Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prepared bids (part 1)

Does the bridge community suffer from amnesia?  Or did today's players never learn how to make prepared bids?

Here's the problem: you hold ♠864 KQ65 KJ6 ♣A93 and you need to decide on an opening bid.  In the good old days of Goren and before, this hand would present no problem.  You would open 1 intending to rebid 1NT if partner bids spades.  But then some clever people thought that it was better if an opening bid of a major promised five cards.  This rather common type of hand would now have to be opened with 1NT showing 12-14 (it was necessary to redefine the old 16-18 notrump opener).  There was only one problem.  Now, if you happened to be vulnerable and partner didn't have much, you could easily go minus 200 or 300.  On a really bad day, the opponents might double, partner would have no real fit and you could easily lose 1100 points or worse.  Although as Kaplan-Sheinwold wrote, the only time they could actually remember going for 1100 in 1NTX was after a strong 1NT opener!

Some people thought that they could easily fix this perceived problem by redefining the range for a notrump opening to 15-17.  Now, there's only one relatively minor snag.  You don't have a five-card major or a four-card minor suit.  You can't really pass this hand out. So you make a "prepared" bid of 1♣ (even in the early days there were some hands that needed to be opened with a prepared bid, especially if the four-card suit was four not very good spades).

Why is it called a "prepared bid".  Well, because you're preparing the way to show your shape and strength with a 1NT rebid (12-14).  You just hope that partner won't get too carried away if he has a good hand with four clubs.  In practice, many people over-compensate for the possibility of a one club opening having only three clubs.  They refuse ever to raise partner's clubs and they bid 1-something with two or three clubs of their own even if they have fewer than 6 points (wouldn't it be awful to leave partner in 1♣ in case he has only three?).  The fact that partner usually has five or more clubs doesn't alleviate their fears: this might be the time he has only three.

What if you open 1♣ and partner now bids 1?  Now you can simply rebid 1, right?  Wrong!  Or your shape might have been 4333 and partner bids 1.  How about a 1♠ rebid?  Bad idea.  Why is this?

Suppose your hand was actually ♠84 KQ65 KJ6 ♣A963 and the bidding went 1♣ - 1.  There would be nothing wrong with rebidding 1 because this would describe your hand perfectly.  You would have four (or more) of every suit that you named as a possible trump suit.  If partner has a weak hand with four clubs and four (or more) diamonds, he can go back to 2♣ safe in the knowledge that you have located a four-four fit.  Or partner might have a good hand like ♠5 A83 AQT82 ♣KQJ5 where 6♣ is practically a lay-down:  But what if you had rebid 1 with the first hand?  Partner will be struggling with only seven trumps.  Against 6♣, two initial rounds of spades are likely to set you when someone shows up with four clubs, as is likely.

Remember that your original club bid with the first hand was "prepared".  You really wanted to open 1NT to show the balanced shape, but your 1NT range didn't fit.  Therefore you fudged your club length a bit.  After fudging, you must follow through and bid that 1NT rather than showing your hearts.

To be continued...

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