• Bridge Jedi

Recap of March 8, 2010 Lesson

Updated: Mar 9

Overcalls, the Law of Total Tricks, Jacoby 2NT,Control bids, and RKC Blackwood

Today's play of the hands brought up some interesting topics. Let me recap what was discussed.

(1) Competitive Auctions -- Making an Overcall What do you need to make an overcall bid? Depending on partnership agreement and vulnerability, it can be as few as 6 points and a five-card suit! Overcalling is a competitive action, and is done to (a) show partner your best suit, (b) attempt to 'steal' a contract from the opponents, and (c) make it more difficult for the opponents to find a safe contract.

You do NOT need a full-strength opening hand to bid over the opponents. The general rule of thumb is you should have at least six points and a good five-card suit to overcall at the one level at favorable vulnerability (I.e., you are not vulnerable and the opponents are vulnerable), 8 points to overcall at the one level at unfavorable vulnerability, and 10 points to overcall at the 2 level.

Don't hesitate to jump into the bidding. It can be very disruptive to the opponents and advantageous to your partner to describe you hand.

(2) Competitive Auctions and The Law of Total Tricks

Once your partnership engages in a competitive auction by making an overcall, you can "safely" compete up to the level where the contract requires as many tricks as the partnership has in trumps in their combined hands. In other words, if partner overcalls 1C with 1S, you can look at your hand and count the total number of spades (assuming partner has five). If you have three spades to go with partners five, bid 2S; if you have 4 spades, you have nine spades between you, so you can compete to the 3 level. If you have 5 spades, you can (and should!) compete to the 4 level.

(3) The Jacoby 2NT

This convention has become so commonly used it is now on the "Yellow Card" -- the basic convention card designed for beginners or new partnerships. In its "standard" form, none of these bids are alertable.

Jacoby 2NT is a response of 2NT when partner opens 1 of a major. To make this response, you must have:

(a) 4 or more cards in partner's suit

(b) 13+ points (including dummy points!)

Clearly, this is a game-forcing response; it may open the door to explore a possible slam as well.

When opener sees partner's 2NT response, his rebid will further describe his hand. Here are his possible responses:

(a) 4 of the major -- this indicates a minimum opener and no special shape features. This is the principle of fast arrival in action.

(b) 3 of the major -- this indicates extra values, 16+ points and possible slam interest.

(c) 3 of any other suit -- this shows shortness (singleton or void) in the suit bid.

(d) 4 of any other suit -- this shows a second 5-card suit; typically, the second suit should be stronger than the opening suit to be worth showing. Why? Because if you have 5-5 distribution, you will also have a singleton or a void that you could have shown at the 3 level!

Once opener's rebid describes his hand, responder can either bid game (or pass game if partner bid it) with a minimum responding hand, or begin control bidding, showing first round control in the non-trump suit bid (this means either an ace or a void in that suit). Control bids show at least a mild interest in slam; alternatively, he can bid Roman Key-Card Blackwood (see next section). Opener, upon hearing a control bid by responder, will also bid any controls he has. Both partners will continue bidding controls up through the game level bid of the suit bid; going beyond that shows STRONG slam interest by either bidding more control bids or bidding Roman Key-Card Blackwood.

(4) Roman Key-Card Blackwood

We all know of "standard Blackwood", which is a way of asking partner how many aces he/she holds. A variation on that, called "Roman Key-Card Blackwood", provides far more information for suit contracts than standard Blackwood.

The "Key Cards" are the four aces, plus the king of trump, making a total of 5 key cards. There are two main variations on the responses, called "1430" and "3014", named after the meaning of the 5C and 5D responses. Let's focus for now on the "1430" responses. They are:

5C -- 1 or 4 key cards (the "14" in 1430")

5D -- 0 or 3 key cards (the "30" in "1430")

5H -- 2 key cards without the queen of trump

5S -- 2 key cards with the queen of trumps

So, you can see that you can know find out information about the 4 aces, the king of trump, and possibly even the queen of trump. But there is more... upon hearing a 5C or 5D response, if all the key cards are accounted for, the 4NT bidder can now ask about the queen of trump by bidding the next non-trump suit up the line -- if partner responded 5C, you can bid 5D to ask about the queen; if partner bid 5D, you can bid 5H. Partner's answers to THIS inquiry are as follows:

6 of the trump suit -- NO, I don't have the queen; let's play the small slam.

Any other suit -- YES, I have the queen, and I have the king of this suit!

5NT -- YES, I have the queen, but I have no side-suit kings to tell you about.

So, using RKC Blackwood, you can discover whether or not you have all the aces, the king of trump, and maybe the queen of trump PLUS a side king! With a little arithmetic, the bid of 6 of the major or 7 of the major becomes easy.

When NOT to use RKC Blackwood

Never ask for key cards if you have a worthless doubleton (if partner doesn't have the ace, you may have two quick losers!). Also, be sure that you have the right tools to ask for key cards if there has been control bidding before the 4NT bid; in the case of control bids, it could be an ace or a void, and it muddies the quality of the answers when you are not sure which it is. Showing voids in RKC Blackwood is possible, if you and your partner agree to play it this way. These are the responses to 4NT if you have a void:

5NT -- an even number of key cards and a void

6 of a suit of lower rank than the trump suit -- an odd number of key cards and a void in the suit bid

6 of the trump suit -- an odd number of key cards a a void in a higher ranking suit.

This is one method; an alternative is "Exclusion Blackwood", or "Voidwood". Read about it here:

So, there you have it -- our lesson topics written out for you to review. I will see you all next Sunday!


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