Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some thoughts on prepared bids

Bridge seems to be full of strange names for concepts, like restricted choice.  The prepared bid is another.  It seems to me that it is the rebid that is prepared by the first bid. But in any case this topic is about non-forcing opening bids that don't truly reflect the kind of hand that is held.

First, why would anyone want to make a prepared bid?  The Hideous Hog likes to make them because  a) they prepare the way for he himself to be declarer in his favorite 3NT and b) they tend to dissuade an opening lead in the bid suit.

But what is it about our systems that require the use of a prepared bid?  Well, generally speaking if we only promise four cards in a suit when we bid it, it obviates the need for most prepared bids (not all).  Playing a system that expects 5-card majors and a narrow range of notrump openers, however, definitely requires prepared bids, 1♣ in the case of standard american or 2/1 system or 1 in the case of precision.  We could relax the range of notrump openers (12-17) for instance and open just about all balanced hands with 1NT, but it's an unwieldy big range and, at least in the ACBL, disallows the use of system responses like transfers.  So we remain with the problem that the 1NT range cannot cover all balanced hands.  Those that don't fall within the range for 1NT must be opened with the prepared bid if no other bid is appropriate.

The risk of opening a prepared bid is not small. As described in a previous blog, opening 1♣ with ♠KQJ7 K75 A42 ♣T96 resulted in a penalty of 1700.  See A small slam on defense.  Obviously, there are other ways to go for 1700, but opening a suit you don't really have has its definite dangers.  Some of the risk may be ameliorated by opening weak balanced hands with 1NT and therefore only opening a prepared minor when holding at least, say, 15 high card points.   Such a hand is certainly no guarantee against going for 1700, but the probability is lessened. 

In the form of precision that I play with one of my partners, when we are not-vulnerable in 1st or 2nd seat where our 1NT range is 10-12, we can open a prepared 1 with relative equanimity because if don't we really have diamonds (we promise only 2) we should have at least 13 hcp.  The bigger problem arises when we are vulnerable or in 3rd/4th seat.  In such cases (75% of all balanced hand openers) we have a range of 11-13 for our 1NT rebid after opening 1.  The combination of bidding a suit we don't have, and being vulnerable with only 11 points is a very dangerous one indeed!  So much so that I am recommending that minimum opening hands, such as 11hcp, if opened at all, should have at least four diamonds.  That means that if partner makes a limit raise (we use criss-cross) and we end up at the 3-level with only 21 hcp, we will at least have nine trumps and thus some hope of making.  Nevertheless, we rarely run into trouble with our 1 openers.

No comments:

Post a Comment