Monday, February 27, 2012

Pulling in our horns

Maybe because we primarily play match-points, my regular partner and I are much better at bidding games and part-scores than at bidding slams. Playing in a team-game, though, that is a liability -- it's not just one bad board; it is often the whole match.  Both partner and I underbid our hands to miss a cold grand-slam on this deal:

Taken individually, the decisions make sense.  Does South have enough to jump to 3D on his second turn? What can North bid that would be game forcing and still explore slam?  Having underbid on the first turn (I was South, and 2D is what I'd have bid with a poor 12-point hand), I could have bid 4NT, inviting to 6NT ...

The opponents bid 6D and that was enough for them to win the match since the other boards were all pretty even. We later won two other matches, so the event wasn't a complete bust, but at IMPs, we need to be able to find our slams.

But talking about missed slams, here was another. Luckily, in this case, the opponents did not find the slam either, so the board ended up being a push (here too, I was South):


  1. Comments from the peanut gallery ...

    The second hand seems "just one of those things": who could guess that partner had no wasted secondary heart strength opposite your void?

    The first hand, OTOH, I think was underbid by each player.

    First, responder should be thinking of slam possibilities once he hears the 1D opening. A strong jump shift if available, or an inverted minor raise, seems to me to be the best way to progress. Even a 2C response seems to be to a better slam base than responding 1S, if you are playing 2/1 gf.

    Second, opener has an awfully good hand in support of spades, provided responder has five spades. I would think of reversing to 2H, expecting to support spades next and thus advertising the club shortness. With only four spades, partner will not cooperate, but at least his second round 3D call would presumptively be forcing to game and announce his support for your diamonds.

    Responder's second round call of 3NT is pretty short-sighted. If opener is missing a top diamond and has no heart help, 3NT could be down with high diamond contracts making easily.

  2. Reversing to 2H is an excellent idea ... it does bury the 6-card diamond suit, but it conveys the strength of the hand and club shortness quite well. I wish I'd thought of that at the table! The auction would have gone:

    1D - 1S
    2H - 3D
    3S - 4D (hopefully not 3NT and now we're in a slam auction)
    4H - 4NT (cue-bid; RKC)
    5H - 6D/7D (2 key cards)

    But that is assuming partner and I are on the same wavelength regarding the 3S bid ... Is 3S a cue-bid in support of diamonds, or a delayed spade raise with 3? Would 3H be a 5-5 diamond-heart suit or a cue-bid in support of diamonds? Need to discuss this with partner!

    p.s. I think partner's 1S bid instead of the inverted minor 2D raise is okay; we prefer to get our majors in above all else.

  3. I think 3S at opener's third turn is just patterning out (presumptively 3=4=5=1, within one card of actual distribution). At that stage in the auction, opener is just searching for the best game; he can't know that responder is in slamming mode.

    I do believe that 4D would still be forcing, though. I can certainly envisage hands that would want to signoff in 4D (minimal for previous calls, and no club stopper), but I think it is demanding too much of a system to permit the partnership to stop on a dime in 4D.

    Hard to say how the rest of the auction would unfold, but certainly responder would love his hand with extra values, lots of controls, and heart ruffing potential. There's probable twelve tricks opposite a hand not worth a reverse such as Kxx, Kxxx, AKxxx, x ... so maybe the grand can be reached, but small slam would be reached for sure.

    Btw, one of the advantages of a "fake" reverse to hearts after a 1S response, is that if partner supports hearts, then you know he must have five spades (elsewise he would have responded 1H rather than 1S) and so you can always correct to the higher-ranking spade suit.

  4. The inverted minor raise explicitly denies a 4 card major, so that's out of the question.

    I have to say I strongly dislike the fake reverse. Showing a hand you don't hold early in the auction, when captaincy is still unclear, seems a recipe for disaster (and an unhappy partner), even if it happens to work on these particular hands. It's quite easy to suggest this if you already know that I have 16 points. However, if I have my usual scattered 8 points instead, this will just drive us into an unmakeable 3NT for no good reason.

    I don't think our auction was outrageous. I should definitely bid 4D instead of 3NT at imps. At MP's, 3NT looks fine to me, as there is no meaningful slam exploration bid that doesn't get us beyond 3NT (3C-3D doesn't really help).