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All comments by Craig Zastera
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2N-3S is a relay to 3NT. Then:
Pass: to play 3NT with no major suit interest

4C: relay to 4D. Then:
Pass to play 4D
4H/4S/4N: 1=3=5=4/3=1=5=4/2=2=5=4 slam tries
These are not forcing.
To force with these shapes,
bid same strains a level higher
5D: very long diamonds, weakish, natural gambling,
not a slam try

4D: 5=5 minors slam try. Then:
4H asks shortness (4S=clubs; 4N=diamonds)
4N is natural and slam negative

4H/4S/4N: 1=3=4=5/3=1=4=5/2=2=4=5 slam tries
Again, these are not forcing (opener would
only consider passing 4M with 5).
Nov. 1, 2016
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Many people define “forcing to game” as meaning forcing to at least the level of 3NT. Since 4m is higher than 3NT, it is perfectly logical to define 4m bids in some sequences as non-forcing since we are beyond game (3NT).

It seems to me that if one is going to put reasonable requirements on a 2/1 response (e.g. 12 or 13 points is sufficient) and also play reasonable minimums for opening 1M bids (e.g. 12 or 13 points), then there will be deals with an unstopped suit, no major suit fit, and insufficient combined values for an 11 trick (5m) game. Logically, it is necessary to be able to stop in 4m on these deals unless you simply want to concede a minus score.

The trick is to have very well-defined criteria for when a 4m bid is passable vs. when it is forcing (and, usually, showing slam interest). Then, when 4m would be non-forcing, one simply has to find a different call with sufficient values to force to an 11 trick game (e.g. jumping to 5m).
Oct. 31, 2016
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None of the offered choices quite fit.

The only one of these auctions I consider non-forcing is (4).

That is because it fits the pattern of no major suit fit and (apparently) no heart stopper. If opener had a heart stopper, he would bid 3NT. If he had a partial heart stopper he would bid 3H. With 6 spades, he could bid 3S. Hence, when he has none of these (i.e. only 5 spades, no semblance of a heart stopper), his only choice may be 4C (non-forcing) when his hand is minium (say AKxxx-xx-Qx-Kxxx). With similar shape but stronger, he would have to jump to 5C (not sign-off–merely showing club support with enough extra strength to commit to an 11 trick game).

How about (5)? That one is a close case. One could argue that opener with a minimum and no heart stopper might be in a similar predicament (e.g. AKxxx-xx-Qxx-Kxx). True enough.
But I play that responder's 3D rebid suggests a big hand, so it is useful for opener's raise to confirm support and await further bidding. With the weak problem hand, opener would either gamble 3NT, try a marking time 3H, or simply bid 4D (forcing) and hope for the best.
Oct. 31, 2016
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Adding a small spade changes the total trick count by one–a possibly significant change.
Also, a 1S overcall promises only about 8 HCPs and a 5 card suit–say S:AKJxx and out. Here, you have a 6 card suit and two side aces. So partner doesn't “pretty much know what we have.”
Oct. 27, 2016
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I would have advanced 3D the first time as this hand is worth about 10 “points” the way I count (1 for the 5th diamond, 2 for the stiff heart).

I interpret partner's second double as a very good hand (should be 19+ HCPs, but my partners often seem to do it with 18) with, usually, 3 diamonds. I don't expect him to have 5 spades (else 2S), so likely 4=2=3=4 or 4=1=3=5. Since my hand is both (super) maximum for previous bid and lacks clear direction, a 3H cue-bid would seem like the best choice.

The only alternatives would be to jump to the 4 level in a minor, but those seem unattractive.
Oct. 26, 2016
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OK, Leonard.
I'll agree that if responder's hand is so weak and he has so many diamonds that he wants to play in 2D even when opener has 17 HCPs or so with a (not great) 6 card spade suit, then he can pass 2D even with a doubleton spade.
As long as he does this with the understanding that opener can have this kind of hand, more power to him.
Oct. 25, 2016
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Yes, it would be normal to rebid 2S with 4=6 majors. Sure, with some really severe strength imbalance, one might choose to rebid 2H (e.g. xxxx-AKQxxx-x-Kx), but that would be a non-systemic executive decision.

The reason is that since a 2H rebid gives no additional shape information (catch-all) while rebidding 2S gives a lot of additional shape information, it is more descriptive to choose 2S rather than 2H with 4=5 or 4=6 hands.
How about 4=7 ?? Who knows? Too rare to have a policy, but even then with decent spades 2S seems reasonable to me.
Oct. 24, 2016
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This is a routine situation in 2/1, forcing NT. You have the hand strength for a jump to 3M with a 6 card suit not strong enough for such a jump. Solution is to respond 2m, then after partner's likely 2M preference, raise to 3M.
You would also bid 3M (forcing) if partner rebids 2NT or
2S (forward going but NF) if he rebids 2H.

And if he passes 2D? That is the downside. It is important to have the agreement that responder never, ever, passes opener's 2m rebid holding a doubleton in opener's major (he always preferences back to 2M).
Oct. 23, 2016
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Raymond,
You raise good points.
1. Since advancer's 2NT suggests a hand with game potential opposite an “intermediate” strength Michaels, and overcaller's hand is “intermediate plus” in strength, it does seem that he ought to show his minor to help his partner to evaluate. So perhaps the meaning of 4D on this auction should be “I have diamonds as well as extra high card strength”. In that case, South's actual 4D is perfect.

2. I agree that if a 3D advance is defined as “invitational in hearts”, that is perhaps a better choice than 2NT.
The problem is, though, that North's hand is better if South's minor is clubs (imagine xx-AQJxx-AQxxx-x opposite vs. xx-AQJxx-x-AQxxx). Unfortunately, there does not seem
to be any way for North to suggest game interest if South has clubs but less if he has diamonds.
He could be planning 2NT to be followed by 4H if South shows clubs but only 3H if he shows diamonds, but the problem with that approach is that if South has less than intermediate strength, then game will be too high regardless of his minor.

Conclusion:
Not enough tools to do everything. So best is just to bid 3D inviting game in hearts if South is intermediate or better. This should be excellent if he has clubs and have play even if he has diamonds (with intermediate+ strength), while stopping in 3H when he has minimum range strength.
Oct. 23, 2016
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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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