Sunday, April 26, 2009

The truth is out there.....

In my last post I posed this problem

Partner's bid appears to be irrational.
Since normal thought is not going to help, lets try the alternate style of crossing out alternatives.

Option 1: Partner has a weak hand with long clubs. Say QJ to eight clubs and out. That would be a comfortable natural, non-forcing 2C bid. Passing an eight card suit and giving up on an opportunity to bid cheaply does not seem to fit in with our bid-early-bid-quick style.

Points, Schmoints. In competitive auctions, shape rules.

So let us strike out a weak hand with long clubs

Option 2 : Partner has bit of a spade fit and some club values and is exploring for game. Again, making ambiguous wishy-washy bids is not our style. Although we have never explicitly discussed it, we go out of our way to avoid bids that partner may not understand. Partner is our friend, do not torture him.
Martin Reid mentioned the prototypical Qx,xxx,xxx,AKxxx hand for this theory but for us, this would be a 4S bid (bidding 1S and 2S shows a good hand) or 3S on a conservative day.

While there are still some lingering doubts in my mind about long-weak-clubs theory, we can certainly strike out this delicate game-try theory.

Option 3 : Is there an option three ?
Nothing else seems to be possibly going on. Or could it ?

If you have a genuine interest in getting to the heart of this problem, I would recommend stopping here and try thinking about a third option.

I recall reading something in a book or a magazine about what were believed to be bidding principles over 50 years ago. These were common sense beliefs in the expert community, some of which continue to be relevant today and some do not.
For example, partner passes as dealer, RHO opens 1H, we pass, LHO bids 4H, partner comes back in with 4S. Today, in our developed(?) style of bidding, we do not have a clue what partner has. Back then, this sequence clearly showed a weak two-suiter. Say 6 spades and a 5 card minor.

Another such principle was "Passing over 1NT and then coming back into the auction shows a solid suit". There isn't much point to bidding seven solid diamonds over a strong NT. Why not try a pass for now, hoping to go plus against 1NT or 3NT, but if the opponents seem to be heading into a suit contract, then we can always re-enter with 3D. Or so the thought of the time went.....

If we seriously consider this option, the rest of the hand falls perfectly into place. The opponents were in a vulnerable 1NT, a penalty double was not available, the points add up, there rates to be a spade misfit.
So the only thing which makes sense is approximately seven solid clubs and out.

Ergo, a confident 3NT and a prompt redouble.

Or perhaps a classic case of hindsight bias ?


  1. Certainly looking at the things that 3C cannot be: Looking at the vulnearbility, it cannot be an aim at improving a part score. It cannot be a game try for Spades. What else is left ? Not an insight biais to me.

  2. I've never been convinced by the 'pass NT with a solid suit' argument (although Ish does include one hand designed to prove its a good idea every time he sets themed practice hands).

    The problem is that for every time the auction continues "all pass" and you cash the first 7 tricks, there are 3 times when the opponents have shape too and bid:

    ... (3H) P (4H)

    Which can leave you in a tough spot.

    I'm still open to being convinced otherwise!

  3. I like this theory but unless you partnership has actually discussed it, surely with a solid 7 card suit you would do more than a non-forcing 3C opposite a now known intermediate jump - say 3H for example. 3H can't be a spade raise - you have 3S for that

  4. Do you have a way to show both minors directly after 1NT? What would 2NT here be (instead of 3C)?

    I think ...
    * your approach of ruling out hands that partner could have shown some other way is inherently right, and Sherlock Holmes would approve
    * solid clubs is a plausible alternative from what is left
    * is it the only plausible alternative left?

    I don't think so. How about a weak xx56? "Didn't want to stick my neck on the chopping block partner, but now that you've done it for us, I think a minor might be better."

    One might bid 2NT with that hand and reserve 3m for solid minor. Or one might bid 2NT with xx65/xx55 and reserve 3C for xx56. Or one might bid 2NT with a weak 6 card minor and a heart stopper. Or one might bid 2NT with 2 small spades and a couple of heart stoppers ("partner, if you can see a bunch of tricks, maybe we can make 3NT"). One might have any of these agreements, or something completely different.

    I think you might be suffering from a form of solution bias. We all do it. We think of a good solution and then we stop thinking.

    To be completely honest, I'm not sure that "solid clubs" is actually a such a great solution. What else might partner have done with his solid club suit, having passed over 1NT? How about 3H? Ask partner to do the right thing in the most direct way you can think of. Don't ask him to try to figure out a new agreement on the spot.

    It's easy to suffer from solution bias in Tony's seat as well. You pass 1NT with your solid clubs. Ok, fair enough. Then the next round happens and now what? You look at your hand and run through Option 1 and Option 2 and think ... my hand is the only hand type left, so I'm in the clear to bid 3C. Sartaj is a pretty good player, he'll figure it out.

    Maybe you and Tony know the methods and style you play well enough that solid clubs really is the only option left. For me, on the information given, I might give 3NT a fly (what the hell, go for the result that pays off big) but no way am I redoubling!