Last night I was having a friendly IMP game at Bridge Base on Line with an on line partner, Cara. At BBO there is little time to discuss detailed bidding sequences even if you happen to be a key board whiz and know all the "new age" texting shortcuts. Me? Given 10 minutes, I might be able to find a cell phone, but don’t bet the farm on it. Even when I try to communicate on line, the words seem to lack vowels, sentences lack verbs and only the Turks understand me.
Most of the time you are playing some form of SAYC. It ranges from very basic to complete, but most often they don’t bother to tell you. The full description of two over one game force is exactly “2/1” and you are on your own from there. These factors combine for very limited use of conventional bids other than Stayman, Transfers and Blackwood. One of the areas where you don’t expect issues are 15-17 no trump opening hands, but when Stayman, transfer and no trump raises are inadequate to describe responder’s hand, you have to figure out how you showed distributional hands before you had partnership agreements and a convention card to guide you.
Responder hands with more than 8 major suit cards fall in this category. We need to find our best fit and tell opener about our strength. Will all who know how to do it please raise their hands right now? You are excused from this blog. Remember, no short cuts, you need to do it the old fashioned way.
Today most advanced players would use the Smolen Convention to show the 5-4 major hand with at least invitational values. In a previous post I discussed Smolen, but do you remember how you bid this hand before you had the conventional crutch? Absent any agreement, I would recommend starting with Stayman! Yes, I said Stayman not Transfer! If partner bids either major, it is a happy day no matter which major it is. If partner bids 2 diamonds, you next bid your 5 card major. Bid it at the 2 level if your hand is invitational (7-8 hcps), and bid it at the 3 level if you have a game forcing hand. So with KJxxx, QJxx, xx, xx, after 1NT/2c/2d/ a second response of 2 spades should show this 5-4 invitational hand. If the majors are reversed, the second response would be 2 hearts. For opener it is pass or bid a major or 3NT game with a max.
If you make responder’s hand KJTxx, KJTx, x, xxx, you want to make a game forcing 2nd response, so after Stayman, bid the 5 card spade suit at the 3 level. It will be disappointing if pard is 2-3-4-4, but with 2 tens and the 5 card suit, I still like my chances at 3NT. So with 5-4 in the majors “Stay with STAYMAN.”
The hand I actually anguished over was AQxxx, KTxxx, x, xx. Yummy yummy! I was all set to respond 3 spades, with most of my regular partners that shows 5-5 in the majors, game force. Then I suddenly remembered that I had no agreement on the 3 level responses, and I was expected to show this holding by a SAYC bidding sequence. Does anyone remember what it is?
Well, with 5-5 you start with Transfer, but which suit do you transfer to. Start with transferring opener to hearts if you have an invitational hand like AJxxx, JTxxx, x, xx, since that enables responder to rebid 2 spades after the transfer acceptance and show invitational values. With the game force hand, it doesn’t really matter what suit you transfer as long as your 2nd response is at the 3 level. I like the discipline of transferring your best major in case opener has 3 card support for both majors and needs to make a choice. On a bad day opener might bid 3NT, confessing that he had opened a 2-2-4-5 hand, but with that hand opener is expected to have a stopper (or at least a half stopper) in the majors, so there should be a play for 3NT. So when you are 5-5, "Start with Transfer".
How did it all work out in the heat of battle? Well, I got it right, but didn’t know it until the next morning when I looked it up. Cara had no trouble understanding my jump rebid was forcing and put me us in 4 hearts, which made in a breeze thanks to her great declaring skills.
Just when you think you have it all worked out, you are dealt 6-4 in the majors. There may be some advantages in searching for the 4-4 major fit as trump, but only when partner has exactly 2 card support for your 6 card major. This is too much of a dream world for me. Assume you bid 2 clubs and opener responds 2 diamonds showing no 4 card major. Is your on line partner (or any partner for that matter) now going to figure out that a 2nd response of 4 hearts is really an attempt by you to make a Texas Transfer to spades. You will know it a was a poor decision when opponents start rudely typing "faster, faster" and you wonder if partner lost her connection. Of course you can always bid 4 spades and even on line they can figure that out, but now you have the 1NT hand on the table and the lead coming up to the weaker hand. Save your self some grief and just make a Texas transfer to start with. At least you will not summarily be removed from the table by your own partner.
The next time you come on line at BBO be sure to designate me as a “friend”. My screen name is “tommylee” and I would enjoy playing a few hands with any of my readers.