Repr(a)ise Boehm

(No, Not that One)

Sixty years ago The Bridge World published an article that has become one of my favorites from them:  George A.W. Boehm’s “Let’s Keep the Bidding Simple,” 27-30 of the March 1962 issue.  I tell you here why we should celebrate its 60th birthday and to reprise/repraise its lessons.

George wrote notes for his then 14-year-old son Augie (yes, that one) who was heading off for a teenage tournament with B. Jay Becker’s son, Mike (yes, that one), in the first tournament they’d ever played together.  George himself was an expert player and well known as an editor and writer at Fortune magazine. He thought he’d help the boys effectively use their limited time together by laying out some questions that they (and any new partnership) should discuss before playing.

I read that article when it was published and several times since.  I have often thought what a useful taxonomy and way to organize the limited time available.  People playing together for the first time, in my experience, never budget enough time for discussion.   In my recent experience my new partners and I barely get through the first page of the convention card before game time pops up.

Here, I will with permission from BW, reproduce in mildly edited form, George’s questions.  Next to those questions I will give my non-expert answers from the point of view of a modern 2/1 player, who has the newly approved ACBL convention card.  You’ll get to see how thorough was George’s prep for his son and Mike.  You’ll get to see how still, today, some of the things demanding discussion then still want it now.   You see all George’s questions in the table below.

George A. W. Boehm Posed Questions for New Partnerships in 1962 and How Answers Look in 2/1 Sixty Years Later

Question Posed for Discussion in 19622022
Opening Suit Bids
  When can opening bid be four-card major suit?Almost never, but see convention card.
  How light are minimum openings?On convention card.
  Ever psyche?Almost never.
Opening Notrump
What range?Convention card makes clear.
Ever shaded in third of fourth position?Convention card makes clear.
Can they include a worthless doubleton?Yes.
When can opener rebid or double freely?  I'm unaware of change in practice here; I'd say opener should never rebid freely. Double in balancing position is for takeout.  If the bidding has gone 1NT-P-P-2H, a double could be takeout or cooperative, but I think there is no system understanding--better to Discuss.
Responses to Suit Bids
Does one notrump deny three cards in support of partner's major?No. Responder can have three-card support if the hand is weak, say less than 8 HCP, but this is a matter that should be have the label Discuss.
What does a free raise promise?Without overcall, promises 3-card support, with overcall might have 4-card support.
Does a one notrump response to a minor absolutely deny a four-card major?Yes.
Is a single raise of a major mildly constructive?Discuss.  Depends on the agreement three lines above.
How do you handle a hand that is a litle too good for a single raise?Elaborate ladder of steps. [See, for example, p. 48 of Paul Thurston's Bridge:  25 Steps to Learning 2/1, Master Point Press, 2002.]
Is the sequence 1♠ -- 2♣ -- 2♦ -- 2♠ forcing for one round or to game?Game.
With two four-card suits, does responder always bid the cheaper?Yes, if majors, but over 1C skip diamonds to bid hearts.
Does a two-over-one response guarantee that responder will bid again?The two-over-one is forcing to game.
Does a two heart response to one spade promise five hearts?Yes.
Do you respond one notrump or two diamonds when partner opens one spade and you hold:
xx  xxx AQJxxx Qx?
One notrump.
Responses to Notrump
Forcing or non-forcing Stayman?Convention card
Can opener rebid two notrump?No.
How respond to Stayman with both majors?Hearts first.
How does he show a five-card major?Can't ordinarily. Some might super accept, jumping to three of the major.
Is 3♣ or 3♦ response weak?Convention card
If opponents intervene, what to do?Convention card 
Does opener show extra values by a change of suit at the two-level in response to 2/1?No.
Does opener promise extra with:
  1♠  --  2♦  -- 2NT?
  1♠  --  2♦  --  3♦?

No, but Discuss as some think 3D consumes too much space not to show extras; they would rebid a five-card spade suit.
Does opener promise six spades with:
  1♠  --  1NT  --  2♠?
  1♠  --  2♣  --  2♠?

Is responder's new suit bid always a one-round force?If responder has bid notrump or is a passed hand, then No, but otherwise I can't think on an exception to an answer of Yes.
When can opener's jump rebid be passed?If the auction is not 2/1 game forced, then OK to pass:  1♠ -- 1NT  --  3♠.
When can opener's jump reverse be passed?Splinter bids now occupy the space once taken by most jump reverses.
Slam Conventions
When is 4NT a natural bid?Discuss.  Discuss. Discuss.
When is 4♣ Gerber?Discuss.   
After 4♣ Gerber, how do you ask for kings?Discuss.   
How do you respond to Ace-asks when opponents intervene?Discuss, but it's on the convention card.
Do you use the grand slam force?Discuss.
Takeout Doubles
Can they be short in an unbid major?Discuss
Is a jump response forcing for one round?Discuss.  Because partner must respond with nothing, the jump can show as little as one honor trick if there are some touching non-honors that promise playing tricks.
Is a cue bid by either partner forcing to game?Discuss. A game force is established with the exception than when a minor suit fit is found and 3NT is bypassed.  
When opponent doubles partner's opening bid, is your bid forcing, noncommital, or weak?Discuss
What does a redouble promise?Discuss, but 2/1 textbooks have complete treatment too much for the box here.  [See p. 179 of Thurston, ibid.]
At what level are doubles of opening preempts chiefly for business?Discuss
Are new suit responses to overcalls forcing or, merely, encouraging?Discuss.  Authorities disagree.  Some say one round force.  Others say not forcing.  Hardy calls them "corrective."
Jump shift responses to overcalls?Shows good suit and is suggestive, but not forcing.
How strong are single and double raises of overcalls?Raise as though partner had opened in the suit.
Weak Jump Overcalls
Do they strictly deny any outside defensive values?No, but not much when some.
Are you likely to "operate" with favorable vulnerability and passing partner?Discuss
What is the meaning of a jump overcall at unfavorable vulnerability?Like a serious weak 2 bid.
Miscellaneous Sequences
When is a notrump bid "unusual"?Except as direct 1NT overcall or balancing 1NT or 2NT.
When does it ask for minors and when for unbid suits?Convention card.
What to bid in balancing position after 1♠--P--P?Simple overcall usually has five cards, but might have four if can't use double which promises support for other major. 
Jumps show good six-card suit and 12-16 HCP.  No weak jumps in balancing position. 
1NT is 10-14 HCP. 
Dbl with 15-17 HCP. 
2NT with 18+ HCP.
Cue bid with more.  
How does vulnerability affect answers above?Discuss
At high levels, when the bidding has become competitive, do you double to show defensive trump strength or merely to show that you have reached the limit or your hand?Discuss
Are your doubles in the following auctions competitive?  Or strictly for business?
  (1♥)  P (1NT) P // (P)    Dbl?
  (1♥)  P (1♠)    P // (2♥) Dbl?
  (1♥)  P (1NT) P // (2♥) Dbl?
The left column here quotes verbatim from George A. W. Boehm, "Let's Keep the Bidding Simple," The Bridge World, 33(6), March 1962, 27-30. August Boehm commented helpfully on the right.

The questions from George’s article provide the basis for my article’s main presentation in the table above.  My main sources for 2/1 treatments are Paul Thurston’s first book and Max Hardy’s two books, cited in the table.  I bring to the party only some organization. Professor Augie Boehm provided useful comments, which I have incorporated.

I hope I can entertain you a bit.  George had no idea how his first few questions can cause a chuckle 60 years later.

First, he asks:  “When, if ever, can a four-card major be opened?”  You readers in 2022 under the age of 65 have little idea how the battle raged in the 1950’s and 1960’s over this question.  The editor of The Bridge World, A. Moyse, Jr., advocated (I say this without modifying adverbs because my teachers say writing without such is stronger than writing with them and I want to say this the strongest possible way) opening four-card majors and, its concomitant, playing games in 4-3 fits.  You may have heard of Moysian fits.  He’s the eponymous Moyse.  He wrote many paragraphs on the subject in his decades as editor. 

Advocating the opening of four-card majors was part of his campaigning for simplified bidding, contrasted with scientific bidding such as Roth-Stone and Kaplan-Sheinwold, then gaining adherents.  You might already know that 2/1 developed from Roth’s ideas.  Jeff Rubens helped with the theory and writing.

In the postscript to Boehm’s 1962 article, Moyse pokes fun at Boehm for his Rothian proclivities.

Boehm’s second question is harmless.

The third question about the nature and frequency of psychic bids seems odd to me today.  In my limited experience, less than a year, back at the table, (almost) no one makes psychic bids.   George’s spelling seems unusual to me, as well.  Psychic bids were sufficiently common that Kaplan-Sheinwold’s system had controlled psych bids, in part I’d guess, to dampen the proclivity of its users to go on flights of fancy. 

From this point forward, George’s questions for discussion are straightforward.  The 2/1 players have the issue delineated on their convention cards or I indicate they, too, need to discuss, but you see few “Discuss” items there are for many rows.

Then, comes the Tower of Babel.

When we get to the section on slam bidding, we encounter questions that I rarely have time to discuss with new partners until the second hour.  And then, I haven’t had George’s check list.

Takeout Double questions require more time, still.

How much time do you need to budget to get to the end of these questions where I’m sure you have no understanding?  More than you have planned, I’ll wager. 

I showed a draft of this material to Augie Boehm and he graciously corrected some errors in the table above, and added some useful remarks.  Thank you. 

This article is based on material from The Bridge World magazine. For more information or to subscribe, please visit:

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