Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do You Know Your Conventions?

One of the I/N lectures I give at regionals and sectionals is titled "Every Convention You Need To Know". I tend to start out by discussing conventions in general-- why do we play them, what do we gain by them, and what do we give up for them? I contend that an overload of conventions is much more likely to make you have a bad game than a lack of conventions. I suggest that to play a convention, you and your partner should know it backwards and forwards -- and you should also know why you're playing it. Then I get into the title of the lecture -- every convention you need to know to win a regional event -- Stayman. That's it, folks. Sure, some things are nice to have handy, say, Drury, splinters, Blackwood, but good old Stayman (invented by British player Jack Marx in 1939, independently invented by George Rapee in 1945, and first published by Rapee's partner Sam Stayman in The Bridge World in 1946) is really the only one you need.

We all know the basics of Stayman - 2♣ asks for a major, then 2♦ denies one and 2♥ or 2♠ shows one. But are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to rebids? Here's the rebid/response structure I suggest for you.

1N - 2♣ - 2♦ -
2♥ = bad hand, both majors. Opener is expected to pass with better hearts, or bid 2♠ with better spades.
2♠ = invitational to 3N with five spades and four hearts. Opener can pass with a minimum and three spades, bid 2N with a minimum and two spades, or bid a game in notrump or spades with a maximum.
2N = invitational.
3♣ or 3♦ = natural and a slam try. Every system needs a way to show a slam invitation in a minor, and I feel this is the easiest way to go about that.
3N = to play.
4♣ = Gerber.
4♦ = 5-5 or better in the majors. Opener is expected to bid his better major.
4♥ or 4♠ = to play.
4N = invitational to 6N.

1N - 2♣ - 2♥ or 2♠ -
2N = invitational.
3♣ or 3♦ = natural and a slam try.
3 of partner's major = invitational.
3 of other major = artificial slam try in partner's major.
3N = to play.
4N = invitational to 6N (not Blackwood - to bid Blackwood, start with the artificial slam try, then bid 4N).

Over the artificial slam try, 1N - 2♣ - 2♥ - 3♠ or 1N - 2♣ - 2♠ - 3♥,
opener should show his cheapest ace by cuebidding it. This can lead to some highly intelligent slam-bidding auctions.

Remember, a bad set of agreements is better than no agreements at all-- so you don't have to take these agreements over Stayman, but make sure you and your partner have agreed on something!

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