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Minor suit slam bidding

#1 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 08:31

Time to improve our minor suit slam bidding. Currently we use minorwood, and it is indeed as awful as people say. Let's start with an easy auction:

1-2; 3

We play 2 as forcing to game with 5+ diamonds, and 3 as showing "extras" - but I believe the modern interpretation of extras is "if I've got 4-card support, well, I'll have a real opening hand at least, not those ratty 10 HCP I had last time".

In other words, opener still has a huge range, and bidding 4 as RKCB isn't going to help me figure out whether we have 12 tricks or only 10.

Which methods would you recommend here for a serious but non-expert partnership? (Preferably ones that can be abstracted to other sequences than just this one.)
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#2 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 09:10

Non expert here but it seems better to not have 3d promise extras on this auction. Perhaps 3d just is my "best" natural rebid. That means we still follow game before slam and we are still looking for the best game at this point.

to use your example partner may still have that ten hcp hand
xxx..AQT98..AT98..x or if you prefer
xx...AQT98...AT98...xx

In other words our first priority is still the question what is our best game.
Yes that means finding that diamond slam may still be tough vs say 3nt.
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I don't play this second style but I suppose option2 might be rebid 2h with all hands that do not have very real extras so 3d shows a really good hand.
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#3 User is offline   Jinksy 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 12:15

I play that minor splinters below 3N can be wide-ranging (and that after one, both 3N and an immediate 4m are signoffs), so here opener would be virtually denying spade shortage (and had the minor been clubs, he'd be denying any shortage). Other than that, we play suits under 3M as fragment showing ('as natural as possible') rather than cues.

We also play a bid of 4m in a forcing auction where any other four-level call would implicitly agree the minor as Turbo, showing an even number of keycards. That tends to work very well if no-one has a void - hence the other thread about how to deal with voids. It gives you a lot more room for cueing than Minorwood, and a lot less risk of ending up in 6 off two KCs/playing in 5m+1 because you didn't have the option to safely ask for KCs.
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#4 User is offline   steve2005 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 13:48

Well maybe with interest you can cue 3 or 4. Then partner may be able to cue or use Minorwood. If you don't have a cue slam unlikely
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#5 User is offline   fromageGB 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 14:53

I think if you play a opener rebid of his major as "waiting", not showing or denying any distribution, but denying "extras", it helps you have an agreed definition of what "extras" means. Say 15+hcp. Without that, you can wait then support. The bidding in your example would start 1 2, 2. Responder with nothing particular to say can then bid 2NT again as waiting, not suggesting the eventual denomination, nor with any strength implication, which then allows opener to show his support with 3. An immediate opener 3 is stronger, with the agreed extras. This would help any non-expert partnership better evaluate slam strength.

Another aid would be to switch to kickback - or call it redwood - and then a bid of 4m would be slam suggestive, but not committal. It shows additional strength or slam suitability, but not a hand good enough to unilaterally blast off in ace asking. Partner then has the option of bidding 4m+1 to ace ask, or 5m as a denial.

The combination of these two can be quite effective, regardless of what might be shown in the way of cue bidding between 3m and 4m, as cue bidding in the minors is often checking out NT (showing stops) rather than suggesting or aiding slam. Keeping to hcp as a simple example : 1 2(GF), 3(15+) 4(I'm pretty good too, say 15) 4(OK, how many aces?). Or substitute controls/loser/side tricks evaluation for hcp of course.

A third method that can help the non-expert partnership is to make a judgement as to whether your own hand is the one that should be showing aces and kings, or the one asking. If you have no unexpected side suit trick-taking potential, and you have some aces and kings but you don't have the useful queens and jacks, and the partnership bidding to date has shown slam values, then your hand is more suitable to show aces than ask for them. Partner is better placed to make the judgement of whether 12 or 13 tricks. When you get to the region of 4m, and trumps are agreed, instead of bidding 4m+1 as the ace ask, skip that and make a higher bid to give your ace response, exactly as if partner had asked for aces. Partner then takes over checking on the Q and asking for kings.
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#6 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 15:30

I should add that playing a style where 3d by opener does not promise extras, which I do, means that two suited hands roughly in the range of 14-16 become tough. Partner assumes we have less, with more we can bid over 3nt sign off.
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#7 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 16:10

View PostfromageGB, on 2015-September-01, 14:53, said:

Another aid would be to switch to kickback - or call it redwood - and then a bid of 4m would be slam suggestive, but not committal.

Nah, I'll call it kickback since we already play 4 as RKCB for hearts. ;) Yes, kickback is the direction I'm leaning in but I thought I'd see whether this thread can provide other good input.

Here's another auction:

1 - 1 - 2 - 3

We play Lebensohl/Ingberman so 3 is forcing. How to proceed? Should 3 be offering 3-card support or should it show something like honor doubleton, probing for slam?
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#8 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 17:09

I have a few ideas for auctions where diamonds are agreed. One is that 4 in normal auctions with diamonds agreed is a general slam try with an implied key card ask if accepting - Conditional KCB. You can combine that with Kickback to avoid losing too much on slam drive hands. Next, where it is possible to use both 4 and 4 to agree diamonds, the former is used to initiate a cue auction (with 4 becoming a club cue) while 4 retains its normal CKCB meaning. Finally, when we know we are in the slam zone to use 3m+1 as a general slam try, effectively serving the same role as Frivolous 3NT, and higher calls for serious cue bids in the preferred partnership style (for me that is denial with 3NT being the negative, if available). That would not apply here of course as 3 is necessary for natural purposes but we could use 3 for that purpose if we liked. If we were to do that, it could be combined with the rest of the standard rules to give:-

3 = double fit
3 = slam try in diamonds
3NT = natural
4 = starts a cue auction with diamonds agreed
4 = CKCB

The disadvantage is obviously that cue auctions start considerably higher than playing natural. The advantage is getting better range clarification and being able to stop in 3NT when the slam try gets rejected.
(-: Zel :-)
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#9 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 17:15

View Postmgoetze, on 2015-September-01, 16:10, said:

Here's another auction:

1 - 1 - 2 - 3

We play Lebensohl/Ingberman so 3 is forcing. How to proceed? Should 3 be offering 3-card support or should it show something like honor doubleton, probing for slam?

Note that you could if you wanted use precisely the same structure here except that now 3 shows an x56y hand. Another reasonable use for 3 would be checking on the club situation for making an informed decision about strain and I think I prefer all 3 of these to the 3 card spade fragment idea (assuming 2 would have been forcing).
(-: Zel :-)
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#10 User is offline   kenrexford 

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Posted 2015-September-01, 19:17

View PostZelandakh, on 2015-September-01, 17:09, said:

I have a few ideas for auctions where diamonds are agreed. One is that 4 in normal auctions with diamonds agreed is a general slam try with an implied key card ask if accepting - Conditional KCB. You can combine that with Kickback to avoid losing too much on slam drive hands. Next, where it is possible to use both 4 and 4 to agree diamonds, the former is used to initiate a cue auction (with 4 becoming a club cue) while 4 retains its normal CKCB meaning. Finally, when we know we are in the slam zone to use 3m+1 as a general slam try, effectively serving the same role as Frivolous 3NT, and higher calls for serious cue bids in the preferred partnership style (for me that is denial with 3NT being the negative, if available). That would not apply here of course as 3 is necessary for natural purposes but we could use 3 for that purpose if we liked. If we were to do that, it could be combined with the rest of the standard rules to give:-

3 = double fit
3 = slam try in diamonds
3NT = natural
4 = starts a cue auction with diamonds agreed
4 = CKCB

The disadvantage is obviously that cue auctions start considerably higher than playing natural. The advantage is getting better range clarification and being able to stop in 3NT when the slam try gets rejected.

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#11 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2015-September-02, 13:40

I play a novel system there. Bidding partner's suit shows a double fit. Other bids below 3NT show values in that suit, often try to find 3NT. 4-level bids are cuebids. (Some play 4 = good trumps, skipping 4 = bad trumps; others play 4 as sort of a waiting bid - I have slam interest, but I believe we'll have more room if you show your controls next.) The more cuebids someone makes, the more slam interest. Finally, 4NT is a version of blackwood where the K of trumps is counted like and ace, and where 1/4 and 0/3 aces are compressed into a single response.

Works much better than minorwood in my experience.
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#12 User is offline   fromageGB 

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Posted 2015-September-03, 01:44

View Postcherdano, on 2015-September-02, 13:40, said:

Finally, 4NT is a version of blackwood where the K of trumps is counted like and ace, and where 1/4 and 0/3 aces are compressed into a single response.
Works much better than minorwood in my experience.

Am I understanding you correctly? Diamonds are trumps, 4NT asks for the 5 aces, 5 shows any number of aces other than 2, and this works better than minorwood?
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#13 User is offline   rhm 

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Posted 2015-September-03, 02:45

View Postmgoetze, on 2015-September-01, 08:31, said:

Time to improve our minor suit slam bidding. Currently we use minorwood, and it is indeed as awful as people say. Let's start with an easy auction:

1-2; 3

We play 2 as forcing to game with 5+ diamonds, and 3 as showing "extras" - but I believe the modern interpretation of extras is "if I've got 4-card support, well, I'll have a real opening hand at least, not those ratty 10 HCP I had last time".

In other words, opener still has a huge range, and bidding 4 as RKCB isn't going to help me figure out whether we have 12 tricks or only 10.

Sorry but this is nonsense.
There are few experts, who would claim in slam bidding you do not need a keycard ask.
With minors there is a problem. 4NT is usually too high for that purpose.
kickback, redwood, minorwood all try to find a substitute which is lower.

Has anybody claimed keycard will solve all problems in slam bidding and is always appropriate?
You must be joking.
But keycard is much more useful than aceask because it does not only look at aces but also at trump losers.

I like minorwood because afterwards I can often suggest 4NT as a resting place, which is useful when a minor has been agreed, even more so at matchpoint. Every bidding step available below 4NT counts.

Now back to your issues that you do not know whether you have 10 or 12 tricks.
The foundation for good slam bidding is done in the early stages of bidding not in the last ones.
This generally means the information you exchange below 3NT, which is a watershed in bidding, particularly with minor suit fits.

2/1 is an improvement, but I still think people do often not make good use of the avialable bididng space they have created by forcing to game early.

For example the way I play
1-2; 3 shows not only 4 card diamond support it also shows an unbalanced hand.

After 2/1 opener uses the next highest bid to show minimum or (semi)balanced hands and 2NT acts as a substitute what the next highest would have shown in standard. (here 2 is step one and 2NT would show 6 hearts and an unbalanced hand)

So you can see I would be on much firmer ground if I would launch minorwood after 1-2; 3 and if I get a disappointing reply I might be able to stop in 4NT

I am not claiming my system is perfect or the only way to do it, but the principles on which it evolved are important.

Rainer Herrmann
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#14 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2015-September-03, 02:53

View PostfromageGB, on 2015-September-03, 01:44, said:

Am I understanding you correctly?

No, Arend was being ironical by writing "standard" in a long-winded way and saying that is an improvement.
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#15 User is offline   Wackojack 

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Posted 2015-September-04, 10:05

A good general rule is that 44is minorwood when supporting the minor or the suit has already been agreed or implied and is interrogating a hand that has limited itself to a 3 point range. Otherwise it is natural. A strong club system usually builds this situation more efficiently.
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#16 User is offline   BillPatch 

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Posted 2015-September-04, 12:06

Another option is to always use Kleinman's suggestion 4 after simple minor agreement below the 4 level to show the RKC ask. Definitely simpler than the other methods, so it satisfies the KISS principle.
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#17 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2015-September-07, 06:03

View Postcherdano, on 2015-September-02, 13:40, said:

I play a novel system there. Bidding partner's suit shows a double fit. Other bids below 3NT show values in that suit, often try to find 3NT. 4-level bids are cuebids. (Some play 4 = good trumps, skipping 4 = bad trumps; others play 4 as sort of a waiting bid - I have slam interest, but I believe we'll have more room if you show your controls next.) The more cuebids someone makes, the more slam interest. Finally, 4NT is a version of blackwood where the K of trumps is counted like and ace, and where 1/4 and 0/3 aces are compressed into a single response.

Thanks, this does indeed seem like a novel system - such a contrast to the major suit slam bidding recommended by luminaries like Fred G. where one partner shows serious slam interest and then failure to make a cuebid denies a control in that suit. In comparison to those easy instructions, this seems like a black art, but perhaps one that is worth learning all the same. Do you have a recommendation which of the arcane incantations (4 trump cue or 4 waiting) is more suitable for novices?
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