than in your second, either 5-4 or 6-5. 

A reverse promises that you have at least 17 HCP and is forcing on your partner for one round. In other words, if you reverse, your partner must bid again, no matter how weak her hand. In today’s modern bridge, almost everybody plays reverses.

As a caveat, if your hand is 6-5, you need only an opening hand to reverse and you show your hand by bidding the second suit twice, for example

South             West   North             East
1C                   P         1H                   P
2D*                 P         2N                   P
3D**

*Reverse    
               
**shows 6 clubs and 5 diamonds and at least 13 HCP

When inexperienced players have a five card major and a six card minor, they often open the bidding with the five card major. This is a mistake because once you do that, you can never accurately describe your hand. Although there might be a few rare exceptions, you should always open the bidding with your longest suit.

The difficult question is, what do you rebid when your partner has reversed (and most reverses involve a 5 card suit and a 4 card suit)? Here’s a hand that arose recently:

North

♠ 853
♥ KJ5
♦ AJ7
♣ T953

Here’s the bidding:

South        West         North        East
1C             P               1N              P
2D*           P               ?

*Reverse           
 
What’s your call? You have to bid again and you have a pretty good hand. Partner has reversed, showing at least 17 HCP and you have 9 HCP. You should have game somewhere, but where? Obviously no trump is where you want to be, but you don’t know where partner’s points are.

This is where communication in bidding arises. You should show partner that you have a stopper in hearts with your KJ5 by bidding 2H. Even though you only have three hearts, partner knows you don’t have 4 or more because you bypassed hearts to bid 1N.

If partner has the other suit stopped (spades), she can bid 3N.

Here is the actual hand:

        North
        853
        KJ5
        AJ7
        T953
West         East
T6          AQ972
QT964    8732
T843      Q5
KJ         84
        South
        KJ3
        A
        K962
        AQ763

With this holding, South can confidently bid 3N because she’s got a spade stopper but would be worried about a heart lead if you had not told her that you had hearts stopped.

Here’s the correct bidding:

South        West         North        East
1C             P              1N            P
2D             P              2H            P
3N            All Pass

In the actual hand, North did not bid her heart stopper. Instead she bid 3C. South invited with 4 clubs and North went to 5, for down 1 when it sails 3N.






Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pick a Slam

Here's your hand sitting third seat as South.

♠ K4
♥ AK732
♦ Q53
♣ T95

Here's the auction with North dealer:

West
North
East
South

2N
P
3D*
P
3HP?









* Transfer

Wow! You have 12 HCP and your partner, North, opens 2N showing 20-21 HCP and a balanced hand. You know you should be in slam, but in what strain, hearts or no trump? You don't know if your partner has only 2 hearts or 3 or more. How do you probe with your second bid after you have transferred to hearts? A bid of 3N would surely stop the bidding if partner only has 2 hearts, when you would want to be in 6N. You could bid a new suit but that would misinform opener and could lead down the primrose path to the wrong bid. In the actual hand, South just made a unilateral bid of 6H, hoping opener had 3 hearts.

Here's the four hand layout:

                        North
                        ♠ AQJT
                        ♥ 65
                        ♦ A987
                        ♣ AKQ


West                                        East
9872                                     ♠ 653
♥ J84                                       ♥ QT9
42                                         ♦ KJT6
J872                                     ♣ 643

                        South
                        ♠ K4
                        ♥ AK732
                        ♦ Q53
                        ♣ T95

Alas, opener only had 2 hearts. There is, however, a perfect bid for South's dilemma. She jumps to 5N. This says, "Partner I know we should be in slam but I don't know whether you have 3 hearts or more or only 2 hearts. So if you have at least 3 hearts, bid 6H. If you only have two hearts, bid 6N. It's up to you. But please do not pass 5N!"

In the actual hand, I was playing in 6H. I got a club lead and took the Ace. I led a low heart to the dummy and ducked the 9, hoping for a 3-3 split. When East returned a club I easily made 6 when hearts split, taking 4 spades, 4 hearts, 3 clubs, and a diamond. It plays exactly the same way in 6N, which is the correct contract.

The only problem would come with a diamond lead. If East leads the diamond jack (which is a standard lead from KJTx against no trump), I have to play the queen. If I go low I have to take the trick with my Ace. Then when I lose a heart, which I must to set up 4 heart tricks, I lose the King of diamonds and it's down 1. But with the lead of the jack, I have to play the queen because if west has the king I have to lose a diamond either way, since it will set up east's Ten. Going low forces me to take it with the Ace regardless of where the king is. Going up with the queen and hoping east underled the king is the only way to make the slam with a lead of the diamond jack. That's why this is a less than 50% slam; it requires either a lead of something other than a diamond or that east underleads the diamond king and that hearts split 3-3.

So remember this when your partner has a big hand with a no trump opener and you have a five card major and want to be in slam. The only way to discover how many cards in your major that your partner has is to jump to 5N after you transfer to your 5 card major at the 2 level, Pick a Slam. Discuss this with your partner so she'll know what you're doing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Weak Response to Strong 2 Club opening bid





Here’s a hand that came up recently. Dealer opened 2C and her partner held:

♠ T86532
♥ 3
♦ JT73
♣ 74

Here was the bidding:


West
North
East
South


2C
P
2D
P
2H
P
?








You have a six card spade suit. What do you call?

There are several ways that players use to respond when partner makes a strong two club opening bid. One is to use a bid of two hearts to show a weak hand with no aces or kings and no more than four points. In my judgment using a major, which will be trump at least 20% of the time, to show a woefully weak hand, is ill-advised.

In accordance with my belief that standard bidding is the best, I use the “cheaper minor” to show a weak hand, with the automatic response of two diamonds as a waiting bid. If opener responds with two hearts or two spades, a rebid by responder of three clubs shows an extraordinarily weak hand. Any other call by responder shows five HCP or more.

In this hand the responder, an experienced player, bid 2S. Here was opener’s hand:

♠ AK
♥ AKQT72
♦ A
♣ KJ82

With 24 HCP, Opener got excited, appropriately thinking that her partner had much more than 4 HCP, and they ended up in 6S, which was down 2.

The answer to the bidding question is that Responder’s first obligation is to describe the strength of her hand. With one point, Responder should respond 3C, cheaper minor, showing 4 HCP or less.

That raises the question as to how long Responder must keep the bidding open. While a 2C open is generally forcing to game, Opener’s rebid of 2N after partner’s 2D response may be passed because opener has limited her hand. If Responder has less than 4 HCP, she may pass.

But some people also play that after a cheaper minor response by Responder, Opener’s rebid of 3 of her major that she bid at the two level may be passed. It’s up to Opener to force game by bidding a new suit at that point or just jumping to game in her major. I favor this treatment. However, please note that if opener bids 2N, Responder’s response of 3C is not cheaper minor, it is Stayman.

Here’s how the bidding would progress from the opening bid under the treatment just mentioned:


West
North
East
South


2C
P
2D
P
2H
P
3C
P
3H
P
P
P



But if you play that 2C is unconditionally forcing to game for any rebid other than 2N, here’s how the above bidding should proceed:

West
North
East
South


2C
P
2D
P
2H
P
3C
P
3H
P
3S
P
4S
All Pass


If Responder had two cards in Opener’s suit, she should bid 4H. But with the singleton she has in this hand, Responder may also take this opportunity to inform Opener that she has a weak six card spade suit (with a 5 card or longer spade suit and 2 of the top 3 honors, she would respond 2S to the 2C opener). But with a singleton and a weak six card spade suit, it’s reasonable to mention the long spades, and she may do so because she has already told Opener she has a weak hand and her bid of spades should promise six. Opener knows Responder is weak because a) she didn’t respond spades first, and b) she showed 4 HCP or less with her cheaper minor rebid. If Opener does not like the spade suit she can rebid her hearts at the four level or bid 3N, which is unlikely given the shape of her hand.

Here’s the four hand layout:

East dealer, EW vulnerable:

          North
           ♠ Q
          ♥ 64
          K8542
          ♣ Q9653
West            East
♠ T86532      ♠ AK
♥  3             ♥ AKQ762
♦  JT73         ♦ A
♣ 74             ♣ KJ82
          South
           ♠ J974
           ♥ J985
           ♦ Q96
           ♣ AT