Jeff Lehman

Not to Remember

How do you play Unusual-over-Unusual? 

Partner opens 1 and RHO overcalls 2NT, showing the minors.  My views are that the easiest to remember agreement is “lower=lower”, so that 3 shows inv+ for hearts, and 3 shows inv+ for spades; that the best agreement is that lower shows fourth suit and higher shows limit+ for opened suit (because one needs the extra space more severely to explore strain than to determine level); and that a frequent, but I think inferior, agreement is that lower shows limit+ for the opened suit and higher shows the fourth suit.

But it matters little, and so I generally subscribe to the agreement “whatever partner wants”.  Plus, I like to think that I have a better-than-average memory for agreements.

Well, maybe I should reconsider that self-evaluation.  Because I confronted the problem of not remembering “whatever partner wants”.


Playing in irregular partnerships in an out-of-area regional, I tried to resolve the problem by applying the principle of Avoid a Misunderstanding.

On the first hand, in a pairs event, I held AKQx, KQxx, x, Qxxx opposite a 1 opening by partner and a 2NT overcall.  Not remembering which minor suit cue bid shows heart support, I decided to double.  (OK.  True Confession time.  Having exhausted my memory bank by trying to remember what we had agreed, at the table, I passed.  But I meant to double.)  My LHO bid 3, without apparent concern.  Two passes followed.  RHO looked like a solid citizen, someone who would not bid 2NT without at least five cards in each minor suit.  Ergo, I read the clubs around the table as 4=3=1=5, meaning partner has a stiff club.  Now I decided to bid 4NT, which was keycard (that agreement I know I remembered).  Not unreasonably, my chosen parlay of bids confused partner a bit, and he took more than a moderate time before responding.  When he responded 5 (three keycards … I hope), I placed partner with something akin to xxx, Axxxx, Axxx, A and bid 7.  +2210 was the score for an excellent matchpoint result.

Having successfully surmounted the problem on the hand above, I felt better prepared when a similar problem arose during the Swiss teams.  Not remembering my U/U agreements with a different partner, I heard the same auction as before.  This time, I held Axx, ATx, T8xx, Axx, and this time I really did double.  LHO squeaked 3 and two passes followed.  I jumped to 4 and two passes followed that bid.  RHO, a good player but perhaps one whose woman’s intuition was a bit out-of-tune that day, surprisingly bid 5 in passout seat.  I doubled that and three passes followed.  Partner led a heart through dummy’s x, Q, A9xxxx, QJT9x.  Partner and I made a few bad guesses on defense, and converted our possible potential for +1700 (down seven, NV!  LHO had only three minor suit cards, which included the stiff Q) into +1100.  Still, that was a spectacular result and resulted in a very nice IMP result in a match we won by a large margin.

I wonder if it is better Not to Remember.

1 Comment

Robin HillyardJune 24th, 2014 at 12:54 am

This is indeed one of those areas similar to those the old maps marked as “Here be dragons.” I’d love to know the history of this particular convention because clearly the “easy” version is inferior to the “best” version. I am compelled to play yet another version which I never can remember in one of my partnerships.

Sometimes those big penalties do morph into medium penalties because it’s impossible to believe that the declarer really made the bid they did with the hand they hold.

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