Friday, 22 February 2013

From Granville to Gazzilli

In  pursuit of a life less ordinary at the bridge table and in an attempt to keep our minds alert to new ideas, Peter Burrows  and I have embarked upon a project to learn and play the Fantunes system, developed by Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, the World Bridge Federation’s two most highly ranked players. The system has been very successfully promulgated by Bill Jacobs, the Australian player, author and commentator in his book “Fantunes Revealed”, available from Amazon and on sale at many EBU events.

The system is based on natural unlimited forcing one level openings, a weak no trump and intermediate two bids, and auctions then either develop fairly naturally or can morph into a sequence of relatively detailed relays. 

With this formidable weaponry in our arsenal, we unleashed our strength on the poor people of Kings Lynn on Thursday night.

These hands are difficult to bid in any system, and we did not shine.


As you can see, in spite of the combined 25 count, this hand belongs firmly out of game, ideally in a diamond part score.

A Fantunes auction would start:

1 (five card suit,  11+ HCP, forcing) – 1NT (0-9 HCP, denies four spades or three hearts)

Opener then employs a convention called Gazzilli, whereby a 2 bid here can show either a club suit or a strong hand (18+ HCP). Although this convention has been around for some years, I think you could have played bridge in Cambridge for a lifetime and never have come across Gazzilli (sounds a bit like an Italian version of a well-known Japanese monster) - but apparently it is an indispensable part of systems where a two-over-one response is forcing to game and therefore where a 1NT response to an opening bid is wide ranging.

The 1NT responder then shows his range, in this case 6-9 HCP, by bidding 2, still with no reference to distribution. The auction then proceeds broadly naturally, but unfortunately this is a game forcing sequence, so you have a choice of doomed contracts depending on your methods and judgement: most likely you will end in 3NT.

However, for better or worse, Peter and I have not yet adopted Gazzilli (adopting a Japanese monster is one stage too far, even for us) and instead we play a really excellent convention, called Granville 1S, named after Richard Granville, a  bridge theoretician from the university 35 years ago, who now plays in Surrey.  Also referred to as spade-no trump inversion, the convention allows you to bid the equivalent of a “forcing 1NT” response by bidding 1. The 1NT response to 1 instead shows 5+ spades. This is hugely helpful when opener has three spades together with his hearts since he can raise spades in confidence rather than introduce what may be a three card minor or rebid a poor heart suit.

In response to 1, the 1 opener can now rebid 1NT to show precisely four spades, or failing that, can introduce his better minor. The advantages of this method are clear: one can still find the 4-4 spade fit at a low level, but it really scores on hands such as this one where the responder has both minors while his partner has both majors, and one can avoid getting too high. At least that is the theory.

So our auction commenced: 1 - 1 – 1NT – 2 (a weak signoff) and at this point we were destined for an excellent score. But I had other ideas…..

My bidding to date had only shown 11+ HCP, for although most one level openings in Fantunes show 14+ HCP, the one exception is when one has both majors (as here). Partners 2 would have been bid on that basis, and could easily have been bid on 8-9 HCP.  I therefore felt that with my 18-count, I was worth another try and bid 2NT. However, I think – in retrospect and not just with the benefit of hindsight – that this was a mistake, especially at pairs scoring where bidding thin games is not a winning tactic. I could tell (if I was listening to partner)  that this was a misfit hand, and although once in a while partner is going to turn up with magic cards such as the J9 and 10, more often you are going to end up too high. The only likely game contract on this bidding is 3NT, and how well is that going to play even if partner has Kx x AJxxxx Jxxx?

“il silenzio è d'oro” as they say in Monaco.

How would your system have managed?

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