What is EHAA?
EHAA is an agressive, natural style of bidding that combines mini notrump openings, wide-range weak two-bids, and a Goren-like four-card major approach into an easy, effective, and fun way to bid. It is not a highly specified system, but rather, like Standard American or Acol, a general style which can be played in numerous variations. It's designed to be simple, but, like any other style, can be enhanced (or complicated, depending on your point of view) by adding conventions to suit your taste.
Where did it come from?
Nobody knows. It's known to have been played in both New York and California as long ago as the late 1950s, and had achieved significant popularity in many other parts of the country by the late 1960s. But its origins remain obscure.
What are its key features?
It's most significant feature is the "EHAA two-bid;" an opening two-bid in any suit showing 6-12 HCP and at least five cards in the suit. Any suit of five or more cards qualifies for a two-bid; xxxxx and AKQJxxxxxx are both allowable suits. It also features a 10-12 HCP 1NT opening. This means that opening bids of one of a suit are far sounder than in most other styles, since they almost always contain 13+ HCP.
What are its strengths?
It's a "fast attack" style, which means that you get into the bidding early on a lot of hands with which others remain silent; this makes life extremely difficult for the opponents when it's their hand. And when the hand belongs to your side, you usually reach your final contract quickly, without giving away the kind of information that helps the other side figure out when to double or how to defend. Another great strength of EHAA that's often overlooked even by EHAA fans is the frequency with which, when the opponents buy the contract, your having opened the bidding with 1NT or an EHAA two-bid gives you an advantage on defense that other pairs, who weren't in the bidding, don't have.
What are its weaknesses?
The fast-attack style of EHAA can occasionally backfire, when the hand belongs to your side and you preempt your own bidding instead of the opponents'. For instance, when you open an EHAA two-bid, it can be almost impossible to conduct a delicate slam-range auction. On the other hand, though, you often gain by "bashing" in these situations, frequently making technically inferior contracts that would have been beaten after a complex and delicate auction that provided the opponents with clues to the best lead or defense.
Don't you go for a lot of big numbers?
No, because EHAA relies on preempting the opponents with your side's first bid. Subsequent actions tend to be sound and value-based rather than further preempts, so you don't find yourself "overboard" after the first round of bidding. Of course, when you open a 10-12 1NT or an EHAA two-bid, you may already be too high, but, because the opponents haven't yet had any chance to exchange information about their holdings, they are almost never in a position to punish you.
What is the EHAA two-bid structure like?
It's extremely natural. A raise or a 2NT response is natural and non-forcing but constructive, inviting partner to bid game with a good hand. Simple new suit bids are non-constructive attempts to improve the contract. Jumps below game are slam tries, and jumps to game, defined as "to play," are two-way actions that can be made expecting either a make or a good save.
What is the EHAA notrump structure like?
Over a 10-12 HCP 1NT opening, 2C is an extended form of Stayman that can be used with any hand of invitational or game-going strength that can't simply bid to the final contract immediately. This frees up all of your non-game jump responses for use as preempts, which allows you to maximize the "leverage" gained by opening 1NT when most pairs are passing.
Why should I play it?
Mainly because it's so much fun. And it's easy. And it's quite effective as well. If you like straightforward, natural bidding, if you prefer a "seat-of-the-pants" approach that emphasizes bidding judgment rather than complicated conventions, then EHAA is for you. If you don't like the idea of just sitting there and giving the opponents a "free ride" when they have the balance of strength, EHAA lets you get in their way while still retaining enough bidding discipline to avoid the drawbacks of a randomly destructive "anything goes" approach.
Why shouldn't I play it?
If you prefer a complex, artificial style with lots of conventions, then EHAA probably isn't for you. If you're a confirmed believer in the law of total tricks, you may not like EHAA two-bids, for two reasons: First, since a two-bid can be a 5-, 6- or 7- (or, in theory, 13-) card suit, responder doesn't know how many trumps you hold. Second, you can't make an "automatic" blocking raise with a known 9-card fit, since that would be invitational. Also, pure LOTT-based competitive bidding is harder when you play four-card majors.
When should I play it?
EHAA works best at matchpoint or board-a-match scoring, where the ability to interfere with opponents' auctions is critical, and where boards are often won by reaching contracts without giving the opponents the kind of vital information they can use to beat you by making close doubles or by preventing you from making overtricks. It doesn't work quite as well at IMP scoring, where the ability to make delicate scientific game- or slam-level decisions is more important.
How can I learn more about it?
Only one book about EHAA has ever been written: Every Hand An Adventure, by Eric Landau and Randall Baron. It's currently in print (64 pages, US$4.95), available from Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies (+1-800-274-2221) and The Bridge World Bookshelf (+1-212-866-5860). It should soon be available from all of the major bridge-book vendors in the USA.