Since I am journeying to Rochester, New York for 2 weeks I need to find the cold weather gear. Rochester is the snow equivalent of Buffalo, it just avoids the publicity. For all the wonderful things that Toronto has to offer, the only thing it sends to Rochester is a snow dump as it comes over Lake Ontario. I went to Ocala yesterday shopping for one of those World War II bomber hats with sheepskin flaps but all I got was strange stares. Nothing new for me. Forget the warm clothes, just send really good scotch. Second Choice, some fur lined sandals.
Today we continue with my dialog on being a "4th seat warrior." Just to stay in focus with my current theme, in Noverber, I first discussed major suit OBAR bids (Opponents Bid and Raise the same suit) where partner has passed in-between. I noted that 2NT following this OBAR sequence is “unusual” for minors (preferably 5-5 or a strong 4 carder if 5-4). So with xx, x, KQxxx, QJxxx and 1h/p/2h, bid 2NT showing your minors. Partner picks his best minor.
In my most recent blog, I started the discussion of “Responsive Doubles” where opponents make OBAR bids in either majors or minors with an intervening take out double by partner. A double directly over opponents raise in this sequence is a Responsive Double. If it is a minor suit OBAR sequence, then the responsive double always shows 4-4 or better in the majors. When it is a major suit OBAR, there are a couple of twists depending on which major suit is bid. To cement this concept in your mind, it may be a good time to review again the preceding blog, Responsive Doubles (Part 1).
In this post I am going to discuss an OBAR sequence where partner has made an intervening standard overcall over the opening bid. Note that the only difference in this situation is partner’s overcall rather than a take out double. In all of these bids that I have discussed, just watch for the OBAR sequence by opponents, as that is the prime requirement your 4th seat intervention. Your double in this instance is said to be “responsive” to partner’s 1 spade overcall and shows 5-5 in the unbid suits. Like unusual no trump, in 4th postion it can be 5-4, but the 4 carder should be playable against 3 card support. AJTx just won’t do it.
The auction is 1h/1s/2h. Your hand is x, xx, KTxxx, QTxxx. Tell me, is this hand a piece of crap or the crown jewels? You got to see the beauty in this hand. At any vulnerability I’d be jumping up and down to double for minors. Partner is almost guaranteed to have at least 3 card support in one of the minors. Why do I know that? We know that they have an 8 card fit and when opponents have an 8 card fit it is a 93% probability that we will have an 8+ card fit as well.
You and partner need to agree on the maximum level of responsive doubles. For ease of memory some writers recommend that you and partner apply responsive doubles through the same bidding level that you use for negative doubles. What is the double if it is made beyond your agreed level? Penalty double, natch!
At the two level you don’t need much by way of hcps. It is always better to have your points primarily in your long suits and to be more aggressive when non-vulnerable. If you have doubt, it is rarely wrong to get into the bidding.
Now, in addition to our natural bids and cue bids, you have three more ways to get into the bidding after the opponents smugly “OBAR” you. Let me say this one more time, if the opponents OBAR they are showing an 8+ card suit. It is almost a mathematical certainty that they are headed for a minimum +110 if it’s a major. They are fat dumb and happy and unless opener has a game going hand, they are praying for an opportunity to play it at the 2 level. You are not supposed to be the answer to their prayers. You are supposed to be their worst nightmare.
I think some of may say “Isn’t this a balancing problem and isn’t the guy in the pass-out seat supposed to take care of that?” Can’t we just pass and blame partner for failure to balance. That a may soothe your conscience, but not get many matchpoints. Balancing in the pass-out seat has a counterpart and it is called pre-balancing. All of the bids discussed above are pre-balancing bids because they occur prior to any rebid by opener.
How do you know when to pre-balance and when to pass it around to partner to balance? One of the best guidelines is to count the cards you have in their suit. If they have 8 and we have 5 and you have only 1 of the 5, that means that partner has 4. If he has 4 cards in their suit, it is unlikely that he has a hand suited to balancing, so look at your hand again and do something. The opposite is equally true. If you got 4 cards, partner has 1 so let it roll around to him. How about those 3-2 splits. Well if I have two, I am going to try to pre-balance, since I think my chances of getting it right are better than pard’s.
Is bidding in these circumstances risky business? Sure, there is some minimal risk, but the riskiest thing you can do at match points is let opponents play the hand at the two level. If you make a responsive double what can possibly happen? Opener has three choices, redouble, bid again or pass. A redouble by opener, whatever it means in this sequence, will become meaningless since partner will bid something opposite your responsive double. If opener decides to pass, partner will also take a bid. In each instance we may find a good fit and be able to successfully compete for the hand. What if they bid again? Well, now they have to take 9 tricks instead of 8, and if they fail, we beat all those pairs that let their opponents play at the two level. On the other hand, if they bid again and make 9 tricks, it’s the same match point score whether they bid 2 or 3, and nothing is lost.
So partner responds to the responsive double. The choices are about the same as before, opponents can pass, double or bid again. They pass? I like our chances of getting a favorable board. They double? Get real, how often are opponents going to take the risky course of doubling you into game? Not very often if, and if you think not, just look at your own doubling record. Most of the time they will feel that you are robbing them of a good contract and will raise the bid to the 3 level. Well, if they do, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Assume they have an 8 card fit, the Law of Total Tricks states they are safe to compete to the 2 level. There is an excellent chance that a three level contract is one too many.
So take the time to learn how to be a good 4th seat Warrior. If you are not afraid to make overcalls that show only one suit, how can bids that show two alternate suits present more risk?
You may have noticed my cat Virgil at the top of my blog. I am sorry to say that we lost Virgil a couple of weeks ago. He was a Norwegian Forest Cat that we had for 15 years. He spent every waking hour wondering how he could comfort Alla and me, and simply wore himself out. What more could you ask, but we miss him.
On a Cheerier Note, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers. I Promise in 2013 to make it a priority to post some kind of an index to the Blog that is more user friendly than Blogspot’s archive.