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High level balancing The "borrow a K" concept at high level

#1 User is offline   Chamaco 

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Posted 2004-July-21, 06:50

Hi all ! :lol:

There has been lately quite a few threads on balancing after a preemptive weak 2 or weak 3.
Check out:
Balancing enemy's preempt
Balancing over preempt-simulations
2S-p-p-2NT

Here is a brief summary of common knowledge, followed by the real question of this post.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Summary

1- Balancing issues

The usual concept in the balancing seat is: as the bid is being passed out, pard is not broke, so I "borrow a K", that is, I will bid as if I were in direct seat assuming I am a K stronger.
The responder to the balancer will know that, and will treat his own hand as if it was a K lighter.

This concept works fairly well at the 1 level.
At the 2 or 3 level it is much more dangerous.
Why ?
The reason is that after an opening at the one level, passed out, responder MUST be pretty weak.
On the contrary, over a weak 2 (and even more a 3-level preempt), responder can be quite strong, and will pass a 15-16 hcp hand if it is in misfit.

Obviously, the balancer can use as an additional info to evaluate the safety of his action, the length in opps suit:
- if he is short in the preempt suit, chances are that responder to the preemptoor is NOT in misfit, there fore his pass is not the pass of a strong misfiting hand waiting to kill you if you step in.
- if balancer has 3+ cards in the suit, balancing can be quite dangerous: this time, the chances that RHO (preeptor's pard) is strong are more concrete; if he is not, our pard is short, and the fact he did not make a move despite shortness in the preempt suit, suggest he does not have a great holding.

2- Bidding over preempts issues

Mike Lawrence suggests the "rule of 7" to bid in DIRECT seat over a preemptive opening.
Basically it means "Bid what you can make, assuming pard has 7-8 normal hcp" (usually = about 9 losers hand).
So at the 3 level it means more or less having a 6 loser hand if unbalanced, or if balanced with stoppers, bid 3NT with 17/18+ hcp.
You can find a detailed article on this theory at the following link:
Mike Lawrence: Bidding over preempts

End of summary

------------------------------------------------------------------------



Now assume the given premises:
1- rule of 7: over a preempt bid in direct seat assuming pard has 7 hcp
2- bid in balancing seat assuming your hand has a K more

and the inevitable result is:

3- RULE OF TEN: BID IN BALANCING SEAT ASSUMING PARD HAS TEN HCP (the usual 7 + the 3 hcp "borrowed" for balancing).
This is quite dangerous, since, for example, one of the consequences is:
- over a 3 level preempt, bid 3NT with a 14/15 balanced hand (the usual 17/18 of direct seat + 3 hcp "borrowed" from balancer).

This reflects on other bids too.

I think I have read somewhere (probably in a Marshall Miles' book) that over a preempt, the balancer should bid almost the same as in direct seat, borrowing 1hcp, not 3 hcp.

I would like to hear comments from the posters.

Thanks !!
"Bridge is like dance: technique's important but what really matters is not to step on partner's feet !"
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Posted 2004-July-21, 07:12

Hi,

Balancing over preempts is more an art, or maybe black magic, than a science.

First, it is helpful to know your opponents. Are their preempts sound? Do they preempt with side defensive stregnth or not? Are they likely to preempt with very weak hands or remarkably strong hands (for a preempt) just to mix things up?

In otherwords,one has to consider factors other than the 13 cards in one's on hand. Just yesterday, I preempted with a wide variety of hands. For instance, on one after my partner passed, I preeempted to 3 holding...

Scoring: IMP


My opponent's got to 3NT and were in for a nasty surprise. I would also preempt with the following hand...

Scoring: IMP


Ok... these are two extremes, no one but me preempted with the first hand, and only 4 out of 16 people actually preempted with the second. But if your preempts are by the "book" your opponents constructive bidding (and play) is much easier for them.

I know this doesn't answer your question. So I will take a stab. I balance with less than I would in direct seat if I am short in their suit. I need a lot more than normal to balance if I am "long" in their suit (3 or 4 cards). With 2 cards in their suit, I balance with more or less normal direct seat values. The reason being, the longer you are in their suit, the more likely partner is short and yet he took no action. The shorter you are in their suit, the more likely partner is praying you reopen with a double so he can "punish them", or that he was off-shaped but short in their suit and would love to hear me balance.

Ben
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Posted 2004-July-21, 07:57

There's an old statistical study by Emile Borel (one of the all-time great french mathematicians) on balancing. I read about it in a UK magazine some time ago. The study was only on level 1 balancing, and the conclusion was basically as follows:

Balance on any 7-count if you have good major suits holdings.
Balance only with 12+ if your major suits holdings are short.

So, after

1H p p ??

You should balance on Kxxx x Axxxx xxx, but pass on x Kxx AQJxx Jxxx.

Now, I'd like to hear what Borel has to say on 2- and 3-level balancing, but unfortunately he's dead.

By the way, it was Borel who also calculated the chance of blowing a trick in a suit contract (on an unrevealing auction I guess) by leading/underleading an unsupported ace:

Leading: 5%
Underleading: 10%
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#4 User is offline   Chamaco 

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Posted 2004-July-21, 08:04

inquiry, on Jul 21 2004, 01:12 PM, said:

I know this doesn't answer your question. So I will take a stab. I balance with less than I would in direct seat if I am short in their suit. I need a lot more than normal to balance if I am "long" in their suit (3 or 4 cards).
- ---

etc etc...

Ben,
I am aware of this "general consideration", and the concepts you repeated were already mentioned in the "blue" part of my post.

But of course, the Latins used to say "Repetita juvant" (= repeating things help).

what I was trying to define was some quantitative constraints, some ranges, in terms of hcp or losers (even Zar points! :lol: ).
These constraints will of course be different if I am short or not in the preempt suit.
Of course, defining a range does not mean killing pard if he uses judgment, but selecting a standard to help the responder to the balancer.
As I already wrote, too wide a range may put too much pressure on the balancer's pard, regardless on the form of scoring and on whether balancer is a passed hand.

If constraints cannot be given, at least a number of concrete examples will help :P

Please note that the problem should be tackled from both sides: the balancer and his partner.
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Posted 2004-July-21, 08:18

Chamaco, on Jul 21 2004, 10:04 AM, said:

what I was trying to define was some constraints, some ranges, in terms of hcp or losers.
These constraints will of course be different if I am short or not in the preempt suit.

Well, I don't think I can help you with constrains. My bids will depend upon knowledge of opponents style (I much prefer if they always preempt ultra light, or always "sound".. just as long as I know), the vulnerability, the type of game (MP or IMPs), the state of the match/event, and how I am feeling at the moment. I guess I could hunt through my hand records and post some hands.

I do have a recent one where I got burned big time for my action... consider this hand...

Dealer: West
Vul: EW
Scoring: IMP
4
87432
QT9
AK94


West North East South
 2    Pass  Pass  ?


Should you balance with a double? A number of thoughts go through my head. The opponents are vul and yet they didn't try for game. So partner is EVEN MORE likely to have values. I am short in , so maybe partner is stacked. Partner will realize that I am "protecting" on this auction and not hang me if I double without real values (after all that was a VULNERABLE weak two).

If they had not been vulnerable, I would have passed, but the double was marginal anyway. The double sealled our fate. We held them to two (almost all made 3/4 , but got a horrible -12.4 imps. If we run to our 3 t, that is down at least one, maybe two doubled.

Looking at this one, maybe no one should listen to me on balancing... :-)
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#6 User is offline   Chamaco 

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Posted 2004-July-21, 08:25

inquiry, on Jul 21 2004, 02:18 PM, said:

Well, I don't think I can help you with constrains.

Thanks a lot Ben !
NP if you cannot help with constraints, but at least I have something concrete to view and to use as "food for thought".

Just saying "be aggressive if it is MP and you are short in their suit" or "if you are a passed hand, your pard will not overrate your hand" does not help me much because it does not say where the threshold stands.

The more I study bridge the more I have come to think that "general considerations" are good for beginners to help organizing their thoughts, but nothing is like concrete examples or specific (not vague) statements.


Therefore, thanks for this example hand ! :lol:

By the way, with the hand you gave, I would balance even vs a 3 level preempt.
I have a sure fit somewhere (as I am short in their suit) so it is relatively safe to evaluate the hand in terms of losers: a 7.5 losers hand is worth near-opening hand playing strength, e.g. a hand that opposite a pard decent opening hand should have good play for ten tricks.
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#7 User is offline   mikestar 

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Posted 2004-July-21, 08:57

I find the King rule about right over preempts. There is a positional factor that helps overcome some of the danger of the higher level.

After (1S)-P-(P) opener has most of the enemy points. If you balance with a decent hand, your finesses will tend to lose--the stronger your hand the wosre the effect.

But after (3S)-P-(P) responder has most of the enemy points and your finesses will tend to win.

This factor also makes direct seat action safer over a one bid and more dangerous over a preempt than the level alone would indicate.
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Posted 2004-July-21, 09:30

I would balance that hand as well, inquiry. Next time pard has

Axxx
AKxx
Jxx
xx

and 4H is cold.

Anyway, while you can be jumping into a misfit, I think doubling stands more to gain than to lose.
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Posted 2004-July-21, 10:24

I guess I am gratified to see that at least some people agree with with my agreesive double that earned me a huge imp lose this week. Just to balance the presentation, I went back and found all the preempt against me in the last several months on this computer (I use several, so this isn't all of course). Flipping through the hands, I found that I preempt much more often than my opponents. I would like to attribute this to the fact that they are scared to preempt agaiinst me. But in reality, it has more to do with I preempt with wildly weak hands, and in thrid seat, weak or strong hands. It also has to do with the fact that I open many weak hands BEFORE they get a chance to preempt. A case in point is this hand from yesterday playing AGAINST two gold stars at my table..


Dealer: East
Vul: None
Scoring: IMP
AJ842
K53
T9763

West North East South
 -     -     Pass  1
 1    2    Pass  3
 3    4    Pass  Pass
 4    Pass  Pass  5
 Pass  5    Pass  5
 Pass  Pass  Pass  


Opening 1 first seat isn't everyone's choice. At the other table, my hand passed, and WEST jumped to 4 ending the auction (down two). Interestingly on this auction, EAST with what looks like at least two sure tricks didn't double. Good thing too, looking at the hands it appear at first to be hard to make, but it is really quite easy to do... I only show this hand to illustrate one of the reason why I have fewer preempts against me than others do perhaps.

Now to the hands I found, all of which I have fair to good results on....


Dealer: West
Vul: None
Scoring: IMP
KJ653
A9
5
K7543

West North East South
 2    Pass  4    Dbl
 Pass  4NT!  Pass  5
 Pass  Pass  Dbl   Pass
 Pass  Pass  


Playing with Misho, I have no fear of partner up and bidding 5. My double was takeout, but at four level he can convert. Misho had 5 and 4 and bid 4NT for me to pick a minor. I made 5X. With other partners I wouldn't necessarily risk a double for fear of a 5 bid wihen partner is 5-3 in the minors, so with them I would choose 4 or pass instead. So add, who is partner to the growing list of taking action over preempts.

Dealer: West
Vul: NS
Scoring: IMP
AK532
QJT
A
AK94

West North East South
 3    Pass  Pass  4
 Pass  Pass  Pass  


I am too strong for 3. and while DBL could work out well if partner converts to penalty, we are VUL and they are not. So I choose the practical 4 bid. It just makes. Partner would pass 3X. it would be likely down 3, but a chance for down 4. Still, 4 was fine result for us.

Dealer: West
Vul: All
Scoring: IMP
QJ2
Q82
AKQ5
432


West North East South
 3    Pass  Pass  Pass
 


An easy pass for me in 4th seat. Many bid with this hand to their dismay.


Dealer: West
Vul: EW
Scoring: IMP
KT87
AJ94
85
K84

West North East South
 Pass  Pass  3    Pass
 Pass  Pass  


Not so easy a pass... If partner wasn't a passed hand, I guess I would double. Partner has a void and five , plus the AKTx. If he passes you will beat 3 at least one, probalby two (we beat it two, undoubled), if he bids 4 you are down two, and certainly down one. So it is unclear if double or pass is the right option, but we got a very nce imp score for 3 passed out. We are in the hunt for an even better score if I double (and partner passes) or worse score (if I double and partner bids 3/4).

Don't know if this helps... but these are examples from my bbo play (maybe you played some of these as well).

Ben
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Posted 2004-July-21, 10:34

inquiry, on Jul 21 2004, 04:24 PM, said:

Don't know if this helps... but these are examples from my bbo play (maybe you played some of these as well).

Thanks Ben, they sure help.
A single specific hand is definitely better than a full page repeating well known general concepts :rolleyes:
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Posted 2004-July-21, 10:41

inquiry, on Jul 21 2004, 08:12 AM, said:

Just yesterday, I preempted with a wide variety of hands. For instance, on one after my partner passed, I preeempted to 3 holding...

Scoring: IMP


My opponent's got to 3NT and were in for a nasty surprise. I would also preempt with the following hand...

Scoring: IMP


Ok... these are two extremes, no one but me preempted with the first hand,...

I'm not surprised that you were alone on the first hand. You have full values for a 1D opener followed by a 3D rebid, which is going to get you to a makable 3NT a lot of the time. I would expect to have decent play for 3NT even if your 3D bid was over an opponent's opening bid if your partner has some values. Now, if you had preempted in 4th seat after three passes, then the opponents should expect this hand and got exactly what they deserved in 3NT.

Unfortuately, it's tough to collect a big number when the opponents are wrong. If you double 3NT and one opponent has D-KQx and your partner is entryless, you might watch them make 3NT with overtricks. Your partner can never double when you have all the stuff.

This point was driven home hard the other day when I used one of my favoirte preemptive tactics - a preemptive overcall with a good hand after partner passed, then double giving pard the choice if the opponents bid more.

I held something resembling S-AKQJxxx, H-Kxx D-x C-Ax. LHO opened 1D, pass by partner, RHO bid 1H. I bid 4S. P, P, 5D to me. Double. (To protect our score for 4S as much as anything else.) P-P-Redouble. Partner was broke and -1000 wasn't a success.

Not that I wouldn't do the same thing next time. The point I'm trying to make is that when you "suck the opponents in" after your preempt with a strong hand, it is not an automatic bonanza. To do it with without a game bid when your side might easily have a game seems like a losing strategy. (I could see it if you were trying for a swing.) Although it will make your opponents think more over your preempt...

Quote

I do have a recent one where I got burned big time for my action... consider this hand...

Dealer:  West 
Vul:  EW 
Scoring:  IMP 
♠  4 
♥  87432 
♦  QT9 
♣  AK94 
 


West North East South
2♠    Pass  Pass  ?

I would have taken the same hit. Double seems pretty clear to me. If they never make a doubled contract against you, you're not doubling enough. If you never go for a number, you're not bidding enough. Partner could be quite strong if he has spade length and no attractive bid.

I guess that expresses my view about balancing against preemptive opening bids :rolleyes:
I tend to lead fourth best - as opposed to the best suit, the second best suit, or the third best suit for our side
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Posted 2004-July-21, 10:55

paulhar, on Jul 21 2004, 12:41 PM, said:

inquiry, on Jul 21 2004, 08:12 AM, said:


Dealer: West
Vul: None
Scoring: IMP
J
A2
AJT8742
KJ2
 


My opponent's got to 3NT and were in for a nasty surprise. I would also preempt with the following hand...

Ok... these are two extremes, no one but me preempted with the first hand,...


I'm not surprised that you were alone on the first hand. You have full values for a 1D opener followed by a 3D rebid, which is going to get you to a makable 3NT a lot of the time. I would expect to have decent play for 3NT even if your 3D bid was over an opponent's opening bid if your partner has some values. Now, if you had preempted in 4th seat after three passes, then the opponents should expect this hand and got exactly what they deserved in 3NT.

This point was driven home hard the other day when I used one of my favoirte preemptive tactics - a preemptive overcall with a good hand after partner passed, then double giving pard the choice if the opponents bid more.

Well to be fair, I didn't OPEN this 3.... I was in 4th seat and the bidding had been...

Quote

LHO    Part    RHO    Me
1C    Pass  1H    3D
DBL  Pass  3NT  Pass


This went down four vulnerable. Sort of the same concept you showed. I showed this hand to illustrate the ranges I will go to when preempting...

Ben
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Posted 2004-July-21, 12:08

Ben: I couldn't think of an instance where a 3D preempt would be right on that hand. Apparently I didn't think long enough. Although you could have had a game (the 1H bid could be on junk), a 3D bid here seems quite reasonable. By your posts, you seem like a fine player and a 3D preempt just caught me by surprise! (Really? is he on drugs?) My faith in you has been restored. This would have been a good time for me to remember that "a closed mouth gathers no feet." :rolleyes:

Quite honestly, I agree with about 90% of your suggested bids in your posts (even most of the ones you consider unpopular.) When I do agree, you've usually already made the point better than I could have, so I have no reason to post if our answer is popular. I might post if I agree with your unpopular opinion just to show support for that opinion. Where we differ, I feel I have to post my thoughts so that you and the other posters can tell me where my thinking has gone awry.
I tend to lead fourth best - as opposed to the best suit, the second best suit, or the third best suit for our side
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Posted 2004-July-21, 13:31

The 3D overcall on J Ax AJTxxxx KJx is perfect. Opps are both bidding, so probably no game for your side. They seem to have a spade fit but didn't yet signal it. Presumably East is 44 majors and bid 1H. If there's a right time to make an unusual preempt, this is it. And indeed it payed off.

As for balancing 4S over 3D on AKxxx QJT A AKxx, I'm not so sure. This puts all eggs in the same (spade) basket. What's the problem of doubling? If pard bids 3H you can bid 3S (or 4S, if you can't chance missing game). If pard bids 4H, he surely has 5 of them. He won't bid 4H with 4 cards unless he has extra strenght, which you know he can't. And if he bids clubs or spades, it's super.
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Posted 2004-July-21, 15:44

inquiry, on Jul 22 2004, 02:18 AM, said:


Dealer: West
Vul: EW
Scoring: IMP
4
87432
QT9
AK94
 


West  North East  South
 2    Pass  Pass  ?

I am curious, what did your partner have?
Wayne Burrows

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Posted 2004-July-21, 15:47

Cascade, on Jul 21 2004, 05:44 PM, said:

I am curious, what did your partner have?


Scoring: IMP


West North East South
 -     2    Pass  Pass
 Dbl   Pass  Pass  Pass
 


Whoops, just cut and paste a 2X making.. got the wrong one... did it again, and then deleted the post Wayne did pointing out I posted wrong one... sorry.

Ben
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Posted 2004-July-21, 16:21

Here are my "rules" for balancing over a pre-empt:

Count your losers or cover-cards required to make game (or slam).

Estimate how many partner is likely to have. Dividing your losers by three is a good start.

Be a little optimistic - I always round up and assume we will find a fit.

Optimism is justified based on some losers can be covered in more than one way. Partner can have the key card, partner can have a useful pitch, a finesse, or a drop, or a ruff.

Here is an example from another thread Cope with this pre-empt

Scoring: MP

East opens 3


This hand has four losers - one spade, two hearts and a club.

On average I would expect partner to cover around 2 of these - 4/3 + some optimism.

Note: on the actual hand the spade loser was covered by partner's AKx(x).

The club loser could be covered by the Q or club length or by a drop (perhaps with J in the dummy.

Therefore I am happy to bid 5 over the pre-empt.

Further I think that 6 would be too optimistic - I would need partner to cover three of my four losers. This is possible but not likely IMO.
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Posted 2004-July-21, 16:27

inquiry, on Jul 22 2004, 09:47 AM, said:

Cascade, on Jul 21 2004, 05:44 PM, said:

I am curious, what did your partner have?


Scoring: IMP


West North East South
 -     2    Pass  Pass
 Dbl   Pass  Pass  Pass
 


Whoops, just cut and paste a 2X making.. got the wrong one... did it again, and then deleted the post Wayne did pointing out I posted wrong one... sorry.

Ben

Its a worry when you have a database of 2X making to choose from.

East's pass here is optimistic. With five or perhaps six trumps he is expecting to take six tricks in spades. It is also possible that his side has only around half of the high cards in the deck.

Of course the alternative for East of bidding is not attractive either. Nevertheless I think I am a bidder with the East cards.
Wayne Burrows

I believe that the USA currently hold only the World Championship For People Who Still Bid Like Your Auntie Gladys - dburn
dunno how to play 4 card majors - JLOGIC
True but I know Standard American and what better reason could I have for playing Precision? - Hideous Hog
Bidding is an estimation of probabilities SJ Simon

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Posted 2004-July-21, 20:46

The question also is whether this West hand is really worth a balance, pushing to the 3 level. Fwiw I would pass.
"The King of Hearts a broadsword bears, the Queen of Hearts a rose." W. H. Auden.
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