(I’ve been putting my bridge posts on BGG for a while, so one here).
Good ideas slowly gain ground. I’ve maintained that Raptor 1NT overcalls (which show a 4 card major and longer minor, and merely competitive values) are a big improvement over the typical 1NT overcalls (which show 15-18 balanced). Balanced NT openings aren’t exactly rare, but once an opponent overcalls they are decidedly rarer. I think raptor shows up about twice as often. And at matchpoints (where frequency matters and fights for part scores are vicious) its a big deal.
I explained Raptor on Bridgewinners a while ago, if you care.
A few years ago, we were the only pair playing Raptor. Now there are four. Us, and the three strongest pairs in the city. We sit down against one of them (Terry and Carolyn) in round two. Terry is to my right, and is not only a strong player, he’s very creative. In fact, earlier against Hank he Raptored to show a 4=5 hand and actually had 3=6 (but a strong three card suit and a very weak 6 card minor).
I hold S:KQ H:Txx D:KQTx C:KJxx and open 1D. Carolyn bids 1NT and Terry alerts. Hank passes, Terry doesn’t seem to care about any four-card major and bids 2C and plays it there.
I lead the DK and Carolyn says “I lied by a card.”
She puts down S:Jxxx H:KJ D:AJx C:A9xx
Ah, the actual 1N overcall. Any convention gives something up, and this is it. (Hank and I started making off shape doubles when holding 1N overcalls, but after some consideration we’ve now usually just passing and wait, although with 3=4 in the majors a double is possible. The opponents often get into big trouble, and you can just double openers 1N rebid fairly easily if you like.
Terry isn’t tickled with this. There isn’t much to the play but he scrambles home for 2C on his 4-3 fit for 90 points, but 1N would make 2, so he gets a touch below average.
Two hands later another interesting and apparently non-Raptor hand shows up.
I hold S:J9x H:Tx D:KJ C:Q87xxx. Partner opens 1H (which is capped at 17 HCP) and Terry doubles.
I bid 1S, and Hank dutifully alerts. Carolyn passes and Hank bids 2D. Terry asks and is informed (correctly) that my bid showed clubs. (Another place we play transfers … this lets me show clubs cheaply and Hank can reject with 1N. Or I can redouble to show spades and Hank can bid 1S with only three card support and 2S with four).
Well, I don’t like diamonds (actually, I don’t dislike them, but better to be in my 5-2 major fit than a 5-2 or even 4-2 minor fit) so I retreat to 2H. Hank isn’t done, he bids 3C.
Terry considers this and bids 3S.
What do I know? By agreement, Hank’s bid shows extras. He’s 15-17, or maybe a touch lower with 0=5=5=3 shape, perhaps. He could be 1=5=4=3, but that hand may have just jumped in clubs right away. I suspect he’s 1=5=5=2 and hoping the minor plays better.
I think Terry got all of that (faster than I did) and has inferred that his partner has five spades and not many points. He didn’t come in over 2D, so I don’t think he has a monster. And Carolyn heard him pass, so she shouldn’t hang him. And what’s annoying — I think he’s right. I take the push to 4C (if partner has three clubs that is right. If he only has two, then it’s probably wrong). Carolyn doubles and I watch the hand (as Terry leads a club). Hank wins the club king and cashes the ace and Terry …. discards. Odd. Hank struggles for a bit and goes down 1, revealing a maximum 2=5=4=2.
The second spade was the difference. There were only 16 total trump, not the 18 I’d hoped for (or 17 I’d expected). Ouch. As it turns out Terry’s 3S should be borderline, but dummy has no entries so it would go down two. In glancing at the hand later, I realize something — Terry had a raptor hand!
S:KQxx H:KQx D:AQ9xx C:x
Towards the upper range of a Raptor, but still good. I’d hate to double and then have partner bid 3C. I guess they play equal level conversion.
Next round I pick up a potential Raptor hand:
S:Q H:J8xxx D:AQJT9 C:9x.
I’m in opening seat, but this isn’t up to standards. Move my Spade Queen into hearts and I’d probably do it. I pass and hope to treat this as a 4H+5D hand by raptoring. Given the disparity in suit strength, that seems right. LHO opens 1S and partner doubles. RHO bids 2S and I make the overbid of 4H. LHO bids 4S and partner doubles and I decide to sit with it. My hand may be useless on defense, but I’m not sacrificing.
It makes 6, although with perfect defense we can hold them to five.
In hindsight, 3H was enough. Partner can hear my 3H bid and move forward or not and I have not much defense if they go to 3S or 4S. If I bid 3H and they go to 3S and I’m feeling frisky, I can pull to 4D.
A few rounds later, I pick up another Raptor potential hand.
S:KT8x H:3 D:KQJ9x H:x
RHO opens 1H and so I bid 1NT. Hank Alerts. My LHO asks and then bids 2H. Hank bids 3 Spades, which should be a mixed raise … 4 or 5 spades, some values. Its not much strong than a 2S bid, but indicates that he thinks we won’t buy the contract in 2S. We don’t buy it in 3S either, but no way I’m sacrificing in 4S. We’re white vs red, true, but Hank saw that as well as I did. Besides, Hank is probably short in diamonds. I lead a diamond honor and dummy hits with S:AJxx H:xxxx D:xx C:A9x.
There’s nothing to the play, in that declarer is cold for five hearts if he can see through the back of the cards, and can make four hearts on a wrong guess. However, declarer actually trumps one of his own winners and somehow managers to lose a club trick with A9x opposite KQJxx with a 3-2 break.
I don’t think that the convention that won the board.
Later on I pick up S:7 H:QTxx D:AQJ9xx C:Kx.
No reason you can’t raptor with 4=6. But unfortunately its my LHO who opens 1S and RHO bids 1N. Now I simply bid 2D and give up on the heart suit. Nothing horrible happens and I make 4.
I actually pick up a sixth hand that qualifies, but I’m dealer and have enough points to open. And at that point the tired little raptor went home to bed, exhausted from all the times he was called upon….