Dear Mr Agony
I am aware that bidding is based on figures; both points and distribution/shape, whereby ♠T85432/♥Q874/♦K6/♣3 has 5 HCPs.
With an 8+card fit. responder can add extra points for short suits i.e. 5 for a void; 3 for a singleton and 1 for a doubleton = 5+3+1=9; which is a safe raise to 2H (although 5HCPs could also be justified on the basis of supporting partner and bidding to the level of the fit).
However, I understand distribution can be based on counting losers and, when an 8+card fit has been found, the losing trick count can be used for Major game contracts and the responder should apply whichever method produces the highest raise.
In this case, the above hand contains 7 losers which represents the standard opening hand (12+pts) and, on the basis that partner opened with 7 losers (in this case 4), responder can be fairly assured that the partnership could be at least in game (7+7=14).
On that basis, can the responder bid Jacoby 2NT to indicate his distributional opening/game strength so the opener can start cue-bidding his 1st/2nd round controls?
The question of distribution also arises in the bidding of weak 2s, whereby most bidders will open with 6 cards and 6-10pts (although I understand that not less than 5 cards and not less than 5pts is also permissible).
I have in the past opened with the 6/6-10 ratio but with less than the standard 7 loser opening and been told I should have opened at the 1-level as my hand was too strong to open at the weak 2 level.
Still figuring it out.......
Thank you Carol. I'm delighted to have you as a real correspondent, rather than a fictional one.
First let me address your Jacoby question. The Jacoby 2NT response to partner's opening suit bid at the one level is best played as a hand with at least slam interest and at least an eight card fit. It is a hand type that is very difficult to get across otherwise since you want to create a game force (at least) and confirm the suit - all without taking up too much bidding space. So my preference is to reserve Jacoby for hands where I know where I'm going, and that is to the slam zone in partner's suit provided she has better than a minimum opening.
On the losing trick count, I'm worried that I may demolish any thoughts that you may have that I am a serious bridge player - because I don't use it. I can do arithmetic, and I use arithmetic a lot when I'm playing the cards - but not so much in the bidding. That's not to say I disapprove of the losing trick count, for those who like to use it, and it's certainly much better than relying on 'points' for all your bidding decisions, but I prefer a more intuitive approach. To show you what I mean, let me give you a hand from last weekend's Perry Shield (Welsh Bridge Union Inter-Area Teams).
The bidding at the table where my partner and I sat North/South was as follows:
W N E S
1H 2D 3D*
P 4H all pass
3D was an unassuming cue bid, promising a constructive raise in hearts. 4H was an excellent contract, despite N/S having only a combined 17 points, and ten tricks rolled in. It was bid at every table in the event, so partner and I did not do anything brilliant. My bidding reflected my bridge judgement. My partner (South) employed the losing trick count! And it's true, the losing trick count (if we both use it!) does get us to game - six losers in the North hand; 8 losers in South. But I prefer not to use it. I prefer to see my hand as a picture, not a number. Still, if you find the losing trick count a useful tool, don't let me dissuade you. Anything is better than simply totting up your points.
But you will probably accept that the losing trick count has to give way to bridge judgement in some instances. Take the responding hand you gave me:
Now what do you bid if partner opens at the one level with........1C, 1D, 1H, 1S, or 1N?
These are my answers. See if you agree with me. I think you'll have to agree that it's a matter of bridge judgement.
1C - 1S
1D - 1S
1H - 3H (we employ 3C and 3D as Bergen raises, so 3H is quite a weak bid)
1S - 4S
1N - 2C (Stayman)
There's just no escaping judgement in bridge!
Thank you again for your letter. Keep them coming.
Dear Mr Agony,
It's me again. Still confused. When I first learned bridge I was taught Strong 2 openings. That made sense to me - after all, I was claiming to be able to make eight tricks! Now everyone seems to be opening Weak 2s. Is that your influence? I would prefer to just stay as I am, rather than go in for all this new-fangled nonsense. Or do you think I should change, along with everyone else?
I'm delighted to hear from you again. No, you don't need to change. Opening strong hands at the 2 level is a perfectly respectable method. I will point out a few things, and then of course you must choose the method you feel comfortable with.
First, there are many more weak hands than strong hands. That's a numerical fact. This means that if you devise methods that cater for holding weak hands, you are at a distinct numerical advantage. If you permit yourself to open with a 5 carder when non-vulnerable (as I do!), that numerical advantage grows exponentially. The more opportunities you have to enter the auction, the greater your chance of securing a good result on the board.
Second, most players - with good reason - dislike playing against Weak 2s - because they find they are always being 'bounced' by these aggressive methods, which in turn means they have to start bidding their hands some two levels higher than would otherwise be the case.
Third, Strong 2 openings - which are quite rare in any event - can readily be shown by means of a one level opening followed by a strength showing rebid (either a jump bid or a reverse). So you don't need to open at the 2 level to show eight playing trick hands!
If you play Strong 2 openings, you have FIVE bids, all catering for a hand type that seldom comes up, or which can comfortably be expressed by other means. You have NO bids, short of the 3 level, by means of which you can show weak hands.
If, instead, you play a common version of Benjaminised Acol, your 2C opening will show one of two types of strong hand; your 2D and 2NT openings will show two more strong hands; and your 2H and 2S openings will show WEAK hands. So that is - at the 2 level - FOUR types of strong hand catered for and TWO types of weak hand.
But you can do better still.
I will briefly mention what I prefer to play (NB I don't suggest you copy this at the moment).
2C - either a game force (25+ if balanced) OR a weak opening in diamonds;
2D - either 23-24 balanced, OR a weak 2 in hearts, OR a weak 2 in spades;
2H - a weak hand with both hearts AND spades;
2S - a weak hand with spades AND a minor;
2NT - 20-22 balanced.
That is not the place to start because you need the methods to discover which of the various possible alternatives partner is showing. It's good, but it's too complicated as a place to start. But the benefts are huge. Count the hand types opener can show at the 2 level. If you add them up it comes to EIGHT different hand types - THREE strong and FIVE weak. So this method, which I grant you takes a bit of effort to learn and to employ properly, enables one to open loads of different hands - and especially it enables one to open far more WEAK hands. It's almost unfair to the opponents! It reminds me of a corny old 'Western' song called Big John, which included the immortal lines:
If you see me coming, better step aside -
a lot of men didn't, and a lot of men died
I was always a sucker for that sort of song. More realistically, as a first venture into playing Weak 2s, how about this:
2C: 23+ or some other game force;
2D/H/S: weak, single suited in principle;
2NT: 20-22 balanced
That is TWO strong bids and THREE weak bids - so heading in the right direction. You will still require additional agreements, but this is a method employed by many experts, so it is the place to start if you wish to employ Weak 2s.
By all means stick with Strong 2s if that's what you feel comfortable with, but you might like to try out Weak 2s with a co-operative partner. They are certainly effective - and what's more, they are a lot of fun!