Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

Strange Systems

I was commenting on the Swedish District Championships recently and one pair at my table was playing a forcing pass style system It was interesting and I considered how I would handle it (besides quaking).  I hope I would have come to the table prepared.  It didn’t look like their opponents had given it much thought.  It did make me realize that the ACBL was right to keep this from players although I think it’s fine to have “anything goes” in an NABC knockout teams like the Spingold, perhaps after the first round or two.  Here is a very interesting deal that came up.  I think that it would be very hard to get to the right spot in most systems, except for those that allow one player to describe their shape, usually a relay system. 

You are south and nobody is vulnerable.    East passes and it is your turn


s_thumb KQ107

h_thumb AKJ4

Copyofd_thumb J3

c_thumb1 A96

In most systems you would open 1c_thumb1 and partner would bid 1s_thumb.  You might bid 3s_thumb  since that is about what the hand is worth.  Now lets flip over to North


s_thumb A9532

h_thumb Q1065

Copyofd_thumb A2

c_thumb1 KJ

You are definitely in the slam zone.  Suppose you try 4c_thumb1.  When partner cuebids 4h_thumb you might bid keycard.  Partner has one.  If you now try 5NT I don’t think South will go but he might cuebid the h_thumbK.  You know you are off the diamond king and correctly you just play the small slam.  This is similar to the auction in the Closed Room.

In the Open Room where I was watching South passed (showing either a very weak hand or a very strong one).  Now before we go further do you think West should bid over pass.

s_thumb 6

h_thumb 873

Copyofd_thumb KQ765

c_thumb1 10753

With partner being a passed hand it seems certain the opponents have game at least.  I would like to have a bid here.  If I could I would open a weak 2Copyofd_thumb.  If I couldn’t I might even pysche something.  I never never pysche but it just seems right in a situation like this opposite forcing pass opponents.  Anyway, West passed and North opened 1s_thumb.  Through a series of relays South was able to find out that North was 5-4-2-2 with two aces and the c_thumb1K.  At this point the auction had progressed to 4h_thumb.  His problem was he wasn’t sure about the heart queen.  He forgot that 4NT was asking about queens and he decided to just bid the small slam in hearts.  Putting the two hands together 7h_thumb makes almost all the time.  You just need to be able to ruff a club in dummy and you have 13 tricks so even a 4-1 heart break can probably be handled.


s_thumb A9532

h_thumb Q1065

Copyofd_thumb A2

c_thumb1 KJ


s_thumb KQ107

h_thumb AKJ4

Copyofd_thumb J3

c_thumb1 A96


After a quick claim a heated discussion apparently ensued.  To me (ignoring the ignoble conclusion) it shows the power of a relay system and it also says … get in there opponents.  Don’t let them relay to the grand.  Just a thought.

On a later deal they relayed there way to a cold 7c_thumb1 not bid at the other table.  Same comment.  It wasn’t only the relays that were a problem 1c_thumb1 opener showed11-13 or 17+ and 1Copyofd_thumb opener basically showed 7-10 high card points or so (I forget the exact number) and said nothing about diamonds.  This definitely needs a defense.  Playing nothing doesn’t work.

The ACBL has completely stopped even sensible bidding improvements in the last few years.  I have no idea why these decisions are made.  I agree that forcing pass is a bit out.  But simple transfer over an opening one of a suit or switching 1s_thumb with 1NT seems overboard.

We need to keep it simple in the low-level games and let freedom ring (at least a bit) in the higher level games.  The conventions allowed and not allowed are inconsistent and irritating.  I am going to start a new party.  I like tea but that name is already taken.  So how about the beer party.  You know what are logo will be and it has a seven in it.  We can probably get a sponsor pretty easily and our motto will be:

Free the conventions and free beer…. or something.

Can anybody come up with a sensible realistic auction in standard or 2/1 or even forcing club (no relays please) that gets you to seven hearts?


kenrexfordMarch 16th, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I’ll bite.

North opens 1C.

South bids 1S. Because I like 2C as an artificial GF denying a 5-card major, but maybe one or both 4-card majors, 1S as a response, when GF, promises five spades.

Opener jumps to 3S. So far, fairly normal.

Responder bids 3NT, serious. This confirms (contextually) the fifth spade.

Opener cues 4H. By bypassing 4C, Opener has denied two top clubs. By bypassing 4D, Opener has denied a diamond control. By cuebidding 4H, he has a heart control. So far, this is a similar auction, except by what Opener has denied. This is actually a better sequence, because the person asking questions (Responder — the unknown) has enabled more info exchange, in the form of negative info about clubs.

Because Responder is looking at the club Jack, Opener is known to not have that card, which is good to know — Opener has at most one club honor. Also, Opener is known to hjave 2+ diamomnds because he has no diamond control.

So, Responder asks RKCB and finds out that Opener has three (5C or 5D, depending on 1430 or not). A queen-ask (5D or 5H) locates the heart Queen, with a positive answer.

Suppose, for sake of argument, that the Queen-ask is 5D (RKCB was normal style). Opener can bid 5H to show the heart King and the trump Queen. On this hand, normal RKCB worked out better because of this. So, for sake of discussion, I’ll conveniently pick that option. LOL

Opener is known to have the K-Q in spades, club Ace, heart Ace, and heart King, for 16 HCP (minimum). With two known hearts (the two honors) and two known diamonds (no control), Opener is known to have no shortness. Opener is known to not have the club Queen.

So, Responder counts tricks. Five spades, three hearts, two clubs, and a diamond, for 11 tricks. In spades, the heart suit provide the 12th trick, whether by ruff (hearts 4-3) or, if Opener has a fourth heart, because the heart suit comes in.

If, however, Opener has a fourth heart, then 7H should make, for reasons stated. Alternatively, if Opener has a fifth club, then 7S should make.

Responder has several options. The positive response to the 5D asking bid (5H), showing both the requested Queen and a King, is clearly slam forcing. So, any call should be forcing to at least slam.

But, Opener has denied (but his stated club Ace) the King or Queen of clubs, has denied (but his bypass of 4D) the diamond King, and has already shown the Ace and King of hearts. His only unknowns, then, are (1) the club Jack, (2) the club length, (3) the diamond Queen (and Jack), (4) the exact diamond length (meaning possibly third-round control by shortness), (5) the heart Queen (and Jack), and (6) heart length.

Responder has lots of options remaining, including (1) a forcing 5S call, (2) 5NT, (4) 6C, (4) 6D, and (5) 6H, all to unwind what is remaining. The question, then, is what calls should mean in this enlightened situation.

IMO, in this situation, general defaults should kick in. Because the King-ask is not relevant (Opener having already told his King tale), 5NT should not be a King-ask. Instead, if Responder wants to clear up strain as 100% spades, he should maximize space to explore completion of cues by bidding 5S. This would enable Opener to cue 6C (to show the unshown club Jack), 6D (to show the unshown diamond Queen), or 6H (to show the unshown heart Queen), as appropriate (understanding that these are NOT relevant in this situation). (Responder could re-ask up-the-line if seeking even more info.)

A 5NT call by Opener, after this 5S by Responder (seeing more cues to fill in the blanks) would logically (IMO) show an otherwise-unbiddable cue, 6C asking where, 6D or 6H showing tertiary shortness control (doubletons, rather than Queens).

so, what would, instead, Responder’s own 5NT, 6C, 6D, and 6H mean?

At some point, one or more of these calls have to offer alternative strains, which is why the showing of the fifth spade comes into play at this point. Opener also should realize that the fifth spade offers the 13th trick if an alternative 4-4 fit can be found.

In theory, maybe 6C or 6H suggests a seven-grab in the indicated suit, but general default rules suggest (to me) otherwise. Specifically, 6C and 6D seem like choice-of-smalls bids, even if that makes little sense here, simply because that is what these types of calls usually look like.

Alternatively, 5NT often operates as a choice-of-slams call, and this serves the purpose perfectly, in EITHER event. Opener simply denotes an alternative strain and leaves it to Responder to place the contract, depending on what Responder was thinking.

After 5NT as “choice,” ontextually determined by the availability of 5S as the “further cue enabler” of convenience, Opener bids and obvious 6H to offer this alternative strain, and Responder now has his needed info for the grand.

A bit tight as a theory exercise, but plausible? LOL

LindaMarch 17th, 2010 at 8:59 am

Wow! I was onboard until 5NT as a chocie of slams got hearts in at the eleventh hour. I think most people don’t consider an alternative strain when they have a nine card major fit.

I am got to ask Larry Cohen his opinion. He had lots of interesting hands in my Favorite 52 … lets see what he says.

Larry LowellMarch 17th, 2010 at 11:51 am

Very interesting hand. Playing a strong club system without relays (my Monday partnership):

1C (16+) – 1S (G.F.) – 1NT (waiting & balanced) – 2H (5-4 or better) – 3H (Beta) – 4D (5 Controls = 2A + K) – 7H (responder has 4 cards in the minors and we have AKK and a pitch on the 5th spade). So regardless of the minor suit distribution, 7H rolls even if 4-1 trumps. Hmm, does North have the Q of hearts – the only unknown, but partner should not be showing a xxxx heart suit in this auction.

kenrexfordMarch 17th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

You are right, Linda. Most people don’t consider alternative strains when they have a nine-card major fit. But, that same reluctance applies equally to the (greatly enhanced) 2/1 sequence as to the relay sequence. If the relay/pattern folks can spot that a 4-4 makes more tricks than a 5-4, why not 2/1 folks?

By the way, this very principle is why I play (and introduced) super-acceptances after game tries. E.g., 1S-P-2S-P-3H-P-3NT, where 3NT shows 4+ hearts and a contextual max. Why? The 4-4 heart fit usually offers slam better prospects than the 5-3 (or even 5-4) spade fit, for the same reasons as on this hand. In fact, even opposite an game-invitational-only 3H, slam may suddenly materialize, if strain is switched to the heart suit.

No reason to not apply this same principle at the 5-level, if 5S covers the smidge of remaining unknowns and 5NT is otherwise free, eh?

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