Monday, May 30, 2011

Kickback is confusing

I'm on the flight home from Richmond. It was a really fun tournament. Many of my favorite young bridge players and none of the ones I don't like were there. We (me, Meg Myers, Mike Kovacich, and Bob White) made it to the semis of one KO but ran into a brick wall. Meckstroth, Rodwell, and company beat us fairly solidly. That was definitely the most fun of the 8 sessions of bridge. They did play better than us but luck was also on their side a little bit. We somewhat sensibly bid to 3 but found Rodwell with KJT98 of trumps and little else opposite a strong club. Another one Meg overcalled on a 12 count with KQJxxx of diamonds and went for 500 against a partscore. Meckwell had a kickback misunderstanding and accidentally got to a slam that was about 45% but made on this day.

1NT-2♣-2-3♣-3-3♠-4-5-6-P was their uncontested auction. 1NT was 14-16. 2♣ was stayman. 3♣ showed 4 spades and a 6 card minor. 3 asked. 3♠ said the 6 card minor was diamonds. 4 was intended as keycard blackwood for diamond but taken as a cue. 5 was a signoff but taken as 2 keycards with the Q. They needed basically a spade finesse and not 4-0 diamonds.

The deal that put the match away was this potential slam we had on about board 19. Meg had ♠KJxxx, -, Jxx, ♣KQJxx. Our auction: 1NT-2-3-4-4♠-4NT-5♣-6♠.

Partnerships that play daily or at least more frequently than a long weekend once in 2 or 3 months develop solid agreements about superaccepts, control-showing/asking bids, keycard auctions, but even the most established of partnerships screw it up once in awhile (see above). Anyway, we both agree that superaccepts are rare but have never discussed what kind of superaccepts we play. Regardless, 4 is surely a splinter and 4NT exclusion (excluding hearts). My keycard response wasn't consistent with that as that thought didn't cross my mind until Rodwell laid down the diamond ace. It probably wouldn't have mattered- she may have bid 6 even if I showed 2 instead of 3.

If you play the bidding a new suit over the transfer shows a weak doubleton, as many people do, then there is no problem signing off in 4♠ on this deal. The problem with that is that it can guides the defense too much. Meg could have retransferred with 3 and then cuebid 4♣ but that might preclude you from bidding exclusion later.

In the Swiss this morning, Bryan and I got to 5 when the opponents got to 4 and lost 12 when diamonds split 3-0 with AJx offside. I held ♠x, AKJTxx, QTxx, ♣xx and opened 1, Bryan bid 2, and i raised to 3. Bryan got interested in slam and keycarded before signing off on 5, missing 2 aces. Had I chosen to rebid hearts we would probably not have considered slam but gotten to the cold 4. He had ♠Kx, Qx, Kxxxxx, ♣AKJ. In the postmortem, one out of 5 disagreed with our bidding and I have yet to find anyone else who disagrees with us at imps.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5-5 Round

Round one of the Sunday Swiss was perhaps my favorite of the whole tournament. We were a bit unlucky to draw one of the top teams in the first round but did well with it.
On board 9 at favorable vulnerability, I picked up - Qxxxx AQJTxxx x. RHO opens 1 and I could trot out Michaels but I think the discrepancy in suit length and strength is big enough to bid diamonds first. I overcalled 2. LHO bid 4, passed back to me. I bid 4NT, ostensibly showing 2 places to play, although probably better diamonds than the second suit or I would have bid Michaels or Unusual 2NT earlier. Partner bids 5, I correct to 5, LHO competes to 5. I sac at 6, which gets passed out. I had already made up my mind to bid 7 over 6 with my defenseless hand. The defense didn’t take their club trick at trick one so it went away.
A couple of boards later, I picked up Ax QJ9xxx - AQTxx. This time Sean opens 1NT. There are so many options here and factoring in potential bidding misunderstandings, I’m not sure any of them are any better than just bidding 6, not even bothering to transfer. Our auction: 1NT-2; 2-3; 3-3; 4-5; 6-P. 3 set trumps, 3, 4 cues. 5 still seemed like exclusion to me. I didn’t want to exclusion over 3 because I wanted to let partner cue clubs. There might not be room after exclusion to check for the K. 6 was, I guess, something like “I’m confused but I’m pretty sure this is a decent spot and I don’t want to miss slam.” We had everything but the A and a few diamond honors.
On board 13, I had another 5-5 hand: ATxxx - Axx KQxxx. RHO opened 1 and this time I had no 2-suited bid available. With relatively equal suit quality, I overcalled 1. The opponents reached 4, down 1 at both tables for a push. Nothing exciting.
On the next board, I had yet another 5-5 hand: K9xxx x Kx KQT8x. This time, RHO opened 1 and I opted for a 2 overcall and got to play it there. This was also a push – I made 3 and our teammates, I think, were +100, maybe defending 2.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our team (including Sean Gannon, Richard and Andrew Jeng) performance in the GNT’s was less than stellar. Each pair had one horrific round and 2 bad losses were just enough to keep us from making it to the semi-finals. That may well be the last non-open event I ever play in. For years, I’ve thought I should be able to win flight B but have yet to make it through the qualifying stage. Narrowing the field from 20 to 4 is a pretty big cut and the teams were divided into two groups to play a round robin Swiss with 10 teams and 7 rounds.
There was an interesting dilemma in the other group. Go here for my article about that.
So, the sectional running concurrently had 188 tables and Sean and I played 3 out of 7 sessions of that, winning the Friday night pairs with 69.57% and the Sunday Swiss with 80% of the possible VP’s. Those 2 wins were enough to put us at the top of the masterpoint race for the sectional.
We had numerous interesting hands over the 2 days. Here was an auction from perhaps our worst result of the tournament. 1NT-X-P-2D; P-2H-3D. 1NT was 15-17, X was penalty, 2D was a transfer to hearts. You have agreed that all systems are on over the X but that’s about all. Without any other discussion, what is 3D? Does it matter that it’s vulnerable at imps?
Now you can discuss and reach some general understanding. It’s surely diamonds but is it forcing or not? Would Lebensohl apply here? Is it even possible for responder to have a forcing hand? I think this is one thing Sean and I still disagree upon. I think that unless you are playing a runout system (which we definitely do not do), responder has to do something over the double if he has a game-forcing hand. And even a game forcing hand is likely not worth a game-force once rho announces he has lots of stuff behind opener. I, the responder, had a modest 7-count with 5 diamonds, kind of typical of what I think this bidding shows. Lebensohl here just doesn’t make sense and even if it does make sense to use it, it should be to distinguish between invitational and less than invitational hands.
More hands to come when I get time. For now, I have a busy week to include lots of tennis, and reviewing and applying my knowledge of electrical circuits.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It's sunny with a high of 75...

It's been awhile since I blogged but I actually have been busy and not with bridge. With my aunt visiting for a few days last week, I got motivated to work on the back yard and patio. It had been mostly neglected for a year and a half but looks good now.

And my new job looks way more interesting than the old one and the people seem to be more single guys who would be good drinking buddies. To the untrained person the old job (writing and testing high level software to detect and deter missiles) sounds more exciting than the new one (creating, reviewing, and testing the lowest level of circuits for the same system).

I'm off to Augusta for the flight b grand national teams. I think the Jengs, Sean, and I should be the favorites but I know of two other competent teams we will have to beat.

At my going away luncheon this afternoon, I made the former colleagues go to a Thai restaurant - some were uncomfortable with the selection of dishes but I do feel it is my duty to introduce people to "exotic" food. They made a top ten list of reasons I am leaving. They tried to make some connection/jokes about bridge but those attempts were kinda corny. The number one reason, apparently, is that I had taught my coworkers all they could learn about scrabble so I need new people to teach.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NT Openings and Overcalls

I thought strong notrump overcalls and unusual 2NT jump overcalls were pretty standard and well known but apparently a significant portion of players do not know and are confused about when each applies and when each is alertable or announceable.
I’ve run across some beginners over the years make an unusual 2NT JUMP overcall with a flat 20 and make a 2NT overcall of a weak 2 with both minors, and Iusually take a few seconds to explain to them that that is not standard bidding and the rationale behind it: The reason 1H-2NT isn’t the same as a 2NT opening is that it is significantly less likely that you’ll have 20-21 hcp when RHO opens and it is a hand that we can show by doubling and then bidding 2NT. The reason 2H-2NT is not an unusual 2NT showing both minors is that you are likely to have a strong NT (15-18) and do need a way to show that hand after RHO has shows a preempt. That is more common and generally more important that being able to show both minors.
I am accepting and polite when a new player confuses these things but when an experienced player, a tournament director, playing with someone with whom he has played for decades, claims to not know the rules of their agreements here, it really bothers me and proves that much needs to be done to educate the bridge population.
So here’s a quick run down of NT overcalls in standard bridge.
1NT openings are technically supposed to be announced by the partner of the opener. I’ve never known a director to assign any sort of penalty or chastise anyone for not announce a 15-17 1NT but for all other notrump ranges, it definitely should be announced. And it is better to never announce 15-17 than to announce it only sometimes. This is one of the few things in the ACBL that I strongly dislike. Someone who plays the most basic or standard of methods should always be able to make a non-alertable and non-announceable bid regardless of the situation. There is no doubt that 15-17 1NT is standard. And this requirement to announce and opening 1NT range makes it the only bid that you cannot legally make without an alert or announcement.
Regardless of the opening bid, a non-jump direct overcall of 1NT, 2NT, or 3NT shows approximately a strong 1NT. This includes 1C-1NT, 2H-2NT, 3S-3NT, 1S-1NT, among others. The range is typically 15-18 and more leniencies can be taken with this than with a NT opening because of being more pressed for bidding space in a competitive auction. The overcaller’s partner is not supposed to announce or alert if the overcall shows this. If it shows anything else, it must be alerted.
A balancing 1NT overcall typically shows a weak NT, 11-14 or 11-15 hcp and a stopper. This includes only auctions of the form 1Y-P-P-1NT where Y is any suit. This is not alertable or announceable either. Many inexperienced players apparently have never heard of this standard treatment and some people still play strong NT overcalls in balancing seat anyway, which is fine. Just mark it on your card.
Jump overcalls of 2NT (1Y-2NT) typically show 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits. Strength is somewhat nebulous. While this is called unusual 2NT, it is very standard and any other meaning of 2NT in this situation is alertable. Jump overcalls of 4NT are also normally understood to show the 2 lowest unbid suits (typically more like 6-5 or 6-6). If you play unusual 2NT when it is not a jump, it is alertable.
Jump overcalls of 3NT typically show a gambling-type hand, something like a running suit with a stopper in the opponents’ suit. Big balanced hands would start with a double.