In this section we'll look at some specific hands and see how the three systems do at handling them. Much of the time, of course, all three styles bid the same way. When responder holds both majors after a
I have tried to highlight all the most common situations where the three styles lead to different results. The examples are arranged roughly in order from best to worst for the Traditional style. I won't claim this is a random sample, but I've tried to be fair to all three systems with my choice of hands.
| A T 4
K 3 2
J T 7
A J T 3
| Q J 8 7 5
8 5 4
A 9 8 6
The first two rounds of bidding will go the same way regardless of which style you are using. But should opener pass
Playing the Traditional style, the answer is crystal clear: bid
A Walsh or MAFIA pair, however, has to guess: responder, with his 7 HCP, would bid the spades first on the hand above, but would also have bid the same way with 5 or 6 diamonds and only 4 spades. Opener's best call is still
(Many Walsh pairs play New Minor Forcing and do not use
| Q T 4
K J 2
A Q J 8 3
| K 6
A T 8 4
A Q J 8 5
On these cards the best final contract is 3NT. Pairs playing all three styles will reach 3NT, but each by a different route, and after describing different features of their hands:
The Traditional responder bids
In the Walsh style, opener is allowed to bypass a 4-card major to rebid 1NT if he wishes, knowing responder won't have a 4-card major unless he is strong enough to show his 4-5 shape and game-forcing values by rebidding
In the MAFIA style, responder shows his 4-card heart suit at once, learns from the 1NT rebid that opener doesn't have support, and sets the final contract without ever mentioning the diamonds: since the final contract won't be in diamonds anyway, why help the defence by telling them what will be in the dummy before they lead?
| Q 4
K Q 5 2
T 6 4
A Q 8 3
| K 6
A T 8 4
A Q J 8 5
This time the best contract is
The Traditional pair bids their suits up the line until they find a fit. Responder jumps to
Some Walsh openers might rebid
This time the MAFIA style serves it purpose well and uncovers the 4-4 heart fit immediately. On this hand responder just raises to game; if responder had been weaker or stronger, maximum possible room was available to choose the best game- or slam-try sequence.
Consider the same two hands as last time. But suppose that instead of passing throughout, fourth seat chimes in with a
The bidding might develop like this:
This type of hand is where the MAFIA style really shines. Despite the interference the 4-4 heart fit is uncovered and they still will reach
The Walsh and Traditional pairs arrive at the 3-level with no idea whether they have a fit. Some responders will gamble on 3NT, and be disappointed when the defence scores 4 spade tricks plus a minor-suit king. Some might still bid
When responder is slightly weaker -- say, 10 HCP instead of 14 -- both the MAFIA and Walsh pairs will show hearts on the first round and successfully compete to
|Opener A||Opener B||Responder A||Responder B|
| K 7 5
A Q J 8 4 3
K T 6
| K 5
A Q T 9 4
K T 8 7
| Q J T 2
Q 9 6
A Q 9 4 2
| A Q 9 4
K T 4
A J 9 5 4
If you have two touching suits- hearts and diamonds, say -- you can keep the bidding lower by bidding
In the traditional style, the bidding will start
The bidding will start
Walsh and MAFIA players are both in trouble if Opener A faces Responder A. The bidding will start
Opener A and Responder B are ideal for the Walsh style:
Opener B and Responder A highlight the need for one of the frequently-used conventions that MAFIA and Walsh pairs rely on: Fourth Suit Forcing. On these cards the bidding will go
With Opener B opposite Responder B, Walsh pairs are in the same boat as Traditional pairs after
|Opener||Responder A||Responder B||Responder C|
| K Q 9 4
K T 8 6 2
| J 8 3 2
A K 9 7 5
| T 6 3
A T 5
A K T 6 3
| A 6
Q T 6 5
K Q 9 4 2
Hands with 4 spades and 5 hearts have a long-standing reputation for causing bidding problems. Suppose you hold the above hand and open
2NT is right on, in terms of strength and honour-distribution, but what if Responder A decides his anemic spades aren't worth showing at the 3-level and you wind up off two in 3NT once the opponents set up diamonds, with
Some pairs, especially those who play Lawrence-style 2/1, might have an agreement to rebid
Many Walsh players have increased the requirement for a 2/1 to 12-13 HCP and play a response of 1NT as forcing for one round. Responder C's hand poses just as big a problem to opener after 1NT as it does over
A significant minority of Traditional and Walsh players have decided this is an unsolvable problem, and devote an opening bid, either
For players using the MAFIA style -- there is no "Flannery problem!" Responder A starts with
In fact, playing MAFIA the sequence
Consider the following simple bidding sequence:
Opener, obviously, has a minimum balanced hand with less than 4 spades. But what is responder's distribution? That depends on your response style. It may not be obvious at first, but this kind of sequence means something very different to a Traditional player than to a Walsh or MAFIA player.
To a Traditional player, responder certainly has at least 5 spades, since he bid spades first, rather than bidding
At first glance it might appear that the same is true for a MAFIA player. But how can a MAFIA player show a strong hand with only 4 spades, but 5 or 6 clubs? He has to bid spades at his first turn, and he has to jump in something at his second turn. A Walsh player would bid
If Walsh and MAFIA players tried to put all the 5-4, 4-5, and 5-5 hands into the same bidding sequence, opener would never be able to sort out all the possibilities. Almost all Walsh and MAFIA players handle the hands with 5-card majors with an artificial bid at the 2-level. The exact solutions that each partnership chooses vary widely. My personal recommendations for how to handle these hands in the MAFIA style are in Part III.
The effect of all this is that for most Walsh or MAFIA partnerships, bidding sequences where responder bids the major first and then the minor usually show precisely 4 cards in the major suit, and a longer minor suit.
It is, well -- traditional. It works most of the time if the opponents keep quiet and you try not to be too fancy. The single biggest argument in its favour is its simplicity.
The Traditional style is playable without using any additional conventions at all. Traditional players should still consider adding New Minor Forcing and Fourth Suit Forcing to their convention card to gain further precision in their bidding. In a simple auction like
Advantages: it avoids the worst of the problems that the Traditional style suffers when the opponents compete. Used carefully it can be used to construct long, involved auctions to precisely describe your hands. And, frankly, the 2/1 Game Force system including Walsh responses is currently the choice of a majority of US experts.
Disadvantages: often you will reach the same contract as players playing other styles, but take more bids to get there -- giving the opponents information which you didn't need to choose your own contract, but which will help them defend precisely. There are a few more hand-types that cannot be handled naturally; adopting a few special conventional treatments is a necessary price of adopting the style. The system can pose a significant memory burden.
Advantages: the style survives interference by the opponents as well as any system can. The most common contracts are usually reached quickly and directly, without giving away as much unnecessary information as Walsh bidders do. The underlying principles are almost as simple as the Traditional principles are; unlike Walsh, there are not two different sets of rules that apply depending on the strength of the hand.
Disadvantages: As with Walsh, a few special conventional treatments to sort out the details are unavoidable. The number of situations requiring the use of conventions is the same as in Walsh, but the frequency of use of them is higher. This style handles major-suit and NT bidding significantly better than Traditional or Walsh, but is slightly worse at find good minor-suit contracts when the major is unplayable than either Traditional or Walsh is.
Whatever style you choose to play, make sure you and your partner understand the style thoroughly and think through all its implications.
Walsh and MAFIA are both much better than Traditional responses, well worth the added effort to learn them and play them well. I personally feel that MAFIA has the edge in terms of "bang for the buck," giving maximum improvement of results with minimum additional burden on the memory.
Part III is a discussion of the specific conventional gadgets I use to get the best out of MAFIA. All three styles would be improved by the addition of these conventions; but MAFIA has the most to gain from them. Indeed 'Delayed Stayman' is nearly as indispensible as 'regular Stayman' is -- and is used even more frequently!