Monday, November 27, 2006

HEEMAN after 1NT

After a 1NT opening, many players play Stayman and transfers (usually 4 suit transfers). There are some discussions if you should use 2NT as invite without Majors or not, do you have to go via Stayman to invite if you play 4 suit transfers,... What do you do with invites with 4M and 5+m, 5M and 4+m,... And what with GF hands? Do you include 5 card Majors in your 1NT opening, and how do you search for them? Can you show a weak hand with BOTH minors? How about both Majors? How can you have a decent slam approach?

Many more questions arise, and no system is perfect. One day I found HEEMAN and I immediately like it! You can find a full writeup in English at There's a Dutch writeup here:

The main advantages imo are:
- it has lots of possibilities and is VERY easy to remember!
- opener usually plays and there's not much known about his distribution.
- many invitational sequences are possible.
- you can find weaknesses which will cause 3NT fail. So you'll be able to play a better contract.
- easy for slam auctions, and there are many ways to show slam interest.
- you can show 5-5M below 3NT.
- because responder shows his hand, opener can deviate from the normal NT distribution.

The biggest (and only) disadvantage imo: you usually can't find a 5 card Major in opener's hand. The only possible time is when responder shows an invitational hand with the other Major. Now opener can bid 3M with a maximum hand only.
This however is not that bad, but sometimes you go down in 3NT while you had 4M, and sometimes you make 3NT while 4M goes down...

I play this with my Fantunes-partner, where 1NT (11-14) can be all 4333/4432/5332/4441/5422/6m322 shapes! I haven't had much problems, but sometimes it's not easy to know what bids will work out best.

We've made one little adjustment:
1NT - 2
2 - 2
(responder shows an invite+ hand with at least 4-4 in the Majors)
Here we show immediately if we have fit or not:
2NT = minimum without fit
3 = maximum without fit
3 = maximum with fit
3 = minimum with fit
3 = minimum with fit
3NT = maximum with fit
This makes it easier for responder to try for slam or not.

We also don't like the super accepts, because I don't see the reason why you have to play at least 3M when you have a minimum hand with a good 4 card support, or a 4333. We only super accept with maximum hands and show our shortness (so no super accepts with 4333's).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Respond to asking bids!

A disaster from last week I want to share with you. Playing MOSCITO, the bidding starts:
1! - pass - 1! - 2
2NT - pass - 3 - pass
3NT - all pass

1 = 9-15HCP, 4+, can have longer m
1 = relay with invite or better hand
2NT shows stopper and maximum hand, probably pretty balanced

3NT down a few, 4 went only 1 down I think, but both contracts can be made if you find the stiff K...

First of all, my hand:
Partner blamed me for not bidding 3 instead of 3, to show a 3 card support. Imo he knows nothing about my hand, so he just has to respond to my question, "I'm the captain of this auction, I ask, you respond", end of story. What are the possible meanings for a 3 bid? I guess there's only one sensible one (since we're in a GF auction): asking for a double stopper. So bid 3NT with a double stopper, bid something else without it.

Now partner's hand:
Clearly no double stopper , so a clear 4 response (maybe even 4!). Partner said he can't know that I have a 3 card support, but he doesn't need to know this to respond to the question. I know why I ask the question, he doesn't.

Perhaps you're interested why I don't find 3 a good bid. Well basicly, I think 3 should show a 4+ card with slam interest! With invite/GF hands 4+ card support and no slam interest we immediatly start with a 2 response, so what else can 3 be after such an auction? Opener probably has a 4-4M, so why search for a 5-3 fit if he can hardly have a 5 card ? The only thing that interests me is a double stopper, without it I'll signoff in 4 which I thought would be a 4-3 fit (which is pretty ok with singleton in the short hand).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Close one

Here's one from a club evening friday evening:


Playing f2f with my MOSCITO partner, he opens the bidding with 1 (showing 9-15HCP, 4+, can have a longer minor) and RHO intervenes 2. I have an easy takeout double, LHO passes and partner bids 2 showing 5-4 or 4-5. I bid 2 showing an invitational hand with 3 support (with weaker I would've just supported immediately, even with 4 - it's the system). LHO and partner pass, and RHO balances with 2. Now what? Well, I decided to just double, since I wasn't sure about a good fit. Partner decided to pass it in. I disagree with this decision, because we have a double fit and it seems logical that opps will also have a double fit. Playing 2 anything will probably be easy, and they also know where to find the s. Even though we're NV vs V and may have an easy +200 it's too risky imo.

Anyway, the full auction:
1! - 2 - Dbl - pass
2 - pass - 2 - pass
pass - 2 - Dbl - pass
pass - pass

I start with A and don't like what I see in dummy! My J will be caught in a finesse and I just made K high (and chance is that RHO doesn't even has one!). RHO seems still to have one, so I switch to . RHO takes his Ace and plays a small . It's imo quite clear that he wants to try to discard a on his K so I take K and play Q and another . RHO ruffs and plays K which partner takes. He returns a which RHO takes with the Q catching my J and he plays for some reason small to his Queen!!! Because we cut off declarer's communication, I think he thought he could only make it if s would split 3-2, which is virtually impossible. The winning line of play is to just run and make me ruff... Now he's completely screwed. He cashes K and ruffs a with trump Ace and plays T. This is what's left in dummy:
And I still have:
Partner still holding QJ we still have to make 2 tricks. If I discard my I'll only make 1 more trump trick, if I ruff with the Jack dummy discards his losing , so the only way to make 2 tricks is to ruff low!

+200 was a nice top, and both me and my partner had a bit of excitement because the downtrick seemed very far away. All decisions turned out to be great: the switch was necessary to make declarer ruff, I had to take K immediatly because the loser would've gone away, it was very good from partner to take A immediately and continue destroying all communications, and I found a way in the end to make 2 tricks by letting declarer overruff.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Heavy preemption handling

This weekend there was the Belgian Junior Championship, the last time I could compete since I'm too old now. It wasn't a success, but we had an amusing day. The boards (computer dealt) weren't great imo, since too many finesses were onside (I think about all of them), too many good splits, and whenever trumps split 4-0 it didn't even matter. So basicly there weren't many playing skills necessary. On the other hand, they were still fun because you get some distribution and competitive action. Here's one of the most extreme ones (I like this auction the most out of 60 boards):
NV vs V, South dealer:


Not that difficult to find a minor slam if you have silent opponents. However, after 1 round the bidding was at 4!

1 - 3 - Dbl - 4
My 1 opening shows 14+HCP unlimited (we played a modified version of Fantunes). Dbl is obviously for takeout.

I thought that Dbl from me now would be takeout but this wouldn't show such great holding in . So I bid 4NT, showing some hand with tolerance for 3 suits, implying a control as well. Now my partner found a great bid: 5NT! Bid a slam he says, so I bid 6 since I'm still a minimum.

The full auction:
1 - 3 - Dbl - 4
4NT - pass - 5NT - pass
6 - all pass

If I was a bit stronger I would have to make a decision to bid grand or not, but luckily I got spared of that one. We probably would've missed grand if I had K instead of Q, so you can't say that preempting doesn't work.
Btw, as I mentioned above, there was 7NT laydown because K was singleton onside! Where's the challenge...

There were only 2 pairs who found the minor slam, so this was a good board for us.

Congratulations to Willem and Rien, my f2f MOSCITO buddy and a friend, who won the championship for the 2nd time!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Nicely defended

Here's one from competition this weekend (rotated for convenience):


The bidding is quick and simple: - all pass. 2 shows 12-14HCP with 5+.

I thought my best chances for defeating this contract were in leading a and either set up an extra trick or give partner a ruff. So I lead K, partner shows an even number of s and RHO takes the Ace. Declarer probably was afraid of a bad split or K behind him, and decided to try to set up some s first... I show an odd number of s and partner takes the second with the Ace. He now returns to my Queen and I give partner a ruff, obviously showing prefference. Partner nicely returns and it's all over for declarer. He takes the Ace and plays a low to the K. I now know that he held 5-6 s, exactly 2 s (why else would partner take the A the 2nd and not the first or 3rd time), exactly 3 s, so 2-3 s. I close the screen and ask declarer more information about his opening: can it be balanced? He says they usually open 1NT with balanced hands, so now I know his exact distribution unless he gave false info: 6-2-2-3. The only chance of defeating this contract is by giving partner trump promotion by playing in a triple void. Before doing this however, I need to cash K first, otherwise declarer just ruffs in dummy and can discard his losing from his hand.

2-1 is the result.

Declarer made the biggest error by being too pessimistic about trumps. Thanks to the K lead he only has 1 loser, 1, 1 and shouldn't be that afraid of a ruff (it's probably the 3 card trump that will ruff), so he'll have maximum 2 losers for the contract.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Thin grand

This one came up during partnership bidding, but it's an interesting one for declarer play:

We ended up in 7 by South, because North was a bit agressive.

Perhaps an interesting question: What lead should you be afraid of? I'll come back on that later, because if you know how to play this hand, you'll know the answer to this question.

On this hand I think you'll get a trump lead, which is usually a good choice against grand slams. It doesn't matter much, but realise that some suits split nicely and some badly. Plan the play!

First thing we notice: trumps will need to split 3-2 or 3-3. You'll need to set up sooner or later to get rid of your losers in the North hand. First things first, test trumps. How? If trumps split 3-2 you need to be able to handle a 4-2 split. So you need to keep exactly 1 tophonour and a small trump in dummy. Wherever you end up, it seems trumps split 3-2. Now we need to develop the while there's still a trump out, since we need to handle a 4-2 split. AK and small, LHO still follows. For safety reasons you ruff with the tophonour you kept. Success and a problem at the same time: RHO shows out, so LHO still has a and there's still a trump out. Is all hope lost? No, there's still a possibility: if RHO started with 2 trumps, he won't be able to overruff, so you return to your hand with K to ruff another small. A very exciting situation when RHO decides what to do, and luckily he can't overruff! The situation is as follows (you're in dummy):

The safest way now is to ruff a , draw trump, play the last and cash your remaining high cards in dummy.

Now back to my question earlier: what lead should you be afraid of?
A spade will kill the communication to your hand and you'll need 3 in LHO's hand to get to your hand. This however won't work, since he had a stiff...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Problem hand

Here's an interesting one from BBO. Playing MP, all Vulnerable, the auction starts at your left side:
1 - 2 - pass - pass
Dbl - pass - pass - ???

You hold the following monster:

What do you bid?

Personally I think passing is very dangerous, even though I trust my partner's overcalls. My hand is worthless in a contract and the trumps will split very badly.
So the alternatives are:
- RDbl: risks partner bidding 3, so what's next?
- 2: risks that partner has a stiff and you won't have any trump control, so the hand is again useless.
- 2: this was my choice at the table.

I think 2 should show a 2-suited hand with good and a poor second suit (otherwise you have another bid), so partner can scramble if he doesn't have tollerance for . The bidding continued:

1 - 2 - pass - pass
Dbl - pass - pass - 2
Dbl - pass - pass - ???

Now what? Should you bid again?
Obviously partner had an easy way out (RDbl or a bid), so pass accepted the contract. End of the auction.

Partner held:

We found our 8 card fit (we knew how trumps split, but ok), and the best partscore was reached:
- 2 goes -3.
- 2 also -3.
- 2 only -1.