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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Packaging raises and preparing for the best and worst - part 2

This post is the second of three on raises

What should 1C-3C raise be?

Playing inverted minors, where 1C-2C handles game invites or better, 1C is often given as 5-8, 5+Cs (Truscott's "The Bidding Dictionary", which I like since I'm mentioned on page 1 and it's a comprehensive database of bidding, gives 4 to 8 as the range).   Now let's look at the worst and best for opener.

If opener has the frequent minimum hand in the 12-13 range, the opponents have 19-23 points, and a 8+ fit usually, and often a 9 card fit.  Thus the 3C bid does not actually block the opponents from bidding, but serves as a catalyst to get opponents to compete.  About the only advantage it has is that it has taken away space for the opponents to judge the best strain and whether to stay at the 3 level or go higher.

Now let's look at opener's most frequent best hand: 18-19 balanced.  Now the opening side has 23 to 27 points, and opener is left with the guess - whether to try 3NT with a suit fit, but a little underpowered if 23-24 combined points.  In addition if opener has a poor D/H/S suit, then opener has to guess whether to bid 3NT and not disclose it, or show values at the 3 level and pinpoint the weakness to the opponents.  Even worse for opener is if the opponents enter the bidding - if responder is singleton/void in the suit the opponents land in, then double will often not be the right move.  If the bidding goes 1C-Pass-3C-Suit;-?, opener with 18-19 balanced has an immediate decision to make, and can't merely pass to get responder's opinion.  Yet opener does not have the information for this decision making.  
In short, this 5-8 (or 4-8) raise doesn't work well with the common worst of hands or the most frequent of the best of hands.

Some partnerships define the jump minor raise as having no game interest opposite the 18-19 balanced - this would be a maximum of a poor 6.  This makes decision making for opener a lot easier, but has disadvantages:

- This is even more a catalyst for the opponents to compete, and now they are encouraged to bid making major suit games since they frequently will have 21 to 28 points and a nice fit;

- Opener can rarely double, since partner might have a defensive nothing, and club length may negate any defensive cards opener has in clubs (since one of the opponents can be quite short in clubs);

- The inverted raise is carrying a lot of load, and decision making problems are moved there.

A better solution is to make the jump minor raise have enough values so that 3NT (or 5C) has sufficient chances if opener has 18 to 19.  This will be about a decent 6 to 10.  In addition I suggest the following stipulation - responder must have 2 or 3 cards in each major.  Now that 1C-3C shows decent 6 to 10, and 2-3 in each major, opener can:

- double when opponents land in poor fit at three level, even on some hands that are in the 12-14 balanced range (that would have to pass if responder could have 5-8 and be quite short);

- can bid 3NT even if xxx in a suit, since even if the opponents lead it, and responder has xx, the suit may split 4-4-, and 5C will often not be a better spot with two quick losers off the top;

- know in subsequent cuebidding, that responder is showing values, not shortness, when making a major suit cuebid.

Now when it goes 1C-Pass-3C(6-10, no singleton/void major);-?, the opponents incur significant risk entering the bidding.  They most likely have a suit fit, but their point range, if opener is minimum will be just average minus (17 to 22), and opener will know when they stepped out of line.  Thus the raise takes up bidding space, and acts as a deterrent, not a catalyst, on the opponents.
What do we do with raises that are less than a decent 6, or have a singleton/void in a major? - this will be Part 3 of this three part series of posts.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Packaging raises and preparing for the best and worst - part 1

This post is the first of three on raises.

One technique in creating a well defined raise is to place flatter hand types together with shapely hands with less point count.  The idea is that these hands will have close to the same playing value, since a shapely hand offsets the less point count with distributional values.

For example, for 1M-2NT we can have:

a) 12-14, 3+M and unable to make splinter (usually no singleton/void)
b) 10-11, 3+M with at least a doubleton for shortness, and not soft values if just a doubleton
c) 9, 3+M with a singleton/void

Here game invites are combined with minimum game going hands, but the game invites hands have distributional values, while the game going hands are often flatter.  Thus the playing value of this raise is not as widespread as the 9-14 point count would indicate.  Over the 2NT raise, opener will frequent bid 4M to play there.  In playing a 2NT raise similar to this, we have found that opener should never stop below game if holding a singleton/void, even if minimum - even when the game is poor, the opponents sometimes don't make the ideal lead or have the correct defense, since the auction has not disclosed much about the two hands.

One reason for playing a 2NT raise like this is it makes playing 1NT semi-forcing easier.  With 2NT in place as above, 1M-1NT can be semi-forcing, and if 3 in M and an invite, the invite will be a 4-3-3-3 or a hand with a doubleton and soft values.  Now if opener passes 1NT with a flat minimum, 1NT will often be the best place to play even if responder has a 3 card major support.

Why play 1M-1NT semi-forcing instead of forcing?  First, it means that the 2 of a minor rebid by opener (1M-1NT;-2m) is often shapely or extras, which makes the subsequent auction easier.  Even better, it makes implementing Gazzilli a lot easier, as opener can pass 5-3-3-2 minimums instead of trying to find some way of bidding them over 1NT (in Gazzilli opener's rebid of 2C shows 4+Cs or 16/17+ any, and thus 2C cannot be rebid with a 5-3-3-2 with 3Cs, as with the 1NT forcing approach).  In addition, when using the Gazzilli convention, if you play 1NT as 15-17 (instead of 14-16), you should upgrade good 14 5-3-3-2s into the 1NT opening, so these don't have to pass 1NT semi-forcing with good playing value opposite an invite.  

If you like 1M-2NT as natural, you can play the above 2NT raise as 1M-3C - the lost space is not important as most auctions will go 1M-3C;-4M or 1M-3C;-3M signoff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Content, Community and Participating

Business Week editor Robert Hof's 2005 quote about Web 2.0 nails it:
It's no longer all about idly surfing and passively reading, listening, or watching. It's about doing: sharing, socializing, collaborating, and, most of all, creating.

However there is one key activity above all: participating.

For Bridge, thanks to the online bridge sites, participation continues to grow.  

If you read Linda Lee's tour of bridge on the web (, you will be convinced that there is a lot of content about bridge to be found on the Internet, and the sites she discusses will lead you on to even more content elsewhere.

What we are missing is community.

We have a few silos of bridge communities - we have posters on various sites like (albeit with some flame wars), BBO forums, and Bridge Talk - however the number of fairly active posters and regular viewers on each site is relatively low.

Now some web 2.0 sites are strong on social networking - community - but weak in the other areas.  For example Facebook has a poverty of meaningful content, and active participation is fading on the site - profiles are more often than not placeholders than constantly updated news feeds. Other social networking sites, like Myspace, are attempting to add content, partly to provide revenue streams.

Bridge sites can learn from the social networking sites to improve the sense of community. Here are some recommendations:

- Real names ("private" playing "private" damages community building).  As marketing wiz Mitch Joel said today (live, see his blog six pixels of separation at Web 2.0 is "real people having real interactions" - in particular see his post on Trust Economies: - (Now if the player is Britney Spears and wants to play bridge, give them an alias - this is for the 99.9% of players not in witness or paparazzi protection programs)

- Pictures - of the player, or their pet, or something - lets visually connect with each other

- Real places - closest big city etc.

- More profile space - the more space, the more content and socializing 

- Friendly flags - allow people to rate others as friendly - if players get enough ratings, their profiles turn various colors to indicate they are super friendly to other players

- Do mini video interviews (4 minutes max) with leading players and teachers on the site with softball questions (what is the funniest thing that ever happen to you at a bridge tournament etc.) - allow players to view these videos at the same time as doing other activities

Bridge on the Net has content and participation - let's build our community up!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ulven asks via a comment on an older post:

Is it allowed, Midchart, to play 1S as 11-13 balanced? There's a structure I've liked for years:
1C 16+
1D 11-15 unbal w/o 5H
1H 11-15 5+H
1S 11-13 bal
1N 14-16 bal
2C 11-15 minors

This means both weak and strong NT with a lot less risk!

Ulven notes that opening the weak NT (here 11-13) as a suit makes it a lot harder for the opponents to double for big numbers. 

--- ---

This is not mid-chart legal.  The change to the mid-chart is: "Any strong (15+ HCP) opening bid" - thus the 1S opening has to be 15+ if artificial. This structure would be allowed:

1C 16+
1D 11-15 unbal w/o 5H
1H 11-15 5+H
1S 15-16 bal
1N 12-14 bal
2C 11-15 minors

Sadly the weak NT has to be opened 1NT.

The 15+ openings require a pre-alert, but no suggested defense - I suggest having one anyway.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Bridge Pirate Club

Today is "pirate talk" day on the Internet - you can search on Google in pirate (the "i be feelin' lucky" button does not work like it might on some sites - on Google it replaces the "i feel lucky") - for friends on Facebook I click on "me hearties" (which is not a 4H preempt).  On BBO, well, nothing to talk about yet, but perhaps next year a flashy pirate flag option?

Let’s look at how we can be bridge pirates, just for a day.  We have:


Partner opens 1C, and we want can to shut out spades and get to a club contract.

We try bidding 3C, preemptive - they bid spades, or double and get to spades.

Instead we try bidding 4C, preemptive - they bid spades, or double and get to spades.

Instead, we try bidding 5C (okay I try it, you sit this one out), to play - they double, opener is 4-3-3-3 exactly, its Nightmare on Club Street!

Instead, we try bidding 1D, they bid spades, or double and get to spades. Keep digging!

Instead, we bid 2C (SAYC, single raise 6 to 10) - they bid spades, or double and get to spades.

Instead we bid 2C, Inverted minors (limit raise or better) - they can bid spades, or double and get to spades - they have seen that these "limit raises" are sometimes fairly point light, and it pays to get their major or majors into the bidding.  However this is our best chance to shut out the opponents since they have to be concerned that the opening side has values.  The problem is that opener expects the opening side to have values too: a terrible 3NT or 5C, perhaps doubled, could be davy jones' locker for this pirate.

Instead we bid 1NT, balanced hand with no four card major - they bid spades, or double and get to spades - many times they have seen, after a one of a minor opening, that some number of NTs by responder has a concealed fit for opener’s minor, and here 1NT denys lots of points.

Instead we bid 1S (okay, just me trying this psyche) - partner raises spades to game, this gets doubled and so does 5C - its Nightmare on Club Street II Roadkill.

We develop nuclear weapons for this situation:

First we try the 2D (or 2C) response as a two way raise:  weak raise or game forcing flat raise.  We bid 2C, they keep quiet in case we have the big hand, partner bids something, we bid 3C showing the weak raise, just as if we had bid 3C in the first place - now they bid spades, or double and get to spades.

Okay, we try 2NT as two way:  weak raise or game forcing flat raise.  They keep quiet, partner bids 3C and now we pass.  The next person to bid finds out this shows the weak raise, and bids spades or doubles and they find spades.  Well we froze out the person bidding before us, but since they couldn’t initially find a bid over 1C, not much to freeze out there - we need to shut out the person bidding after us.

This is like digging for buried treasure - sounds like a good idea, but takes hours.

How about this - we bid 2D (or 2C) and ask opener to grade their hand - 3C = bad, 2NT= 18-19 balanced, rest in between.  Now when we bid 3C (or pass 3C) it does not show a weak raise - it shows that we found out there is not enough points for game, but it could be quite a spread of possible values.  Now the opponents have to decide - how many working cannons does this pirate ship really have?

We could improve this by having opener let us know if they are balanced if not a bad hand, and if opener shows this the opponents have to be considered that responder can now find a double on quite a set of hands.

The structure would be like this:

1C-2D(C raise, wide ranging, can be balanced, asks);-?

2H: balanced hand, 13-14.  3C to play, 2NT invites, 2S asks opener to bid 2NT, 3D/H/S shortness slam tries, 3NT to play.

2S: unbalanced hand, 13-15.  2NT asks, 3C to play, 3D/H/S shortness slam tries.

2NT: 18-19 balanced or semi-balanced.  3C invite, 3NT to play, rest slam tries.

3C: Up to 12, balanced or unbalanced.

3D/H/S: Unbalanced, shortness showing, 16+.  4C to play.  4D RKCB for Cs.
3NT: 16-17, unbalanced but not shortness.  4C to play.  4D RKCB for Cs.

These sequences will not force the opponents to walk the plank all the time, but it will allow you to be a pirate on some days, burying their spades for a treasured score.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stacy Jacob's blog and Publicity

Stacy Jacob's blog is always a fun read, mega-entertaining:

First you will notice that blogs with Wordpress blogging software have a lot better layout/visual appearance than blogs, like this one, from Goggle's  I have Wordpressing envy.

Next, in reading you will see that Stacy Jacob tells it like it is - she can be outspoken, which is how bloggers should be, like the better newspaper columnists.  She tells us news that others will be reluctant to impart, and she offers up viewpoints that others would prefer discussed behind closed doors.  Today she tackles the Buffet Cup, and "to have such a prestigious event receive so little advance publicity".  As usual she hits the nail on the head: "How's this good for bridge?" Well one thing I know: her blog is great for bridge!

Now if you click on the tabs at the top, you can go to the system notes part.  This is très cool. Now she would not be considered a bidding theorist, but in working with some of the top players in the game, she has posted a well defined system, including one of the best documents on Gazzilli, found in here:

Thinking of playing Gazzilli? - you should if you are playing a standard system in top tournaments - then these notes are a must read, just like the rest of her blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


What's the best way to warm up for the upcoming big tournament?

Imo, it's to play lots and lots against opponents of the same caliber you will play against during the big tournament.  If you don't have many of these players available locally, you will have to go online and/or travel a bit to play against them.

What are the common warm-up mistakes?

1) Using magazine "bidding contests" to practice bidding - these hands are the exceptional hands, not the meat-and-potatoes of 99% of non-competitive hands.  Even worse, in these contests, even when the opponents bid, they never jam.

2) Spending too much time on "Partnership bidding" practice close to the tournament.  This is important months before, but you need to have your system in place and locked down before the big tournament.  At most 20% of your bridge time should be allocated to this practice before a big tournament, and it should be rapid-fire practice, running through lots of hands just to ensure both are on the same page at the same time.

3) Doing too much kibitzing  - you want to play, play, play - get your stamina up, and treat rote hands with little mental energy.  Kibitz lots if you will be a commentator at the big tournament - play lots if you will be a player.

4) Switching horses - if you are playing with an expert partner in the big tournament, then don't practice with weak partners - you will end up driving the bidding and defense as necessary for these players, and then end up doing over-steering with your expert partner.

5) Playing against weak players - if your upcoming big tournament is loaded with good players, it is counter-productive to warm-up by playing against the weaker players at your local club.  If in the big tournament all your opponents will know when and how to hold up tricks, don't warm up at the local club where hold-ups are rare and never made smoothly.

6) Doing complex bridge problems - in warming up your declarer and defensive play by doing book and magazine problems, focus on problems that can be solved in five minutes or less - much like you will face at the table.  Don't waste your time on tackling just a few problems that each take hours to solve - when you go to play live you will squander too much energy in judging each hand trying to see if it might be one of these horrendous types.

7) Changing system - this is the worst - never change system just before the big tournament - low benefit, high risk!

--- ---

Speaking of changing system, the South African pair Tim Cope-Glen Holman have changed their system between the 07 and 08 World Championships - of course they would have done this months before, not right before the Mind Games this October.

They used to play a standard base with 15-17 notrump.  They have now moved to a Welland-and-partner (Roy Welland of the US)/Garner-Weinstein (Howard Weinstein - Steve Garner of the US) approach (played lots elsewhere too - I reference the US players as readers will be most familiar with these):

1NT is 14-16
1C handles balanced hands outside the NT range and below 20: 11-13 or 17-19.
1C-1red is a transfer, and 1C-1red;-1NT shows 17-19 balanced without a 4 card fit for responder's major, staying low
1D is natural unbalanced

Another interesting pair to watch in just a few weeks!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Labors of love

At my Toastmasters club today, we were visited by our area governor who gave a wonderful talk on making speeches.  Later, one of our ex-presidents, noting the modesty of our governor, listed some of his extensive contributions to the organization.  This, combined with some recent gifts (see below), had me thinking about bridge volunteers and bridge virtual volunteers that have helped my bridge past-time over the years.  

By "virtual volunteers" I mean people who contribute to bridge, and are nominally "paid", but if one considered the payment divided by the number of hours, it would have been more financially viable to take a job saying "would you like fries with that?"  Virtual volunteers include:

- Owners of small and medium bridge clubs (lots of hours, little or no profit)
- Tournament and bridge event organizers (lots of hours, and, when paid, small fee)  
- Bridge and magazine publishers and editors (zillons of hours, risk, eek out a profit after editing out eek)
- Bridge book and magazine writers (lots of hours, small income, especially for articles)
- Bridge web sites and blogs supported by Ads (lots of hours, almost no $)
- Bridge software developers (lots of hours, very little income compared to what would be available programming professionally)
- Bridge professional coaches and captains (endless hours of prep) 

Now consider all the unpaid volunteers and contributors, including:

- Tournament and special event volunteers
- Mentors of younger and/or newer players
- Unpaid editors, writers, and photographers, including those who post on bridge forums 
- Providers of free bridge publications, online and on paper
- Unpaid executives of the many bridge organizations
- Developers of free bridge software
- Sponsors and fund/charity contributors
- Unpaid NPCs, coaches, and support staff
- Vugraph organizers, operators, and commentators

It has been just over 30 years since my first bridge tournament, the NABC in Toronto in 1978 (first table, two little old ladies for opponents, we are two university students and happy with this match up, until, everybody in the big ballroom drops by to say hi to them, and then they kill us kindly in two boards).  In that time, my bridge activities must have been helped by thousands and thousands of volunteers.

To all those volunteers over the years, many who I do not know individually, I thank you for your contributions to bridge - your labors of love for the game and our bridge community.

Recently I received gifts from two sources - these were bridge system documents - for some of you this would not mean much, but you should be able to tell from this blog and site, these were great gifts for me.  I will not mention their names, in case they get deluged with requests - just, let me say thank you for your continuing contributions to this game we all love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2-4 Drury

Jim Hudson (see the first post of this two part posting on Drury) was correct - distinguishing between 3 and 4 card raises is more important on the constructive hands, since on those the opponents are more likely to compete and you want to know when and when not to bid again.

However if you play a method like P-1M;-2M showing 4 of the M and constructive values, you might as well have Bergen'ed (using Bergen as a verb - btw Bergen has just finished 15+ hour days to complete his new book "Slam Bidding Made Easier" - we look forward to that) - that is jump bidding to 3C or 3D artificially to show 4 trumps and constructive values. The reason for this is after it goes P-1M;-2M showing 4 trumps and constructive values, the opponents will compete on almost all hands where it will be right to do so - you will only be left alone in 2M when it is wrong - the opponents can do this since if you have just an 8 card fit, you only have about half the points - thus the opponents know they have, in this case, half the points too and likely a fit. If you have more points, you will have a 9+ card fit, and this guarantees a fit for the opponents if they compete.

In saying that you will have only half the points if you have an 8 card fit, this is based on the types of hands that can open 1M with just 4 in M. If you open with just 4 in M, but more than a minimum values, you face sequences with no good rebid, such as P-1M;-1NT (semi-forcing, up to maximum passed hand)-?. Here if you have extras, you have to bid again, but all second suit rebids imply that M was 5+ to start with (assuming you are not playing a full canape style with freely bid 4 card majors). Btw, you can't play P-1M;-1NT as just 6-10, since this will pull flat 11-12s beyond the safety limit of 1NT opposite those sub-minimum openers (10-11) - the best protection for lightweight 1M openers is not Drury, but the P-1M;-1NT-Pass sequence which stays low enough when no M fit found and not enough points for game.

This brings us to what hands you want to open a light 1M in 3rd and 4th - if you play against a lot of relatively poor opponents, you will want to open lots, especially in 3rd. However in this discussion we will assume we are working out methods to be used against top level opponents. Let's look at some of the downsides of opening light against good opponents:

- During the bidding, they can better judge what cards are working

- They can position their NT contracts to best advantage

- For 3rd seating openings, the fourth hand can afford to preempt on a wide range of hands (they are opposite a passed hand too, so risk of missing game lower). If you open awful playing value hands in 3rd seats, this puts responder in a guess situation - responder wants to bid if you have a normal opener but needs to pass if you have a manure pile.

- They can double you if you bid too much

- When they play the contract, they can place cards better.

Notice those downsides don't apply to poor opponents - for example they don't know to change up their preempts when their partner is a passed hand.

With these downsides in mind, against good opponents, we (me and others who have looked at this), recommend for 3rd and 4th 1M openings:

- At least 10 points (with less, preempt or pass)
- Decent suit, lead directional values, if less than 12.
- If just 4 in M, at least two of the top four, and a hand comfortable passing after P-1M;-1NT-?
- In 4th seat, for a 1H opening, 4+ spades if 10 points, 3+ spades if 11 points.
- With 12 or less and 6+ in M, open 2M or higher.

Speaking of those less than 10 hands, don't forget the POOP rules - with poop POOP = Pass Or Over Preempt - by "over preempt", that means to preempt aggressively.

The Drury ranges given next will assume one opens almost all 12+ balanced hands. If you open almost all 11+ balanced, or if you pass most 12 balanced, then make corresponding adjustments to the point ranges.

When you open 1M with a 4 card M, and partner has a 3 card raise, often you want to play in notrump, not the major. However if you have just 10 to a bad 12 and 4 in M, the combined strength for the partnership will not be sufficient for 2NT, and if you use Drury you are already above 1NT. Thus on game invite hands (10-11) there is no reason to distinguish initially between 3 and 4 card raises if using a Drury raise.

We can then use a structure like this for the 10-11s raises:

1NT: Semi-forcing, includes flat game invites with 3 in M

2D: Drury, 10-11 High Card Points, 3 in M with shape or 4 in M but not very shapely

2NT: 4+ in M, very shapely, 8/9-11

If opener passes 1NT, missing a 5-3 fit (if opener has 5 in M and a balanced or semi-balanced minimum or sub-minimum) will usually be fine, since 1NT will be a good, if not best, spot most of the time.

The 2D Drury bid is quite specific - opener will often be able to place the contract, or when necessary make a try. It is suggested to play P-1M;-2D-2NT as showing a good 12 to 13, exactly 4 in M, balanced or semi-balanced, non-forcing but responder to correct back to M with 4 card trump support.

Now we would like to separate the 3 and 4 constructive raises, so our side knows when to compete, but, as discussed at the start, if we do it clearly this will just spur the opponents to compete. Thus will need to wrap the 4 card raise into a bid with some other hand types to better hide it. As noted in the first post, Hamman-Compton are trying something like this, perhaps influenced by coach Kokish, but their approach will make things clear to the opponents on rebids by responder.

The convention recommended here will be 2-4 Drury. It is a 2C bid that shows either:

- Exactly 4 in M, not super shapely, 7-9 High Card Points, OR

- Exactly 2 in M, 9-11 High Card Points (9 with a quality suit), and either 5 or longer in a new red suit (Ds or, if a 1S opener, Hs), or 6 or longer in a black suit (Cs, or if a 1H opener, Ss).

Over 2-4 Drury, opener bids:

2D: Minimum or sub-minimum with 4 in M and/or 3+ diamonds. Responder passes with Ds (or bids 3D with 6 and a maximum), 2M with 4 trumps, or bids a new suit to show that suit and 2 in M.

2M: To play if responder does not have a good six or longer minor and 2 in M (bid 3m then), or 5-5 minors (bid 2NT), or, if 1H opener, 6+Ss (bid 2S then)

2H: When 1S opener, 2H shows 4+ Hs, forcing to 2S

2NT: Asking, responder shows longest suit if 2 in M, or bids 3M if 7 to a bad 8, 4 trumps, and 3NT if good 8 to 9 and 4 trumps. Replies can be transfers if you want the ability for opener to play the hand in most cases.

New suit: Forcing, expecting responder to jump to 4M with 4 trumps

3NT: To play if responder has 2 in M, to play in 4M if responder has 4

4M: To play regardless of hand type

This convention will often hide the degree of fit in M to the opponents. For example, after P-1M;-2C-2M, opponents are in risk if they enter the bidding and find responder with the 2 in M hand type. Yet if it begins like this, and the opponents compete, responder, with 4 in M, will know when to compete to 3M.

To complete the Drury structure:

1NT: Semi-forcing, includes flat game invites with 3 in M

2C: 2-4 Drury, 2 or 4 in M, if 4 in M 7-9 and not a 4-3-3-3, if 2 in M 9-11 and a side suit

2D: Game Invite Fit Drury, 10-11 High Card Points, 3 in M with shape or 4 in M but not very shapely

2H: For a 1S opener, 2H shows 6+Hs (often weak suit since no weak two), singleton/void in Ss, 7-10

2M: 5/6-9, 3 in M or a 4-3-3-3 with 4 in M

2NT: 4+ in M, very shapely, 8/9-11

3C/D: 6+ suit, 9-11, singleton/void in M

3M: 4-6, 4+ in M

Drury has evolved from an asking bid (do you have a good opening or not), to telling bids (I have a fit for you). However the ACBL convention charts remain locked on the telling approach:

TWO CLUBS OR TWO DIAMONDS response to third or fourth-seat major-suit openings asking the quality of the opening bid.

If playing in ACBLland, when describing any form of Drury, I recommend you tell them what the bid shows, and then add "and asks opener to describe quality of the opening bid." Even with 2-4 Drury, that is what opener's rebids do, in effect.

I want to acknowledge Denis Lesage's work on raises with 2+ in M, reflected in his 2002 Bridge World article "Raising on Two" (January 02 BW). There can be a lot of system design fun in "encrypting" raises.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Drury - Part I

This is the first part of a two part posting on Drury.  This posting will cover the background material, and present material I already posted on BBO forums a few days ago.  The second part will cover the new ground.

First for background we have this thread on BBO forums:

This "2 Way Drury - Love it or Hate it" was started by Mike Hargreaves (mikeh on BBO), who covered some of the advantages of 2 Way Drury.  BBO's fred (Gitelman) discussed why he does not like 2 Way Drury, and links to an older post of his.  Several of us, including myself, provided viewpoints, and the thread stalled, as often happens on the forums.

This is not a bad part of forums, it is just how they work, as time management considerations, and newer threads take attention elsewhere. Sometimes the subject starts up again months later. 

In this thread I noted recent articles from the The Bridge World that discussed Drury concerns.   The articles were:

> Mike Massimilla, "Three Method Twists", March 00 BW) 

Suggests 2D, and not 2C, as Drury, especially for those players who had a weak 2D available (the idea being P-1M;-2D as natural not being that useful, as the passed hand would have opened 2D with long Ds).   Karen & I played this before the article came out, so I was happy to see others thought of the same thing, very likely before we did.

> Jim Hudson, "On Passed-Hand Raises", August 05 BW

Covering: main value (of two-way Drury) is judging what to do when opponents compete - not necessary if responder has limit since opps have not enuff values to compete
2C: limit 3+ trumps, 2D=single raise 3 trumps, 2M=single raise 4+ trumps

> Gary Bernstein, "TATA Drury-Fit", December 04 BW

"tell-ask-tell-ask" Drury Fit - 2D: 3 trumps, 2D: 4+ trumps. Cheapest new suit bid ask, step replies involving no shortness or shortness

> Alvin P. Bluthman, "All-Purpose Passed-Hand Major Suit Raises", August 06 BW

1NT: includes 3 card limits, 2M: single raise, above 2M: various 4+ raises

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In another posting I noted what Karen & I play, and why:

In our system designed for club games (f2f, BBO ACBL), we play:


2C: "weak two" in Cs
2D: limit raise in M, 3 trumps or flat hand with 4 trumps
2M: single raise in M, 3 trumps or flat hand with 4 trumps
2NT, 3C, 3D, 3M: various 4+ trump raises, not flat 

First 2D is a very precise bid. 95%+ of all auctions go Pass-1M;-2D-2M or Pass-1M;-2D-4M. The third % bid in frequency would not be a try, but is Pass-1M;-2D-3NT choice of games.

And if goes Pass-1M;-2D-try, there is a lot of space available, and responder's rebid makes the hand even more precise. Try would be new suit above 2M, and 2NT, which can be just a general try. In expert partnerships (those "trying" above the club level), I suggest after a game/slam try, that responder not jump to 4M to accept the try, but be able to bid the cheapest non-M suit to say "I accept, if you have a slam try you can start cuebidding (with all the bells and whistles including last train and the latest cuebidding styles)".

Thus I don't think "2D Drury necessarily makes it more difficult" [this was a quote from another poster] IF 2D is a precise bid.

For those who consider jumping around with 4 trumps and shape (Bergen raises etc.) is too much, I thinking hoping to park it in 2M is too optimistic on how the opponents aim their bidding to defend 2M contracts. If 4 trumps and shape is not enough to play at the 3 level, perhaps the 1M opening was wrong - note that responder is also going to face Pass-1M-(Jump Overcall);-Guess situations, where the jump overcall is wide ranging since opposite a passed hand - thus, imo, opener has risk in opening 1M in 3rd/4th with crappy hands with only 4 of the major.

For the 2C response, showing a "weak two" in Cs we have had good results, and it comes up a fair bit of the time, but not a lot. It avoids these sequences:

a.) Pass-1M;-1NT(semi-forcing)-All pass: the 1NT semi-forcing bid is more often passed by a 3rd seat opening (than other seats), and 2C is usually a better spot than 1NT if responder has a weak two in Cs opposite the minimum and sub-minimum 1M openings.

b.) Pass-1M;-1NT(sf)-2D/2H/2S;-3C: here, often a level higher than a 2C response will find.

In closing, the style of Drury you will want to play depends on your 1M styles, and these will vary between 3rd and 4th seat. Since Drury introduces new ways and chances into the auction for the opponents, I suggest one makes Drury a fairly precise bid, even if it makes Pass-1M;-2M more wide ranging than would be necessary if Drury covered constructive hands.

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I think using 2D as the only form of Drury, using weak twos in Ds, and using P-1M;-2C as a weak two in Cs is the type of approach that works well at the club level, especially when playing a considerable amount of pairs with matchpoint scoring.

However at the top levels one needs to look at these concerns:

1) is showing degree of fit important on first response
2) is showing less than a limit important via a non-2M raise
3) what minimum and sub-minimum hands are opened 1M in 3rd, and perhaps 4th seat, and what responding structure is necessary to keep these hands from getting into trouble

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The last post (currently) in the thread notes that Hamman-Compton's cc from the upcoming Worlds lists, after P-1M;-?

2C: 4 card Drury, or Ds only
2D: 3 card Drury

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Finally here is the ETM style Drury from the ETM Gold notes, based partly on the Lawrence ideas on the convention:

Drury, ETM style, 3 card or better support, good constructive or better values. Not on in competition (over doubles, suit overcalls, 1NT overcall) except if explicit partnership agreement. 

After 2C now 2M is absolute signoff. 3m is natural and forcing to 3M only. 2H if OM is forcing just to 2S, 5+Ss & 4+Hs. 

2D by opener asks, with these replies:

2M: 3 trumps, minimum, or 4 trumps sub-minimum.
2OM: 5 in OM, 3 trumps, not maximum.
2NT: 4 trumps, decent hand, no shortness (could bid 2NT over 1M).
3C: 3 trumps, maximum, unknown singleton/void. 3D asks shortness, 3M=Ds.
3D: 3 trumps, maximum, no singleton/void.
3M: 4 trumps, excellent hand, no shortness (could bid 2NT directly over 1M).
3OM: 5 in OM, 3 trumps, maximum.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Meckwell Lite - Trend or Fad for younger players?

Question asked of me: Is the growing use of Meckwell Lite amongst the younger players a trend or a fad?

In May I did an informal poll based on the increased use I saw of Meckwell Lite in the US Team Trials:

This discussion has a short description of MW Lite.

Imo, we are seeing a trend to MW Lite by the 18-30 players.  They like features such as:

- stealing with the 14-16 NT, especially when 13s are upgraded into the opening 
- jamming on the limited openings, especially bidding 1M-4M on a wide range of values
- opening all 11s (one of the Barry Crane rules for success)
- light responses possible since opener will not jump rebid without a fit and/or good playing values
- not having to add a zoo full of conventions to fix the problems of standard
- power auctions after the 1C opening and a 12+ response
- fast auctions on the bulk of the hands

One reason MW Lite appeals to the younger players is many of them also play online poker (often in tournaments that cost $5 to $30, low risk, high reward events), and they see the successful approaches of:
- bet first, with a raise, before the flop, representing values;
- bet first, if possible, after the flop, continuing to represent good hand, quite possibly improved by the flop (the "continuation bet");
- bet first often - if one rarely bets then when you do the players will often all fold, or have great hands if they stay in.

When they enjoy an active style in poker, as many young players do, then they often want an active bridge system: MW Lite is one of the systems that the ADD generation wants to play - not Attention Deficit Disorder but Action Demanding Dynamics - in other terms, MW Lite is a Frequently Fun approach.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

When is 4NT Quantitative?

I received a question today asking for some rules of when 4NT should be 
Quantitative (non-forcing slam invite) or not.

Here's my reply:

One should start with these basic rules:

4NT is always quantitative directly over any NT
4C is always Gerber directly over any NT
4NT is always ace/keycards asking if not over NT, and the opponents have not bid at the 4 level at some point
4NT is takeout if over 4 of a major by the opponents
4NT is to play if over 4 of a minor by the opponents
If the opponents have bid at the 4 level at some point, but are not the last person to make a non-pass, 4NT is natural

Then add in new rules for when 4NT can be quantitative over suit bids

For example:

4NT is quantitative if the 4NT bidder could have easily set trumps, and then asked for aces/keycards

Example: 1NT-4D(transfer);-4H-4NT asks for aces/keycards, and thus 1NT-2D(transfer);-2H-4NT is quantitative

a subset of this rule:

4NT is quantitative if there is a bid that shows a game forcing hand/slam try in the last suit, and it is forcing.  Thus if 1NT-2C;-2H-3S would be an artificial slam try in Hs, 4NT instead of 3S would be quantitative.

Only put these detailed types of rules in if you are playing at top levels - not required for clubs and small tourneys.

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Memphis mojo comments:

If it goes:

3C dbl pass 4NT,

what does 4NT mean given your rules?


By my simple rules, it is ace/keycards asking, however you define it for your partnership with no suit agreement.

Here this is another case where a partnership can implement a detailed rule, such as:

When opponents have opened a preempt, a bid of 4NT by opener or responder is natural, if neither player has cuebid, and there is no suit agreement.

Then 3C-Double-Pass-4NT would be natural, a hand too good to just bid 3NT, non-forcing but having slam interest.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Transfers over 1C in ACBL general convention chart events

Simply put, you have to modify a standard system too much to get transfers over 1C - the starting point is to make 1C 15+, which then has unbalanced Cs 11-14 moved to 2C, which then requires moving the standard 2C hands somewhere etc.

You can play half transfers under the General Convention Chart - say 1C is 1Cs or balanced 12-14 or 18-19, and now:

1D: transfer to Hs, 4+Hs, may have longer minor
-- 1H: 3Hs, less than 17
---- 2C: asks opener to bid 2D, then pass with D signoff, any other bid a game invite
---- 2D: artificial game force with Hs (or if all game forces go via 1C-1H, then natural, game invite)
---- 2H, 2S, 3C: signoffs (2H is mild invite since can pass 1H)
-- Rest: as over 1C-1H in standard, but 1S, 1NT and 2C deny 3+Hs.

1H: any game force
--1S: waiting, less than 16
---- 1NT etc. natural, game force
--Rest: 16+, natural bidding

1S: natural, 4+Ss, may have longer minor

1NT: less than a game invite, no 4cM, natural

2C: 4+Cs, unbalanced if less than a game invite, no 4cM, less than a game force, not 6+Cs if game invite
-- Pass: 4+Cs (or 3Cs and 2Ds), would not accept game invite
-- 2D: less than 4Cs, at least 3Ds, 12-14 balanced.  2NT and 3D are natural, game invites.
-- 2H/S: value showing, forcing, would accept game invite
-- 2NT: 4Cs, 12-14 balanced, maximum
-- 3C: club fit, would accept game invite, non-forcing
-- 3D/H/S: shows singleton/void, club fit, forcing to 3NT or 4C
-- 3NT: 18-19 balanced - if a weak major prefer to bid 2H/S

2D: 6+Ds, no 4cM, less than a game invite

2NT: Game invite with no 4cM.  Prefer 2C if 4-5Cs and a weak side suit.

3C/D: 6+ minor, no 4cM, game invite

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Today we try a blog posting written in the new google Chrome browser, and we continue with system frameworks you haven't seen before:

14-18 1M with 10-13 1D

1C: Either 
a) 14+ with 5+ minor, no 4cM, unbalanced
b) 19+ any

1D: 11-13 balanced (can have a 5cM, even a 5-4-2-2 with a 4 card minor), or 10-13 unbalanced without a five card or longer major

1M: 14-18, 4+ major, if balanced 16-18

1NT: 14-16 balanced, no 4cM if 16

2C: 10-13, 5-4/4-5+ in majors

2D: 17-18 balanced, no 4cM

2M: (8-9)10-13, 5+ major, if just 5 must have singleton and not 4+ in other major

2NT: 10-13, 6-5/5-6+ in majors

In this system, 1D makes up for a mix of hand types by having a small range of values.  The 2D opening has responder well placed to judge the hand, whether or not the opponents enter the bidding.

1C as Cs or 19+ or almost either

1C: Cs or Big, either 
a) 5+Cs unbalanced, no 4cM, 10+
b) 5+Cs unbalanced with a 4cM or 4-4-1-4 exactly, 10-13
c) 19+ any
d) 17-18 balanced, no 4cM, 4+Cs or 3-3-4-3 exactly.

1D: 2+Ds, either
a) 11-13 balanced (can have a 5cM, even a 5-4-2-2 with a 4 card minor)
b) 5+Ds unbalanced, no 4cM, 10-15
c) 5+Ds unbalanced with a 4cM or any 4-4-4-1 with 4Ds, 10-13

1M: 14-18, 4+ major, if balanced 16-18

1NT: 14-16 balanced, no 4cM if 16

2C: 10-13, 5-4/4-5+ in majors

2D: Either
a) 17-18 balanced with 5/6Ds, no 4cM
b) 16-18 with 5+Ds, unbalanced, no 4cM

2M: (8-9)10-13, 5+ major, if just 5 must have singleton and not 4+ in other major

2NT: 10-13, 6-5/5-6+ in majors

The 2D opening has responder super well placed to judge the hand, and responder can pass 2D with a bust.  The 1C opening spans from 10+, but the 14-16 range is isolated to 5+Cs unbalanced with no 4cM, and responder will be able to consider the 1C opener mostly in the 10-13 or 17+ range.  15s with 6+Ds should upgrade into the 2D opening, keeping 1D limited.  This is a system that will win team matches against top opponents when the hands fit the methods.

Monday, September 01, 2008

French Standard usually has both 2C and 2D openings allocated to strong hand types (see two of the three pairs on the French Womens team for 08 - the other pair has 2D Multi, either weak two in a major or strong hand types). For the three French pairs of their 08 Open team, we don't see the 2D strong openings:

2C: Any GF, or Hs strong
2D: Multi: weak two in a major or 22-23 balanced or Ds strong or Ss strong or Hs long semi-strong
2H: weak, both majors NV, Hs & 4+ minor V
2S: weak, Ss & 4+ minor

2C: Any GF or 22+ balanced
2D, 2H: transfer preempts (2D=6+Hs, 2H=6+Ss)
2S: 5Ss, 6-10 (page 1 of their cc implies promises 5+ minor too)

In third:
2D: weak two in either major
2M: M+minor, weak

2C: GF or 22+ balanced
2D: Multi (Wagner), weak two in either major, no strong hand type
2H: 5+Hs & another 5+ suit, 5-10
2S: 5+Ss & 5+ minor, 5-10
Here's a structure where 1C is Ms or Big (MOB perhaps?):

1C: 10-13 4-4+ in the majors OR 17+ balanced OR 19+ any
1D: 14-18, no 4cM, 15-16 if balanced
1M: 14-18, 4+, 14-16 if balanced
1NT: (11)12-14, no 4 or 5cM if 14, not 4-4 in majors
2X: 10-13 (or great 8-9) 5+, unbalanced, if 2M not 5-4/4-5 in majors
2NT: 5-5+ in majors (if 5-5, great suits), 10-13

Design here is keyed on:

a) opening 1NT or 2X on most hands below 14.

b) have the 1D and 1M as semi-power bids: showing at least 14 so opponents have danger in getting into the bidding - 1M can force the opponents into overcalling 1NT or 2X if they want to get in.

c) have 1M as 4 card majors with power (14+) but limited (less than 19) - this allows a structure for opener to unwind the hand types. In particular 1M-1NT;-2M is like the 2M opening, but 14-16, and opener passes 1NT if 14-16 balanced, or after 1H-1NT with 5Hs and 4Ss 14-16.

d) since 1D denies 4cM, 1D-1M is 5+, and, if the opponents interfere over 1D, negative doubles do not need to be used - instead of pure penalty I prefer value showing doubles that are passable - with a pure penalty pass and wait for opener to reopen with a double - these value showing doubles promise two or more of the slow cards (KQJT) in the opponents suit and 3 or 4 of the suit.

e) 1C has a nice split - if the opponents hope in, responder will usually be able to read whether opener is the 10-13 or the big hand type. If the opponents jump in a major, double says pass with major, bid if strong and not the major. If the opponents jam in the minor, double is negative getting values into play and finding major contracts.

f) 2X is based on the Fantoni-Nunes framework, which I love. Daniel Neill continues to do wonderful work on bidding systems, including these notes on Fantoni-Nunes:

In arriving at the MOB design, I went through a lot of permutations like usual, as I showed in the "Messy" posting, but once was enough for blogging the messy design process.

If you don't like the loss of transfers after the 1D opening, play:
2m: 10-14, no 4cM if 14
1D: 15-18, no 4cM
--1H shows 5+Ss, 1S shows 5+Hs - legal in ACBL since 1D is 15+