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Subject: The right tools for the wrong job rss

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Brian Bankler
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Playing in a club game (mainly to practice our system for the upcoming North American Open Pairs qualifier), I pick up a good hand:

S:AQTx H:ATxx D:ATxx C:A

And it goes pass-pass to me. Strong three suited hands are awkward to handle (18 points isn't so bad, but 21 is tough) so we reserve our 2D opening for three suited hands.

But big three suited hands don't show up often, so we also include weak hands.

As our convention card says: 2D = Any 3 suited hand (4441), 10-12 HCP (maybe 5440 as well) or 18-24.

I'm certainly not going to ignore our tool that exists for just such a hand, so I open 2D.

This gets alerted and partner explains it. "Three suited hand, usually 10-12 points, but sometimes 18-24." Partner surprises me by bidding 2N, asking about my hand. (I alert, and explain "Asking for details.")

Since partner is a passed hand, he probably has at most 10 HCP. Maybe 11. He must have a hand that is willing to risk a game if he finds out we have a fit.

All of our "3 of a suit" bids show a weak hand and pinpoint our short suit (by bidding underneath it, which makes it easier to start relay auctions).

I bid 3N.

Partner alerts and now he looks surprised. The opponents ask again and are told (correctly) 18-21 or so, stiff club. Partner bids 4C.

After the second round of an uncontested auction bids above 3N are not alertable, so I don't alert. Partner is asking how many A/K points I have (A=2, K=1). I have 8. So far so good.

What is the minimum number I'm expected to hold for this sequence? I think it's 4. So 4D=4 AK points, 4H=5 AK points, etc ...

I bid 5C. Partner thinks for a while again, eventually deciding on 6H, which sets the contract. Once everyone passes we explain our bids meaning and -- thankfully -- we are on the same wavelength.

My RHO leads a club and I table my hand. Partner lets out a little annoyed sound.

"That means he thought I had three aces and two kings." I explain. (In this one case, we bundle up Aces and Kings into one point because auction space is at a premium and partner can usually tell). Partner wins the club ace and leads a small heart. LHO shows out.

"So much for overtricks" partner says, and the horrific 5-0 heart break means our excellent contract is hopeless, despite it looking to be cold with play for seven.

Partner held xx KQJx KQxxx xx (which looks like an opening bid to me, but it is a tricky shape and aceless to boot).

Amazingly, we do not get a terrible board. Many people are opening partner's hand, so my hand (obviously) drives to slam. Even if the others pass, my hand has an obvious Standard American auction if partner passes.

1D-1H;4C (or 4H, if you don't play splinters).

6 Diamonds is cold (even though diamonds break 4-0 as well) but in matchpoints you play for the highest scoring contract and ignore the 4% chance that hearts break 5-0, but all of the pairs that we are in contention with also get to 6H, and so we get just a hair below average because best defense can hold us to four, but we only went down one).

Ah well, it happens. Partner and I both shrug (after casting some obligatory aspersions on Lady Luck) and go on to win the event despite a few mistakes on my part.
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Wes Erni
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Very bold 2NT bid by your partner -- even if a max 10-12 (like KQxx, Axxx, x, QJ10x) game might be hopeless, though luckily your system does allow for playing 3D if a stiff Heart is held. A stiff black card makes for a likely good 4H game, but 4S might make as well (if stiff spade). I probably would have chickened out by bidding 2H (I presume a sign-off) -- if the uncertain opponents let it be (your sequence does create considerable mystery), you might even gain if you get that "magic" stiff club (2H making 4 is better than 5CX-1 if they NOT VUL).

In the given hand, I assume you still would have the machinery to get to the same magnificent, if doomed, 6H contract after a 2H response. I swear I defended a hand about 20 years ago that was near identical -- The auction began P-P-1D-P-2H meant as a maximum passed hand with a good 5 card Heart suit and Diamond support (something like xx, KQxxx, KQxx, xx) and the opener holding a monster near identical to yours only bid 4H thinking 2H was a weak jump shift. We got a bad score due to a similar horrific trump break torpedoing all the pairs that got to slam -- sometimes there is no justice in bridge.

BTW, I would have been just as aggressive as your partner if I had held xx, KQJx, Axxxx, xx -- now a singleton Diamond fits like a glove, and game opposite a 10-12 looks better.
 
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Ben Bateson
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The 2NT bid is aggressive, but not overly so. The whole goal of this sort of opening is to quickly locate a good fit. However, I'm not very excited about the slam bidding here. Partner should be dropping out at game and leaving it to you to bid extra controls IMHO.

I find that 4-4-4-1 hands in the 10-12 range are too good defensively, so our Roman 2D is in the 13-17 range.
 
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Wes Erni
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I agree with your assessment of the defensive value of 4-4-4-1 hands -- back in the day when I played 2C as a modified Roman (strong club system), I found our best results were obtained when the opponents overcalled. The ease of doubling for penalty with every suit breaking badly nailed incautious opponents time and time again. Truth was, I was a bit disappointed in the analysis -- I had a tight interrogative system beginning with the 2D response (rather than 2 NT) that I was happy with, but hoping the opponents blundered in yielded better overall results.
 
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Brian Bankler
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GameBreaker wrote:
Very bold 2NT bid by your partner -- even if a max 10-12 (like KQxx, Axxx, x, QJ10x) game might be hopeless, though luckily your system does allow for playing 3D if a stiff Heart is held.

I would take objection with 'luckily,' since I assume partner was taking that into consideration before bidding 2N. Part of partner's decision was that with he stiff heart he would be in 3D anyway. If I bid 3C (stiff diamond) he could subside in 3H since his hand downgrades. I wonder if he would have ...

GameBreaker wrote:
I probably would have chickened out by bidding 2H (I presume a sign-off)


Yes, although opener will always take another bid with 18-21, since it is a signoff opposite 10-12.

GameBreaker wrote:
In the given hand, I assume you still would have the machinery to get to the same magnificent, if doomed, 6H contract after a 2H response.


2D-2H;
2N-3C;
4C-6H;

2N says ("Big hand, stiff club") (2S would be "10-12, stiff heart, try again").
3C asks controls (similar to 4C above)
etc.

The real issue with 2H is that you miss an easy game when I have the (admittedly improbable) black stiff.
GameBreaker wrote:

BTW, I would have been just as aggressive as your partner if I had held xx, KQJx, Axxxx, xx -- now a singleton Diamond fits like a glove, and game opposite a 10-12 looks better.

Yes, that hand is a monster opposite a roman hand that expects a stiff diamond or heart.
 
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Brian Bankler
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ousgg wrote:
The 2NT bid is aggressive, but not overly so. The whole goal of this sort of opening is to quickly locate a good fit. However, I'm not very excited about the slam bidding here. Partner should be dropping out at game and leaving it to you to bid extra controls IMHO.

That is .... an intriguing idea. Partner has pinpointed that his hands is an almost opener (since he's a passed hand), likely with two places to play. But unexpectedly we have a double fit, The real issue is that if I have 6 controls (three aces) then we're at five hearts. Can I have that? Seems unlikely. With three aces I'd have no queens and need 2queens and two jacks. Since partner is looking at two queens and I have a stiff, i cna't have that. With seven controls the slam is still pretty good. We'll lose a club (presumably) but I now have the king of spades, so that's even. And with 4-5 controls partner can stop in four hearts.

Edit -- I could also have two aces and two kings. That would have to be the stiff king of clubs and king of spades (and two aces). If I have that and a bare 18, I am likely to downgrade (stiff CK isn't three). So I probably have solid spades and likely the DJ, and you are only off two aces, and again 5H is relatively safe.

KQJx Axxx AJxx K -- That's 19, probably still a downgrade.

Actually, I can't construct a 4-5 control hand looking at partners.
AKQJ Axxx Jxxx K is a downgrade (we wouldnt' count the stiff K as a control).
ousgg wrote:

I find that 4-4-4-1 hands in the 10-12 range are too good defensively, so our Roman 2D is in the 13-17 range.

An interesting observation. My prior experience with Roman was mini. 11-15. I found it a solution in search of a problem. You open 1m, raise partner (or rebid cheaply if partner hits your stiff), and then come alive if he shows any interest.

A strong Roman (only) I've played as part of the Blue club (which necessitates it to handle the big hands). It's fine, but it is so damn rare. Our idea is to mix sub-openers to preempt with the big hands (paying a price, like on this hand, in that we eat a level up later).
if the ACBL allowed it, I'd make our weak version a point or so weaker, but 10HCP is the lower limit.

I'm only moderately fond of Roman in Standard American, but it's a real pain to handle 4441 shape in big club, and even more so in a multi-club like Polish.
 
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Brian Bankler
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GameBreaker wrote:
The ease of doubling for penalty with every suit breaking badly nailed incautious opponents time and time again. Truth was, I was a bit disappointed in the analysis -- I had a tight interrogative system beginning with the 2D response (rather than 2 NT) that I was happy with, but hoping the opponents blundered in yielded better overall results.


In general a good (unusual) system will often earn a fair chunk of its points because of opponent's blundering or even just lack of experience. I happen to think weak NT is reasonable, but even if I considered it theoretically inferior, you'd probably do just fine in an average club game with it as opponents don't know how to handle it. Ditto Roman.

And for that matter, ditto Polish Club. I've had (literal) World Champions toss a board when they hadn't discussed it and never expected to see it in a sectional game and now they are sure what they play against it. (They quickly resolved that issue, one top later).

It can take a lot of hands to get a good feeling for what the right thing to do in a situation. The people playing the unusual system get those hands much faster, and continuously.
 
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Wes Erni
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Bankler wrote:

GameBreaker wrote:
Very bold 2NT bid by your partner -- even if a max 10-12 (like KQxx, Axxx, x, QJ10x) game might be hopeless, though luckily your system does allow for playing 3D if a stiff Heart is held.

I would take objection with 'luckily,' since I assume partner was taking that into consideration before bidding 2N. Part of partner's decision was that with he stiff heart he would be in 3D anyway. If I bid 3C (stiff diamond) he could subside in 3H since his hand downgrades. I wonder if he would have ...

Sorry, I wasn't criticizing your system, I just thought it lucky your methods allowed a "safe" auction here -- switching the minors (xx, KQJx, xx, KQxxx) would probably have been far too dangerous to explore. I can see how your system could treat 2D-2N-3C-3H as an absolute sign-off and 2D-2N-3C-3D as some useful interrogative.
bankler wrote:
GameBreaker wrote:
I probably would have chickened out by bidding 2H (I presume a sign-off)

Yes, although opener will always take another bid with 18-21, since it is a signoff opposite 10-12.

I can how the two-way approach works smoothly here -- the only downside is you can't really pass the 2D opener, but that desire is extremely rare.

Quote:
The real issue with 2H is that you miss an easy game when I have the (admittedly improbable) black stiff.

I admit a black stiff looks dreamy, but sometimes I have found a dark side to "nirvana". The 2H sign-off could herald a complete misfit hand, and opponents might be leery about entering the fray -- a hand like Jxxxx, Axx, xxx, Ax is very possible (preferring the sketchy 2H to the terrible 2N if spade stiff). But two sub-minimum openers leaping to game (via detected stiff spade) will raise alarm bells throughout the land and the opponents might find their 4S contract that will make you wish you were back in 2H making 4. And there is the possibility that even 3H is too high when opener holds a 10 point stiff Diamond hand (while the opponents can't make a thing). I admit a stiff club is probably hitting the jackpot as 5C is a less likely effective counter.

Quote:
In general a good (unusual) system will often earn a fair chunk of its points because of opponent's blundering or even just lack of experience. I happen to think weak NT is reasonable, but even if I considered it theoretically inferior, you'd probably do just fine in an average club game with it as opponents don't know how to handle it. Ditto Roman.


I completely agree, and I have received many an "undeserved" top from keeping an unusual system opaque (legally). My favorite opening bid is a "homegrown" 1D promising a minimum, unbalanced hand with a long minor (either, or perhaps both) -- a tremendous platform for immediate minor suit preemption. Once, my partner opened 1D*-P-1S-P-1NT (promising 0-2 Spades, minor suit still unknown). I held KQ10X, xxx, x, Kxxxx and "knowing" partner had a Diamond suit, I just passed and hoped for the best. I could see my partner was furious throughout the painful hand -- he lost the first six tricks (5 Diamonds and the Spade A), before finally getting on lead to take the rest and through gritted teeth spat out "We are cold for 5C" (We had missed our 11 card club fit).

All the while our opponent sitting North was staring in shock at the traveller -- it seems 5D was also cold their way and EVERYONE was outbidding our clubs suit (half in 4D, half in 5). Our placid +90 was the only positive score our way, and our poor opponents had to listen to my partner complain -- when you play an unusual system, sometimes you earn your tops, and sometimes they just fall into your lap.



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