Join Bridge Winners
Playing with and against the GIBs
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In anticipation of the first GIB North American Bridge Championship, I wanted to remind folks about some of the idiosyncracies of the GIBs and a way to eke out more imps--I know the championship is scored at matchpoints so buyer beware. Also, if your declarer play against the GIBs isn't up to making 23 HCP games, consider shaving only one point from the ranges instead of two (but if you haven't tried, check before the tournament).

First, a reminder about what it means for the other three players to not have more HCP than you. Then some style pointers given the bidding and play style of the GIBs. (Here's what the suggested style was back in 2015 ).

Given the conditions of contest require the human player to have no fewer HCP than the GIB with the most HCP, there are some strong negative inferences. For example, when GIB opens a 15-17 NT on your right and you have 16 HCP, GIB has to have 15 or 16 HCP, not 17. As another example, if you hold 11 HCP, then the HCPs are distributed around the table (11,11,7), (11,10,8), (11,9,9) or (10,10,9); this means your side will have 20+HCP more than 5/6 of the time. As a third example, if your parter opens 1 of a minor and you hold 15-17 HCP, then your partner will almost always have 11-14 HCP because you can rule out 15-17 bal. Note well that the GIBs do not take into account the human player will not have fewer HCP than the other players.

GIB tends to believe your calls that promise a particular pattern or HCP range a little too much. To the point where GIB will make technical errors because GIB "knows" it doesn't matter what to play in the ending because you must have the rest of the tricks. This may mean GIB making a play that is sure to lose 100% of the time when a human would take into account the possibility of an upgrade or a psychic and play the card that might gain a trick. This flaw in GIB's logic leads to outsize gains from making calls slightly outside the described range or pattern requirements for the bid.

Here's the style I bid with the GIBs which garnered 1.3 IMPs a board over 66 tournaments mostly on Memorial Day weekend. (Not that different from playing Infernal Machine in the EBL Open Teams in Montecatini Terme last week where Michael Shuster and I got the 6th highest Butler of 127 imps net plus vs. the datum over 100 boards. But as Paul Street says, "the 6th highest Butler and €3.75 will get you a ride on the subway.")

10 HCP: the points are distributed equally around the table. Open a weak two with a 5-card suit or 3 if you think you can make it when partner has a random 10-count. Pass with most hands without 5-card ///6+.

11 HCP: you have 20+HCP 5/6+ of the time and 21 a good deal of the time. You're a (slight) favorite to go plus. Open a 4+card major and pass a forcing NT. Refuse Drury or any other invite. If you don't have a 4+card major, open a minor and pass if partner bids one of your 3 or 4-card suit. If it goes 1-1 by partner, consider passing with 2 if you can't rebid a 5+card minor. Partner will often have 5 when not 4-4 in the majors. Most of the time if you don't pass, partner will invite game and you will be too high. Rebidding NT is dangerous and rebid your minor when you can't pass. This avoids a new-minor disaster sometimes. Pass partner's 2/1s.

12 HCP: If partner opens, you have 23 HCP and likely have game. Otherwise, bid normally, but never accept partner's invitations unless you can make opposite a sub minimum invite. Treating your bad 12s as 11s rarely costs.

13-15 HCP: Open 1NT 15-17 even if you have a minor suit singleton or a 5-card major. Super accept partner's Jacoby transfer with 3+M and 14 (at 2NT) and super accept showing a doubleton if applicable with 4+M and 15. Do not super with 13. If partner opens 1m, bid 3NT even if you have a 4-5 card major. Accept most game invites with 14+ and semifitted. GIB likes short suit leads (generally 2nd best suit) so you are likely to get a lead in your 7-8 card major suit fit if one exists. At matchpoints this is two-edged. You might get more matchpoints if NT makes the same as the major or the major is going down, but you suffer if the suit is making one more. If partner opens a major, consider bidding 3NT with 4 trump, but most of the time make a 1 or 2/1 and bid 3NT.

16-17 HCP: Reverse or rebid 2NT (even with a minor suit singleton). Soloway Jumpshift with 16+ if partner opens, especially if you have support and a singleton, a (nearly) balanced hand or a solid major. Don't jumpshift with a two-suiter if partner's suit isn't one of them.

18-19 HCP: Open 2NT even if you have a minor suit singleton or a 5-card major or both majors.

20-21 HCP: Open 2 and rebid a 5-card major if you have one, otherwise 2NT.

22-23 HCP: Open 2 and rebid 2NT even if you have a 5-card major. Raise 2-2NT to 3NT unless Gerber will tell you everything you need. 


Next: Special cases

Special cases

If you have a solid minor, consider adding an extra point. E.g. 16-17 2NT, 12-14 1NT. 18+ 2.

3rd/4th seat consider Pearson's rule and open weak 2s with 11-12 sometimes. If you don't anticipate going plus (e.g. short spades and no other suit, just pass. There's usually nothing to preempt 4th seat out of because 4th seat is very likely to pass.

1NT overcall 13-17-. Good to have a stopper or a runout if red with 13. Stopper is optional especially over 1 NV. It's ok to do this with a 5-card major; overcall 1NT, then rebid your major if opponents compete and partner doesn't. With a good 17, double and rebid NT.

You'll be opening 1NT a lot. GIBs play Cappelletti. LHO will bid 2 artificial showing a 6+suit. Here consider 5-2 major suit fits because they will lead their suit more often than in a 5-card or 4-card suit situation. Thin games are still possible if you have every suit well stopped or a major suit fit. If NT opener competes over RHO's 2 with 2, LHO might not bid its 6-card suit. Or might not bid its suit over 2M.

I've had bad luck doubling thin major suit games by the opponents when I have 11--if they're opening, inviting and accepting an invite with at most 11 each, they each have a very distributional hand.

Sometimes pass works best when GIB opens and GIB makes a forcing response.

If partner opens 1M, you may be able to find thin slams and grands with Jacoby 2NT (even with 3-card support) and RKC Blackwood or cue bidding or making a splinter raise.

If partner opens a weak 2, you may be able to find a thin game or slam by bidding 2M or 2NT identifying a fit or a stopper.

If you open 2 and partner responds with a positive in a suit, this shows 2/3 top honors 5th+. This is often enough to search for and find a thin slam or grand. 

Do not rebid 5X or 6X if partner invites with 4NT unless you are sure you want to play it there.

Partner will almost always rebid 4M after 1m-1M; 3M.

My favorite invite after 1M-2M is the one-step "unspecified singleton" which works well even if you don't have one.

The 1m-3m "preemptive" raise actually tops out at 9 HCP so game is not out of the picture necessarily.

Read the "tool tip" explanations of GIB's interpretation of your bids before you make them. Especially raising the level in a suit bid and raised or a high-level initial overcall. GIB will sometimes interpret this as a slam try when a human would consider it competitive.

Next: some tips on play

Some tips on play

  • GIB will usually have at least the minimum for an opening or an overcall. Less so for a response. Combined with knowing they each won't have more HCP than you often pins cards in one hand or the other.
  • GIB will shy away from underleading an honor if there's any alternative so you can sometimes place honors from other suits if GIB underleads one. GIB will lead low or middle from three against NT. 
  • GIB is pretty religious about giving standard count to the point of "count couping" its side out of a trick. 
  • GIB tends not to drop an honor from honor and one when partner leads from AK.
  • GIB will sometimes unblock to try to get a "sure" 2nd undertrick rather than take down 1. (It might only be sure in GIB's mind if you opened off shape or out of HCP range). Also GIB will often try to unblock to achieve -1 rather than holding a contract to just making.
  • GIB tends to cover honors in finesse situations more often than human players.
  • GIB seems to be more likely to underlead aces through declarer, but still underleads queens too.
  • GIB will sometimes surrender in a situation where GIB thinks that declarer will finesse anyway.
  • GIB will sometimes switch randomly when holding trick one defending 3NT. Throwing the same GIB in might well result in continuing the switch suit.

Good luck in the GIB NABC if that's your cup of tea!

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