Friday, March 16, 2012

Having your cake and eating it

I've always thought what a strange expression this is (see the title) – and it's not really improved by putting "too" on the end.  Nevertheless, I thought it was vaguely appropriate for the following story which occurred at another club game.

Every system has its good points and its bad points.  The good point about playing some version of Kaplan-Sheinwold (2/1 with 12-14 notrump) is that you can happily open balanced 12-counts because your partner knows more or less what you have and, if the hand belongs to the the opponents, you have denied them the one-level.  Of course, if you are vulnerable, you might go for a number but that happens so rarely that it's really not a big concern.  You might point out of course that you are happy to open balanced 12-counts all the time playing a strong notrump – but in my opinion that's actually a lot more dangerous.

But I digress.  The one area of the K-S system that is a problem is dealing with the unbiddable 12-14 unbalanced hands?  These don't come up very often but when they do, you simply have to grin and bear it.  You know that all your counterparts at the other tables will be opening the hand, but what can you do?

Such a hand came up last night.  At unfavorable vulnerability I dealt myself ♠ A  KJ73  Q92 ♣ AT654.  All would have been well if my clubs were somewhat more robust or if my hearts and spades were swapped.  Or, I suppose I could pretend that I actually had two spades and open it 1NT or even open 1♣ and rebid 1NT.  Still, it was early in the evening and there was no compelling reason to break discipline.  After two passes, my partner opened 2♠ and RHO doubled.  Now, things were beginning to get interesting!  I redoubled, setting the scene for a nice penalty double and, if I wasn't already a passed hand, asking for a feature with a view to game at these colors.  In fact, one pair did bid and make 3NT which is a legitimate contract according to Deep Finesse.

LHO bid 3 which I was planning to double (for 300).  But instead, RHO bid 3.  I was more than happy to double that.  I started with the ♠A and continued with a trump, ending up with eight tricks for 800.  Dummy, of course, was a huge disappointment to declarer – after all, dummy was supposed to have quite a few more points on the auction.  Partner's hand was about what I'd expect for a vulnerable third-seat weak two in spades: ♠ KJ9763  52  65 ♣ KJ9.

So, my initial disappointment with having to pass a 14-hcp hand was more than made up for by the final result.  Indeed, I was able to have my cake and eat it!


  1. There's something to be said for passing a marginal opening hand for which you can anticipate a rebid problem. But 14 HCP and 2 1/2 quick tricks is far from "marginal"!

    12-14 1NT would be my choice on your hand, and I could be talked into opening 1H to plan to rebid 2C. Pass, to be honest, would not be under consideration.

    But then you got a top, and I doubt I would have scored nearly so well ... so what do I know?

  2. Standard bidders have problems with your hand, too. After opening 1C and hearing a 1S response from partner, they, too, would have to choose to rebid 1NT. And then partner would no doubt bid 2S next, same as he would have had you opened 1NT.

  3. Gee, I wish I had been smart enough to have considered each of these thoughts at the time I first replied, so that I am not posting three times when one should suffice. Sorry.

    This type of bidding problem often produces a tempo issue, too. I wasn't at the table -- and I know you to be an ethical player -- but it is very difficult to pass in tempo while looking at such a good hand and yet choosing to pass.

    If there were to be a pass out of tempo, then the whole result of the auction is subject to dispute. Your partner's weak two bid seems quite normal -- but maybe not given the vulnerability and the absence of some key spade intermediates. No matter how silly you (and I) feel such a call might be, his removing a double with a no-ace hand opposite a passed hand is also the type of mistake one can make. More likely than that situation causing an adjustment to the table result is finding partner with a more marginal unfav vul weak two and not feeling free to make that opening if an out-of-tempo pass has been made, thus giving him Unauthorized Information that his partner was close to bidding as dealer.

  4. Jeff, worry not. I am happy to get your comments, a la Charles Dickens, in installments.
    In retrospect, I think I should have opened 1C and rebid 1NT over partner's spade. The hand is perhaps slightly too good for an opening 12-14 1NT, given the two aces and 5431 shape, especially if partner happens to bid hearts. Not to mention the possibility of the opponents complaining when I turn up with only one spade. Standard bidders would be able to open 1C and, if necessary, rebid 1NT without undue consideration.
    Yes, passing did feel a bit strange and perhaps I was overdoing it.
    But as you point out in your third comment, one can't agonize over this hand without causing a possible UI problem. Thus I quickly (I believe) decided in favor of pass. I'm 99% sure that Len was as surprised as anyone when I doubled and was able to take so many tricks.

  5. I played a weak no trump for many years in lots of partnerships and in every one I would open 1C and rebid 2C after partners 1S. I'm against rebidding NT because partner should be pulling to Jxxxx of spades.

    I'm horrified by the thought of passing, my calls in order of preference 1C, 1NT, 1H, 1D, 2H, 3C, 2NT, Pass.

  6. I think something is amiss if you believe that: (a) standard bidders would open 1C and rebid 1NT (12-14) over a 1S response; and (b) you should have, in retrospect, opened 1C and rebid 1NT (15-17 in your system) over a 1S response.

    How can it be right to upgrade a 14 point hand when partner has just bid your singleton? And how can it be right to be choosing between showing a non-opening bid and showing a strong notrump? As usual, when two extreme actions are being considered, an action between the two extremes is a better choice.

    If, as Daniel points out, partner pulls to 2S over a 12-14 1NT opener, your hand will prove a disappointment, but at least you will have top range high card to compensate for the low range trump support. And a few helpful spot cards from partner will make your hand an OK dummy: let's say that he is kind enough for his spades to be JT9xx, opposite your stiff ace. Now spades might be good for three tricks in a spade contract and yet might be worth only one trick in a notrump contract because of lack of entries to responder's hand.

  7. I fear that if partner held a very similar hand, say:


    Which is another 1435 shape with 14 highs and a ten we may pass in a hand that has a legitimate play for 6H and 6C!

  8. Have no fear, Jeff. I don't think anything is "amiss". Even world champions can play only one system at a time so nobody is faced
    with having to choose between these two "extreme actions". And even in those situations offering two extreme actions, I'm not sure that there's any evidence that steering a middle course is generally best.
    And while we may idly debate the issue here, I do think many standard bidders would be happy to open 1C and rebid 1NT over partner's spade response without a qualm.
    One makes what one hopes is the most descriptive call, with all proper regard to the rebid, and takes it from there.
    In the particular universe I inhabited on the day in question, I thought pass was most descriptive and I got a top. In another universe, I might have opened 1C and rebid 1NT. In yet another, perhaps an opening of 1NT would have worked best.
    If we played a quantum-mechanical version of bridge, perhaps at each turn we might register several calls or card plays, each with a certain probability amplitude.
    But for now, we're stuck with one system and one actual call at a time.

  9. I would have opened 1H, but I'm not familiar enough with KS to know whether that call is more dangerous than it is in standard.

    I had a similar hand in the Silodor. I had 9 Axx KJxx A9xxx and the x's were poor. I didn't have a good feel for which of the four plausible plans (1C/1NT, 1D/1NT, 1D/2C, 1C/2C) would work best with partner, so I passed. Partner opened 1NT and I raised to 3. When the dummy came down, RHO made me laugh when he said "Look at Reagan over here."

    The larger point is that some pretty good hands with a stiff spade can be passed due to anticipated difficulty in the auction. An unfavorable weak 2 in third should have the goods, so I can't imagine why third chair would ever consider pulling no matter what opener's tempo was at the first turn.