This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One rarely sees a 1 of suit opening allocated to cover just a balanced range, but it is possible.

Here are two approaches to 1D as 11-14 balanced:

1C: 10+ to near GF, unbalanced, no five card or longer major
1D: 11-14 balanced or semi-balanced
1M: 5 card major, 10+
1NT: 15-17 balanced
2C: 22+ balanced or any game force
2D: 18-19 balanced
2NT: 20-21 balanced

1C: 10+, unbalanced, no five card or longer major, forcing
1D: 11-14 balanced or semi-balanced
1M: 5 card major, 10+
1NT: 15-17 balanced
2C: 18-20 balanced
2D: 23+ balanced or game force in a major
2NT: 21-22 balanced

Here's a first - two 1 of a suit openings allocated to balanced ranges:

1C: 11-14 balanced or semi-balanced, includes 5-4-2-2s with 5Hs and a 4 card minor
1D: 10+, unbalanced, no five card or longer major, not 4Ss if game force
1H: 15-17 balanced, or 23+ balanced without 4+Ss
1S: 5+Ss, 10+ to near GF
1NT: 15+, 5+Hs, forcing
2C: 18-20 balanced
2D: 4Ss, 5+Hs, 10-14 or 4+Ss game force
2H: 10-14, 5+Hs, fewer than 4Ss, must have a singleton/void if just 5Hs
2NT: 21-22 balanced

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Linda Lee continues to be one of bridge's most prolific bloggers. She is now starting what will be an interesting two weeks plus: "15 Days to better bridge - a web odyssey" at

In an earlier post today Linda was talking about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Jonathan Ferguson - I haven't run into a Buffet table yet, but I certainly partnered Jonathan, and I was shown on the Canadian national news, nameless, playing against Gates in the 2002 Worlds (Karen and I were in the mixed up Pairs). Gates was very kind to allow me to take some photos of him at the time, one here:

Yesterday Linda mentioned the love of reading old Bridge Worlds. I've been a subscriber for close to 30 years, and I love old BWs and I love my new BWs when they arrive each month. A BW subscription is one of the best ways of improving your game fast, aside from Linda's 15 days.

For example, the August issue had Kokish and Kraft conducting the Challenge the Champs bidding feature. On one hand they note that after 2C-2D;-2S-3S;-?, opener's 4 of a new suit should be natural, as a slam could be cold in another suit (often a 4-4 fit while the longer spades provide discards). Thus 2C-2D;-2S-3S;-3NT should initiate the cuebidding sequences - this is wise from a useful space principle (the principle first discussed in BW) - opener is never going to show all but responder will have just a few values to cuebid, with opener being captain of the auction.

Speaking of cuebidding and strong hands with spades, Ken Rexford has been discussing using two strong forcing openings - 2C and 2D. Certainly the French do this quite a bit, and my partnerships were using a style in the 80s with 2D as a game forcing hand with a four card major and longer second suit (Over the 2D opening, responder can bid 2H without 4+Hs, 2S with 4+Hs but without 4Ss, and 2NT with both majors) - modified from a BW article by Australian David Morgan (who lived in Ottawa for a bit). Ken's idea is that 2D shows 4+Ss, and 2C denies 4Ss. If you play two strong openings, I like this approach for the split. See:

Speaking of prolific bloggers, there is a lot of activity recently at:

Today Meg Myers had a great article on how to promote the game for the younger players. Yesterday, McKenzie Myers gave a detailed breakdown of extended Stayman. Lots of useful information and postings at this web site and blog.

The Burton Bridge club (UK) has a section on conventions on their web site, and Ray Green submitted a good piece on the Vertigo convention:

I expect this convention will become very popular. One modification I will suggest is based on the approach that was used by Molson-Baran: when 1NT is not vulnerable and playing at matchpoints (or Board-a-match), 2m shows a 5 card major and 3+ in the minor (not 4+) - this gets all your hands with five card majors into the bidding. In the 80s during a local regional they scooped all the matchpoints by overcalling 1NT with 2C on a 3-5-2-3 (their 2C overcall showed 3+Cs and a five card major). 1NT not-vulnerable is a great spot for the opponents - if you have +110 your way (2 of a major, 3 of a minor), they can afford to go down 2 in 1NT (-100). One of the best articles ever on this is Chris Ryall's:

I mentioned in a previous blog post that if you have any questions, email me at

I've moved most of my email activity to various gmail accounts, so don't use older ones please.

This month, I received a question about Total Victory and 1C-1D(hearts);-1S - what is it and what happens next?

On page 20 of the Victory notes, you will notice this bid is MIA (missing in action) - it shows 4+Ss, fewer than 3Hs, and an unbalanced hand with clubs. For follow-up sequences see page 163 of ETM Gold:

After 1C-1D(hearts);-1S-?

Pass, 1NT, 2C, 2H are signoffs (if you have long diamonds, pick one of these, usually 1NT or 2C).
2D is artificial game force.
2S is mild invite.
2NT to 3S are invites.

This is like a standard 1C-1H;-1S sequence, with 2D "fourth suit" game forcing.

You can modify this to play 2C is a signoff in either minor - opener bids 2D if does not know which. This two-way bid can also be used in the standard 1C-1H;-1S sequence to produce a D signoff, and now I'll signoff here before this blog entry gets too long.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Local clubs and ACBL Marketing?

We played in at the Peterborough Bridge Club (just under 2 hours northeast of Toronto) for the two weeks we were at cottages. In the 11 sessions we met new players each time. There was one consistent thing about all players at the bridge club: they were all super nice! And I mean all the bridge players, not just 95% of them. I have never played at a bridge club like that - it was so enjoyable!

Their goal for the upcoming year: to be even nicer (I don't believe that is possible given they were 100% nice already, but that is what they are aiming for). As with all North American clubs, they face the demographics concerns: the bridge population is getting older, and the "regulars" are dwindling. The club is doing all they can - low playing cost, good location with free parking, free coffee and cookies, lesson programs, separate games for upcoming players, announcement of winners in local newspaper, bulletin boards showing upcoming events and pictures, junior program etc.

Part of the bridge revenue associated with this club goes to the ACBL, and they need to help support great bridge clubs like this. It isn't enough for the ACBL just to produce a magazine and provide services for existing members, and to run three tournaments a year. The ACBL needs to work hard on helping clubs get new members. Current ACBL marketing efforts are discussed here:

That's not much. Clicking on "The Exciting World of Bridge" gets this:

Is this supposed to get people into the clubs or keep them away? Get it rewritten!

Say you google "bridge game" - what are the sponsored links? - well there is nothing like "Find a Bridge Club!" or "Enjoy Bridge!" - this is modern marketing 101.

Say I google bridge "bill gates" and get this article: Billionaires bank on bridge to trump poker

The "Related Advertising Links" I just got beside the article are Psychology Degree Online and Medical Billing/Coding.

What about the excellent ACBL Bulletin - rename it "Bridge Bridge!!", put an arbitrary cover price on it, and:

- Give sets to magazine distributors for free: whatever they sell they split between the retailer and themselves. Ensure the magazine has near the front, details on how to learn the game quickly, how to find clubs and how to play online.

- Develop target profile of just retired/former professional and direct mail Bridge Bridge!! to them with details on a) how to learn bridge in 2 hours b) how to play online for free c) how to find the clubs where there are games and lessons for newcomers just like them.

- Sponsor links on the Internet, offering Free Stuff about bridge: when they click and then provide their email address, send them a pdf copy of Bridge Bridge !! with a free offer to get the next one in print, give the email address to nearest clubs for the clubs to get in touch, and link them to free online bridge clubs.

These are all types of activities you can't expect the local bridge clubs to make happen - you need the efforts of orgs like the ACBL for widespread marketing campaigns. If something isn't done, the bridge clubs are at risk!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

While we wait (and wait) for the Beijing draw, which, once it is out, then I can work on the methods analysis of the teams playing Canada, here's a look at some of a few interesting cc's:


With the Bocchi-Duboin split, it's interesting to see what Duboin has agreed to play with Sementa. We find:

- Duboin is longer playing 2C as 18-19 balanced - instead they are playing 2D as the 18-19 balanced (Mexican 2D like teammates Lauria-Versace, though LV include some 20s) - 2C is now the standard 22+ balanced or any game force.

- Duboin is no longer using transfers over the 1C opening, which is 2+.

- 1D was 5+Ds or a 4-4-4-1 with 4Ds with Bocchi - now it says 4+Ds, not clear if all balanced 12-14 with 4Ds open 1D.

- 1M-2C was the usual Italian methods of natural or asking, with relay replies allowing responder to find out about opener's hand. With Sementa 1M-2C is natural 2/1.

- 1m-2H is 5+Ss & 4+Hs, becoming popular (Reverse Flannery by Responder) - the range here though is quite light - 3 to 7

- Duboin is no longer using the Kaplan Inversion - 1H-1S to show a "forcing NT" with 0 to 4Ss, 1NT to show 5+Ss.

- Duboin is no longer using 1S-2D to show 5+Hs, 1S-2H to show 5+Ds.

- The Italians like 1NT as a "semi-forcing" response - that is opener can pass the 1NT response with a minimum flat hand. They take hand types out of 1M-1NT so less bad things happen if opener passes 1NT. In particular 1M-2NT is a limit raise with 3+ trumps (no need to bid 1NT with a 3 card limit raise), and 1S-3C is artificial, a game invite or close to it hand with 6+Hs. 1M-3D is any splinter, 9 to 13 (a nice Lauria-Versace treatment), 1H-3C and 1S-3H is a mixed raise: 4+ trumps, constructive or close to it.

- After 1m-Pass-1M-Double-?:
--> 1NT is 3 card raise in M unbalanced max 15
--> 2OM is 3 card raise unbalanced 16+
--> 3OM is 4 card raise game force
--> Redouble is no fit


Hamman continues to surprise me by his willingness to vary methods when he could just impose his methods.

- Hamman is not playing a big club system, is using 5 card majors, and has transfer responses to 1C (1D=Hs, 1H=Ss, 1S=Ds or single raise in Cs) that can be light - was this their coach (bidding guru Kokish) suggestion or something out of Compton, Hamman or an influence of Zia in the new Hamman-Zia partnership.

- 1C is opened with 4-4-3-2 exactly and 12-14 or 18-19

- 2D continues to be Flannery (he played this with Soloway and Lall)

Interesting note on Compton-Hamman cc "we do not like to signal on defense; may be random" - Soloway liked perfect carding, not random but Hamman-Soloway still followed the top expert practise of signalling "what partner needs to know". I'm still surprised we don't see more partnerships with defined neutral carding - signals that deliberately showing nothing special.


Sweden is one of the first countries I look at as their cc's are always fascinating. Here we see Axdorph-Ostberg (Ostberg has two dots on the O but special characters don't work well in basic blogs) with a two-way 1C - either 11-13 balanced or 16+ any. The gap here is a touch small for a two-way 1C (between 13 and 16, although 1C will be 17 if balanced) but the opening will be fun to play.

They use "five card majors" and mean it: 1M is usually just 5, not the typical 5+. These are 11-15 (or a poor 16).

2D uses an approach I called TIM (The Intermediate Multi) - I doubt they picked this up from me as the Swedes invent stuff often before I do. 2D is 11-15 with a 6+ card major or 22-23 balanced.

2M is 5-5+ 11-15 (not weak!), and this handles the 6-5s (2S, and not 2H, is opened with both majors) - I don't like 2NT as 5-5+ minors 11-15 - given the style of 2D and 2M, it would be better to play 2NT as 6-5/5-6+ in the majors 10-15.

1D is 12-16 natural 5+Ds or 4Ds in any 4-4-4-1. If 4-4-1-4 exactly 1C will be opened if 11-13, 1NT (14-16) if 14-15.

2C is 5+Cs (has a 4 card second suit if just 5Cs), 12-16.

This will be entertaining to watch in the matches from Beijing in October.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Heart Shift - Create a new system

"I will possess your heart" - Death Cab 4 Cutie

1H as 15+ gives us the opportunity to create new systems by using the "heart shift" on almost any big club system.

This shift is:

1) Expand 1S up to 18
2) Move hands that used to open 1H to 1C
3) Move minimum (for 1C) balanced hands and minimum C and D hands out of 1C

Here's Meckwell shifted:

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ unbal any or 22+ bal
1D: 11-13 bal or 10-15 Ds unbal
1H: 16-18 C or Ds or 17-19 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16, bal
2C: 10-15, 6+Cs
2D: 11-15, short D

A Big Club 10-12 NT system shifted:

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ any
1D: 13-15 bal or 10-15 Ds unbal
1H: 16-18 C or Ds or 16-18 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 10-12, bal
2C: 10-15, 6+Cs
2D: 11-15, short D

Standard Precision shifted:

1C: 10-18 5+Hs or 18+ bal or 19+ any
1D: 10-14 4+Ds, unbal
1H: 15-18 Cs or Ds or 15-17 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 12-14, bal
2C: 5+Cs, 10-14
2D: Short Ds, 10-14

Since 1H can start at 15, we can shift Meckwell and limit 1D and 2m:

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ unbal any or 22+ bal
1D: 11-13 bal or 10-14 Ds unbal
1H: 15-18 C or Ds or 17-19 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16, bal
2C: 10-14, 6+Cs
2D: 11-14, short D

ETM Express shifted and one point down to take advantage of the 1H opening 15+ start:

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ any
1D: 13-15 bal or 12-14 Cs or Ds
1H: 15-18 Cs or Ds or 16-18 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 10-12, bal
2m: 10-12, 5+Cs

All weak two:

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ any
1D: 11-14 Cs or Ds, or bal 13-15 NV or 11-13 V
1H: 15-18 Cs or Ds or 16-18 Bal
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 10-12 NV, 13/14-15 V, bal
2X: 5-10, 5+ suit


1C: 5+Hs, 10-18 or 19+ any (Bal 19/20 V34)
1D: 11-14 4/5Cs and/or 4/5Ds, or bal 13-15 NV12, 11-13 V34
1H: 15-18 Cs or Ds or Bal 16-18 NV12, 16/17-19 V34
1S: 10-18, 5+Ss
1NT: 10-12 NV12, 13/14-16 V34, bal
2X: 10-14 2m 9-13 2M, 6+ suit V, 5+ suit NV and if 5 good suit and a singleton/void in a major
2NT: 6-5/5-6 in majors 10-13

NV12 = not vulnerable in 1st or 2nd
V34 = vulnerable or in 3rd or 4th

This is a system I'm in love with from first glance. It has:
- a two-way 1C opening that is hard to jam
- a super tight 1D that tends to balanced or three suited
- 1S limited but not down to 15 - here I will use Gazzilli to let the 16-18s break out from the 10-15 set
- 1NT opening ranges as I love them
- 2X bids as I love them

This system will be nimble and quick, unlike this blog and the system design process seen here.

For the two-way 1C opening, it is hard to jam it since:
- it could be 10+, and thus the opponents must bid constructively in case they have their own games and slams
- the 19+ hands can handle themselves - that is they have enough points to either double or bid at their second bid
- the 2H and 2NT opening takes out distributional 10-13s out of 1C, and thus responder is well placed to judge when there is a need to compete.

Of course one might say how does the 1C opening handle a preempt like 3S - this will pose problems, but take the same hand types and try them in a standard system - for example:

1C-3S-P-P;-? >>> if the 1C opener has 19+ must guess to double, bid 3NT, or above

Note how easy it is to set up a 1C structure:


1H: 5+Hs, like a standard 1H opening
1S, 2C, 2D: 19+
2H: GF, Hs or balanced
1NT: 19-21
2NT: 22-24
2S, 3C, 3D: GF

This is not the structure I will use as I want to take advantage of the bidding space. It is a good sign, though, when a framework can have structures ready-2-go out-of-the-box - it means the framework doesn't impose a later cost in complex unwinding sequences.

For those interested in the system design process, I hope that this has been interesting (and for those who don't like the process, please don't drive through a "Messy" warning sign next time!). This has been semi-live blogging over the last few days, written up at a cottage on a DV7 laptop (P7350, N9600, 4G, 17" - eats the 8 cell battery power fast), and posted as I get Internet access.

I didn't know I would find a system I liked in this process, let alone one that I love - I hope I can find a painting I love too at the art show here this weekend.

"It's like a book, elegantly bound, but in a language that you can't read" - DC4C
System Design work 2

Here are two other frameworks based on 1C as Spades or 19+:

P) 1C Ss and/or 19+

1C: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 10-12 NV 11-13 V, or 5+Ss 16-18, or 19+ any
1D: 4/5Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10-12 NV 11-13 V, and 4Hs only if balanced
1H: 15-18 5+ minor, no 4Ss, or 15/16-18 balanced
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 12-15, 12 with a five card suit or not 4Ss (not a 4-3-3-3), 13 V no 4cM.
2m: 5+, no 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 8-12, 5+Hs, not 4Ss, unbalanced

Comments: This has the two-way 1C opening, and the 1C and 1D assigned to a major. One could have 2m as no 4cM, and then 1D would be 4+Hs, can have longer minor if 10-14. This would be a system that I would not want to play against, and it would be a system fun to play.

Q) 1C Ss and/or 19+

1C: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 11-13, or 5+Ss 16-18, or 19+ any
1D: 11-13 bal no 4cM, or 15-18 5+ minor, no 4Ss, or 17-18 balanced
1H: 4/5Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, balanced only if 11-13, and 4Hs only if balanced
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16
2m: 5+, no 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 8-12, 5+Hs, not 4Ss, unbalanced

Comments: This is like the last but with a 14-16 1NT, and 1H natural. Now 1D has two balanced ranges, 11-13 no 4cM or 17-18 - there would be hands where the 17-18 is shut out of the bidding on the next round. For this reason, I think the 1C Ss or 19 works better with a 12-15 1NT opening.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The System Design Process - Messy!

This long entry continues to expose the system design process. The frameworks given below are given in the order created. I did not document my thoughts into comments at the time I created the first seven frameworks, and have added them in for this entry once I decided I was going to blog this process, however messy and unreadable it turned out.

The focus of these entries are towards using a strong 1H opening (1H showing certain hand types that start at 15) in a system designed for IMPs at the highest levels. In addition I keep returning towards using 1NT as 14-16, my favourite range.

The two main criteria I used for evaluating the designs are very subjective:
1) Would I be happy playing this against world class players (or would I feel hindered instead of helped)?
2) Would I be concern playing a long match against opponents using these methods?

4cM = 4 card Major
Balanced or Bal = balanced, and will include semi-balanced shapes as necessary
Unbalanced or unbal = unbalanced, usually a singleton/void and/or a long suit

A) Two-way 1C
1C: 10-14 4-5Hs or 15+ 4+Ss
1D: less than 4Hs, 11-13 Bal (only 2Ds if 4=3=2=4 or 3=3=2=5) or 10+Ds, not 4+Ss if 15+
1H: 15+ Hs or Cs not 4Ss or balanced 17-19
1S: 10-14
1NT: 14-16
2C: 10-14, 5+Cs
2H/S: 10-14

Comments: This looks like a non-starter out of the gate - 1C and 1D look messy

B) 1C=Ss

1C: 4Ss, balanced only if 13-15 ,or 5+Ss 16+
1D: 4/5Hs balanced/semi-balanced 13-15 or 4+Hs 14+
1H: 15+balanced, or 15+ C or D not 4cM
1S: 10-15 5Ss
1NT: 11-14, no 4cM if 13-14
2m: 5+, no 4cM, 10-14
2H: 5+, 10-13

Comments: The 1C and 1D openings are focused on a major each. The 1H opening handles too much, 15+ balanced is too wide a range. The 1NT opening is nice, though I prefer 14-16.

C) 1C Hodge-Podge

1C: 14+ C or D not 4S or 17-19 balanced or 11-13 balanced not 4Ss or 5Hs
1D: 4Ss, balanced only if 11-13, or 5+Ss 16+
1H: 5+Hs
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16
2m: 5+, not 4S, 10-13, unbalanced

Comments: Here I stick everything I don't know what to do with in into 1C, and drop the strong 1H - 1C can be jammed. I like the rest of the openings, and if I was playing against it I would be concerned if the opponents got a lot of non-1C openings.

D) 13-16 2m openings

1C: 11-12 or 17+ 4+ C or D unbalanced not 4S, or 17-19 balanced, or 11-13 balanced not 4Ss or 5Hs
1D: 4Ss, balanced only if 11-13, or 5+Ss 16+
1H: 5+Hs
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16
2m: 5+, not 4S, 13-16, unbalanced, or less with good playing value

Comments: Here I layer 1C into 11-13 or 17+ types. What I don't like is if it goes 1C-1S-Pass-2S;-?, opener is sort of obliged to bid with all 17s here, since pass would imply a 11-13. The problem is the strong hand is not just strong enough to bid on its own the second time.

E) 1C=Ss, 1H=15+

1C: 4Ss, balanced only if 11-13, or 5+Ss 16+
1D: 11-13 balanced/semi-balanced not 4S or 10+ 4+Ds unbalanced not 4Ss
1H: 15+ 5+Hs or 15+ 5+Cs not 4Ss or 17-19 bal or 22+ Bal
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16
2C: 10-14, 5+Cs, not 4Ss
2D: Multi, can be GF in Ds
2H: 10-14, 5+Hs, unbalanced

Comments: I like a fair bit of this, though the H hands that are not unbalanced enough to open 2H get lost in the mix, and the very strong hand types are all over the place (1H if Cs or Hs or 22+ Bal, 1C if Ss, 2D if Ds)

F) 1D=limited in Ss

1C: 15+ any no 4cM, 17+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-16 balanced only if 14-16
1H: 4/5Hs balanced/semi-balanced 14-16 or 4+Hs 10-16 not 4Ss
1S: 10-16 5+Ss
1NT: 11-14, no 4cM if 14
2m: 5+, no 4cM, 10-14
2H: 5+Hs, not 4Ss, 10-13

Comments: Workable. One can use 1C-1D;-1NT to show 17-19, while 1C-1D;-1H can be Kokish, to handle 4+Hs, or 15-16 balanced with no 4cM. I would be happier with a 14-16 1NT model.

G) 1C two-way

1C: 11-13 balanced not 4Ss or 19+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 11-13, or 5+Ss 16-18
1H: 15-18 5+Hs, 5+Ds, 5+Cs, all not 4Ss, or 17-18 balanced
1S: 10-15 5+Ss
1NT: 14-16
2m: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: 1C is nice but perhaps a bit under-utilized with the strong hands starting at 19+. 1H should handle a little more balanced.

H) 1C two-way, weak NT

1C: 11-14 4/5Hs not 4Ss or 18+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-17, balanced only if 11-14
1H: 15-17 5+Hs, 5+Ds, 5+Cs, not 4Ss, or 15-17 balanced
1S: 10-17 5+Ss1NT: 11-14, no 4cM
2m: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: Since 1C and 1D handle the 11-14 balanced with a major, 1NT ends up showing no 4cM -would block more often.

I) 1C two-way

1C: 10/11-13 balanced not 4Ss or 18+ unbalanced or 19/20+ balanced
1D: 4Ss, 10-17, balanced only if 10/11-13
1H: 15-17 5+Hs, 5+Ds, 5+Cs, not 4Ss, or 16/17-19 balanced
1S: 10-17 5+Ss
1NT: 13/14-16
2m: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 5+, not 4S, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: This might be the best of the strong 1H openings - still suffers from a lack of a one level one heart opening.The problem is if we have 1NT 13/14-16 we have no where to park 11-13 bal no 4cM if we make 1C handle the Hs in 10-17. At this point I considered a number of radical shifts, to find a solution, but all have system gaps - hand types left in the dock.

J) 1C Hs little or any big

1C: 4/5Hs, 10-14, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10/11-13 or 18+ unbalanced or 19/20+ balanced
1D: 4Ss, 10-17, balanced only if 10/11-13
1H: 15-17 5+Hs, 5+Ds, 5+Cs, not 4Ss, or 16/17-19 balanced
1S: 10-17 5+Ss
1NT: 13-16, 13 with a five card suit or no 4cM
2m: 5+, no 4cM, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 5+, not 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: Here we have a system where 11-12 bal no 4cM has to pass - the 1NT range is a touch too wide. Against that, if I open something like 2=3=4=4 13, I happy to stop the opponents from bidding a major at the one level.

K) 1C Hs or very big

1C: 4+Hs, 10-19, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10/11-13 or 20+ any
1D: 4Ss, balanced only if 10/11-13, 10-19
1H: 15-19 5+ minor, no 4cM, or 16/17-19 balanced
1S: 10-19 5+Ss
1NT: 13-16, 13 with a five card suit or no 4cM
2m: 5+, no 4cM, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: Here we extend the major showing bids up to 19 - I don't mind doing this as always nice to get a major into the bidding naturally.

L) 1C Hs or 19+

1C: 4+Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10-12 or 19+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 10-12
1H: 15-18 5+ minor, no 4cM, or 15/16-18 balanced
1S: 10-18 5+Ss
1NT: 12-15, 12 with a five card suit or no 4cM
2m: 5+, no 4cM, 10-14, unbalanced

Comments: Here, I shift the balanced ranges down by 1 point - it produces a core 1NT range of 13-15 which I don't like but I love getting into the auction with 10 balanced with a 4cM. Being able to upgrade a good 15 balanced into 1H is appealing too.

M) 1C Hs or 19+ (4Hs unbal into 1H, 2m)

1C: 4+Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10-12, and 4Hs only if balanced or 19+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 10-12
1H: 15-18 5+ minor, no 4Ss, or 15/16-18 balanced
1S: 10-18 5+Ss
1NT: 12-15, 12 with a five card suit or no 4cM
2m: 5+, no 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 8-12, 5+Hs, not 4Ss, unbalanced

Comments: Compared to K, the 4H with longer minor are in 1H or 2m.

N) 1C Hs or 19+ Vul adjustment

1C: 4/5Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, balanced only if 10-12 NV 11-13 V, and 4Hs only if balanced or 19+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 10-12 NV 11-13
1H: 15-18 5+ minor, no 4Ss, or 15/16-18 balanced
1S: 10-18 5+Ss
1NT: 12-15, 12 with a five card suit or no 4cM (not 3=3=3=4 or 3=3=4=3), 13 V no 4cM
2m: 5+, no 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 8-12, 5+Hs, not 4Ss, unbalanced

Comments: This is like M but with adjustment to the balanced range when vulnerable. I like this system, since at vulnerable 1NT is mostly 13+ to 15, a comfortable range with good blocking ability.

O) 1C 5+Hs and/or 19+

1C: 5+Hs, 10-18, not 4Ss, or 19+ any
1D: 4Ss, 10-18, balanced only if 10-12 NV 11-13
1H: 15-18 5+ minor, no 4Ss, or 15/16-18 balanced
1S: 10-18 5+Ss
1NT: 12-15, 12 with a five card suit or not 4Ss (not a 4-3-3-3), 13 V no 4Ss
2m: 5+, no 4Ss, 10-14, unbalanced
2H: 8-12, 5+Hs, not 4Ss, unbalanced

Comments: This is like N but 4H balanced are moved into 1NT (or passed if 10-12).

At this point I going to end this, as the next step is to look how these later frameworks perform on actual hands. In the meantime I need to start working on the Worlds and the systems the Canadians will face in the round robin matches in Beijing.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Update to the system I'm designing for mid-chart (ACBL convention chart) pairs:

Note: N12 = Not vulnerable in 1st/2nd, V34 = Vulnerable or 3rd/4th

1C: Big, 18+ or 15-17 with playing value, either:
1) 15-17 unbalanced, a 6+ suit or a 5-4-3-1 or a 5-5
2) 18+ any

1D: Mini catch-all, 10-14, 3-4Ss V34, 2-4Ss N12, no six card suit, not 5-5, if balanced 11-12 V34, 13-14 N12 or 12 with 4cM or 5Hs

1H: 15-17, balanced or semi-balanced. Can have a five card major or six card minor. Can be any 4-4-4-1. Not a 5-4-3-1 unless singleton is A, K, or Q.

1S: 9-14, 5+Ss

1NT: Balanced including 5-4-2-2s without 5Ss. 12-14 V34 (12 with 3-4Ss can optionally open 1D), 10-12 N12 (no 4cM or 5Hs if 12). Not 5Ss.

2C: 5+Cs, 10-14, if just 5Cs must have a singleton/void S.

2D: 5+Ds, 10-14, if just 5Ds must have a singleton/void S and/or be 5-5 in the minors.

2H: 5+Hs, 10-14, if just 5Hs must have a singleton/void S and/or be 5-5 with a minor.

2S: 5-9, 5+Ss

2NT: 6-5/5-6+ in majors, 10-14

Since almost all 10 counts are opened N12, for not vulerable 34 (N34), 1NT should be 12-15 (a major only if 12-13 and optional), and the balanced range in 1D should be 12-15. 1H will be 15/16-17 balanced, 15s with a five card suit.

1NT in N12 should include the dismal 13s - the 3-3-3-4 and 3-3-4-3 hands.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

HD Systems - Gemini and Spry

Mike Bell in a comment mentioned:

I really like Gemini (1C strong, 1D four spades, 1H unbal 4+H, 1S five+ spades, 1N weak denies 4S, 2m nat unbal no 4M) for the 1beach sequences
(1beach was a term I coined in a previous post to mean 1 bid each only)

Gemini is close to ETM Spry ( - See the BridgeMatters main page to download the FD card for Spry, provided by Rajan Iyer - thanks!)

Gemini and Spry can be considered HD systems (see last post). Let's look Gemini:

The range for 1NT is not given, but it really needs to be 11(12-14) to work. Certainly Gromov-Dubinin ( won the Spingold playing a 12+ to 15 1NT in 1st/2nd, but anybody who plays the (12)13-15 ranges soon grows to hate it - inviting on those 10 counts where the opponents are safe in 1NT - having to pass 12s where the first strike effect of opening works.

If 1NT is (11)12-14, that means 1C is handling the 15-19 balanced - the Kokish 1H relay works here (1C-1D;-1NT with 15-17, 1C-1D;-1H-1S;-1NT with 18-20), but the problem is when the opponents interfere, the range is not easy to distinguish - meanwhile the 15-17 Notrumpers are in a comfortable spot.

Thus a HD system may overload a 1C big opening with balanced hands. It's a concern, but not something that would cause a system to be abandoned.

Now let's look at Gemini's HD openings:

1D: Exactly 4Ss - well I love this - the ACBL may be attempting to rescind their allowance for 1D to be catch-all by saying "exactly 4Ss" is not "catch-all" - thus, in ACBLland it may necessary to define 1D as exactly 4Ss or eight or longer minor.

1H: 4+Hs, unbalanced. Here we lose the exactness of the 1H opening that promises 5.

1S: 5Ss - proven workhorse - when limited you gain the nice 1S-4S 1Beach sequence on hands that have game going values.

1NT: Balanced, not 4Ss. Not having 4Ss increases the number of 1NT-3NT 1Beach sequences, but now the opponents have a better read on declarer's hand.

2m: Natural, no 4cM. These are proven, but are less-effective than some think - that is my studies show they are essentially neutral (neither gaining or losing over the long haul).

Given the last note, it is not surprise that the 1D nebulous opening continues in extensive big club use. Let's twist Gemini and Spry around here:

1C: Big, 15+ unbalanced with minor, 16+ with a major, 17+ balanced

1D: 11-13 balanced or 11-14 unbalanced without 4Ss unless 4-4 majors

1H/S: (10)11-15 five card major

1NT: 14-16

2m: 10-14 with 5+ minor and 4 spades.

Now the 2m openings are deadly, 1C is not overloaded, and 1H is that wonderful Precision/precise opening. However the 1D return to NebulousVille means we have unwinding sequences involved in the 1D structure. The 1D opening is well suited to Reverse Flannery By Responder (1D-2H showing 5+S & 4+Hs less than invite, 1D-2S showing same hand type with invite values), and 1D-1H being natural and/or GF relay (as seen in the Viking Club).

Now for another turn, let's run with a semi-big 1H opening:

1C: Big, 15+ unbalanced with minor, 18+ any

1D: (10)11-14 with 4Ss (can have longer second suit) or no 4cm and one or both minors

1H: 15-17, balanced and/or with 5+Hs (legal in new mid-chart)

1S: (10)11-17 5+Ss

1NT: (11)12-14 without 4Ss

2m: 10-14 with 5+ minor and 4 hearts

2H: 10-14 with 5+Hs, fewer than 4Ss, unbalanced

Now the 2m openings can bounce to 4H, but that is not as nice as the 4S bounce of the previous system. 1D has a nice 2S bounce - 1D-2S is to play if opener has 4Ss - if opener instead has a 6+ minor it is bid, or with both minors 2NT offers the choice. 2H gives up the weak two, a loss. One can't bounce as much to 4S after opening 1S, since 1S now climbs up to 17. An idea could be to change the 2m openings to allow 4m+5Hs, if the heart suit was weak - this is still ACBL legal.

As we adjust systems and move hand sets around we don't suddenly come out of a jungle of bids and arrive in the clearing of system utopia (or find a Monty Python film crew or two). We gain some stuff, have some tradeoffs, and then have to evaluate where we are now. The spot to reach for a partnership is not what is theoretically ideal, but what the partnership is comfortable and happy with. For example, Gromov-Dubinin, even with the poor 12+-15 1NT opening, are quite comfortable holding the Spingold trophy.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

HD Bidding Systems

I brand bidding systems as "high definition" when they have many openings that are:
- limited
- non-nebulous, and not a catch-all
- are non-weak, but can be average (9-11) or better

In the May-June-July issues of Bridge World we saw some HD systems in action in Challenge the Champs, conducted by Kanadians Kokish & Kraft

In May-June we saw New Zealand's Newell and Reid, with this system:

In 1st and 2nd seat, its:
1C: 14+, any
1D: 4+Hs, can have longer second suit, 9-13
1H: 4+Ss, fewer than 4Hs, can have longer minor, 9-13
1S: 4+Ds, can have longer Cs, 9-13
1NT: 11/12-14
3C: 6+Cs, 10-13 (yes, the 3C opening, not 2C)

The rest of the openings are preemptive.

Ottawa expert Ralph Gamble has run extensive simulations of Rumble against the 14+ big club and what he found is aggressive jamming against the 14+ 1C doesn't work since the 1C opening side often doesn't have game - one goes for numbers against air.

Thus a conclusion could be if one is playing a 16+ or 17+ big club, there should be some 15s moved into the opening to protect it: the opponents can't jam as much in this case. However a wealth of experience has shown that the 15-16 balanced range should not be in the 1C big club.

Thus I believe the best approach is to include some unbalanced 15s into the big club.

In June-July we saw Australia's Nagy and Richman with this system in 1st and 2nd seat:
1C: 15+ any
1D: 4+Hs, may have longer minor, 9/10-14
1H: 4+Ss, may have longer minor, 9/10-14
1S: Minors, 9/10-14, at least 5-4/4-5, no 4cM
1NT: 11-14, if 4cM 11-12
2m: 6+, 9/10-14, no 4cM

The June battle between Newell and Reid against Nagy and Richman was won by N & R (okay, it was Newell and Reid), in a battle that not really about system but about judgment: deciding when and how to investigate slam possibilities.

In the May battle, Newell and Reid were trounced by the mostly natural Gold-Townsend. In the July Battle Nagy and Richman were crushed by natural "Dutch-Doubleton" methods of Bakkeren-Bertens.

Why did the HD systems do poorly relative to the natural methods?

In the May battle, the relay methods over the 14+ big club struggled to get to the best spot, and a decision on a hand where the opponents opened first was a large factor. In the July battle, the HD system didn't have the tool set to find the right spot on a few hands.

Bidding challenges are not the best spotlight dances for HD systems - these competitions focus on tough layouts where card location is critical to decision making - relay systems can help but only if they are tuned to finding full shape low enough to then have the bidding space to launch into card location relays.

The bread-n-butter*of HD systems are those many average strength hands where the HD system reaches a good spot in just a few bids. Natural systems, in contrast, may pass first, or may have a lengthy auction that provides the opponents with too much information. These types of hands are rarely found in bidding challenges, but are more of a success factor than tough-to-get-to slams that are relatively infrequent in everyday bidding, but seem to proliferate in bidding challenges.

* 100% organic whole wheat with olive oil margarine