New system – Polar

Posted on January 30, 2011 by glen

“I’m living in between the earth and sky” Tea Leaf Green’s Trevor Garrod on cloud computing.


There’s another system in the clouds.  It’s a blend of modified Polish, some Focal ideas (see last post), and a Mexican/Italian 2D opening for 18-19 balanced.  The 1C opening is five-way, much like it is in a Polish Club systems, although these are often considered just three way, forgetting about the 4-4-1-4 minimum hands, and the split of big hands into unbalanced and balanced types.  It may seem complex to play a five-way opening, but one just assumes at first it is a weak notrump hand type, and let the other hand types when they occur reveal themselves later in the auction.  The ETM Polar notes are here:

The 18-19 balanced are moved out of the 1C opening to make it more bulletproof, and it’s a good component even for standard systems.  The 2D opening structure in the notes is closely based on the Lauria-Versace methods, with a few tweaks here and there.  The Italians don’t allow a five card major for their opening, but this structure is designed to investigate for the 5-3 fits as puppet Stayman variations do over 2NT openings.

As I said in the last post I don’t plan on updating this blog much until the world championships, but I will post as new ideas are worth discussing.  Please feel free to email questions and comments on any of the ETM systems and conventions, or new ideas that you have seen elsewhere in the clouds.


Two new systems

Posted on January 17, 2011 by glen

Since the summer I’ve been designing some bidding systems around using the one diamond opening as a limited and balanced/semi-balanced opening, never with major suit shortness.  There are a number of frameworks that can be used, and to illustrate the idea in a full system, I’ve published two systems today.

The first is a big club system with featherweight (8 to 12 mostly) major suit openings and a variable notrump range.  I would play the unrestricted version (see last page of the notes) if one level multis were allowed, but system restrictions continue in most countries.  Here’s Focal:

The second is a two-way club system, where the one club is either 12-16 three-suited or 17+ any.  It keeps the playing value of all the openings very well defined, at the price of not being as fun as Focal.  Still it’s a lot more intriguing than the 2/1 system sold at Walmart, and the Cyborgs think it has a cool name:

As a bonus I’ve published the Ashton system notes that my wife and I used, including some components that you will have seen before.  The approach of the system is to try to take out the flaws of standard, such as opener rebidding three card suits when standard provides no good rebid.  I don’t expect anybody to use these notes as their system but a few parts may be useful to partnerships:

During 2011, I will continue to post rarely on the blog, up until a few weeks before the world championships begin, at which point I will discuss the systems in play at the worlds.  Please feel free to keep sending me questions, and I’ll post replies to the blog when others will find it worthwhile reading.


Game Force Raise in Competition

Posted on September 18, 2010 by glen

Two sequences:



On both sequences, the opponents have overcalled in clubs, responder has cuebid support for opener, and opener’s RHO has bid 5C to put the decision on opener.

The key here is whether opener’s pass is forcing or not – that is if opener passes, can responder pass the hand out or must responder double or bid.  On the first auction, 4C clearly establishes a game force, and must be the “power” and/or “slam interest” hand, since responder can just bid 4H to play game.

On the second auction, the common approach is for the cuebid to be an invite or better raise, forcing only to 3H if responder has invite values.  I’ve seen the cuebid on as a few as 7 high card points with a shapely hand, and I’ve seen 1H on some shapely 10s.  Given that neither opener or responder are promising the partnership has the majority of the high card points, the pass can’t be played as forcing on the second auction.

Now when faced with five level decisions, we don’t want to bid 5-over-5 that often.  From my studies, 9 out of 10 times you don’t want to bid 5 over 5: that is only 10% of the time is it right to take the push to the five level.

On the second auction, for those 90% of the hands, opener has two bids: pass to show a minimum, and double to show extras.  It doesn’t put responder in the best of positions to make the final decision for the partnership.

On the first auction, for those 90% of the hands, opener has two bids: pass to show no clear direction, and double to show defensive values.  This provides responder with a better picture to make the final partnership decision.  It is the advantage of the forcing pass.

What the second auction needs is to distinguish the game invite raise from the power and/or slam interest hand.  For example, if one is willing to give up a natural 2NT on the second auction (perhaps double, then 2NT to show the notrump invite), one could play 2NT with the game invite raise, and 3C as the game force with a good hand raise.

One approach is to play the cheapest jump in a new suit as artificial, game raise with a good hand.  Then:

1H=2C=3C is game invite raise.
1H=2C=3D is artificial, game force raise, not singleton/void in clubs (would have bid 4C).

If the opponents now bid 5C over either of these bids, opener is better placed to contribute to the partnership decision.

There’s a further twist possible: it’s possible to play the game invite bid as two-way, either a game invite or with strong slam interest.  If opener shows extras at any point, the slam interest hand will know what to do.  Thus we have:

1H=2C=3C is game invite raise, or, less often, a strong slam interest raise: opener assumes game invite.
1H=2C=3D is artificial, game force raise, not singleton/void in clubs (would have bid 4C), less than strong slam interest.

This style helps the partnership get to the right level regardless of whether the opponents bid more or not.  Sometimes the cheapest jump in a new suit will be above 3M, such as with:

1H=2D=3D is game invite raise, or, less often, a strong slam interest raise: opener assumes game invite.
1H=2D=3S is artificial, game force raise, not singleton/void in diamonds (would have bid 4D), less than strong slam interest.

Giving up the 3S bid, if a splinter raise otherwise, is not too costly, since the key feature will usually be shortness in the opponents suit, and not shortness in a new suit.  If it would have been a fit showing raise, the loss of that can hurt, but the frequency and effectiveness isn’t as much as one might think.  To get best use out of a fit showing bid, one has strictly control the quality of the fit suit, and that reduces the opportunity to employ it.

On the first auction,  1H=3C=4C, there is no splinter raise available, since 4C has to be used for the general purpose raise.  If 4 of the cuebid suit is not right below 4M, it’s better to keep using the cheapest jump for the game force hand, such as here:

1H=3C=4C is game force raise, singleton/void in clubs.
1H=3C=4D is artificial, game force raise, not singleton/void in clubs.

Now on either of these auctions, if the next bid is 5C by the opponents, opener is well placed to use the forcing pass.

If you have any questions, please email bridgequestion .at. gmail .dot. com.


Sound of Philadelphia

Posted on September 9, 2010 by glen

Sadly I will not be at the World’s in Philadelphia because, as an elections specialist, I’m working.  Don’t you hate when work gets in the way of bridge?  Here’s some links that relate to Philly.

Ken Rexford has his WBF convention card ready:

It is necessary to get your cc ready early.  For Montreal in 2002, I left it until the night before, which resulted in 02 sleep – that is just 2 hours of sleep before I played since I stayed up trying to get the cc complete.  Work on it now if you haven’t got it done yet!

Ken is changing parts of their system:

Regardless of how good the idea is (and Ken’s idea here is great), don’t change system close to the big event.  In the first rounds of Montreal, the opponents made no big mistakes.  To keep pace, you need to play error free.  Making system changes imposes two costs: you may forget system, and you dedicate brain cells to remembering last minute system changes that would be better used to play and defend better.

Instead of changing system, consider changing your mental approach, and get into the right mindset.  Before she flew to England, Linda Lee left us with this insight:

Nobody left any comments on one of the best postings you can read about prep work.

Mental fitness is perspective, energy management, imagery and focus.

What are your chances in Philly?  World Champion Lorenzo Lauria thinks to win against the best:

If you devote yourself to another activity, you can’t do competitive bridge.

That means I have to give up my day job?

The quote is from an interview posted today:

This is an excellent interview, very frank, and I hope there is further discussion here:

If you see animated Italian discussions in Philly you will know why.



Posted on September 5, 2010 by glen

The site was started in 2004 for the multiple sclerosis community.  It grew into a life experiences network that promotes anonymous conversations about the human condition, including issues about: Cancer, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Heart Attack, Diabetes, Stroke, Stress, Chronic Pain, Alcohol, Marijuana, Ecstasy, Cocaine, Heroin, Meth, Pain Relievers, Uppers, Downers, Delusions, Psychosis, Distractions, Preoccupation, Anger, Divorce, Abuse, Abandonment, Selfishness, and Narcissism.

What has this to do with bridge?  Everything actually, since bridge is a game played mostly by humans.

Bridge is a great pastime, and when playing the game one can gain a temporary respite from problems.  Given the aging bridge population, some of your opponents and even partners will be battling conditions that you may not be aware of, or understand the scope of what they have to face every day.

When strange things happen at the bridge table it is important not to forget about the human condition.  Yet I continue to see this mistake made by some whom I otherwise have great respect for.

Let me take the case discussed in the last post, and introduce a hypothetical element.  This element will be completely fictional, as I don’t know the actual details, but it will well illustrate the mistake that can be made.

A bridge professional has a mild stroke, which is only known to his family.  After some rehabilitation he regains most of his facilities, but occasionally has symptoms including Dyslexic-like substitution.   Loving the game of bridge and enjoying an income from it, he resumes play as a professional, and aside from a few occurrences of what some would call a “brain fart” or “cow flew by”, he does okay for himself and his clients.

Then one day in an important match, his problem reoccurs and while thinking of bidding six clubs, his mind processes the direction as to bid six diamonds, and he doesn’t notice the problem until after the hand is over, he has made the slam, and the opponents question his strange bid.  What is he to do – announce the reason is his stroke and destroy his business?   Instead he provides some reasoning and hope the outcry goes away, especially considering the hand had no effect on the final result of the match.

If the strange bid was turned over to recorder, perhaps the player could tell the recorder with confidentiality about his health problems.  However instead the opponents decide to launch a public chastisement, and then, after it goes online, it becomes almost a vendetta to rid the game of anybody who would make a suspect bid.  What can the player do to defend himself?

Again I stress this is all hypothetical and likely does not involve the actual case of the last posting.  Yet consider the issues I mentioned at the top, and how some of them could easily result in a strange bid in a pressure situation.

Considering the human condition, I find this statement reprehensible:

“Six diamonds not possible without UI”.

I’ve played bridge with a partner in a national championship, who, as it sadly turns out, had undetected early onset Alzheimer’s, and believe me anything is possible.  Now if these experts were misquoted, and meant to say:

“Six diamonds not possible without UI or some human condition resulting in impairment”

that would be understandable.  However from what I can see these experts have chosen to ignore the human condition.  They treat it as if they were the ones making the bid, and perhaps they are exceptional bridge professionals that never had to face an illness so far in their career.

In another case, I was put in a situation where I had to help a player with an impairment complete a session.  On a late hand, I ended up making a distorted bid to become declarer.  Afterwards, to discuss bridge laws, I reported the hand without any reference to my partner’s state.  In the ensuing discussion I was publically admonished by a top expert for making my bid, without the expert taking any time to find out about the relevant circumstances: the human condition.

The bridge community can be a cold, results-oriented place from time to time, but as we get older it’s time we care a little more about each other.


After a Lull

Posted on August 29, 2010 by glen

After quite the lull, Lall is back with an interesting post:

As a big fan of Justin’s, I like his title, which blends with today’s phrase of the day from the urban dictionary:

In my corny view, vigilante justice solves nothing, though produces very long threads on BridgeBase forums.  Based on a single bid on a single hand, Justin’s post, quotes, and related links, amounts to the stoning of the perpetrator.  Is this how we want things to be handled in our bridge community?

Years ago, I had a stunt pulled on us by an unethical player – I know he was unethical because he now has a lifetime suspension from the ACBL for multiple occurrences of cheating.  First I had to calm “the F” down.  Once F became, f, and then f disappeared, I followed due process, which was TD, committee, report results of committee to recorder.

In Justin’s case, this was the right way:

when speaking with people who are on the Appeals Committee they seemed to agree that no adjustment could be made based on one bid. All advised simply to record the facts with the national recorder, and move on.

Instead of recorder and “move on”, we got talking behind the perpetrator’s back, then posting on BridgeBase forums, then on, then BridgeWinners, and then Justin’s blog, and finally here.  Just have the mob keep throwing those stones.

Wouldn’t it be much better to give the hand/the bid to the national recorder and have the perpetrator unaware of the report?  Then if the perpetrator, unaware he is being noticed, continues with other hands/bids then there is real evidence of misdoings.  Then a proper process can be taken to kick the perpetrator out of bridge competitions.

Please consider the outcome you want, such as a perpetrator out of bridge, before starting a shit storm.


The Best Book about Bridge ever written

Posted on August 21, 2010 by glen

While I was traveling on holidays (one reason why the blog wasn’t getting any updates), I read some books on my Kindle (no more lugging books around while on holiday, except for books like Bridge at the Enigma Club which was cheaper buying from Amazon in paper form than as in ebook).  One of the books I read was what I feel is the best book about bridge ever written.

The book is about bridge, but it’s not really a bridge book since it doesn’t fall under that category.  At this time, the book is #6 Amazon Bestseller in the Books – Teens – School & Sports – Fiction category.  Of the Amazon list of 100 other books that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”, 96% are non-bridge books.

The book has multi-level appeal, in that it will be a great read for all these types of readers:

-          Young readers

-          Adult readers

-          Senior readers

-          Non-bridge players

-          Novice bridge players

-          Intermediate bridge players

-          Advanced bridge players

-          Expert bridge players

In short a book about bridge has been written for everybody.  That’s amazing!

The book explains what bridge is like at the club level, sectional level (small tournaments), regional tournaments, and NABCs (national championships).  It describes the type of players and competition found at these levels.  It accurately depicts the type of reactions that young players will get when they start learning the game and then sit down against much older opposition.

It highlights bridge as a great intellectual pastime, and convinces the reader as to why people love to play this intriguing game.  You can give the book to your non-bridge playing relatives, to explain why you are spending time and money attending tournament after tournament.

It covers technical details on bridge, to the point that a few will find there is too much, but the author offers an innovative scheme to allow those readers to skip over the bridge details that will bore some.  My oldest daughter recently suggested we get together to play some bridge even though she has only played the game a couple of times in her life – now I have a book to give her (if it wasn’t in Kindle form) that she will find fascinating to read while giving her introductory education to play the game.

The description of the NABC in Chicago was like he followed Karen & I around – after examining the menus of opulence surrounding the playing site, we ate almost exclusively at an inexpensive local sandwich shop ( to conserve money, using the wide assortment of sandwiches available to provide meal variety.  The discussion on pillows was likewise well founded – when travelling we bring our own pillows to avoid the too hard, too soft, too lumpy concerns.

The key to making the book work for young and old, for bridge players of all skill levels, and for those who don’t play bridge, and may never do so, is the storytelling.  It is simply terrifically done, with plot puzzles, twists and turns of events, and developments ranging from sad to funny.  Having just finished a thriller where every second sentence contained a dog’s breakfast of simile, I was pleased with the clean and direct writing style, painting each scene with just enough to cover the canvas.

The book is a real page turner (or on a Kindle, a “next page” button clicker).  With all the adventures in it, this novel could very well be called “pageturner”, but it is:


By Louis Sachar


BridgeMatters returns to blog format

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

BridgeBest has been returned to blog format from the forums site.  The return to the blog format is for less maintenance, and to assist with that, please send comments to bridgequestion @ gmail <dot> com instead of posting them here.  For those who signed up for notification by email of new postings, this will not be done, to reduce workload as well – sorry – please use the RSS feed from


Bridge on iphone, ipad, netbooks and laptops

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Here’s a video on viewing bridge on the iphone, ipad, netbook (notebook) and laptop devices:


European Open Methods Survey

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Here’s a survey of the methods used in the 2010 European Championships, Open Teams.  The countries that qualified for the Bermuda Bowl (World Championships in Netherlands, 2011) were, in order: Italy, Poland, Israel, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands and Bulgaria.

Counts provided in the format nn/nn, where the first number is the number of partnerships playing the methods among the top 7 teams (the countries that qualified for the Bermuda Bowl, but they may change team composition for that event), and the second number is the number of partnerships playing the methods among the 18 teams that played in the final.  Numbers may be off by one due to miscounting or bad placement.


3/8: 2+, but some bal opens 1D
5/9: 2+, clubs or balanced
2/12: 3+
1/3: 4+ or (3)4+
6/13: Big club0/2: Swedish club (weak bal or big club, sometimes called modified Polish Club)
4/7: Polish club (or modified Polish with weak 1NT)


2/11: 3+ 5/15: 4+
8/16: 4+ or (4)5+, unbalanced or bal only if 5Ds
1/3: 4+ unbalanced in 1/2, (1)2+ in 3/4
1/2: 2+
4/7: Fewer than 2


20/48: 5+ or (4)5+
0/4: 4+
1/2: 1S: 5+, 1H: 4+


11/30: 15-17,  (14)15-17, 14+-17, 15-17(18), 16-17, 15+–18
1/7: Weak, 11-14, 12-14, (11)12-14, 12-15, (11)12-14(15)
0/1: Mini, 10-12, 11-13
3/4: Intermediate, 14-16, (13)14-16
2/4: Variable ranges, but none weak or mini
4/6: Variable ranges, including a mini
0/2: Variable ranges, including a weak but no mini


8/29: Strong
8/16: 6+Cs or 5Cs+4cM, or 5Cs unbal
1/1: 6+Cs
1/1: 5+Cs, unbal, no 4cM
1/1: 18-19 Bal
2/3: Weak two in Ds or Strong
0/1: Hs or Strong
0/1: Hs & any, weak
0/1: Majors


1/4: Weak, 6D or (5)6D
1/2: Weak, 5+Ds1/1: 5+Ds, unbal, no 4cM
10/17: Multi, no strong option
3/10: Multi, with strong option
2/3: 18-19 Bal
1/7: Strong or semi-strong
0/2: Bad weak two V, Majors NV
1/4: Majors
1/2: Hs or Strong
0/1: Ss or Strong
0/1: Wilkosz, weak two suiter with one or both majors


4/14: Weak two, 6M or (5)6M
3/7: Weak two, 5+M (NV or all Vuls)
9/16: Two suiter
2/3: Intermediate
0/4: Constructive
0/2: Constructive V, two suiter NV
0/1: 2H: Majors, 2S: Weak, 5+
0/1: 2H: Majors, 2S: Ss + minor
2/2: 2H: Short Ds, 2S: Ss + minor
0/1: 2H: Flannery (4Ss & 5Hs), 2S: 5+Ss & 4+Cs
0/1: 2H: Weak, exactly 5Hs, 2S: bad preempt any suit
1/1: 2H Ss weak or strong, 2S: C preempt or weak 5Hs & 5Ds or GF minors
0/1: Strong but not forcing


12/32: 20-21, 20-22, (20)21-22, 19-21, 20-21(22), (19)20-22
3/6: 22-23, 22-24, 21-23
6/16: Both minors


8/14: 1C Transfers
6/8: Gazzilli
3/4: Raptor/Polish 1NT overcalls

Update on Wilkosz:

They allowed Brown Sticker conventions if the form (“Brown Sticker Opening Bid Announcement Form”) was completed okay.  Here’s the link to the cc in this case:

Here is their whole “Proposed Defense”:

We ourselves use DBL as takeout of spades (same hand, with what we would double 2 opening, which shows spades, ie very strong on opening strength with 4 or something similar) and other bids NAT. With takeout of hearts we pass and hope to pick up the bidding later. Probably the other defenses against Multi or Polish Wilkosz are also possible to use.

Why anybody would approve that I would not know.


European Team Championships

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks since I’ve been very busy with, of all things, bridge.  I thank the Icelandic Bridge Federation for giving me the opportunity to provide scouting services for their team in the 50th European Team Championships, held in Ostend Belgium.  It was a lot of work, both writing and watching, but it was a lot of fun too, as I love bidding methods and the championship had a wonderful mix of ideas and approaches.  It was thrilling to see the Icelandic team play excellent bridge from start to finish, resulting in 4th place and a well-deserved Bermuda Bowl spot for 2011 in the Netherlands.

General conclusion from having watched a lot of bridge: have methods that leave your partnership well-placed for decisions in competitive auctions.  This does not stop bad decisions, but just mitigates against it.

I haven’t seen any system numbers from the championships (for the USBF see , mostly 2/1, Meckwell if you are Meckwell, Meckwell Lite if you like Meckwell but aren’t them), and if nobody posts something shortly, in a couple of days I’ll have a survey here.  For the Europeans, even the top seven teams (in order) of Italy, Poland, Israel, Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands and Bulgaria, all played a lot of contrasting systems.  The variety of systems produced swings in themselves, and that added to the drama of a great event to be followed online, and thanks to all the organizers for having many tables available on the Internet for each round of this truly terrific championship.


Blended Canape Issues

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

keep your mouth shut or it’s ruination day” – She’s Long Gone – The Black Keys

I’ve had a system question by email to bridgequestion (at) gmail dot com

I was reading your blog post here:

on the topic of four- vs. five-card majors in a big club system.

I was interested because in my pet system, I was also led to put the 4=4=1=4 and 4h-5c hands in the 1H opening bid, for reasons like the ones you’ve discussed.
My question is: how do you sort out opener’s rebids? The obvious thing is to put balanced hands somewhere else, so that a minimum NT rebid can be used for a hand with exactly four hearts. But this starts to take up a lot of bidding room after, say, 1H:2D,2NT. And after the auction 1H:1NT, it seems like a 2C rebid could be 5h-4c or 4h-5c, no?

Do you have any suggested tools for handling opener’s rebid in these auctions?


It depends on what you put into 1H, either the whole kitchen sink, or just some of the dishes.  In Spry ( the design trick used was to employ a Fantunes type 2H opening, making the 1H opening likely just 4 if 10-13.  Then sequences such as 1H-1NT;-2H showed 5+Hs and extras, instead of the standard meaning of 6+Hs, minimum or not enough for a jump rebid.  This freed up sequences such as 1H-1NT;-2m to show exactly 4Hs.
In Storm ( the 1H opening could be 4 when having 4+Ds and 11-14, and the system had specific sequences to unwind these, such as 1H-1NT;-2C showing 11-14 4Hs & 5+Ds (not Cs!) or 13/14-17 with 5+Hs and no other good bid.  The idea is you can “trash compact” the 2C rebid to show either some minimum hand type or a variety of hand types with extras, and have responder bid 2D to ask.  The cool part of this, compared to Gazzilli, was the stop of 1H-1NT;2C(Ds or extras)-2D(asks);-P(I have diamonds and we don’t have game) – it was likely more fun in design than in play.

One can look at Canapé implementations for ideas as well.  If one goes back to when von Arnim-Aukin included supplementary notes in their posted cc, we see that 2C is a game force relay (artificial), with these replies:

2D 5+H + 4S or 5+H + 4C/D or BAL 11-13V, 12+-15NV or one-suiter H
2H 4+H + 5C
2S 4+H + 5D
2NT 4H + 6C
3C 4H + 6D
3D 6H + 5S

The design is to ask at a low level (2C), allowing enough room to unwind the hand types, with the cheapest reply (2D) doing a lot of work.  Their system has some beautiful design elements, and is an example of blended canapé, where the major suit openings can be canapé, having a longer second suit, but can also be just 5+ natural.

The American Forcing Minor Bidding System (Joe Lutz and Jerry Fink) is another blended canapé system.  In their book you learn a lot of the sequences by following their many examples.  Two relevant design elements:1) they use 1M-2m;-2M as 5+, allowing other bids (aside from 3M or higher) to show exactly 4 in M.2) the sequences of 1M-1NT;-2m are vague on the major/minor suit lengths – they can be 5/4,4/5 or more shapely.  When necessary responder strives to bid again to give opener the chance to pass in a good contract or shape out.  The key is that opener is limited, and thus the hunt is for the best partscore landing spot, and game investigation is secondary.

Other systems are more pure canapé, such as Ken Rexford’s Modified Italian Canapé System, where the major suit openings are either balanced, or 4 with a longer second suit, or 6+.  Here he used Roman 2H/S openings to show 5+ in the major and 4+Cs, and thus can have a sequence like 1H-1NT;-2C to show exactly 4Hs and longer Cs.

Let me now directly reply to the question of having 4=4=1=4 and 4h-5c hands in the 1H opening bid, which blends some but not all canapé types into 1H, and how to unwind these.

The first key sequence is 1H-1NT.  First 4=4=1=4 with 11-14 should pass this – often 1NT is the best contract (often the best of a bad lot), and if there is a better contract its hard to reach if you bid again.  For your 15-16s 4=4=1=4 I suggest treating it as balanced when allowed (some locations don’t like those NT bids with singletons), and/or upgrading these into 1C even if sometimes you get to game without sufficient values.

If you have 4H & 5Cs (or if you play it 4Hs & 5+Cs) then its 1H-1NT;-2C, the same thing you are doing with 5Hs & 4+Cs.  Now the 2H rebid by responder shows 2-3Hs, and says I want to play in 2H if you have 5, but bid 3C if you just have 4Hs.  There are two things necessary to make this work:1) With 4+Ss and 3Hs, respond 1H-1S2) With 5+Ds and 3Hs, bid 1H-1NT;-2C-2D to show your diamonds.  And to make that work, opener now has to rebid 2H over 2D with 5.Given these two things, responder will have some clubs for 1H-1NT;-2C-2H, and opener is relatively safe to bid 3C with 5Cs.

The next key sequence is 1H-1S;-2C, where again Hs/Cs can be 4/5,5/4 or more shapely.  In standard 2D here is fourth suit forcing.  The recommendation here is to play it as an asking bid, like fourth suit forcing, but not to have the bid promise values (game force in some implementations).  After 2D and opener’s descriptive rebid (no jumping around please), responder can only force by bidding 2NT (if available), bidding spades, or making a jump below game.  This is not the best for game and slam bidding, but in a system with limited major suit openings you can scrimp by since opener doesn’t have the extras you need to hunt for in standard.

For 2/1, both 1H-2m auctions should be game forces to have the sequences to show the hand types.  The first key sequence is 1H-2C, and here its best to put in some artificiality, such as with von Arnim-Aukin.  One can modify 2Dlay ( to have 1H-2C;-3C show 5+Cs and exactly 4Hs, 1H-2C;-3D show exactly 4=4=1=4, and 1H-2C;-3S show exactly 4=4=0=5.

For 1H-2D, it’s time to chip in a little Martel.  In Martel’s methods, 1H(5+)-2D;-2S shows clubs, while 1H(5+)-2D;-3C shows spades – this is a swap of suit showing then works especially well since he plays Flannery – thus 3C shows spades and extras, while the extra space helps the club hands unwind.  Thus we will play 1H(4+)-2D;-2S as clubs, can be 4/4,5/4,4/5+, and 1H(4+)-2D;-3C as spades, 5+Hs, 4+Ss.  After the club showing rebid of 2S, 2NT by responder will re-ask, and 3C with show 5+Cs, 3S will show exactly 4=4=1=4 or 4=4=0=5, and other rebids will show 5+Hs.  Since 1H-2D is messier than 1H-2C, prefer a 2C response whenever possible and/or have the agreement that 2C is balanced or clubs.

You’ll need to discuss competitive sequences with your partnership, and both of you will need to be comfortable playing 4-3 heart fits.  There will be sequences such as 1H-3D(overcall)-?, where responder will have to bid 3H on just 3Hs, even knowing opener could just have 4Hs.  Generally the rule for competitive sequence is strive to make a negative double without clear direction, and have the cheapest diamond bid over opener’s club rebid re-ask, opener to rebid hearts with 5+.  Frustration with the uncertainly of opener’s heart length in competitive sequences is the main reason partnerships give up blended canapé, and its best that those partnerships below advanced stick to five card majors, or a more pure canapé type system.


Value showing doubles vs. Frequent 4s

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

“Go gently through the floor, A dismal and meaningless sigh” – If You Can’t See My Mirrors – TNP

This is the last of a three part series on competing when the opponents bid your major suit.  This part will look at complex methods.

One myth we often see is that the best way to counteract aggressive action by the opponents is to maximize the opportunities to get them into a doubled contract.  For illustration, there are even conventions that put in place penalty doubles over weak twos, in the hope that would stop the things from being opened in the first place (btw I was using google translate on Icelandic yesterday, and a weak two came out as a “sick two” – very apropos).

However the key idea is not to maximize penalty opportunities.  Instead:

The primary objective is to get to all decent games and slams, and use the knowledge given out by the opponents bidding to assist in getting to the best strain and to improve the probability of making the contract.

Once that objective is accepted, then playing takeout doubles over their weak twos is clearly a better way to go then trying some penalty scheme.  Similarly responsive and negative doubles are better than reserving these for relatively infrequent penalty use.  One of the downsides to aggressive bidding against top pairs, is any contract they reached will be played almost double dummy, as if they can see all four hands.

Given that, when we want to design robust methods over the opponents bid of a major that can be frequently just 4 cards (“Frequent 4s”), we still want to focus on getting to our best spot as the priority.  We will combine this with the idea of going slow with working defensive values, as discussed in the last part of this series, which occasionally will present penalty opportunities although the primary objective of even the slow sequences will be to get to our best contract.

When one looks at hand types held directly over a canape opening in a major, when the major suit can be just 4, even a sick suit of 5432, and may have a longer second suit, such as the old Italians partnerships played, then one rarely sees a perfect takeout double of that major.  Instead more often one sees a takeout double in opener’s second longer suit, but that suit is unknown when the major is opened.  Thus playing takeout doubles over the major suit opening, especially when not allowing shape distortions such as only two in an unbid suit, is a waste of a perfectly good double, just like playing penalty doubles instead of negative doubles.

Following the go-slow with working defensive values idea, and if willing to employ complexity, then double over a natural Frequent 4 can represent these hand types:a) a strong notrump overcall or betterb) length in the opponents suit with valuesc) values in the opponents suit with length in another suit
Note that this becomes a passable double, since the double is not takeout.  However most often the double will be advanced by the partner of the doubler.
To unwind the double we employ two asking bids:a) the cheapest bid asks doubler to show hand type but has less than game invite valuesb) the cheapest bid  of their suit asks doubler to show hand type while indicating game invite or stronger values

By advancer (partner of doubler) all other non-jump bids and a jump suit bid in the cheapest bid (if not notrump), are natural, non-forcing.  All other jump bids below game by advancer are natural game invites.

Here’s an example:

1H(4+, frequently 4)-X-P-?:
Pass: to play
1S: asks, less than invite
2H: asks, invite or better
1NT, 2X not including 2H: natural, less than an invite
2NT, 3X: natural, invites

After 1H(Frequent 4)-X-P-1S(asks);-P-?
1NT: strong notrump overcall (15-18 or however your partnership plays it)
2X: natural, including 2H
2NT: 19-21, natural
3X: natural, non-forcing but very strong
Games: to play

With the strong notrump overcall in the double, this frees up the cheapest notrump bid for other duties, and the best use of that is a limited takeout double of their major.  We will use a bid of their major as the strong takeout double.  Thus we have:

After 1H(Frequent 4)-?:
X: Values in hearts, can have length in any suit or a strong(+) notrump overcall
1S, 2C, 2D: natural overcall, not defensively oriented1NT: Limited takeout double of Hs, passable
2H: Strong takeout double of Hs, forcing

One can use this method over responding Frequent 4s, such as:

X: Values in hearts, can have length in any suit or a strong(+) notrump overcall
1S, 2C, 2D: natural overcall, not defensively oriented (or 2C as your partnership defines it)
1NT: Limited takeout double of Hs, passable
2H: Strong takeout double of Hs, forcing

Things get messier when the opponents Frequent 4 bid artificially shows the major, such as with a transfer.  The trouble is if we double the artificial bid, the opponents sometimes have the option of playing right there.

If we’ve bid the suit before (or if the artificial bid is notrump) it’s not much of a concern.  For example it goes:

1H-2H(overcall): black suits

Your first question: how many spades does overcaller often have.

It turns out they play Top+Bottom in a Hardy style:

In that link, see the discussion on the book “Competitive Bidding with Two Suited Hands” by Hardy.

Here, in this example, the 2H bid is top and bottom, 4+Ss, often just 4, with longer clubs.
As discussed in the first part of the series, since spades can just be a four card suit, you don’t want to abandon spades as a playable suit.  Using double as value showing:

X: Values in spades, can have length in any suit or a natural notrump bid (invite or better)
2S, 3D: natural overcall, not defensively oriented, not forcing
2NT: H raise3C: Forcing bid in Ds

If one just had values in clubs, and little in spades, the best approach is to pass first, then double next time (the opponents usually having bid spades).  While this sounds like a trap pass, it is well defined on value location.

If we haven’t shown the suit the artificial bid is made in, then its awkward.  First we establish these unwinding asking bids for the double:

a) As before the cheapest bid asks doubler to show hand type but has less than game invite values
b) The cheapest bid of the suit doubled asks doubler to show hand type while indicating game invite or stronger values (this then works out as before, but is the more general rule).

For example we have:

1D(4+Hs, frequently 4)-X-P-?:
Pass: to play, shows diamonds
1H: asks, less than invite
2D: asks, invite or better
1S, 1NT, 2C, 2H: natural, less than an invite
2S, 2NT, 3X: natural, invites

Note this sequence:

1D(4+Hs, frequently 4)-X-P-1H(asks, less than an invite);-all pass
Doubler passes 1H to play there, or put more accurately, to have partner play there!

However the artificiality of the opponents costs them too as it gives up a bid of their “Frequent 4” at a lower level than if they had bid naturally.  We then define two uses of their Frequent 4 suit, if they have bid it artificially:

1) The cheapest bid of the Frequent 4 suit is takeout of that suit, any strength
2) A jump bid of the Frequent 4 suit is natural, long in the suit, and short in the suit actually bid (the artificial bid).

The reason for the natural bid of 2) is to ensure that when we double the artificial bid, the double is almost never very short in the suit doubled.  This allows the double to be passed more often, and puts the opponents under more pressure to bid over the double.

Here’s an example sequence with a fair bit of artificiality:

1D(0+, 11-15, big club system)-X-1H(transfer to Ss)-?
X: Values in spades, can have length in any suit (but not short in Hs) or a decent notrump bid
1S: takeout of Ss
1NT, 2C, 2D, 2H: natural, not defensively oriented and/or too short in Hs for doubling 1H
2S: Natural, long spades, short Hs

If we’re playing against transfer major suit openings, such as Moscito, their artificial openings gives us our 1NT overcall back:

After 1D(Frequent 4+Hs)-?:
X: Values in hearts, can have length in any suit or a strong(+) notrump overcall
1H: Takeout of Hs
1S, 1NT, 2C, 2D: natural overcall, not defensively oriented
2H: Natural, long Hs, short Ds

Several follow-up points:

First, if the bid doubled was spades, by “not an invite” it means for the typical notrump hand that the doubler can have, it will pass the cheapest bid that asks by advancer, since this will ask in NT.

Example:1S(4+)-X-P-1NT(asks, not an invite)-P;-P-P
The doubler passes 1NT with a strong notrump.  When a spade bid is doubled, what is required for an invite is less, and for that reason with minimum values when acting directly over Frequent 4s prefer other option, such as a natural overcall, to doubling the spade bid.

Second, note that the partner of the Frequent 4 bidder will be under pressure to bid over a double, since they will often be short in their partner’s 4-showing suit, and not be able to tell if advancer is going to pass the double.  If they do bid a suit, the next double by either player is passable takeout, and after a passable takeout double, all doubles for penalty.

For examples:

For both examples, the double of 2D is passable takeout, and the double of 2S is penalty.

Third, if the opponents have shown hearts artificially, one can employ a method used in negative double situations, which is:

1m-1H(overcall)-?, here X is 4+ spades, 1S is negative without 4+Ss.

In effect the negative double acts as a spade transfer, showing 4 or longer spades, not just the exactly 4 spades of a standard negative double.

Likewise if our cheapest heart bid becomes defined as takeout of hearts, we can use that to show takeout with four or longer spades, and then have the cheapest spade bid to be takeout without spades.

For example:

1C-1D-X(transfer to Hs)-?
XX: Values in hearts, can have length in any suit or a decent notrump bid1H: 4+ spades
1S: takeout of Hs, fewer than 4Ss
1NT, 2D: natural
2C: good raise in Ds
2H: Natural, long hearts

In this case there’s another point – that redouble replaces double when the opponent artificially shows a Frequent 4 with a double.

If playing against Moscito, we can customize that transfer to spades:

After 1D(Frequent 4+Hs)-?:
X: Values in hearts, can have length in any suit or a strong(+) notrump overcall
1H: 5+Ss and/or strong takeout of Hs
1S: Limited takeout of Hs, non-forcing
1NT, 2C, 2D: natural overcall, not defensively oriented
2H: Natural, long Hs, short Ds

Let’s return to the problem hand of the last part of the series, with the example hand that advancer might have.  We will assume, unlikely the original problem, that the 1S opening by the opponents can be a Frequent 4.

Bidding is 1S(4+)-?, and the two hands our way are:
S: 3H: A853D: T874C:  Q932
S: AQT63H: 6D: A5C: AKT75

The bottom hand acts first.

The auction can go, with the opponents quiet after their 1S opening:

(1S)-X-1NT(asks, less than invite)-2C-3C-3D-3H-3NT, with 3D and 3H showing value location, or the auction can get to 5C or for better or worse 6C.

However the auction is unlikely to be quiet, since responder will have short spades, and will be under pressure to act directly over the double, since doubler could just have a strong notrump, and advancer could be about to pass the double with spades.  One could see starts like:


Here advancer, with poor heart spots, should not pass the passable takeout double of 2H, but instead bid 2NT with both minors.  Will partner take 2NT as the minors here? – it depends on whether the partnership is on the same wavelength, and that means if you want to play a complex defense to Frequent 4s it means practice, practice, and more practice.  Actually for Frequent 4s, make that four practices: practice, practice, practice and more practice.


When to show values and when to show shape

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

“The floors are falling out from everybody I know” – Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National

A common theme for first actions in competitive decisions is whether to show values or shape first, if one has the choice.  Decades ago, another option was to show neither, employing the dreaded “trap pass” of passing first, showing nothing, and then coming alive later to announce the hand type.  However experience showed that the auction did not always play out as cleverly envisaged, and the trap passer often got caught by the trap.

Current style is show values, shape or both with initial action whenever possible.  This can be seen by problem 4 of the May Issue of the ACBL Bulletin’s It’s Your Call, directed by Dave Smith (Memphis Mojo, Just Sayin’ bridge and poker blog), who I need to thank for giving me the opportunity to score the problem set and notice this particular hand.  Btw the cover of the May ACBL Bulletin is “Canada’s new Hall of Fame”, and thanks for the bulletin staff for this, as it’s a key milestone (km-stone in Canada) in Canada’s Bridge history.

Bidding is 1S-?, and you hold vulnerable:

S: AQT63H: 6D: A5C: AKT75

Of the 18 votes, 13 went for showing shaping, overcalling 2C.  3 went for the old trap pass, the Gordons saying “We realize that a trap pass is not the modern style, but we don’t want to overcall a broken five-card-suit.”

Two leading US experts voted for 1NT, the value bid, Meckstroth saying it is “Crystal clear to me”, and Robinson says “1NT shows my strength and avoids getting stolen from.”

I assigned a score of 20 to the zero-vote double, even though the hand doesn’t have takeout double shape.  The reason for giving it any score is that if advancer (partner of doubler) has something like:

S: 7H: A853D: T874C:  Q932

Then 3NT is cold assuming the opening bidder has the spade king or there is a spade lead into the AQ.  Given this some might rate the hand directly over 1S as being too strong, in playing value, for a 1NT overcall, and double first, intending to bid notrump next if partner shows hearts (hopefully not at the four level).  It would be interesting to run a simulation to see how often 3NT ends up being the right landing spot.

As can be seen by the votes in the problem, the modern approach is to take initial action to show values and/or shape, even if that action is flawed, such as overcalling 1NT with a hand you would never open 1NT with, except if it was 3 am when anything and everything looks NT type.
Now the question is if given a choice between being more specific on shape or values, such as the choice of 2C or 1NT in the problem, which one should be picked.

Remember that while the choice was shape for the majority, the current world champion thought value showing was “crystal clear”, though it’s too bad we don’t have Rodwell’s vote on this one.

The recommendation here is:

Show values if values work well defensively, and show shape otherwise.

The reasoning is that if one has defensive working values, then the opponents are unlikely to be able to jam the auction, or if they do then they can be caught for penalties.  Thus when holding values that work well defensively we can expect to have a calmer auction that allows us the time to sail into the best port.  By contrast if we don’t have good defensive values, we are under risk of a bidding storm that may never give us the chance to show shape if we don’t do it initially.
When we are designing methods to be used for the opponents tricky stuff, we can use this principle this way:

With working defensive values, we want to go slow, often starting with double.  Without good defensive values we want to show shape.

The last post, of this three part series, will look at how this is applied over “Frequent 4s”, where a major suit bid by the opponents is frequently just a four card suit that we might own as well.  In particular we will look at the countermeasures to systems such as Moscito (1D shows hearts, 1H shows spades), and Spry (1D shows 4Ss) that use artificial openings for Frequent 4s.


Bid Your/Their Major

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

This is the first of a three part series on competing when the opponents bid your major suit.

Partner opens 1D, natural, RHO overcalls 2D – you ask – it’s explained majors.  Now what do your 2H and 2S bids mean?

Now maybe you’re a sophisticated partnership and already have agreements in place in your system notes.  Perhaps you’re an up-and-coming partnership and have read documents like:

The first document is Richard Pavlicek’s article on Invisible Cuebids.
Or maybe you’re a partnership that has a meta-agreement for defense against two-suiters, such as “unusual vs unusual” extended as in Pavlicek’s Invisible Cuebids (cheapest cuebid is 10+ with opener’s suit, higher cuebid is 10+ with fourth suit).  If you have these types of agreements are you prepared?
The answer is while usually yes, it’s no, since you don’t really know what 2D is.  It’s been explained as majors, and the way it is commonly played it is 5-5+ or close to that.  However if you are playing against opponents that would often overcall with 4-4 in the majors, even weak suits, then you might still have a major suit contract on your way.  The concern is this:

Don’t let opponents’ major suit bids on 4 card suits eliminate that suit for you, since you might still have game or slam in that suit, or even a great partscore.

Now this applies to minor suits too but far less frequently since game is a trick higher, and a notrump contract can be a nice proxy for a minor contract, except when ruffs are necessary to bring it in.

Now the problem is knowing when the opponents major suit bids can often be just 4.  If you asked a 5-5+ bidder “could one of the major suits be 4” the answer would be yes, it could be 4, but actually that would be a relative rare case.

What you need to know is if the major frequently can be 4, and in some cases you want to judge how probable that is.   If you are playing against Norwegian superstars Helgemo-Helness, and they open 1H, you might ask and find out that 1H could be 4.  Further questioning (or previous study) would tell you that they open 1H with 4 if it is their cheapest 4 card suit – hence they open 1H with 4 only if 4-4 in the majors or 3-4-3-3 exactly and if balanced then a hand outside their 1NT opening range.  I think it would be then right to judge 1H as not frequently 4, though could be.

If instead a partnership opened 1H whenever they had four hearts and no longer suit, and if balanced a hand outside their 1NT opening range, then one could judge that 1H was frequently 4, since it now would have the 4-4s with 4 hearts and a minor.  The decision to determine whether a major suit could still be owned by our side can be close, and requires careful preparation.  The general rule is:

If a major suit bid is a frequent 4, we need to able to show the same suit.

Ideally if we have a major fit in a suit the opponents are showing, we would like our best holding of that major to be over their holding, and not under it.  This will often be the case since the hand with the best holding of the major will have already had the opportunity to introduce it and/or open the bidding, if it was acting before the opponents show it.  The two exceptions are when the LHO (of the hand having the best holding of the major) opens the bidding first, showing 4+ in the major, or if one is playing a flawed style that calls for passing hands that have a major suit, such as the misguided approach where you can’t bid a major when you are both too good for a preempt and too bad for an another action.

The first case of having the best holding under their major suit can be trouble if opener is preempting (such as with a bid that shows 4-4+ in the majors, 0-10 points), since we could be talked out of game or slam if we keep quiet.  If opener is not preempting, there’s less need to get into the bidding, since they are showing values that are often well positioned over our best holding in the major.  Given all this, here are three recommendations:
1. If the opponents preempt with a frequent 4 in a specific major, bids of that major are natural, not cuebids2. If the opponents make a non-preemptive opening showing a frequent 4 in a specific major, bids of that major that are made by the player directly before opener keep usual meanings unless otherwise discussed3. If we had the chance to act already, but didn’t, normal agreements apply.

Example of 1: 2H(majors, 0-10)-P-P-2S: natural overcallExample of 2: 1H(4+, canape)-P-1NT-2H: normal agreements unless discussedExample of 3: P-2H(majors, 0-10)-P-P;-2S: normal agreements unless discussed

Now we are at the primary case, wanting to show the major with the major directly over their hand showing the major (the your/their major of the subject heading).  The first recommendation is:

If an opponent bids a major naturally to show a frequent 4 in that suit, and it has not been bid before, then a bid of that same major by us immediately over their bid is natural.

Examples: 1H(4+, canape)-2H: natural overcall1C-P-1H-2H: natural overcall
More and more opponents are using artificial bids to show a frequent 4 in a major suit.  The unsophisticated countermeasure is:

If an opponent bids a major artificially to show a frequent 4 in that suit, and it has not been bid before, then a bid of that same major by us immediately over their bid is natural.

Examples: 1D(shows 4+Ss)-1S: natural overcall1C-P-1D(transfer)-1H: natural overcall2D(Flannery, 5Hs, 4Ss)-2S: natural overcall

Next up: when to show values and when to show shape



Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Sometimes I see the 1 suit bids of Fantunes described as 14+, such as in the June 2010 The Bridge World (“”14-plus HCP”).  Here’s the Fantunes cc:

1C/D/H/S= 14+ or good 12/13 with 5 cards suit1C/D in 3rd seat could be 13+1H/S could be 12/13 if with 4 cards other major , in 3rd seat could be 13+ also without 4 in the other major.

Their 2X bids have a max of 12 in 3rd seat, so 1C/D/H/S handles all 13s then, as long with the good 12/13s already bid in other seats.

Even 11s creep in on page 2 of the cc:
1H: 14+ (good 12/13) 5+ hearts or 11-13 with 5+H and 4S1S: 14+ (good 12/13) 5+ spades or 11-13 with 5+S and 4H

The reason for these 11-13 hand types is that they pulled the 5-4/4-5+ in the majors hand type out of 2H/S, since opening a major on the two level could hurt finding a fit in the other major.  I’m not sure why some writers have not picked up this change.


Opening framework based on Gazzilli

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Two design goals of system design are:1) On hands with extra values, having relatively low level game forcing agreement take place, allowing for lots of room for strain and slam exploration2) On hands with minimum opening values, having HD (high definition) opening bids that already start answering the question of strain and level

An opening framework could employ a Gazzilli-like approach to achieve the first objective, such as:

1C: 18+ any or 10-17 5+Hs, if 10-13 not too shapely
– 1D: 7+ any
—- 1H: 10-17 5+Hs—- Rest: 18+, game force
– 1H: 0-6, no long suit
– 1NT: 0-6, 5+Hs
– 1S, 2C, 2D: 0-6, natural
1D: 10-17, 4Ss or 10-12 5+Ss and not to shapely or both majors
1H: 15-17, balanced or a minor without 4Ss
1S: 13-17, 5+Ss
1NT: 12-14
2C: 10-14, 5+Cs, unbalanced, not 4Ss
2D: 10-14, 5+Ds, unbalanced, not 4Ss
2H 10-13, 5+Hs, shapely, not 4Ss
2S 9-12, 5+Ss, shapely, not 4Hs

The 1S opening is 13-17, making it more dangerous than standard for the opponents to compete directly over 1S, or on auctions such as 1S-P-2S-?.  After the 1S opening responder can establish a game force with 11 HCP, since 13+11+five card suit will usually be enough to give 3NT decent chances.

The 1H opening is a hybrid, some definition and some extra values.  Here responder can force to game with any hand that would blast 3NT over a 15-17 1NT opening.
The lighter openings require a lot more from responder to immediately establish a game force, but the hand types already start in a narrow range.  The 1D opening is the less well defined of the bunch but has bidding room to unwind if the opponents do not compete, and has the boss suit, spades, if the opponents do interfere.

The 1C opening has the pass/correct bids in hearts possible, such as 1C-interfere-2H, where 2H is 2+ HS, to play if opener is 10-14 with hearts, but with some values, so 15+ with hearts, or 18+ any can bid again.  Having some 10-14 hand types into 1C forces the opponents to allocate a good number of their interfering bids to constructive sequences, in case they are ones with the majority of the points.  Contrast that to a 1C opening which would be always 18+, in which case opponents bidding would be solely destructive, intending to consuming bidding room.


the best “convention”

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

I’ve posted this elsewhere but its worth repeating: The best “convention” that world champions Meckwell have on their wbf cc is “All points can be adjusted in any situation” and “Judgement allowed in any situation”.

One thing to try is play a club game session with never counting your points – instead just try to figure out the value of your hand by looking at it.  Results will vary!


Multi-way 1C openings: the vulnerability concern

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Multi-way 1C openings are those that handle many big hand types, say, for example all 17+ as in the Swedish two-way club systems, or all 18+ as in the Polish club, as well as some minimum hand types, such as balanced 12-14 in Polish, and perhaps some other meanings.  The advantage of the multi-way 1C openings is that they allow the other openings to be well defined and limited.  When the opponents don’t interfere, the 1C opening bid provides the maximum bidding space (aside from a forcing pass system) to unwind the multiple meanings.

The problem is when the opponents do interfere.  This problem is not a key concern when not vulnerable since it doesn’t pay for the opponents to be aggressive in stopping small game hunting (see the earlier post) – if the opponents are offering up a steady stream of +200s and +300s deposit them in your bank account, as the derivatives of small games don’t cover the risk of bidding games that only sometimes make.

However if we are vulnerable, we can’t give up those +6nn so easily.  Now the risk/reward for the opponents change, and they can toss in a good bit of competition to prevent the 1C openings from unwinding.  There will be two frequent types: a non-jump bid by the hand directly over 1C, followed by a raise by advancer (partner of the non-jump bidder), or a preemptive bid either directly over 1C or before the 1C opener can make a second call.  Either way, the 1C bidder is often at a dangerous three or four level at the second time to bid.  Here’s an example:

S: 65H: AQT75D: KQJ3C: AJ

With opener’s side vulnerable, it goes 1C(Swedish 11-13 balanced or any 17+)-2S-P-3S;-?

If opener doesn’t bid here, the risk is missing a game: perhaps 4H is an easy make.  If opener does bid here, the risk is responder has a misfit with little in values: now the downside could be -800 or worse.  One could try double, but responder may not have a hand that helps out here.  Since you need to be a big game hunter to have success in bridge, it’s a complete guess on what to do over 3S.  If instead system allowed you to open 1H, as in standard, you are in better shape, knowing that responder didn’t have a 3H bid over 2S.  Likewise if you can open a 16+ big club, at least responder knows you have values and could have competed over the 2S bid with game interest.

Multi-way 1C openings are flawed when vulnerable, since they are exposed to effective interference by the opponents that puts opener in situations that are high risk guesses.  The way to mitigate this risk is to reduce the more risky hand types in the multi-way 1C opening when vulnerable.
These risky hand types include those with extra values and a five card or longer major, since that risks missing a good major suit game contract.  For example the MOB system (see: ) plays limited major suit openings only when not vulnerable, taking the five card majors out of the 1C opening when vulnerable, unless the hand has game going values.  Likewise if playing a Swedish two-way 1C opening, a consideration is to play the 1H, and 1S openings as less limited when vulnerable, thus reducing the guesses that a vulnerable 1C opener will need to take.  For a Polish club system, one might play the major suit openings up to 19 when vulnerable.

Playing major suit openings as wide ranging, as in standard, results in a return of the problems of standard, but many of these are fixed by playing the Gazzilli convention (see, for example:  With the Italian Open championships on vugraph starting today, I’m certain that we will have many examples of it.


My fav big club auction

Posted on August 15, 2010 by glen

Note the use of “fav” to solve the favorite/favourite spelling!

Playing a big club system, or any system with limited major suit openings, my fav auction is 1M-4M.  To pull the bid out of the box, there are two settings on the bidding box – shape and points.  When not vulnerable there are only two permutations of the settings not allowed aside from having the playing value of a slam try: one can’t have no shape and no points, and one can’t have plenty of shape and plenty of points.  Thus except for no/no and plenty/plenty, when not vulnerable the bid can be just about anything, and that puts the opponents in the bind: they can’t tell if they need to compete or not over 4M.  Having 3 cards in M doesn’t help an opponent, since 1M-4M can be on a 5-3 fit not vulnerable, and thus partner could easily have two losers there.  Having some points doesn’t help an opponent, since partner could be bust, or could have enough to make game.

When vulnerable it’s a bit different.  One can’t bid 1M-4M without some playing value due to shape, since 4M vulnerable down can be expensive, especially if doubled.  Likewise there needs to be some working cards to provide playing value.  Thus when vulnerable the shape and points settings on the bidding box are in a constrained range, and now the opponents have less guesswork.  As well, since 4M is vulnerable, the primary option that presents itself with a spread of quick tricks is to double 4M for penalty.  Given this, 1M-4M is far less effective vulnerable.

With this consideration, if there are other system aspects that make it feasible, I don’t mind giving up limited openings in the major suits when vulnerable, since I don’t have my fav auction that much.  I’ll explain more in my next posting on the concerns with multi-way 1C openings, where 1C handles big hands (say 17 or 18+) and some minimum hand types.