Monday, 11 June 2012

What's your problem?

Geoff and I have been road-testing a new toy that was suggested by one particular situation, but then proved to be plausible in others.

The seed bid was the unlimited minor suit-setter (What... p75; website). This usually shows a strong distributional hand, a common case being that when faced with a limited hand that has just bid 3NT, for instance 1 - 2; 2 - 3♣; 3NT - 4♣. Even when both hands are unlimited (as in the example on the website), the suit-setter will be distributional.

The unlimited minor suit-setter is forcing, so must promise values for at least the five-level. So how does partner respond? If unimpressed, partner can show values-for-five (i.e no extras) by bidding the first available step (4 in the example sequence), after which the suit-setter can ask for keycards in all the usual ways or sign off in either 4NT or 5♣.

That's fine, but what if partner is impressed, because of good fit and/or extra values? As things stand, there is no choice but to take control and ask for keycards. In the vast majority of cases that makes no sense, as it is partner who is unlimited and distributional and not you, and choosing between six and seven may be near to impossible.

So I came up with the idea that there should be conventional responses to the unlimited minor suit-setter, the same as a Keycard Ask but with an extra 'negative' step inserted in front of the normal steps. So in the example sequence above, opener continues with 4=unimpressed, 4=0 or 3 keycards, 4♠=1 or 4 keycards or 4NT=2 or 5 keycards. That seems spot on: the suit-setter can still continue with an ask opposite the negative as now, but is otherwise given both the news of goodness opposite plus partner's keycard holding.

That was how it started, and we named the new toy the Attitude Ask. Being good Chilleans, we then looked to see if it had any uses elsewhere. We came up with no less than five more possible Attitude Asks...

The first is the suit-setter's sibling: an unlimited delayed minor suit agreement. The example in the book (p76: 1♣ - 2; 3♣ - 3; 3NT - 4♣) is a good case in point: opener has shown values in both majors and is now, in the light of responder's delayed support for clubs, asked to express attitude and/or keycards.

Then there are two cases involving a major suit fit. First, a bid of three of the already agreed major trump suit in a compelled auction is a Waiting bid. The book (p124) gives the example 1 - 2; 2 - 2NT; 3♣ - 3 and points out that responder with values for only four can simply bid the game, so the Waiting bid shows an interest in 3NT (very rare) or slam. If we drop the 3NT case, then the Waiting bid can promise values for at least five, and it then becomes an obvious Attitude Ask candidate. The upside of this approach is the saving of space, the downside being in a sequence where both hands are unlimited and Waiting bidder is hoping that partner will do the asking.

The other major suit case could have occurred earlier in this same sequence. Opposite 2, responder can agree hearts in a forcing manner with either 2NT or 3. And since the former is more space-efficient, the latter never gets used, so why not make it an Attitude Ask? The upside is space-saving as above, and there is no downside.

And there are two examples of high Strong Fit candidates, with space again being the prize. The first is a four-level cue-bid opposite partner's suit-showing bid (What... p117; website) which, even if below four of the trump suit, suggests values for at least five, and is therefore a candidate. An example: 1♠ (3) 4 and now opener bids 4=negative, 4♠=0/3 keycards, 4NT=1/4 keycards, 5♣=2/5 keycards.

Our second Strong Fit candidate is also a cousin of the suit-setter: opposite a Two Choice 2NT that shows both minors we have the speciality response of four of a minor, strongly agreeing that suit (What... p114; website). Self-evidently showing values for five, it's a clearcut candidate to be an Attitude Ask.

So the Attitude Ask is an all-round promising little newcomer that has worked well to date. You can, of course, always push these things too far ...

We did toy with turning all splinters into Attitude Asks, but quickly realised that there are two flaws: first a splinter by definition may have only values for four in a misfit case; and second, more importantly, splinterer should rarely be asking when holding a void, as there is usually not enough room to discover a no-ace. More on that in the next blog.

Best wishes

The Chilli bidding system is described and defined in the book What Can Possibly Go Wrong? and summarised on the Chilli bidding website.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

would this be a case where the extra step to show 2 key cards + the trump queen should be used?

Effectively the responses are the same as where the key card ask was one bid higher than the trump suit.

The current rule is when the ask is one bid above the trump suit an extra step is used. It could just as easily be where the 2 key card response is one bid below the trump suit an extra step is used.

The only drawback is when the ask is 4C, now with 2KC + Q we bypass 4N.


Alan Williams said...

Spot on, Michael, the extra step should be used. And your rephrasing of the rule given on p133 is correct too. I think the loss of 4NT when the ask is 4♣ is only a slight rustle compared to the significant space gains elsewhere, and something that has to be tolerated in most minor suit keycard sequences.