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"Bury those bidding gadgets from Contract Bridge's childhood. Bid properly."

A bridge-logic based bidding system. George Cuppaidge Feb 2016


Present day standard bidding methods are based primarily on concepts justified only by tradition. The most fundamental of all, the 12 point requirement for an opening bid arises from a demonstrably flawed maxim used by Charles Goren, “An opening bid opposite an opening bid equals game.” The many times the game is on both ways demonstrates the inadequacy of this proposition. To bid your sub-twenty point games, you must be in the bidding. To make matters worse, more or less randomly, useless conventional treatments have taken the public fancy and become themselves, standard. This is not the place to demolish them but they are easy to demolish. Most fill a perceived need not a real need, often at huge cost to accurate bidding. Included in my list are Better Minor, Negative Doubles, Forcing free-bids, Forcing 1NT, Inverted minor, most transfer bids, Smolen, Puppet Stayman (only made necessary by the mistaken belief that it is a good idea to open 1NT or 2NT when holding a five-card major), Walsh, Lebensohl, New Minor Forcing, 2C Check-back, Gazzilli, Key Card Blackwood, Support doubles, Bergen Raises, Balancing (weak) 1NT.


Your bidding system must have a means of announcing a hand of 10+ points. How else can a partnership determine with any confidence that that it holds something of very real importance, the balance of power? A logic-based system must permit you to announce, whether by opening, overcalling or doubling that the bidder holds 10+ points. It is axiomatic that an action which shows 10+points should not be made on a weaker hand. Only if valid accretions for distribution bring the hand value to 10 points should you hold less. Accretions should not be made for shortages or for length in a suit which is not headed by an A or K. Conversely, pre-emptive actions should not be made on hands which qualify for a stronger, lower-level, bid. Strain to get into the bidding whenever you hold ten points, it makes partner’s life much easier.


Other concepts just as fundamental are ignored. If you are going to respond to an opening bid with 6+ points, you will often find yourself in the bidding without the balance of power. This is true even if you wait until you hold 12 points before you open. If you do not hold the balance of power a 1NT contract is unlikely to be successful with opponents, on lead, a tempo ahead at trick one. All balanced hands should be opened 1C to give the partnership the best possible chance to find the safer haven of a suit part-score. Even to open 1D, may waste your own bidding space to the extent that you miss your best part-score, in clubs. Using 1C this way means that not only your one of a major, but usually your 1D bid, will be based on a 5+ card suit. When 1C is used in this “two-way” manner, it is vital to distinguish which class, at an early opportunity. A NT rebid should be made on the balanced class. Only to show support for responder’s suit over-rides this obligation. With a suitable hand this may include a three-card raise. A playable part-score is assured, and a fit in an as yet unbid major is easily found for game or slam purposes. The Walsh concept, to ignore the existence of a minor suit in many common situations is the very antithesis of a fundamental precept, “Bid the hand you hold.”


Scant attention is paid to the total tricks concept that unless you are going to play in game, you should not venture beyond the level of two of a suit lacking a nine-card or better fit. Today’s players blithely raise an opening bid of one of a major to three, invitationally, holding just three cards in support. If you fail in this contract, you are booked for a bad score. A bid of 2NT, played as invitational, offends in the same way. Agree never to play there. Your hand is defensive, there will be no consolation that the opponents have a contract their way. The solution is simple, you must have a means of distinguishing between a 6-9 point and a 10-12 point three-card raise before you bypass two of your suit. Using 2C as a range-ask over 1D, 1H or 1S solves this problem for you. The bid will always be based upon a 10-12 point three-card raise or a game-going hand without five cards in an unbid suit. Nothing is lost and a lot is gained. In the case of 2NT, play the bid as always forcing, and pass with “invitational” hands. To get a good score, when you play in an invitational 2NT, you must make on the button. Don’t play there, ever.


When 2C is used in this way, the two over one reply of 2D or 2H will always show 5+cards. After these two over ones, opener’s 2NT rebid shows a balanced hand, or a hand with no four card suit which can be shown at the two-level and five cards only in the suit opened. The point count is unlimited within the range for an opening one-bid. 3C is used as a range-ask. The need to open quasi-balanced hand with 1NT, in order to delimit your point range, is gone. A 1NT opening bid will not contain a five-card major. By using the first step response to 3C to show that opener holds four cards in clubs means that no good club contract will be missed. Much greater accuracy in simply bidding quantitative NT slams is obtained easily while improving your ability to show your actual shape.


The first-two levels of bidding are a safe haven. Use them before your opponents do, if you can. For your opponents it is an unrewarding exercise to try to exact a penalty from a pair who have settled in a contract of their choice at the two-level, albeit with a combined 15 points. Partnership methods should permit you to stay within this safe haven unless you plan to bid game. It follows that if you are going to open your 10 counts, you must not make any form of invitation which takes you higher, lacking a big fit.


Hands with 45+ in two suits, whether as opening bidder or responder, are notoriously difficult to bid accurately when the holder is in the minimum strength range for his initial bid. An effective system must deal with this class of hand effectively. Present day methods, often simply ignore the presence of the 5+ card suit when it is a minor, Walsh. This simply cannot be right on a significant number of hands. An overlooked a nine-card fit can be the cause of a disaster, a missed making contract or an unsuccessful penalty double. Three-suiters are ignored altogether. Opening 1D with 45 in the minors as is so commonly done is just one example. Your best possible outcome is survival.


The seemingly obvious proposition, bid the hand you hold, is to a greater and greater extent ignored in the modern game. Low-level natural bids are essential to building a solid foundation upon which to construct an accurate slam auction. They are all too valuable to displace wantonly for an artificial purpose. The prime offenders here are transfer replies to 1C, Gazzilli, New minor forcing, 2C Check-back, Walsh and simply opening the bidding 1NT. These all pursue an imagined need at great cost. The natural use of all low-level bids, as far as is reasonably possible, is vital to achieving this end. Inaccurate messages sent early in an auction cannot be retracted. To show your relative suit-lengths in an ordered fashion is the most powerful information you can convey. Major suit fits will look after themselves and you, almost alone in this day, will find minor suit fits as well.


Knowing your partner’s point range is useful in knowing only what your partner can and cannot have. Point-count-only bidders rely upon the likely disposition of partner’s cards. To bid really well you must do better than that. For accurate slam bidding you must find partners shape and then establish which and where are his honour cards.


If you have ambitions as a bidder, you will use the bids below 3NT, accurately, to find your best game. If you decide it is a likely slam hand, use the information you have gathered to determine if partner has the cards you need, and shortages, where you want them to be.The system espoused, documented elsewhere, is based upon these concepts. It is essentially a five-card major standard system. It uses low-level bids in an ordered fashion. One partner can at some stage in auctions, where slam possibilities are emerge, take over. Information about residual shape, control cards held and their placement can be obtained. This sort of information, hitherto available only to players of relay systems, facilitates extremely accurate slam bidding. Bidding accuracy which is beyond the comprehension of most players.


The proposed scheme of opening bids ensures that all hand shapes, in particular 5+4 two-suiters and three-suiters are properly bid. Balanced hands are opened 1C, not 1NT. This ensures that when the side does not hold the balance of power they can subside at the two-level in an eight-card fit whenever it exists. The system strong bid is 1NT, all 20+ points. This usage effectively limits the upper range of an opening one-bid in a suit to 19 points, and by giving just one extra bid in response, 2C negative, simplifies and increases the accuracy in the bidding of strong hands. As well the bid of 2C becomes free, and very usefully, natural.


The proposed system, based upon these concepts, is displayed elsewhere.

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