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All comments by Craig Zastera
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Michael,
You're welcome.
Oct. 22, 2016
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2h rebid essentially denies four spades.
Oct. 22, 2016
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You want to use the “weak relay” bid (2N or 2 of unbid major) folllowed by 3NT in conjuction with an immediate jump to 3NT right over opener's reverse in complementary ways.

One should show about 9-11, the other about 12-14 both with appropriate shape and stoppers for NT.

Which bid should be which? It may seem counter-intuitive, but I believe it is better to define the immediate 3NT as the 9-11 and the WR followed by 3NT as 12-14. One advantage of this treatment is that by starting with WR bid, opener has the chance to show extras (by refusing the relay). In that case, when responder has 12-14 he knows that there are serious prospects for slam.

The exact range depends on how light you go with reverses.
If you don't think 9 HCPs is enough to force to game, then make one bid 10-12 and the other 13-15.
Oct. 21, 2016
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I would never rebid 2S with the hands you suggest–perhaps this is the explanation for radical disagreement about this auction.
With your example hands, I would rebid in NT over 2H, either 2NT or 3NT depending on exact strength. This follows the principle that a “beach-head in NT” should be established as early as possible in 2/1 auctions (after that, it is still possible to explore other strains, particularly after 2N).

For me, the 2S rebid by West, a suit that East has denied, must be a prelude to something special–possibily a hand with slam interest, possibly just a hand that wants to fish around for the best strain.
At matchpoints, there is a huge premium for getting to NT with an 8+ major suit fit when both strains make the same number of tricks. You simply get an easy top when everyone else is playing in the major. This situation is very common.
This particular West hand is one where that possibility (same tricks in NT and hearts) looms large. All kinds of likely hands for East will produce this result.
Even an extreme case like, say, xx-AKJxxx-QJx-Jx offers a reasonable chance of picking up a top in 3NT.
If opener happens to have the CK, e.g. xx-AKJxxx-xx-Kxx, 3NT is almost surely going to be the matchpoint winner.

Further, this west hand is strong enough to have some slam potential (say East has Qxx-AKQxxx-Qxx-x).

Another possibility, admittedly somewhat fringe but still not impossible, is that the hand belongs in spades in a 4-3 fit. Say East has QJx-AQxxxx-Qxx-x.

My goal is always to try to win the board in the auction. Therefore, I seek to explore all the secondary possibilities rather than just immediately signing off in the “field” contract. If the deal turns out to be one where the “field” contract is best, I expect to settle there eventually and hope for the best (e.g. a defensive error).
But when the deal turns out to be one where a “non-obvious” contract is superior, then I can hope to find it with slow, careful, exploratory bidding and earn a “top” without needing something special to happen in the play.

This style of course requires partner to be on his toes–asking himself why I am bidding as I am and how his hand meshes with mine. Sometimes, he will still have a difficult choice.
On this particular deal, however, with absolutely no help in clubs (not even 3 small cards), he has an obvious removal of 3NT to 4D (over which I bid 4H) if he is giving any thought at all to the messages my complex auction is trying to send him.

It still seems amusing to me that some think my auction “telegraphs” the club lead to the opponent, but don't see that it also (and more importantly) tells partner that we shouldn't be in NT when he has “xx” in clubs.
Oct. 21, 2016
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A nice list of choices, but I cannot pick just one as several are correct criticisms:
1. when playing continuous range Michaels, it is important
to have the agreement that 2NT shows values (else,
just bid 3C pass or correct)

Note:
I do think the North hand here is marginally
OK for a “value showing” 2NT.

2. I think it is a good idea for overcaller to *double*
to show extra HCP strength with 4m showing extra
playing strength (i.e. 5-6 or better shape usually)

3. North's 5D is terrible if he has already shown values
with his 2NT as his hand (if good enough for such a
2NT at all) has nothing extra. So he should double.

If (as appears to be the case here), 2NT did not promise
values and overcaller's 4D shows extra strength, then
North should DOUBLE 4S rather than bid 5D.

So I voted for 5D as probably the single worst action.
Oct. 20, 2016
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West's sequence 100% shows doubt about 3NT because he chose to bid a suit (2S) that is not in play as a posible trump suit and does not even promise four spades because East's 2H rebid has denied 4 spades (unless West later rebid 3S which would show 5=6 in the pointed suits).

West has gone out of his way to produce a sequence that screams “I have a semblance of a stopper in clubs, but clubs might be a weak spot for NT unless you have some help there.”
One earlier comment was to the effect that West's sequence tips off a club lead to the opponents. Yes, but its purpose is to get *partner* (who is also allowed to listen to the bidding) to look at his club holding and notice if he has any help there.
When the opponents listen to my bidding but partner does not, a good result is unlikely.

Further, West's sequence hints at heart tolerance because he is plainly seeking input from East about the best strain for game, so he must have alternative contracts (to 3NT) in mind and 4H seems like the most obvious candidate (with 5D and even 4S in a 4-3 as secondary possibilities).

If West had a hand such as you describe, he would simply have bid 2NT (or perhaps 3NT with 16 points) over 2H. There would be litte point in generating a complex auction if he already knew the likely best strain.
Oct. 20, 2016
Craig Zastera edited this comment Oct. 20, 2016
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Yehudit,
Exactly the opposite. Although 2/1 auctions involve some give and take w.r.t who asks and who describes, opener's 2H “catch-all” rebid gives little information about his hand (except for some “negative inferences” from what he *didn't* bid), but mainly marks time to allow responder to continue describing his hand.
Then (after 2S), opener's first responsibility is mainly to indicate that he has 6 (decent) hearts, hence 3H takes priority when he does.
For him to instead choose 3D (particularly with 6 hearts which 3D would “hide”), his hand has to be more slammish in nature because one does not pursue a minor suit contract as first priority without at least some slammishness.
Thus, with, say, xx-AKxxxx-QJx-Axx, it would probably be better for opener to bid 3D over 2S rather than 3H.

But with his actual dead minimum opener (really, barely more than a weak 2 with only some “quackery” outside his heart suit), 3H is the better choice to emphasize his hearts.

Over 3H, West's 3NT is *not* “placing the final contract.”
If he had wanted to do that, he could have bid 3NT directly over 2H. But he did not do that.
Hence, is very delayed 3NT here after first bidding diamonds and spades is merely completing the description of his hand and *suggesting* 3NT may be the best spot if opener has some help in clubs (e.g. xx-AKJxxx-xx-Kxx instead of his actual hand).

Here, opener has about the least suitable hand for NT possible *and* undescribed diamond support, so he continues the search for the best contract by pulling what he knows is almost certainly a poor 3NT to *4D*, revealing now another aspect of his hand.
Responder now has enough information to place the contract in 4H.
Oct. 18, 2016
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Tom,
Funny, but I used to play that rebidding 2M after a 2/1 promised 6 (so that 2NT was the “catch-all”). This worked poorly for me because opener was forever rebidding 2NT with an unstopped suit and wrong-siding NT (if that was even the correct final strain).
When I switched to “catch-all” 2M rebids, things improved (while, of course, creating other problems occasionally).

And I find that the “catch-all” 2M rebid is *very* common and very often is made on 5 card suits with the 2NT rebid (promising stoppers in both unbid suits) becoming significantly less common (but more meaningful when it does occur).
Oct. 17, 2016
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Quite the contrary–West was painting an extremely accurate picture of his honor dispersion and displaying maximum confidence in his partner's ability to look at how his non-heart honors (and shape) meshed with partner's in order to choose the best contract.

In my view, West's bidding was about as far from “masterminding” or “taking a unilateral shot” as it could possibly be.
Instead, it was the exact opposite–describing his hand accurately so that partner would be in the best position to make the final decision.
Oct. 17, 2016
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Ken,
You may view this as west taking out a full-page ad for the opponent's to lead a club.
I view it as West bidding in a very sophisticated way to make it clear to his partner that he needs help in clubs for 3NT while keeping open alternative contracts, e.g. 4S in a 4-3 fit when East has QJx-AKxxx-Qxx-xx
or 6H when he has Qxx-AKQxxx-Qxx-x
or 3NT when has xx-AKJxxx-xx-KTx

East should be asking himself “why did partner rebid 2S over my 2H instead of 2NT or 3NT?”
The answer is that West was trying to emphasize strong spades, strong diamonds, tenuous stopper in clubs, with a hand that can support various alternative game (and even slam) contracts.

After 1H-2D-2H-??, a less scientific West might simply jump to 3NT. This shows 15-17 HCPs in a balanced hand with the unbid (i.e. black) suits stopped. “Perfect–just what I have”(AKxx-Tx-AKxx-Q98) a less sophisticated West might think.
But this West recognized the significant difference between his spade stopper (AKxx) and club stopper (Q98) and chose a more complex auction to allow East to evaluate how his non-heart honors might mesh with West's by delaying his 3NT so as to suggest need for help in clubs plus the ability to support alternative games (here, likely 4H) in the event that East lacks such help.

If East had thought along these lines, he would realize that he has the worst possible hand for passing 3NT (only “xx” in the suit West is asking for help in–not even Jx or even “xxx” either of which would make 3NT considerably better, not to mention something like C:KTx).

All of East's (meager) values outside of his heart suit are in partner's suits (spades and diamonds), with not even 3 small to bolster the club suit.

Thus, if East was thinking, the auction would go:
1H 2D
2H 2S
3H 3NT
4D 4H
Pass
Now that is a truly beautiful, scienfic auction where both sides have described their hands well while exploring all alternative contracts before reaching the best one.

In my view, the only thing West was guilty of was putting too much faith in his partner's ability to draw subtle inferences and evaluate his shape and secondary honor locations to reach the correct conclusion and choose the best contract.
Oct. 17, 2016
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Phil,
But over East's 3D, 3H by West would not show delayed heart support–it would suggest a heart honor value with interest in a diamond contract (probably slam interest in diamonds).
At best, one might view West's delayed 3H after receiving diamond support as “ambiguous”. In any event, I would certainly not choose 3H with H:Tx (but would with H:Qx).
Oct. 17, 2016
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Perhaps I did not provide enough detail about bidding agreements.

East's 2H rebid has essentially denied four spades. With 4=5 majors or 4=6 majors, it would be “normal” to rebid 2S (not promising any extra values). Sure, there might be some “exceptional” 4=6 with really strong hearts and really weak spades that would rebid 2H, but that would be rare.

Therefore, West's 2S rebid is not so much an attempt to locate a playable strain, but rather showing concentration of values. I don't think that the 2S bid even guarantees four pieces (although he will usually have such), just a concentration of strength.

Thus, I think there is a clear inference that West does not have a strong club stopper, else he would have rebid 2NT or 3NT (depending on strength) rather than 2S.

So then when East shows 6 hearts (for the first time) with 3H, West, having already shown diamond and spade strength, is seeking to differentiate between his actual hand,
AKxx-Tx-AKxx-Q98 (3NT)
and say something like:
AKxx-Qx-AKxx-xxx (4H)
or even:
AKxx-Q-AKxxx-xxx (4H),
having already indicated that his values are primarily in the pointed suits.

There is also an inference that East does not have solid hearts (AKQJxx or AKQxxxx) because with such he would have
jumped to 3H at his second turn (promising a solid suit but not necessarily extra outside values).

As to the suggestion that East ought to have bid 3D at his 3rd turn rather than 3H, that choice would have made it even less likely that we would reach 4H.

Over his actual 3H, I might have chosen 4H rather than 3NT with my actual hand, but over 3D I would *never* have bid 3H with my actual hand as this would sound like an honor showing (A, K, or Q) bid in pursuit of a diamond slam.

Hence, over 3D, I would certainly have bid 3NT without even a thought of an alternative. Over 3H, I thought it a somewhat close choice between 3N and 4H. My expectation was that partner would pull 3NT if holding no help in clubs, as with his actual hand.

In my view, East should realize that
(a) 3NT is going to require heart tricks
(b) West does not have the HQ
© West has (at best) only 1 club stopper
hence,
(d) 3NT is unlikely to be as good as 4H.

And certainly 3D by East at his 3rd turn would in no way suggest that he holds 6 hearts (an immediate diamond raise promises extra values in our methods, so a delayed raise after rebidding 2H does not imply a 6th heart, just a hand not strong enough to raise diamonds immediately).
Oct. 17, 2016
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1. with strong NT, transfers right side the contract more often than not. As NT becomes stronger, this becomes more significant (and, less significant as NT becomes weaker).

2. Using two bids to ask the same question (do you have a 4 card major?) is wasteful when one will do. It is easy to
enough to show GF values after starting with 2C Stayman. Why have a special bid to ask the same question while announcing GF values immediately?

3. Lose ability to show an invitational hand with (5) hearts
(i.e. the type shown via 1N-2D-2H-2N when playing Jacoby).
With 2-way Stayman, you have to start with 2C, but
then over partner's 2S reply you are stuck–2NT can
miss a heart fit, 3H can get too high.

4. Having to play 2S as weak and natural gives up yet another bid that can better be used for other purposes
(e.g. 4 suit transfers).
Oct. 17, 2016
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An inferior choice with strong NTs.
OK with 12-14 NTs, but prefer 2C Stayman and Jacoby xfers.
No opinion over weaker (e.g. 10-12) NT as have not played them.
Oct. 17, 2016
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Prefer 2S to 1S to show the good 6 card suit, but can live with 1S I suppose. We play “Ogust” 2NT advances over 2M jump overcalls, so partner can inquire if I have a “heavy” WJO (not unusual in my methods, particularly when partner is a passed hand) if his hand has game potential.

Presumably, his 3S advance is pre-emptive (not stated), and at these colors could IMO be very weak.

Even though it is not that likely that we will buy the hand in 3S, I see no particular reason to bid 4S now–I can always bid it later *IF* they compete further.

I certainly don't expect to make 4S opposite any hand that would qualify for a favorable vul pre-emptive raise to 3S.
If partner had any sort of useful hand, he could have made a 3D jump Q bid to show a “mixed raise” (4 card support with some values, typically around 6-8 points with some shape).
Oct. 17, 2016
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Isn't the last mistake passing 3NT?
Many posters seem to be overlooking the fact that East has not shown an extra heart until he bid 3H. 2H is just a catch-all bid giving no additional info about his heart suit (although it does indicate his hand is unsuitable for a 2NT rebid, a 2S rebid, a diamond raise, etc.).

West first showed diamonds, then spades, finally confessed to a club stopper. Isn't that just what he has? Values in diamonds, values in spades, something in clubs, nothing in hearts.

As to bidding 2D first vs. 1S, a great deal of experience has convinced me that playing 2/1 it is much better to establish the game force immediately and show the spades later rather than starting with 1H-1S, after which the auction is likely to become awkward (e.g. 4th suit forcing) because responder has to somehow indicate GF values.

How would opener bid with e.g. xx-AKQxxx-xx-KTx or
perhaps xx-AKJxxx-xxx-Kxx. ?
I would think exactly as he did.
Oct. 16, 2016
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The hand is a full ace above a minimum opener. A “non-serious” slam try should show a minimum opener whose (limited) values are slammish.

The “unnatural” 2C response also strikes me as part of the problem. How does the partnership uncover club fits when the 2C response doesn't show clubs? Often, slam will make in a 4-4 minor suit fit when it would fail in a 5-3 major suit fit (because in the 4-4, losers can be pitched on the 5 card suit).
Furthermore, not knowing that South has clubs makes it difficult for North to evaluate his C:QJxx.
Oct. 15, 2016
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Bidding “non-serious” 3S with the North hand shows lack of understanding of what “non-serious” means. This hand is worth about 19 “points”, has a known 2-suit fit, controls in all side suits. How much more “serious” can a hand be?

It would be nice for North to be able to splinter raise clubs with a 3S jump, but perhaps the agreement that the 2C bid doesn't show clubs is part of the problem.

Even so, over 3H, North should continue with a “serious bid”, presumably 3NT showing a spade control.
Oct. 15, 2016
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Time to reveal actual lay-out and winning lines:
dummy: KJ8
AKT943
void
KQ82

East: 9742 West: 6
J52 Q7
963 KT8752
A96 J754

declr: AQT53
86
AQJ4
T3
6S. Opening lead CA. Trick 2: C6.
Successful lines of play, I think, involve cashing exactly one high spade in dummy, then other top club, two top hearts, and ruffing a heart in hand *LOW* (works because West's S6 has been removed). Cash DA, ruff diamond in dummy, etc.

Declarer scores:
3 spades in dummy (one by cashing, two by ruffing)
4 spades in hand (one low heart ruff + S:A, Q, T)
2 clubs (K, Q)
2 hearts (A, K)
1 diamond (A)
for a total of 12.

I do not believe it is possible to make this hand by any line that involves drawing two rounds of trump (to explicitly discover the 4-1 break).

Is the winning line the best? I am not sure. It does seem to require 3-4 clubs (may make in some 5-2 cases
where west is short and declarer can over-ruff, with hearts and spades splitting) and 3-2 hearts.
The key is to score a *LOW SPADE* in hand by ruffing.
Logically, this might be by ruffing the third round of hearts (actual case), or by trying to ruff 4th round of clubs (won't work on actual lay-out).

Note that it is not possible to make this hand without cashing *one* high spade in dummy. If you try to play 3rd round of hearts without drawing any trump, West will ruff with his S6 to defeat the slam (sure, you can over-ruff, but you have lost opportunity to score a LOW spade in declarer's hand).

Do you think that this hand should be made single-dummy on the actual lay-out? I failed when West ruffed 3rd heart with S6 (nice play–note that if West does not ruff, the slam can be made).
Oct. 11, 2016
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Thanks for the votes. I agree with the majority view that this hand should pass.

My partner held this hand and overcalled 3C.
My hand was:
AJ7-KT4-QT54-982
I thought that this was a clear-cut 3NT bid (any disagreements?).

That contract was not a success after a heart lead–in fact, I was “lucky” to get 3-2 clubs and 4-4 hearts so as to go down only one.

The 2S bidder's hand was:
QT952-A853-9-JT4
2S would have been -2 (100 for us) with good defense, although the only pair who actually defended against 2S beat it only one.

We got a cold “0” for -50, but even +100 for beating 2S two tricks would only have been worth 2 (8 top).
Oct. 10, 2016
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