January 6, 2006

Often I would wonder what to do in tactical competitive situations that would arise. Do I want to risk pushing them into game/slam, do I want to psyche to throw out some confusion, do I want to walk to the dog? Taking things case-by-case just left me frustrated by every new situation that arose. I started thinking about basic principles, and then it came to me. The less room we give the opponents, the less likely they are to get to the right contractThat is the Fundamental Theorem of Competitive Bidding.

Ok, maybe that is not a groundbreaking realization. After all, that’s why preempts exist. However in many situations even experts will out think themselves and make bids that violate the Fundamental Theorem. Here are a few example situations.

Spade Suit5Heart SuitKQ9742 Diamond Suit 83 club suit9632. White/Red, partner opens 3Heart Suitand RHO bids 4 Spade Suit. What call do you make?

The opponents probably have a grand. How do we best stop them from bidding it? Well, we could try a 4N bid to cause some confusion. We may try a pass, hoping LHO will misjudge and pass not knowing that his opponents have a big fit. We could try a 6Heart Suitbid hoping this pushes the opponents into bidding only 6Spade Suit and not 7. We could just bid 7Heart Suit and hope for the best. You would get support for each bid among experts, and probably even some more creative choices. However, I feel that your best chance of getting the opponents to go wrong is to bid 7Heart Suit immediately. This is in accordance with the Fundamental Theorem; we are giving the opponents the least room possible and thus less of a chance to get to the best contract.

If we bid 4N, we give LHO a 5Heart Suit cue. The opponents can then probe all they want before deciding what to do. If we pass, we give LHO keycard and cuebidding. If we bid 6Heart Suitwe allow LHO to pass and pull to 6Spade Suit to suggest a grand. By bidding 7, we limit LHO’s options to making a forcing pass, Xing, or bidding a grand. Some may suggest that this 7Heart Suitbid will goad them into bidding a grand. The thing to remember is that that is not a bad thing. True, they will probably make, but what about when we hold Spade Suit5 Heart SuitKQ9742 Diamond Suit A3 club suit9632 next time? If they are easily goaded into bidding grands, they may do it when we have this hand. Sometimes partner will produce a trick with a Qx, Kx, or even a side ace. With the opponent’s options limited and you bidding 7 with hands that include a defensive tricks and ones that don’t, they will simply be forced to get it wrong sometimes.

I took some heat for a bid I made in the nationals in Denver recently. I thought it was in accordance with the Fundamental Theorem, but I will let you decide. I held something like (I don’t remember exactly) Spade SuitHeart SuitAKQ7432 Diamond SuitAKT932 club suit— red/white at MP. It was 2 passes to RHO who opened 1club suit. The trick on this hand is obviously to avoid your opponents bidding 7Spade Suit whenever you decide to bid 7Heart Suit. I chose to bid 7Heart Suitimmediately. I thought this would put enormous pressure on LHO, who as a passed hand would probably not have 6+ spades. Bidding 7Spade Suit on a 4-card suit would be impossible, so he would need to have a 5-card suit and just bid 7Spade Suit without hearing support from his partner. However, if I start with 1Heart Suitor 2N, LHO gets the opportunity to bid 3Spade Suit. Now his partner might get a chance to raise, and it will be easier to find the save.

A possible counter-argument is that I will never mix it up with a red/white 7Heart Suit overcall. I will always have it made, or very close to having it made. However, I think this is true of all red/white 7Heart Suit bids no matter when they are bid. They might be mild gambles, indeed on this hand I’m not necessarily cold for 7Heart Suit, and if the opponents always bid 7 Spade Suit they will be doing so some of the time that I am going to go down.

At the table my LHO did actually bid 7Spade Suit on a 5-card suit. I felt ok with that since I feel that someone who bids 7Spade Suit there will very likely do it if I overcall 2N and he bids 3Spade Suit and hears a raise followed by me then bidding 7Heart Suit. I gave him the least possible chance to get it right, or so I think.

So whenever you feel stuck about what to do in situations like these, just remember the Fundamental Theorem. It will serve you well, and has a very sound basis.

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