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Convention Library
 
 
  STAYMAN CONVENTION #1

The STAYMAN convention is used after a NT opening/overcall to find a 4-4 major suit fit when responder has at least one precisely 4-card major and at least an invitational hand. It can also be used on weak hands that have either

i) a short club suit and willing to play in any of the other suits at the 2-level or

ii) a hand with 5-4 in the majors and looking to play in one of these at the 2-level.

It is used in the following situations:

  1. After a 1NT opening (requires 11 points if invitational)
  2. After a 1NT overcall (requires 8 points if invitational)
  3. After a 2NT opening
  4. After 2♣ - 2 - 2NT 
  5. After 2NT overcall of a weak 2 opening (requires 8 points if invitational)

How is it bid? Bidding 2♣  after a 1NT or 3♣  after a 2NT bid by partner.

Example STAYMAN responding hands after a 1NT opening

Invitational  Weak short clubs Weak 5-4 majors
♠  K 7 5 4 ♠  10 8 4 2 ♠  Q J 5 4 2
  K Q 2   J 7 4 3   10 7 5 2
  K 10 9 2   J 10 9 4 3   Q 6
♣  7 5  ♣  - ♣  9 4
Possible continuations
1NT - 2♣ - 2 - 2NT 1NT - 2♣ - 2 -PASS 1NT - 2♣ - 2 - 2♠
1NT - 2♣ -2 - 2NT 1NT - 2♣ - 2  -PASS 1NT - 2♣ - 2 - PASS
1NT - 2♣ - 2♠ - 3♠ 1NT - 2♣ - 2♠  -PASS 1NT - 2♣ - 2♠  -PASS

The following hands should not bid STAYMAN

♠  K 7 5 4 2                 ♠  10 8                        ♠  Q J 5 4 2

  K Q 2                         J 7 4 3                        Q 10 7 5 2

  K 10 9                        J 10 9 4 3 2                6

♣  7 5                           ♣  5                               ♣  9 4

  RED SUIT TRANSFERS CONVENTION #2

Two of the previous examples that should not bid STAYMAN could bid a RED SUIT TRANSFER (more later) which is the subject of this next popular convention.

RED SUIT TRANSFER convention is used after a NT opening/overcall to show a 5+ card major suit and more importantly allows you to describe your hand further as you are guaranteed another bid. You do not need any points, you only need a 5-card or longer major suit.

It is used in the same situations as STAYMAN:

  1. After a 1NT opening
  2. After a 1NT overcall
  3. After a 2NT opening
  4. After 2♣ - 2♦ - 2NT 
  5. After 2NT overcall of a weak 2 opening

How is it bid? By bidding the suit below the major you have 5 or more cards in, e.g. 2 if you have 5+ ♥s or 2 if you have 5+ ♠s.

So back to two previous examples from STAYMAN (the 2nd Example would PASS)

1st Example 3rd Example
♠ K 7 5 4 2 ♠ Q J 5 4 2
 K Q 2  Q 10 7 5 2
 K 10 9  6
♣ 7 5 ♣ 9 4

Sequence

1NT - 2 - 2♠ - 2NT - ?

to invite game and show 5 spades

Sequence

1NT - 2 - 2  - PASS

to play in 2 

and here are more examples showing hands that are difficult to find the right contracts without RED SUIT TRANSFERS.

North (opener) South
♠ K J 7 2 ♠ 6
 9 4  A Q J 5 4
 Q J 9 5  K 2
♣ A Q 8 ♣ K J 10 9 5

The bidding would be 1NT - 2 - 2 - 3♣ - 3NT with the hands above but what about the hands below?

North (opener) South
♠ 9 7 3 2 ♠ 6
 K 4  A Q J 5 4
 A Q J 9  K 2
♣ Q 8 3 ♣ K J 10 9 5

The bidding would be 1NT - 2 - 2 - 3♣ - 3 - 4♣ - 4 

With the first North has good stops in the two unbid suits (South has shown 5♥s and 4♣s and game forcing) and can settle for 3NT.

With the second North does not have stops in ♠s so bids 3 to say no stops in ♠s and only 2 cards in ♥s and less than 4 cards in ♣s otherwise he would give preference. South can show the extra ♣  to look for game in ♣s. North can show a doubleton  with an honour to see if that is better than playing at the 5-level.

 

  BLACKWOOD CONVENTION #3

Above is an example Roman Key Card Blackwood Sequence. Answer at end of this convention.

The BLACKWOOD convention is used to find out how many Aces your partner holds to prevent the partnership bidding a slam missing two Aces. There are a number of variations that also allow you to find out if your partner holds the King and Queen of trumps.

It is used if, and only if, the following are all true:

a) You have agreed a trump suit, or a suit has been bid immediately before the BLACKWOOD bid

b) You do not have 2 top losers in a side suit

c) You do not have a void

d) You have enough combined points (30+) or distribution (combined losing trick count is 12 or less)

How is it bid? By bidding 4NT (must not be immediately after a NT bid by partner which is classed as quantitative).

Responses for standard BLACKWOOD:

  • 5♣ shows 0 or 4 Aces
  • 5 shows 1 Ace
  • 5 shows 2 Aces
  • 5♠  shows 3 Aces

Responses for Key Card BLACKWOOD (The King of trumps is classed as the fifth Ace)

  • 5♣ shows 0 or 4 Aces
  • 5 shows 1 (or 5) Aces
  • 5 shows 2 Aces
  • 5♠ shows 3 Aces

Responses for Roman Key Card BLACKWOOD (The King of trumps is classed as the fifth Ace and the Queen of trumps is included in the responses)

  • 5♣ shows 0 or 3 Aces.    } To ask for the Queen the BLACKWOOD bidder will be the next suit up excluding the trump suit
  • 5 shows 1 or 4 Aces.    } If responder does not have the Queen he signs off in 6 of the trump suit,
  •                                        } otherwise any other bid shows the Queen and an additional feature to help bid the best grand slam
  • 5 shows 2 or 5 Aces without the Queen
  • 5♠ shows 2 or 5 Aces with the Queen

BLACKWOOD is often misused mainly because of b) and c) above. The correct procedure would be to cue bid first to ensure the partnership has control of all suits outside of trumps before bidding BLACKWOOD. The introduction of Key Card BLACKWOOD and Roman Key Card BLACKWOOD have the added advantage of preventing a slam being bid missing the Ace and King of trumps plus bidding grand slams where the Queen of trumps is vital. These advantages come at a cost - these conventions are more difficult to remember.

North opens 1 and South bids a Jacoby 2NT to show 12+ points and 4 or more card support. North has control in all non-trump suits so bids Roman Keycard Blackwood (this is the rare exception where 4NT bid after 2NT response by partner that is not quantitative because 2NT is effectively a heart support bid). South shows 4 Keycards (3 Aces and the K of trumps). North asks for the Q by bidding the next suit up. South jumps to 7 to accept the grand slam invite and does not have any other feature to show (already shown the 3 Aces and K of trumps). North converts to 7NT as he can count 13 tricks off the top.

  STRONG 2 CLUB CONVENTION #4

The example above is showing how the game forcing 2♣ opening is bid. Explanation in the answer at the end of the article.

The STRONG 2♣ convention is used as an opening bid to describe a hand that is either, balanced with 23+ points, or unbalanced with at least game values opposite a partner with zero points.

How is it bid? By opening 2♣ which does not say anything about the club suit.

It is recommended always to respond 2 unless responder has a 5-card or longer suit and 8+ points (fairly uncommon). The 2 bid does not say anything about the diamond suit; it is a "waiting" bid. This allows opener to describe their hand at a low level and also right-sides the contract in most cases.

Opener continuations after 2♣ -2 are as follows:

(a) 2♠ / 3♣ / 3 shows an unbalanced hand with at least 5-cards in the suit bid and is forcing to game.

(b) 2 shows either an unbalanced hand with at least 5-hearts or a balanced hand with 25+ points. Partner is forced to bid 2♠ and you can then show your partner if you have hearts (bidding 3 ) or balanced 25+ (bidding 2NT). The latter allows responder to bid STAYMAN or RED SUIT TRANSFER to find the best contract. This sequence is known as "Kokish" named after Eric Kokish who invented it.

(c) 2NT shows a balanced hand with 23-24 points. This is the only bid that can be passed if responder has zero points.

 

The explanation of bids is as follows:

2♣ strong game forcing hand

2 waiting

2 either unbalanced with 5+ hearts or 25+ balanced

2♠ relay to find out what 2 bid is

2NT shows 25+ balanced

3♣ stayman asking for a 4 card major

3 shows 4 hearts and possibly 4 spades

4 this is our best contract partner

It can be seen that 3NT cannot make on a diamond lead and 4 is infact the best makeable contract.

  TAKE OUT DOUBLE CONVENTION #5

The hand above shows when to use a TAKE OUT DOUBLE after a major suit opening. Answer at the end of the article.

The TAKE OUT DOUBLE convention is used after the opponents have opened the bidding, by bidding a suit, and you have the following:

  • Support in all the other suits (3 cards or more)
  • Opening points
  • Shortage in the opponent's opened suit (2 or less)

This is known as SOS.

It is used after the following situations:

a) A minor suit opening by the opponents; 

a double should show 4-4 in the major suits (sometimes 3 good cards AK10 in one of the majors and 4 in the other is ok)

b) A major suit opening by the opponents; 

a double shows 4 cards in the other major in addition to the SOS requirement

c) Opponents have opened and supported a suit;

a double is still classed as a TAKE OUT DOUBLE

d) An opponent has overcalled your partners opening; 

a double is also a TAKE OUT DOUBLE (known as a NEGATIVE DOUBLE) and specifically shows 4 cards in the other major if overcaller has bid a major or your partner has opened a major

How is it bid?

By using the DOUBLE card after a suit opening by the opponents or by doubling an opponents suit overcall of partners opening. The basic principle is that if your partner has not bid then a DOUBLE is always for take out (the only exception is after the first overcall of your partners opening i.e. the NEGATIVE DOUBLE).

North opens 1♠ looking to rebid in NT to show 15-19 points if partner responds at the two level. East has a classic double satisfying the SOS criteria. West adds a point for the 5th heart and jumps to 3 to show values.

  WEAK TWOS CONVENTION #6

The weak two is an opening mini-preemptive bid. It is best used in either first or third seat like preemptive bids. In first seat you are preempting two opponents and your partner. In third seat you are preempting one opponent that is likely to have a strong hand because the other two players have passed.

It is used in the following situations:

(a) Open 2 with 6 cards in s and 5-10 points. It is advisable to have two of the top five honours in the  suit especially vulnerable.

(b) Open 2 with 6 cards in ♥s and 5-10 points. It is advisable to have two of the top five honours in the  suit especially vulnerable.

(c) Open 2♠ with 6 cards in ♠s and 5-10 points. It is advisable to have two of the top five honours in the ♠ suit especially vulnerable.

It is best to play 2 / 2 / 2♠ as weak rather than strong because they come up more often. Strong hands should either be opened using the 2♣ convention or simply open at the one-level and agree with partner to respond lighter than the normal 6 points.

How is it bid? By opening 2 / 2 / 2♠ .

Responding to weak twos:

(i) PASS is the most common response with hands that do not have a fit and are not strong enough to use the 2NT strong asking bid

(ii) Bid to the level of the fit to either spoil further or to make. So with 3 card support raise to 3; 4 card support raise to 4; and for ♦s 5 card support raise to 5.

(iii) Bid 2NT with strong hands that need more information from the opener. You will need at least 15 points and interest in game or even a slam.

The opener will repeat his opening suit if he is minimum (5-7).

The opener with a maximum (8-10) will bid another 4 card major (unlikely but possible); bid a better minor; or bid 3NT with two of the top three honours.

 

  JACOBY 2NT CONVENTION #7

The JACOBY 2NT convention is used in response to a major suit opening to show 4 or more card support and 12 or more points. It is game forcing. It can also be used after the opponents have intervened.

How is it bid? By bidding 2NT or cue bidding the opponents overcalled suit.

Opener's rebids are as follows:

With a balanced hand

(a) 15+ points and 5 good card in major suit, bid 3 of the major

(b) 15-19 points, bid 3NT

(c) Less than 15 points, bid 4 of the major (fast arrival shows weakness)

With unbalanced hand

(d) Another 4 card or longer suit, bid 3 of that suit

(e) With 6 card major suit bid 3 of the major

(f) Void / Singleton in a suit, bid 4 of that suit (similar to a splinter)

 

  CHECKBACK STAYMAN CONVENTION #8

The CHECKBACK STAYMAN convention is used to find either a 5-3 or 4-4 major suit fit after opener has rebid 1NT or 2NT showing 15-17 or 18-19 points respectively. Playing this convention requires the opener to bid the lowest 4 card suit when holding two 4 card suits. It is game forcing.

How is it bid? By responder bidding 2♣ after opener's 1NT rebid or bidding 3♣ after opener's 2NT rebid.

It is used in the following sequences:

1♣ - 1 - 1NT - 2♣ Asks opener for a 4 card major suit and requires responder to have game values and at least one 4 card major suit.

Opener bids 2 to show both 4 card major suits; 2 to show 4 card  suit; 2♠ to show 4 card ♠ suit; 2NT to show neither.

1♣ - 1 - 1NT - 2♣ Asks opener if he has 3 card  suit or a 4 card ♠ suit.

Opener bids 2 to show both; 2 to show 3 card  suit; 2♠ to show 4 card ♠ suit; 2NT to show neither.

1 - 1♠ - 1NT - 2♣ Asks opener if he has 3 card ♠ suit or a 5 card  suit.

Opener bids 2 to show both; 2 to show 5 card  suit; 2♠ to show 3 card ♠ suit; 2NT to show neither.

Each of these sequences can replace the 1NT with 2NT to show 18-19 points and responder will bid 3♣ for checkback stayman.

  SPLINTER CONVENTION #9

The SPLINTER convention is used to describe a hand that has game or better values; has 4 card support for partner's suit; has a singleton or void in the suit being bid as a jump or double jump. It describes all of this information with one bid!

How is it bid? By jumping or double jumping in a suit opposite partner's suit bid.

The simple splinter examples are as follows:

1♣ - 3 / 3 / 3♠ For a club suit opening it is best to double jump in a new suit to show 4 card or more support for clubs, at least game values, and a singleton or void in the suit bid.

1 - 3♣ / 3 / 3♠ For a diamond suit opening it is best to double jump in the majors or single jump in clubs to show 4 card or more support for diamonds, at least game values, and a singleton or void in the suit bid. A single jump in clubs allows for partnership to stop in 3NT.

1 - 3♠ / 4♣ / 4 For a heart opening it is best to double jump in a new suit to show 4 card or more support for hearts, at least game values, and a singleton or void in the suit bid. The partnership want to play game in the major so no need to worry about passing 3NT.

1♠ - 4♣ / 4 / 4 For a spade opening it is best to double jump in a new suit to show 4 card or more support for spades, at least game values, and a singleton or void in the suit bid.

The more complex splinter sequences are when opener splinters in responder's suit:

1♣ - 1 - 3♠ This sequences shows opener with 5 clubs; 4 card heart support; a singleton or void in spades; and most importantly a 5 loser hand (responder may only have 6 points and a presumed 9 loser hand)

1 - 1♠ - 4♣ This sequence shows opener with 5 hearts (may have 4 with 4-4-4-1 shape); 4 card spade support; a singleton or void in clubs; and a 5 loser hand.

It is even possible for responder to splinter after 3 bids by the partnership:

1♣ - 1 - 1♠ - 4 This sequence shows opener with 5 clubs and 4 spades 12-18 points. Responder will have 4 or more hearts; 4 card spade support; a singleton or void in diamonds; a 7 loser or better hand.

  GERBER CONENTION #10

The GERBER convention is used to find out how many aces your partner holds. It should only be used after a 1NT or 2NT opening or a NT rebid by opener where it is expected that the final contract is going to be in NTs. Some partnerships use it after a suit bid but I would not recommend this approach because there is no advantage over any other ace asking convention. Use BLACKWOOD for suit slams.

How is it bid? By bidding 4♣ in response to the opener's NT bid.

Responder must have enough points to investigate a slam (i.e. 20+ points after 1NT and 12+ points after 2NT).

Opener responses are:

4 shows 0 or 4

4 shows 1

4♠ shows 2

4NT shows 3

The advantage of playing GERBER alongside BLACKWOOD is that the partnership can safely stop in 4NT or 5NT missing 2 aces when looking for a NT slam. Thus, 32 point NT slams can be investigated.

  MULTI-LANDY CONVENTION #11

The MULTI-LANDY convention is used as a defence to a 1NT opening bid. It is a combination of LANDY , MULTI 2 and MUDIBERG played widely in the Netherlands.

How is it bid?

1NT - 2♣ is LANDY which shows 5-4 or 5-5 in the Major suits and 8 - 15 points. Responder bids his longest Major or bids 2 asking partner to name his 5 card Major.

1NT - 2 is MULTI 2 which shows a 6 card Major suit and 8 - 15 points. Responder bids 2 with no preference or 2♠ with 4 card heart suit willing to play at least 3.

1NT - 2 shows 5 card   suit and a 4 card minor suit 8 - 15 points. Responder bids 2NT to ask for minor with a strong hand, 3♣ to ask to pass or correct with weak hand or PASS.

1NT - 2♠ shows 5 card ♠  suit and a 4 card minor suit 8 - 15 points. Responder bids 2NT to ask for minor with a strong hand, 3♣ to ask to pass or correct with weak hand or PASS.

1NT - 2NT shows 5-5 in the Minor suits and 8-15 points. Responder bids longest minor.

1NT - Double is for penalties and shows 16+ points.

  MICHAELS and UNUSUAL NO TRUMP #12

The conventions known as MICHAELS and UNUSUAL NO TRUMP work together hand in hand and are worth playing together in your partnership.

The MICHAELS convention is used as an overcall of an opening one-level suit bid to show a two-suited hand with 5-5 distribution and a point range of 6-18 points (some partnerships play the point range to be 6-10 or 16+ and thus will show 11-15 point hands by bidding the two suits separately).

It is bid as follows

(1♣ ) - 2♣ shows 5-5 in ♠ and  

(1 ) - 2 shows 5-5 in ♠ and  

(1 ) - 2 shows 5-5 in ♠ and an unspecified minor

(1♠ ) - 2♠ shows 5-5 in  and an unspecified minor

Sometimes you may be 6-5 with an unspecified minor having 6 cards but never bid it with 6-4 or 5-4 distributions.

The UNUSUAL NO TRUMP convention is used as an overcall of an opening one-level suit bid to show 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits with a point range of 6-18 points (as above some partnerships restrict this to 6-10 or 16+ and thus will show 11-15 by bidding the suits separately). It is bid as follows:

(1♣ ) - 2NT shows 5-5 in   and   

(1 ) - 2NT shows 5-5 in ♣ and  

(1 ) - 2NT shows 5-5 in ♣ and  

(1♠ ) - 2NT shows 5-5 in ♣ and  

Sometimes you may be 6-5 with a 6 card minor but never 6-4 or 5-4 distributions.

  ASTRO CONVENTION #13

The ASTRO convention is used as a defence to the opposing 1NT opening. It is named after the inventor's Paul Allinger, Roger STern and Lawrence ROsler.

The overcaller will have between 8-15 points to make one of the following bids:

  • 2♣ shows at least 5-4 or 4-5 in s and an unspecified minor
  • 2 shows at least 5-4 or 4-5 in ♠s and another suit
  • 2 shows a single suited hand with s
  • 2♠ shows a single suited hand with ♠s
  • Double is for penalties 16+ points

Responses to 2♣ are:

  • PASS is weak with 6 ♣s
  • 2 negative (less than 3 cards in s and at least 2 cards in s)
  • 2 3 card  support and weak
  • 2♠ 6 card ♠ invitational
  • 2NT forcing, some support in s but no other bid
  • 3♣ 6 card ♣ invitational
  • 3 6 card  invitational
  • 3 4+ card  support invitational
  • 4 game try

Responses to 2  are:

  • PASS is weak with 6 s
  • 2 negative (less than 3 cards in ♠s and at least 2 cards in s)
  • 2♠ 3 card ♠ support and weak
  • 2NT forcing, some support in ♠s but no other bid
  • 3♣ 6 card ♣ invitational
  • 3 6 card  invitational
  • 3 6 card  invitational
  • 3♠ 4 card ♠ support invitational
  • 4♠ game try

There are many variants of the ASTRO convention, none of which are easy to remember, so I recommend that any partnership playing this convention understand which variant is being played by the partnership.