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All comments by Craig Zastera
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I have simulated this particular hand for NT purposes (am still working on cases with fit).

My results are that AT MATCHPOINTS, this hand is borderline between PASSing 1NT vs. INVITING (e.g. 2NT).

My actual results with a 5000 deal simulation gave the victory to inviting, but my a margin so small that it was well within the statistical error expectation for a 5000 deal simulation.

But if you include the factor that real world NT declarer will make more tricks than double dummy declarer, I would be comfortable with the claim that this hand is worth an invite FOR NT PURPOSES EVEN AT MATCHPOINTS.

But to suggest that this hand is good enough to insist on game in NT at matchpoints appears to be way off the mark based on these simulations.

I will add that at IMP SCORING, inviting (hence reaching 3NT when opener is 16-17) shows a very large win over passing 1NT. I haven't yet finished the details as to whether inviting is better than forcing to game AT IMPS.

The above comments apply to cases where no 8+ card fit exists.
The fact that opener might have four (or even five) s is an additional significant factor in favor of bidding Stayman rather than passing 1NT.
About 36% of the time, an 8 or 9 card fit will exist.
I haven't finished the quantitative details yet, but it seems likely that a contract will be superior to NT on average when such a fit exists (I can't yet say whether this hand should just invite or insist on game when a fit is discovered–stay tuned).
July 8, 2018
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The choices offered seem to suggest something which I believe is incorrect, namely:
* a five card suit is the most important “upgrade” feature
a balanced hand can possess.

I have done numerous simulations that show this is wrong.

Although a 5 card suit is, in general, a *small* asset compared to hands with same high card (and spot card) structure but with 4432 or 4333 shape, its average value is much less than that of a collection of particularly excellent high spot cards.

The current hand is a good example.

This hand justifies an upgrade to invitational status (particularly at IMPs–it is actually quite close at matchpoint scoring) because of its extremely strong collection of high spot cards.

Many balanced 8 counts with a 5 card suit but poor spot cards would *not* justify an “upgrade” to invitational status.
July 8, 2018
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I don't see how it is practicable to claim that one can show natural long/strong s in a hand too strong for an immediate natural 2 overcall by “passing and bidding s later”.

How can you know that the auction will go in such a way that this meaning will be clear to partner?

example 1:
(1)-P-(P)-1NT-(P)-2 ?
natural and too strong for a 2 overcall?

example 2:
natural and strong again?

example 3:
hmm-cue-bid advance of an overall is natural and too
strong to have overcalled 2 directly?
July 7, 2018
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In that case, PASS seems right to me.
I seem to have pretty close to a minimum for my previous 3 level negative double, so don't see much justification for another action now.

Sure, I have better support than partner will expect, but bidding 5 now on that basis seems excessive. If partner doubles (4) in pass out seat, then I can show my support.
July 5, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment July 5, 2018
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I understand the appeal of “pass then bid s” as an attempt to describe a natural overcall *too strong* for a direct (natural) 2.

What I dislike about it is that it seems too susceptible to possible unforseen awkward developments.

If I am really going to worry about this problem of a hand too strong for a natural 2 overcall (I'm not sure that I should worry because in all the time we have played natural 2 overcalls, I've found that even *those* rarely occur, and I do not recall ever having a hand that was too strong for a direct overcall), I might consider playing an immediate jump to 3 (over their (1)) as showing a strong hand like the one in the OP, so that a direct 2 overcall could be limited to the range of other 2 level overcalls.

Sure, that gives up on a natural *pre-emptive* jump overcall in RHO's suit, but those don't come up too often either.

The other solution is to define *double* followed by a *jump* in the suit RHO opened as natural and strong.

I really don't think this sequence is needed as a splinter. In fact, if it occured I don't think that is how I'd interpret it–rather it would be showing or asking for a stopper for 3NT (depending on agreements).

But the double planning to jump in s also suffers from the potential problems that could occur if the auction develops in an unexpected way–perhaps a 2 cue-bid advance from partner or even just a jump in a major.
I wouldn't want to have to jump to 4 (beyond 3NT) to show my strong hand.
July 4, 2018
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passing with this hand has no appeal to me.
July 4, 2018
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I think this is really tough and largely just a “guess.”

I see no reason why South cannot have a good hand with every expectation of making (4), while our partner has little or nothing.

Conversely, (4) might be a pure advance sac and we have enough to make 4 or 5 or beat (4) several tricks.

I think my regular partner would bid 4 with this hand like a shot, but I am stodgy enough to require a slightly longer/stronger suit than this for my four level overcalls.

So if not passing (what I chose, coward that I am), I think double is a better description (not to mention more “flexible”) than 4–some HCPs, short s, support for all unbid suits, willing to defend if partner doesn't have the shape/strength for a high level adventure.
July 4, 2018
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Clearly North's long pause before 3 gives South UI that North was considering some call other than 3.

But I can't see how that UI “demonstrably suggests” that South's 3NT is more likely to be correct than it would have been had North's 3 been bid in tempo.
Who can say what alternative calls North may have been considering (perhaps pass)?

Therefore, table result stands.
July 4, 2018
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This hand looks just about perfect for 3 under given conditions.

I'm a “rule of 2/3/4” guy, so for me 3 is supposed to show about 6 playing tricks at this vul–just about what I have.

So I would not open 4 if available as a natural pre-empt.
July 4, 2018
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What was the (2)??

Around here, nearly everyone would play it as “weak”, but I don't want to assume that in an international event.

Especially since, to me, a “fit jump” advance of a pre-emptive jump overcall strikes me as a bit odd (although I suppose it could be of some use on occasion).
July 4, 2018
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We play 2 here as natural also.

But this hand is clearly (IMO) too strong for a simple overcall, even at the 2 level.

So the “normal” way to handle such over-strength 1-suiters is to double first and then bid the suit next time.

But that is likely to cause big problems here when our suit is the one RHO opened, particularly with my stiff .

If partner bids s (or s for that matter) and I follow with a minimum bid in s, partner will likely assume I'm showing some strong (19+) hand with “only” 3 card support for his major and *NOT* a strong hand with independent s.

Does the partnership have any agreements about how to handle this situation? Perhaps, one (or, better, *two*) could agree that DBL followed by a jump in RHO's suit is natural and very strong.

With that, one could double hoping for a 1M advance, after which we would jump to 3. Certainly a great way to bid this hand if partner reads it (and co-operates with a 1 level advance).

But failing that, I settled for a “natural” 2 overcall even though I readily admit that this hand is beyond the expected maximum for that call (with the same HCP structure but only *6* s, I think this hand would be close enough to a maximum for 2 overcall that I would be less worried).
July 4, 2018
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My comments about negative doubles were definitely not meant to apply to partnerships that use “negative free bids.”

If you play those, then a negative double followed by a new suit by doubler is (or may be) forcing showing a hand with that suit too strong for a negative free bid.

Sorry that my comments just assumed that “negative free bids” were not part of this partnership's methods without explicitly stating my assumption.

If “negative free bids” apply, that would change my opinion entirely such that I would consider North's double followed by 2 to be forcing.

I don't play NFBs much, so am not aware whether those who do use them play them at the *1 level* (as here).
So in those methods, would a 1 response after the (1) overcall be a NFB and therefore NF??
July 4, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment July 4, 2018
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I'm a fan of G/B 2NT in as many competitive auctions as makes any sense.

But this one is kind of tricky because South is a passed hand, North has opened 3rd chair and passed over (2), and the opponents bidding all suggest that game is extremely unlikely for N/S.

The purpose of G/B is to handle competitive situations where logically game is still a real possibility for our side.
So the “good” (usually a 3 level suit bid) should show values sufficient for game if partner is close to max for his bidding, while the “bad” (usually 2NT) shows values enough to wish to compete without suggesting any game interest.

So in my view, “G/B” is not needed here. South, with his maximum PH, could just balance with 3 and North would not suppose South was inviting game.

Or, with perhaps somewhat different shape where South wanted to suggest 2 in a 4-3 and/or 3 as possible contracts (say he is 4=1=5=3 with good s), he could balanced with a double.

If 2NT therefore is not “G/B”, what is it?
I would not play it as natural–undiscussed 2N in comp is never natural (only natural in auctions where that has been explicitly agreed in advance).
So if not natural and not G/B, I think it would be choice of minors, perhaps Kxxx-x-KQxxx-Qxx.

But suppose South were not a passed hand. Should G/B apply then?
Even that is unclear because it depends somewhat on the partnership style when South has inv+ values with four spades and longer s.

Personally, with a full opener and such a hand, I would nearly always start with 2 to show my strength and long suit. I would be confident that we could find our fit if one exists later since once I've started with a 2 over 1, new suits will be forcing (unlike if I start with a negative double).

But I might double with four s, five+ s and only invitational strength. But with such a hand, when (2) came back around to me, I could either make a 2nd double (showing values beyond those shown by my first double) or possibly bid 3 or 2NT (again, not natural).

So it would seem that G/B is not needed on this exact auction whether or not South is a passed hand.

Of course, in a partnership that plays frequent “G/B”, if there are going to be exceptions like this that require quite a bit of thought, it would be very desirable for the partnership either to have very clear rules or to have discussed in advance the kind of considerations that are relevent in determining how an undiscussed competitive 2NT should be interpreted.
July 4, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment July 4, 2018
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The key is the negative double. After that, nothing responder bids is forcing except a cue-bid.

The essence of negative doubles is to show bad hands with some possibly important shape feature, so if you risk one with a good hand (particularly one with GF strength), it is up to *you* (the doubler) to later clarify your unexpected strength.

It might have been a somewhat different issue had responder started with 1 (over the (1) overcall) and then rebid 2 after opener bid 1NT. Still, nearly everyone plays that as non-forcing also without the interference, and I don't see why the (1) should change that agreement–the partnership's normal structure over opener's 1NT rebid (e.g. 2-way NMF) should remain intact.

Same if 1 response and opener rebids 2. If 2 now by responder would have been NF without the (1) overcall, I don't see why that agreement should be affected by the overcall. Same if it is played as forcing.
July 4, 2018
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First, what makes you think I “blindly” did a simulation?

More likely I looked at the deal and observed that 3NT appears to be a much better contract than 4.

Then, to verify that observation, I did the simulation which demonstrates objectively what appeared to me to be the case–that 3NT is much better than 4.

BTW, double dummy *ONLY* a lead can ever beat the contract. And then only if s are 5-2 with at least one honor in the long hand. And then, only if declarer can't make 5 tricks in the majors without losing one.
July 4, 2018
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I said this was a tricky area.

I think your “4th best lead vs. NT” example is somewhat different from the AKx leads in the OP problem.

One minor issue is that 2 vs. NT might be from a 3 card suit–no law says lead must be 4th (and from longest and strongest).

But a more significant point, assuming “the good old days” where opponents can be relied upon to lead 4th best from their longest suit nearly all the time.

So the information from the lead is clearly “biased” in the lead vs. NT case. Opening leader selected his longest suit from which to lead. Therefore, RHO will necessarily be shorter in that suit (assuming they are not 4=4 or some such).

So is it valid to conclude that RHO is more likely to hold some card of interest in *our* long suit (i.e. a suit with majority length held by declarer/dummy)?

You could argue that had the hand been played from the other side with our RHO on lead, he would likely have selected a lead from *his* long suit, one in which LHO is shorter.

Do we now have valid reason to assume LHO is more likely to have the critical card in “our” suit?

You know, I'm not 100% sure.

I think my claim that probabilities are a function of our knowledge (and ignorance), hence will in general be different when we have different information is still valid.

Sometimes (perhaps in the NT case), we will be able to play the hand in such a way as to discover more possibly relevent information about the unseen hands before making our crucial decision. Maybe we can find out about the other suit where RHO is long and LHO is short which would change the probabilities about our missing key card.

But let's suppose we cannot. If all we can know is that LHO has 5 cards in suit “x” while RHO has only 2 cards, then I think it would still be statisically correct to play for RHO (the guy short in “x”) to hold our critical missing card, even though we know that LHO will selectively have chosen his longest suit to lead.

It is still true that LHO holds more cards in suit “x”, so, if we have no other knowledge, from the perspective of what we know he is less likely to hold a particular card in a different suit.
July 3, 2018
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A nicely written and interesting post.

However, I don't think I quite agree with all of it.

First, except perhaps in the area of quantum mechanics, *probability* is really all about incomplete knowledge.

If we knew everything, then “probabilities” would not be relevent.

Therefore, there is no reason why two different people (say declarers) cannot *correctly* (i.e. correct according to *their* probabilities) choose different and incompatible actions based on their differing information.

That is, the “probability” of some specific occurrence (say the lay-out of the suit here) is *relative to the information declarer has* (or can obtain).

So if declarer “a” knows that s are 5=2, while declarer “b” knows that some other suit is 2=5, these two declarers have different information, hence can “correctly” come to different decisions about how best to play the suit.

Suppose both have to decide how to play the suit and it is not practical (or incurs additional risks) to try to obtain any additional information about the distributions of the unseen hands.

Then it is quite rational for declarer “a” to play his RHO (the one with only 2 s) to be longer in s, while declarer “b”, with different information about the opponents hands, can equally rationally decide to play his LHO to be longer in s.

In general, the “probability” of some unknown occurence changes constantly as the (relevent) information we have changes.

Now you bring up the issue of information obtained by force vs. information obtained by some voluntary plays made by the opponents.

That is a tricky issue. In the famous “Monty Hall” problem, Monty always deviously uses his knowledge about which door hides the prize to selectively open the one (remaining) door that doesn't have it.

So nothing useful can be inferred from his choice.
He is knowingly playing to try to fool us.

But the case where LHO plays A, K, and a for his partner to ruff is NOT LIKE the Monty Hall situation.

LHO (and RHO) did not play s in order to show you how the s are distributed as an attempt to fool you about the lay-out of the suit. No, they are not in a position to be so devious. LHO led s because that appeared to be his best lead from :AKxxx, and RHO (presumably) signaled encouragement because he thought that might be the best defense.

So although it is POSSIBLE that some other suit is distributed 2=5 (or whatever is needed to offset the inferences available from knowledge of the lay-out), it is also possible (and more likely actually) that the other suits are distributed normally so that the information about distribution does indeed lead to correct conclusions about the likely lay-out.

If all declarer knows (and can conveniently know) at the point where he has to decide how to play the suit is the lay-out of the suit, then it is completely correct for him to use this knowledge of the lay-out to draw probabilistic conclusions about the liklihood of various lay-outs of the suit (i.e. that RHO with more “vacant spaces” is more likely to have length and/or Q then LHO with fewer vacant spaces).

The need to assume that RHO has the K in order to have any chance of making 4 is relevent, I think, in that it reduces RHO's “vacant spaces” by one.

Also, any s that have already been played by either opponent at the point declarer has to make the critical decision should also be considered in reducing the number of “vacant spaces” in each opponent's hand.

Thus, if, unlike the actual declarer, one decided to start s by leading to dummy's A, so as to retain the option of finessing RHO out of :Qxxx or :Jxxx in the event that LHO should play the other honor on the first round, and LHO does in fact play a honor on the first round while RHO follows low under dummy's A and low again when a is led from dummy, the vacant space analysis is:

5 s + 1 + 1 = 7 ==> LHO VSs = 6
2 s + 3 s + 1 + 1 (K) = 7 ==> RHO VSs = 6

At this point, only one is missing (the other honor), and it appears to me the each opponent has 6 “vacant spaces” which might hold it.
Does this mean that the two plays are mathematically equally good?
I don't think so because of “restricted choice.”
If LHO started with H:QJ, he might equally well have played either on the 1st round of the suit, whereas if he held the one he played singleton, he would have had no choice.
So, I believe if playing the suit A first from dummy, if LHO plays an honor, it is best to play for it to have been stiff.

The only relevence of the “vacant spaces” analysis here is that since each opponent has exactly *6*, the odds that the restricted choice play (finesse) will win are actually slightly better than they would be in the “normal” restricted choice case.
That is because in the “normal” case, RHO's having one more “known” card (the one he plays to the second round of the suit) than LHO gives RHO one fewer “vacant space”, hence slightly reducing the chances of the finesse winning.

Notice that there is no need to consider possibilities other than stiff honor or :QJ doubleton with LHO.
Sure, he might have dropped honor from :Hx, but in that case the other honor would pop from East.
Or if he dropped honor from :QJx, RHO would show out.

Now, how about the analysis of the actual case where declarer started the s with K from hand (RHO dropping the J) and T, LHO following low twice.

Should declarer now play dummy's K (playing RHO for an original :QJx) or run the T (playing RHO for an original :Jx) ?

Restricted choice would suggest playing RHO for an original : Jx. There are *6* ways he could have started with :Hx but only *3* ways he could have started with :QJx – a powerful argument for the finesse.

How about vacant spaces? Including the necessary assumption that RHO must hold the K, at the point where declarer must make the critical decision:
LHO: 5s + 2s + 1 = 8 ==> 5 vacant spaces.
RHO: 2s + 2s + 1 + 1 = 6 ==> 7 vacant spaces.

Therefore, missing will be with RHO 7/12 of the time
vs. 5/12 with LHO.
BUT, this vacant space ratio is not enough to overcome the 2 to 1 odds that RHO started with :Hx rather than :QJx, so finessing LHO is correct.
July 3, 2018
Craig Zastera edited this comment July 3, 2018
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A 2NT rebid over a 1NT response shows 18-19 HCPs, so this hand is not even close to enough for that.

The usual way to show 16-17 is to rebid 2m (often a 3 card minor), and then if responder doesn't pass (he usually won't), bid 2NT the 3rd time (say over responder's 2 preference).

It is true that the honor dispersion of this particular hand makes the system mandated 2 rebid (after 1NT) somewhat unappealing on : 532.
That would still be my choice though.

I think some “BART” aficionados might advocate a 2 rebid with this hand (and others with a similar shape, even with better 3 card holding), so as to pave the way for their favorite convention as often as possible.
July 3, 2018
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To me, the most interesting point about this deal is the *ENORMOUS* superiority of 3NT (from either side) vs. 4.

A 5000 deal simulation gives the following results:
3NN: makes on 4579 deals (91.58%)
Choice of Opening lead:
# suits that can defeat 3NN:
*1* on all 421 deals

3NS: makes on 4578 deals (91.56%)
Choice of Opening lead:
# suits that can defeat 3NS:
*1* on all 422 deals

4HN: makes on 2361 deals (47.22%)
Choice of Opening lead
# suits that can defeat 4HN:
1: 412; 2: 136; 3: 1388; 4: 703

4HS: makes on 2367 deals (47.34%)
Choice of Opening lead
# suits that can defeat 4HS:
1: 433; 2: 704; 3: 929; 4: 567

So we see that 3NT (from either side) can rarely be defeated by any defense.
And when it is beatable, opening leader must lead *one specific suit* or 3NT will make even on those deals.

Meanwhile, 4 (from either side) can be beaten more than half the time.
And when it can be beaten, usually the opening lead is not so critical.

So perhaps more energy should be devoted to how to reach 3NT on these cards rather than to the very close (I suspect nearly 50-50) decision about which way to play the trump suit in 4 after the ruff.
July 3, 2018
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Methods which allow advancer to escape to two of any suit with a poor hand and a 5 card suit make 1NT overcalls considerably less dangerous then when 2 (and often 2) are usurped as artificial bids.

We use the cue-bid as Stayman, and overcaller needs to show both strength and his major suit length in reply, hence sometimes needing to jump.

So here, 2 would be Stayman, 2NT reply would show a minimum without four s, 2 a minimum with four s, etc.

3m advances are natural and invitational, while 3M (unbid major) advances are natural and GF (choice of game).

The one loss with this method is that 2NT advances must show invitational strength hands that don't fall into another category.
This includes invites with 5 cards (but not 4–those use Stayman cue) in an unbid major.

Over such an invitational 2NT, overcaller must pass with all minimums, thus possibly missing a superior 3M in a fit.

But if he has enough to accept an invite, he bids any four *or three* card major at the 3 level (forcing), so 5=3 and 5=4 major suit fits will be discovered.
July 3, 2018

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