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.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unbalanced minor suit openings

In a system framework, consider openings that show an unbalanced hand with no five card or longer major. For these openings try ranking the following five criteria:

1) Showing a specific 4 card major with the opening bid
2) Having room to investigate for major suit fits
3) Preempting the opponents
4) Showing the longest minor with the opening bid
5) Immediately showing extra values or limiting hand.

Here's my countdown ranking, from least important to most important:

5) Immediately showing extra values or limiting hand

If the unbalanced hand opening was wide ranging, it would be easy to show extra values later whether or not the opponents compete. Thus immediately showing extra values or limiting the hand doesn't help a lot.

4) Preempting the opponents

Unless one can jam the bidding at the four level or higher, preempting will not work often, as the opponents can freely introduce major suits or double to get into the bidding.

3) Showing a specific 4 card major with the opening bid

If negative doubles were banned this might be important since 4-4 fits could be lost if the opponents mildly interfered. However with negative doubles most 4-4 fits can be tracked down, or if the opponents really jam the bidding, then there are often bad splits that make a 4-4 fit contract not easy at all. On some hands immediately showing a 4 card major will work well, and thus it has some efficacy.

2) Showing the longest minor with the opening bid

If the opponents jam the bidding, knowing opener's longest minor will be a key factor, since if there is a good fit one wants to show support. However if the opponents do not interfere, opener will be able to show the longest minor later.

1) Having room to investigate for major suit fits

In order to know where to play, one needs to investigate for major suit fits, and one needs to have sufficient room to check for 4-4, 5-3, and 6-2, or better fits. While the opponents can jam the bidding to hinder fit finding, if the bidding starts off low, the opponents with constructive or better values will often stay low too, making non-jump overcalls or a takeout double.

Here's a couple of problem hands for some systems:

S: AJ53
H: 6
D: J53
C: AQ964

This hand opens 1D in some big club frameworks. The opening is limited, but that's not important. There's sufficient room to find a major suit fit, and that's good. However opener has not shown the longest minor with the opening bid.

In a Polish club system, this would open 2C. Again, limited but not important. There is now less room to find a major suit fit (e.g. is 2C-2M played as forcing or not), the most important criteria. Opener showed the longest minor which can work well in competitive auctions.

Given a choice between the big club or Polish club frameworks, we would prefer the big club since the 1D opening has more room to find major suit fits.

S: AJ5
H: 642
D: 8
C: AQT964

This hand opens 2C in both big club and Polish frameworks. The key problem is the opening eats bidding space, here hurting the ability to find 5-3 or better major fits. In some structures the bidding will go 2C-2D(ask);-3C showing a minimum with no four card major, and now responder must either pass or push to 3NT or beyond. If one plays 2C-2M as either forcing, or showing just a five card major, then weak hands with a 6 card major have risk in bidding 2C-2M, since opener can bid again. In standard one has sequences like 1C-1M;-2C-2M to the best spot.

In a big club system, when 1C is opened with an unbalanced hand with no five card major, one is not well positioned by just showing the extra values. If it goes 1C-1D(negative);-?, you have to play the 1M rebid as showing 4 or longer, since 1C-1D;-2m can lose 4-4 major suit fits found in standard by 1m-1M using light responses. If the opponents jam the auction, if opener next shows the minor suit, there is a risk of not finding any major suit fit. The big club is far from ideal for unbalanced minor suit hands, though works well with strong balanced hands.

Using the above criteria, an example of an ideal opening is in a system where the 1D opening is unbalanced, 4/5+ Ds, and is wide ranging. However in the last post it was discussed how balanced weak notrump hands are best opened 1D instead of 1C (if just opening one of the minors on this hand type). Thus we have a system design conflict: 1D works well as an unbalanced natural wide ranging opening, and 1D works well as a limited balanced opening - in the next post I'll look at another factor for us to consider.



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