Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Downhill Notrump

A few months ago Bruce Downing asked me if I'd be available to play at the Sturbridge regional.  I said I would, with great enthusiasm, and here I am.

The last time we played must have been three or four years ago but we still had a card and were pretty much compatible with most of our system.  What to do about notrump openings, though?  During a pub lunch on Wednesday, we put together a system which we thought we'd like to try.  Later, Bruce came up with the name "The Downhill" notrump -- I expect you can see whence the name derives.

Here are the basics: 2/1 with a (slightly) variable notrump:

This is how we show balanced hands below 18 hcp:

Vulnerable versus not:
  • 15-17: 1NT with the usual systems, including four-suit transfers, Lebensohl, etc.;
  • 12-14: as standard (one of a suit with a rebid of 1NT)
All other situations:
  • 10-11: 1NT with the following responses:
    • 2-level bids are all to play (yes, including 2♣);
    • 3-level bids are forcing and natural;
    • 2NT is a modified form of "Muppet" (3♣ both majors, 3 one major, 3 no four-or-five card major, 3♠ five spades, 3NT five hearts)
    • 4-level bids are Gerber, Texas and Jabbour (a kind of minor-suit-Stayman).
  • 12-14: 1 followed by a rebid of 1NT
  • 15-17: 1♣ followed by a rebid of 1NT.
Now, you should realize that we aren't suggesting that this system is the perfect way of playing bridge.  But it was simple and easy and fitted our way of thinking.  We expected some fireworks and we got them!

Here's an example from the pairs we entered to get the kinks out: you pick up ♠9842 AJ83KT3 ♣Q6 as dealer with none vulnerable.  You open 1NT and after two passes, RHO decides to double.  LHO bids 2♣ and partner now doubles showing values.  RHO bids 2 and you double.  It turns out that we can make 4 on a Moyesian fit with 22 hcp -- but of course nobody is in it.  We don't take our ten tricks on defense, but we do take eight which is enough for a top (500). 

The second hand of the set is not so good.  At that point, we hadn't talked about the dreaded red on white situation, which is especially bad when in third seat.  This time our hand is ♠754 6543KT5 ♣T42.  When RHO pulls out the red card, I have nowhere to go and the result is a bottom (-500).  Since then, we have decided to play normal strong notrumps when  red on white!

But, that one hand has been our only disaster.  On every other hand when we got to open 1NT, we have either ended up with the normal result, or we have ended up with a good pickup.

It's all downhill from here.