Saturday, September 26, 2009

The "no undo" principle

How often do you find yourself making a marginal opener and hearing partner soaring up to slam. It can be a sickening feeling. But the one thing you cannot do is starting fibbing about your hand. Well, you can't squirm in your seat and look uncomfortable either, but that goes without saying. In other words, there is no "undo" button. For all you know partner has most of the other points in the deck and all he needs to know is precisely which cards you have. Giving the wrong number of key cards might be particularly dangerous. Let's say partner has a good distributional hand but only one key card while you have two. If you lie and say you have one, he might very well assume you have four. In that case, instead of stopping safely at the five level, you'll be playing a hopeless grand!

Indeed, if you are going to open a substandard hand, or let's say you are going to make a jump rebid or give a limit raise or whatever, all actions which would have reasonable alternatives, make sure you have an ace (or if you know the trump suit already, the king of trumps).

I remember playing a hand in seven when partner opened the bidding and made a jump rebid with an aceless hand. I couldn't believe that an aceless hand could have bid that way so I assumed the key-card response showed three when in fact it showed none!

Going back to the no undo principle, here's a recent match-point example for which we actually scored a little over average. Partner held this hand: ♠AT75 A95 J82 ♣QJ8. Everyone was vulnerable and we were actually headed for a good score when partner decided to open this hand. The bad shape (deduct 1 point) is somewhat made up for by the two aces (add one point). It's still a balanced 12 point hand therefore which probably shouldn't be opened, but at least playing 12-14 notrumps, we can open it without in any way mis-describing the hand. I had a good balanced 12 myself so had no qualms about bidding 2 (game-forcing Stayman). The next player intervened with 3♣! Now we had a choice of actions - bid game or penalize (remember all were vulnerable). At this point, partner got a little nervous and passed, wishing that that would show a hand that shouldn't have opened! But, since we were already in a game force, what it showed in fact was a hand without a four-card major and without a club stopper. In fact, it suggested a desire to defend (given that we play negative doubles after a 1NT opening). I doubled in the passout seat hoping that partner actually held a club stack. My alternative was to bid 3showing my good diamond suit but it seemed unlikely that we could make a game in diamonds with two balanced hands and at the most 26 hcp. We got 500 but it didn't make up for the 630 that we should have had in 3NT. On the other hand, we beat the people who didn't bid game (presumably the ones where partner's hand didn't open).

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