Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Super Duper Acceptance

Almost everybody who can sort cards knows about Jacoby Transfers in no trump bidding. Usually after a 1 No Trump opener and a Jacoby Transfer, partner will dutifully accept the transfer by bidding the indicated major at the 2 level. From there the bidding proceeds in three directions. Responder either passes, invites or bids game. Responder’s strength requirement for each of these three options is a little fuzzy depending on whether the game is matchpoints or IMP’s, the vulnerability and just how gosh darn mad you are. Almost equally familiar is the concept of “Super Acceptance”. If you asked 100 people in a 25 table game about super acceptance, 99% would say raise to the three level if you have a max and 4 trump and the other guy would be looking for a partner..

Most players today know the name Marty Bergen, a wonderful bridge theorist who brought aggressive competitive bidding to the forefront in matchpoint bridge. He gained bridge immortality by his innovative way of dealing with major suit raises known as “Bergen Raises”, probably second only to Stayman in terms of popular conventions. Since Better Bidding by Bergen was published 24 years ago, there are many players in the game today who have never even seen the book, much less read it. Marty may not have been the father of “super acceptance”, but he was one of the first to write about it. It may come as a surprise to today’s players that Marty had a somewhat different take on Super Acceptance borne out of his championing of the Law of Total Tricks.

In a recent e-mail to me Marty reiterated his position: Jump to the 3 level in the major if you have a “bad” opening 1NT hand, bid 2NT with 4333 and a “max” and bid any doubleton you hold if you have a “nice” hand and 4432. Notice Marty did not seek to define the term “bad”, “nice” or “max”. Marty would place greater value on Aces and Kings and discount Queens, but to avoid subjective arguments, let’s assume they mean roughly 15-16 and 17 to the unwashed. When I asked about the premise for what I call “Super Duper Accepts” (also known as Bergen Super Accepts), four letters came rolling back on my screen, LOTT!!! After all, we have 9 trump so we need to be at the 3 level, why wait? Hold onto that thought for a moment.

The problem arises when responder has a hand that he intends to transfer and pass. Modern thinking on this technique holds that you transfer anytime you have a 5 card major and it can be done with 0 points. Earlier this week I held AKQx, Q752, KQT, 85. The bidding went 1NT/2h(transfer)/3spades(super accept). I thought I would give Marty’s theory a try. Partner’s hand was J7643, T8, 75, QJ72. As you can see, we lose 5 tricks off the top, down 1 on a hand that every other pair made +110. Certainly the fault is not with partner in making the transfer.

The problem I see with the application of the LOTT is that it is a competitive bidding guideline. By the time responder passes the 2 level transfer bid, the auction is only competitive if opponents will balance by bidding 2 spades (in the case of hearts) or double or a make 3 level bid. This may be standard balancing procedure at professional levels, but when was the last time you witnessed this at the club level. Even with skilled amateurs you don’t see much balancing in these sequences, and if opponents don’t compete, you often are just one level too high.

Confused by this, I asked another nationally renowned bridge theorist, Danny Kleinman, to look at my hand and tell me what went wrong. In short order Danny told me “Tommy, your hand was not good enough to make a super acceptance.” His “idiots guideline” for me was revalue your hand as a supporting hand and if you have 4 supporting trump and the hand has now grown out of your no trump range, then super accept. Thus if you have 17 and a doubleton, you revalue to 18 and super accept. Otherwise be content with a standard acceptance.

You may have been wondering about Marty’s recommendation to bid your doubleton suit when you have 4 card trump support and a “nice” hand. This is pretty clever since the no trump opener is now the short trump hand and the additional trump will be of value only if the hand has a ruffing value. By locating the doubleton for responder, you enable him to better gauge the value of the 4th trump. It may look like this is on the slippery slope to wrong siding the hand, but Marty solved that as well with his concept of “retransfers.” Upon hearing the doubleton bid, responder simply transfers again and now opener bids the major. Everything back to square.

Lets take a final look at Marty’s recommendation to bid 2NT when you have 4 trump, 4333 and a max. This is the opposite of the 4332 hand, it may have a 4th trump, but the hand has no ruffing value. It will probably make the same number of tricks in no trump as it will in a major suit even with a 9 card fit. The 2NT bid is a clear warning to responder about playing a suit contract and the last chance to get off the train by passing 2NT if responder has one of those “transfer and duck” hands.

If you currently have only one flavor to your super accept, I think you might consider Bergen’s technique of bidding the doubleton with 4432 and nice hand and bidding 2NT with a max and 4333. As for three level jumps, I think Danny Kleinman’s idiots rule suits me best. If you promise you will always balance over the passed transfer, I may change my mind. :-)

1 comment:

em64th said...

Imagine..... I ask about your super accept today, and find the answer in my email tonite.

Thanks Tommy. I love your writing style.... never miss the next paragraph, or you miss a smile. Great wit.

Quite a system.... Carol has never asked me to play it, and it would have worked yesterday if I'd had it..... I had the 4 pieces, but only 16 points.

More chance to use the convention this way.

Thanks again.