YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB2 Ch1 (March 14, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 2, Ch. 1 — tells how to bid a hand containing a good-quality long suit when the hand holds less than opening values. These bids show a 6c+ suit with < 13 PVP1. When such bids are a jump by Opener, the bids are preemptive. When made in competition by an Opponent, the bids are weak jump overcalls. When made by a Responder or Advancer, the bids are weak jump shifts. You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB2 Ch1 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB2 Ch1 Note.docx

Preemptive Theory: A normal bridge opening requires 13-21 points. With a fit from Partner, the team moves to game and scores 400 to 620 points at duplicate. A preemptive bid is different in that the point requirements are lower. The bidder values their hand much like in the early days of bridge, looking for high-card tricks (HCT) and low-card tricks (LCT). A hand that can take approximately 5 tricks, can hope for Partner to provide one more trick, and is willing to sacrifice by going down 2 tricks is a hand suitable for preempting at the 2 level (ie, declaring for 8 tricks).

Scoring

Sacrifice: Bidders who intentionally overbid are making a sacrifice. These bidders intend for the score they receive as Declarers to be greater than the score that they would receive if the opponents were the Declarers. In both cases, the team expects to receive a negative score. It is just that the preemptive bidders expect the score to be higher (ie, less negative) when playing the hand as offense than when playing the hand as defense. To make this mental calculation, preemptive bidders must understand bridge scoring.

We and They: Harold Vanderbilt’s game of rubber bridge doesn’t award negative points. In 99% of bridge hands, only one team scores. The two teams are called “we” and “they” on the scoresheet. If Declarer makes the contract, then Declarer’s team gets all the points in their “we” or “they” column. If Declarer is defeated, the other team gets all the points in the other column. The exception in Vanderbilt’s rubber bridge is that the otherwise non-scoring team could hold some of the best cards, called honors, and be awarded points simply for the luck of being dealt these great cards. Duplicate bridge does not award any lucky points, so there are no honors in duplicate, but duplicate does give the team that would otherwise not score in rubber bridge a negative score exactly equal in absolute value to the positive score of the successful team.

Above-the-Line Points for the Declarers

Overtricks: Declarer must win at least as many tricks as their contract. That is, if Declarer bid 2m/M/NT, then Declarer scores only if they win at least 8 tricks (6 even tricks in their book, plus 2 odd tricks in their contract). These tricks are worth 20 points each for a minor contract, 30 points each for a major-suit contract, and 40 points for the first NT trick and then 30 points for every additional NT trick. Mr. Vanderbilt gave NT tricks a value of 35, but sometime later his logical system changed to 40/30. Only overtricks are scored above the line. Doubles and vulnerability affect the amount of points scored for overtricks.

Honors: As mentioned earlier, rubber bridge awards either team a score for holding honor cards (AKQJT) in a suit contract or Aces in a NT contract. Holding the top 5 trumps or all four Aces, a player receives 150 points for their team. Holding any combination of the top 4 trumps, a player receives 100 points for their team. A player need not be the Declarer or Dummy to score honor points, although it is very rare for a Defender to hold such high cards in the declared strain. Doubles and vulnerability have no effect on honors.

Insults: A Defender who doubles a successful Declarer is said to insult that Declarer. The successful Declarer receives 50 points for the insult. When a contract is redoubled by Declarer, the insult is scored for Declarer as twice the doubled value (ie, 100 points). Vulnerability has no effect on insults.

Bonuses

Game Bonus: Vanderbilt’s bridge game does not award extra points for making a game. Other forms of bridge scoring (Duplicate and Chicago) award 300 points for a team’s first game and 500 points for its second game in a rubber. A team that has yet to win its first game in a rubber is said to be nonvulnerable (abbreviated nv) while a team that has won one game is vulnerable (abbreviated v the same as the abbreviation for voids). Even in rubber bridge, if a match ends before a rubber is completed, each team receives 50 to 100 points for an uncompleted game (it varies by site) and 300 points for a completed game.

Rubber Bonus: Vanderbilt’s bridge game awards extra points for being the first team to win two games. Neither Chicago nor Duplicate award rubber bonuses. The award is 700 points if the other team is nonvulnerable and 500 points if the other team is vulnerable. These bonuses are called 2-game rubbers and 3-game rubbers, respectively. After a rubber, the scorekeeper draws a double line on the scoresheet, and both teams restart as nonvulnerable.

Slam Bonus: A team that succeeds in a contract to take 12 or 13 tricks receives a slam bonus. This reward is 500-points nv, 750-points v for a small slam (12 tricks) and 750-points nv, 1,500-points v for a grand slam (13 tricks). There are some cautions when bidding near the slam level:

  • Minor Suits: Some teams believe that a minor-suit game (11 tricks) is so difficult to make that the team might as well bid one trick higher to get the slam bonus. Such a team would lose their game bonus whenever they made 11 but not 12 tricks. The team would also gain a slam bonus whenever they made 12.
  • Grand Slams: Some teams believe that a grand slam (13 tricks) is so difficult to make that the team risks less by bidding for a small slam (12 tricks). By moving down the bidding ladder, the team is more assured of winning the small-slam bonus, the game bonus, and the rubber bonus (when vulnerable). Of course, if the team does make their grand slam, the team misses the spectacular grand-slam bonus.

Penalty Double: In the early days following Mr. Vanderbilt’s scoring algorithm, many professional players such as Eli Culberson believed the best score came from a doubled contract. While a doubled contract can result in extremely outsized scores, most players today would prefer point-wise to be Declarer than Doubler. Nevertheless, the advice from “Penalty Doubles” by Bernard Magee, a British professional, is worthwhile, “To start off with, most players would improve their results if they doubled three times as often as they do now – and perhaps even more often!” When a contract is doubled by Opponents, each overtrick is scored for Declarer as 100 points nv, 200 points v. When a contract is redoubled by Declarer, each overtrick is scored for Declarer as twice the doubled value.

Above-the-Line Points for the Defenders

Defenders can score in three ways:

  1. Honors: Any player may earn above-the-line points for holding honors.
  2. Undertricks: A team that defeats a contract gets 50 points for each trick they set a nv team, and 100 points for each trick they set a v team. For trick scoring, vulnerability is determined by the Declarer’s status, not the Defenders’ status.
  3. Doubles: When a contract is doubled by Opponents, undertricks are scored for Opponents as 100-300-500-800 points nv, 200-500-800 points v, and then 300 points for each additional undertrick. When a contract is redoubled by Declarer, each undertrick is scored for Opponent as twice the doubled value.
Below-the-Line Points

What Scores for Offense: Only declared tricks are scored below the line. Declarer must win at least as many tricks as their contract. These tricks are worth 20 points each for a minor contract, 30 points each for a major-suit contract, and 40 points for the first NT trick and then 30 points for every additional NT trick. If the Opponents double, the declared trick score is doubled. If Declarer redoubles, the declared trick score is quadrupled.

What Scores for Defense: There are no below-the-line points available for Defenders.

Lines: At the end of any game, the scorekeeper draws a horizontal single line that spans the “we” and “they” columns. Both teams then have zero points towards their next game. Each single line indicates that a team has achieved vulnerability. After both teams become vulnerable, there will be two horizontal lines on the scoresheet. At the end of any rubber, the scorekeeper draws a horizontal double line that spans the “we” and “they” columns. Both teams then have zero points towards their next game, zero games towards their next rubber, and are nonvulnerable.

Guidelines

Guideline of 500: This guideline is also called the Guideline of 2 or 3. A duplicate game is worth an average bonus of 400 points (300 points if nv, 500 points if v) plus trick values of 100 points (for 3NT or 5m) or 120 points (for 4M). The sum is ~500 points. The Guidelines say that at duplicate, Defenders would score approximately -500 points if the Opponents were to bid and make game. Defenders could make the same score or better if they became Declarer and sacrificed less than 2 tricks v or 3 tricks nv. Defenders could sacrifice ~900 points if the Opponents’ best contract were a vulnerable small slam rather than a game.

Guideline of 500 as Applied to Preempts: A preempt hand should have sufficient strength to go down no more than 3 tricks v or 4 tricks nv. Assume your partner will provide 1 trick. Then your team expects when doubled to sacrifice no more than 2 tricks v (500 points) or 3 tricks nv (500 points).

Guideline of 1-2-3: This guideline is nearly identical to the 500. Assume your partner will provide 1 trick. You don’t want to overbid your team by more than 1 trick unfavorable v, 2 tricks equal v, or 3 tricks favorable v.

Weak-2 Bids
Opener (p. 15 of Book)

Seats: A preempt is a sacrifice bid, made to be obstructive or destructive to someone. That is, preempts are not constructive in search of a successful contract. With you sitting in 1st or 2nd seats, the someone obstructed by your preempt could be your Partner. Some very good players dislike preemptive bids because the bids can hinder a good dialog when Partner turns out to be very strong. Sitting in 3rd seat, already hearing Partner pass, you can open a very weak preempt. In fact, 3rd seat is the best seat for safely bidding a preempt that does not obstruct your partner. Sitting in 4th seat, there is no reason to sacrifice into a negative score when a pass will get you a zero score. Partner in 2nd seat has already passed, showing a hand with too little to open, overcall, or preempt.

HCP: If you play duplicate, you must complete a Convention Card. This card will describe your 2-level bids and their meanings. You are allowed a maximum range of 7 HCP for your preempts. Typically, a partnership will choose 5-11 HCP for a 6c weak suit, which is 7-13 points when you include 2 length points. This 5-11 HCP range can be considered to range between (1) a minimum hand with 5-8 HCP, (2) a medium hand with 9-11 HCP including a broken trump suit, and (3) a maximum hand with 9-11 HCP including a solid trump suit.

Features to Avoid: Experts will not preempt a hand that contains a void (eg, the hand may have no transportation to Dummy in either trumps or the void). They want the HCP to be working points, concentrated in trumps and very few other suits (ie, a concentrated, distributional hand). If the trump suit is a major, the hand should have no 3c support for the other major. If the trump suit is a minor (2♦ or 3♣), the hand should have no 3c support for either major.

Preempt or Natural: If based on recommendations from Robert Todd or Marty Bergen you would upgrade your 11-HCP hand due to holding concentrated values, high honors (AK), supported honors (A, Kx, Qxx, Jxxx), or high intermediates (T98), then open naturally. If you would downgrade your hand due to holding scattered values, low honors (QJ), unsupported honors (K, Qx, Jxx), or low spots (765432), then open the hand as a preempt.

Length and Strength: A weak-2 opening promises exactly 6c in ♦, ♥, or ♠. There is no weak 2♣ as that opening has been reserved since 1929 for very strong hands. If you use Flannery 2♦ as a convention showing a weak reversal in the majors, then there is no weak 2♦ either. We study conventions in BB3. The other requirement for a weak-2 opening is a disciplined suit, meaning you promise Partner that you hold 2 of the top 3 honors (AKQ) or 3 of the top 5 honors (AKQJT) in your suit. A weak-2 bid should be strong enough to take 5 tricks by itself.

Responder (p. 17 of Book)

Transportation: To bid, Responder must have transportation in Opener’s suit. Opener may have no ranking cards in any other suit. Without entries to Opener’s suit, Responder might be stranded in their own hand. Responder with a fit and 4+ tricks should consider game. The following list shows Responder’s 1st bids:

  1. Minimum (0-16 Points in a Major)
    1. Pass: Shows neither the points for game nor 4c+ in the bid suit. Always pass with a 2c fit.
    2. Game: Shows a hand containing no defense, a s/v, and 4c+ trumps. Jump to game. RoNF. Opener must pass.
  2. Medium (17-18 Points in a Major): Do not jump. Bid at the 2-level, allowing Opener to rebid their suit cheaply.
    1. New Suit: Shows a new 5c+ suit. Forcing.
    2. Raise: Shows a 3c+ fit. Opener will pass, as Opener has fully described their hand. A raise is an obstructive bid, meant to be passed.
    3. 2NT: Shows a hand capable of taking 5+ tricks, with 3c+ support for Opener’s suit. Forcing. Opener with a minimum will rebid their suit, with a medium+ will shift to a feature (A or Kx) to help find a NT fit, or with a maximum and no feature will raise to 3NT.
  3. Maximum (19+ Points in a Major)
    1. New Suit: Shows a new 5c+ suit. Forcing.
    2. Game: Shows a 4c+ fit. Opener could have a minimum 5-8 HCP hand. RoNF. Bid game. Opener must pass.
    3. 3NT: Shows a Gambling NT with 3c+ including a top honor (AKQ) in Opener’s suit, and controls in the other 3 suits. Responder should have 4+ tricks in hand.
Weak-3 Bids
Opener (p. 7 of Book)

In general, the same rules apply to a weak-3 as to a weak-2. A weak-3 can be bid in all 4 suits. It promises a 7c suit and about 6 tricks.

Responder (p. 10 of Book). The following list shows Responder’s 1st bids:
  1. Minimum (0-16 Points in a Major)
    1. Pass: Shows neither the points for game nor 3c+ in the bid suit. Always pass with a 1c fit.
    2. Game: Shows a hand containing no defense, a s/v, and 3c+ trumps. Jump to game. RoNF. Opener must pass.
  2. Medium (17-18 Points in a Major): Do not jump. Bid at the 3-level, allowing Opener to rebid their suit cheaply.
    1. New Suit: Shows a new 5c+ suit. Forcing.
    2. Raise: Shows a 2c+ fit. This is game if trumps are a major suit. Opener could have a minimum. RoNF. Opener must pass, as Opener has fully described their hand.
  3. Maximum (19+ Points in a Major)
    1. New Suit: Shows a new 5c+ suit. Forcing.
    2. Game: Shows a 3c+ fit. Opener could have a minimum 5-8 HCP hand. RoNF. Bid game. Opener must pass.
    3. 3NT: Shows a Gambling NT with 2c+ including a top honor (AKQ) in Opener’s suit, and controls in the other 3 suits. Responder should have 3+ tricks in hand.
Resources
  1. Checklist: See Audrey Grant’s summary on p. 27.
  2. Convention Card: See David Lindrop’s Weak-2 Card at Audrey Grant’s website. David is Audrey’s husband.
  3. Good Starting Point: See the BridgeGuys.com for its Glossary. At the Glossary, lookup both “Weak Two Bids” and “Preempt Bids.”
  4. Learn Bidding Systems: See Robert Todd’s advinbridge.com/learn-bidding-basics.
Tests of Comprehension
  1. Scoring: For a test on scoring and penalties, go to Quiz 1 (p. 28). Do k, m, p, s.
  2. Preemptive 3-Level Bids: For a test on preempting with a 7c suit, go to Quiz 2 (p. 30). Do c, f.
  3. Preemptive 2-Level Bids: For a test on preempting with a 6c suit, go to Quiz 3 (p. 32). Do a, c, h, i, l.
Error in BB2

Third Trick: The table on page 218 is wrong but the table on page 5 is correct. On page 218, add a third gray row called “Third Trick.” Make the values in this third row identical to the values in the row called “Second Trick.” Re-label the fourth row called “Third and subsequent tricks” so that it now says, “Fourth and subsequent tricks.”

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

Hands to Play, from BB2, Competitive Bidding (230 p.)

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB2 P. 34 #1 S N 3♠ K♦ A
BB2 P. 36 #2 E E 4♥ Q♠ B
BB2 P. 38 #3 W S 2♠ Q♣ C
BB2 P. 40 #4 N W 4♠ 3♣ D

Hints

  • A: N=8-9 points. S=7-8 points. North (N) opens 3♠, showing less than an opening hand, a 7cM, and at least 3 of the top 5 honors. South (S) passes with a minimum hand and 1c trump support. Note that E/W have an easy 430-point game in 4NT. East (E) leads top of a 4c honor sequence. With best defense (ie, signaling) the Defenders take 6 tricks. Down 2 (-100 nv).
  • B: E=8-9 points. W=15-16 points. E opens 3♥, showing less than an opening hand, a 7cM, and at least 3 of the top 5 honors. West ( W ) is weak for a response, but does so anyway based on holding 4 QT. Note that N/S have a partscore. S leads top of a 4c broken honor sequence. With best defense, the Defenders take 5 tricks. Making partscore (110 nv).
  • C: N=13 points. S=7-8 points. S opens 2♠, showing less than an opening hand, a 6cM, and at least 3 of the top 5 honors. N has a maximum, but not enough points or QT to go to game. Note that E/W have a partscore. W leads top of a 3c honor sequence. With best defense, the Defenders take 3 tricks.
  • D: E=9-10 points. W=11 points. W opens 2♠, showing less than an opening hand, a 6cM, and at least 3 of the top 5 honors. E with a maximum hand would respond at the cheapest level, but in this case E is a minimum. E uses the LoTT to set the contract: Holding 10 trumps, E bids preemptively to 4♠ (10 tricks). Note that N/S have an easy 1,430-point slam in 6♥, or a 1,3700-point slam in 6♣. N leads 4th best, might do better leading a trump. With best defense (ie, signaling) the Defenders take 5 tricks. Down 2 (-200 v).

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB2 Ch1 may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

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