16 March 2011

Critical errors

Through playing bridge we make mistakes. I make lots. When I make an error so glaring that my partners therapy is put back several sessions I write it down. After a while I collect a list and when a common theme arises I try to correct it. Lately I've noticed a particular error coming up more than I'd like. I bid too much on distributional hands where there's ample evidence it's wrong. This hand is the embodiment of the kind:
K J T x x x x
A T x x
K x
Vul against not and playing a serious teams match I held the collection above. My mind went into overdrive at the possibilities. There's so much potential here for making a big score. My partner was dealer and opened 2 which shows 5 spades and 4+ cards in a minor with weaker than opening values. The next hand passed and after tanking I made a stupid bid. 4. It's wrong. The worst thing is I considered 3NT as well which is even more wrong. Fortunately my poor decision making infected my left hand opponent and I avoided a red card.
K J T x x x x
A T x x
K x
A Q J x x
Q x
J T 9 x x
Here are the reasons why I bid 4:
  1. I have a 7-4 shape and they're really powerful. Partner has shown values - I simply have to bid a game.
  2. Vulnerable games are critical.
  3. We're playing in a final - bidding the wrong thing could cost the tournament. Bidding too much is usually less bad than bidding too little.
And these are the things I need to think about to avoid such a critical error!
  1. This is a misfit, while it's possible we do have a fit in diamonds it's more likely partner has clubs.
  2. Distributional hands that misfit need roughly the same number of points as balanced hands to make game, I have 11 and my partner fewer.
  3. Partner has stuck out his neck in spades at unfavourable. His spade suit will be of good quality and likely completely wasted if hearts are trumps.
  4. I've wrongly classified the hand as one in which game is possible. Instead this is a scramble for any making spot, the desirability of vul games is irrelevant.
  5. I spent too much of my time deciding between 3NT and 4 when they're both truly awful bids.
Some other thoughts: reason 3 isn't a bridge reason and needs to be eliminated also the match wasn't going that well and I wonder how much that affected my need to bid a game that might catch us up. There's no point in swerving on the highway to avoid catching a cold.

So what should I bid? 3 is non forcing and definitely an improvement, partner may raise with a good 5314. Of the less aggressive options pass and a correctable 3 I favour 3, it will always increase the number of trumps we have and when partner is 5-5 as here it might even make.


  1. Responding with a strong misfit hand to a weak two is painfully difficult. Methods might help.

    For instance, one approach I have used is for the 3C and 3D calls to be "transfers," sort of. Opener is expected to complete the "transfer." Responder either has the suit he bid and values or the suit above and weakness. Thus, for example, a 3C call is made with weak diamonds (will pass 3D) or values and clubs (will bid again). This heeps the lead into the stronger hand when it is stronger but allows escapes in many suits.

    You then can add a relay to 3C, followed by three of the other major, as a third step for the other-major calls. For example, after 2S:

    3C = relay to 3D. Will pass with weak long diamonds, bid again with strong and clubs, or 3H as intermediate hearts.

    3D = relay to 3H. Will pass with weak long hearts, other with strong and diamonds.

    3H = strong with hearts.

    In this way, you can somewhat better handle these types of hands, at the slight cost of not escaping into clubs.

    I have a more complete write-up if you are interested. Email me at kenrexford@hotmail.com

  2. 3C seems a bit weird. Why play in a 4-2 fit when you'd be unlucky not to have 8 Hearts between you.

    Spade void is a poor holding. Agree that when partner has opened 2S vul he should have his values there.

    I quite like the look of Ken's structure above. But even without such extensive methods, 2S-3H while non-forcing should be constructive.

    On a side note, the East hand is not a Weak 2. Even with the non-appealing Qx it's still a 1-level opener IMO. After 1S you'd have a hard time stopping. But 1S-2H-2S doesn't make the Spade void look any good either ...