Electric Ant

(Updated 7 Dec 2010)

Electric Ant is the system I designed after getting annoyed at losing pairs events because I sat the wrong direction, didn't get any points and got bad board after bad board because my opponents did normal stuff. The key is you can open just about any rubbish, points, shape or not but it still allows a high degree of accuracy so you can do well when the cards are on your side.

Here's the opening structure:

1 15+ any

1 8 - 11, 4 card

1NT 12 - 14 balanced (or 4441 which is balanced right?)

2 12 - 14, 5 card, unbalanced

2NT 12 - 14 5+5+ majors

You'll have to consult your local attorney as to whether you can play this in your area. In NZ we aren't allowed to open 1suit "with values a King or more below average strength and insufficient compensating distributional values." so I've sat the 1suits on the 8 point minimum.

What you want to do over 1 is entirely up to you. I played the original symmetric relay as designed by Walt and Roy, other options are Blue Club, Precision, or any of the roll your own relays out there.

Over 1 I've played 2 as inverted forcing to at least 3 and everything else basically natural, playing 2/ as strong jump shifts sounds good but I haven't picked up the hand for it yet.

After an EA 1M then 1NT is just an attempt to improve the contract and is not in the least bit encouraging. 2NT as invitational or better (ie 15+) works for me but if you like Bergen then neither I nor your mother will talk you out of it.

When partner opens 1 something in first or second seat (say 1) and you hold Axx xxx QJx Kxx  be aware that partner may hold Jxxx QJxx Kxx Qx. This isn't a problem, you'll probably make 1 and possibly 1NT but there's a good chance this will be passed out at every other table. If so +80 will be worth 100% and -50 in 2 will be worth 0%, you've been warned.

While the two level openings are 'unbalanced' if you pick up AKJxx KQx xx xxx I suggest you open this 2 not 1NT. With two suits open you either want to play in spades or have partner play the no trumps. I won't comment on continuations past 1NT because there's little I can add to the established wisdom... I play a relay.

It's called Electric Ant after the tradition of calling systems involving lots of weak openings after biting or stinging insects. You can find more information on the electric or little fire ant on wikipedia or elsewhere.

Over 2// it's important that you don't play 2suit as forcing, partner needs to be able to improve the contract without you rebidding the 5 card suits that's his void. If it's forcing you'll play in 2 for +90 or +110 when the rooms in 2 for +140 and you'll blame me. I like a 6-11 range for 2 level responses on the understanding that partner will raise with goodies. 2NT as a GF asking for another suit or a rebid with 6 card (or rarely with the 5332 bid 3NT) works well.

If you want a complete high quality, battle tested set of responses look up what Fantoni-Nunes do after their 2 level openings.

2NT is just to make sure you never open 2 with a 5 card heart suit. I simply can't express how bad an idea it is, 64 is dangerous and you should upgrade the good ones to either 2N or 1.

It works
Some people like to sneer and say that experts won't have any trouble dealing with this and it'll only generate good boards against those not so expertly inclined. I have 3 points to make:
1) You don't always play against experts, in most fields there are weaker pairs and they won't deal with this as well as they do with Acol or Standard (the same is true for anything weird).
2) When you're opening quality hands at the 2 level your opponents have to make the overcalls they would make at the 1 or 2 level against anyone else at the 2 or 3 level against you. It's more risky and if you keep your axe polished they'll be plenty of succulent +200s, +300s and +500s on partscore boards when they get it wrong.
3) Experts aren't perfect, non-experts might stuff up 20% of the time and 30% if you play this. Experts will "take an incorrect view" maybe 5% of the time and 5.5% of the time if you play this. I'll take it.

Regardless, it's lots of fun to play something different once in a while.