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I FOUND Paul Mandelson's latest book, The Bidding Battle (Colt Books, pounds 8.95), - extremely readable and useful. While I hope that it sells well - it certainly deserves to - I trust that not too many of my future opponents actually read it and adopt its ideas, for then they will become increasingly difficult to play against.

One scheme that it espouses (stemming originally, I believe, from an earlier American theorist) is the modernisation of the responses to the Acol Two Club opening bid. I am not sure how much favour the schedule has so far found (it is certainly not adopted when both Two Diamonds and Two Clubs are string opening bids, as in the French style), but it does seem a considerable improvement on traditional methods.

The suggested responses are:

1 Two Hearts. An instant double negative denying any ace or king and in the 0-4 points range.

2 Two Diamonds. An unlimited relay, promising at least four points but denying a sound source of tricks.

3 Two Spades, Three Clubs, Three Diamonds. Positive responses, showing a five-card suit or longer, headed by two of the top three honours.

4 2NT. This response shows a positive response in hearts.

The method has a number of advantages - for example 22-2#; 2NT is unlimited and forcing to game, allowing plenty of room for exploration. Furthermore, the cumbersome traditional response of 2NT, suggesting a balanced positive but often leading to the weaker hand becoming declarer, is phased out. Later, quantitative raises are available.

Following these methods, the author and his partner had no trouble in reaching the top match-point contract on the deal above. Their auction? 22-24; 7NT!

Love all; dealer South

North

4A Q 9 6 2

!9 2

#8 5 3 2

2J 2

West East

410 5 4 48 7

!8 3 !10 5 4

#K 10 6 4 #J 7

2K Q 10 7 29 8 6 5 4 3

South

4K J 3

!A K Q J 7 6

#A Q 9

2A

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