Cayne match continued.

April 22, 2009 at 8:04 am 18 comments

This post has been updated since first published.

I didn’t realise that anybody would think the interesting part of the problem was whether to open 1NT. Why open 1NT with singleton honours:

(1) Because your rebids will often be uncomfortable otherwise. You will have to make forcing unlimited bids, when you could make ONE LIMIT BID that is ONE CARD OUT. An x.

(2) Singleton honours need to be devalued because they don’t work as well as when supported. The fact that an honour is a singleton doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse

(3) It is very hard to show singleton honours otherwise. Yes, Phil, we have in our whole lives played the odd 5-1 fit at the 2-level. Not often. Sometimes they even make. But one of the many ways we make up for that is partner knows if we do have a singleton it WILL be an honour. That certainly comes in handy.

(4) Reverse sequences are so much simpler without bare honours to contend with. When we bid out, for example, a 5431 it is actually quite useful to know that the 1 is an x.

(5) Strong preemptive opening bids are quite useful. Yes, we are preempting our side, but having much more often the auction to ourselves may outweigh that.

(6) It assists our general theory that suits should be genuine and of quality whenever possible. That comes in handy. Again, for example, reverses and jump bids without singleton honours in them are a routinely useful concept.

Not on the conversion path here, but since it has been raised in comments, I thought it was worth laying out a few thoughts.

The hand itself as presented before this update follows.

Board 8
Dealer West
Nil Vul









We were never a chance to get to the minor suit game. I opened 1NT and of course that was raised to 3NT. As that went three down I was speculating on what would happen in the other room. It looked like North, without the preemptive 1NT opening to deal with, would be able to get in the heart suit if he wanted….and maybe that would steer EW towards the right path.

In fact, however, this auction took place:

3NT…..All Pass

and so -150 was a flat board.

I wondered if it were clearly wrong to respond 3NT on the bare heart ace….The logic is that partner doesn’t have a negative double (and therefore not 4 spades) and that the only way for your side to get to 3NT is for you to bid it yourself. Markey, in yesterday’s comments bids 3S anyway: if partner doesn’t have a heart stopper he can bid, then you aren’t making 3NT is the logic of that manoeuvre. As for Mestel, he figured it was worth going slamming, so no thought there of 3NT either.

Back tomorrow.


Entry filed under: Cayne matches.

What do you bid? Toxic assets.

18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. khokan  |  April 23, 2009 at 9:26 am


    I’m not sure what you’re getting at when you talk about reverses – are you advocating that reverses shouldn’t have singleton honours? If so, what else are you going to bid on, say:


    After 1D – 1S? A 2NT rebid is a much bigger distortion than 2H. This problem becomes intractable if you swap a Cx for a Dx.

    Whilst you might downgrade such hands, the philosophy of not jumping or reversing on these hands isn’t really a workable one.

    • 2. cathychua  |  April 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

      No, not once partner has shown a suit….but if we have a bare honour we will be more than a 15-17 NT – given, of course, (a) that you might want to upgrade and (b) it isn’t actually compulsory. If you think we’d open 1NT on Q xxx AKxx AKxxx, no, we wouldn’t!! But we don’t consider it adequate to open and bid suits which are lousy if there are options.


      Not in a pink fit would I open that 1D and rebid 2C if I had the option of opening 1NT….

      • 3. khokan  |  April 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

        Funnily enough, Cathy, I’d open 1NT on both the hands you’ve just given, as the advantages outweigh the flaws (to me, anyway).

        On the first, assuming there are no pips to speak of, there’s no satisfactory rebid after a 1H or 1S response. I really dislike the US practice of opening 1D and rebidding 2C.

        On the second, I’d open 1NT because nearly all my points are in short suits (not just one ace).

  • 4. Khokan Bagchi  |  April 23, 2009 at 7:19 am

    My view is that, if you have confidence in your bidding methods, opening 1NT with a singleton should be the exception, rather than the rule. This is, of course, very different from opening an offshape 1NT on hands such as:


    The above hand would be a routine strong 1NT opener for most players, as it has a strong preemptive upside as well as good playing strength.

    I certainly wouldn’t have opened Peter’s/Matt’s hand with 1NT, though, and it’s hard to see how 4H makes. 3NT, however, looks easier to slip through. I agree with Peter that one’s actions tend to be guided more by what’s worked for you in the past, more so than what the books say.

    There was a hand from the Vanderbilt final, where both players opened 2NT with:


    which I would call a routine 2NT opening. Both pairs missed a good 6C opposite:


    The main point of the above hand is that controls, as well as a convenient rebid over all responses, should be a major consideration when deciding to open offshape notrumps.

  • 5. Peter Gill  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I tend to base my style on the empircal evidence of what has worked for me in the past. Thus I like to open 1NT on bare kings in suitable hands, don’t mind bare queen, not so keen on bare ace and have not (yet) opened 1NT on bare jack or lower.

    In the SNOT in the 1990s, both Souths Matt Mullamphy and I opened a strong 1NT with a bare king, with a successful flat outcome. Both our partners – Michael Courtney and Bobby Richman – thought we had rocks in our heads, and had got lucky with what they thought was an insane opening.

    I would have opened Cathy’s hand 1D because I can rebid clubs. I think I would have opened Khokan’s hand 1C and rebid 1NT, unless either vul at IMPS or opposite a conservative partner. The bare queen (worse than a bare king) and lack of aces and kings is worth a downgrade, but I would be happier without C10.

    A bare king or queen in a 5-1 fit seems to play quite well, having often been there myself. The singleton trump honour being hidden makes the defence hard, e.g.
    we bid 1NT – 2D – 2H – 4H making four in the 2008 Butler at

    • 6. Peter Gill  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm

      on Bd 24 I mean

      • 7. Peter Gill  |  April 22, 2009 at 9:40 pm

        and I meant “usually rebid spades” not clubs, although
        1D – 1NT – 2C is tempting on Cathy’s hand.

    • 8. sartaj  |  April 22, 2009 at 10:12 pm

      Meckstroth-Rodwell go out of their way to open 1NT with a bare king.

  • 9. Peter Reynolds  |  April 22, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Whilst not objecting to 1NT with a singleton H (or x for that matter).
    This is not one. I dont like a NT on this because1D is well placed in almost all auctions.

    1D-1H-1S, 1D-1S-raise to your style (I would mini spinter, but 3S is fine), 1D – 1NT- pass is my choice (If you don’t 1D-2C acol style to control the 1NT response here….), 1D-2C-2S (Nat not min) etc.

    This view is also partly because David & I play 1NT quite wide ranging so we dont strain to put additional hands in.


    on the other hand is a different matter. No good rebid after a 1S response which you will get on most occasions.

    So its not the singleton its the 4S’s that push you away from a NT

    I would open a NT on Khokan’s hand. I agree with Khokan’s point about shape, and he is of course right about controls which may make 5D viable, but this whould not stop me opening a NT with 1453

  • 10. Khokan Bagchi  |  April 22, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    You can’t generalise the best actions on these types of hands ie 5331s and 4441s with singleton honours in the majors. I’ve been known to open such hands with 1NT, myself:


    However, this hand isn’t within a bull’s roar of the Cayne match hand:


    The problems with opening 1NT on the second hand go well beyond playing a 5-1 fit opposite a weak hand. What if partner transfers into spades? Are you going to be happy making a super accept, knowing that game is good opposite as little as the following hand and partner will likely sign off:


    While this may be a loaded example, there are plenty of hands where partner might get excited, knowing you hold diamonds and spades (which you can conveniently show) with a heart shortage, but be turned off opposite a 1NT opening. There are risks and rewards associated with all actions, but the reward to risk ratio associated with opening the Cayne hand with 1NT seems pretty low, especially when you factor in that you can always double hearts for takeout after opening 1D.

    Overall, I agree with Phil that it’s generally better to try and sort out problems in the auction, rather than mis-describe your hand initially.

  • 11. sartaj  |  April 22, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    ” i mean its a negative proposition and generally speaking you should be shooting to capitalise on the positive propositions – put slightly differently – just because something is hard and awkward doesnt neccesarily mean you should avoid it”

    Thats food for thought.

    Simplification of the auction is an aim we often aspire to. By marginalising the complexities, we give up on some potential gains.

    The best approach therefore would involve choosing either simplification or elaboration, based on the specifics of the hand itself. Things like nature of controls, texture of suits, our general methods come into play.

    That leads me to believe that the assertion re: positive and negative propositions is incorrect. Its more important to focus on the factors which we believe deserves more weight on this kind of hand, irrespective of whether its positive or negative ..

    Am i talking way too weirdly ? Probably am 🙂

    • 12. phil markey  |  April 22, 2009 at 6:18 pm

      didnt sound weird to me

      khokan’s hand which he would open 1nt with compared to what cathy did open 1nt with is an example of the weighing your talking about – i mean i agree with what khokan says about the merits of opening those hands 1nt

      my rant about positive and negative propositions was more about what causes people to make bad choices – most people love to look after the negatives to the detriment of the positives

      i owe the word “squirrelling” to cathy – a related concept – if i remember correctly it was in the context of some self diagnosis – probably she had a margin in her favour when this hand happened so she was hiding nuts away for the winter…

      either that or its auto in her system

  • 13. khokan  |  April 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    The more I think about the best action over 3H, the worse 3NT looks to me, heart stopper notwithstanding. Even if partner has a perfect hand for 3NT and the worst spade holding for diamonds eg:


    5D is still an overwhelming favourite to make.

  • 14. phil markey  |  April 22, 2009 at 10:33 am

    playing acol opening 1 no-trump is like a religous experience for me – i’m thinking about doing it every hand – but opening 1nt with a singleton honour doesnt happen a lot any more

    pard will transfer to your singleton major a lot and if that doesnt happen then you dread finding a fit for one of your suits because you are never catching up enough to describe the extra playing strength you now have

    i save the singleton 1nt openings for when i rank the destructive value high and/or the constructive value low – playing a strong 1nt opening i’m thinking i would almost never do it

    • 15. sartaj  |  April 22, 2009 at 10:40 am

      What if West’s majors were reversed ?
      The hypothetical 2H reverse (after 1D- 1S) looks more ugly than a 1NT opening.

      • 16. khokan  |  April 22, 2009 at 11:53 am

        Opening 1NT on the actual hand doesn’t make much sense as the hand is loaded with controls, which point to suit play, and there are no rebid problems. If the majors were reversed, I still think the hand is too controlly for 1NT and I would rebid 2C (ugly, I know).

        As for what to do after 3H in the auction, 3S seems routine, as this is where you need help for game and 3NT is still in the picture. Partner has an easy raise to 5D over 3S.

      • 17. khokan  |  April 22, 2009 at 12:04 pm

        Further to my views above, the hand reminds me of one from the NOT Quarters (playing against Cathy!) where I opened 1D on:


        I rebid 2C over partner’s 1S response.

      • 18. phil markey  |  April 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm

        meh – i didnt see that problem probably because i dont play a lot of strong 1nt seriously

        it has to happen before its a problem – when it does i guess you chose between a light reverse or a strong rebid – either way you have correctly implied that you might have shape and you have some room to catch up – i dont thnk i agree with the idea that i am in better shape opening 1nt even when i know that is going to happen – i mean isnt partner going to transfer to my singleton a lot if i open 1nt with a stiff spade and he has spades ?

        the upside for the 1nt openers is the idea that they “get the hand off their chest” – i dont think that is a great reason to do it – firstly you dont have a problem till you have a problem – i mean its a negative proposition and generally speaking you should be shooting to capitalise on the positive propositions – put slightly differently – just because something is hard and awkward doesnt neccesarily mean you should avoid it – secondly – distorting high card points is a lot less dangerous than distorting shape


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