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What Makes an Odds-on Invite (Dec/Jan 2004/5)

Playing a standard 2/1 system, you hold 43 A543Q328765. Partner opens 1, you bid one notrump and partner bids 2 . What are some minimum additions you would need to make in order to have enough strength to raise to 3 playing matchpoints? How much less would you need Vulnerable at IMPs?

If opener has as little as AKxxx Kxxxxxxx, the above hand provides a play for game. On the other hand if opener has QJxxx JxxxJxAK, you’d be lucky to take seven tricks opposite the above hand. Partner could also have AKxxx KQJxKxxx, a hand just short of a jump shift. There is a very wide range in this standard auction. Bridge is a game of odds. If partner goes down at the three-level more than six out of ten times when you raise, you need more to raise or you need a partner who holds better cards. And don’t forget that the opponents are allowed to double your final contract.

Point Number 1: Two working cards are enough to raise. Working cards are the minor suit aces and any major-suit honor. Some experts raise with slightly less. However, if you open QJxxx JxxxJxAK and partner raises to three, expect to go down.

Kit Woolsey: Maybe xx AJxxAxxxxxx at matchpoints, perhaps a Jack less vulnerable at IMPs.

Mike Becker: At matchpoints, I need a major Queen plus any stray Jack or major ten, or a minor King. At IMPs, I need a major Queen, or a minor Queen plus a major Jack or a major Jack plus the diamond Jack.

Holdings such as Qx AJxxQxxxxxx or xx AxxxQxxKxxx are hands where Becker would raise.

Chris Willenken: I believe that most experts raise too much here when vulnerable at IMPs. They are seduced by the vulnerable game bonus, but they forget that often times partner passes 3 and goes down one. For me to raise vulnerable at IMPs, I would have to expect game to be at least 50% when partner bids it.

Now the question is, how good a hand does responder need for game to be a favorite when opener bids it? A minimum might be xx KxxxAxxxxxx. Note the Quality Points. I would pass 2 with xx JxxxKxxxKJx. Other possible minimum raises include -- x KxxxxQxxxxxx and x AxxxJTxxKxxx.

I would pass with xx AxxxQxxxxxx and x 10xxxKQxQ10xxx (You may say "of course," but a many-time national champion bid 3 against me in the ITT with this hand.)

At matchpoints, I would be even more conservative for two reasons. First of all, game is a 50/50 proposition rather than a 10/6 IMP proposition. Secondly, if expert play is required to land ten tricks, I might get a good score for +170 anyway. So, I'd want my raise to be highly invitational, approximately one honor card better than vulnerable at IMPs. Some minimum matchpoint raises might be: xx AxxxAxxxxxx,x QxxxxKxxxxxx and Jx KQxxKxxxxxx.

As a side note, it is worth doing some system tinkering to be able to bid 1-1NT-3 with 5-5 invitational hands. Responder has a much easier time if he knows that he is facing either four trumps or a minimum opener.

Point number 2: A fifth heart is worth a lot. Five little opposite Qxxx, on good days might be only two losers.

Point number 3: You could add some science. Play 1 - 1NT - 3 as an invitational 5-5. Play 1 - 1NT - 3 as a three-way game-forcing bid: 1) spades and hearts; 2) spades and clubs; or 3) just spades. Responder bids 3 to ask. 3 shows spades and hearts, 3 shows spades and clubs and any other bid shows just spades.

Eddie Kantar: At matchpoints I need the diamond Ace instead of the Queen, at IMPs the K10x of diamonds is enough.

Kantar raises with xx AxxxAxxxxxx at matchpoints or xx AxxxK10xxxxx at IMPs.

Chip Martel: Add a major suit Queen or a minor suit King. Perhaps Vulnerable at IMPs with a minor suit Ace and subtract the diamond Queen -- 43 A543A328765.

Grant Baze: Vulnerable at IMPs, I would raise with any King extra, or the heart Queen extra - 43 AQ43Q328765. At matchpoints, I would need an Ace extra, or the heart King extra.

Joe Kivel: The Queen of diamonds is a questionable value. Hand is much better if xx QxxxAxxxxxx. But if vulnerable at IMPs, I would raise with Queen of spades, or King of clubs. I wouldn’t raise with xx AxxxKxxxxxx or xx AJxxQxxxxxx. In matchpoints, I need King of spades or Ace of diamonds instead of Queen.

The Kivel Alternative. For those of you who use Multi, play that a 2 opener shows five or six spades, four or five hearts, and a very minimum opener. So that a 1-bid followed by 2 shows more than a minimum. Makes handling of these types of hands much simpler.

Larry Cohen: Adding even a well-placed king would not be enough to raise at matchpoints. I'd need a little more -- and even more than that opposite a light opener. Vulnerable at IMPs, I would raise in a minute if you add the spade King or heart King. At IMPs, even a 40% game should be bid.

Jon Wittes: At matchpoints, I would probably want to change my Queen of diamonds to a King or maybe change my 4432 distribution to 4441 in order to raise to 3 . Vulnerable at IMPs, it certainly might be right to raise to three on lesser hands, even the one given. After all, just give partner AKxxx KQxxx, and you already have a reasonable play for game. On the other hand, double part scores swings can also be costly, and once in a while you'll get to a marginal game, with a bad trump break, get doubled and go for a number, so I do not recommend getting reckless just to reach a vulnerable game at IMPs.

Jeff Rubens: I'd raise if the values were switched to xx QxxxAxxxxxx. With xx AxxxKxxxxxx, I would raise, but I think it is close enough that it would be doubtful to bid with xx AxxxxxxKxxx, with the increased chance of hitting a singleton club. I would not change much with the vulnerability (more important not to make a final decision unwarrantedly), but I'd be much more conservative at matchpoints, perhaps pass with all these borderline hands.

Karen Allison: I don't play 2/1 often, but it seems to me at matchpoints I'd want about a king more. At IMPs the Queen of hearts would do it for me. I think that bid requires about limit raise values.

Bill Pollack: At matchpoints, this is nowhere near a raise. Yes, partner can have golden minimums that make a game, but there is nothing close to three-level safety here although we might not have enough to beat three-of-a-minor if they balance, so it won't always be the end of the world if we get frisky.

To raise, I'd want better trumps (AQxx) or another real card (any additional king would do). What's particularly important about these auctions, where partner's hand has an enormously wide range, is that you must agree that invitations are pushy, acceptances are not -- even at IMPs.

Even following that precept, however, with the appeal of a vulnerable game at IMPs, one must be careful with the raw meat one throws at the dog across the table -- I would not raise at IMPs with this hand, paying off to a perfecta. Yes, a vulnerable game is worth ten IMPs, but I've lost a few matches by the six that getting too high can cost. But it sure wouldn't take much more for me to raise: AJ9x of trumps would do it, or a bit more side trash (Queen doubleton of spades, a bit more meat in the minors).

Point Number 4: Since responder could be light for his raise, opener should not get pushy.

Point Number 5: If partner opens very light, you might need more to raise.

Marty Bergen: I would raise with xx KxxxxxxAxxx.

Henry Bethe: At matchpoints a major suit Queen instead of a three, or a minor suit King instead of a low card.

Vulnerable at IMPs, the heart Jack and nine instead of the four-three or the diamond Ace instead of the Queen or the heart nine and the diamond King instead of the Queen would be enough.

Kerry Sanborn: I believe in pretty much a courtesy raise of 2 , but this hand is not worth the raise. I would bid 3 with one more heart and one fewer spade or perhaps even one fewer diamond. If I were to keep the heart length the same, I would need better side strength, such as an Ace instead of a Queen. Or better-placed cards would increase the playing value of the hand. The diamond Queen is of dubious value, but were it in spades, I would raise with a fifth heart or with another useful card including either major suit Jack.

Barry Rigal: At pairs: I'd bid 3 with the spade Queen or heart Queen but not the club Queen. Teams vulnerable with the club Queen I'd bid 3 . 43 AJ43QJ38765 I'd bid 3 at Teams.

Fred Hamilton: I would need another King or the Queen of hearts to raise. I believe that opener needs 16+ HCP to go on with 5422, but may advance with just a decent 5-5.

Dave Berkowitz: This hand is a clear pass, any game. Obviously if you change the red honors, you have a better hand, but still not enough. Vulnerable at IMPs, change my structure to Ax Qxxxxxxxxxx and it would be close, the 109 of hearts would be closer, but I think maybe the QJ of hearts is necessary.

If you’re willing to give up playing in 3 after 1-1NT-2 then 1-1NT-2 -3 = weak raise. 1-1NT-2 -3 transfers to 3 after which 3 is now a serious raise.

Mel Colchamiro: At matchpoints I would need to add a fifth heart, subtract a spade and change the diamond Queen to a King. That would be absolute minimum. Vulnerable at IMPs I could live with adding a fifth heart, diamond Queen to the King but keeping the doubleton spade. If I keep only four cards in hearts, I would need to change the diamond Queen to a King and add the spade Queen. At matchpoints I would need to add the heart Jack or Queen in addition. Obviously there are many other possibilities such as adding the club Ace to the hand shown, etc.

Steve Bloom: My first comment you may find a bit surprising, but the phrase Vulnerable at IMPs does not goad me. Clearly the IMP scale rewards aggressive bidding, but with some caveats. Consider the auction 1-1NT-2 -3 . A fair amount of the time you will need some luck to take nine tricks, and where there is some luck, there is often enough to take ten tricks. Changing 170 to 620 is worth ten IMPs, while changing -100 to -200 only costs three IMPs. IMPs rewards aggression, particularly when you were slated for a minus score on some layouts anyway.

On the other hand, IMPs loves plus scores as does Matchpoints. Playing in 3 , off one, or 4 , off two, when you could comfortably have scored +110 in 2 , is losing bridge.

Back to the problem: I want my partners to open any hand that smells even remotely like an opening bid, and to accept all game tries with any 14 count. So, I had better produce a decent dummy when I raise to 3 . I need another working card to raise, say Kx Axxxxxxxxxx, or a fifth trump (then 3 down a trick will often be a good save).

All this is purely theoretical, as I play Precision, and never face these problems. Also, my wife says she would probably raise with the problem hand, Vulnerable, at IMPs. She is easily goaded!

Point Number 6: If you have five hearts, 3 down one might be a good save.

Dan Morse: The Queen of spades or hearts would make me raise.

Zeke Jabbour: This is a working values problem. Since I know at least nine or ten of partner's cards, I need a fit or some outside winners. Give me the heart ten and a King in any of the other suits, especially the spade King, and I would move, regardless of conditions of contest. The heart ten and another Queen would not be enough at matchpoints, but if it were the spade Queen, vulnerable at IMPs, I would surely want to show the double fit. If partner held AKxxx KJxxxxxx, game would be odds on and he would bid it. Take the fifth heart away and make it the club Queen and 3 is at risk. It's a working values problem.

Bobby Levin: I would need an additional King somewhere, or I would be willing to trade in my Queen of diamonds for an Ace. I like to go plus, although +230 doesn’t make me happy.

Jill Meyers: At a minimum I would need a fifth heart at IMPS. At matchpoints I would need a fifth heart and a stiff spade, or the King of diamonds with the Queen, in other words Married Honors, and four hearts.

Marinesa Letizia: Think I need a lot more to raise, A fifth heart with only seven or eight HCPs, the Queen in spades would, of course, be much better. Wouldn't dream of raising with this hand at any form of scoring. Of course vulnerable at IMPs, would need a fifth heart with working seven or eight count, or with only four trumps a really great, working eight count minimum. Guess I'm a little spoiled playing a limited system. Makes these hands much easier.

Point Number 7: This is a much better sequence if you’re playing a forcing club system. Opener can jump with all 5-5 hands, therefore 2 is a limited bid.

Ron Smith: If I have two keycards in partner's suit (Ace, King or Queen) I raise. I also raise if I have Aces in the side suit. A good fit and an Ace will do it. With three keycards or more I go to game. I'm a little more conservative at matchpoints.

Bobby Wolff: I need either the King of spades or the King of hearts to raise in either game. Believe it or not, somehow holding the King of spades seems more valuable than even the King of trumps. Is that possible?

Bobby Lipsitz: If you add the Queen of either major, that would be sufficient.

David Bird: The Ace of clubs would be enough, or the King of spades. I suppose, vulnerable at IMPs, you might risk a raise with the spade Queen instead of the King. I would have my apologies ready, though.

Aces and major-suit honors are always good, minor honors are suspect. Kxxx of clubs is bad opposite a singleton or void, but good opposite AQx and QJx. You need to add very little to 43 A543Q328765 to have a raising hand.