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All comments by Craig Zastera
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I've had good luck playing 2NT as 8-10 HCPs, balanced (probably no 5 card major, ideally no 5 card suit).
Over this, 3 by opener can be “transfer checkback Stayman”, i.e. responder replies:
3: four hearts
3: four spades
3: no four card major, min
3NT: no four card major, max
4: 4=4 majors, min
4: 4=4 majors, max
(or could reverse 3 <=> 3NT and 4 <=> 4)

2 and 2 responses are natural positives, good 5 card suit (but not 6+ solid or semi-solid) with more than just
KQxxx (or AQxxx) and out.
15 hours ago
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I am probably a bigger fan of playing Lebensohl (aka “good/bad 2NT”) in a large variety of competitive auctions than most.

However, in this particular auction, I think using 2NT as “scrambling” is more important than having a way for advancer to diffentiate two strength ranges.

This auction is generally an attempt to compete for a partscore (perhaps even going down for less than they would have scored for making 2). Thus, it is imperative that we use every available tool to find our best fit. That means using 2NT to “scramble” when advancer has two possible (equal length) trump suits.

Sure, it is conceivable (but rare) that our side will have enough strength to be in the potential game zone, whence “good/bad” 2NT would be valuable for differentiating two ranges of strength. But with one opponent showing 15-17 HCPs, this seems like a far less likely scenario than one in which we had better “scramble” to our best fit to maximize our chances that our intervention will prove successful.

Of course, using competitive 2NT as often “good/bad”, but sometimes “scrambling”, and perhaps, occasionally even as
(horror!) *natural* will require either a partner whose idea of bridge “logic” is a match to yours (good luck finding such), or else a very long list of rules and sequences to be discussed and memorized.

(a) (1)-DBL-(2)-2NT ??
(obviously, Lebensohl)
(b) (1)-DBL-(2)-P-(P)-DBL-(P)-2NT
(obviously, scrambling)
© (1)-2-(2)-2NT
(obviously, natural, unless part of some
agreed transfer advance structure)

If anyone out there actually agrees with all three of these, I'm sure I can add a few more equally obvious
competitive 2NT auctions until I'm the only left who gets them all “right.” :-)
Nov. 23
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The issue of the potential conflict between 4NT as the queen ask vs. 4NT as an attempt to play in a contract that might score some matchpoints when the partnership with a minor suit fit discovers it has too few keycards for slam is a serious one.
Playing Kickback and 1430, this problem arises in only two
cases:
(1) our suit is diamonds, 4 is Kicback and the reply
is 4 (1/4 keycards).
This problem is easily solved:
4NT is “to play”
5 is the queen ask

(2) our suit is clubs, 4 is Kickback, and the reply
is 4 (0/3 keycards)
This is a real problem. If 4NT is queen ask, then
we have to play 5 when two keys are missing, which
might be OK at IMPs, but is often a disaster playing
matchpoints.
If 4NT is “To play”, then there is no way to ask for
the queen without committing to playing above 5
even when she is missing.
I do not see a good solution to this problem. We
usually play 4NT is Queen ask for sure at IMPs and
agonize over whether to play this way at matchpoints
too.

But would playing 3014 replies really help solve this
problem? I do not see how.
Now, a 4 reply to 4 Kickback would show 1/4 instead of 0/3, but the issue of insufficient room to ask about the queen without going past 4NT still arises.
Nov. 22
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Currently actually play this as spade cue-bid with level of slam interest undefined (partner then can continue with a non-serious 3NT or a serious 4m cue-bid). If opener instead bids 3NT, that is “non-serious” *and* denies a spade control.

However, I think it would be better instead to play opener's 3 as “non-serious 3” (when hearts have been agreed in a GF auction), with opener's 3NT then becoming a “serious” spade cue-bid.
Nov. 21
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John,
Transfers followed by a second suit (e.g. 1N-2D-2H-3C) is fine with game forcing strength. But what about 5=5 hands with only invitational strength (e.g. about Kxxxx-Kxxxx)?
These hands can make a lot of tricks when opener fits both suits well, but otherwise want to stop in 3 of a suit.
To show these hands as well as GF 2-suiters, it is necessary to have different methods for each type.
Nov. 19
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I'm not a “light opener”, so I'm not sure if this hand is enough for 3NT in your style (as it surely would be in mine). If not, then 2NT invitational.
Nov. 19
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And, yes, with 5 hearts plus a 5 card minor with “light invite” strength, one bids:
1N-2-2-2 (forcing 2NT)-2N-3m
Nov. 19
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with invitational or better 4=5 majors hands:
1N-2-2-2
showing 5+ hearts & 4(+) spades (hearts longer than spades)
with invitational or better strength. Opener replies:
2N: minimum (reject invite) with only 2 hearts
3N: maximum (accept invite) with 2 hearts
3H: minimum with 3 hearts
4H (or other 4 level): maximum with 3 hearts
3C/3D: 3 hearts, game re-try

So this structure is a variant of “2 level Smolen” except
that after 1N-2-2-?, 2 by responder forces opener
to bid 2 regardless of his spade length (or hand strength) to allow for responder's weak (less than invitational)
5=4 hands and also for responder to show light invites
with 5 spades and a second 5 card suit.
Nov. 19
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I play this (1N-2-2-2) as a relay to 2. Opener must bid 2 regardless of his shape or strength.
Responder may then:
* pass 2 with a weak 5=4
* bid 2NT with 5=4 game invitational
* bid 3NT with 5=4 game force
* bid 3 or 3 with 5 spades & 5 in bid minor with
“light invite” strength (e.g. Kxxxx & Kxxxx)
* bid 3 with 5=5 majors and “light invite”.
* bid 3 with 6=4 majors, light invite.
Nov. 18
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Lebensohl does not apply when the doubler is a passed hand.
It is not important whether or not the double is in balancing seat or not.
So:
(a) (2H)-P-(P)-DBL-(P)-2N/3m
Lebensohl does apply here even though double is
in balancing seat because doubler is not a PH.

(b) P-(P)-P-(2H)-DBL-(P)-3m
No Lebensohl here even though double is direct
because it is by a passed hand.
Nov. 15
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My partner held the given hand and raised to 3 (not invitational). I find that bid hard to justify as it can never find a game (as 2NT might do), nor is 3 necessarily
safe. Further, the spade holding makes it unlikely that opponents can/will outbid us successfully.

FWIW, my actual hand was: x-QJTxxx-Kxx-xxx giving 3 little play (and, in fact, it cannot be made as the cards like and I was duly -1).

The opponents can make 2 but would never have bid it as my LHO, who has the hand most likely to risk a spade bid, had already passed my 2. I seriously doubt my RHO would have balanced after (P)-2-(P)-P-?? holding:
T74-84-J963-KQT8

-50 was worth 29% of the matchpoints, whereas +100 would have been about 70%.
Oct. 30
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I don't think given hand is a super maximum. Just a normal near maximum (could have the HJ as well).

That doesn't mean I'm advocating 2NT–just agreeing that it is possible for partner to have a good enough hand for game to be reasonable. It is also possible for him to have a bad enough hand that 3 will be too high. Hard to estimate relative probabilities.

Of course, 2NT has some extra potential benefits such as discouraging opponents from entering the auction.
Oct. 30
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I play both 3 and 4 as natural (promising 3+, not uncommonly 4) after 1-2-3.
The difference is that the jump to 4 is a “picture bid” promising strong hearts and spades (now very often four) with no minor suit control, whereas 3 is a more flexible (GF) spade raise.
If responder wants to make a *spade cue-bid* in pursuit of a *heart slam*, after 1-2-3, he bids *3NT*. This promises SA, SK, or/and SQ but does not promise spade length (he could have 3 spades, but 3NT is just a spade cue pursuing a heart slam).

This method does give up “serious” (or non-serious) 3NT on this one auction. True, that is a loss, but this sacrifice allow complete clarity w.r.t spade *cue-bid for hearts* vs. showing genuine spade support.
Oct. 26
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I'm not sure why you think 2nd hand weak 2 “should be relatively sound.”

I'd say it should be “relatively normal”, meaning good suit intermediates, no voids, no side 5 card suit (or 4 card major). But I see no reason why it should be near maximum rather than near minimum or right in the middle w.r.t overall strength.

If opener has something like:
xx-QJT9xx-Kxx-xx
which I would regard as a perfectly normal (albeit minimum) 2 opener, 3 will likely be too high. Perhaps such considerations explain the big vote for PASS.
Oct. 26
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For me, there is a big difference between whether my 5 card major is hearts or spades.

With spades, I rarely (but not never) open 1NT as I can handle all auctions without difficulty, since 2m over forcing 1NT on three cards is expected.

With hearts, I much more often will open 1NT since 1-1 may present a rebid problem as partner will not expect 2m with only three.
Oct. 25
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I think the old “saw” about who owns the 5 level applies to auctions where both sides are competing in their respective (big) suit fits. In such cases, the “saw” recommends letting the opponents play at the 5 level instead of competing further yourself.

I do not think it is a recommendation not to use the 5 level in your constructive slam investigations, although certainly one must consider the risk of gettting too high while pursuing more accurate slam investigation.
Just as getting to the 3 level when making game tries carries the risk of being -1 when the two level would have been safe and game proves out of reach.
Oct. 24
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The fact that the odds for 6 improve significantly when opener has a “better” hand (more controls, more hearts, maybe good spots), even within the narrow HCP (and shape) range that he has already shown, argues for using the 5 level to sort out how good opener's and responder's hands are before making the slam/no slam decision.

Responder needs to make some sort of an initial slam “try”, otherwise opener will never know that slam is even a possibility. But opener does not need to respond to that try with an immediate unilateral “slam or no slam” decision. There is still room to negotiate before the final decision needs to be made. It is important to use the five level to try to improve the accuracy of the final decision.
Oct. 24
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I did a quick (1000 random deal) simulation of this responding hand opposite random 20-21 HCP balanced hands with exactly 3 hearts.
I found that 6H made on 466 of these deals.
To me, that clearly indicates that this hand is worth a slam *try*. If partner has 3 hearts and “likes” his hand for slam, then the probability of a make will surely be above 50% (assuming partner can tell a “good” hand from a “bad” one).
Oct. 24
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I also would play that 2NT now would be “good/bad” so that responder can let opener know when he has perhaps unexpected values by bidding 3 of a minor now instead of 2NT G/B.

But that is not my reason for eschewing 2NT here. I assumed it would be “natural” as otherwise OP should have stated that it would not be.
But because I believe that opener's double does not promise any extra HCP values (just short hearts), if the hand was not good enough for 2NT the first time, it still is not.
This somewhat depends on partnership minimum requirements for opening bids. But I think most would open many (probably most) 5=1=(3-4) hands with 11 HCPs. Surely, we don't want to be in 2NT opposite such.
Oct. 24
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Partner's double does not promise any extra values (although, of course, he could have them). It does promise short hearts, though.

Thus, pass is contra-indicated by the LOTT as the opponents likely have 8 hearts.
Also, if the hand was not good enough for 2NT last round (assuming that is played as natural, invitational), then it is not good enough for 2NT now since (again), partner has not promised any extra HCP values.
Oct. 24
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