Who invented the food-asking bid? My friend Neill Currie claims the honor, and since no one has contested his assertion, I guess he's correct. Already you can see that this convention has some merit over Lebensohl - we got the attribution right! As Neill put it in an email:

    "It was invented by myself and Steve Allen (who is now, literally, working in effluent disposal, in Costa Rica, whilst playing Currified Precision at the Pasadena Regional in 1995."

Currified Precision is something that will have to be saved for another article, but suffice to say, Neill is one of those players who can find seventeen meanings for any call. To give you an idea of how his brain works, one of his other inventions is the Fighting Irish 3NT. It is sort of like a Gambling 3NT, but a bit more aggressive - an opening 3NT bid says, "Partner, I have a stopper; please pass if you have a running eight-card minor."

Anyway, I have gotten off topic. The first order of business is to explain what a food-asking bid is: well, it's any call a player makes that shows he's hungry, or that asks about the hunger level of his partner. This is the variation by Tony Melucci, one of Neill's regular partners:

1NT 3!


3 is a game-going hand that forces a relay to 3NT. I think it's GCC legal (you should be able to just say, "game-forcing relay, 10+ points, any shape"), and it's entertaining when it comes up. (Opponents usually just look annoyed rather than damaged, anyway.) The 3 bid shows interest in getting food after the session, and opener's 3NT rebid allows responder to pass (if he had a raise to 3NT) or correct to the bid he could have made at his first opportunity, like 4 or 4. Consequently, sequences such as

1NT 4


deny, by negative inference, interest in a postgame meal, because responder could have gone through the 3 : 3NT relay. Passing up the other possible uses of 3 is a reasonable trade in my opinion, since hunger comes up a lot more than a game-forcing spade splinter or a game-forcing major two-suiter, or whatever you otherwise use 3 as.

Another nice thing about using the Melucci FAB is that it is tough for the opponents to make a lead-directing double of 3. For example, the auction could proceed like this:

1NT
Pass
(Pass)
(Pass)
3!
4
(Dbl)


Now the doubler is on lead. Pretty fun stuff.

When I was first introduced to FABs, though, I didn't fully appreciate the importance of preventing the lead-directing double. Here was my first effort.

Pard
1NT
3!
RHO
Pass
Dbl
Me
3!
3NT
LHO
Pass
All Pass


This is the FAB that occurred at a Queen Mary Regional in California. 3H shows a hungry raise to 3NT that asks partner if he's hungry too. In accordance with "fast denies and slow implies," a 3 rebid by opener confirms mutual hunger, while a 3NT rebid denies food interest. When this sequence occurred in a morning Knockout, you can be sure my partner and I were both looking forward to lunch. God bless the alert system.

Partner: (after I bid 3) Alert!

LHO: Yes?

Partner: Shows a 3NT hand, and he's hungry. (Mulls his decision and bids 3.)

Me: Alert!

RHO: What?

Me: Relay showing that he's hungry too.

RHO: (turns to pard) What was his 3 again?

Partner: A hand that wants to play 3NT, but he's hungry, too.

RHO: Hungry? Like what? Hungry for slam?

Partner: (trailing off weakly in mirth) No, he's just hungry....

At this point RHO made a confused lead-directing double (although he was going to be on lead), and I realized that this FAB variant was imperfect because LHO could have hit 3, and in other situations that could be bad. Very bad. So when you are looking for wasted sequences that can be converted into FAB asks, it is best to make sure that no one can smack one of the FAB bids to direct the lead.

With this in mind, I have come up with another good FAB variant. This one is

1M
2NT
2M


Playing 5-card majors, we have all heard the auction go 1M: 2M, 4M. But why the rush? 2NT is a fairly useless rebid that can easily be implemented as the perfect FAB. It's perfect because it shows a hungry 4M hand that requests partner to rebid 3M if he's hungry too (remember, slow implies), and 4M if he's not; as a result, neither opponent can make a lead-directing double. An opponent could spank 2NT, 3M or 4M, but what advantage is gained? I'm even pretty sure it's GCC legal. In Modern Losing Trick Count, Ron Klinger suggests that 2NT can be used as a relay for a short-suit game try, but that's no fun. Let's live a little.

Thinking along these lines, you can have some detailed sequences that would make Meckwell proud. Here are a couple examples:

1
2NT 1
4 3
2
3 2
4 4


1 Before I play in game, I need to know if you're hungry, because I am. Want to get some food after this session?

2 OK. What kind?

3 Let's go American. (4 being the ethnic food response.)

4 OK. You still have to declare 4, you know.

1
2NT 1
4 3
2
3 2
Pass


1 Where do you want to go over the hand records?

2 Let's see...3 is Tio Leo's (best Mexican restaurant in San Diego), 3NT is Taco Bell and 4 is Denny's. Let's do Tio Leo's.

3 Okie dokie.

Now, I am too lazy to memorize all this stuff and wouldn't expect any partner to remember either, but it's amusing to consider all the unused bids out there that can be implemented as FABs. If some director penalizes you for using an illegal FAB, though, don't write to me. You never read this here.

-