Monday, October 20, 2008

A few defenses to Big Clubs

Last week I promised to talk a little bit about various defensive structures when the opponents open 1C strong, artificial, and forcing (as in Precision). I won't give an opinion on which I think you should play -- you need to find the right balance of preemption, fun, and memory work for your partnership. But whatever you choose to play, get in the auction!

The granddaddy (and simplest) of them all is Mathe. Invented by Lew Mathe several decades ago, it just goes like this:

When the opponents open a big club on your right or they open a big club on your left, partner passes, and they bid a "little diamond" on your right, double shows both majors, and one notrump shows both minors. That's all there is to it.

The first big club defense I learned was CRASH. This is a quick mnemonic for Color, RAnk, SHape. CRASH uses one more bid than Mathe: 1D. So it doesn't quite work over (1C!) P (1D!).

Playing CRASH, when the opponents open a strong club on your right,
  • Double shows two suits of the same Color.
  • One Diamond shows two suits of the same RAnk (minors or majors).
  • One Notrump shows two suits of the same SHape (look at the tops: pointed [spades and diamonds] and rounded [clubs and hearts].)
  • Anything else is natural.
I've also seen some pairs playing SHARC (SHApe, Rank, Color). This has no theoretical advantage to CRASH, but if you think it's a cooler acronym, definitely play it rather than CRASH!

When your partner makes a CRASH (or SHARC) bid, it's your job to preempt as high as you can. Much of the time you don't know that you have a fit, but sometimes you're assured of one. For example:

LHO opens a strong club, partner bids 1D (RAnk), and RHO passes. You hold:

AJ652 74 T9742 4

Since partner either has the minors or the majors, you know there's a big pointed-suit fit somewhere. So you bid... 3D! Partner has at least four cards in one pointy suit, so you have at least nine trumps somewhere. The three level shouldn't be too high. Partner will pass (or maybe raise!) holding both minors, and will correct to 3H holding both majors. You'll correct 3H to 3S, and you've found your fit and your level!

This is very important. Playing CRASH, SHARC, Suction [which I'll get to soon], or many other big club defenses, responder's actions are all pass or correct. So if you hold:

T4 J2 73 QT98532

and pard overcalls with 1NT (SHape), don't bid 3C! He'll correct to his cheapest suit (because he almost certainly has spades and diamonds). Start with 2C, and when partner corrects to 2D, he'll get the message that all you have is clubs when you rebid 3C.


Memphis MOJO said...

What are the CRASH bids after 1C Pass 1D ??

McKenzie said...

There's no real consensus there, but if you're willing to give up a natural 1H bid,

X = Color
1H = Rank
1NT = Shape

Unknown said...

Most -- if not all -- big club defenses can also be used against other bidding systems' "big 2-club" opener and its corresponding waiting or negative 2 diamond response.

What's your advice to getting into such auctions with distributional hands?

McKenzie said...

Well, I'll say this about coming in over a big 2C: the better the opponent, the more likely you are to get doubled at a low level. So be prepared! I certainly do like to come in on good distributional hands, though. Give me

QJTxx QJTxx xx x and I'll show both majors at the two level if my system allows it.