Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The vaguest of all of the ACBL rules

Full disclosure. What exactly is it supposed to mean? The ACBL defines it thus, or, briefly, [Full disclosure] means that all information available to your partnership must be made available to your opponents.

So here's my question. In a Swiss match, I am on lead after 1♣ - 1 - 2NT - 3* - 3♠ - 3NT. I ask declarer, a player with significantly more than 10,000 points, about 3 . I am told that it is "New minor forcing". Well, I pretty much knew that already (although it could also have been the Wolff adjunct).

After I lead a heart, it turns out that declarer has three hearts. My lead makes little difference at IMP scoring, but it has potentially blown a trick which might matter were we playing matchpoints.

Now, here's the question: is declarer (or dummy even) obliged, under the full disclosure principle, to tell me that 3♠ can be bid with three hearts on this auction? Different partnerships have different rules about responses to NMF but I think that standard, if there is such a thing, is that opener always bids responder's suit with three card support, regardless of the other major. Am I required to ask explicitly about hearts? Or should that information be forthcoming as a description of the whole sequence, following the principle of full disclosure?

You can probably guess my opinion, but I'd still like to hear your comments.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall foliage sectional

It was nice to go up North again for the New Hampshire sectional in Hudson, NH. As always, we drove up route 111, but this time I knew that we were driving along on top of the old Worcester, Nashua and Portland railroad.

Board 6 in the evening proved to be a rather remarkable hand. See if you can guess what I'm on about:


While you're pondering that, let me ask you about another hand that came up. You hold: ♠K653 Q54 A3 ♣T853. Nobody is vulnerable and the dealer on your right passes, as do you and your LHO. Partner opens 1. In case it matters, you are playing 2/1 and Bergen raises (on, even by a passed hand). What's your call?

While you think about that, let's look back at that full layout above. According to Deep Finesse, E/W can make nothing at all, not too surprisingly. But N/S can make a small slam in any of the five strains! Whatever contract they are in, they lose one and only one trick! Fortunately, our opponents played it in 4NT so we got 75% of the matchpoints. In fact, of 16 pairs playing the board, 9 bid and made 6NT, one pair made 11 tricks in a major and one pair went down 1 in something. The others were making 12 tricks in a NT game.

OK, back to the hand above and your response to partner's 1. Did you follow the principle of one bid? That is to say, did you (honestly) bid 2? The principle of one bid says that if your hand is only worth one bid, and there is such a bid that perfectly describes your hand, you should make it. In this case, there is such a bid: 2. It shows 6-9 points and, if you happen to be playing Bergen, tells partner you have exactly three hearts. You get your entire hand off your chest in one call!

My partner made the call that, judging from the results, I suspect many if not most made: 1♠. My hand was ♠– AK9863 KJ42 ♣AQJ. I rebid 2 and then when partner gave preference to hearts (now he's really only showing a doubleton, if that), I stretched a bit and bid game. I'm sure that if I had bid 3, we'd have still ended up in game. But we missed our easy slam (in fact the CK was onside so I made all the tricks for 510, as did almost everyone). One enterprising GLM treated his hand as a limit raise and got to the slam.

There are actually two principles in play here: the "one-bid" principle and the principle of support with support (I suppose in fact that really these two principles are very closely related).

I'd like to think that I would have bid 2 myself, but it's possible that I too would have bid 1♠. So I'm not casting any aspersions. It's a good principle to abide by, however, and was first taught to me by Mel Marcus.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rebidding after an overcall

Here's an area of bridge theory that seems to me hasn't garnered a lot of attention: rebids when your RHO has overcalled. As far as I know, there are just two conventions cater specifically to this situation: Larry Cohen's so-called Good-Bad 2NT and Eric Rodwell's support double. Both calls are conventional only when made by opener.

The second is the better known convention and we can summarize it as follows (this may not correspond to Rodwell's original, but it's how I think it should be played):

you open 1 grape, LHO passes, doubles, or bids 1 diamond, partner bids 1 plum (such that he only promises four plums), and RHO makes a simple overcall (or 1NT showing two suits). A raise to two plums promises four (or more) plums and double promises exactly three plums. Note that you must have the option of bidding two plums to show four (that's to say RHO has overcalled 1♠, 2♣, 2, or 2). By extension, if RHO doubles, a redouble also shows exactly three plums.

A support double doesn't say anything about strength but most of the time it shows a balanced hand, which must therefore be in the range of a 1NT rebid (whatever that might be) or possibly a 2NT rebid.

Now let's look at the Good-Bad 2NT, a kind of Lebensohl extension. In the same auction as described above (although I believe it only applies if RHO bids one of 2♣, 2, 2, or 2♠). A bid of 2NT is not natural, but shows a two-suited hand that is not strong enough to bid again with equanimity. Responder now bids 3♣, assuming pass follows 2NT, and opener either passes or bids his second suit.

While I like the idea of the convention, it does seem to have at least one flaw. Suppose your hand is ♠KQ53 T97 J543 ♣K2. Partner opens 1 and you bid 1♠, and now your LHO bids 2. Partner rebids 2NT (Good-Bad). It's looking like partner has the minors. Clearly, we can't bid 3♣ because when partner passes it would be disastrous. So we should bid 3 instead (as long as partner doesn't assume this shows extras). Presumably this is how it's played though I've never seen that written up before. I'd certainly like to hear comments on this aspect.

So, let's assume that we are playing the GB2NT and the support double as described. Let's assume we have the same hand as before and the auction is the same up to the point of LHO's 2. We can now summarize the calls that partner might make:
  • 2♠: a minimum four-card raise of spades, perhaps ♠J964 8 AQ96 ♣KQ93;
  • 2NT: a minimum two-suited hand, in this case the minors, possibly ♠J4 8 AQ986 ♣AQT93;
  • 3♣: a good two-suited hand, in this case the minors, perhaps something like ♠A4 8 AQ986 ♣AQT923;
  • 3: a good rebiddable diamond suit, possibly ♠A4 82 AKJ953 ♣Q93
  • 3: a good hand that might make 3NT if we have hearts well stopped, perhaps ♠A4 82 AKJT953 ♣K3
  • pass: relatively balanced hand with fewer than three spades and indeterminate strength. We might make a BOP double with our hand, although 3 would also be a reasonable call (we know partner has at least four diamonds amongst his 11 or more non-spades).
  • double: relatively balanced hand with exactly three spades and indeterminate strength -- all calls by our hand, except a cue-bid, are non-forcing.
Now let's look at a slightly different auction: 1♣ p 1 2. Now, the fourth suit, spades, if bid by partner, would be a reverse. It is possible to swap the strengths of 2♠ and 2NT. Why not let 2S be a minimum reverse (not a bad hand, but not up to full strength) and therefore passable and let 2NT (forcing) show the fourth (higher-ranking) suit with a good hand? In the case of 2♠, opener might have only four clubs and something like a good 14-16. In the case of 2NT, opener promises 17+ hcp and 5 or more clubs. After 2NT, responder bids 3♣ or 3♠ "to play" while a red suit would be game-forcing.

Suitable hands for partner in this sequence might be:
  • 2♠: ♠KQ53 Q5 83 ♣AK652
  • 2NT: ♠KQ53 Q5 A3 ♣AK652
Comments welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A small slam on defense

An interesting hand came up playing with the GIBs on BBO. There were witnesses!

I picked up ♠9 AJ KQ53 ♣AK5432 in 2nd seat at favorable vulnerability in. A nice hand. The only question here is do we have enough to reverse if partner bids 1♠ (I would say not). But I wasn't faced with that decision because my RHO (the robot) opened 1♣. Now what? After some thought I decided to pass and hope that Kim wouldn't pass it out. She didn't. In fact she reopened with a double and it seemed to me that pass was best. And how?

We took 12 tricks -- the opening bidder scored only their A as we had a riot on defense. Kim was good enough to provide both the Q and J of ♣. Even though the robots were only at the 1-level, it was still 1700 and 14.5 imps to us (at matchpoints it would have been a top on the 16 tables that played the hand). Even if we had bid and made 6♣ it would have scored only 920 for about 7 imps. The robot made a reasonable 1♣ bid with ♠KQJ7 K75 A42 ♣T96 although this hand points out the dangers of not playing weak no trumps!

There was no variation in opening bids but quite a lot of different actions with my hand. A few passes, a number of doubles, a couple of 3♣ bids and one 2♣ call which did not work out well.

Incidentally, I was once taught a very useful sounding convention whereby you bid 2♣ to show a club overcall and 2 to show the majors. But I've never come across anyone playing it, at least not in North America.

If you're interested, here is the complete hand record.

BTW, Kim once witnessed, in real-live bridge between experts, a hand in which declarer, in 1NT took no tricks at all! Declarer was none other than Michael Rosenberg. Knowing that his opponents were using double conventionally, he dealt himself a Yarborough and opened 1NT. Each of his opponents had around 16 or 17 hcp yet were powerless to do anything! Rosenberg lost 350 points but, if I recall correctly, his teammates bid the vulnerable grand slam at the other table!

Monday, October 12, 2009

You bid 3S on that!

Kim and I played in the NAP district qualifiers this weekend. We didn't play as well as we should have and only squeaked into the Sunday finals. We had a reasonable morning game which was spoiled only by my passing a key-card ask and later defending a 2HX like a complete idiot and ending up with only 300 instead of the 1100 we were due (which would have been a top) and necessary since we can make 6D.

But Kim got a chance to shine at declarer play however on another board. I held ♠– 743 Q8753 ♣QJT65. After one pass, Kim opened 2NT. We play 3S as Minor-suit Stayman which is primarily for hands where we can make 6 of a minor. I wasn't sure we could make a slam – so much would depend on Kim's wastage in spades – but there didn't seem any way to find out. I was planning to bid 5C over the expected 4NT rebid and hope that Kim would pass or correct. Worst case, we'd be in 6 of a minor, right? Wrong. We were in 6NT which has no play on proper defense. Here's the complete hand:
I probably would have chosen 2♣ to open the magnificent West hand as I would evaluate it to be rather too good for 2NT. Still, we do play methods that allows us to find the right spot with any distribution except 5422 or 4522 so this qualifies shape-wise. Over my 3♠ call, the South player doubled. Now, I could just about understand a double of 3, but why would he particularly want a spade lead? Or perhaps he was hoping to find a good save (they were at favorable vulnerability).

Kim passed (redouble would have been logical but would have caused me a bit of a headache!) showing no four-card minor (the equivalent of 4NT without the competition). This was nice as it allowed me to show clubs at the four-level. On reflection, since that bid would be forcing, I should have bid 4, intending to bid clubs at my next turn, but I was thinking my sequence would show both minors (I don't think it did).

Kim's next bid was 4♠ (I'm still not sure what that was but, knowing the identify of the South she was probably trying to expose a psyche). Anyway, I attempted to retreat to 5♣. Since this was matchpoints and she had spades well stopped (!), she chose 6NT rather than 6♣, not imagining that my hand could be as bad as it was in terms of high cards. 6♣ makes, by the way, but takes rather careful trump play.

Only four things had to happen to allow 6NT to make: a spade lead, the doubler to play low on the lead (if he plays the K the squeeze no longer works because North would be guarding the spades), the K to be in the North hand, and the ♣K to be singleton (there's no way to get to dummy more than once to take the more normal finesse). Additionally, Kim would have to keep her cool and recognize that the only play was a major-suit squeeze against South. As you can see, this transpired so we got a good board to say the least!

In fact, Kim played the dummy extremely well all day and she played a lot of dummies, too. My role was confined pretty much to bidding and defending, not always with such great results.

The afternoon was somewhat dismal. We got into a fight with one pair who essentially refused to explain their agreements about new minor forcing (essentially, they didn't really know the convention even though they played it). The director apparently didn't know it either and accused me of being hostile for subjecting the opponents to too many questions. According to our esteemed director, on the sequence 1 – 1 – 1NT – 2♣ –, a 2 call could cover any point range from 12 to 19 (!) and there is nobody in the world who would jump to 3 with a 14 count and three hearts!

All told, we were obliged to call the director far too many times for a serious event. Here's an example of clear-cut unauthorized information being acted upon. Fortunately, in this case, our opponents got to the wrong contract and we felt we had a decent score so we didn't have to risk calling the director back. Let's say that you hold this hand: ♠A9764 KJ96 Q7 ♣53, and your RHO deals and opens 1. I dare say quite a few people holding this hand would do something, but you pass, LHO passes and partner reopens with 1NT. You now bid 2, asking partner to choose a major. Partner bids 2. You would probably raise to 3 or 4, right? But what if partner announces "transfer" after your 2 call? Incidentally, this is why you must say "alert!" in these non-standard situations. Well, the hand shown now bids 2♠ because she now thinks that partner might not have hearts after all (in fact he had three). They ended up in 3NT down 1 after careful defense. On this occasion, I called the director after I had made my face-down lead (I was the opening bidder) dummy, the hand shown, now told us that they don't play transfers in that situation, as far as she remembered). The director didn't bother to remain long enough to discover that dummy had four hearts!

I have lots more to complain about this event which, as far as I'm concerned, has steadily gone downhill over the last ten years or so. But those rants will have to wait!