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All comments by Kit Woolsey
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Michael,

I don't agree. I don't think it is a question of partnership agreement. I think it is a judgment call.

If I opened 3 on QJ109xxx x x xxxx and partner bid 3NT, I would judge that 4 is more likely to be the right contract and I would bid 4, regardless of any agreements or what partner might think. You might disagree with my judgment, but that is another matter. If I find partner with, say, x AK AKQJxxx QJx and the opponents take the first 4 tricks while 3NT was laydown, then my judgment was wrong. But if I find partner with Kxx AQ10 QJ10x AJ10 and a 3-0 spade split defeats 3NT while 4 makes, then my judgment was right. I think responder is likely to bid 3NT on both of those hands, regardless of any agreements.

I would agree that when responder bids 3NT he expects it will end the auction. However, that is quite a bit different from an auction like: 1NT-3NT, where the 3NT call does end the auction.
April 12, 2012
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Of course opener can bid 4. All the 3NT bid says is that, in responder's opinion, given the range of opener's likely hands responder believes that 3NT is a better contract than 4. If opener's hand is unusually suit-oriented for the 3 opening, opener can express his opinion that 4 will be better. 3NT is not a bar bid. It is simply an expression of what responder thinks is the best contract. This has nothing to do with partnership agreement. Opener is simply making what he believes is the percentage action, based on his hand and the auction he has heard.

It should be noted that this auction is far different from 2-3NT. This is a bar bid. The reason is that here responder had a way to bring opener into the loop by bidding 2NT, then 3NT, which would logically give opener the option of correcting to 4 with a suit-oriented hand. Thus, the immediate 3NT call over the weak 2-bid ends the auction. But after the 3 opening, responder does not have a way to differentiate between a hand he thinks belongs in 3NT and a hand he is sure belongs in 3NT.
April 12, 2012
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Jacco,

Our agreements on when we are in a force are basically as follows:

When one of us has bid a voluntary non-preemptive game (as opposed to a game which was bid under fire in order to compete), that creates a force.

It is true that occasionally the opponents will have enough shape to make their high-level contract after we double them. There are worse fates in life. The cost of doubling when they make (instead of selling out and defending undoubled) is relatively small. It is more important to focus on the decision of whether to declare or defend. That's where the big IMP swings are.
April 12, 2012
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Noble,

Interesting solution. It is true that on the rare 25+ hands it is extremely unlikely responder will have a positive, so little is lost there. If we decide that opening 2NT showing the minors is a loser, then we will probably adopt your suggestion. However, our experience has been that it is a winner.
April 12, 2012
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Darin,

Of course one can do that. However, the loss of opener's natural 1 rebid and the loss of responder's natural 1 bid over 1 is IMO much greater than the gain of stopping in 1NT with 20-21 opposite a yarb. Finding major-suit fits or lack of them early in the auction has priority.

Joshua,

Of course we lose something. As discussed, the rarity of the 25+ balanced makes the loss infrequent. Not having Kokish costs some, but not a whole lot, since quite often that sort of hand belongs in 3NT even with an 8-card major-suit fit.
April 7, 2012
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Joshua,

Not really. 1NT rebid is 17-19. 2NT rebid is 20-21 (just like standard 2NT opener). 2 (artificial biggie) followed by 2NT over 2 ask is 22-24 (just like standard 2, then 2NT). We do lose out on Kokish for the 25+ hands, but those are so rare that the cost is very small. Otherwise, we are exactly where Standard players are when partner makes a negative response on the 20+ hands. On the 17-19 hands we are in better shape, of course, since we can stop in 1NT or 2 of a suit when responder has a yarb.
April 7, 2012
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Jeff,

The reason 2NT wasn't opened is simple. We don't play a strong 2NT opening bid. We use it to show both minors, less than an opening bid. It isn't that there is a great gain for such use. The reason we do this is that we don't like opening 2NT when we have a strong hand and can open a forcing 1. In fact, we would rather never open 2NT than open it with a big balanced hand.

Why is this? If partner has a negative 1 response we rebid 2NT showing a normal 2NT opener, and we are back where everybody else is. However, if partner has a positive response we are way ahead of the field. We have established a game force at a low level, which gives us a lot more room to explore slam possibilities. Furthermore, the strong hand is able to take control of the auction, while after the bulky 2NT opening the weak hand has to take control. It is a fundamental principle of constructive bidding that that slam auctions generally work better when the strong hand is captain. That hand is looking at most of the high cards and the source of tricks, and knows what fillers he needs to make slam good. When the weak hand is in control he is operating pretty much in the blind, and has to go mostly on sheer point count and his own distribution.

I have never understood why most strong club partnerships retain the strong 2NT opener. No matter how good their 2NT structure is, slam bidding has to be worse than if they had started with 1 and gotten a positive response. It is true that the opponents aren't going to be able to compete over a strong 2NT opening, but when you have a big balanced hand enemy competition over a strong 1 usually isn't difficult to deal with anyway. Big distributional hands are more vulnerable to preemption, since you haven't started to bid your suit or suits.
April 7, 2012
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I think an improvement would be to lead a club from dummy at trick 3 after winning the second diamond. Unless the diamonds are 5-2 and East has the ace of clubs you are going to need a heart miracle, so you might as well play for that layout. When this succeeds, you are better placed for future squeeze-endplay on East. For example, as the play went going up 10 of hearts would succeed assuming you read the distribution correctly, and you wouldn't have to pay off to West holding J8 doubleton. There are other possible variations, but in all cases I think it can only gain to get that club trick by East early.
April 6, 2012
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Jess,

I simply disagree. If you must tell a lie, it is almost always better to lie about your strength than your shape. If you are missing a king and get overboard because of it, there is usually a chance to recover – you might play the hand well, you might get some help from the defense, or you might catch a lucky lie of the cards. But if you are missing a trump and get to the wrong strain, usually nothing will save you.

In your example, failing to reverse is not lying about your shape particularly. Partner knows that if you have a singleton spade you may be strapped for a rebid if you are 1-4-5-3, and that you will have to either rebid 1NT, 2, or 2.
April 2, 2012
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Your report of the facts is misleading. The auction was not cleaner at the other table. Gitelman-Moss had the same horrible sequence to luck out in 3NT. The favoritism shown here by not including them is awful. This should have been the first double UFR in the history of BridgeWinners.
April 2, 2012
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Ethan,

No, what you say is not accurate. I will give it one more try, since this is an important concept which many players do not understand.

Let's suppose you have the following suit:

AK

Q10987


You cash the ace and king, and both opponents follow small. We will assume for the sake of this discussion that they don't know enough about your hand to falsecard the jack from Jxx.

If we look at West's initial possible holdings (assuming no 5-1 or 6-0 split), they are:

J6 J5 J4 J3 J2 65 64 63 62 54 53 52 43 42 32

J65 J64 J63 J62 J54 J53 J52 J43 J42 J32 654 653 652 643 642 632 543 542 532 432

J654 J653 J652 J643 J642 J632 J543 J542 J532 J432 6543 6542 6532 6432 5432

As you can see, there are 30 possible 4-2 divisions (15 with West having a doubleton and 15 with East having a doubleton), and 20 possible 3-3 divisions. Thus, not taking the other cards into account, the odds on a 4-2 vs. 3-3 split would be 30 to 20 (the actual odds of 48 to 36 are a little different due to the slots available for the other cards, but for this discussion we won't worry about the small difference).

This was before you cashed the AK. However, when you do cash the AK and both opponents follow small, you will have learned something! The spot cards they play won't matter, since they can play their small spots at random. However, you can eliminate all jack-doubletons, since the jack didn't fall and they could not afford to falsecard with the jack from Jxx. There are 10 jack-doubleton combinations. Thus, there only 20 4-2 splits which don't involve a jack-doubleton, so the chances that the suit is 4-2 vs. 3-3 is now about 50-50.

Now, let's instead make the suit:

AK

QJ1098

Same conditions – both follow to the first 2 rounds so we can eliminate 5-1 or 6-0 splits. What is the chance that the suit is 4-2 vs. 3-3? The difference here is that you haven't learned anything (other than no 5-1 or 6-0), since the opponents can play all of their cards randomly. Thus, the relative chances of 4-2 vs. 3-3 haven't changed from before you played the suit.

That's the best I can do. If you aren't convinced, so be it.
April 2, 2012
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Bruce,

We do not use Flannery. I would never rebid 2 on a doubleton. With that shape, I would either:

Open 1NT – has obvious flaws.

Pass a 1NT response – Fine if not too strong

Rebid 2 over 1NT – shows 6, but might be okay on a strong 5-bagger

Bid 2 over 1NT – since the 1 opening is limited in Precision, this is okay with a maximum (obviously you couldn't do this playing Standard unless you have true reverse strength).

So, it is a matter of choosing the lesser of evils. But 2 on a doubleton is, IMO, the most evil of all of these choices.
April 2, 2012
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Ethan,

No, it is still a matter of comparing 3-3 to 4-2. Let's suppose that you cash 2 hearts and both opponents follow, so there are 2 hearts outstanding. You wonder whether the hearts are 3-3 or 4-2. It may seem as though it is a matter of 1-1 vs. 2-0, but that is not the case. The point is that you haven't really learned anything other than that the suit isn't breaking very badly. The odds on initial 4-2 vs. 3-3 don't suddenly change because both opponents have followed to 2 rounds of hearts. The initial odds between these two distributions are still exactly the same.

This is a common trap which many bridge players fall into. The proper way to look at things is to only look at the initial probabilities. They do not change unless you have learned something significant. It is a tough concept to explain and grasp, and I may not have done an adequate job. But trust me, the math is as I describe.
April 1, 2012
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Jeff,

Yes, that was a typo. I have changed it. Isn't web publishing nice – if you make a mistake, you can just change it.
March 31, 2012
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Bobby,

I see your point about North rebidding 3. In this sort of situation, the cheaper call should be considered more suspect, while 3 should definitely show a spade stopper and deny a diamond stopper. The danger with 3, as you point out, is that if opener has a strong spade holding he may go directly to 3NT without being concerned about the diamond suit, as he might on the actual deal. I'm inclined to prefer the 3 call.

Upon reflection, I believe you are right about the meaning of a 4 call by South. It is quite possible that North has 4 spades, and this is exactly the sort of hand where a 4-3 spade fit might be the only game. If 4 of a major can be interpreted as natural, that's what it should mean. In fact, if South's hearts weren't so strong he should bid 4 holding KQx of spades. If South feels he must make a slam try in clubs (not that important since his hand is already limited), he can always bid 4NT.
March 31, 2012
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I'm not convinced West's diamond shift is so bad. He doesn't know your heart spot is the 2 so you don't have a third heart entry to your hand. Suppose your hand were something like Kx AQ8 xxx J108xx. Might you not go up ace of diamonds and try to scoop the club suit, playing East for 9xx?
March 30, 2012
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Did South really bid 2 as a tactical bid, or was he just making a self-serving statement? The cards speak. He was making a self-serving statement. What South said has nothing to do with the issue. Good directors and committees should ignore what players say they were thinking. The only testimony which is meaningful is testimony regarding facts, either what happened at the table or what a pair's methods are.

Was South's explanation of 2 proper? It wasn't great. Pass or correct would have been a better explanation. However, it wasn't misleading. The implication is that North didn't like diamonds, so he wanted South to bid his major. That is the way I would have interpreted the explanation, and if I weren't sure I would have asked for clarification. If South had instead said that 2 was natural or to play, that would have been a clearly improper explanation.

Did South receive unauthorized information from the explanation of his 2 call? He certainly did. The cards say that South meant 2 as natural, and the explanation woke him up to the fact that he had made a mistake.

Does the unauthorized information suggest bidding 3 as opposed to passing? Yes, it does. Thus, if South has a marginal decision he should not be permitted to bid 3.

Should South be permitted to bid 3? Suppose you held the South hand and were playing with screens, so you didn't hear your partner's explanation of your 2 call. What would you do? Clearly you would bid 3. Your partner overcalled 1NT. Even if we grant that the 1NT call might be a bit off base, partner will always have at least 2 diamonds and at most 5 hearts, so the partnership has 2 more diamonds than hearts. The South hand is worthless in hearts. It isn't a remotely close decision. South has a 100% clear 3 call, so it is permissible even though South has received unauthorized information which suggests bidding 3.

Were E-W damaged by the explanation? As discussed, the explanation wasn't really misleading and could have been clarified. In addition, the auction timed out pretty well for E-W to find 4. West heard his partner double 2, which can be assumed to show 4 hearts. West had two chances to bid hearts, and failed to do so. The explanation had nothing to do with this. Even if North has 4 hearts, 4 figures to be better than 3NT. E-W were not damaged. So, table result stands.
March 30, 2012
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I would have no problem with the 7 call if there were a reasonable chance that clubs would be the better strain. However, West should know that this not the case. South has shown a heart void, so North will lead a heart against 7 and the defense will get every heart ruff they have coming.
March 25, 2012
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Charles,

True – provided he fully trusts that his partner has led an honest card. However, players don't always lead honest cards vs. slams. I think that East could easily get it wrong.
March 25, 2012
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Joshua,

I don't agree that partner would automatically double 5 with a singleton diamond unless he is completely broke. The 5 call doesn't say it is our hand. All it says is that you have the red 2-suiter you have, letting partner make the decision to double, pass, or possibly bid on with a big double fit. The 5 call could easily be on a KQJxx(x) side suit, and selling out to 5 without doubling can be the percentage action.
March 17, 2012
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