Release 2.19o
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29th March 2020

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Transfers after overcall
Tranfers after overcall

Transfer responses after opposition overcall


When opponents annoyingly bid after your partner has opened the bidding, it destroys your normally flowing dialogue.  Assume partner opens 1 and your RHO bids 2.  Without that overcall you can, if you have support, describe your length exactly and also the define your point count to a fairly narrow range.  But when RHO bids, your support options are severely curtailed.  If you bid 3 now, does your partner know whether you have 3 or 4 spades?  Is is weak and preemptive, to play, or is it a full strength game invitational bid?  Is it maybe in-between?

This is an important point, and most people lessen the problem by sacrificing a natural 2NT bid, and using that for a 4 card support game invitation (or better), so that a direct bid of 3 is now preemptive.  But what about 3 card support?  This is an even worse problem.  Assume that the opening 1 bid shows a 5 card suit.  When opponents now get in the bidding, with 3 card support you want to bid 2 with a very weak hand preemptively.  But you also want to bid 2 to show your normal say 7-10 count, so that partner can invite game or bid it himself.  You could also have 3 card support and an 11/12 count, and want to bid 2 to show that.  (With 11/12 you may have bid 3 without the interference, but now that shows a preemptive hand with 4 spades.)  So three meanings for one bid ???

You might think that the 3 card support 11/12 count can bid the same game invitation as a 4 card support 9/10 count (maybe your 2NT shows this) but the two hands are worlds apart.  Over 2NT and next opponent's 3 what does partner do?  Partner not wanting to go to game may want to bid 3 (to make or as a sacrifice) if you have 4 card support, but may prefer to double if he is not short in diamonds and knows you are stronger with only 3 card support.

Now consider cases where you do not have support, but have a suit of your own - say you have long hearts in the above sequence.  Is 1 (2) 2 forcing or not forcing?  If you play it as forcing, there will be times when you have 6 hearts and just have to pass.  If you play it as not forcing, there will be times when you have a game-going hand and can't show your heart suit.  Maybe you temporise with a double, and then bid 3, but you also want partner to know you have a couple of spades, and you can't.  Tricky.

What's the solution?

As the astute reader will have gathered from the article title, it is transfers.   Your partnership should agree when they may or may not apply, but they are very useful when you play 5 card majors and partner opens a major.  It is the major fits that really need the distinctions discussed above.

The method espoused here sacrifices 2 "natural" calls, the double, and 2NT.
  • 2NT is rarely needed in a natural sense, and if you do have that hand you can often pass (maybe partner reopens with a double that you can pass, or maybe you can bid it later) or you can just go for 3NT.  Most people have already abandoned the natural 2NT in favour of helping to describe 4 card support.
  • Double is commonly useful to show 4 cards in the other major, but a 4-4 fit when opener has already announced at least 5 cards in the opening major is actually quite rare.  Much more common are the hands that have 3 card support, and may be weak, game invitational, or in-between.

Over your RHO's overcall :  
  • X = transfer to the next suit  
  • Any bid lower than the suit beneath opener's = transfer to the next suit  
  • The suit beneath opener's suit = "transfer" to opener's suit, = a full-bodied raise to 2M, eg 3 card support and 7-10 points  
  • 2 of opener's suit = preemptive raise, eg 3 card support, up to 6 points  
  • Suits higher than 2 of opener's = natural, forcing  
  • 2NT = 3 card support, 11/12 count, or even stronger, when you will follow with a game bid yourself.  
  • 3 level suit beneath opener's suit = "transfer" to opener's suit, = a full-bodied invitational raise to 3M, eg 4 card support, 9/10 count, or even stronger, when you will follow with a game bid yourself.  
  • 3M = weak raise, 4 card support, less than a 9 count.  
  • 4M = weak raise, 5 card support, less than a 9 count.

Some examples may help. 

Assume the bidding is 1 (2) :  
  • X = transfer to hearts  
  • 2 =  a full-bodied raise to 2, eg 3 card support and 7-10 points  
  • 2 =  preemptive raise, eg 3 card support, up to 6 points  
  • 2NT = 3 card support, 11/12 count or better
  • 3 = natural, forcing  
  • 3 = * spare bid *  
  • 3 = an invitational "transfer raise" to 3, 4+ card support, 9/10 count or better  
  • 3 = preemptive raise, 4 cards, up to 8 points  
  • 4 = preemptive raise, 5 cards, up to 8 points.

Assume the bidding is 1 (2) :  
  • X = "transfer" to hearts, a full-bodied raise, eg 3 card support and 7-10 points  
  • 2 = preemptive raise, eg 3 card support, up to 6 points  
  • 2 = natural, forcing  
  • 2NT = 3 card support, 11/12 count or better  
  • 3 = natural, forcing  
  • 3 = an invitational "transfer raise" to 3, 4+ card support, 9/10 count or better  
  • 3 = preemptive raise, 4 cards, up to 8 points.  
  • 4 = preemptive raise, 5 cards, up to 8 points.

Assume the bidding is 1 (2) :  
  • X = transfer to diamonds  
  • 2 = transfer to hearts  
  • 2 =  a full-bodied raise to 2, eg 3 card support and 7-10 points  
  • 2 =  preemptive raise, eg 3 card support, up to 6 points  
  • 2NT = 3 card support, 11/12 count or better  
  • 3 = * spare bid *  
  • 3 = * spare bid *  
  • 3 = an invitational "transfer raise" to 3, 4+ card support, 9/10 count or better  
  • 3 = preemptive raise, 4 cards, up to 8 points.  
  • 4 = preemptive raise, 5 cards, up to 8 points.

Opener, knowing of the degree of support with some accuracy, can make the correct decision whether to go to game, and if opponents bid on, whether to compete higher, or whether to double.

You will see that depending on the overcall, there can be spare bids where that suit is normally shown by a transfer, or it is their suit.  Agree your own meaning, such as a mini-splinter.

When opener hears a transfer to his own suit, he does not blindly just rebid his suit.  Responder has shown strength, so opener makes his normal determination whether to bid game or not.  If responder makes a transfer raise to the 2 level, opener may make a trial bid as he would normally.When opener hears a transfer to a new suit, he initially assumes it is a non-forcing 6 card suit, and will complete the transfer if he is prepared to play there.  If, however, he would bid on, he makes his normal bid (forcing) above that.  But say opener completes the transfer, and the bidding goes 1 (2) 2! 2.  Now responder can rebid 2.  This is non-forcing and shows long hearts together with a couple of spades, to give opener a choice of where to go.  Or responder could rebid 2 or 3NT.  Or responder could rebid opponent's suit as a game forcing bid to show a stop, but insufficient in itself to bid 3NT.  Having a transfer available therefore allows flexibility.  It may be used with a "weak 2" hand, but equally it could show a 5 card suit and delayed support, or a 5+ card suit in a game-going hand.

However, the main benefit is the enrichment of major support bids.  Many the time you will have heard partner's support in competition, but not known what to do next.  Adopting transfer responses after an overcall makes it so much easier.

Adopt similar methods over opponents' weak jump overcalls.  1 (3) 3! = game invitation or better in hearts, whereas 3 is to play and does not invite 4.

submitted by Ray Green