Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The week of the fit-showing jump

After having played fit-showing jumps with a few partners over the last six months to a year, I've been quite disappointed in how infrequently they come up.  Certainly, they are brilliant when they occur, but they seldom arise in practice.

So, I was surprised when no fewer than five arose last week.  All got us at least an average board and some did quite a bit better than that.  They weren't all perfect specimens, but they were good enough.

So, in case you're wondering what is a fit-showing jump, I should refer you to Robson & Segal's excellent book: Partnership Bidding at Bridge: The Contested Auction.  I was so impressed by a) the advantages conferred by this treatment and b) the fact that usually such bids have no other useful meaning, that I adopted the convention with every partner I could persuade or coerce into playing FSJs.

Here's my version of the basic idea: when our side has at about half the deck (or more) and a fit, we have various different ways of supporting partner: single raise, limit raise, delayed raise, Bergen raise, Jacoby 2NT, splinter, Soloway jump shifts, etc. etc.  These are all wonderful ways to describe our hand and fit.  There's just one snag: at least half the time the darn opponents are in there, muddying the waters.  Many of these wonderful treatments are now off and we have to fall back on cue-bids, Truscott, simple raises, preemptive raises, etc.

It's well known that a double fit will often enable a side to take one (or more) additional tricks over what might be expected otherwise.  Enter the FSJ.

Let's suppose we have a hand with a fit for partner which, opposite partner's minimum, we reasonably expect will allow our side to make a three-level contract.  If, in addition, we have a good side suit, we show it by jumping in that suit.  If the opponents continue to interfere, partner will be well-placed to know what to do.  The bid is forcing to three-of-our-suit so we can use the bid with any strength.  Either partner can continue the auction appropriately, showing either a minimum or extras.

Sometimes, the jump will actually be to the four-level and this will normally show greater values, especially if a jump to the three-level was available.

The reason that we limit the FSJ to hands with a good side suit is that partner will be basing his judgment (double, pass or bid on) based on knowing that all or most of our values will be in "our" two suits.  If we were to make an FSJ with, say, an empty five-card side suit, partner will devalue his hand for offensive purposes with a singleton or void in that suit, when in fact, he will have a very offense-oriented holding.  He may misjudge and double the opponents when we should be bidding on.  So, the side suit must have values.  Something like AQJxx would be perfect.  Partner, looking at Kxx in that suit, or even Txx, will know that we have a great double fit.

So, what about a hand?  I'm a little ashamed of this example.  Partly because, my side suit wasn't that good, and partly because, seeing the complete layout, the opponents could have done much better than they did.  Still, the FSJ does put pressure on the opponents and they don't have the benefit of knowing so well about any double fits.

So, here's the hand:  ♠95 QJ42 QJT84 ♣J9.  The opponents were vulnerable while we were not, and my LHO dealt and opened the bidding with 1♠.  Partner overcalled 2.  RHO doubled (negative).  I bid 4, a fit-showing jump showing a heart fit and a good diamond suit [yes, the A instead of the 8 would have been better].  I wanted my partner to be able to judge what to do if the opponents bid 4♠ (or perhaps 5♣).  In the event, neither of these things happened.  Partner, holding ♠7642 AKT73 A6 ♣84, simply bid 4 and there it rested.  We were -100 while the opponents could easily make 4♣ (the most popular contract) or 4♠.  Yes, the opponents could have doubled us for 300 which would have been good for them as it happens, or outbid us to 4♠ which would have been a shared top, but they didn't do either of these things.  Even if partner decides to bid on, on the basis of Ax in my side suit, we'd still be only -500 against a vulnerable game.

I didn't have a lot of high-card points, and some might criticize my bid because partner should expect more and might be tempted to double 4♠ on his hand.  But I think that, at the vulnerability, a little slack needs to be given to the jumping partner.

Given that R&S devote about 200 pages to this subject, I obviously have not been able to give it the full treatment.  Another great aspect of the method is that, when we don't have a good side suit, we can cue-bid or bid 2NT showing three or four card support, respectively.  Knowing how good our fit is will be more help than nothing.

I'm still awaiting the perfect FSJ hand.  But it shouldn't be long now!

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