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


Friday, August 5, 2016

One way to invite slam



Here’s your hand sitting south and the auction:

♠ A2
♥ QJT75432
♦ 9
♣ AK


Bidding:

South                West         North         East
                                         1NT           P
2D*                   P               2H             P
?

*Transfer to hearts

You’ve got 3 quick tricks, 14 HCP, 8 hearts, and only 4 losers, a hand with which you could open a strong 2C, and your partner opens 1N! How do you search for slam? All you want to know is if your partner has the Ace or King of Hearts. If you jump to Blackwood, that won’t do you any good. Regardless of whether or not you are playing standard or Roman Key Card or 1430, partner’s response showing only one ace or key card leaves you in the dark. You only need to know if she has the ace or King of hearts. You just have to trust and assume that her bid includes the Ace of diamonds.

So Blackwood is an imperfect response. So are bids of 3 Hearts, which would only be invitational and may be passed, or 4 hearts, which is a closeout unless you play Texas Transfers. And even if you play Texas Transfers (1N-4D is a transfer to 4 hearts, etc.), there’s no way partner can visualize your hand with its 8 card heart suit.

(To digress, people who pay Texas Transfers often use the bid of 1N-2D-2H-4H as showing a stronger hand than 1N-4D-4H.)

But there is a bid I use in such situations. South would bid 5H after partner accepts the transfer by bidding 2H! What does that mean? Some experts play a jump like this to five of a major as a “Grand Slam Force” with special meanings to all the responses, but that’s too complex for what I'm suggesting here. The way I use it with my partners is that a jump to 5 of the agreed major suit (which bypasses game and blackwood) in this situation asks partner, “How good are your trumps? Because partner promises at least 2 hearts with her opening bid of 1N, if she has two small hearts, she passes. While the question is ambiguous (how “good” is good?), one needs to use common sense in responding. If, however, my partner made this bid and I had the Ace or the King, I would bid 6 hearts.

This hand came up in a three table Swiss Teams game and neither table got to the slam because nobody knew this bid. Here are the four hands:


                       North
                        ♠ KQ84
                        ♥ K9
                        ♦ AQJT7
                        ♣ QT


West                                        East
♠  JT953                                   ♠ 76
♥  A6                                       ♥ 8
♦  K842                                    ♦ 653
J8                                        ♣ 976432

                        South
                        ♠ A2
                        ♥ QJT75432
                        ♦ 9
                        ♣ AK

                             


Since North had K9 in hearts (along with the spade King and diamond ace, which were no surprise with her 1N open), she should bid 6, which was cold. This is a bid that you should discuss with your partners and add to your repertoire.








Thursday, July 21, 2016

Invitational v. Competitive Bids



Here’s the auction:

West
North
East
South



1C
1S
2C
2S
3C
?








Here are two hands:

Hand 1                  Hand 2
QT9832           AQT983
♥ QJT                ♥ QJT
♦ AJ42               ♦ AJ42
♣ Void               ♣ Void

In hand 1, you have a simple overcall. You don’t want to sell out to 3C with six spades, even though you are missing 3 of the top 4 honors.

In Hand 2, you have a full opening hand and are interested in game. So what do you call?

Most people would probably call 3S on both hands. But in hand 1 you want your partner to pass, regardless of whether or not your LHO raises to 4C, since she has just given you a simple raise, promising 3 trump and 6-9 HCP. In hand 2, you are interested in game. How do you differentiate between the two?

There is a simple way to do this. It is called a "game try bid," and it says nothing about the suit called. If you play this, in hand 1, you may freely raise to 3S without worrying about partner going forward with minimum support. This is what is called a “competitive raise.” It says, “partner, I don’t think we have game, but we have at least an 8 card trump fit (your partner doesn’t know you have 6 spades) and I don’t want to sell out to 3 Clubs. If they compete to 4C, let them have it.

In Hand 2, however, because you are interested in a possible game bid, you make a "game try" by asking her about her hand. You do this by bidding a new, unbid suit. In this instance, you would bid 3D. This says to partner, “Partner, I know we have a spade fit. How is the rest of your hand? If you are at the top of your bid, bid game, 4 spades. If not, just close out in 3 spades, or, if my LHO has bid 4 clubs, pass."

 Please note that this bid says nothing about diamonds (some higher level players play something called a "help suit game try," but that's beyond the scope of what I'm saying here). In this case the hand actually does have a good 4 card diamond suit. But all my hands in my columns are based on actual hands I’ve played, so this is the hand I used. But you would make this bid with absolutely nothing in diamonds because its only purpose is to show that you have a game going hand if partner is at the top of her bid.

If you have this understanding, then you may freely overcall 3C with 3S in Hand 1 without worrying about Partner bidding 4S, regardless of what your LHO does.

In fact, the actual hand held by partner was:

J654
♥ A94
♦ T95
♣ K86

So in response to the 3D invitational bid for Hand 2, she would probably try for game with 9 good points, 1 ½ quick tricks and four trump. But with a 3S competitive bid in Hand 1, she would pass, regardless of what her RHO did. In fact, in the actual hand, Hand 1 made 3 spades, losing 2 spades, a heart and a diamond. I think that Hand 2 has an excellent chance to make 4 spades.

Here’s the four hand layout:

          North
          ♠ K7
          ♥ 632
          ♦ K843
          ♣ 7432
West            East
QT9832    J654
♥ QJT          ♥ A94
♦ AJ62         ♦ T95
♣ Void         ♣ K86
          South
          A
          ♥ K875
          ♦ QT
          ♣ AQJT95