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All comments by Craig Zastera
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I believe your auction (and (1)-DBL-(2)-?? almost as clearly) are proto-type cases for using Lebensohl (I call it “good/bad 2NT”) to distinguish competitive advancing hands from true game-invitational ones.

Some argue that advancer can just pass with a bad hand.
That is true, but it isn't an argument against the value of Lebensohl here.

The value of G/B 2NT is to distinguish hands with a clear suit in which to compete with, say 6-8 or so “points” from ones with say 9-11. The latter are true game invites while the former are more just “competitive”.

Of course, the doubler can be arbitrarily strong, hence, might bid a game even over the weaker sequence when he is strong enough.

But the point is that it is very useful for advancer to be able to distinguish two ranges of strength below GF strength–“competitive” vs. “game invitational” so that when doubler has a typical hand with a little more than minimum values he will know when to continue to game and when not to.

BTW, I consider your example hand (xxx-QJ9xx-Ax-xxx) a max for a “bad” 2NT to be followed by 3.
If it were xxx-KJ9xx-Ax-xxx, I would judge it as clearly worth a “good” immediate 3.

But the exact boundary between “bad” (2NT) and “good” (3) is a matter for partnership discussion/agreement.
And such a discussion is *essential* before agreeing “G/B”, else the convention will be worse than useless when the partners have different understandings about how much is promised by a “Good” 3x advance vs. a “bad” 2NT.

The alternative to “Lebensohl” here would be to use 2NT as “scrambling” with more than one place to play. One might combine that with “responsive doubles” in various ways, e.g. play 2NT as specifically both minors (4-4) while reserving “double” for 4 s plus a minor.

Although there is no denying that such a “scrambling” definition for 2NT is sometimes useful, I have played these both ways and my view is that the “Good/Bad” agreement is much more useful. Being able to distinguish 6-8 from 9-11 is of huge importance in improving accuracy of game bidding.

Being able to fish about for the better strain after partner has made a TO double (asking advancer to pick the suit) is an only occasionally important tool. Often, advancer knows the suit so the “scrambling 2NT” is not useful. And even when he has 2 suits to offer, it might turn out that either is OK. Or, he might just “Guess” the right one.
April 29
Craig Zastera edited this comment April 29
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I think “good bad is needed when 2NT cannot be an invite” is a significant over-simplification.

For example, after (2M)-DBL-(P), most play “good/bad 2NT” (aka “Lebensohl”). That is not because 2NT as a natural invite would not be useful–I find that hands where advancer would likely choose a natural, invitational 2NT if one were available are fairly common on this auction.

Rather, one has to judge whether the ability to distinguish true “game invitational” suit bids from mere “competitive” (or when advancing a double, “weak”) ones in a particular specific auction is more useful than having a natural 2NT available (or a 2NT defined artificially but not “G/B”, e.g. “scrambling”).

Typically, if the auction is such that game still seems “possible”, then it is useful to have “G/B 2NT” available to distinguish hand strength ranges more accurately than can be done otherwise.

I think my auction in this post is a close case.
At the table, I thought that the opponents had done enough bidding that it was “clear” game was not in the picture for our side. If that is true, then “G/B” is likely not needed.

But OP auction is a funny case. There would not seem to be any other *artificial* use for North's 2NT over West's 2 here. Hence, presumably, 2NT, if not “G/B” would be defined as “natural, invitational”.
But if 2NT here is game invitational, then *that* means that game *is* potentially “in the picture”, hence the argument against “G/B 2NT” (i.e. no game possible) is refuted.

Therefore, after some consideration, I think my partner was *right* in his opinion that my 3 should be natural and invitational, with 2NT available to show a “just competitive” strength hand with s.
That seems much more likely to be useful to me than a “natural invitational” 2NT which would require stoppers in both s and s, exactly 4 s, and a very narrow range of values.
April 29
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I agree that South's double on this auction should be penalty as so much info has already been exchanged about suit fits and strength.

But even if South had passed at his final turn and we had defended (3) perfectly and held it to 9 tricks, we would have gotten only 25% of the matchpoints (-130 was 18%).
A lot better than our actual “0”, but still a poor score.

This suggests that South's final double was not the *only* thing lacking in our N/S auction. For example, if we had found some way to discover our 4-4 fit, we might have competed to 3 over their (3) and garnered a very fine score for +140 (92% of the matchpoints actually).
April 29
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Art,
Your prediction is likely true. Going against the field is fine when your judgement says that the field view is quite likely wrong.

But when your judgement suggests that it is a close decision as to whether the field view is percentage or not, it is probably better to “stay with the field” even if you believe an anti-field position is objectively *slightly* superior.
That is because you will be (almost) alone if you take the anti-field position, and so will often (albeit perhaps slightly less than 50% of the time) score a near zero.

But if you “stay with the field”, you will likely score average or above (if you get some helpful defense and/or can play the hand better than most) whether your contract makes or not.

My simulations suggest the actual South hand is probably in that category. 3NT is statistically a slight underdog opposite average 15 HCP opener, but only *very* slight.
Thus, I would agree that South likely should just “stay with the field” and raise to 3NT.
April 29
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All I am saying is that when the actual OP North hand is put opposite randomly generated *balanced* 10 HCP South hands (and I eliminated those with 8+ card major suit fits where South was not 4333), one finds that 3NTN makes on a higher percentage of the deals generated then on a similar simulation but using randomly generated 15 HCP balanced hands for North.

That sort of simulation establishes that this OP North hand does not merit a “downgrade” to 1 followed by 1NT rebid because is actually (slightly) better than average among all 15 HCP balanced hands for play in NT opposite balanced dummys.

To justify a downgrade, one would need for such a simulation to show that the performance of the OP hand was closer to that of an average balanced 14 HCP hand than to that of an average 15 HCP balanced hand. That is most definitely NOT the case for this OP North hand.

Similarly, to evaluate the actual OP South hand for NT play, I put it opposite randomly generated 15 HCP balanced hands (again, no 8+ card major fits).

I found that 3NTN made on 47.4% of the deals.

Doing a similar simulation but this time using *random* balanced 10 HCP hands for South opposite random balanced 15 HCP hands for North, I found that 3NTN made on 58.88% of the deals.
This shows that the OP South hand performs considerably worse than an average 10 HCP balanced hand for NT play.
It is actually very close to the borderline between an average 9 HCP hand and an average 10 HCP hand as an average 9 HCP balanced hand was found to make 3NT on 39.85% of the deals opposite random balanced 15 HCP hands.

All this means that it would be clearly wrong to downgrade the North hand, while the South hand is equally clearly significantly worse than an average balanced 10 count and borders on justifying a 1 point downgrade. This one is close though.
April 29
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Don't agree with your last part.
It is at matchpoints that game bidding should be most conservative since game chances should be above 50% in order for bidding it at matchpoints to be the percentage action.

At other forms of scoring, particularly VUL at IMPs, games should be bid much more aggressively since the pay-off when they make is larger than the penalty when they don't (in IMP terms).

And I don't think expert evaluation is quite as simple as tallying up HCPs and then bidding robotically without considering any other factors.

If a responding hand (even with 10 HCPs) will not produce a good play for 3NT opposite average 15 HCP balanced hands (as OP example will not quite), then if responder has enough bidding judgement/experience to be confident that evaluation is correct, he would do best (at matchpoints) to downgrade to an invitation. Again, this is under the assumption that partnership agreements are that opener will accept such invitations unless he has only a 15 point hand.

On OP example, anyone who thinks the North hand should be downgraded below a 15-17 1NT opener probably *should* just add up HCPs and bid robotically because simulations show that this North hand is actually (slightly) better than an average 15 count in terms of strength for play in NT opposite a balanced hand.
April 29
Craig Zastera edited this comment April 29
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Yes, I would suppose that a double by North of West's 2 should probably be take-out, although not 100% clear partner would read it that way, and that he would understand that I am 4=4=1=4.

But if that is what this double should mean (and I think that is reasonable), then perhaps that call would have been a better choice than my actual 3, just on the off chance that bringing s into the picture (despite East's double showing that suit) could have discovered a playable strain for us at the 3 level above (3) (you will note that N/S can make only 8 tricks in s on this deal).
April 29
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Not 100% clear to me what 2 by North over West's 2 would have meant.

Since East has shown s with his double, I would suppose that 2 would be interpreted as showing stopper(s) with an at least game-invitational strength hand looking for 3NT if South can stop s.

Thus, I do not think 2 by North would be interpreted as showing a genuine suit in hopes of possibly playing in s.
But if it were interpreted as “natural”, I believe it would be forcing, possibly even game forcing as it (if natural) would be a reverse by responder.
April 29
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The winning lead here was the 8 (two trick set then possible).
The auction shown here is not the actual one we had (the actual auction IMO makes finding the 8 lead even easier).

For details and actual auction, see my reply at:

https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/lead-problem-2-8f05d8oizy/?cj=799028#c799028
April 28
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I'm a bit surprised that more didn't choose the winning lead of the 8. Neither did my partner who led the Q (Rusinow).

I'm a huge fan of “Garozzo's Rule” (prefer leading a singleton to other leads). I've even been known to prefer a singleton lead to leading from an AK holding in another suit (and gotten good results from that choice).

Here is the full deal:

K92
T2
AJ2
A8642
Q6 AJ743
J87 AK6
KT9743 Q65
T7 53
T85
Q9543
8
KQJ9

The 8 lead results in beating 2 two tricks.
K lead would suffice also *if* South shifts to 8 at trick 2 *and* North reads it as a stiff and goes up A and returns the suit (unlikely, IMO).
I (North) played my 2 at trick 1, but partner continued with a second high . Finally the 8 at trick 3–too late (and there is zero chance I will read this as a singleton now anyway as I would expect singleton to be led earlier).

BTW, the given auction (perhaps a bit odd) is the actual one we had.
April 28
Craig Zastera edited this comment April 28
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Those North jacks are hardly “stray” as both are in combination with higher honor.

Also, 4333 is not a bad shape in NT contracts. 4432 on average performs worse.

It is true that both N and S hands have poor spot cards, but the North hand still performs (slightly) better than an average 15 HCP balanced hand in 3NT opposite random balanced 10 counts.
April 28
Craig Zastera edited this comment April 28
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No puppet Stayman in our methods.
We tend to avoid opening 1NT with 5 card majors (but do so occasionaly as “least of evils”).
April 28
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I did my own simulations which confirm your results.

I found that the North hand opposite random balanced 10 HCP hands with fewer than four s made 3NT:
63% of the deals with South allowed to have 5 hearts
60.5% of the deals with South always < 5 hearts.

Conversely, putting the actual South hand opposite random 15 HCP balanced North hands had 3NT making:
43.8% of the deals if North may have a 5 card major
44.5% of the deals if North cannot have a 5 card major

To me, this suggests that North's 1NT opening is fine but that South should perhaps downgrade to an invitation.
I assume that North would generally decline an invite only with 15 HCP hands.

I also tried a simulation for these actual North and South hands with random E/W hands. I expected 3NT to be quite poor, but I was surprised. 3NT actually made on 47.4% of the deals, so only a slight underdog. *Possibly* “declarer advantage” in the real world would be enough to reach 50% make percentage in actual play.

Also, those who observed that on actual deal, if the East and West hands are switched, *then* 3NT is makeable with best play (and defense) are correct. In fact, North can make 10 tricks in NT vs. any defense.
April 27
Craig Zastera edited this comment April 28
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I open 2 with that hand. We have “super Namyats” available too (2-2-4) to show this hand type.
Even without that, I'd open 2. I know that I may still have to risk getting too high (5 level) later in the auction.
April 27
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Those drawbacks bother me less than making a weak advance (e.g. 1NT) with 13 HCPs and 3.5 quick tricks.

Particularly at IMPs (and VUL yet), missing a game is the biggest sin. Therefore, I must Q bid here to let partner know I have a strong hand despite risks of getting too high sometimes (Note: this cue-bid is NOT game-forcing).
April 27
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That's a reasonable point, I guess.

The whole idea of 4 being Gerber on OP auction seems silly to me, but your rationale that the “rule” does not apply because the forcing 1NT response is not a NATURAL NT bid is as good a reason as any for rejecting the Gerber interpretation.

Alternatively, one might just reject Gerber on the grounds that it is hard to imagine a hand that is a mere 1 opener than can then want to ask for aces (not even key cards presumably) immediately after hearing a relatively nebulous (and often weak and/or misfitting) forcing 1NT response.
April 27
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In my methods, we play “Eisenberg Jump Shifts” where, after 1-1N- *3* is a semi-artificial GF and responder's 3 continuation is an artificial ask for opener's hand type.
Then, opener's 4 (1-1N-3-3-4) shows an extreme black 2-suiter not willing to play 3NT.

So for me, OP 4 jump would be “auto-splinter” (as majority seem to think too). That conforms to the general rule that a new-suit bid 1 level higher than a forcing bid is a splinter.

But I voted for “natural, strong extreme black 2-suiter” because I thought that without special pre-agreed methods (e.g. Eisenberg J.S.) OP sequence might be thought a “clear” way to communicate the same hand type.

But perhaps this is wrong. Maybe even without discussion 1-1N-3-any-4 would be a clear enough way to show the extreme black 2-suiter (*forcing*), so that OP sequence could remain an auto-splinter.

I also fear that there are some out there who would think this 4 is “Gerber”, never mind how illogical this interpretation might be here.
But there is another general rule that “jumps to 4 directly over a NT bid are Gerber”.
April 27
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If playing Soloway Jump Shifts, I would make one with this hand.
Standard SJS would be 1-2.

Then over partner's likely 2NT (opener tends to make cheapest bid over SJS unless he really has something unusual to show with an alternative natural bid), continue with 3 which shows short s with support.

10 HCPs is quite low for SJS, but I think it is justified given that e.g. Kx-KTxxx-xxx-Axx makes 6 excellent.
April 27
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I'm wondering what the alternative(s) to 3 is(are)?

Pass seems out of the question to me since partner could have up to 18 points for his wide-ranging 2 rebid.

2NT with only 10 HCPs, no help for partner's s, and no stopper seems mis-directed and too aggressive.

Sure, if partner has a 5=3=3=2 12 count, he may struggle in the 4-3 fit. Too bad.
April 25
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Frances,
It is interesting that when I don't play all 2 level suit bids as natural, the one we choose as our “Stayman substitute” is the cue-bid of *opener's* suit.

I have encountered numerous cases where as advancer I wanted to bid 2 of responder's suit naturally.

Also, 2 of opener's suit, being cheaper, may sometimes be more convenient as the Stayman substitute.

That said, I acknowledge that wanting to play in 2 of opener's suit (particularly when it is s) also occurs, which is why I find it tempting to play all suits natural.
Our side rarely has game after (1X)-P-(1Y)-1NT, so the ability to play any suit at the 2 level can be useful–perhaps more useful than a 2-level Stayman cue-bid.

In those rare cases where advancer has game or near game values, it is possible for him to use something higher (2N and/or 3) for further exploration.
April 25
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