Way off topic: bidding at bridge

When I was in graduate school, I gave up bridge and took up folk dancing instead. I’ll stick with that choice as long as I can.

But sometimes I think about bridge bidding.

Assume that the normal contract is right more often than an abnormal contract. Then the ideal bidding system is one which most often gets you into the normal contract and gets your opponents into an abnormal contract. My guess is that most bridge bidding theory emphasizes bidding accuracy for your side more than disrupting opponents. But what I write here will share that (over-) emphasis.

I like a big club opening. What I like most about it is the limits it places on other openings. I propose the following openings.

1C: any hand with 15 or more high-card points (HCP)
1D: 12-14 HCP unbalanced, must have a 4-card major, could have any number of diamonds, including none.
1M: 11-14, 5 or more cards in suit
1NT: 12-14 HCP balanced, includes 5-3-3-2 distribution with 5 cards in a minor
2C: 12-14 HCP, unbalanced, denies a 4-card major. Hence 6 or more clubs or 5-4 in clubs and diamonds
2D: 12-14 HCP unbalanced, denies a 4-card major. Hence 6 or more diamonds or 5-4 in diamonds and clubs
2M: 6-10 HCP, 6 cards in suit
2NT: a 7-card major with enough values to open 1M

I have not seen this combination of 1D, 2C, 2D in other systems. It has two advantages. One is that when I have a minor-suit opener with no 4-card major, it forces the opponents to come in at the 2 level. The other is that partner knows not to try for a 4-4 fit in the majors after I open 2C or 2D. It makes it easy to find such a fit after a 1D opening.

Responses to 1C:

1D: any distribution, either 0-4 HCP or 11+ HCP.
1H: any distribution, 5-7 HCP.
1S: 8-10 HCP, balanced
1NT: 8-10 HCP with a 5-card major
2m: 8-10 HCP, unbalanced, 4 or more cards in m
2M: 4-7 HCP, 6 or more cards in M

The ambiguity of 1D will be resolved quickly. After 1C-1D-1M, responder with the weak hand may raise 1M to 2M with 4-7 adjusted HCP (HCP + 3 points for 4-card support, 1 point for 3-card support), otherwise will pass. After 1C-1D-1M, any bid other than 2M shows the strong hand.

After 1C-1D-1NT, with the weak hand you pass, bid 2H, 2S, 3C, or 3D, all natural and expected to be passed. Don’t bother looking for a 4-4 fit in a major. With the strong hand you bid 2D to search for a 4-card major, and 2C otherwise–forcing opener to rebid 2D. Then you bid your longest suit or, if balanced, bid 2NT. So with the strong hand and 5 hearts, the auction goes 1C-1D-1NT-2C-2D-2H

If the 1C opener essentially has game in his own hand, he may jump-shift after 1C-1D. This forces to game opposite the weak hand.

The 1H response promises exactly one more bid by responder. After 1C-1H-x-y, a new suit by opener forces another round. But other rebids may be passed by responder. If opener has 19 HCP or more and 5 or more spades, a jump-shift to 2 spades is good for game forcing. Similarly, with 19 HCP and balanced, a jump-shift to 2NT is a useful game force.

The 1S, 1NT, and 2m responses usually end up in game, unless opener passes below game or bids 2NT and responder has a minimum and passes.

Responses to opening 1D (passing is definitely an option):

1M: 9 + HCP, 4 or more cards in suit
1NT: 10-12 HCP, no 4-card major
2m: 13+HCP, 4 or more cards in suit, no 4-card major, may be balanced or unbalanced. Game forcing.

Responses to 1M opening. Note, we adjust HCP based on the number of cards we have in support of partner’s M. With 0, subtract 3 HCP, with 1 we subtract 1 HCP, with 2 we make no adjustment, with 3 we add one HCP, and with 4 or more we add 3 HCP. Below use these adjusted HCP.

1S (over 1H) 9 + HCP, 5 or more spades.
2H (over 1S) 10+HCP, 5 or more hearts.
1 NT 8-11 HCP, less than 3-card support. NOT forcing. Hoping to play there and get a plus score.
2C 10-12 HCP with 4 cards in the other major and/or 3-card support, or 12-13 HCP with neither of those
2D 13+ HCP, says nothing about distribution. The only game force, other than a splinter
2M 8-10 HCP, at least 3 card support (remember that HCP are already adjusted up for support)
3M 4-7 HCP, at least 4 card support
jump-shift 10-12 HCP, singleton (mini-splinter).
2NT 12-13 HCP, less than 3-card support, natural. Invitational
4m, 3S (over 1H) or 4H (over 1S) splinters
4M to play

Think of 2C as non-forcing Stayman and 2D as forcing Stayman. Or think of 2C as my version of the forcing NT response.
Opener’s first priority after 2C or 2D is to show the other 4-card major, if he has it. Next priority is to rebid M if it has 6 cards. After 1M-2C, maybe bid 3C or 3D if that suit has 6 cards or a very strong 5 cards. Otherwise, after 1M-2C bid 2D regardless of distribution.

After 1M-2C-x, 2NT and 3M are invitational. Other bids should be passed by opener–responder has the information needed to fix the contract (although you may miss out on a minor-suit partial).

After 1M-2D bid 2NT if 5-3-3-2 distribution, otherwise bid 3m with 4 or more cards in that suit.

Responses to 1 NT.

2C either 10-12 HCP, Stayman, guarantees a 4-card major or preparing to sign off with 1NT-2C-x-2S
2D 13+ HCP, Stayman, guarantees at least a 4-card major
2H sign-off
2S 6 clubs, probing for 3 NT if opener has one of the top 3 clubs, or probing for club slam
2NT 6 diamonds, probing for 3 NT if opener has one of the top 3 diamonds, or probing for diamond slam
3C five-card heart suit, invites to game
3D five-card spade suit, invites to game
3H five-card heart suit, game force
3S five-card heart suit, game force
with 6-card major and an interest in slam, start with 2D then bid major.
with 6-card major and almost-game values, bid game

Note that there are several auctions that create game force situations early:

1C-1D-x-y, where x is a suit and y is a new suit
1C-1D-1NT-2C
1C-1D-1NT-2D
1D-2C
1D-2D
1M-2D
1NT-2D

These create opportunities to explore slam without using Blackwood or cue bids to show aces. Instead, think in terms of five key cards: 4 aces and the king of the trump suit (that is the basis for “key-card Blackwood”). Think in terms of showing that you have the number of key cards partner would expect, or fewer, or more.

Except with the 1C opening, in a game-forcing auction we expect each partner to contribute 2 key cards. With the 1C opening and the 1D (strong) response, we expect opener to hold 3 key cards and responder to hold 1 key card.

In game-forcing auctions, we make trump-suit raises relative to these expectations. You jump to game to show fewer than expected key cards. You bid one below game to show the expected number of key cards. You jump in NT with more than the expected number of key cards. Thus after 1C-1D-1H, 4H indicates the strong hand with 0 key cards (one fewer than expected), 3H shows the strong hand with 1 key card (the expected number), and 2NT shows support for hearts and 2 key cards.

As another example, after 1C-1D-1S-2H, 4H shows heart support but with only 2 key cards (one fewer than expected), 3H shows 3 key cards (the expected number), and 3NT shows support for hearts and 4 key cards.

As another example, 1S-2D-2S, 4S shows support with just 1 key card, 3S shows 2 key cards, and 3NT shows 3 key cards.

When partner has shown key cards, you can sign off by bidding game in the trump suit, which indicates that the partnership has fewer than 4 key cards. If you bid a new suit, that shows a singleton in that suit and guarantees that the partnership has at least 4 key cards. If combined with your partner you have 4 of the 5 key cards, you lean toward bidding slam. If combined you have all 5 key cards, you explore for a grand slam.