Join Bridge Winners
All comments by Craig Zastera
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Extremely important IMO whether 1NT is 100% forcing or not.

Personally, I hate “semi-forcing”, and this OP hand is an example of why–the hands where opener will PASS a “semi-forcing” 1NT (balanced 12-13 HCPs) are exactly the ones where we have a decent fit in one or both red suits and, therefore, we do not want him to pass.

On this hand, if he passed 1NT with minimum 5+-5 in the blacks, that might be OK (but probably some suit contract *still* would be preferable), but of course he will not pass with that hand type.

So if 1NT were 100% forcing, I would not make a GF 2/1 response with this hand.

But if 1NT is not 100% forcing, I'm guessing (not sure as I don't play “semi-forcing” 1NT), that it is better to gamble with a GF 2 response.
Sept. 9, 2018
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I strongly prefer making WJO whenever possible to show my suit length more accurately.

But OP here specifies VUL vs. NOT, and I do not consider this hand good enough for 2 as this vulnerabilty because the suit is so “holey.” Imagine what might happen if all or most of those missing s were behind you.

So 2 with this hand at any other vulnerability, but 1 at unfavorable.
I play transfer advances, so partner would show s via 2.
Unclear if I should accept (which just means I would have passed a constructive, NF 2) or rebid 2 instead.
If I accept, partner will return to 2 with a decent doubleton and 10 or so points.
Sept. 9, 2018
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Partner might prefer 2 to double with e.g. 5=4=1=3 because he would fear double might suggest 5=3=1=4 (possible responder reasoning: “if you'd had four s, you could have just rebid 2, so double suggests 5=3=1=4”).

If responder doubles now, why won't partner think this is more penalty oriented (after all, *he* has short s) rather than a competitive “grope” with mediocre support for both his suits plus s as a dark-horse strain?

Partner is still there to re-open (most likely with a double) if we pass (3) around to him, which seems like the best option to me (think about LOTT).

When he does that, we will still have a difficult strain decision, but better to be choosing one in response to his request than volunteering one on our own in direct seat.
Sept. 9, 2018
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Once you have decided that you are strong enough to balance (as opposed to passing the deal out in (1m)), then if you have appropriate distribution for a Michaels cue-bid, that is the call you should choose.

Whether the minimum strength required for a Michaels cue-bid in balancing seat should be higher than what would be required in direct seat is a different issue.

For me, I don't make MCBs in direct seat on garbage, and I do not think I would require much, if any, more to make one in balancing seat.
Sept. 9, 2018
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The 3 splinter seems obvious, with but one worry–sometimes partner, for his 2 response doesn't have real s–he might have a balanced GF hand, perhaps with 3 card support.

That is OK. We still splinter with 3. But if partner next bids 3, that is natural and sets s as trump.
Sept. 8, 2018
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This was a real-world problem.

My partner led a low with this hand, which I was *sure* was a poor choice on the given auction.

It is fairly easy to simulate this problem as opener's hand is extremely well defined, and the set of hands for which responder would bid Puppet Stayman and subside in 3NT is also fairly easy to characterize.

I did such a simulation (5000 deals). The frequency results for how often each card in this hand was a “best lead” (best lead means defense can still take maximum possible number of defensive tricks after starting with this lead) were as follows:

A: 3046 5: 3567 3/2: 3572
8: 3653 4/2: 3661
K: 1366 8: 2577 5/4/2: 2708
6: 3033

The above is for matchpoints (actual case).
In case anyone is interested in IMP lead frequencies for this hand (where only beating the contract matters), here they are for the same 5000 deals (3NT beatable on 914 of them):

A: 441 5: 461 3/2: 464
8: 490 4/2: 490
K: 197 8: 358 5/4/2: 385
6: 262

On the actual deal, leader's partner held:
KQJT8-976-6-J432
while declarer had:
964-AKQ-Q3-AKQT7
and dummy:
7-JT53-AJT97-985
So, on real-deal only a lead (any) defeats 3NT.
On any other lead, declarer can make 12 tricks (and surely will after a lead).

BTW, in case anyone looks at the above figures and wonders how there can be a difference between 5 vs. 3/2 lead, here is one deal where 3/2 can defeat 3NT but 5 cannot:
West: K9-QT53-T63-J942
East: Q87-AJ7-AQJ-AQ73
North: JT64-K96-97-KT85
South: A532-842-K8542-6

The other deals with similar result were interestingly different, but I will not reproduce them here.
Sept. 6, 2018
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Nothing could be less unilateral than responder's “bypassing” game after:
(a) she has initiated slam probe via 4 splinter
(b) *we* have co-operated with partner's try by
cue-biding s (while denying control)

So what would be “unilateral” would be for *us*, having described our values, control, slam interest, and lack of control, to continue above 4 when partner has explicitly told us not to.
Sept. 6, 2018
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My point was that partner's 4 on this auction 100% denies a control, so there is no need for us to bid again regardles of whether or not the 5 level might be safe.

If partner had a control, it was his responsibility to bid something other than 4 over our slam co-operative 4.
Sept. 6, 2018
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Peg,
I explicitly said in my previous comment:

“Unless doubler has some super strong and shapely hand with *slam* interest (very rare)”

I think that covers the case to which you refer.

But otherwise, when doubler is strong but just game interest strong, the cue-bid should be a strong hand lacking 4 card support.
Sept. 6, 2018
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Responder is showing some playing strength with his Lebensohl 2NT. He might not have all that many high cards, but if not he has some great shape (a 6 or 7 card suit).

So if responder wanted to play 3m opposite “any old” balanced 15-17, then if opener has an excellent hand for play in either minor with minimal defense against s, it is reasonable for him to assume that 4m should be OK.

Say opener has Axx-xx-AQxx-AKxx.
If I held that hand, I would double (3) for take-out and expect to do well in 4 of whichever minor responder cares to choose.
Sept. 5, 2018
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Why can't partner have AKQJxx-QJxx-xxx-void?
Now if you had xxxx-AKx-AKx-xxx, we would be cold for 7.

It seems to me that when partner makes a slam try (4), we co-operate while denying a control, partner's 4 means that he doesn't have one either. Otherwise, his bidding is illogical.
Sept. 5, 2018
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I agree with this.
Unless doubler has some super strong and shapely hand with *slam* interest (very rare), his double-then-cuebid sequence suggests a strong hand (ideally, 20+ HCPs but too frequently shaded to 19), fewer than four cards in advancer's suit (usually 3, but occasionally not even that) and not suitable for a NT bid.

When advancer has shown values (e.g. with a suit jump advance), the HCP promised by double-then-cuebid can be reduced to at least what is needed for the partnership to have game values *but* the implication of only 3 trump remains.
Sept. 5, 2018
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2–natural with values.
2 would be natural also.
Sept. 5, 2018
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I bid 4 which, while NF, shows willingness for partner to raise. If I passed and pulled partner's double (should it go that way) to 4, that would suggest fear of not beating 3.

Here, Ax(x) and a couple of black Kings could be enough for 5.
Sept. 5, 2018
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Very close between PASS and 1. Depends on partnership style.

Being a “sound” opener, I chose pass, but I wouldn't object if partner opened this one. Those nice spot cards must be worth something, so maybe they do push this to a 1 opener.

On the other hand, I don't expect it to be hard to bid this hand if I start with a PASS, and that will avoid partner getting us too high with a marginal GF 2 response hand.

2 is horrible.
Sept. 4, 2018
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I am allowing double-dummy declarer play and defense.

I don't think the short-suit lead when it right is necessarily that unlikely on a single-dummy basis given RHO's take-out double of s and responder's “fleeing” from 1 to 1NT.
Sept. 4, 2018
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No guarantees in this game.
But xyz offers more chances to come out right:

(a) when partner is minimum, we get to play 2 instead of
3, which could be very important.

(b) when partner, knowing we have minimal invitational
strength (else 2-2-3) is “borderline” for
game, he has the 3 level with which to make a
descriptive re-try for game
Sept. 4, 2018
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You've set up the conditions to indicate we need to “go for it” on this deal to have a chance of achieving anything worthwhile.

To me, that means trying to bid and make a slam. I do not think a mere game here will be enough.

That said, the shape of this hand seems perfect for 5NT “pick a slam.”. We're prepared to play 6 opposite :Qx, 6 opposite :QJxxx or better, 6 opposite :KQxx or better.

I considered 6, but that call seems murkier as to what we are about.
Sept. 4, 2018
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John,
So I went ahead and did another simulation.

This time, opener was limited to 11-13 HCP balanced or semi-balanced hands with exactly *3* s.
Otherwise, constraints as in previous simulation.

I was trying to compare
(a) 1-(DBL)-1-1-1N (responder plays 1NT)
vs.
(b) 1-(DBL)-1-1N (opener plays 1NT)

I believe your comment suggests that you think 1NT is likely to be better from responder's side in these cases.

But the simulation results did not support this.
For 1000 deals, the results were:
1NT from opener's side:
total tricks: 6,186
1NT makes: 426 deals ( out of 1000)

1NT from responder's side:
total tricks: 6,092
1NT makes: 391 deals

I do not find these results too surprising as they are consistent with the “usual” result that NT tends to play better with the stronger hand declaring.
Sept. 4, 2018
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I have found that responding (GF) 2 rather than 1 on this hand type to be a big winner. Establishing a game force immediately at a low level makes the ensuing auction easier.

Note that recommending 2 on this hand is not the same as advocating a 2 response without s just to establish a game force.
Sept. 4, 2018
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