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All comments by Michael Rosenberg
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Henry:

On a club lead, declarer wins and plays a heart. The defense triumphs by winning and immediately playing back hearts (although actually, a trump return from East might also suffice).

I learned from Zia more than 35 years ago that, whenever the suit attacked by one player is immediately played back by the opponents, you say:

Confucius he say: “Both sides play same suit, someone make mistake.”

Not true on this hand, and not PC, but old habits die hard - especially when I find them funny.

June 27, 2012
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What was the auction in which West guaranteed 6C + 5H?
June 27, 2012
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I don't see what declarer's line was. I also don't see how playing a small trump could ever work without help from the defense - unless specifically EAST started with J doubleton.
Best chance seems to be to start with a heart honor from dummy. If they win and tap dummy, then spade ace and heart, ruffing third heart and trying to guess spades (queen is “normal”). If they win heart and shift to a club, win in hand, ruff D, SA, heart - again trying to guess spades later.
June 27, 2012
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On a diamond lead, it is even easier. Ruff, SA, C to K, ruff D, heart. Ruff third heart (or diamond) in hand and play trump.

But I think you are correct about the club lead - as long as defense understands Confucius.
June 27, 2012
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Phillip M:

2N either has an agreed meaning or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then it is clearly superior - you will reach a better contract more often by consulting partner, whether or not he thinks it is forcing.
If 2N had an agreed meaning (I'm guessing it didn't), such as asking about partner's hand, it would also have clearly been superior.
If it had some weird artificial meaning (which I strongly doubt) then obviously I was wrong to limit myself to the 2N bid - but then there was likely to be some other bid available. For example, if 2N showed clubs, then it is very likely that some bid (maybe 3C) would be a better way to go than just bidding 3N.
Perhaps the 3N bid didn't seem as ridiculous to you as it did to me.
June 17, 2012
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A few points:

1) You say “Leading the ?Q can't be right. That caters to partner having A10x of clubs and the ?Q. If that is what you were playing for, you should have ducked the diamond to begin with.”

In a general way, I don't think this is logical. Just because you have already made a mistake, it doesn't follow that you shouldn't still try to make the best play now.
But here, I think you are clearly correct that the Club queen is the wrong play

2) Talking about the bidding, I think it's worth noting that the convention chosen by N-S has a serious flaw. I do not like any defense to 1N that does not allow you to know whether partner is 4-5 or 5-4 in the majors.
I was surprised Kit did not mention this - the Woolsey convention bids 2C for the majors, and thus passes that test.

3) Kit was correct to excoriate South's declarer play. Not ducking the heart at trick one was silly. But I think South's bidding was also very poor. With such poor club spots, it's far too likely a club will be led and you wil have no chance. It seems clear that 2N would have been a superior bid, whatever it meant.
June 17, 2012
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I thought this was a great article - perhaps Kit's best - so naturally nobody commented.
I especially like the point about leading through declarer's trumps - this sort of Morton's Fork position comes up quite a lot, but is often missed.
June 12, 2012
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Congratulations on winning the Trials - it's always great to have you representing the US. And you had to carry Zia, too.

1) I noticed when we played together that you never said to me “Why did you do that?” (I'm guessing you either figured out why I did it, or figured I'd lost my mind). Is this a policy with all your partners? If not, when was the last time you asked your partner, “Why did you do that?”

2) Who would you say was the greater player between Al Roth and Ira Rubin?
June 9, 2012
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Kit:

You say (on page 3 about the 4D bid) “Partner clearly has the 14+ hand…”.

Now I know a lot less about Strong Club bidding than you, but I don't understand this. Why can't partner have a very suitable hand in the minimum range? - I could construct many. Whereas with an averagely suitable hand, he would just raise to 4H. (I'm presuming, without knowing it, that an unsuitable hand, that cannot bid 3N, might bid 3S.)
June 3, 2012
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I think your (f)
- “3H and 3S ask for a stopper, but one has a high D card and the other doesn't”

sort of crosses over with my (e) -

“3H shows either a stop OR a high D (so partner can bid 3N with solid D and no stop)
3S shows no stop and no high D.”

We would both bid 3H on your first example hand, and 3S on your second. What you do not cover is KQxx, Axx, xxx, xxx where my (e) would bid 3H (and get to 3N facing Jxx, xx, AKQxxx, AQ), whereas your (f) would presumably be forced to bid 3N.
May 31, 2012
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Sriram:

Not necessarily. For example, over 3S “Last Train”, responder, if not bidding 3N, can ‘raise’ to 4S with a strong 4-carder, knowing that opener can always go back to 5D if he doesn't have 3-card spades and a desire to play 4S.

Also, let's say after 3S, responder bids 4D. Now opener, with a strong 3-card spade holding, can bid 4S - which I think should be an offer to play.

It IS true that, if responder bids 3N over 3S, that the 4-3 fit will get lost. You can't do everything.
May 29, 2012
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The question asked by Gavin in the title was “what is Standard for 3H in this auction?”

I answered that question “asks for stop”. The vote so far seems to say I am correct.

The “correct” way to play is not clear to me. What IS clear to me is that 3S cannot show more of a heart stopper than 3H. Nor can it show more no-trump suitability than 3H.
And it is also clear to me that, over 3H, opener's 3S should be a “Last Train” try for 3N. I see the following possibilities:

a) 3H shows stopper (but not sure 3N is correct)
3S no H stopper

b) 3H shows half-stop
3S shows no stop

c) 3H asks for stop in a notrumpy-type hand
3S shows a suit oriented hand (stiff H?)

d) 3H asks for stop
3S shows powerful 4-carder (3 of top 4) looking for 4S on 4-3

e) 3H shows either a stop OR a high D (so partner can bid 3N with solid D and no stop)
3S shows no stop and no high D.

All have advantages, and flaws. As usual, the most important thing is to be on the same wavelength with your partner.
May 29, 2012
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I agree it's not that easy to construct. How about xx, Q10x, xxx, AQxxx?
Trying to construct the natural 3N is torture. Hey, wait a minute, if I bid 3N that's what I'll force partner to try and do….
May 29, 2012
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Josh:

YOUR interpretation is not what counts. What matters is trying to get inside your partner's head - never an easy task!
I tried to describe the difference between what I guessed Steve's opinions would be about pass and 3N. As you can see from Steve's comment directly below, I did a pretty good job.
He was clear about pass. He was unclear about 3N.

You seem to have completely ignored Steve's comment - a little strange, since his is the only voice that ‘truly’ matters.

Nigel:

You are absolutely correct (and thanks for pointing that out)! I should have said that I would not bid 3N with EITHER hand; when I have a hand that covers BOTH possibilities (natural OR minors), 3N is fine.
While it may temporarily ‘torture’ partner, he will survive.

I think what you describe is a good reason why first time partnerships have done surprisingly well. In a new situation, players avoid torture bids, and only make them when all bases are covered.
Whereas, when the partnership becomes regular, they are more likely to think they ‘know’ their partner and go out on a limb.

Thanks again for your comment.
May 29, 2012
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I note that you amended your previous implication that the ‘no preference’ pass would discover when opener had a 6-card suit. Now you are saying he would bid 3S on a 5-carder if a ‘good suit’ (which I'm not sure how you define).

So, according to your preferred scenario, you will pass with (say) precisely 2-4-4-3, then partner will bid 3N with precisely) 5-1-3-4 (unless he has a “good suit'). This means that you will reach 4D on a 4-3 fit - when 3S might well have been better (and is less likely to get doubled).

I'm not saying there are is no plus side for the ‘no preference’ pass - indeed, I already said there were pluses. But I am taking issue with your statement ”One of the big advantages of playing pass is no preference is that you can still get to your 6-2 spade fit“.
I don't think there are enough pluses to say ”one of“. I don't agree that the advantages are ”big" (at least, not nearly as big as the advantage of making a penalty pass when you want to). I would describe them more as nuanced.

If I were playing pass penalty, I would probably bid 3S whenever I have a doubleton and no 5-card minor, reserving 3N for 9+-cards (or maybe 1-4-4-4 that won't defend).

If I were playing pass as ‘no preference’, I would bid 3S as opener, reserving 3N for 5-0-4-4.

In either case, if 3S gets doubled (which I think not likely), I would reconsider about 4m perhaps being a better spot.
May 29, 2012
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I wouldn't trust that agreement even playing with my clone
May 28, 2012
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Benoit:

Agreed that 3N is a torture bid however you mean it.

I totally disagree that pass is a torture bid - IF YOU HAVE A PENALTY PASS. Partner can either do the wining thing and pass, or can bid 3S and put you back on course for whatever bad result you were going to get had you not passed.

Pass as ‘no preference’ IS a torture bid - NOW partner can do the wrong thing (by passing).

You don't rate to be worse off by passing with a penalty pass. You might be a lot worse off passing with a no preference pass.

And you can see that our two experts, Gavin and Steve, were on the same wavelength.

Again, I am not discussing the optimal agreement - only what makes sense in the context presented by Gavin.
May 28, 2012
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Ok, thanks for all those clarifications. My own preferred style would be pass as penalty and 3N for minors.

So, to answer the questions from your initial post (assuming my preferred style):

“What action other then Pass can I take with xx - xxx - xxxx - xxxx?
what action other then 3NT can I take with x - xx - xxxxx - xxxxx?”

On the second hand I would obviously bid 3N. On the first, I would bid 3S.
May 27, 2012
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All this talk about HCP seems pretty silly to me. These bids don't show HCP - they are all about playing strength (and, in addition, could be tactical).

Aviv:

Wouldn't you or your “World Class vulnerable partner” double 3H with AKxxx, —, Axxx, Axxx? Otherwise, you might end up defending 3H making with good play for a grand slam. Isn't it even possible to construct a 14(gasp) count where double is perfectly reasonable?

Also, the idea that 3S over the redouble shows three seems pretty offbeat to me. If you wanted, you could have that as an agreement (in conjunction with pass being ‘no preference’), but I doubt there are many experts who would think, without discussion that 3S showed 3.
Remember, this entire discussion is supposed to be about Gavin's situation - not about what you might optimally agree in advance.
May 27, 2012
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Jason:

When you make your “no preference” pass, what does partner do with 5-1(4-3)?
May 27, 2012
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