Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Dummy is No Dummy

Well, I stole a line from the great one, Marty Bergen, who asserts that when his dummy hand comes down it is clear that he has been no dummy. The correlative of that is that some dummies are actually --- dare I say it? True “Dummies!” How do you jump out of the latter category and get on that lofty perch with Marty. Well its not that hard, just recognize the need to revalue your hand when the partnership has found a trump suit fit. Various terminology is used to describe the revaluation process and authors alternatively talk about support points, distributional points or dummy points. In this post I will use the term “dummy points.” You can revalue your hand with dummy points at any point in the auction where it is clear that a fit exists and that your hand will be dummy. How’s that for simple! Most of us get a general notion when we are destined to become the dummy.

Most often this will occur when partner opens 1 of a major and you look down and have 3+ cards in his major suit. On other occasions opener will open 1 of a minor, you will bid 1 of a major and opener, with support for your major suit, raises your major to the appropriate level based open’s hand strength. In these auctions responder is going to play the hand and opener will be the dummy. So, just to warm up to dummy recognition, when you see you are about to become the dummy just mutter “I am a Dummy.”

Now that we have achieved dummy recognition, how do we use that to get to our goal – getting more masterpoints faster. The answer: When you have a fit with partner and are destined for the dummy role, adjust your starting points (what you think you had before the bidding) by converting your starting points to dummy points. If bridge is just a social event, stop reading, you don’t need to know about dummies to meet a lot of nice people, even though some of them may also be dummy-dummies.

This seems so basic that I am almost embarrassed to write it. Surely all of you have been told to revalue fitting hands as dummy. The standard of yesteryear was to value a doubleton as 1 point, singletons as 3 points and voids as 5 points. Well, that is better than nothing, but with suit shortness (singletons and voids) it is often too generous and will overvalue the dummy. This is where your well intended partner asks “where is the hand that you bid?”

The value of suit shortness is directly linked to the number of supporting trump cards in the dmmy hand. Surely it must have occurred to you that a singleton with 3 supporting trump is worth less than a singleton with 4 supporting trump. If you agree, then how can they both be valued as 3 dummy points? It is very possible that with only 3 card trump support that partner may not even be able to ruff even one loser from his hand. Yes, that is a bad day and with non-cooperating opponents, but at least it makes a point. What happened to those 3 dummy points?

Conversely. with 4 trump you are virtually guaranteed to be able to ruff at least one loser, and very often two or more. Think about this: If you have an card 8 trump fit, one opponent will hold 4+ trump an astounding 33% of t he time. Hardly a rarity, more like a recipe for disaster. On the other hand, if your trump fit is 9 cards, one opponent will hold 4 trump only 10% of the time. As a general rule, bid aggressively when you have a 9 card fit and more conservatively when the fit is only 8 cards.

The same is true with voids. If you have a void, it is likely that partner has at least 4+ cards in your void suit. If they are not AKQJ, he needs some trump to ruff his losers in that suit. By the same logical reasoning, the more trump held by dummy, the more valuable the void.

Marty Bergen has refined dummy valuation by changing the dummy point valuation formula to better account for the true value of the dummy. Here is the rule:

When a fit is established and you have said to yourself, “I am the dummy, but not a dummy” revalue your starting points by adding (a) one dummy point for each doubleton (b) two dummy points for each singleton except if you have 4+ supporting trump add 3 points for each single and (c) for any void add dummy points equal to the number of supporting trump that you hold. This is not a moon shot, but still “one small step for man.”

For example, if you ordinarily start with hcps and then add points for suits with more than 4 cards, that’s your starting value. You keep that value and simply add your dummy points to it.

Now you know what dummy points are and how to correctly value them, the next task is to know when to use them. Here’s my advice, use them in every auction where it is apparent that you and partner have a fit and you are the DD (designated dummy). I’ll bet my wrist watch that 95% of my reader’s fail that test. Let’s look at some auctions.

1. 1s/2s. This is a “fluff ball”, DD has 6-9 Dummy Points (DP). Did you notice that I said nothing about hcps? If you know what constructive raises are, try to forget them.

2. 1s/3s. If it shows a limit raise DD has 10-12 DP. If a weak jump raise, DD has 4-5 DP.

3. 1s/3c. If Reverse Bergen DD has 10-12 DP. If Regular Bergen DD has 6-9 DP.

4. 1s/2NT. Jacoby naturally, DD needs 13+ DP. The bid is of unlimited strength.

5. 1s/4c. Splinter (4 card support) with club shortness. DD has 13-16 DP. If you have 17+ use Jacoby 2NT rather than the space eating Splinter.

6. 1s/4s. For most good players this shows 5+ trump and total lack of defense. It is preemptive. Worry about having too much rather than too little. 6 or fewer DP and no outside Ace. This is not your mother’s 4s bid!

7. 1s/x/2NT. Jordan. A conventional bid showing 3 card support and 10-12 DP. Using Jordan a redouble (10+ hcps) would imply no fit for partner.

8. 1s/2c/3c/. Cue Bid showing 3+ card support and 10+ DP. There should be no upper limit to this bid since 2NT would be natural and not Jacoby.

9. 1d/p/1h/p/2h. For most, 4 card support and 13-16 DP. If opener rebids 3h rather than 2h, it shows 17-19 DP and if 4h, then 20+DP. Note that opener is the Dummy.

10. p/p/1s/p/2c. Drury. 3 card support and 10-12 DP. If 2-way Drury then 2d would show 4 card support but still 10-12 DP.

11. 1d/1s/2d/3d. Cue bid supporting partner’s spade overcall. 10+ DP. Here the advancer to the overcall values his hand based on DP.

Notice that we got rid of all this confusion about whether Bergen Raises, Jacoby, Drury etc. etc. are measured by hpcs or dummy points. If you are (or expect to be) a dummy on fitting hands, just adjust your starting count (however you arrived at it) by adding on your dummy points.

If you don’t like this idea, you can always pay a few thousand dollars for a 2 day seminar with Marty Bergen in Las Vegas. A low cost option would be to buy his book Slam Bidding Made Easier. If you are the 10 minute manager type, just read this blog post again. If you think I am full of crap, HONK!!!