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Length Before Strength

#1 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-November-26, 21:54

Ever since I was able to play bridge, the principle of “always bid your length before your strength” was taught. Is this principle still applicable in the modern game where, a) bidding has become increasingly aggressive, and b) the obvious preference for the major suits?

As an example, in any natural system, partner opens the bidding with 1. With a 5-card suit and 4-cards in either major, do you still bid first?

The same question can be asked for opening bids e.g. holding 6X and 5X/5X, do you open first and then reverse into the major suit?

What is the direction that the modern game has taken?
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#2 User is offline   the hog 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 01:00

Depends whether you play Walsh or transfer Walsh, doesn't it?
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#3 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 01:50

View Postthe hog, on 2012-November-27, 01:00, said:

Depends whether you play Walsh or transfer Walsh, doesn't it?

Transfer Walsh makes your responses even more interesting. After I transfer into the major, do I now bid the suit to show 4/5 (the reverse of Walsh, see below) and GF values? How does Transfer Walsh differentiate between GF and Non-GF values?

I found this on Walsh:
Walsh: Walsh is a natural system of responses to and rebids after 1 and 1 opening bids, designed to allow opener to differentiate between balanced and unbalanced hands, and also designed to focus on finding eight-card major suit fits as quickly as possible. Playing Walsh, when responding to a 1 opening bid, you will not bid your four-card or longer suits up the line; instead, you will bypass all four-card diamond suits in favor of a four-card major. You will also bypass all five-card or longer diamond suits if you have less than game-forcing values. With game-forcing values, you should bid 1 with five or more diamonds, and then reverse into the major. The other effect that Walsh has on the bidding is that after opener opens with one-of-a-minor and hears a one-level response from partner, with a balanced hand opener will bypass a four-card major. If opener rebids in one-of-a-major, he is showing at least five cards in the original minor that he opened; with only four, he would have a balanced hand and instead bid 1NT.

Which of the two is growing in preference? Walsh or Transfer Walsh?
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#4 User is offline   manudude03 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 03:30

Walsh is still more popular, but T-Walsh is gaining popularity all the time. As a side point, assuming a standard 1C opener (either 2+ or better minor) where you open 1D with 4/4 in minors, there's not really much point in responding in a 4 card diamond suit, partner won't have 4 very often at all (especially when you consider the popularity of opening 1D with 4D and 5C).
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#5 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 06:27

View Postmanudude03, on 2012-November-27, 03:30, said:

(especially when you consider the popularity of opening 1D with 4D and 5C).


I think that this depends where you are. For instance, in England this approach is extremely rare.
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Posted 2012-November-27, 16:34

Depends on agreements...1C-1D typically always shows 5+D if you have another way to handle 10+ balanced hands...so I like to play that if you show diamonds before your major you must be 5+/4 and at least 10 HCP. We get to show some of our shape and show strength at the same time. Can go further and have relays to find out the rest.

1C-1D(3+,5+)
1H-2H(4H,5+/4)
2S-??(relay)

1C-1D(3+,5+)
1S-2S(4S,5+/4)
2N-??(relay)
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#7 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 16:45

View Post32519, on 2012-November-27, 01:50, said:

Transfer Walsh makes your responses even more interesting. After I transfer into the major, do I now bid the suit to show 4/5 (the reverse of Walsh, see below) and GF values? How does Transfer Walsh differentiate between GF and Non-GF values?

I found this on Walsh:
Walsh: Walsh is a natural system of responses to and rebids after 1 and 1 opening bids, designed to allow opener to differentiate between balanced and unbalanced hands, and also designed to focus on finding eight-card major suit fits as quickly as possible. Playing Walsh, when responding to a 1 opening bid, you will not bid your four-card or longer suits up the line; instead, you will bypass all four-card diamond suits in favor of a four-card major. You will also bypass all five-card or longer diamond suits if you have less than game-forcing values. With game-forcing values, you should bid 1 with five or more diamonds, and then reverse into the major. The other effect that Walsh has on the bidding is that after opener opens with one-of-a-minor and hears a one-level response from partner, with a balanced hand opener will bypass a four-card major. If opener rebids in one-of-a-major, he is showing at least five cards in the original minor that he opened; with only four, he would have a balanced hand and instead bid 1NT.

Which of the two is growing in preference? Walsh or Transfer Walsh?


Transfer Walsh is supplanting Walsh as it is technically superior and conceptually easier. I'm pretty sure Walsh's existance is mostly due to system regs.

Transfer Walsh will use use different responses for the game force values hands - typically rebidding 1NT with the 17-19 NT or reversing with game force unbalanced hands (so after 1C - 1D! (showing hearts), 1NT is 17-19 balanced, and 2S is typically the spade reverse hand, while NT is a very good raise or similar). The exact structure depends on your NT range. Playing a 10-13 NT NV, I sacrifice accuracy when accepting the transfer in return for the NT range, but you don't need to do that when playing a 14-16 NT.

The things we like about it is that you can easily play a 14-16 NT (which we reckon is a modest win when you open 1NT with 14, a modest loss when you open 1C with 17, but the combination of transfer walsh and a 14-16 NT is a modest win on all auctions that go 1C! - (showing a major) - (accepting a transfer), responder is now in control and there is lots of space in the auction, or responder can get out, and these auctions are very frequent.

http://bridge.mgoetze.net/bbf.html has good links to discussion.
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#8 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 16:53

View PostVampyr, on 2012-November-27, 06:27, said:

I think that this depends where you are. For instance, in England this approach is extremely rare.

not so rare here in yorkshire.
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#9 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 22:45

Is there any way one can combine Walsh/T-Walsh with the XYZ Convention (something else which appears to be reasonably popular) into your bidding agreements? Or does it come down to, if I choose the one, I give up the other?
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#10 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2012-November-27, 23:46

View Post32519, on 2012-November-27, 22:45, said:

Is there any way one can combine Walsh/T-Walsh with the XYZ Convention (something else which appears to be reasonably popular) into your bidding agreements? Or does it come down to, if I choose the one, I give up the other?


Yeah, it's easy to combine them as they have no impact on each other. The only thing you have to change is if you you use 1C-1D!-1H!-1S as an artifical relay, you dont need to put those hands through XYZ. This is good, because it lets you get out in 2C more easily.
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#11 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2012-November-28, 00:54

View PostCthulhu D, on 2012-November-27, 23:46, said:

Yeah, it's easy to combine them as they have no impact on each other. The only thing you have to change is if you you use 1C-1D!-1H!-1S as an artifical relay, you dont need to put those hands through XYZ. This is good, because it lets you get out in 2C more easily.


I'll repeat my comment from ages ago that Walsh and XYZ are a really bad combination. One of the main (supposed) advantages of Walsh is that sequences like 1-1Red-1 show an unbalanced hand with real clubs. This has the following effects:

(1) You are much more likely to want to play in 2 than you would be if opener could have some weak notrump. XYZ means you can no longer do that.
(2) The ability to invite with hearts and then stop in 2 is much less useful, since opener will fairly often have singleton heart.
(3) Opener is much more likely to have moderate extras (15-17 hcp) or a general freak hand and both these types are awkward after the 2 relay.
(4) Opener's possible shapes are quite constrained, such that you don't need a huge amount of space for opener to pattern out.
(5) One of the advantages of XYZ is to let responder describe on many hands, but with opener having nine cards already known it makes little sense to do this.

In general XYZ-type methods work much better when opener has a balanced hand than when he doesn't. It makes sense to play this over a 1NT rebid, or over a T-Walsh transfer accept that is often (or even always, depending on your agreements) a weak notrump. It's reasonable to play it over a major suit rebid in an "up-the-line" style (since such a rebid will often be a weak notrump too). It doesn't make sense to play it over a rebid that guarantees an unbalanced hand.
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#12 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2012-November-28, 16:58

View Postawm, on 2012-November-28, 00:54, said:

I'll repeat my comment from ages ago that Walsh and XYZ are a really bad combination. One of the main (supposed) advantages of Walsh is that sequences like 1-1Red-1 show an unbalanced hand with real clubs. This has the following effects:



Yeah, it's much less of a problem with transfer walsh. The relevant sequences are

1C-1X-1NT
1C - 1D - 1S
1C - 1D - 1H
1C - 1H - 1S

And of those, 1 and 4 are perfect for XYZ, 3 just needs you to resolve what you do with the 1S bid, and 2 is unsuitable for the reasons you point out. The frequency of 1, 3 and 4 is so high that it costs little.
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Posted 2012-November-28, 17:15

Many play walsh where 1c=1h= 1s does not promise an unbalanced hand.
wanting to play in 2c after 1c=1d=1M which does promise an unbalanced hand has not been an issue(you play in 3c).


I play walsh and xyz and dont have any problems combining the two.
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#14 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-December-12, 23:10

View Post32519, on 2012-November-26, 21:54, said:

Ever since I was able to play bridge, the principle of “always bid your length before your strength” was taught. Is this principle still applicable in the modern game where, a) bidding has become increasingly aggressive, and b) the obvious preference for the major suits?

As an example, in any natural system, partner opens the bidding with 1. With a 5-card suit and 4-cards in either major, do you still bid first?

The same question can be asked for opening bids e.g. holding 6X and 5X/5X, do you open first and then reverse into the major suit?

What is the direction that the modern game has taken?

Partner has zero interest in playing Walsh/T-Walsh, wanting to keep our bidding agreements as natural as possible. With that as your starting point, do you bypass a longer minor in favour of a shorter major, either as opener or responder?
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#15 User is offline   rhm 

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Posted 2012-December-13, 03:35

View Post32519, on 2012-November-26, 21:54, said:

Ever since I was able to play bridge, the principle of “always bid your length before your strength” was taught. Is this principle still applicable in the modern game where, a) bidding has become increasingly aggressive, and b) the obvious preference for the major suits?

As an example, in any natural system, partner opens the bidding with 1. With a 5-card suit and 4-cards in either major, do you still bid first?

The same question can be asked for opening bids e.g. holding 6X and 5X/5X, do you open first and then reverse into the major suit?

What is the direction that the modern game has taken?

Do these teachers recommend a system with a strong artificial opening bid like 2?
If they do how does this reconcile with "length before strength".
More than 99.9% of all Bridge player including the proponents of this principle do not strictly adhere to this principle.
That shape is more important than strength is clearly not true in general. Otherwise we would never pass with weak distributional hands,
Many people see also the need to have bids, which show negatives, like a second negative to a 2 opening, waiting bids etc.
99.9% of all Bridge players never bid 2 over 1 with a weak hand when holding 5 clubs and a 4 card major and this for at least 50 years now.
"Length before strength" is a misnomer. A better term would be "shape before strength".
But you are not adhering to this principle if you respond 1NT to 1 with an unbalanced hand and people do this now for a very long time.
These principles are mentioned when people prefer 2 to strong 1 systems or when they argue for a higher upper limit to an overcall or when they believe control responses to a strong artificial opening are a bad idea.
But the truth is: These "principles" are no principles at all. For almost all Bridge players there is always a point where strength matters more than distribution.
How far you apply these so called "principles" is a matter of judgment and personal preferences. The boundaries are fuzzy.
There is no right or wrong.
Sometimes this "principle" works and sometimes it doesn't.
If you feel the modern game goes into a different direction, it probably means the principle does not work.

Rainer Herrmann
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#16 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2012-December-13, 06:25

View Post32519, on 2012-December-12, 23:10, said:

Partner has zero interest in playing Walsh/T-Walsh, wanting to keep our bidding agreements as natural as possible. With that as your starting point, do you bypass a longer minor in favour of a shorter major, either as opener or responder?

Obviously you shouldn't always bypass diamonds as responder since if you did so you would be playing Walsh. With
Jxxx
xx
AKxx
xxx
you can bid diamonds rather than spades. You don't want a 3-card raise in spades and you want a diamond lead. This is the whole point of not playing Walsh - besides that with a 6-card diamonds and a 4-card hearts you might not be able to show your diamonds at all if you play Walsh (depending on your follow up agreements).

But you might still want to bypass diamonds with some hands. For example:
AKxx
xx
xxxxx
xx
- you want a spade lead and you see no particular reason to show the diamond suit. Even if you have a diamond fit you probably won't find it anyway. And you don't want to make it easier for opps to bid their hearts.
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#17 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2012-December-13, 07:26

I agree very much with Helene here. I am about to play f2f with a partner who does not play Walsh, Holding even four diamonds and four spades, he will very often bid 1 over my 1. I am a little more flexible. If I have a strong spade suit, I want to get it mentioned. There is some danger in skiupping over diamonds since on some hands partner will find it easier to bid 1NT after 1-1-1-1 than if it begins 1-1. If he holds a somewhat shapely hand with a good five card club suit, he mayb decide 2 is the safer choice. You might say he shouldn't do that, but if he holds two spots in diamonds, reflects on the fact that I did not bid diamonds and we are not playing Walsh, I can see how he might. Anyway, when not playing Walsh I try to keep it sane but I do like to ge a good spade suit or heart suit bid early on. I am pretty sure that Kit Woolsey in his book on matchpoint play recommends some sort of flexibility like this. (I am not claiming to be channeling Kit).

As far as Walsh is concerned, what I want to know from partner is this: Pard, if you open a 4=4=2=3 minimum hand with 1 and I bid 1 do you rebid 1NT? If so, then of course I bid my major pretty much regardless of my diamons unless I am prepared to rebid 2 of the major over 1-1-1NT. I also think this is the correct amount of information to be available to opponents. If an opponent sometimes skips over diamonds, or if opener sometimes rebids 1NT over 1 when he holds a flat hand with a modest four card major, that's his business. We all might do so. But if systemically they must skip over diamonds because systemically opener will rebid 1NT on 4=4=2=3, then opponents need to be given this info when they inquire.
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#18 User is offline   32519 

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Posted 2012-December-13, 09:28

What about the opening bid?

Say as opener you hold 6X and a 5-card major. Do you bypass the suit to get the major suit into play immediately? Nothing special as far as HCP are concerned, say about 12-15 HCP? With 16+ I am happy to start off in and reverse into the major with a 6/5 distribution.
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Posted 2012-December-13, 09:33

View Post32519, on 2012-December-13, 09:28, said:

What about the opening bid?

Say as opener you hold 6X and a 5-card major. Do you bypass the suit to get the major suit into play immediately? Nothing special as far as HCP are concerned, say about 12-15 HCP? With 16+ I am happy to start off in and reverse into the major with a 6/5 distribution.

This has nothing to do with Walsh. In general, I'd open 1 and hope to get the major in later. There's a case, I think, for opening in the major if your points are concentrated there and the diamonds are relatively weak, but I don't know how good a case it is. In effect, you'd be treating the suits as equal length, or shorter diamonds.
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Posted 2012-December-16, 11:30

This topic has been discussed so many times.

Strong hands always open the longest suit, because you can easily reverse and rebid the Major to show 6-5. This principle is similar for responding, even using (T-)Walsh, because with a strong hand you can easily reverse 2M.

The real discussion is about the minimum hands and it always comes down to this: it's a matter of preference. You have people who will always open 1M with a 5 card suit, others open their longest suit, and everyone seems to do ok.

Personally I prefer to open the longest suit when holding 6m-5M. While I agree that opening 1M usually gives us a more relaxed auction, opening the minor hasn't caused me much trouble.
For responding to 1 openings we use Walsh + XYZ. We bid the Major first whenever we hold less than GF values. With a GF hand we never skip . Afterwards we can rebid 2M to show 5-4M or 2 (GF relay) when holding 4-4M.
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