Friday, May 25, 2012

Bridge Blog 532-A: Cleveland Regional II

          After the Swiss teams game was over Friday night, we spent our time in the hospitality suite munching pizza and debating how we should have played a hand where the bidding involved the New Minor Forcing convention. I’ve operated on the assumption that New Minor Forcing is the opening bidder’s way of checking for an eight-card major-suit fit. He bids a minor suit, you bid a major, he has three cards in your major suit and wants to determine if you have four or five of them, so he bids 1 No Trump. Then, if you have five of the major and 10 high-card points, you bid the other minor suit – the new minor – and, since it’s a cue bid, it’s forcing. The declarer is obliged to bid again.
          No, no, no, John says. The declarer doesn’t have to have three cards in your suit. He’s just bidding 1 No Trump to see if you have five of them and 10 points. Then he bids something. This approach is borne out by the commentary on the convention on the ACBL website. I’m wrong, although I like my method better. How did I come up with this approach? Was this one of Bill Finkelstein’s lessons? Was it one of his lessons that I twisted around and screwed up? At any rate, it screwed up one of our contracts.
John opened a Diamond. Holding seven Hearts (but not the Ace) with a void in Spades, I bid 1 Heart. He bid 1 No Trump. Since I had more than 10 points and at least five Hearts, I bid the new minor – 2 Clubs. He responded 2 No Trump, which sort of baffled me, since I thought we looked at this convention the same way. (The ACBL article says 2 NT “denies four Hearts or three Spades, maximum [strength].”) Well, not knowing any of that, I certainly doIn't want to pass. He makes 3 NT on the nose, but the hand actually makes 4 Hearts with an overtrick. His question: Why didn’t I bid 4 Hearts?
That was one of our misplays in the round where we were shut out, but we made worse errors to get there. Figuring that setting our opponents in 4 Diamonds would be better than getting set at 4 Hearts, I passed instead of bidding it. We set them one trick, but at the other table it was 4 Hearts, bid and made. And then on the next hand, I passed at 3 Clubs with an iffyhand instead of returning John to No Trump at game level, vulnerable, or in my mind, questionable. At the other table, it made 3 No Trump. Take away those two hands, which cost us 19 IMPs (21 with the New Minor Forcing fiasco), and we still lose, but only 7-0, giving us 7 Victory Points. Enough for gold? I’m not so sure.

Bill Finkelstein replies:

I had the displeasure of reading your blog regarding the "New Minor Forcing" Convention.
First of all I never taught it.  As with most conventions, I don't recommend it unless you and your partner play it correctly (or at least the same way).
Almost nothing mentioned in your blog is correct about it (not even what you say John or the ACBL website says, which I suspect you are misinterpreting).
I hate going over this in an email, but...
The opening bidder is not the one who uses new minor forcing it's the responder.
When the opening bidder  rebids 1NT it shows what it always does, a balanced hand with less than a 1NT opener.
Responder ONLY uses New Minor forcing to show exactly 5 cards in a major and at least invitational values.
With 6 or more in a suit Responder:
- bids 2 of the major with a minimum,
- bids 3 of the major with invitational values (a good 10 or 11, including length)
- bids 4 of the major with opening hand values
- bids stronger with more
I have personally gone over this with players and you were likely one of them on a couple of hands after a game.
There's more to it and more wrong, but that's enough for now.
I'd ask you to remove the reference that I may have taught something wrong from your blog, but I have asked before and that never happens.
Perhaps you will include this email in a blog.
Also, by the way, when John denies 3 hearts, how many did you think he had?  Clue: he bid NT, and should have 2.   Now let's see, your 7 hearts and his 2 equal how many hearts?  The goal of bidding is to find (if it exists) you and your partner's 8 card OR LONGER fit ASAP.  What goes unsaid is then to bid the suit, not leave him in No Trump.
I hope you and your team get back for the Memorial Day Chicken BBQ.  It would be a big money saver for you all, and you'll get a nice meal, and likely more points.
P.S.  Please look at this email as if I had included all the touchy-feely nice comments a normal person would.

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