Thursday, August 16, 2007

What to open? (2C, 4S, or 1S) *

Question: A friend sent in this hand and asked: What would you open with this hand after 3 passes to you? He noted that it was played online with a variety of opening bids. Apparently some folks opened 4S, some opened 1S and jumped to 4S, and some opened 2C.


Answer: Good question. This hand is not quite good enough for a 2C opener and far too good for a 4S opener. That leaves only the opening bid of 1S. Of course you will undoubtedly hold your breath until partner bids and then breathe a sigh of relief! But in actuality, if partner doesn’t have enough to bid, you probably can’t make a game.
An opening bid of 4Spades should not have any more than a minimum opener in high card points. The bid is preemptive in nature, not strength showing. It shows a long, good suit without a lot of outside cards. In general, if I can open 1S, I prefer that to opening 4S so that I can leave room for partnership bidding.
If you are not vulnerable, a Four-Bid tends to be weaker and more preemptive. It can be especially effective if the opponents are vulnerable -- the higher you bid, the tougher you make it for them to find their best contract. Non-vulnerable Four-Bids can be made with hands where you have little hope of making the contract unless partner has a very good hand. A good guideline is to have about 7-8 playing tricks.
Some examples of non-vulnerable Four-Bids:
AJ987xxx /x/QJ4/x
xx/Void /KJx /QJ1097xxx
A vulnerable Four-Bid may still be made to preempt the opponents, but you should have more playing strength -- about 8 or 9 tricks in your own hand. You can open a vulnerable Four-Bid with hands like:
An opening bid of 2C should ideally have only 4 losers. This hand has about 5. Give yourself the ace of clubs or the king of hearts and this hand would qualify. I hate to open 2C with 2 quick losers in any suit.

Normally when you open 2C you would rebid 2S with a very strong hand and good spades. Frank and I have a variation on the 2C bid which would actually work well for this hand. We open 2C and then jump to 4S! This shows a hand that is not as good as a standard 2C opener, and yet a hand where you want to take your chances in game. We play a lot of imps and can’t afford to miss games, so if we have a hand that we’re afraid might get passed in 1S, and yet is not quite as good as a standard 2C opener, we open 2C and jump to 4S. We alert and describe this bid.

Speaking of standard 2C openers, I have been involved in many discussions about the number of high card points required. Just when we thought we were clear that a 2C opener needed at least, say, 18-20 points, our opponents at a tournament got away with opening 2C with a long suit and about 10 points! We were damaged when they described it as “strong” and the director failed to give us redress.

Tip: Even if your opponents open 2C, if you have a good hand, bid it!

Thanks to Corrick B. for the problem. He also provided the other hand and noted that the HK was offside so the hand only made 5.



For a thorough discussion of these and many other bridge conventions check out Karen Walker’s website:
See you at the table!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Opening Leads *** good, short

I have been paying extra attention to opening leads to prepare for writing on the subject. It is one thing to read and re-read a table of leads. It is quite another to take all of the relevant factors into account and choose a really good lead.

Here are a couple of basic principles that should nearly always be followed:
  • Lead your partner's suit. We sometimes make risky bids in order to get our partner off to the right lead. Do your partnership a favor and lead it!
  • Lead the unbid suit. Listen to the auction and notice particularly if the opponents fail to bid notrump. That is usually because the unbid suit is not stopped. Lead it.
Here is a great post from another blog on this subject. Enjoy!

Squeezing The Dummy: The Lead's The Thing

See you at the table!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Asking or Telling? good topic and advice *****

We had a good auction to a slam last night at handicapped teams and it got me to thinking about asking bids, telling bids, and the rare bid that does both!

As dealer, vul., I picked up:


Needless to say, I loved this hand and could envision a heart slam without any difficulty. However, when I opened 1H, Frank responded 1 spade! I had mixed feelings about letting go of my heart vision and entertaining a new vision of a spade slam. Although I pondered a few bids, one bid was a standout: 4 diamonds. This splinter was a telling bid--that I had a great hand, shortness in diamonds, and expected to make a game in spades opposite as few as 6 points and 4 spades. Let's see what he would do with this information.

4NT he bid, RKC for spades. I was happy...we were clearly on our way to slam and this lovely hand would pay off. I answered 5C showing 3 controls and he now bid 5NT. This is the interesting bid that both asks and tells. While we all learned early on that 5NT asks for kings, most experts also play it as a telling bid: It tells partner that the partnership has all of the first round controls, as well as the trump king and queen, and asks partner to bid a grand slam if her hand is suitable.

If responder isn't sure whether to bid the grand or not, she can respond with kings (number of kings or specific kings, depending on your agreement). The information conveyed by the king response may be enough to enable the 5NT bidder to bid the grand.

Looking at my hand, and armed with the knowledge that partner had at least 4 spades to the AQ, the DA and some other values, I bid it: 7 spades! My hand was so rich in entries, and it was very likely that the hearts could be set up if necessary.


Frank held:


As you can see, barring a terrible trump break, or a ruff on the opening lead, it would be an easy make. As it turned out, suit breaks were normal and the grand rolled home. Plus 2210 won us 13 imps.

*Asking or telling?*

Stayman is an asking bid: Do you have a 4 card major?
Transfers are telling bids: I have at least 5 of this major.

Some other asking bids are blackwood, new minor forcing, 2NT response to weak two bids and cue bids in response to overcalls (how good is your overcall?)

Jacoby 2NT both asks and tells:
  • Tell me about your hand.
  • I have a game forcing raise in your major.
Often I must decide whether to ask partner about his hand or tell him about mine. For example: Is it more important for me to know about his opener (in which case I'll bid Jacoby 2NT) or is it likely to be more valuable to tell him about mine (in which case I can splinter)?
It's getting late. I'll gather some good example hands and continue this discussion at a later time.
See you at the table!