The Tao of Gaming

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Posts Tagged ‘Polish Club

Problematic hands

While I think that Polish Club is a good system, it has a few weaknesses. One big one is strong hands with primary diamonds and a secondary major, or two suited hands with the minors. (Standard American also has problems handling these in the strong and artificial 2 Club opening). So … while we open 1 Club with “Most” 18 point hands, we will sometimes open 1 diamond with a hand up to about 20 or 21 HCP. But normally those only show up a few times a year.

Playing at the club, I pick up S:x H:AK D:KQTxx C:AKJxx

Tough. If I open 1 Club I won’t be able to show both minors below 4 Clubs, when 3N is the right place. So I open 1 Diamond. Partner bids 1 Heart and I bid an artificial 2N. (Since we open all balanced hands 1 Club or Notrump, this bid is free). This shows an strong (18+) hand, either primary diamonds or a minor two suiter. Partner bids 3 Diamonds, showing that if I have a minor two suiter, he prefers diamonds.

That’s excellent news. Unless partner is 4=3 in the minors he likely has a doubleton club and 3+ diamonds, taking care of a diamond loser. No point in fooling around. I bid 4 Hearts, key card blackwood in diamonds (kickback) and partner bids 4 Spades, showing one ace. Since we have a loser,  I settle for 6 diamonds, which should be pretty reasonable.

LHO leads the spade king and I find out that partner has pretty much the worst hand.

S:ATx H:T9xxx D:8xx C:Tx

Partner took a shot at improving the contract, but not only does he have the ‘wrong’ ace he has no extras. But he could have a lot more points and this would still be dicey, so I have no complaints.

I win the ace and have to decide how to play. I can finesse the clubs, but then I’ll need something good to happen in diamonds and I may still have a club loser. But if the diamond ace is onside (or maybe the jack) I don’t really need much in clubs. Any 3-3 break or the long hand to have the long trump. So I play the diamond off dummy and RHO follows with the jack. I win with the diamond king.

If the diamond jack was stiff I’m down, but I think it was from AJ tight, so I can make if RHO has two or three clubs (because if he over-ruffs dummy he won’t be able to pull dummy’s last trump). I lead the AK and a small club and LHO stares at this and shows up with the diamond nine. Ah well.

Amazingly I pick up another problematic hand later the same session.

S:AKxx H:– D:AQTxxx C:AJx

I open 1 Diamond again, and LHO bids 1 Heart which goes Pass Pass to me. I bid 2 spades, which could be weaker than what I actually have but partner will strive to keep the auction alive. Partner bids 3 Spades and I reveal the monster hand by making a slam try with 4 Clubs. Partner bids 4 Diamonds — possibly a singleton but likely the diamond king. I don’t have quite enough to force, but I try again with 4 Hearts. Partner bids 4 Spades.

After some thought, I pass. If I give partner the diamond king, what else can he have. If he has the club king and the spade queen (as well as four spades), he wouldn’t have passed over 1 Heart. Even with two kings he may have bid with a spare jack, especially). Realistically the best hand he could have is the spade queen + diamond king or two kings.  And Hank isn’t shy. If he had that he might have taken control.

I don’t think he has it.

I get a spade lead (the ten) and I see I’m right:

S:9xxxx H:Qx D:Kx C:Txxx

I win the Spade A and K (RHO following once, but then discarding), so I have a spade loser, but when diamonds break I can pitch three clubs from dummy and make six.

Still — a club lead would set the slam (unless spades split) so it’s reasonable to not be there.

Even though we were in the non-making slam and out of the making (on this lead) slam, I still feel like we acquitted ourselves well enough.

Written by taogaming

December 21, 2019 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Bridge

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Bridge Wonkery

(This will make no sense unless you play bridge at least semi-seriously.)

Last fall I started a new partnership playing Polish Club. Now that I’ve played half a year (at least a few sessions a month), I have thoughts.

In general — Polish Club is like Precision in that the major suit openings have a narrower range. So responder won’t have to cater to rare strong hands when we open 1 of a major.  Also, if we have a minimum opening with great playing strength, we can bid aggressively without having to worry that partner will expect lots of cards and get us too high (or double the opponents expecting lots of defense). Finally, we can just bid game and safely skip slam investigation on some hands, which keeps the defense in the dark. Precision does this better than Polish, since it has an 11-15 range, whereas Polish has 11-17, as compared to Standard’s 11-20(ish).

Also (like Precision), we can show moderate strength (18-21) hands at a lower level. Just today I played in two spades holding

S:AKQxx H: AJxx D:Kx C:xx opposite S:Jx H:xxx D:xx C:AQxxx. Depending on your variant of standard american, you’ll probably be in a touchier contract, and if you are in two spades opener will worry until dummy hits that he’s missed something. (I was disappointed to find that every card was on; every reasonable contract was foolproof. Our opponents were in three spades for a push. With average luck we’ll likely lose 2 hearts and 3 minor cards, to make two exactly, for a solid swing).

We also gain the ability to quickly set a game forcing auction at a very low level.”Two over one Game Forcing” has that as a big advantage, but only  when both partners have opening values (13 opposite 13). With 18 opposite 8, a forcing club system lets you set a low level game force to look for the best game or investigate slam without jumping. Being able to do this when the points aren’t evenly divided is huge. Again, Polish and Precision share this feature.

So what happens when you open 1C in either system?

In Precision, opponents hog as much space as they think they can get away with. The hand probably belongs to you. If responder isn’t totally broke, your side has the balance of points.  So you’ll get at least one hundred, and maybe a game. Slam isn’t out of the question. Offering a few hundred points to muddy the waters is a good bet, particularly since you can make the offer to your partner at the one level, where even huge hands don’t get rich doubling.

In Polish, since the 1C opening includes weak and strong hands, the opponent’s can’t jump in wily-nily. More importantly, the weak hand is usually a balanced 12-14 count. One of the strengths of any 1NT opening is that responder knows instantly which level the hand belongs at (part score, invitational, game, slammish) and which suits may be playable as trumps. So if the opponents do pre-empt,  responder is well placed to make a positive response, a negative free bid (showing shape, but denying game values unless opener reveals a strong hand) or double under the simple assumption that opener has a balanced ~13 count. If partner isn’t balanced, he’ll be stronger, which compensates.

The opponents face a dilemma:

  1. If opener has a weak hand, when an opponent steps out of line (by bidding too aggressively) responder is well placed to compete or double, and they may find they’ve given us several hundred points on a hand where we could only earn 100 or they deserve to get a positive score. Whereas an undisciplined bid against precision probably won’t miss a game (since the opening side has a minimum of 16 points, often more) that’s not true against polish. Blatant psyches (and routine stretching, like pre-empting heavy) are much more likely to catch a strong partner who gets taken in, instead of the opposite side.
  2. So, when opener does have strong hands, he’ll often get to convey good information while the level is low, at which point intervening is too late.

Given all that, our opponents in general seem content to only interfere with our 1C bids when they’d do so against a “Standard” 1C. Our big hands face much less obnoxious competition. I’ll take Polish with little competition over Precision with heavy competition.

One hand jumps out at me. I had the king of spades (with two small) and no other points. Partner opened 1C, I responded 1D (usually showing less than 7 points, but also including some awkward bigger hands) and partner bid 1S. I still didn’t know what partner had, but it was capped at 21 points, so I passed. Now my LHO asked some questions:

“What does your partner have?”
“Most likely 12-14 points with 4 spades. But it could be 18-21 with 5+ spades.”

My LHO was staring at a balanced opening hand, but had no idea if his partner was almost broke, or had an opening hand. He hadn’t bid after my 1D bid because he had no good suit and was worried that opener had a strong hand. But now passing meant possibly missing a game or, more realistically, a making partscore. Re-opening risks finding partner with a misfit trash and opponents who know they have half the deck. My opponents, in this case, guessed wrong. Bridge is all about risk and reward, but this is complex and tough to evaluate …. for the opponents.

We do pay a price for that, namely when partner opens 1C (strong) and an opponent has a classical pre-empt. Then responder has to cater to a weak hand and can’t always show values. But these happen much less frequently than 1C-(frisky 1 or 2 level bid)-something-(raise). We’ve had numerous auctions where we are investigating slam or probing for the best game on hands where a precision pair would be having to name a first suit at the two level or higher. I’ll take it.

Finally, a minor difference from precision — Precision’s 1D opening is nebulous, showing possibly only two diamonds, but constrained with 11-15 points. In Polish we promise four diamonds, but have a wider range. 11-20. (While 1C can be any hand with 18+ points, it’s difficult to bid 18-20 point hands with both minors or unbalanced with 6+ diamonds). So our 1D opening is effectively like standard in range. Is it better to have a confined range or to show a real suit? I suspect for expert pairs the precision way is better, slightly. Not being an expert, having a real suit works out well.

Finally, playing at the club level, it has to be said that Polish (like the weak NT) will provide a good result from time to time just because opponents blunder. Also, from necessity of learning a new system, partner and I made a detailed set of system notes; so we have much better defined agreements as compared to other non-expert partnerships with similar playtime. (Yay for google docs!) (Not particular to Polish, but we both have decent memories, and enjoy system tinkering and have had shockingly few cases of one partner just forgetting an agreement. We’d probably get decent results no matter what system we played).

Basic Polish isn’t difficult. You learn the 1C system and responses (and the 2C opening), practice the bidding for a few hours, and you’ve got it. You can use the same system you like for the rest of your one level openings and can keep your two level openings (except 2C) the same if you like. You can add as many (or few) gadgets as you like. I recommend it.

One convention (not part of the system) I also recommend for serious players — Raptor 1N overcalls. These occur much more often than 1N overcalls, the negative inferences are useful, and often when you have to pass (or double) with your strong NT hands your opponents tend to get too high. Especially at matchpoints, where the frequency of occurrence (and fighting fo the partscore) it’s a handy little agreement.

Written by taogaming

February 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Bridge

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