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Asptro continuations? Never mind the (de)merits of Asptro

#1 User is offline   1eyedjack 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 04:37

Hi all.
I am looking for input on the best continuations to Asptro overcalls in defense to a 1NT opener.
In brief, the basic method is that over an opponent's 1NT opener, 2C shows a two-suiter including Hearts, and 2D shows a two-suiter including Spades. 2M being singlesuited. 9 cards between two suits is the minimum requirement. Either suit may be longer, except that with both majors you start by showing the shorter.

This thread is NOT about the merits of the method, or what alternative basic overalling structure is or is not superior. I also acknowledge that there are some variations of the basic overcalling structure within As(pt)ro and this thread is not about those treatments. Like it or lump it, the above is the starting point. If you think that it is futile to discuss continuations to an inferior starting point then you are welcome to that opinion, but please hold onto it.

Take it also for this purpose, please, that you are defending against a weak 1N opener and neither you nor your partner is a passed hand. The overcall is limited by failure to double 1N to suggest penalties.

The optimal continuations will depend on the constraints that you place on shape and strength of a 2m overcall, and perhaps suit quality, and since I have not defined these constraints feel free to impose your own (but please state them).

My starting assumptions are
1) that you need some constructive continuations
2) you can generally forget about slam. It may make once in a blue moon but not with the frequency to justify devotion of resources.
3) Optionally, depending on the constraints placed on the overcall, advancer may have a game try without GF values, but doubt about whether overcaller is min or max, doubt about the location of his second suit, and doubt about which is the longer. If you make the overcaller very tightly limited then these doubts become more managable but at the expense that the overcall is much less frequent.

My own thoughts have typically revolved around using 2N as an artificial enquiry. An old friend of mine who plays this method and has won the spring fours more times than I have had hot dinners swears by using this as a natural, non-forcing invitation. Even if you use it as a forcing enquiry you are a bit short of bidding space unless you also use another forcing enquiry, such as a raise of the minor which overcaller bid artiifically.

Traditionally, I have always used the next step up as a "pass or convert" instruction, but I am beginning to wonder whether it may not be better to use it as a forcing enquiry, and only overcall in the first place if you are prepared to commit to the 3 level with length in the lower suit. I don't really like that because it is going to reduce the frequency of overcalling 2D when holding 4 Spades and 5 Hearts.

Anyway, over to the peanut gallery. I am not expecting any solution to solve all problems, but I think that there are enough players out there who have thought this through to provide some input.

Once (and only once) I have decided on the best continuations, I will then be better placed to make an informed decision about whether a fundamentally different overcalling structure is superior.

Thanks.
Psych (pron. saik): A gross and deliberate misstatement of honour strength and/or suit length. Expressly permitted under Law 73E but forbidden contrary to that law by Acol club tourneys.

Psyche (pron. sahy-kee): The human soul, spirit or mind (derived, personification thereof, beloved of Eros, Greek myth).
Masterminding (pron. mPosted ImagesPosted ImagetPosted Imager-mPosted ImagendPosted Imageing) tr. v. - Any bid made by bridge player with which partner disagrees.

"Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts." 9th battalion, King's own Yorkshire light infantry,
2000 years earlier: "morituri te salutant"

"I will be with you, whatever". Blair to Bush, precursor to invasion of Iraq
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#2 User is offline   RMB1 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 05:47

(1NT)-2-2 negative, NF, not H support
(1NT)-2-2-2 5 H
(1NT)-2-2-2 5 S
(1NT)-2-2-2NT 2=4=2=5 (?)
(1NT)-2-2-3 5 C, unbalanced

(1NT)-2-2 to play
(1NT)-2-2 constructive, NF, 5 S
(1NT)-2-2NT nat, invitational

(1NT)-2-3 art, relay
(1NT)-2-3-3 5 H; then 3 asks for minor
(1NT)-2-3-3 5 S
(1NT)-2-3-3/3NT 5 card C/D

(1NT)-2-3 good raise to 3H
(1NT)-2-3 pre-emptive raise to 3H
(1NT)-2-3 nat, 6 S [agreed strength: GF or preemptive]
(1NT)-2-3NT nat
(1NT)-2-4m splinters

Similarly over (1NT)-2
(1NT)-2-2 negative, NF, to play in H opposite H+S
(1NT)-2-2-2 5 S
(1NT)-2-2-2NT 4 S, 5m, balanced
(1NT)-2-2-3m 4 S, 5m, unbalanced

At the three level, I did play:
3 = nat, to play; 3 = relay (as above), 3 = good raise.

But you could play:
3 = relay as above, 3 = good raise, 3 = nat, GF.

Or: 3 = relay, 3 = H, invitational or better, 3 = good raise.

YMMV
Robin

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#3 User is offline   EricK 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 06:12

If the Asptro bidder can have 5 cards in the other major or a singleton there, I don't think I'd ever have a hand which was comfortable making a non-forcing "natural" 2NT response.
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#4 User is offline   gnasher 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 06:18

RMB1, on Apr 2 2010, 12:47 PM, said:

(1NT)-2-3 art, relay
(1NT)-2-3-3 5 H; then 3 asks for minor
(1NT)-2-3-3 5 S
(1NT)-2-3-3/3NT 5 card C/D

Have you ever actually bid this 3 relay? I have discussed this sort of thing with numerous partners, but I can't recall ever having enough to game-force without also having 4-card support for the major.

Quote

(1NT)-2-3 good raise to 3H
(1NT)-2-3 pre-emptive raise to 3H

Is it necessary to preempt? Then chance of them bidding higher than 3 seems vanishingly small.

If you're really distinguishing between good invitations and bad invitations, that's more reasonable. Alternatively, one could distinguish between 3- and 4-card invitations.
... that would still not be conclusive proof, before someone wants to explain that to me as well as if I was a 5 year-old. - gwnn
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#5 User is offline   1eyedjack 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 06:34

Thanks for the ideas so far.

I am currently leaning in favour of giving up on finding the overcaller's minor suit when advancer has a game try, except to bail out there when overcaller is minimum.

In other words, if game is on the cards, we assume that it is only ever in 3N or 4M in an 8 card M fit.

I think that this assumption, although occasionally unpalatable, is the only way to cope with the amount of available bidding space.

Also, if advancer has a game try with 3 card support for the anchor major, perhaps treat it as GF and overstretch once in a while (maybe except when 4333) in the interests of ensuring that you get into the right game when it is there.

Still thinking about this.
Psych (pron. saik): A gross and deliberate misstatement of honour strength and/or suit length. Expressly permitted under Law 73E but forbidden contrary to that law by Acol club tourneys.

Psyche (pron. sahy-kee): The human soul, spirit or mind (derived, personification thereof, beloved of Eros, Greek myth).
Masterminding (pron. mPosted ImagesPosted ImagetPosted Imager-mPosted ImagendPosted Imageing) tr. v. - Any bid made by bridge player with which partner disagrees.

"Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts." 9th battalion, King's own Yorkshire light infantry,
2000 years earlier: "morituri te salutant"

"I will be with you, whatever". Blair to Bush, precursor to invasion of Iraq
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#6 User is offline   RMB1 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 06:58

gnasher, on Apr 2 2010, 12:18 PM, said:

Have you ever actually bid this 3 relay?  I have discussed this sort of thing with numerous partners, but I can't recall ever having enough to game-force without also having 4-card support for the major.

You got me!
Its a long time since I played with anyone who played ASPTRO and discussed this sort of detail.


gnasher, on Apr 2 2010, 12:18 PM, said:

If you're really distinguishing between good invitations and bad invitations, that's more reasonable.  Alternatively, one could distinguish between 3- and 4-card invitations.

Both good suggestions.

I know it's off topic, but this sort of structure is really a distraction. Something conceptually simpler based on [2m = take out with corresponding major, 2M = nat, single-suiter] is more flexible and easier to bid after.
Robin

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#7 User is offline   1eyedjack 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 08:19

RMB1, on Apr 2 2010, 01:58 PM, said:

I know it's off topic, but this sort of structure is really a distraction. Something conceptually simpler based on [2m = take out with corresponding major, 2M = nat, single-suiter] is more flexible and easier to bid after.

I'll bite.

What you are suggesting it seems to me is a 2m overcall which is even less narrowly defined than in Asptro. How can it be easier to cope with a wider defined bid?
Psych (pron. saik): A gross and deliberate misstatement of honour strength and/or suit length. Expressly permitted under Law 73E but forbidden contrary to that law by Acol club tourneys.

Psyche (pron. sahy-kee): The human soul, spirit or mind (derived, personification thereof, beloved of Eros, Greek myth).
Masterminding (pron. mPosted ImagesPosted ImagetPosted Imager-mPosted ImagendPosted Imageing) tr. v. - Any bid made by bridge player with which partner disagrees.

"Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts." 9th battalion, King's own Yorkshire light infantry,
2000 years earlier: "morituri te salutant"

"I will be with you, whatever". Blair to Bush, precursor to invasion of Iraq
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#8 User is offline   RMB1 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 09:20

You just forget about the minor suit canape stuff and look for fits in overcaller's major or advancer's suit(s). I haven't really thought this through or developed anything coherent. For the last few years I have got away with 2C=majors, or some lazy form of astro/asptro.
Robin

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?" (DNA)
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#9 User is offline   nigel_k 

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Posted 2010-April-02, 14:08

I use a 'raise' (i.e. 3 over 2 or 3 over 2) as artificial and game forcing, and everything else as natural and nonforcing.

Clearly this makes some hands very difficult to bid well, but I think the relative frequency of the various hand types means it is ok.
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#10 User is offline   shevek 

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Posted 2010-April-07, 04:33

A few thoughts.

1) Good to split the canapé club hands into min & max, so

2  2

2NT & 3 show canapé clubs, 3 with max.

Compare

2  2

Pass with 5s min, 3 with max canapé

A bit awkward with spades and a minor canapé

2  2

Pass = 5s minimum
2NT = min with a minor canapé then pass correct
3/ = canape maxes.



2) I like a delayed 2NT to be invitational, while a direct one is forcing. The belief is that the canapé hands need to be a bit stronger since you often commit to the 3-level. This means that hands worth a natural invite can "relay" then 2NT over a major rebid & bid 3NT over a 3-level minor bid, since it shows more.



We play Aspro, though people say Asptro is slightly better in theory. We decided "slightly" is not worth the effort.

Playing Aspro, it feels silly having 2 & 2NT both forcing over 2.
Perhaps it's time to change ....

On the other hand, I had a weakinsh 3-3-5-2 opposite partner's 2 Aspro the other day and bid the obvious 2. Partner had 4-5-2-2, when Asptro bidders would reach 2 I think.
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#11 User is offline   1eyedjack 

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Posted 2010-April-07, 11:56

shevek, on Apr 7 2010, 11:33 AM, said:

On the other hand, I had a weakinsh 3-3-5-2 opposite partner's 2 Aspro the other day and bid the obvious 2. Partner had 4-5-2-2, when Asptro bidders would reach 2 I think.

I don't see why you say that. Playing Asptro, overcaller would bid 2D initially, advancer would bid 2H and opener would pass. There is a risk that overcaller may bid 3C when you could have bought it in 2S, but whether that causes you problems depends on how ropey your minor suits are when you canape. I would suggest not bidding 2D if your clubs cannot stand the 3 level after a 2H bid from partner.

I am a bit uncomfortable about inviting partner to raise the relay bid with a maximum canape, where the relay bid by advancer could be a complete bust. Maybe some values should be assumed if responder is silent, but as overcaller is also limited by failure to double it seems a risk too far. Up to now I have reserved distinguishing min v max to those occasions in which responder has promised game interest (and relaying with the next bid up does not qualify for that).

I agree that after 2D relay over 2C, then 2N and 3C by overcaller are equal level bids and you might as well distinguish min v max to reduce redundancy. But on the other hand, how likely is it that partner will want to bid game opposite a max hand with Clubs when he was prepared to hear partner pass 2D? Most of the time you will end up playing in 3C anyway and will have announced strength to defenders for no purpose. I suppose if you have to raise 2D with a max canape in diamonds then it does bring this option into the frame as advancer could have genuine game interest.

Thanks for the feedback, I still have an open mind on these issues.
Psych (pron. saik): A gross and deliberate misstatement of honour strength and/or suit length. Expressly permitted under Law 73E but forbidden contrary to that law by Acol club tourneys.

Psyche (pron. sahy-kee): The human soul, spirit or mind (derived, personification thereof, beloved of Eros, Greek myth).
Masterminding (pron. mPosted ImagesPosted ImagetPosted Imager-mPosted ImagendPosted Imageing) tr. v. - Any bid made by bridge player with which partner disagrees.

"Gentlemen, when the barrage lifts." 9th battalion, King's own Yorkshire light infantry,
2000 years earlier: "morituri te salutant"

"I will be with you, whatever". Blair to Bush, precursor to invasion of Iraq
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#12 User is offline   shevek 

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Posted 2010-April-08, 01:26

1eyedjack, on Apr 7 2010, 12:56 PM, said:

shevek, on Apr 7 2010, 11:33 AM, said:

On the other hand, I had a weakinsh 3-3-5-2 opposite partner's 2 Aspro the other day and bid the obvious 2. Partner had 4-5-2-2, when Asptro bidders would reach 2 I think.

I don't see why you say that. Playing Asptro, overcaller would bid 2D initially, advancer would bid 2H and opener would pass. There is a risk that overcaller may bid 3C when you could have bought it in 2S, but whether that causes you problems depends on how ropey your minor suits are when you canape. I would suggest not bidding 2D if your clubs cannot stand the 3 level after a 2H bid from partner.

I am a bit uncomfortable about inviting partner to raise the relay bid with a maximum canape, where the relay bid by advancer could be a complete bust. Maybe some values should be assumed if responder is silent, but as overcaller is also limited by failure to double it seems a risk too far. Up to now I have reserved distinguishing min v max to those occasions in which responder has promised game interest (and relaying with the next bid up does not qualify for that).

I agree that after 2D relay over 2C, then 2N and 3C by overcaller are equal level bids and you might as well distinguish min v max to reduce redundancy. But on the other hand, how likely is it that partner will want to bid game opposite a max hand with Clubs when he was prepared to hear partner pass 2D? Most of the time you will end up playing in 3C anyway and will have announced strength to defenders for no purpose. I suppose if you have to raise 2D with a max canape in diamonds then it does bring this option into the frame as advancer could have genuine game interest.

Thanks for the feedback, I still have an open mind on these issues.

I guess 2 would have been okay with my 3-3-5-2 opposite an Asptro 2 but strongly prefer 2 in the 4-3 to 3 in the 5-2.
Anyway, next time I might have 3-4-5-1 and miss the 9-cd heart fit.

I sometimes bid game after the 2 non-forcing relay.
In particular,
2 - 2
2 - 3/4 is possible

Those invitational hands with 3-cd support are awkward. In fact, there is a case for having a direct 2NT response as a 3-cd raise.

The other goodish hands that bid 2 are those with a stiff heart, planning 2NT next:
Axxx  x  Qxxx  AQxx

We play a direct 2NT as forcing. Even if it's non-forcing, seems a bad choice. So start with 2, planning 2NT over 2, game over 3/, maybe just 3 over 2NT (clubs).

In Aspro, we would bid 2 scrambling over 2, since overcaller could still be 4-5 majors. Probably another reason to switch ...
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#13 User is offline   FrancesHinden 

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Posted 2010-April-11, 09:06

The structure I play is somewhat similar to RMB1's. This is probably not surprising given that we both learnt a lot of our bridge from/developed system with similar people at a similar-ish time.

I play

(1NT) - 2 -

2 = non-forcing, to play opposite a 5-card diamond suit
2 = to play
2 = to play
2NT = natural, invitational. This does come up reasonably often, and it's a very hard hand type to bid otherwise.
3 = artificial game force
3 = invitational with 3-card heart support (can be passed on e.g. a 4-6)
3 = lightish invitation with 4-card heart support (heavy invitations have a tendency to bid game)
3 = natural and forcing
3NT = to play
4m = splinter
4M = to play

(1NT) - 2 - 2 -
2 = 5 hearts plus a 4-card minor; now 2 is to play, 2NT asks for the minor, 3m is to play

I play almost exactly the same after (1NT) - 2 -
2 = non-forcing, to play opposite five hearts
3 = natural and forcing

After (1NT) - 2m - 3:
3 = I have five cards in my own major with a 4-card minor (now 3 asks for the minor, 3 agrees partner's major, 3NT natural)
3 = I have both majors
3 = I have a clubs with a 4-card major
3NT = I have diamonds with a 4-card major

and to answer gnasher's question: yes, the relay has come up. Its most common use is to choose between 4 of partner's major and 3NT, and to check for a big fit in the other major. I don't think I've ever used it to play in a minor but all things are possible. Also, you can usually escape to 3C anyway next round if you want.
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#14 User is offline   FrancesHinden 

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Posted 2010-April-11, 09:18

If anything more important than the uncontested auctions are what happens when next hand bids or doubles. There are lots of possible agreements. I'm not confident what we play is best after a double showing "general values" or "take-out" (quite a common approach) but we play

1NT - 2 - Dbl -
pass = to play opposite 4+ clubs
redouble = I have my own long suit, please bid step 1 and I'll tell you where we are going to play (another common meaning is to play redouble as a spade-diamond two-suiter as that's a depressingly common hand-type)
2/2/2 as before

The important part is to work out overcaller's suit lengths at as low as level as possible if oppo are looking to double you. We always play that redouble means "I have the higher suit in context". THis is quite hard to interpret, but we want to remember that overcaller always wants to bid as low as possible so it works out as:

1NT - 2 - Dbl - Pass - Pass -
2 = 5+ diamonds
redouble = 4 diamonds, 5 hearts
2 = both majors
anything higher = substantial extra values (more common when the double just showed clubs)

1NT - 2 - dbl - Pass - Pass
2 = both majors
Redouble = 4 spades and longer clubs (the 'higher' suit)
2 = 5 spades and 4/5 clubs

After
1NT - 2m - 2non-anchor-major -
Dbl = take-out
2NT = please bid 3C, I want to compete in my suit
3m = fit

1NT - 2m - 2NT lebensohl
x = I have a good hand
3m = poc

1NT - 2m - 2-other-major - Pass - Pass -
dbl = take-out, extras, short in the suit bid
2NT = 5-5 our major and a minor, extras
3m = canape with extras
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#15 User is offline   DinDIP 

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Posted 2010-April-12, 07:27

shevek, on Apr 7 2010, 05:33 AM, said:

A few thoughts.

1) Good to split the canapé club hands into min & max, so

2  2

2NT & 3 show canapé clubs, 3 with max.

Compare

2  2

Pass with 5s min, 3 with max canapé

A bit awkward with spades and a minor canapé

2  2

Pass = 5s minimum
2NT = min with a minor canapé then pass correct
3/ = canape maxes.

2) I like a delayed 2NT to be invitational, while a direct one is forcing. The belief is that the canapé hands need to be a bit stronger since you often commit to the 3-level. This means that hands worth a natural invite can "relay" then 2NT over a major rebid & bid 3NT over a 3-level minor bid, since it shows more.

This treatment, which I borrowed from Bo-Yin Yang and then foisted on Nick and others, caters well for GI hands. Note that the Lebensohl-like treatment of hands with a longer minor means that the Asptronaut bids his suits when stronger -- so that when advancer then bids 3N with a GI the NT opener is on lead.

The price for this is that:
1) you will sometimes get too high when advancer has a bust (though responder will frequently double or bid when this is the case); and
2) 2N is no longer available to show a three-suited hand with the anchored M and both minors.

Both of these are minor in my view, and clearly outweighed by the ability to:
1) make sensible GI sequences (including right-siding 3N contracts when the Asptronaut is max);
2) bid 2N as a relay rather than 3m/3C with (rare) GF hands -- that extra step (or two) can be most helpful (depending on how much memory load one is prepared to carry, it's possible to show shortness as well as relative lengths); and
3) bid 3m/3C as a NAT GI hand.

In particular, 1) is a big winner in my testing: if 2N is NAT GI over 2C but can be 4=1=4=4/4=2=(43)/4=2=(52)/4=1=(53) then the Asptronaut usually has to pass with 5M4m. If that's the case, what does advancer do with GI values and 3=3=4=3 or similar? Can't bid 2D as could easily miss a game when partner is max; can't bid 2N as you'll play 2N when you have a 5-3 H fit; and not strong enough for 3m if that's GF. (And, if it's just GI, do we have to play 4m or 3N when we have no 5-3 M fit?)

It seems to me this treatment of advances is clearly best.

David
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