Friday, March 02, 2007 12:48 AM
Hand Evaluation - Useful Space Principle




            Years ago , Jeff Reubens of the Bridge World wrote a series of articles on what he called the useful space principle. What he meant was ,  design your system so you do not waste bidding room. Use all the useful bidding space that you can. The most obvious example of the useful space principle is forcing 1♣ systems. Keeping the bidding low allows all the space in the world to convey information.


            He contended that Blackwood used up too much useful space so Kickback & minor suit KCB was born. With the conserved bidding space , specific kings , queen ask & suit asks followed. He felt a Q bid to an overcall used up too much space so new suits to an overcall became a one round force. This allowed the Q bid to be defined as specifically a limit raise or better in partner’s suit. Transfers ( Reubensohl) were used in competition after a strong NT  as transfers conserved useful bidding space.


            Expert players have taken his ideas further. The 3multi purpose strong jump shift preserves useful bidding space. This is the “artificial club” part of a natural system . The bid prevents the horrible auction of



4               to show a strong hand. Also the horrible leap to your own major at the game level , as a strong hand. Bidding becomes a crap shoot at the 5 level. 1-P-1NT-P  4 Look at all the useful bidding space wasted if this jump showed a strong hand. Slam exploration starts at the 5 level . Allow fast arrival to show distribution or picture bids instead.


            Goren methods contradict “fast arrival” & the Useful Space Principle. Jumping to game to show strong hands ( HCPs ) is silly bidding as you are pre-empting your own partner. The 4 level or even the 5 level is a silly place to start exploring for slam or even a better contract. When you play a strong NT in the 15-17 HCP range even with a 5 card major , the invitational 2NT range is idle. The raise to 2NT can now take the place of the Goren 3NT bid ( jump to game after a 1NT response ) . This allows room at the 3 level to investigate alternative contracts. A leap to 3NT can be a “picture bid” defined by the partnership.


            Experts have now switched to 2NT after a minor as 11+ to 15 as invitational or a game force. Again , this is the useful space principle in action. Leaping to 3NT with a game forcing hand pre-empts partner. Exploration for slam & better contracts must start at the 4 level & going by 3NT is dangerous. Better to describe your distributional hand below 3NT. More care is needed when partner responds 1NT ( pretty healthy) so do not pull 1NT when you are weak. Partner may have 10+ for the 1NT bid & when you bid again invitational sequences follow.


            I feel 2NT when it is bid in competition as natural should be a one round force. Who plays a contract of 2NT in competition anyway ?  1-2♣-2NT-P    is a one round force & may be unlimited. Why leap to 3NT with a good hand ? Pre-empting partner to the 4 level & losing useful space leads to bad results. 2NT can still be invitational hands so opener rebidding her suit is an escape hatch.


            This is in effect the “new suit” 2NT ( godfather ) by responder also being used in competition. Why not ? This means a leap to 3NT in competition can mean very soft values & no slam interest. 2NT as a place to play a hand only makes sense in matchpoints when +120 beats 3 of a minor +110. If you can make 2NT on the nose , surely 3 of a minor does just as well or better in IMPS. Bidding 2NT as a new suit  by responder has all the advantages of opener patterning out & natural bidding to get to your best spot. 2NT as a new suit,  preserves bidding space & is still another example of the useful space principle.