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April 18, 2003
Design for Bidding - Part 2 and Part 3

The Scorecard is the publication for ACBL District 16. I was asked and consented to write a regular column aimed at the 0-299 masterpoint player. I will post my columns here as they may be of benefit to the same readers that benefit from my newsletter.

Scorecard, Volume 34, No 6 - November/December 2002

I started a series of columns in the last issue that are intended to help new partnerships decide just what system they want to use. The first column briefly discussed no trump auctions. Not necessarily all balanced hand auctions, but auctions that used no trump bids in the early stages. In an effort to help, I posted a No Trump Worksheet on my website that could be used as a recorder for your partnership. I received several emails about this worksheet so a couple of comments are in order.

One or two people wanted to know if I would post the "answers" to the worksheet. There are no "answers". Think of it as a framework on which you can describe your partnership agreements. Auctions that are not defined or auctions that have an unclear meaning are OPPORTUNITIES. Opportunities for you and partner to investigate, learn, and decide what meaning that should have in your system. Filling in the blanks will make your bidding system more comprehensive and more accurate. The worksheet is also a great tool for resolving disputes. When partner passes your forcing bid you can go back and look to see what agreement was actually in place. If it is undefined then it is an opportunity to decide and update your record. The 235 possible auctions listed will cover most situations.

The long laundry list I provided of responding hands types can be used as well to make sure that you have the significant areas covered. Certainly the less experienced the partnership the greater number of open issues you will have. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Spend some time with partner going through the list and deciding what should be what. If you are in doubt ask a couple of more experienced players how they play a specific auction and why. In fact, ask more than one and you will usually get more than one answer. To help a bit I have posted a second copy of the No Trump Worksheet on my website that is completed for a reasonably basic duplicate no trump structure. It is filled out for a partnership playing strong 1NT, Gambling 3NT, Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, Texas Transfers, Minor Suit Stayman, Gerber, and Roman Keycard Blackwood. Perhaps it will help your process with partner. Again the worksheets may be found at The links are right there on the opening page and the document is in Adobe Acrobat format. A free reader is needed but the link for it is also provided.

In this column I want to begin the discussion of major suit auctions. These auctions begin with an opening bid of 1 or 1. The first major decision you must make is whether you intend to play a four or five card major suit style. At one time four card suit openings were considered standard. Today most partnerships play a five card major suit approach, but even five card major advocates have a few decisions to make. Do you ALWAYS hold at least five cards when you open 1 or 1? Many partnerships have identified situations where it is acceptable to open holding only four cards. Here are some of the agreements that I have seen:

If you and partner elect to play four card major suit opening bids, then how do you open when you hold four spades and 4 hearts? Always 1? Always 1? The stronger suit?

Once the opening style has been determined then the responding agreements need to be decided. When I was first starting out someone told me, "You can�t have too many ways to raise partner." So I personally like a pretty robust raise structure. What you decide is your choice, but try to have lots of ways to frame the instructions by responder.

Lots of conventional choices are available for you over major suit openings and you should play those that you can effectively remember and handle. Do not be in too much of a rush to add everything at once. Add and build slowly and carefully and you will be more at ease rather than consumed with worry over forgetting something. When you first add a convention it is likely that both you and partner will screw it up at least once. I used to have the agreement that until we each messed it up it was not evenly officially part of the bidding system!

Most partnerships will want to play a standard single raise (1-2 and 1-2) but even here you have choices. Bergen style raises allow you to differentiate between three card and four card single raises. When it comes to a double or jump raise (1-3 and 1-3) you have several choices. In the 1940s and 1950s a double jump raise was forcing to game. Since then the more common approach has been to play it as a limit raise only invitational to game. Today some partnerships even play the jump raise as a preemptive bid showing a hand not even strong enough to warrant a single raise. Even if you play the most common limit raise does it always promise 4+ card support? If you choose to play a Forcing 1NT then a limit raise can promise 4+ and auctions that go through the Forcing 1NT and then jump can show a 3 card limit raise.

Keep in mind that everything you add to your system may alter other auctions as well. Here is a partial list of my favorite major suit conventions that you might wish to consider. Some are mutually exclusive. They are Forcing 1NT, Jacoby 2NT, Jordon 2NT, Help Suit Game Tries, Splinter Bids, Mini Splinters, Drury, and Flower Bids. In the next column we will explore major suit auctions further. Let me hear from you.

-Gary King

Scorecard, Volume 34, No 7 - January/February 2003

This is the third in a series of columns reviewing some of the things your a partnership needs to decide about the bidding structure you choose to employ. We started on major suit auctions in the last column and I want to explore these further. To that end I have posted a Design for Bidding worksheet on auctions that begin with 1 or 1 on my website ( Remember these worksheets are not tests or lessons but a framework to help and partner consider various sequences and record the agreed meaning.

In the last column the decision about four or five card major suit openings was covered. Since most partnerships today play five card majors that is probably the proper decision if you wish to stay with the field. The next major decision has to do with two-over-one responses. Many experts play these auctions as 100% forcing to game. Others play only certain auctions forcing to game. The standard method is not forcing to game but requires a minimum hand value of 11 points. What are the pros and cons?

Those that play these auctions as 100% forcing to game solve subsequent responder rebid problems that standard players have to handle. Responder has the ability to simply rebid a suit at the three level with the understanding that this shows either interest in slam or uncertainty about the proper strain.

Those that play the standard method must occasionally find a forcing bid to keep things alive. Although this can work it can also lead to trouble. Playing standard (where an initial two-over-one response promises nothing more than 11 points) what would you rebid on this hand?

spade.gif (842 bytes)Ax
heart.gif (841 bytes)Qx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)xx
club.gif (841 bytes)AKJxxxx


Partner You
1spade.gif (842 bytes) 2club.gif (841 bytes)
2diamond.gif (837 bytes) ???

Running through the possibilities:

2NT, and 3club.gif (841 bytes) are only invitational, since you know you belong in game, poor choice.

4club.gif (841 bytes) should be forcing but do you really want to run past 3NT so quickly?

3NT might work but if partner holds this hand it is a disaster since 6club.gif (841 bytes) makes easily and you will go down in 3NT on a heart lead:

spade.gif (842 bytes)KQJxx
heart.gif (841 bytes)x
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Axxx
club.gif (841 bytes)Qxx

6club.gif (841 bytes) might work but if partner holds this hand it is a disaster since 3NT makes easily and 6club.gif (841 bytes) has no play on a heart lead:

spade.gif (842 bytes)KQJxx
heart.gif (841 bytes)J10x
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Axxx
club.gif (841 bytes)Q

Blackwood does not help either because you are still in 6club.gif (841 bytes)after partner shows one ace. The tool used by most partnerships is Fourth Suit Forcing and Artificial. Responder must bid 2heart.gif (841 bytes). Perhaps it should be part of your arsenal.

The point here is that playing the standard approach requires artificiality in areas where two-over-one does not. These partnerships rebid 3club.gif (841 bytes) with the hand in question. If you choose to stick to the standard approach it is completely workable, but you must look carefully at follow up auctions to make sure responder has the tools needed to do her job properly.

Another area frequently overlooked by partnerships is what being a passed hand does to your agreements. Even if you play a two-over-one style sometimes the auction proceeds as follows:

Partner You
Pass 1spade.gif (842 bytes)
2heart.gif (841 bytes)  

This obviously cannot be forcing to game. The upper limits for the 2heart.gif (841 bytes) response are pretty well defined by the previous pass, but what are the lower limits? What is the worst hand with which partner can respond 2heart.gif (841 bytes)?

Everyone would agree that this is enough:

spade.gif (842 bytes)x
heart.gif (841 bytes)AKxxx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Kxxx
club.gif (841 bytes)xxx

What would you respond with this hand, having previously passed?

spade.gif (842 bytes)x
heart.gif (841 bytes)KQJxx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Qxxx
club.gif (841 bytes)xxx


spade.gif (842 bytes)xx
heart.gif (841 bytes)Jxxxx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)KQxx
club.gif (841 bytes)Ax

Many times the conventions you choose to play have an effect on other auctions that at first glance may not be connected. If you play Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) (12-15 points with 4 spades and 5 hearts) then it may change your responses.

Playing Flannery 2diamond.gif (837 bytes) what should you respond to a 1heart.gif (841 bytes) opening holding:

spade.gif (842 bytes)Kxxx
heart.gif (841 bytes)xx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Qxx
club.gif (841 bytes)Axxx

1spade.gif (842 bytes) or 1NT? 1NT you say! Really?

Okay, so what do you open the bidding with on this hand?

spade.gif (842 bytes)AQxx
heart.gif (841 bytes)KJxxxx
diamond.gif (837 bytes)Kx
club.gif (841 bytes)x

See, the answers are not always so straight-forward. If you rebid 1NT you might well miss your 4-4 spade fit.

Use the worksheet to help categorize various major suit auctions. You game will improve. Let me hear from you.

-Gary King


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