Have You Discussed by Brent Manley

Brent Manley

Source: Bulletin 1; 52nd Gold Coast Congress

Gold Coast Official Site

Fifty-six years ago, Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone, two legendary figures in bridge, co-wrote “Bridge Is A Partnership Game”, a book that has been reprinted many times and is still available. You don’t have to read the book, of course, but you should respect the concept – and make it a priority to do as all good partners do – discuss, discuss, discuss.

You have learned about Stayman and Blackwood, negative doubles and a system for competing when the opponents open 1NT or get in the first shot with a weak two-bid. You know lots of conventions, but have you and your partner ever discussed your “style?”

Do you know what to expect when partner opens 1 or bids 2 over an opponent’s opening of 1? Would partner open 1 in first-seat holding: K J 5 4 2 Q 7 6 K J 3 10 4?

Would you? Believe it or not, lots of expert players consider this a fine opening bid – or is partner’s 1 more likely to look like this? Q J 10 9 7 A J 9 K Q 4 7 6

Would partner open a weak 2 bid on: 6 5 J 7 6 5 4 3 K 5 2 A 7?

Or would you expect partner’s weak 2opener to deliver: 10 9 K Q 10 8 6 5 5 4 § K 9 8?

Would your partner bid 2 over a 1 opening, regardless of vulnerability, with Q J 7 6 3 A K J 5 4 J 7 6 Would you?

It’s important to establish parameters for your bidding – in other words, your “style”. A wild and woolly approach will create problems for the opponents – you will pre-empt their bidding more often – but it will put you in a position for some truly bad scores.

Apart from having to grit your teeth through the disasters, you will be uncertain whether to try for game or slam
after partner’s opener for fear of getting too high.

There will also be times when you want to double the opponents but hold back because partner might have a collection of tram tickets instead of a real opening bid with actual tricks on defence.

As you might imagine, there are pluses and minuses for the aggressive approach and the style favoured by Hall of Famer Roth, who probably passed more 13-point hands in first or second seat than anyone in history.

For those who like to bid ‘em up, it’s an advantage to strike the first blow, which you will do more often, and when a big fit is found early in the auction, you can more safely take up the opponents’ bidding space.

Sound bidders – those whose minimum opener is a “good” 12-pointer with at least two quick tricks – have better constructive auctions and are confident when they double opponents who have stepped out of line.

The aggressive style is not recommended for newer players, but you don’t have to go Al Roth on your partner. Shapely hands with good intermediate cards – namely 10s and 9s – require fewer high-card points. For any opener in first or second seat, try to have at least a couple of quick tricks on defense. Balanced hands should be solid openers.

Try installing the 5-point rule for your weak two-bids. An opening bid of 2, 2 or 2 will include 5 high-card points in the suit – at worst six to the A-J. This will help responder decide whether further action is warranted.