Today you're playing with John, a known Underbidder. The last time you played, you
were +180, + 710 and a few other “overtrickish” scores. Is there any strategy you
will use so that you will have fewer overtricks? Tomorrow you will play with
Sally, Every-hand’s-a-game-or-slam, Overbidder. The last time you played you were
down 30 tricks. Is there any strategy you will use tomorrow so that you will have
Another way of saying this: Do you change your bidding style for conservative partners,
aggressive partners or down-the-middle partners?
There are two different questions and each has its answers. First, how do you get
good results from these erratic partners? Second, how do you train these partners
to bid down the middle?
First we’ll talk about getting good results from John U and Sally O.
Michael Kamil: The strategy I would advocate is a very simple one. With the underbidder
all close decisions must end in the more aggressive action. Thus, if it’s pass or
bid, I would bid. If the choice is invite or go to game, game it is. Conversely,
with the overbidder, I pass when it's close, or and I don’t raise as much with just
intermediate hands. Incidentally, this strategy would include my opening bid style.
I’m a bit more aggressive with the underbidder, and more solid with the overbidder.
I think it's important not to go crazy in these adjustments. At some point you would
cross the line...making your own actions unsound. Basically I recommend you adjust
your style slightly on close calls.
Dave Berkowitz: I would tell each one of them that I love their style and want them
to maintain it. Consistency in partnership is critical. Knowing what to expect from
your partner is more important than changing his style. Instead you should adapt
your style to fit your particular partner, but keep theirs the same. Of course you
change your bidding style. If you consider your partner a "pitcher", then you need
to be a "catcher". Similarly, when partner overbids, you must rein it in. Also,
it helps to know partner’s style. Many are wild overbidders when distributional,
but normal bidders with balanced hands.
Marinesa Letizia: I bid very aggressively playing with the underbidder. I bid very
conservatively and tend to have more solid opening bids with the overbidder.
Kit Woolsey: Playing with John U--never invite. Just go ahead and bid the game or
slam myself. And accept all invitations, regardless of my hand. Be very aggressive
with overcalls, and take the aggressive view when he overcalls. Also, try to convince
John that I am conservative -- that might get him to be more aggressive. Playing
with Sally O--reject all invitations except with the absolute maximum. If I have
a hand, which is perhaps worth a game bid, just invite – Sally O will accept unless
she has the worst. Also, try to convince her that I am aggressive -- that might
slow her up a bit. I don't really change my bidding style much. I might be a touch
more aggressive entering the auction with a conservative partner for fear that this
partner will sell out too easily. Other than that I would just play my normal game.
The problem is that it is difficult to pin down exactly what "aggressive"
or "conservative" means.”
Point No. 1
Enter the fray lighter with John U, but have your bids with Sally O.
Fred Hamilton: I certainly try to have a little extra for an aggressive partner.
If they are quite conservative, I become more aggressive to compensate. I do not
change my game much, though, because I want partner to be able to count on me.
Barry Rigal: As a pro, I find myself constantly in one of these two positions. With
the underbidder I tend to assume that all bids of 2NT are forcing. When in doubt
as to whether to invite, I do not always bid game – because such partners underplay
the hand if THEY are going to be declarer. Playing with Sally O -- no cue-bidding
-- that leads automatically to Blackwood and a slam that goes down. Take control
one way or another.
Larry Cohen: As long as my partner is consistent, I am content. If I know he underbids,
I'll bid a little more. If he overbids, I'll bid a little less. If he zig-zags,
I'm dead. This is analogous to preempting style. Opposite a sound preempter, you
respond one way; opposite an aggressive preempter you go the opposite way.
Kerry Sanborn: I don't have a rule for dealing with partners who are too much one
way or the other. It is not easy to compensate for partner's tendencies, but you
can know that you should accept what you deem to be close decisions. You can make
second slam tries when partner is conservative. You can pull in the reins when your
partner is too aggressive. It becomes something of a guessing game.
Henry Bethe: The answer is “not really.” First of all, I am more used to playing
with Ernest Erratic than with Ursula Underbidder or Bernie Bidtoomuch. I prefer
Ursula, as I am a great believer in plus good, minus bad. Effectively the answer
is the obvious: With the chronic underbidder you accept all invitations, you bid
game on invitations, etc. You expect partner to have an extra queen, and she usually
provides it. With the chronic overbidder, you do not invite on marginal values, you have sounder values for your initial actions, etc. But you have to disguise
this, because if it becomes too obvious, your partner will go further overboard.
Point No. 2
With overbidders you want to have your bid. With underbidders you need to be aggressive.
However, you can’t be too obvious.
Billy Pollack: OK, this one I can answer. I'd say I change my style only a little.
My wife tends to have her values in competitive auctions, so I take that into account,
as opposed to some others, who I know I have to give lots of room to. So in those
situations, yes, I change not my style as much as specific bidding decisions. With
Mark Cohen, we have a rule that "Mark never has the perfect hand" -- that rule has
served us well. More significantly, to keep partnerships aligned, we agree that
it’s always the inviter who pushes, not the acceptor. But again, partner's conservative/aggressive
style can be taken into account.
Point No. 3
Good rule. The inviter pushes, and the accepter is conservative.
To recap, playing with an overbidder, don’t show your values a second time. Partner opens 1
and you bid 2NT, which is a game-forcing spade raise. Unless you have an extra ace,
don’t cuebid. With an underbidder, you have to take control more often. Bid Blackwood
or Roman Key Card Blackwood instead of cuebidding. Get in more auctions.
The second problem is how do you train partner to bid more down the middle? This
is a tough problem.
You can’t teach most partners. Since partner thinks he’s better
than you, he won’t listen to you. But maybe partner can be trained. The experts
do just the opposite of what you might think. Overbid with the overbidder, underbid
with the underbidder. If he thinks you’re an overbidder, he might start underbidding.
Jeff Rubens: S. J. Simon cited some authorities as saying that one should move in
partner's direction, that this would cause a helpful counter reaction; he also said that he himself found that it was sufficient merely to give the impression of doing
that. I guess it matters how often you play with and against the same people (e.g.,
in a rubber bridge club), or whether it is a regular partner, and, in any case,
how much one can influence one's partner. If partner's behavior were a given, I
would take it into account and act opposite in close cases.
Bobby Wolff: I know just the strategy to use with either. The one problem is that
you need to have at least two sessions with both for this to work. During the first
session with John the underbidder, make sure that you underbid as much as he does,
maybe more, and with no excuses. Of course, do the opposite with Sally the overbidder
even if it means bidding at the eight-level. The next game you have with both, you
will experience a different player, that is, if your partner doesn't plead a headache
and break the date. Yes, one needs to adjust to his partner's idiosyncrasies.
Grant Baze: This was an everyday problem for me during the 15 years I played rubber
bridge for a living. The solution was to underbid with the underbidders and to overbid
with the overbidders. In particular, playing with overbidders, I accepted every
game invitation no matter how ridiculous the acceptance. In the short run, this
was expensive, but within a few months I was the only player to get reasonable results
from these partners. However, that was a long-range solution. My immediate solution
is to tell the underbidders that I tended to be conservative, so they need to loosen
up a little, and tell the overbidders that I am a very aggressive bidder, so they
better have their values in competitive and invitational sequences. As early in
the session as possible, I point out to the conservative players any missed games,
slams, or penalty doubles, and point out to the aggressive players any contract in which we bid too much. After that, there is no point in saying anything, except
to compliment the underbidders for an aggressive action (whether it worked or not),
and to compliment the overbidders for restraint (whether it worked or not). The
answer to your question, however, is that I do not change my bidding style at all,
but I do try to influence my partner's perception of my bidding style.
Mike Becker: I'm a believer in sharing decision making 50-50, whether I'm playing
with a peer or a lesser partner, or when playing with an underbidder or an overbidder.
First, I would have a chat with partner re his underbidding or overbidding, and
suggest to partner that I am not going to change my game for him. I'd listen to
his response and discuss with him how to proceed. Assuming I am still convinced
partner will continue his ways, I'll be a Jack more aggressive than usual with an
underbidder and a Jack more conservative with an overbidder, in every aspect of
These days, underbidding is anti-field. When all those tight games and slams go
down, the underbidder becomes an overachiever, especially at matchpoints and/or in good fields where defenders can take their tricks. I must confess that I am regarded
by others as being an underbidder, even though I don't think I am. It's in my genes.
I just like to be proud of my dummy when I table it. I like partner to have confidence
in my bidding. By the way, I lose at matchpoints.
Joe Kivel: I've been told that you should bid more with aggressive partners so they
will get the message that they're overbidding, and do the reverse with conservative
partners. In practice, I bid the same with either, although I may pass a game invite
with an aggressive partner. My problem is dealing with inconsistent partners.
Zeke Jabbour: Anyone who claims that he doesn't adjust, consciously or otherwise,
to his partner's incorrigible bidding style is probably not forthcoming.
1. With John, a known Underbidder: First, I would offer him a ten-dollar reward
if he would go down 1100 just once, or if the opponents were to wrap his double
on us. Ten dollars doesn't mean a thing to John but it's a symbolic gesture and,
from experience, I know it sends a message. I do overbid with John. It is safer
than going down the middle. It is actually instructive, as well, as he discovers
that aggressive bidding is often rewarded--even when it shouldn't be.
2. With Judy Every-hands-a-game-or-slam Overbidder (who you seem to have confused
with Sally), I walk on eggs. I adjust with Judy too. On marginal hands I take a
conservative view and, if she complains, I explain that history influenced my decision.
She is already aware of the occasional rewards of aggressive bidding, and lives
for them. But she will slowly--ever so slowly--come to the realization that her
eupeptic style affects her partner's style.
Bob Hamman: With underbidders, there is little you can do. With overbidders, really
lean into it and go down a few more for a while. They are trainable. Obviously,
you adjust for partner. With that in mind, if you try to do too much quarterbacking,
it is a long odds proposition.
George Jacobs: Absolutely! I am aggressive by nature, but when I play with
a very aggressive partner, I
feel I have to pull it in a notch.
Point No. 4
A few experts don’t worry about their partner’s style.
Chip Martel: Bidding style, slightly. Bidding decisions, perhaps a bit more than
Kathie Wei-Sender: I play the same way, I do not try to compensate.
Dan Morse: Not much change, but sometimes you take style into account.
What’s important is to know partner’s style. When you have a close decision whether
to continue or sign off, knowledge of partner’s style could help.
What you don’t
want to do is change your style and start making bad bids.