Knowing that I am an unrelenting “fashionista”, I overheard my friend, Dick Ragatz mention that the latest rage in the Men’s department is “Spanx.” If you don’t know what they are then you must have a perfect body. Think about cut off panty hose. Strolling through Dillard’s men’s department, I spotted a rack full of them. I think you can guess the rest. Knowing that this was new territory (at least that is my story), I consulted my wife Alla on how to keep them from riding down like cheap panty hose. She said tuck your shirt tails under the Spanx.
Full of renewed confidence I decided the perfect place for a practice run was the Friday Bridge game in Hernando. To add a little courage, I decided having a beer on the way to the game would be a good idea on the theory that nothing can hurt my bridge game. It can’t be much more than the third set of boards when my aging bladder started to send signals. I rushed to the men’s room to find that the only way to get through three layers was “drop trou” and sit down. Now I am a stand up guy and relentlessly adaptable to new solutions, so I grabbed some scissors from my infamous “black bag” and cut a nice 6 inch arc out of the front of the hem of my golf shirt. The good news is that the problem was solved. The bad news is that I have a curious hole in the front of my $125 golf shirt. So if you see me wearing a red shirt, you will know that it is a Spanx day. If you see me tugging at my waist, please don’t pull the alert card.
One problem solved, will the rest of the day be flawless? Oh hell no. I am on some of my best behavior closely adhering to bidding standards as set forth in our 40 page bidding agreement: Bang, I am in 4th seat non-vul vs. vul and dealt something like xxx, x, AQxxx, KJxx. The bidding goes 1h/p/2h/2NT. I think this bid cannot be misunderstood, but admit it has not been recently (possibly never) discussed. My partner is an unrelenting purist and anything that is not discussed in the past 20 minutes has the meaning ascribed to it by Charles Goren in 1948. I, on the other hand, am more of an innovator in the style of Marty Bergen. As someone is sure to say, “Sir, you are no Marty Bergen.” Fortunately, we are still smiling and partners after the opponents ran the first 9 tricks in the majors. Nothing like an undiscussed bid to punch a hole in your game.
OK, who is right? Well, both of us. My partner because he is entitled to be consumed iny his time warp, and your blogger since modern bridge long ago changed the default of the 2 No Trump in this sequence to Unusual No Trump for minors. My hero, Larry Cohen, in a recent free news letter discusses the many facets of Unusual No Trump. Here are some of his guidelines:
1. In the direct seat most often it is a weakish preemptive hand showing the two lowest unbid suits with decent suit quality and 5+/5+ length. If vulnerable, the suit quality should move from decent to good. If preemptive, the bidder intends to pass any preference shown by his partner. If the hand is a really good hand (17+), the intention would be to a make a second bid showing these values. If the hand falls in between preemptive and really good (the so-called in-between hand) you need an agreement with partner whether to use Unusual No Trump or, alternatively to try bid both suits. There are adherents to both styles.
2. In the direct seat 2 NT is Unusual if opponent opened 1c, 1d, 1h, 1s, 1NT or 2c. The last two opening bids may surprise you since they occur so rarely
3. If partner is a passed hand, his bid of 2NT after his initial pass call is still Unusual 2NT. e.g. p/p/1c/p/2c/2NT (diamonds and hearts).
4. If opponents bid and raise any suit, e.g. 1h/p/2h/2NT, that is unusual no trump. If the bid and raised suit is a minor, the unusual 2NT guarantees at least 4 cards in each major.
5. Conversely, if the 2NT bidder is in the “reopening seat” 1d/p/p/2NT, that is the traditional 2NT reopening abid and shows a balanced hand with a stopper and 18-20 hcps.
6. How about the sequence ? 1x/p/1y/2NT. Unless you have some contrary bidding agreement (as we do) it should be treated as Unusual.
7. What if your LHO doubles your Unusual No Trump bid. 1h/2NT/x or 1h/p/2h/2NT/x. A pass should show equal length and substantially equivalent quality in both unusual suits and bidding either suit over the double should show a preference. A redouble can have any value you assign to it. Perhaps a hand with stoppers and some support fot the indicated suits, looking for No Trump. Your call.
The final issue is how long the two suits need to be. In the direct seat I prefer staying with the traditional 5+/5+. This reflects my general preference for disciplined bids so as to increase the quality of the information passed to partner. My fundamental belief is that the more discrete you make your bids and responses, the better the exchange of information and hence result. If your partnership permits 5-4 or 6-4 hands, it’s a choice of style, obviously not mine.
In the OBAR sequence (opponents bid and raise) with a 4th seat 2NT bid, it doesn’t bother me that the Unusual No Trump bidder has 5-4. If you look at the probabilities, opponents have an 8+ card suit and the odds are 93% that we also have an 8+ card suit. If we do nothing, they are well protected by the Law of Total Tricks and we will never find our competing suit. If they take another bid, good, they are one level higher. If they don’t take another bid we very likely will find an 8 or 9 card suit to compete in.
Was it an “unusual” day in the trenches? Definitely unusual for me, but then most are!!! Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .