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All comments by Craig Zastera
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It is not partner's “familiarity with the concept” of pre-balancing which is at issue. What matters is whether your partnership has the agreement to play “OBAR BIDS” doubles. That is, an explicit agreement that a direct double over RHO's raise of his partner's opening promises only the appropriate *shape* for a take-out double and high card strength sufficient for a *balancing* double.

If so, then this hand would (barely IMO) qualify for such an “OBAR BIDS” double.

I generally play “OBAR BIDS” only when our side is NV.
Oct. 8, 2016
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Traditionally, bidding 2H here shows considerable extras–perhaps enough for game to be possible opposite a hand that is limited to 8 “support points.”

But I think a more modern view is that raising to the two level here (in competition) merely confirms *4* card heart support (you might have doubled with only 3 hearts) and “sound minimum” values. Such a raise is supported by the LOTT (assuming partner actually has four hearts for his forced bid). With such an agreement, this hand would be a fine competitive raise to 2H.

Playing this way, with true game-invitational values, it is necessary for doubler to jump to 3H. Not too different from the “equal level conversion” agreement where doubling (a major) then pulling clubs to diamonds promises only minmimum take-out double values (with a strong hand, doubler must jump).
Oct. 8, 2016
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Good job of constructing a hand where all of pass, double, 3S, and 3NT are unappealing. I feel I can't pass with this much strength. One not hold-up-able club stopper doesn't seem enough for 3NT with no trick source.
Between double and 3S, double seems more flexible, although 3S obviously could be right. I'm a fan of “good suits” for high level overcalls, and this one doesn't qualify, so double by default.
Oct. 8, 2016
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Overcaller should not be risking a plus score frivously here. The jump to 3H should be pretty close to 9 tricks in hand. Thus, in my view, West has a clear-cut raise to 4H.

I had a similar situation last Sunday in a Swiss teams where my partner made a vulnerable DONT double (single suited hand) of their 15-17 1NT in balancing seat. When I removed to 2C (what's your suit?), partner jumped to 3H.

My hand was roughly T8xxxx-xx-KJx-xx. I thought this close to a raise to 4H as I have heart tolerance, likely useful values in diamonds, and a possible ruffing value. As this was a new partner, I took what I thought was a conservative view and passed. Down 2. Partner had unexciting shape with fair high cards but obviously nowhere near enough playing strength to be issuing what I considered to be a very strong game invite. His excuse was that merely removing to 2H promises very little, and he had a decent hand. True, but that's the way it goes with DONT–not the world's most accurate game bidding convention.
Oct. 7, 2016
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Well, nobody picked the call I chose at the table–2H.

My view is that the “obvious” 3S jump rebid is (fatally?) flawed because the spade suit isn't good enough. I spend a lot of breath trying to convince my partners that the essence of a jump same-suit rebid is a “very good suit.” In considering bidding on, they are not supposed to worry about weak trump support (even a singleton), because my suit will always be excellent.
Thus, I cannot risk destroying any faith I may have succeeded in building up that my suit will always be excellent by jumping to 3S with KQ987x.

But even after eliminating 3S, it is not clear whether the best choice is 2D, 2H, or 2NT. I suppose 2D is the “orthodox” choice amongst “scientists”, but I thought the strength disparity between my red suit holdings made 2H more attractive.

My partner's hand was 2-KJ93-J943-KQ43. Over my 2H rebid,
he jumped to 4H. In my view, that is a clear overbid (consider how his hand would play opposite a typical minimum for my 2H rebid like KQxxx-AQxx-xxx-x to see why).
In my view, 3H by him would suffice, after which the auction
might continue: 1S-1N-2H-3H-3S-3N.

Interestingly, though, even with the 4-3 fit, 4H appears to be the best contract (at least at IMPs).
I did a 1000 deal simulation and found 4H making on 728 deals while 3NT made on only 656.
4S (which might be the contract reached after a 3S rebid) made on only 289 deals.
Over the 1000 deals, 4H enjoyed a 1314 IMP advantage over 3NT when not VUL (1628 VUL).

At matchpoints, 4H outscored 3NT on 457 deals, while 3NT came out ahead on 531 (the remaining 12 being exact ties).
This was due to the large number of deals (363) where both contracts made exactly 10 tricks.

The fact that my 2H rebid choice seems to work OK even when partner has four hearts and overbids to 4H (instead of raising only to 3H which gives a chance of still reaching 3NT or 4S when those contracts are right) suggests that it is not a bad choice.
Oct. 6, 2016
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Hah–the other post was by my partner. I hadn't seen that.
He got the vulnerability wrong though. We were not vul, I remember that clearly because his pass of my 5D cost “only” 11 IMPs (the amount by which we lost the match). Also, the format was a 7-board Swiss match, not a K/O.

BTW, my hand was xx-Qxx-A9xxxx-xx. The D:Kx was offside, so 12 tricks was the limit.
Oct. 5, 2016
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no–he could have passed and taken a sure plus. His bidding 5D means he has sufficient values and diamond length to expect to make this contract.
Oct. 5, 2016
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I like to play “advanced Ripcord” (Danny Kleinman invention I believe). Everything from xx through 2H is a transfer (xx transfers to clubs). That allows escaping into any strain with 1NT opener declaring.
Additionally, after XX is removed to 2C, responder can continue with 2D to show 4=5 majors or 2H with 5=4.
Also after 2C is removed to 2D, responder can bid 2H to show 4=4 majors.
There are some other fancy details–2S shows 4 spades with a longer (ideally 6) minor (and a good enough hand to be willing to play 3m if opener doesn't fit spades).
2NT shows 4 hearts with a longer minor (and a decent hand..)
Sept. 24, 2016
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In my methods, both 3H and 4H would be fit showing (3H is only game invitational). But I wouldn't choose either of these because when partner continues with 4S (as he likely will), I either have to pass (uncomfortably as we may still have slam), or continue unilaterally with RKCB. If I'm planning on the latter, I may as well jump to 4NT now (if that is RKCB) or simply cue-bid (3C) and follow with 4NT.

Instead, I start with a 4C splinter. If partner bids 4D over that, I'm off to the races with 4NT RKCB. But if he bids 4S (or 4H–cue bidding shortness but denying diamond control), I will probably settle for game.
Sept. 24, 2016
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I'm assuming the double is take-out. I know some texts have a rule about interpreting double as penalty if doubler is behind overcaller and take-out if he is in front, but I believe that in an auction like this that is a silly way to play. It is highly unlikely that a very limited hand (the 1NT opener) can have a penalty double of a 2 level contract opposite a partner who may have nothing.

What the 1NT opener can have where “double” makes sense is a max (or near max) hand with weak/short spades and support for all the other suits, i.e. a hand where it is likely to be right to compete in the suit of responder's choice.

The really interesting point here, IMO, is whether North's 2NT now should be Lebensohl or scrambling.

Lebensohl could work well on a hand like North's here–a maximum pass of 1NT that might possibly make game when opener is maximum with a good fit.
Playing Lebensohl, North bids 3H to let his partner know that he was just short of game invitational strength. That way, we might occasionally be able to use the opponent's balance to find our way into a good game we would never have reached without his assistance.
Maybe opener has something like:
xx-KQxx-KQx-AKxx
With a weaker hand, North would bid 2NT Lebensohl, and then either pass 3C or convert to 3H for play.

On the other hand, playing North's 2NT here as scrambling can be very useful when he has two 4 card suits (as here) and wants to ensure reaching a 4=4 fit rather than a 4=3.
His “scrambling” 2NT would show 2 places to play and ask partner to bid 4 card suits up the line.

My opinion is that the scrambling interpretion of 2NT is probably more useful here to ensure that we find our best fit. It will be rare that we can back into a successful game–even here when North is maximum for his pass of 1NT, game in hearts is probably not better than 50-50 even when partner has a perfectly fitting maximum. On the other hand, ensuring we find a 4=4 fit rather than languishing in a 4=3 could often be the difference between winning the board and losing it.
Sept. 24, 2016
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Leonard,
If, in 3rd chair (particularly if NV), I held H:KQT9x with
*short* spades (two or fewer), I would likely open 2H (if I didn't want to pass).

But with S:QTx or S:Kxx, etc. and similar hearts, I believe it is better to open a “light” 1H as I will be perfectly happy to pass a 1S response from partner. This strategy gives us two chances to find a major suit fit instead of just one.

This is also somewhat a function of hand strength.
with xxx-KQT9x-xx-xxx, if I were going to open at all (I would likely just pass), I would surely open 2H rather than 1H as the hand is too weak for even a “light” 3rd seat opener.
But with Kxx-KQT9x-xx-xxx, if opening in 3rd chair I would open 1H both because of the chance of finding a spade fit and because the hand has more HCP values, some defense, etc.

I'm still wondering if the 1 HCP difference (from 8 to 7) is really as big a deal w.r.t ACBL regulations as some are suggesting. For example, I find it hard to believe that
it would be fine to open 3rd chair 1H with, say,:
xxx-KQxxx-Qx-Jxx
but not OK to open 1H under similar circumstances with:
QTx-KQT9x-xx-xxx
It seems to me that the latter is a better “light” 3rd chair 1H opener than the former. And I would hope that if partner were asked, he would acknowledge that I'd be more likely to open the 2nd hand than the first.
Sept. 23, 2016
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Our convention card is marked “very light 1M openings in 3rd chair.”
When attempting to educate a new partner to prevent him from later heart failure, I suggest that I find a hand like:
KTx-KQJx-xxx-xxx
a pretty clear-cut 1H opener in 3rd chair, particularly NV.
I also hint that under those conditions, I might do it even with a little less:
QTx-KQJx-xxx-xxx
Am I in danger of having some kind of illegal agreement?–this had never occurred to me, but if so I would like to know about it.

What if I would probably also open 1H in 3rd chair, NV, with:
QTx-KQT9x-xxx-xx
Would that drop from 8 HCPs to 7 (with compensation of an extra heart), now render this an ILLEGAL AGREEMENT ??

I also have the agreement that *light* 3rd chair 1H openings promise support for spades (so that I can pass a 1S response).
“Support” is supposed to mean 3+ cards, but I think I once risked a light 3rd chair 1H with only S:Kx.
So the spade holdings in my above light 1H examples are essential in my style.
With less than a full opener and 4=4 majors, I would typically open 1H in 3rd chair (rather than 1S or 1m).
Sept. 22, 2016
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How high does partner have to jump in diamonds to make it clear he doesn't want to hear about our heart suit?
Sept. 22, 2016
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Why on earth would you feel the need to upgrade this hand?
They play 20-21 HCP 2NT openings. This hand is a perfectly average 21 count–not even a 5 card suit. Average spot cards (one 10, one 9 in different suits).
It takes a great deal to justify upgrading a balanced hand to a value higher than its actual HCPs. This hand is nothing special.
Sept. 22, 2016
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As we like to “stretch” to overcall (1D) with 2C, that call becomes less attractive with this strongish hand with poorish clubs.
1S is actually (for me) the main alternative to 1NT. But I'd like stronger spades and a slightly weaker hand for the (slightly) offbeat overcall in a 4 card suit.

Hence, 1NT for me. We play “systems off” over direct 1NT overcalls.
Sept. 22, 2016
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Playing 20-21 2NT openers, there is no justification for upgrading this hand. It is only those who (too) often upgrade 19s (and 18s?) to 2NT openings that might feel the need to treat this hand as stronger than a 2NT opening for fear that partner will otherwise not expect 21 with a 5 card suit.
Sept. 22, 2016
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I make a short suit game try in clubs. In my methods, that would be 2NT (any ss). Then, if partner is interested, he relays with 3C, then my 3D/3H/3S = short D/H/C (or can use a different encoding if you like to avoid bidding the suit in which you are short). But I saw that you use 3C as club SS try, so I voted for that.
Sept. 22, 2016
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Interesting example because *double dummy* declarer can always make at least 11 tricks in NT with your suggested hand.
Sept. 20, 2016
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It is true that double dummy analysis slightly overestimates declarer's success for slam level hands. But not by nearly as much as you seem to think–a couple of percent perhaps as an average over a large number of deals. Remember, the defenders in real life will not defend perfectly either.

Also, my analysis was just for the *worst* (15 point) hands opposite. If these hands are making 6NT over half the time, it suggests to me that it is probably OK to just blast 6NT as opener will have 16 or 17 HCPs over half the time.

It may also be worth considering other approaches if available–for example, some play (from a suggestion by Danny Kleinman) that a *4S* response to 1NT should be used as a *very strong invite* to slam, with interest in playing in a 4-4 (or better) fit if one can be found. Opener is still permitted to bid 4NT (passable) with a terrible hand, but is encouraged to instead bid 4 card suits up the line.
Even if he bids 4NT, responder may still bid his cheapest 4+ card suit at the 5 level to force opener to show suits (or raise with a fit), with the possibility of stopping in 5NT if no fit is found and opener is very unenthusiastic.

Another possibility is to splinter. The wisdom of this approach on this hand depends on detailed agreements about what opener needs (e.g. how little wastage in responder's short suit) to accept such a splinter slam try.

Both these alternative approaches can be evaluated via simulations, but I omitted these as they depend on specific agreements about acceptance criteria which would be partnership specific.

I am using “DealMaster Pro” software for the simulations and “Deep Finesse” for the double dummy analysis of the generated hands.
Sept. 20, 2016
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2C, will rebid 2NT.
Sept. 19, 2016
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