- Pre-emption. As well as trying to bid our own side's hands as effectively as possible, we also want to make life difficult for the opponents. Some opening bids will be explicitly defined as pre-emptive, usually at the 2-level or higher. These pre-emptive openings tend to be fairly independent of the constructive part of the system - except of course that the more pre-emptive bids you want to use, the fewer bids you have available for constructive hands. But also, the system's "constructive" bids can have a pre-emptive effect, and this aspect has to be considered at the same time as all the issues to do with describing hands. A weak 1NT opening, for example, is an extremely good bid from the pre-emptive point of view, but weak NT systems can have descriptive problems as we have seen.
- Accuracy in uncontested sequences. As was said right at the beginning, competitive auctions tend to be more important, certainly for 1-level opening bids. But obviously there are many deals where opener's side will have a free run in the auction, and these need to be considered too. What happens in an uncontested auction will depend to a large extent on the continuations used, rather than the opening bid itself. But the definition of the opening bid can still make a huge difference to how things turn out. Most importantly, the accuracy of the continuations will depend on how much space there is: there must be enough room to look for the important information without going past the side's best contract. So again there is a conflict with trying to describe hands as well as possible - while a good description is still desirable in uncontested sequences, there is also the need to leave plenty of space for further investigation, which means that the cheapest bids will need to be used more.
Still, while you can never say that one idea is more important than anything else - it is so much more complex than that - description is the main thing that I look for in a bidding system. And it is all too easy to overlook description if you are not careful: while pre-emption is generally easy to spot, and leaving holes in uncontested sequences will also be easily picked up, protecting your side against opponents' bidding is a much more subtle problem.
Let's end by listing the main principles we've come across:
- Think-Competitive. When deciding how to arrange your opening bids, it is most important to consider what will happen in a competitive auction.
- One-Bid-Or-Two. Your system should ensure that one-bid hands are be described as accurately as possible in one bid, while two-bid hands are described as accurately as possible in two bids.
- Unbalanced-Hands-Show-Shape. You must show your suits, in order to find fits.
- Balanced-Hands-Show-Strength. The strength of a balanced hand should be bounded from below as accurately as possible.
- Homogeneity. In any particular bid, the one-bid hands should be homogeneous.
How often have you looked at your hand and thought, "I haven't described my hand as well as I would like, but I don't have a good bid available." This problem is exactly what we are trying to avoid. It doesn't require lots of artificial bidding - indeed one of the main themes is that standard natural systems are very effective. But whether your preference is for natural systems or for lots of artificiality, by following these principles as far as possible your hands will be easier to bid.