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A Different Way to Bid

Many of the responses to my most recent posts indicate that reader has not confronted the philosophy behind them. This philosophy is summed up in the statement, direction to partner if you like, “No invitations, 2NT always forcing”. It is an essential adjunct to ten point opening bids. In fact it is the only adjustment you need make to your standard system if you wish to adopt them.

Accept it or do not accept it. I am satisfied that the arguments in support, which I set out in detail in my post “Paving the Way,” are irrefutable. No one has ever actually offered a counter argument. The most common reaction, which is not an argument, is, “I must be able to invite.” The earlier post explains why it is better not to invite.

It is my considered belief that modern Standard American bidding, which does not follow the tenets of this philosophy, is heading in the wrong direction, and has been for a long time. Some of its most fundamental tenets, the artificial use of low-level bids, run counter to it.

In this post I have summarised the philosophy and listed tenets which flow from it. Read it and consider it.If you are a serious student of bidding theory and not simply bidding systems, you will want to consider my earlier post as well. If you do not accept it, simply ignore my posts.

You cannot comment meaningfully on my posts if you have not read, or simply “do not like” the philosophy behind them. You must deal with the philosophy itself, not its consequences.

Once you have accepted it, bidding becomes a simpler, yet more accurate exercise. Bidding without invitations is simpler because one variable is removed. It is more accurate because you can focus on the one area where the collation of reliable information really counts, slam bidding.

• 2NT is never used as an invitation.

• Accept this and 2NT is free to use for a huge variety of purposes, dependent on the context. It does not usurp a valuable, natural, low level bid.

• There are many situations where you can have your cake and eat it too. You can make your invitation below 2NT.

• It is essential to open ten point hands. Without the vital information that your partner does or does not hold ten points, problems created by your opponents’ are often insoluble. You should strain to overcall or double with this as your lower limit as well. Just a small preponderance of high card strength usually makes the hand yours. It is essential that you know when you hold the balance of power.

• You avoid the curse of the strong passer who insists on making a slam try opposite your tactical third seat opener. Or who bids 3NT over your pre-empt.

• The first two levels of bidding are safe. Use them before your opponents can. Your ability to get out, naturally, into a fit in any suit provides you with virtually complete safety. Opening ten counts means you will open much more frequently than traditionalists. More often you will use up bidding space which is “rightfully” theirs. And there is little or no downside.

• Avoid the three-level, if you can, in an eight-card fit. Let the opponents risk pushing you there, but do not do it to yourself. By not announcing that you have values to spare, you have created a great tactical position for yourself. Do not squander it by issuing an invitation.

• When the last bid was 1NT or a simple raise of your suit play in the best part-score, or the best game. Do not invite game.

• Marginal, invited games make some of the time but part-scores, when you have but declined to make an invitation, make all of the time. The upsides only start there.

• 1NT is a bad spot to be in when you do not hold the balance of power. Following a 1C opening explore all possible suit contract options before subsiding in 1NT. Do not bypass 1D, natural.

• When 1NT is your opening bid you have stifled your own chances of finding a much better part-score. If you feel 1NT as an opening bid is essential to your system framework, limit its range and impose strict distributional constraints. This will limit the frequency of its use.

• Better Minor is a dreadful convention. You do not need two different bids to show a 4333 or 4432 hand. 1C, giving you maximum space, both to respond and to further describe, is a much better starting point. When you hear partner open 1C you know that most likely you are facing a balanced heap of junk. You do not need 1D to say the same thing. 1D should suggest something with a little class.

• Accept gratefully that your Standard, strong 2C type system provides a much better base for accurate bidding at all levels in the minor suits. Do not squander it by playing Better Minor or other distorted use of low-level bids.

• Low-level natural bids are all valuable. To adopt an artificial use for even one of them is not something to do lightly.

• 2C and 2D, after your auction has begun with an opening bid and response must be played as natural and forcing or not forcing according to the context. This includes a natural non-forcing 2C or 2D after a 1NT rebid. To play 2C here as a transfer to 2D usurps the natural non-forcing use of 2C. Every transfer bid is a natural bid usurped. Your bidding must be allowed to die in 2C and 2D. Among other things that this facilitates is opening the bidding on weaker hands and getting out safely. So the hand belongs to the opponents? Let them sort it out after you have gobbled up their bidding space.

• The argument that you will never be allowed to play in 2C or 2D so you don’t need the bid in its natural sense is completely fallacious. Sometimes you will be left there, sometimes it is your last safe spot, and always the information that you hold the suit is valuable to your partner.

• 2NT played as forcing will uncover all the information you need to get to the best game. The valuable natural use of 2C and 2D becomes free once again.

• Applying pseudo-science, instead of giving a natural description of your whole hand, is wasted on part-score and game bidding. Make an accurate description of the hand you hold showing long suits ahead of short suits and four-card suits up the line. Partner now has valuable, reliable information to bid slam if that is his intention, or to stay out of it. Science at slam level is real, valuable and rewarding.

• It is pseudo-science to focus on your major suit holdings and degree of major suit fit at part-score level. Natural bidding assisted by 2NT always forcing ensures you will find all you need to know by the level of game and your exchange of minor suit information is not compromised.

• Take-out doubles should only be made on take-out double shapes, balanced, three-suited or quasi three-suited. It is impossible to play them as “major oriented.” Your responding methods must incorporate this fact. A flat ten, with a small doubleton in the suit bid qualifies as a take-out double of any one-bid at any vulnerability. Appreciate that there is a downside to not doubling. You are simply playing for higher stakes when vulnerable.

These propositions apply to all systems. They are incorporated in Jorj Club. Unless you are quite satisfied that you already are doing it the best possible way, I urge you to consider and try them. It is a safe and entertaining way to form an opinion. Push aside that phobia of “missing game” for a while and see how often that making part-score is good for you. And notice how many of those games that “had to be bid” don’t make. Take those gifts when opponents find themselves in your auction with no fit at the three-level and with a combined fifteen.

The assertion that one must be actively involved in competitive bridge before developing a bidding theory is quite specious. Was Werner Von Braun or Sir Barnes Neville Wallis active in the war or even in bomb making? I considered citing CC Wei but I have concluded he misled us. An ostensibly natural 1C or 1D is a more powerful means of entering the fray than an announcement of point count. The world seems to have acknowledged this. I put the success of Meckstroth and Rodwell down to talent and the fact that they open with ten points. Early Precision success might be put down, as well, to lighter opening bids. Eleven point openers were quite radical in those days.

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