Non-system Bidding Issues by Frank Stewart

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In my opinion, the current preoccupation with conventions and systems is unhealthy.

Frank Stewart chico1
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Source: ACBL

My Bridge and Yours: Non-system bidding issues — part 1

In my opinion, the current preoccupation with conventions and systems is unhealthy. Players focus on learning a system and neglect the development of vital, basic skills such as hand evaluation, visualization, planning the auction and maintaining discipline.

Hand evaluation

Most players rely on the 4-3-2-1 point count, which works well enough on balanced hands.

In valuing many hands, however, you must make intelligent adjustments.

(a) A943 1765 AK62 K3

(b) QJ43 QJ5 KJ3 2 KJ

Aces and kings are undervalued on the 4-3-2-1 scale. An ace is a trick the holder can win when he chooses, a certain entry and an honor that promotes the value of accompanying honors. Queens and jacks are overvalued, especially for suit play. If your partner is known to have a balanced 20 points, both (a) and (b) might offer the same chance at 6NT.

But if you are dealer, you would prefer (a), where the primary honors are promising defensive cards.

West East
A K 9 7 3
A K 4
6
Q 1042
Q 8 5
J 9 5 2
Q 7
J 9 3
   
West North East South
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 The End    
       

The defense got a diamond, two clubs, a club ruff and a heart. Perhaps West’s 4 was too aggressive — he might have tried 3 — but East’s hand was too junky for the encouraging single raise.

If East responds 1NT, the auction may be 1-1NT; 2-2; Pass.

(a) AQ43 AK43 654 54

(b) AQ43 AK4 654 543

Many methods recommend counting extra points for long suits when you pick up your hand. Here, counting an extra point for the doubleton club in hand (a) gives a more accurate assessment. Hand (a), with two four-card suits, is better, even though no “long” suits are present.

(a) 764 AJ7 5 87 AK4 3

(b) J65 A8 75 K7 A876

Be more willing to open (a). High cards are more valuable when they support each other. The K in (a) is a winner, but the value of the K in (b) is uncertain. Unsupported queens and jacks are dubious values for offense; the J in (a) is more likely to win a trick than the J in (b).

Isolated honors lose value if partner has a weak hand. If partner opens 1NT, raise to 3NT with either of these:

(a) Q54 K54 A2 J10 5 32

(b) 543 543 A2 KQJ103

If you were defending 3NT, how-ever, you would rather have (b).

(a) KQ543 KQJ32 J6 5

(b) 5 J6 KQ543 KQJ32

Possession of the major suits (especially spades) makes the auction easier to manage. Since your chances of buying the contract are better on (a), it is the better opening bid.

(a) A73 AJ43 K43

(b) A10 A95 K103 AJ985

Hand (b) is better. You have good intermediates, and your aces will buy time to establish your five-card suit. Trump quality is the most impor-tant factor in making competitive decisions or trying for game or slam. Maybe you can find a way around side-suit losers, but losers in the trump suit may be unavoidable.

West North East South
  1 Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 3
Pass 4 Pass 4
Pass 4 Pass ?
       

(a) 10642 K4 AKJ43 65

(b) K642 K4 AJ5 43 65

Make another slam move on (b). If you hold (a), the weak trumps are a danger sign.

North may have a diamond singleton, reducing the value of the K. Sign off at 4 .

West North East South
  1 Pass
2
Pass 3 Pass ?
       

(a) KJ6 76 KJ5 3 9752

(b) 532 76 KJ5 3 KJ5 2

This decision is close; either a pass or a 4 bid might be the winner. Be more willing to raise with (a) since the trump honors are sure to be useful.

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