Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weak NT Theory

Had 2 hands at the team game yesterday that brought up a question on when to and when not to open a Weak NT if you are playing them. Both hands had virtually duplicate distribution and HCP, but I opened 1 of them 1N and the other 1C, my opponent at the other table opened both 1N. Just for my own piece of mind and to see if anyone agrees with my reasoning, I was going to present my arguments for the 2 points of view with the 2 hands.

To start, the 2 hands were

AQx Qx Qx A97xxx
Kx KJx Jx AJ9xxx

As can be seen, both have the flaw of having a 6 card minor, usually something that stops the 1N consideration.

On the first hand, I considered the Q’s a major feature of the hand. They provided effective tenaces in 3 suits, and favoured playing the hand from my side, to allow them to be led into. This swayed me into opening 1N on the hand, which made the auction simple when partner bid 3N. I will talk about the actual hands later, since they are not the main part of the discussion.

The second hand, I think anyways, is quite a bit different. The better Club suit, and the K’s instead of Q’s, lend themselves more to a suit contract, and although you may want to protect your K’s on opening lead, there seemed more chances for other contracts. And since I do not like violating the no 6 card suit for 1NT rule that often, I decided to open this hand 1C.

I think one of the things you should look for when deciding what side to play NT contacts from is the presence of Q’s in the hand, especially doubleton Q’s. This 1 is very close, and could be as much personal style as anything, but I try to apply certain rules to when I will violate any agreements, such as opening an offshape 1N like these 2 hands.

The first hand was funny more in the play and comments at the table. I got a small Heart lead (3rd and 5th), and the 2 hands were.

Kxx Kxx Kxx KQ8x
AQx Qx Qx A97xxx

I let the Heart ride around to my Q, which won the trick, and played a Club to the K, both following. When my RHO showed out on the Q of Clubs, my LHO joked that this hand was proof against even my declarer abilities, prompting a rude comment from my RHO on opening 1N with a 6 card minor. The hand basically plays itself, run the 9 black suit winners, coming down to Kx of Hearts and K of Diamonds on board, and x Qx in my hand, and exit a Diamond to the K, then wait for the 11th trick from 1 of the opps. Even my RHO at the time agreed that my hand should probably open 1N, not much else looks right. This turned out to be a push board, mostly as expected.

On the second hand, a lot more fireworks ensued. After opening 1C, my LHO jumped to 2S, and partner bid 3S, essentially asking for a Spade stopper. RHO now bid 4D, lead directional with Spade support, so I passed, as did LHO, and partner bid 4H. Rho now showed really good Spade support with 4S, and since I was now sure my partner had Clubs and I did not like the prospects against 4S on this auction, I bid 5C. This went 5D by LHO, double by partner, 5S on my right. And now I tried to have a senior moment, sigh. Looking at the multitude of bidding cards on the table, I went and forgot that my partner had doubled 5D, not the 5S bid, and I passed, instead of doubling, thinking that we were already in 5S doubled. Partner thought about this for a while, and bid 6C, ending the auction. The opening lead was a small Diamond and this dummy came down.

x Axxx Kx KQTxxx
Kx KJx Jx AJ9xxx

We have Clubs sewn up, but no def tricks available there, and it actually looks like on some hands we would need to take 3 Heart tricks to even beat 5S. So I played low on the Diamond at trick 1, thinking even my current LHO, known to underlead A’s a lot, would not do so on this hand, and RHO won the A of Diamonds, and cashed the A of Spades, oh well, so much for 5S. Switch the A of Spades and Q of Diamonds, and we can never beat 4S, and have to be lucky to beat 5, with the opps announced double fit.

When RHO showed up with the Club, I decided the Hearts were probably 3-3, the only thing that made much sense, so played the straight up finesse, which worked, so only down 1.

There are a bunch of points on this hand, first, after 1C (2S), partner and I both agreed, after the fact, that 4S is probably a better bid to describe the companion hand. You do not want to allow your LHO to be able to announce the fit they have or any defensive bids such as happened. Second, although I should have doubled 5S, we were not sure that the other hand should go on. You need good Clubs, very good Heart support, and first round control in Diamonds to go with the announced (by the pass of 5S), duplicated second round control of Spades.

That does not forgive the dumb pass of 5S though, that is a good part of what started the last part of the problem. At the other table, my hand decided to open a weak NT, and our partners hand, with 6-4 in Spades and Diamonds, decided not to make an overcall. So the companion hand jumped to 3N, and it made comfortably after the Spade lead.

I still think that 1C is the correct bid, and in theory it should have worked out here. We should have been defending 5S doubled while our partners got to play it in 4S doubled, since without the knowledge of the Club fit, it will be hard now for either hand to bid 5C. But instead, we managed to lose 13 IMPS on the board :)

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