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A Plethora of Topics

To recap our lesson from March 22, settle down, grab a nice beverage, and get ready for a long read.

4-Way Transfers

A simple discussion of the differences between Rubber Bridge and Duplicate Bridge centered on the value of minor suit contracts (good in Rubber Bridge, not so much in Duplicate). This led to a review of 4-way transfers as a way to find a minor suit contract following a 1NT opening.

First of all, why would we want to play in a minor suit? The answer is usually "we have no other choice". Certainly, a no-trump contract would be preferable, but sometimes it is clear that no-trump would be defeated. Other times, when our partner opens 1NT, all we have in our hand is a long minor. We may have ZERO points, but six diamonds to the 10. Guess what? That hand will give partner 3-4 tricks if diamonds are trump, but NO tricks in no-trump. Clearly, as captain, our job is to put the contract in diamonds!

How to do that? Traditional methods would call for a 2S bid (transfer to clubs), followed by a correction by the weak hand to diamonds if that is the long suit This is sub-optimal, since the strong hand becomes dummy. A variation is to use 2S to transfer to clubs, and 3C to transfer to diamonds. This is a form of 4-way transfers:

Following a 1NT opening bid:

2C: Stayman (asking for 4-card majors)

2D: Transfer to H

2H: Transfer to S

2S: Transfer to C

2NT: Invitational to 3NT

3C: Transfer to D

This is a perfectly satisfactory solution, but it does preclude the use of the very useful Puppet Stayman convention.

The "other" form of 4-way transfers (that preserves 3C for Puppet) is as follows:

2C: Stayman (could be "liars stayman" -- see below)

2D: Transfer to H

2H: Transfer to S

2S: Transfer to C

2NT: Transfer to D

Note that where the first form of 4-way transfers precluded Puppet Stayman, this version loses the simple 1NT - 2NT invitational bid. In this system, to make an invitational bid responder would first bid 2C, then regardless of what opener's rebid, he/she would bid 2NT. The 2C bid must be alerted (may not have a 4-card major). Not only does this version of transfers lose the direct 2NT invitation, it also muddies the waters with Stayman!

So, to fix this, let me offer you a solution that preserves Stayman, still provides a way to make an invitational bid to 3NT, and allows Puppet as well! It requires what is known as a "2-way" bid: 2S now means EITHER a transfer to clubs, or an invitation to 3NT. Here is how it works:

Following a bid sequence of 1NT - 2S, opener will respond by describing the strength of his/her hand as follows:

1NT - 2S - 2NT --> Opener has a minimum (15 point) NT hand

1NT - 2S - 3C ----> Opener has a maximum (17 point, or a "good" 16 point) NT hand.

Upon hearing opener's rebid, responder can place the contract:

Case 1: Responder was inviting a game in NT (i.e., he/she has 8-9 HCP)

(a) Opener rebid 2NT (minimum) -- PASS

(b) Opener rebid 3C (maximum) -- bid 3NT

Case 2: Responder was transferring to clubs

(a) Opener rebid 2NT -- bid 3C

(b) Opener rebid 3C -- PASS

As you can see, the one weakness of this is case 2a. If responder was actually trying to transfer to clubs, but opener has a minimum 1NT hand, then responder must declare the clubs. But that is one negative that is outweighed by three positives (preserving Stayman, preserving Puppet, and allowing a single-bid invitation to NT game). The full suite of responses to 1NT are:

2C: Stayman

2D: Transfer to H

2H: Transfer to S

2S: 2-way: Transfer to C OR invitation to 3NT game

2NT: Transfer to D

3C: Puppet Stayman

Texas Transfers

Sometimes it is simpler (and less susceptible to interference) to cut to the chase... If partner opens 1NT, he is promising you at least 2 cards in each suit. If you hold a 6-card major suit, you know that you want to play in that suit. If you have 10+ points, then you know you want to play in game. When both of those conditions are met, you can expedite the process by using "Texas transfers". They are like Jacoby transfers, but at the 4-level:

1NT - 4D --> Transfer to 4H

1NT - 4H --> Transfer to 4S

Simple, quick, and it blocks overcalls. This is a good example of the "Principle of Fast Arrival" in action!


Speaking of NT openings, many novice and intermediate players shy away from bidding when the opponent opens 1NT. But, if you have a distributional hand, you can certainly try to steal the contract from the opponents! Cappelletti is a system of bids that is designed to allow you to do just that. Over opponents 1NT opener (either seat), you can show your distribution with the following bids:

2C: Show a single-suited hand (5 or more cards in the suit, preferably 6 or more)

2D: Shows a hand that is 5-5 in the major suits

2H: Shows a hand with 5+ hearts AND a 5+ card minor suit

2S: Shows a hand with 5+ spades AND a 5+ card minor suit

DBL: Shows a balanced 15-17 points NT opening hand

If, after hearing partner overcall 2H or 2S, if you have no support for the major suit, you can bid 2NT; this asks partner to bid his/her long minor.

How do I show a strong hand or make a game-force bid?

There are a variety of bids that, upon partnership agreement, show a strong hand. Other bids can force the partnership to a game-level contract. Let's look at a few:

4th suit forcing

With partnership agreement, anytime a partner bids the fourth suit, it is an artificial, game-force bid. For example:

1D - 1H - 1S - 2C --> The 2C bid says nothing about clubs; it merely says "I have 13 or more points, partner. Let's bid to game!" If opener then rebids clubs, he/she is showing a club stopper, in hopes of a NT game.

Reverse Bids

While not technically game forcing, these bids show a strong hand (17+ points). Reverse bids are when one partner bids a low-ranking suit, followed by a higher-ranking suit at the two level or higher. For example:

1D - 1S - 2H is a reverse by opener. He is showing 5+ diamonds, 4+ hearts, and 17+ points.

Responder can also make a reverse bid. In this case, it is a GAME FORCE bid, showing 13+ points. For example:

1C - 1D - 1NT - 2H is a reverse by responder Similar to above, responder is showing 5+ diamonds and 4+ hearts, with 13+ points. Partnership will continue bidding until a suitable game is reached.

Note that reverses show a strong, unbalanced hand. Also note that despite claims to the contrary, everybody plays reverses. They just may not realize it. Reverse bids FORCE PARTNER TO BID ONE LEVEL HIGHER to support openers first suit, so they demand a strong hand.


Finally, we come to the 2-over-1 set of conventions. 2-over-1 is a variant of Standard American, with these two key differentiators:

(1) When opener bids 1 of a suit, and response at the 2-level for a suit lower-ranking than the one bid is game forcing and shows 13+ points and 4 or more cards in the suit bid. These are the possible 2-over-1 bid sequences:

1S - 2C

1S - 2D

1S - 2H*

1H - 2C

1H - 2D

1D - 2C**

*This requires 5+ hearts; it is the only response that makes this requirement

** Some partnerships do not consider this to be 2-over-1

In each of these cases, responder is making a game-force bid; in Standard American, these same bids show 10+ points, but in 2-over-1, they show 13+ points.

(2) The second facet of 2-over-1 is the forcing NT. If responder does not have 13+ points, and no new suit to bid at the 1 level, he/she must bid 1NT with any hand with between 6 and 12 points. This is a broader range than Standard American, where 1NT generally shows 6-9 points. Because of this, 1NT is forcing for one round; opener must make another bid.

There are other wrinkles that are often folded into the 2-over-1 system, most notably the Principle of Fast Arrival. Once a 2-over-1 response is made, the partnership KNOWS they are driving to game. A direct bid to the appropriate game shows minimum values -- 12-15 or so points. Hands with more strength will bid slowly, allowing bidding room for showing controls once a suit-fit is found.

2-over-1 is now the defacto standard system in North America. Most new students are taught this system from the beginning. However, many established players still play Standard American, so it is necessary to be fluent in both systems so you can play with anyone.

So, that's it. A recap of a wild-and-wooly, wide-ranging discussion during the lesson on March 22, 2020. Stay tuned here for more from our first-ever ON-LINE lesson. Stay at home and learn bridge with no danger of exposure to the corona virus!


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