Source: BBO By BBOer Shengabus (Yuan Shen)
This series will focus on competitive auctions. I have an ambitious list of topics I aim to cover, although little is “new”. My target audience will be intermediate-advanced, although I am happy to hear feedback. I hope this will be an informative look, perhaps from a weird angle at times, on what I consider the most important part of bidding. The content may be not as exciting as card-play articles, but competitive auctions come up, well, almost every hand.
My main sources are from reading Kit Woolsey and Andrew Gumperz’ articles, ideas “borrowed” from Robson-Segal, and of course my own experience.
My goal throughout will be to zoom in on a couple of examples, and allow the reader to do their own exploration of the general case. The types of example I will use will be very dull in a sense: common-place hands, in common-place situations where the books tend to leave you on your own.
In my first lecture, “They-bid-and-raised-Hearts“, I introduced “Bad-2NT” and “Scramble-2NT” when the opponents bid-and-raised Hearts. These of course have much wider usage. We know that often when they have hearts, then in fact we have spades and are reasonably well placed. So although (1) – (2) is annoying, (1 ) – (2 ) is their most effective auction. In Robson-Segal terms, this is an “express fit” auction: they know they have a fit, opener knows their approximate combined power; if we get it wrong, we’re screwed.
Still, all the reason to compete effectively. Remember our working agenda: we want to keep it relatively simple, but neither do we want to be guessing all the time.
We again focus our attention on Advancer. Intervener has well defined bids by-and-large in standard bidding.
B. They bid-and-raise Spades.
Scenario 1. Partner shows some life. You are 4th seat (any colors).
This is just a quick recapitulation of the Heart-scenario in my previous article.
X = responsive, with both minors.
2NT = single-suited, competitive, the Bad-2NT (see Lecture 1).
3/3/3 = natural, forward going
3NT/4 = to play
Last time, I suggested that 4m made sense to show our-Major + the minor. A sort of Leaping Michaels treatment: sometimes we can be stolen from. Indeed many expert pairs will play that 2 here shows a blocking-bid, namely a bad raise to 2 . They will have other methods to describe a good raise to 2 (perhaps I will talk about that in a later article). So it’s not immediately clear that we don’t have to “protect” our heart suit, when we have a good hand.
My suggestions are:
4m = + m.
3 = ostensible stopper ask, may be clarified as a strong raise. But it’s our hand.
4 = + , equal/longer clubs
4NT = + , longer
These are only suggestions: I emphasize again that you shouldn’t ever play a convention becomes someone tells you “it’s a good idea”, or you see others play it (the exception being if all experts do play it, but you don’t). It’s much more important to understand that there “may be a problem to solve” rather than to impose a random solution.
Quiz 1: What would you bid as South?
4th seat. All white.
Quiz 2: What would you bid as South?
- 4th seat. All red.
Scenario 2. Partner shows no life.
What do DBL and 2NT here mean? Is there any difference to the Heart-version? Yes, a big one! Over (1) P (2), advancer was free to bid spades at the 2-level. Therefore over hearts, 2NT expressly showed both minors. This is not the case over spades. Instead, DBL is take-out, and 2NT is any-two-suited take-out. Over a double, partner has Lebensohl-2NT available, as before.
Scenario 3. Neither partner has shown life. Yet.
You are 2nd seat, Favorable.
|Hand A||Hand B||Hand C||Hand D|
You already wanted to compete earlier, but the hand was not quite good enough, even at these colors. But we can’t let the opponents buy the auction in 2 : partner is marked with stuff and is depending on us! In any balancing or take-out situation, the onus is on the hand with shortness in the enemies’ suit. Learning from Kit Woolsey, you can play:
DBL = regular take-out or + (hand type A or B).
2NT = two-suited take-out with diamonds as an anchor (hand type C or D).
Note it’s possible that partner wants to penalize 2, but in competitive auctions, our primary goal is to get to a better spot than defending their Major suit-fit at the 2-level.
Why the mysterious + option for the DBL? Partner does not need to show strength (he passed already!). Therefore over this two-way DBL, with a diamond preference, partner has an Asking-2NT available to check whether I have a regular take-out double (I bid 3, or if I really had + (I bid 3). Partner will place the contract accordingly.
This baroque two-way DBL is not so rare. What’s another frequent auction where we would love to compete over spades, but may have imperfect strength and/or shape? As with any new convention or treatment you pick up: ask if it might have broader implications or uses. If you find that actually, the memory strain isn’t so bad (or even that after a while, the new treatment becomes in your mind the logical treatment), then perhaps you’ve added something to your permanent arsenal.
Quiz 3: What would you bid as South?
2nd seat. All white.
*The two=way double in another balancing situation over spades.
Possible “answers” to the Quizes (there are often no correct answers in competitive bidding, otherwise this game would be easy!):
3is clear. Forward going (prime hand, no spade wastage, the 5th trump and a stiff).
This was just a recapitulation of my previous article. Although repetitive, for me, I find that if I make the effort of learning a complicated-new-treatment (and every new treatment is “complicated”), I want there to be payoffs. Lots of them. We learned about Bad-2NT over hearts. It applies over spades.
When we bid better, the proof is that suddenly, partner’s judgement suddenly seems to get so much better. They can confidently bid the game. We’re not saying that without the forward-going-inference of 3that partner wouldn’t get it right: merely that they might get it wrong.
So we have close-to-a-natural-2NT bid. These hands do occur. Since 2NT would be BAD-2NT, we are forced to pass – the hand is hardly good enough to bid 3NT, and a natural 3 is too-rich on a 4-card suit opposite a take-out double. If partner can’t reopen, it’s unlikely we’re missing anything. And if partner can re-open, well maybe there’s blood-on-the-wall.
On this hand, intervenor has a tough choice whether to re-open or not. At IMPs it seems clear to pass (too big a chance that 2 X is making, or our side has nowhere to go). But at MPs, +200 (or possibly much more) is a big temptation. Despite the naysayers, it pays to be greedy at MPs, if you’re looking to win.
2NT – asking about diamonds.
So maybe partner should have doubled 2 for the lead, but we don’t bid every hand perfectly. At least partner decided not to sell out. We bid 2NT to show diamonds, and partner corrects to 3, which we finally correct to 3. Wait, the opponents take the push.
Mission accomplished: well done partner! Every time the opponents play in 3M, when they might have been in 2M, our expected payout goes up. Furthermore, partner’s intrepid balancing action (which he would not have dared make if there was a chance we would hang him with diamonds) means that I have the inference that a club lead (one of partner’s suits) is likely going to reward me with a ruff. It’s best to be in no doubt, but bridge is not an exact science: it’s merely better to be in less doubt, especially on lead. Declarer will always make three spades, but without a club lead, he makes four. MPs are won-and-lost on -140 versus -170.
We have started to ponder a little on vulnerability. The quizzes this week have not-so-coincidentally revolved upon our non-vulnerable actions. We can-and-should get frisky when the opportunity arises. The role of vulnerability is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of bridge, and is especially important when we judge whether it is right or not to compete.