Monday, January 8, 2007

Jeff Meckstroth Speaks (Part I)

The highlight of the Orlando Regional for me was the opportunity to hear Jeff Meckstroth talk about bridge for 30 minutes. The presentation was billed as an Intermediate/Novice event, but any time you can hear one of the top 5 bridge professionals in the world talk about his chosen profession, it is a rare treat. Rather than lecture, it was more like a group discussion with questions and answers. All the answers were based on the advice that he would give to non-professionals, people like his audience. Rather than have one long post, I will divided this into two parts, starting with his most basic comments and moving more into Intermediate territory in the next post.

1. What bidding system should we be playing? Although Jeff and his partner Eric Rodwell, play a very high octane form of Precision co-developed by Rodwell and Paul Soloway, he strongly recommended that for most non-professionals 2/1 game force is the way to go, especially for those playing team games. He underscored the importance of having game force bids available so as to eliminate any concern about being passed out short of game and to permit accurate low level bidding to explore each slam opportunity. Asked whether there should be any stopping point short of game, he stated emphatically NO! He said that a game would not always be makeable, but the element of not having to worry about being passed out short of game made up for it.

2. How about weak no trump openers? Jeff said that he has tried weak no trump openers, but his preference is to have a minimum of at least a good 14 points.The reason he dislikes weak no trump openers is that it makes it more difficult to find suit fits at lower levels. He noted that weak no trump openers do have a preemptive value, but in balance he felt the price you pay is not worth it.

3. When should you open hands that contain a 5 card major at one no trump instead of one of the major? Anytime you have a hand that is 5332 and it doesn't matter where the doubleton is! Opening all hands that meet this criteria at one no trump will save a lot of rebid headaches.

4. What defensive bidding system should we be using when opponents open one no trump?
If opponents are using strong no trump openers Jeff uses the "Meckwell" defense:
(a) 2 clubs shows clubs and a major
(b) 2 diamonds shows diamonds and a major
(c) 2 hearts and 2 spades are natural
(d) Double is a relay to 2 clubs to show a long minor or both majors
If opponents are using weak no trump openers, it is important to retain double as a value showing bid. The defense Jeff uses is:
(a)2 clubs shows spades and a rounded suit (hearts or clubs)
(b) 2 diamonds shows diamonds and a major
(c) 2 hearts and 2 spades are natural
(d) 2NT shows a single suit in a minor -relay to 3 clubs
(e) Double shows equal value

5. If opponents are playing Precision and open one club (16+ hcps), what sort of defensive bids should be used? Jeff recommends the "Mathe" system in the direct seat:
(a) The suit bids of 1 diamond through 2 clubs are all natural.
(b) The bid of 1 No Trump shows both minors
(c) Double shows both majors

6. If you open 1 no trump with a 5 card major, should you use Puppet Stayman (a 2 club inquiry by responder asking opener if he has a 5 card major)? Jeff did not seem to be enthusiastic about Puppet Stayman. He said that the two level responses to one no trump openers are too important to sacrifice for Puppet Stayman and that if we are going to use it, to work it into a system of 3 level responses. Although he did not say so, I assume that he would also not use it over two no trump openers.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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