Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Responding to Weak 2 Bids (Part 2)

In Part 1 we viewed the bidding from responder’s side and discussed how to recognize invitational and game going hands and how to bid them. It did not surprise me that my commentary raised the ire of many supporters of the “feature’ treatment. Confidentially, I think they just did not want to admit that they had wasted all this time and energy on a bid calculated to be more counterproductive than helpful. Others wrote me that I was trying to make the game too simple (suggesting that it is impossible to simplify bridge) and that there are no substitutes for minds that cannot deal with significant complexity. Well, I reject that as well, and again suggest to those of my readership in the novice or intermediate category that you look at my simplistic “Red Light/Green Light” solution. The conservative nature of the treatment may cause you to miss a close game or two now an then, but it will never lead you to games you should not be in. Looking at it from a match point standpoint, missing a tight game will still get you no worse than an average minus, whereas being in a game that is hopeless from the start will almost guarantee a bottom.

What do you do as responder when you do not have an invitational or game going hand. Assume RHO has made a take out double. Here are some choices that I like, although as usual they probably do not enjoy universal support. If as responder you hold:

1. Kxx or Axx in partner’s bid suit, raise partner’s bid to the 3 level. This identifies these two specific holdings and will help partner with his opening lead if he has (god forbid!) bid a broken suit. Assume partner holds KJxxxx. It is probably cash out time and partner now knows that you hold Axx, so he can safely lead away from his tenace. Your failure to make the raise may also prevent partner from making an otherwise disastrous lead in his suit.

2. With more than 3 cards in partner’s suit, raise as you would under the Laws of Total Tricks. Thus with 109xx raise partner’s 2 spades to 4 spades. The concept is most reliable where the hands are unbalanced. If you have a square hand and the vulnerability is against you, it gets more risky.

3. With 3 cards in the suit not supported by the Ace of King you have two options.

(a) Note that the Law of Total Tricks would say raise partner to the 3 level. Since that bid is already taken (see 1 above), we need another bid to show this holding. That bid is a conventional 2NT which asks partner to bid three in his bid suit.

(b) If you have a suit that you would like led other than the weak 2 bid suit, you bid that suit. This is purely lead directing and says nothing about the length or playability of the suit. We don’t intend to play a contract in that suit, and if the bid is passed partner will safely correct at the 3 level (note that we do have 9 trump). Your bid may have saved partner from a disastrous lead that gives a trick away or may direct him to the killing lead. In matchpoints you do not have to set the hand, only take one extra trick.

4. Rarely it happens that you have a suit of your own that you think is probably better than partner’s suit. This becomes more appealing if you have shortage in partner’s suit. Don’t expect much support from partner since he is already known to have 6 cards in another suit. Since a simple change of suit would be lead directing (see 3b above), you will have to make a jump shift to show this hand. This better be a special hand!!!

5. If you do not have a holding that fits on of the above options, simply “PASS.” The negative inferences of a pass will not be lost on a good partner.

With all that I have said, I will pass on two pieces of wisdom from my excellent partner, Howard Christ, that are worth thinking about. First, “the pass card is the most under used card in the box.” Second, “unless you think partner needs to know, don’t over inform declarer.” Now that I have preempted his comments, let me say that I think there is more danger that partner will give up a trick on the opening lead than your bid will tell declarer something he does not know about the weak 2 bidder’s hand, or for that matter, your holding.

If you use these treatments, you will need to “alert” all bids by responder other than a pass or raise to game.

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