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Inviting Over 1-P-2-P (Apr/May 2005)


I asked the experts the following question: You open 1 holding AKxxx AYxxZxxx and partner bids 2. What would Y and Z have to be in your hand to make a game try (invite game) at matchpoints? What would you need if you were vulnerable at IMPs?

Point No. 1: There are problems with making game tries. The first problem is that the limit of the hand could be eight tricks. The second problem is that in trying to find out where responder’s strength is, you may impart information that tells the opponents how to defend. The third problem is that you tell the opponents that you are bidding game on marginal values. This makes it easier for an opponent to double you if there are bad splits. There are ways to minimize the effect of these problems. To minimize the possibility of ending up at the three-level and going down, you, as responder, should have a constructive hand when you raise one-of-a-major to two-of-that-major. You should have a hand where you would accept at least one game try. If you have junk such as a 3334 six-count or a seven-count with lots of queens and jacks, bid 1NT and then support partner’s major. Opener will not make a light game try when he does not have a known eight-card major-suit fit. As opener, you can minimize the amount of information given away by jumping straight to game. 1 - 2 - 4 is a very difficult “game try” to defend.

However, there are in-between hands where if partner has the right cards, you can make game. Fifteen or sixteen HCPs with 5431 distribution is a game try for most at matchpoints and a tad lighter at IMPs.

Lynn Deas: AKxxx AJxxKxxx. I would have the same minimum in either case.

Eddie Kantar: I would give it a go at matchpoints if I held AKxxx AJxxKxxx. At IMPs I would give it a go if I held AKxxx AJxxQxxx.

Bobby Wolff: Matchpoints requirements are AKxxx AKxxxxxx, AKxxx AQxxQxxx, AKxxx AJxxKxxx, or AKxxx AxxxAxxx. Vulnerable at IMPs would require just a touch less.

Kit Woolsey: I am assuming I have a short suit game try available -- the answer might be different if I did not. AKxxx AQxxQxxx -- opposite Qxx KxxKxxxxxx game is pretty good. I guess that would be about my minimum. I don't believe my answer would be any different at matchpoints than at IMPs. The minimum for game tries is generally about the same. The real difference is that at IMPs vulnerable, you often don't bother with a game try -- you just take your chances and blast away -- while at matchpoints you don't mind stopping at three-of-a-major so much if it is probably right.

Jill Meyers: AKxxx AQxxKxxx at matchpoints. A little less at IMPs, but I play short suit game tries, so I would be lighter.

Point No. 2: One of the factors is the type of game tries you are using. If you have a short suit, you would like partner to know that his KQJ of the short suit is worthless and other honors are golden. A popular tool is the two-way game-try. After 1 - 2, 2NT says that you have a short-suit game try somewhere. If responder wants to know what your short suit is, he bids 3 asking. Opener can then bid 3 to show short diamonds, 3 to show short hearts and 3 to show short clubs. Responder doesn’t have to ask. Responder can sign off in 3 if he has xxx QJxQJxQxxx, a hand where he would reject any short-suit game try. Responder can also jump to 4 if he has KQx Axxxxxxxxx and would accept any short-suit game try. Since the short-suit game try could be a short-suit slam try, responder has to be careful with slammish hands not to preempt the auction. Any other bid other than 2NT is a long suit game-try. Similarly, after 1 - 2 , 2 would be the short-suit game or slam try and 2NT would then be a long-suit spade game try.

Point No. 3: Short-suit game tries might not be the answer when opener has four hearts. If responder has four or more hearts, you would want to play game in hearts, the 4-4 fit, not spades. Only a three-heart game try would get you to 4 in that case.

Point No. 4: The other type of game try is the help suit game try. The problem with help suit game tries is that there are so many different combinations of honors that are dealt. Jxx is good opposite KQxx, AQxx or A109x but not worth much opposite Axxx or Qxxx. Opposite any game try, responder should accept with trump honors, trump length and Aces. Responder should like shortness except opposite matching shortness or KQJ. Opposite length, responder should like two little, which is better than three or four little. Responder should like Kings and dislike Queens.

Ralph Katz: At matchpoints, I would bid with AKxxx AKxxQxxx or AKxxx AQxxKxxx and pass with AKxxx AJxxAxxx. At IMPs I would bid with AKxxx AKxxxxxx, AKxxx AQxxQxxx or AKxxx AxxxAxxx.

Mel Colchamiro: Besides 5332, I think 5431 hands are the worst. I much prefer 5422 and, of course, 5521. Having said that, if I held AKxxx AxxxAxxx, I would make a short suit game try in clubs at both matchpoints and IMPs. Only vulnerable at IMPs would I make a try if I held AKxxx AxxxKxxx. At matchpoints I would try if I held AKxxx AJxxKxxx. Mild objection to the problem: How aggressive is partner in bidding 2 vs. 1NT first? I assumed partner would bid 2 on all but real trash, i.e., xxx KxxKxxxxxx would be an easy 2.

Marty Bergen: Answer would depend on whether playing Bergen Raises. Assuming yes, I would want AKxxx AQxxKxxx and at IMPs vulnerable I would want AKxxx AxxxAxxx.

(Convention explanation: If you’re playing Bergen raises, the direct raise usually shows three-card support. With four-card support and 7-9 HCPs, responder jumps to 3.)

Henry Bethe: It would depend to some extent on the type of game tries available and on whether partner had some type of "mixed raise" available. I do, so I tend to be fairly conservative and try only with about a five ˝-loser hand. Vulnerable at IMPs I tend to try with a "good" six-loser hand. At matchpoints I would think at least AKxxx AJxxKxxx or AKxxx AQxxQxxx, particularly if playing short suit tries. At IMPs vulnerable AKxxx AKxxxxxx or AKxxx AxxxAxxx might be enough.

Mike Becker: At matchpoints AKxxx AJxxKxxx, AKxxx AKxxQxxx, AKxxx AKxxJ10xx or AKxxx AxxxAxxx. At IMPs, vulnerable AKxxx AQxxQxxx, AKxxx AJxxQJxx, AKxxx AKxxJxxx or AKxxx AxxxKJxx.

Bill Pollack: Either AKxxx AKxxJxxx or AKxxx AJxxAxxx.

Steve Bloom: AKxxx AKxxxxxx, AKxxx AxxxKxxx or AKxxx AQxxQxxx at either game.

Drew Casen: At Matchpoints I would need AKxxx AKxxQxxx or AKxxx AQxxKxxx. I would need AKxxx AQxxQxxx if I had a short suit game try available. Vulnerable at IMPs I would need AKxxx AQxxQxxx.

Barry Rigal: Assumption: 2 is constructive playing forcing notrump. AKxxx AJxxQxxx is a 3 long-suit try or 2NT puppet to 3, then 3 for a singleton club game-try. With AKxxx AQxxJxxx, I'd make the short-suit try; my long-suit game tries need a top honor.

Dave Berkowitz: Obviously two different issues. At matchpoints I must protect my plus, but not go too anti-field, since we like to play the same contracts, only better. I think AKxxx AQxxKxxx is about right, but AKxxx AJ10xKxxx would be okay. At IMPs, spots are an issue. AK109x AJ109Q109x would be plenty. With no spots, the Jack of hearts and the King or QJ of diamonds would be enough.

Point No. 5: You might be a little lighter if you have good spots. AJ109 of hearts could be better than AQ32.

Fred Hamilton: AKxxx AJxxKxxx or AKxxx AQxxQxxx. I would need the same values for a game try regardless of the type of scoring or vulnerability, as responder is also aware of these factors. The percentages for vulnerable vs. non-vulnerable do not take into account down two or down two or three doubled when things sit badly.

Chris Willenken: I’m assuming no useful spots; obviously AK987 of spades is more attractive than AK432. I'm also assuming that partner didn't have a four-trump constructive raise available. Control-rich, shapely hands with moderate high cards play really well opposite four trumps, so my game tries would be more conservative if I knew partner held only three trumps.

At matchpoints, my first reaction was to try with a 15-count, so the weakest would be AKxxx AQxxQxxx (AKxxx AJxxKxxx is clearly a stronger 15-count in my opinion). A small simulation showed making a game try with that hand to be a tiny loser, but it's close enough that I'd try to stay with the field even if a larger simulation backed up the result. Plus, there might be more mis-defenses than I accounted for in my simulation.

Vulnerable at IMPs, I'd probably be a working jack lighter, say AKxxx AJxxQxxx. I don't think it pays to go crazy trying for vulnerable games, as you will often end in 3, which has no bonus when it makes, but can lose five IMPs when it fails. As a rule, when vulnerable I'd want game to be at least 50% when partner accepts my game try to compensate me for the five IMP losses in 3 down one.

Joel Wooldridge: If I held AKxxx AQxxQxxx, AKxxx AJxxKxxx or AKxxx AxxxAxxx I'd invite. If AKxxx AKxxJxxx I think the decision is very close. With that, I might pass or invite, but I'm leaning towards pass. Anything worse than that, I'd pass.

Joe Kivel: The minimum would be AKxxx AQxxKxxx at matchpoints and AKxxx AQxxQxxx at IMPs.

Jeff Rubens: Assuming the raise could be a minimum response with a fit, I would invite with AKxxx AKxxQxxx.

Grant Baze: At matchpoints, I need either a king extra in the red suits or two queens. Vulnerable at IMPs, I just need any three HCPs in the red suits.

Zeke Jabbour: I assume semi-constructive raises. So if I have 17 playing points, I will make a game try at matchpoints. Vulnerable at IMPs would require 16 playing points. That means that at matchpoints I would need AKxxx AQxxQxxx or AKxxx AKxxJxxx. At IMPs, I would need AKxxx AKxxxxxx. In both cases 3 might be at risk since club wastage is a good bet and vulnerable undertricks are a hundred a pop. Still with Q10x QxxxAxxxxx opposite AKxxx AKxxxxxx with a club and a club led, making (not bidding) 6 is a reasonable expectation.”

Point No. 6: Short-suit game tries would not get you to 4 on Jabbour’s last example.

Kerry Sanborn: At matchpoints, I would need AKxxx AQxxAxxx. At IMPs, I would need AKxxx AQxxKxxx. Those appear to be the minimum holding with which I would act at all.

Mike Passell: I would make a game try with any four points. AKxxx AQxxQxxx or AKxxx AKxxJxxx.

Marinesa Letizia: I would need AKxxx AQxxKxxx or AKxxx AKxxQxxx. Good hand for short suit game tries.

Conclusion: The experts have said that the minimum hand needed to make a game try is 15 HCPs and a singleton at matchpoints and a tad lighter at IMPs. But the best game try after 1 - 2 or 1 - 2 is the jump to game, and at IMPs it makes sense to take the direct route. However, when you are 5-4 in the majors you should try to get to 4 since the 4-4 heart fit, a lot of the time, plays better than the 5-3 spade fit.