Potentially unexpected meaning?

I'm interested in opinions on this:

I want to advise a pair who play a 3NT opening in 3rd and 4th seats to be 16-19 HCP and balanced or semi-balanced. They don't open 3NT in first or second seat, so don't play the so-called "Gambling 3NT" opening at all. Their 2NT opening is 20-22 throughout.

I don't want to advise them on the merits of such an agreement, but whether they should alert their 3NT opening.

Would you expect a natural 3NT opening to be of a significantly stronger range, and so, would you also argue that while their 3NT opening is natural, it nevertheless has a "potentially unexpected meaning" (BB 4B1) and should be alerted?

I rarely come across natural 3NT openings anyway, and the last time I can recollect an opponent doing so, it was some years ago and a completely different player and he had a balanced 17 in 4th seat.

TIA

Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

Comments

  • Assuming that they have sequences which show stronger hands in the 23-37 range, I'd say that it should be alerted, due to, as you suggest, the unexpected relative weakness of the bid.

    The 3NT opening bid does seem to be missing from coverage in the BB alerting and announcing rules. Maybe this gap should be catered for in a future release, with a requirement for an alert or an announcement of range.

  • The meaning (i.e. point range) would be unexpected to me, so alertable in my opinion.

  • I wonder if they should be required announce "16 - 19" and then when the opponents look sceptical "yes, really".

    I think that in an EBU competition, the opponents will enquire about any 3NT opening.

  • Most players would expect an unalerted (thus natural) 3NT to show around 25 points. As such, any other meaning for it, even a natural one, needs to be alerted due to being unexpected. (There are two reasons to alert bids: artificial, even if expected; and unexpected, even if natural. This falls into the latter category.)

    For what it's worth, I have had an opponent bid a natural 3NT against me to show 25 points (it was an overcall of my opening bid, not an opening, but I imagine they'd have bid it as an opening too). After all, it's what generally gets taught when teaching people a natural system. Their partnership didn't have any agreed followups (after all, how often does that bid happen?), but just assumed you'd typically want to play 3NT anyway in that case.

    I'm not convinced that natural 3NT bids are common enough to need special handling in the alerting/announcement rules (which implies that maybe the rules effectively resolve to "an opening 3NT is always alertable").

  • @ais523 said:
    (which implies that maybe the rules effectively resolve to "an opening 3NT is always alertable").

    That used to be said of a 2 !c response to a 1NT opening before announcements were introduced, as the argument was that natural 2 !c responses were so rare that any natural meaning (forcing or weak take-out) was "potentially unexpected".

    It doesn't seem right for an opening 3NT to be "always alertable" for the reason that a natural 3NT opening will always have a "potentially unexpected" meaning.

    Robin suggested that opponents will enquire about any 3NT opening and that's probably right, especially when in 3rd or 4th seat as those who play Gambling 3NT often have varying ideas on how much strength might lie outside the long solid minor. Equally a natural 3NT opening will be so unusual that opponents are certain to ask about it at least before the opening lead, as happened on the occasion that came to my attention.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • I can't see any reason for there not to be a mention of an opening 3NT in the Blue Book, though. Almost everything else is covered.

  • TagTag
    edited November 2019

    Yes, sorry,** [Name & comment removed at contributor's requst]**, I meant in the alerting/announcing section.

  • edited November 2019

    @** [Name & original comment removed at contributor's request]**said:
    BB2019:

    "7 D Opening Bids of 3NT and higher
    These may have any agreed meaning."

    Is it permissible for a 3NT opening bid to be described by partner as 'To Play'?

  • @Vlad said:

    @SteveFoster said:
    BB2019:

    "7 D Opening Bids of 3NT and higher
    These may have any agreed meaning."

    Is it permissible for a 3NT opening bid to be described by partner as 'To Play'?

    That sounds unlikely to be a complete description of the understanding, but if it is then yes. I would expect something like "opposite an unpassed hand this would show a solid minor with little outside, but when partner has passed there is a lot of latitude and it's really just to play" to be a fuller and more accurate description.

  • Here's a hand from Tuesday's session at Mayfield B.C. My partner and I play a normal gambling 3NT.

    Board 9 E/W Vul - Dealer North
    ♠ 6 5
    ♥ 4
    ♦ A J 9
    ♣ A K J 9 8 5 4
    After two passes I decided to open 3NTs at this vulnerability which was passed out.

    E/W cashed 4 Spades and partner started to berate me for my bid although I had spread my hand and claimed.
    We scored all the match points on this board.

    Is there anyone with access to a computer simulation program that can tell me whether I was very, very lucky on this hand or whether this type of hand should be included in the gambling 3NT lexicon? If so then perhaps the rules should be changed.

    Here's my partner's hand and you can see why he knew I couldn't have the hand he'd expected.
    ♠ 8 7 3
    ♥ A 8 7
    ♦ Q 10 6 3
    ♣ Q 6 2

    When the score showed up on the Bridgemate he still berated me but with a smile on his face! He suggested that my bid was a psyche and should be entered in the psyche book. The question remains of course - did he field my psyche?

    Alan

  • @AlanB said: If so then perhaps the rules should be changed.

    In what way would they need to be?

  • All that need be done is to have in the blue book

    "All natural opening NT bids must have their point range announced and, in the case of 1NT, whether the bid could include a singleton."

    On topic - I think that this should be alerted

  • The problem is that for many people, including many experts, a 4th seat natural 3NT opening doesn't have an agreed point range. Gordon put it very well "when partner has passed there is a lot of latitude and it's really just to play"

  • Should a convention card say "an eight card solid minor with no outside Ace in 1st or second position but in 3rd or 4th it's just to play".

  • @AlanB said:
    Should a convention card say "an eight card solid minor with no outside Ace in 1st or second position but in 3rd or 4th it's just to play".

    I've never known anyone demand an eight-card suit for it! Can't come up very often.

  • Yes, a 7 card minor is what's expected.

  • edited November 2019

    There's no issue with fielding here: partner knows from their own hand that you've deviated from system, and thus has AI of the deviation (and doesn't need to rely upon a concealed partnership understanding to know about it).

    @AlanB said:
    Here's a hand from Tuesday's session at Mayfield B.C. My partner and I play a normal gambling 3NT.

    Board 9 E/W Vul - Dealer North
    ♠ 6 5
    ♥ 4
    ♦ A J 9
    ♣ A K J 9 8 5 4
    After two passes I decided to open 3NTs at this vulnerability which was passed out.

    E/W cashed 4 Spades and partner started to berate me for my bid although I had spread my hand and claimed.
    We scored all the match points on this board.

    Is there anyone with access to a computer simulation program that can tell me whether I was very, very lucky on this hand or whether this type of hand should be included in the gambling 3NT lexicon? If so then perhaps the rules should be changed.

    I just simulated this. The rules I gave to the simulator were EW vulnerable, North dealing, South holding S65, H4, DAJ9, CAKJ9854. I approximated "North and East both pass" as "neither North nor East hold a 12+-HCP hand, a 6+-HCP hand with a 6-card major, or any 7-card suit" (obviously the actual rules for opening will be more complex than this and depend on system, but this seems like a decent approximation.

    Here's the frequency of the double-dummy results for the number of tricks N/S score in clubs and in notrumps, assuming West is on lead (thus South as declarer), I generated 1000 hands and these are the raw numbers of hands with each result:

      4 c=6
     31 c=7
     89 c=8
    264 c=9
    332 c=10
    223 c=11
     56 c=12
      1 c=13
    
      1 n=0
      5 n=1
      8 n=2
     46 n=3
     50 n=4
     83 n=5
    144 n=6
    161 n=7
    199 n=8
    168 n=9
     89 n=10
     45 n=11
      1 n=12
    

    Of course, with these types of hands, the opponents are fairly likely to screw up the lead, especially in notrumps, so the notrumps results are likely to be better in practice. Double-dummy, though, 5!c makes on 280 of the hands (28%), and 3NT makes on 303 of the hands (30.3%), so 3NT to play at least seems reasonable (it's the most likely game to make and has some pre-emptive value). That said, with 13 HCP, I'd think this is quite possibly our partscore, rather than a game for either side, so I'd probably open it 1!c myself; you'd want at least one side to be at least 50:50 to make a game before it's worth bidding a game contract at matchpoints.

  • That's tremendous stuff ais523 and many thanks for the effort you've put in to arrive at those figures. What did you use for the simulation? Is it propriety or free to use? It would be interesting to see the estimates for the number of tricks that could be expected in a Heart or Spade contract. The benefit of a 3NT sacrifice (or not) could be shown.

  • I used two programs, "dealer" to generate 1000 hands that fit the requirements, and "DDS" to analyse them. Both programs are free, but a little difficult to use (and DDS's input format is different from dealer's output format, so I also needed to write a little script to link them together). Perhaps I'll write my own wrapper program to make the process more user-friendly, but I'm unlikely to find time to do so at all soon.

    I saved the raw data in case there were any followup questions. This is the number of tricks the opponents will make in hearts or spades (whichever is better) on the same 1000 hands, assuming North on lead:

      1 s/h=13
     12 s/h=12
     56 s/h=11
    138 s/h=10
    221 s/h=9
    239 s/h=8
    191 s/h=7
     86 s/h=6
     45 s/h=5
     11 s/h=4
    

    Looks like they have only a 20.7% chance of making a game based on North's and East's opening passes and South's known hand. (This doesn't surprise me, because South has 13 HCP.)

  • Thanks again ais523. I can see that the optimum contract is probably 4C since there is a 60% chance of making it against their two off or more in 4H/S or higher. Vulnerability plays a part and whether you'd be able to double their 3H/S contract for one or more off is difficult to assess. Nevertheless it would appear that you are correct in suggesting that 1C may be a better opening bid on my part although as you say the opponents can often screw up the lead. It's tremendous stuff that you have provided me with and I'll pass on the names of the two programs to a few people who are a little more tech savvy than me. Kind regards. Alan.

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