Saturday, October 19, 2013

Torpedo: A Strong Club Canapé System

Last evening I met an old friend. After a few drinks and some chit chat we decided to go to a club and play bridge. Having discussed our system details on bar stools and using napkins as paper, we had jotted down the canapé system we were going to use. Here is the backbone, named Torpedo version 0.1:

Opening Bids

1 ♣: 15+ any
1 ♦: 11-14; 4♦-5y or 5+♦ or 4♦-441
1 ♥: 11-14; 4♥-5y or 5+♥
1 ♠: 11-14; 4♠-5y or 5+♠
1NT: 12-14
2 ♣: 11-14; 6+♣ or 4♣-5M
2 ♦: 12-14; 4444-1♦, the notorious 3-suited love bug
2 M: 10-12; 5M332
2NT: 18-20

If you are accustomed to canapé bidding, it is a fairly easy structure to master and GCC legal. And it created wonders! We finished close second. As the late Rixi Markus once said: keep it simple.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Precision or Natural?

I have frequently had to address the question: which system is better, strong club (Precision derivatives) or natural? My response goes along these lines:

Natural bidding, especially 5-card majors has come a long way since the glorious days of the Blue Team. Although one can still argue that an uninterrupted strong club sequence will hit the jackpot more often, today's natural systems can virtually match that in most of the hands, the emphasis is on uninterrupted in the phrase before, a rarity.

After this fairly general paragraph, I break down my analysis further, by opening bids:
  • 1 ♣: It limits other openings when strong but suffers from competition. Natural bidders show 2-3 clubs and perhaps gain some clarity in 1 D. So  they are even.
  • 1 ♦: Depending on flavor, this can show any number of diamonds, even a void (I like to play it that way) in Precision. Natural has a big plus here, especially in competitive bidding.
  • 1 M: This is the area where Precision-like systems shine. Frankly, whenever your partner opens the bidding with 1M and you're playing strong club, you happen to be the most comfortable person at the table.
  • 1NT: Even; regardless of range.
  • 2 ♣: Big club sucks, double plus for natural bidders. How natural systems utilize this bid is completely irrelevant. Precision 2 C has always been a hit or miss event, especially in pairs.
To sum up, we have two openings, 1 ♣ and 1NT which score even; two minuses, 1 ♦ and 2 ♣, and one (or two if you count the majors separately) plus as far as Precision is concerned. Sadly, most Precision flavors give it back when they adopt a standard raise structure, say, something like simple raise with 6-10, 3M with limit and the rest in forcing 1NT. So, although I like to play strong club, natural seems slightly better unless your major raises can handle thin but odds-on games frequently with a big club system.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

3-Card Major Raises

Nearly all of bidding systems with 5-card majors prefer a delayed 3-card raise if responder has an invitational hand, typically 10-12 points. The most common route they follow is to bid 1NT first and then rebid 3M if possible. So, following auctions crop up time after time:

1 ♠ - 1NT
2 ♦ - 3 ♠

1 ♥ - 1NT
2 ♣ - 3 ♥


I can sympathize giving a belated 3-card raise but what I do not understand is why we delay it if partner's rebid will not change our own rebid in the first place. Depending on partner's second bid, following can happen:
  • our hand improves,
  • it gets worse,
  • it does not change,
  • we discover a new and better fit.
Interestingly, most of these systems advocate a single response: raise to 3M; 1M-1NT-2x-3M. Don't you think it is wasteful? Regardless of what opener says, we raise to 3. If you do not have a set of responses catering to all or at least some of the options above, then I think it is better to raise the major immediately, presumably using 3 of a minor or some similar mechanism. The competition will know less about opener's hand if nothing else. Advantage? Your 1NT response will not contain 3 cards in opener's suit. But  if you insist giving delayed 3-card raises, you might as well start thinking about how to improve your 1NT structure so that opener's rebid (and effort) really matters.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What Systems Do I Play?

If you're blogging about bridge, this question will crop up sooner or later. People naturally wonder what bidding systems are my favorites (presume, it also creates some sort of credibility in the eyes of the readers). In matchpointed pairs (MPs), nothing beats good old Acol as far as I'm concerned. Four-card majors, flexible openings in biddable suits, a variable notrump (12-14 non-vulnerable,13-15 vulnerable) and weak-2s in majors, no modern 2-bids of dubious value. 2 ♦ is an Acol-2 and 2 ♣ an Acol-2 in a major or a game-force in clubs. Pretty simple.

But I do not play four-card major systems with pick-up partners. It is a rule I seldom break, if ever. With someone I have just met, I usually play 5-card majors (know all flavors, so no problem there).

At IMPs or teams let us say, we usually stick to a loose Polish/Precision derivative we call Super Red. For the real curious, here are the opening bids and responses to 1 ♣ (usually this is what interests people most):

1 ♣: 16/19+, various hands OR 11-13 flat (without shortage)
1 ♦: 11-18, 3+♦ (usually 4+♦)
1 ♥: 11-18, 5+♥
1 ♠: 11-15, 5+♠
1NT: 14-16, balanced.
2 ♣: 11-15, 6+♣ (may contain a side 4-card suit) OR 5♣-4M-22, 14-15 (if unsuitable for 1NT)
2 ♦: 11/12-15, 4-4-1-4, 4-4-0-5, 34-1-5 shapes.
2 M: weak-2s
2 N: 20-22, balanced.

* Take special note of the red suit ranges, 11-18.

Responses to 1 ♣

1 ♦: 0-7, negative.
1 M: 8+, 4+M, longer minor possible
1 N: 8-11, balanced
2 m: 8-11, 5+m; denies 4M
2 ♥: 11/12+, 5-4 minors
2 ♠: transfer to 2NT, game-force
2 N: 12-13, balanced
3 m: 10-12/13, 6-card minors, good suit, spread out values.
3 M: 4-7, 7+ in M
3 N: 14-16, balanced.

This pretty much sums it up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Major Suit Raises

Four of a major: the Holy Grail of bridge! Naturally, this has led theoreticians and practitioners alike to improve the common raise structure, namely the limit raises to three and four. Three so called improvements seem to be popular:

Bergen raises

Marty Bergen has come up with a few exotic (my opinion, no pun intended) shapes and/or types of raises by utilizing three of a minor responses as mixed and three-card raises and thereby getting rid of rarely used jump shifts.

Apart from the fact that I have difficulty in understanding which is which, I can not say I like the idea. Making responder bid anything but no-trumps or 2/3 M gives opponents a cheap opportunity for a lead directing double. You reach a theoretically correct game (or stop short) only to go down because the defenders find the right lead (failing to double is also a clue). Oh, and that new pre-emptive 3M raise of 0-5 points with a bunch of trumps. I simply could not find such partners who would raise to three like that.

Jacoby/Stenberg 2NT raises

This seems like a good idea within the confines of 5-card majors and 2/1 game force. Several variants fly by but my favorite is the one showing a GF raise. I am not fond of mixing the so called invitational raises here. I do not want to know if partner has an extra trump or a singleton somewhere if I'm not slammish. By the time you learn it, you are already committed to four, so what's the purpose? Better play it (if you must) as pure game force to investigate a probable slam. One good (and simple) variant is Schmittberg.

Good/bad raise to 2M

Or healthy/poor raise as they say. Now, this one is good. The typical limit of raising to two is wide and it is good to know whether partner has a sound raise or not. Some do it via a 1NT, some disguise it in 2m (and adding really minimum hands with support); your choice, your style. The bottom line is it works and is worth the extra effort.

An unseen plus of differentiating good and bad raises is it keeps the bidding open with a few trumps and a sub-minimum hand. If you can not bid a natural Acol-2, i.e. if you're playing weak-twos, you will benefit from it immensely when partner does not pass with three points and three trumps.
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