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Paving the way

My original plan was to pave the way to posting my system Jorj Cub by writing and posting an article about the concepts upon which the system is based. Burying gadgets from Contract Bridge's Childhood......As I anticipated might happen, the animated reaction to my initial post has made it clear that I must do a little more paving.

The central thesis upon which Jorj Club is based, and which I am sure applies to all systems, is that it is bad bridge to invite a limited hand to bid game.

That the overwhelming majority of the bridge community has never even considered this issue is made clear by the responses to my first post.

To pave the way a little more smoothly, I post herein my article "No Invitations Explained." Read it and consider it. If you go no further in adoptng my suggestions, you should adopt this one.

I will post Jorj Club when I deem the world is ready for it. If anyone cannot await my pleasure, send me a private email and I will attach a copy in reply.


No Invitations Explained. George Cuppaidge August 2015

Invitational sequences which take you to 2NT (10-12 balanced) or to three-of-a major lacking a nine-card or better fit are incompatible with playing a standard system incorporating 10 point opening bids. Whatever your system, these actions offend against the law of total tricks. This article sets out to show how to handle these and similar situations more effectively.

When you make one of these invitations, you squander a great tactical position. You prevent your opponents from making a potentially disastrous balancing action. You have blurted out the valuable secret that you have something to spare. Your opponents gloat when they push you to the three-level. Don’t do it to yourself. Let them try, with the attendant risk. When you invite, you do it on the very hands where you would welcome a balance. If you can catch your opponents in a poor fit with 18 points, or fewer, combined, they are in serious trouble. Hands with only an eight- card fit are relatively defensive. Your system should be geared to look for penalty double opportunities over a balance when you have enough to bid one more on the basis of brute strength alone. Conversely, your opponents cannot simply sit back and assume that if the hand does belong to them, they will get a plus score through your under-tricks. Quite often, when they have game on, this will not be enough.

For an invitation to be “right” you must make your marginal game. If your invitation is not accepted you must make the contract you reach. By telling your opponents that you are stretching you leave yourself open to a lead directing double or a double based upon an unfavourable lie of the cards. When they know you have nothing to spare, they sit up and take extra notice. An opportunity to nail that compulsive balancer is wasted. Balancers succeed because so many push so hard for game. They are not so safe if you hold surprise extra values. When you decide to bid game, just bid it. Let the opponents guess if you are marginal for game or marginal for a slam try. They cannot know.

By playing marginal game contracts in 1NT or two of a suit you get a virtually certain plus score. This alone will compensate you for the invited games that make, you will not make all of them. Add all the other advantages and it is no contest. Once you abandon the bid of 2NT as an invitation it becomes available as the most valuable bidding tool of all. It will solve a multitude of every-day bidding problems and it does not displace a natural bid. New minor forcing and 2C check-back can go back to their valuable natural function, forcing or not forcing according to the context. A plus score is a good score. In short, the three-level, like the five-level, belongs to the opponents. To play at either of these levels often means a poor result unless you make on the button. You should aim to do your game investigation below 2NT, and your slam investigation below game.

In forty years playing rubber with Tim Seres, I did not hear him invite game even once. Yet he never advocated taking the next logical step, playing “invitational” bids as below-game slam tries. In some partnerships he played 2NT as forcing. Successful players, inherently, follow the logic set out here without necessarily ever stopping to put its rationale into words. It is not, but should be, part of any basic bridge course.

You can have your cake and eat it too. It is quite simple to distinguish between the 6-9 point three-card raise and the 10-12 point one below the level of two of the suit. When a nine-card fit exists, it is not nearly so important to stay low. If your three-level contract fails, it is very likely that you have shut your opponents out of a making contract of their own. To fail in an eight-card fit at the three-level or in 2NT has no such compensation. Your only compensation comes from others in the same boat and this is a boat you are better out of.

Over a first or second position one-of-a-major opening a simple raise shows 6-9 points with three-card support. 2C is used as range-ask. Opener rebids 2D on all minimums, 10-14 points if playing ten-point openers. Over 2D, responder’s two of the bid major shows the 10-12 point three-card raise which can be passed. Other continuations from responder are natural, forcing and show long clubs as well as four cards in any new suit introduced. A bid in the other major may, optionally, be used to ask opener to further describe. This way gives opener maximum room to continue with the description of his hand. If you do, responder’s second round 2NTreplaces the natural bid in the other major.

If you choose to use 1C as the opening bid for the all the 4432 and 4333 shapes outside the 1NT range, abandoning Better Minor, this treatment can be used over 1D as well. Treat 1D as showing five cards as it usually will. Optionally, 2H is used as the artificial forcing continuation over 2D and 2NT shows four hearts along with long clubs.

To be able to bid 2C natural and non-forcing over a third or fourth position opener is far too valuable to sacrifice for any other purpose.Over all your opening one-bids and simple overcalls and whether or not there is an intervening bid, use 2NT to show a raise to three or better with an extra trump. Make a jump-raise to three on weaker hands. Both bids carry the valuable information that there is a 9+card fit.

Over 1C, 1NT is the 6-9 point raise and 2C is the 10-12 point raise. Holding a lot of clubs, you choose between 2NT and 3C. (I like the idea that 1NT and 2C show four cards in clubs, immediately establishing when there is a four-four club fit. This may be a little idiosyncratic.)The following arrangement, regarding jump preference, is simple, space-efficient and effective.

Whenever opener bids two suits it shows 5+cards in the first. Jump preference to a major is forcing and opener should treat it as a slam try, signing off in game only when minimum. Holding 10-12 points and support, responder goes via 2C or 2NT. Jump preference to a minor shows 10-12 points with 3+card support and is not forcing. It will often lead to success in 3NT based upon running opener’s long suit.

This is not the place to discuss the merits of transfer responses to 1NT bids, but remember that Jacoby himself said that he invented the scheme so he could play the hand. The transfer sequence used to show 6-9 points and a five-card major opposite a 1NT opener is best described as ugly. Responder transfers to the major and bids 2NT. (This is a good spot to begin a single-suited slam investigation, when 2NT is played as always forcing.) There is a better way.

Consistent with the proposition that you avoid playing near-game hands in 2NT or three-of a major in an eight card fit, the old fashioned Gladiator convention works perfectly. To play Gladiator, you must abandon transfers.

Direct bids of 2H or 2S show a five-card suit with 6-9 points. Opener can pass or bid the game of his choice. Responder’s 2D, obliging opener to bid 2H, paves the way to a weak take-out in all the suits. Responder’s 2NT over the forced 2H shows weak (or very strong) with both minors. Weak major-minor two-suiters are played in two of the major. Those with 6-9 points, and one or both majors, can be shown via 2NT- diamonds and a major or both majors, 3C- clubs and a major. Standard bidding does not deal with this important class of hand.

Consistent with the law, and very effective, is to super-accept a transfer to a major over 1NT or 2NT whenever and only when you hold four-card support. That extra trump is worth three points. And again, it is often right when it is wrong.

Simulations show that a flat nine points opposite a 15-17 point 1NT bid will offer a play for game considerably less than half the time and quite often 2NT is too high. Unless the hand is particularly promising, pass and take the money. You may get a little extra if someone tries a balance, double from responder is penalty. With 8 or 9 points and three or four cards in their suit, they will not make. Double from opener is better played as take-out, ideally with a small doubleton in the bid suit.

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