Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:36 PM

Hand Evaluation – Tactics ( Up the Line Bidding )




            One of the worst concepts in Bridge ( maybe next to 4th suit forcing ) is bidding up the line. I think it was invented by a matchpoint player,  who wanted to ensure that their weak partners would always get to a 4 of a major game. In matchpoints , major suit partials score better than NT partials so up the line bidding is a pure matchpoint concept. In IMPS , I feel up the line bidding is a losing strategy.


The worst fault of “up the line” bidding is that you hide your distribution from partner. There are two main hand types in Bridge – balanced or distributional. If you have a balanced hand , describe it to partner by rebidding 1NT or 2NT. This unleashes the “power of the weak NT”. You make them guess on opening lead , guess on discards so Meckwell type 3NT games are brought home. Balanced hands are more defensive,  so play worse than their distributional counterparts.  If there is a 4-4 major fit to be found , let partner ( responder ) initiate the bidding. At least she will know first that a balanced hand awaits her.


            There is an inference with natural bidding provided by not playing up the line bidding. You describe your real distribution at the one level. Now there is a thought ! You know by the one level that partner has 5 of her minor & 4 of a major rather than 3 of them & a flat hand. The excellent XYZ structure is based on this concept.


            The most important aspect of not playing up the line bidding is ignoring 4-4 major fits & playing the correct contract of 3NT or a minor game/slam. There are many flat hands that 9 tricks are the limit but 4 of the major plays exactly the same. The Spingold , Vanderbilt & Bermuda Bowl write ups are filled with swing hands that getting to 3NT with a 4-4 major fit was the winning bid. Sometimes even with a 5-4 major fit if you have soft values with a source of tricks , 3NT is the superior contract.


            Bypassing weak 4 card majors by responder is quite often the winning strategy in IMPS . You have a balanced hand with soft values so describe your hand to partner by bidding some number of NT. In matchpoints this is a no-no , as even a major suit Moysean will earn you lots of matchpoints. The longer I play this game , the more I feel all bidding should show distribution ( patterns )  first , other attributes later. Ignoring your balanced hand by bidding a major makes no Bridge sense. I feel you are concealing your true hand from partner. You are introducing needless ambiguity involving the potential of your hand.


            Balanced hands are a detriment in Bridge re playability. Letting partner in on the secret at the earliest opportunity is the best strategy. This is before partner makes a game try or a leap to game.



1♠                    & partner is 4-3-3-3 with 4 spades & 3 clubs is terrible bidding & makes no sense to me. The hand may also have soft values so needs to be right sided for NT contracts. Bid NT first & ask questions re a 4 card major later.  2 way NMF does an excellent job of that.


            2 Way NMF is an excellent tool to replace up the line bidding. This 2 way NMF is actually just XYZ with  a 1NT bid being the 3rd bid at the one level. 2 way NMF applies after a 1♣-P-1 response also



1NT                as the INT bidder may have a 4 card major or two four card majors for that matter. Also 2 way NMF applies after





            Remember the purpose of playing XYZ or 2 way NMF is to get rid of silly up the line bidding. These conventions also have some nice built in toys but describing a distributional hand via a major bid at the one level is the primary purpose of this approach. Having 2♣ as showing all invitational hands & 2 as all forcing to game hands is an excellent concept. This unleashes jump preference & jump shifts as strong & natural for all auctions where the bidding remains at the one level for 3 bids..