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Non-Natural System for beginners

#1 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 13:16

As I mentioned in a recent discussion about the Vienna System of Paul Stern, a friend of mine has had success teaching absolute beginners a simple strong club system, rather than starting with "natural" 4-card majors or jumping in the deep end with 2/1.

I am curious to know the thoughts of our Non-Natural gurus on this: what would be an ideal system to get people started, making the auction relatively easy and allowing them to enjoy/concentrate playing a sensible contract?
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#2 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 13:58

I normally suggest some basic Precision variant. It may not hit your pluses completely (after all, the basic keys are "5-card majors", "forcing 1NT", and "1 16+any"), but one of the issues with newer players is that all these great contracts they get to with system they're not capable of making reliably yet (which is independent of what system they play, I understand). In exchange, what you get is a system that a significant fraction of not-new players (those that play Precision themselves) can play. There simply isn't another Strong Club system any more you can say that about.

Now, if you're just interested in "non-'Natural' systems for beginners", there's a recommendation that bog-standard EHAA is almost as simple to understand for new players as it gets (but they *really* have to be comfortable with "large negative results" sometimes!)
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#3 User is offline   shyams 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 14:32

I am with mycroft on this. Precision is a useful system for the given scenario.
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#4 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 15:03

View Postshyams, on 2021-May-17, 14:32, said:

I am with mycroft on this. Precision is a useful system for the given scenario.


We don't have the benefit that mycroft assumes, experienced potential-partners / opponents playing Precision.
Pairs in the club are more or less evenly split in four: competent 2/1, guesswork 2/1, Italian 4-card majors, local strong club systems with canape' developments.
The official teaching system is a simplified 2/1 which although well documented is still too complicated for the students, as well as having a few weaknesses of its own.
I saw a friend enjoying great success teaching his beginners something similar to Vienna, hence my post. They don't need to be bidding precisely, just to have some idea of what they are saying and to allow them to finish in a reasonable contract with abundant mental energy left for what is (at least initially) the most engaging part of the game.
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#5 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 15:57

View Postpescetom, on 2021-May-17, 15:03, said:

They don't need to be bidding precisely, just to have some idea of what they are saying and to allow them to finish in a reasonable contract with abundant mental energy left for what is (at least initially) the most engaging part of the game.


EHAA or Acol
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#6 User is offline   LBengtsson 

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Posted 2021-May-17, 18:45

View Postpescetom, on 2021-May-17, 13:16, said:

As I mentioned in a recent discussion about the Vienna System of Paul Stern, a friend of mine has had success teaching absolute beginners a simple strong club system, rather than starting with "natural" 4-card majors or jumping in the deep end with 2/1.

I am curious to know the thoughts of our Non-Natural gurus on this: what would be an ideal system to get people started, making the auction relatively easy and allowing them to enjoy/concentrate playing a sensible contract?


simple precision. c.c wei proved the goodness of it with its results. but learners need to know how to counter any interference over it also.
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#7 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-May-18, 03:50

View Posthrothgar, on 2021-May-17, 15:57, said:

EHAA or Acol


Will have a look at EHAA, thanks.

We used to start them with Italian 4-card majors, which is essentially a cleanup of Acol. That had the advantage of instilling "natural" logic and being relatively simple, but teaching that also incentivated the mature players to continue playing it rather than make the switch to 5-card. After a year online I have them almost all playing 5-card now, so I don't want to revive 4-card now.
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#8 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-May-18, 10:22

Ah, well, EHAA is 4-card majors (if you play it aggressively, which is how to play it). But 5-card majors introduce artificiality - you need to do something with 4=4=(32) out of NT range, and you have just lost "natural" logic (for good reason, but still).

EHAA is also "4 weak 2s, no strong bid" - again, it's the epitome of "first bid aggressive" system (not counting strong pass systems, I guess).

If you teach stone-age Goren, 4cM, strong 2s, whatever NT range you want, you get as "natural" as you really can. But again, nobody plays that any more either.
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#9 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2021-May-18, 11:17

For really natural I like real diamond precision with a 12-15 NT so you don't have 4432s out of range for 1/1N. No problem with passing bad 12s if you want to not get your 1N too wide.
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#10 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2021-May-18, 14:14

Vienna is not a strong club system :)
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#11 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-May-19, 03:00

View Posthelene_t, on 2021-May-18, 14:14, said:

Vienna is not a strong club system :)

I realise, it just reminded me of the minimal strong club system my friend uses because IIRC it has a bucket opening bid for strong hands and all suit openings are minimum 5-card. That's the sort of simplicity I am looking for, something that will get them started quickly but can be discarded a year or so later when they are up and playing.
If it's quite different from the 2/1 target I would consider that a virtue not a defect, as people tend to have less difficulty with radical changes than with subtle ones, in my experience. One of the problems of starting them with a natural 4-card system is that after transition to 2/1 many will continue to cut corners (knowingly or not) with 1M-3M as invitational and sub-strength 2/1 bids rather than forcing NT, etc.
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#12 User is offline   Kungsgeten 

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Posted 2021-May-19, 07:05

I think a kickstart into the game is to let them bid what they feel like. Do you have good cards? Which suit would you like to bid? Sooner or later you'll ofcourse have to go through theory but I often feel that there's way to much theory before beginners even understand how the auction works: why cant I bid 1 when my partner open 1? For some players I also think this will help them identify problems that the bidding agreements help to solve.

I think the most popular non-natural systems are pretty natural, so they probably work. Also any natural system will seem un-natural for a beginner (and usually un-natural conventions like the negative NT and Stayman are introduced very early). Except from what has been said here I also think Polish Club would work (without the "exotic" two openings). If they have an interest in the social side of playing at the club I think it makes sense to just teach the "local system": they will be familiar with what most play and I get the feeling that many frown upon players who deviate from the local system (at least at my local club). People will also give them advice and a beginner will have trouble understanding that the advice given may not be applicable given the system they're playing.
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#13 User is offline   nullve 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 00:59

View PostKungsgeten, on 2021-May-19, 07:05, said:

I think a kickstart into the game is to let them bid what they feel like. Do you have good cards? Which suit would you like to bid? Sooner or later you'll ofcourse have to go through theory but I often feel that there's way to much theory before beginners even understand how the auction works: why cant I bid 1 when my partner open 1? For some players I also think this will help them identify problems that the bidding agreements help to solve.

Or (from https://www.bridgeba...865#entry927865):

View Postnullve, on 2017-July-14, 07:31, said:

After, or instead of, minibridge, how about teaching the small children a game just like bridge, but with simplified scoring and a two-staged auction phase, e.g.

North: "clubs"
East: "diamonds"
South: "spades"
West: "diamonds" [ends EW's discussion about which denomination to play in]
North: "hearts"
South: "spades"
North: "notrump"
South: "notrump" [ends NS's discussion about which denomination to play in]

followed by

North: "five" [North is willing to contract for five tricks in notrump]
East: "six"
South: "eight"
West: "nine"
North: "pass"
East: "pass"
South: "double"
West: "pass"
North: "pass"
East: "pass"

?

Later, while still playing in protected environment, they could graduate to a game just like bridge except with an extra contract/opening bid, 0N (< 1), available.

An elementary system could be based on something like

0N = 12-14/18-19 BAL or 11+ hcp, (4441)
1x = 11-21 hcp, 5+ x, unBAL
1N+ = standard stuff except not (4441)
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#14 User is offline   enigmisto 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 02:06

View Postmycroft, on 2021-May-17, 13:58, said:

I normally suggest some basic Precision variant.


Is this basic Precision variant documented anywhere?

Are there any well-documented Precision or other Strong Club systems out there which one would describe as "elegant"?
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#15 User is offline   enigmisto 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 02:23

View Postenigmisto, on 2021-May-28, 02:06, said:

Is this basic Precision variant documented anywhere?

Are there any well-documented Precision or other Strong Club systems out there which one would describe as "elegant"?


Oh, I think you already shared your variant system notes with me! Thanks.

I'm still curious about the deeper question as to which system is "elegant". That word may mean different things to different people. To me, I'd say it's less about simplicity, and more about all the parts fitting together in a way that feels consistent, and has a low cognitive footprint because the patterns across the different parts of the bidding system are easy to remember.
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#16 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 04:43

If you're interested in an elegant system, then your best option is to look at various relay methods.

I'd recommend starting by looking at symmetric relay or such over a strong club opening.
If you're happy with this, then you can branch out into incorporating relays over other parts of your opening structure.

You might find the following useful

https://www.dropbox....0Relay.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox....0Shape.pdf?dl=0
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#17 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 09:08

Basic Precision is as elegant as SAYC. The appeal isn't elegance, it's "anybody who plays Precision can play this, even if they never would by preference." The appeal is "you can get partners that aren't from your class."
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#18 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-May-28, 14:56

View Postnullve, on 2021-May-28, 00:59, said:

Or (from https://www.bridgeba...865#entry927865):


Later, while still playing in protected environment, they could graduate to a game just like bridge except with an extra contract/opening bid, 0N (< 1), available.

An elementary system could be based on something like

0N = 12-14/18-19 BAL or 11+ hcp, (4441)
1x = 11-21 hcp, 5+ x, unBAL
1N+ = standard stuff except not (4441)


I find your teaching system intriguing, but I'm also quite happy leaving absolute beginners up to "natural" instinct given some idea of the rules and scoring system.
What I'm more interested in here is something easy to learn, but enough to get them up and playing in the main relaxed club game for a year or so with a reasonable chance of reaching a sensible contract and getting to understand card play. So your elementary system looks a lot closer to the bill, not unlike my friend's system. I was hoping for something like this, maybe documented.
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#19 User is offline   nullve 

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Posted 2021-May-30, 05:29

View PostKungsgeten, on 2021-May-19, 07:05, said:

(and usually un-natural conventions like the negative NT and Stayman are introduced very early)

The negative NT, what is it? :unsure:

View PostKungsgeten, on 2021-May-19, 07:05, said:

Except from what has been said here I also think Polish Club would work (without the "exotic" two openings).

The problem is that you will often not reach a sensible contract after a Polish (or old Precision) 2 opening.

I believe Dutch Doubleton is a better choice.
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#20 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-May-30, 06:20

Here in the Netherlands Dutch Doubleton is very popular, but I think the degree to which it is non natural and the degree to which it is suitable for beginners are inversely related. I do not think it matches the requirements of the original post.

I could talk about Dutch Doubleton for days without pausing for breath, but at its core there are three different systems called 'Dutch Doubleton'. One is basically SAYC except that 4=4=3=2 shape and points outside your 1NT/2NT opening range you open 1, instead of 1 (this way 1 always promises 4). In my opinion this is not noticeably better or worse than SAYC, and it would be a stretch to call this an unnatural system (although 1 needs to be alerted).

A step up is described in the previous link to Rosalind's website (although the 2NT weak minors is not standard, most people here play 20-21 or 20-22 NT). In this version of Dutch Doubleton you open 1 only with 5+ or exactly 4=4=4=1. This means that a whole host of hands with 4 diamonds and 2 clubs will be opened with 1. Normally people add a 'relay' 1 response to 1, showing either real diamonds (often in conjuction with Walsh principles, so it denies a major unless GF) or any 0-7 HCP hand without long clubs. Opener rebids their longest major with a weak balanced hand (can be only 3 and needs to be alerted) or 1NT with a hand too strong for a 1NT opening (usually 18-19). This caters to the increased frequency of opening 1 on only 2, so you can run to a major suit. The 1 opening and 1 response need to be alerted.

Lastly there is a system called the 'full Dutch Doubleton' (I personally play this). It optionally also moves some balanced hands with 5 to the 1 opening, overloads the 1 response with more conventional options (4-4 in the majors, and 3=3=3=4 strong) and has a more complicated set of rebids over 1*-1*. This system is decidedly non natural, but I would not recommend it to beginners.
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