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Bridge Conventions
  The Three C's
     Once a partnership has a clear understanding about the elementary bids and responses and their defensive signals, it is time to consider adding a few conventional bids.  There are many artificial bids available that can either help or harm your overall game.  The advice from this quarter is to use only conventions that are crystal clear to both partners and instantly recognizable each time they are used.
     A successful bridge game requires little more than concentration, count and communication. Work hard on your concentration, playing the hand you are holding and not an earlier one, on the bidding, on partner's signals, in visualizing the opponent's card holding and in deciding which cards to play which will provide optimum results. Try to count everything, each trump, every card, every play.  This will take some practice; begin with the trump suit, then the others.  Finally, try and make your bids as clear and meaningful to your partner as you possibly can.  The art of communications with partner is the ultimate key in the outcome of each competition.
     The conventions listed are my personal favorites.  If some of yours are not included, there are plenty of great books and internet articles around for research.  Pick the ones that you like, and learn them like the back of your hand.  Enjoy the game of bridge; it's the best one around.
     Stayman is the most widely used bridge convention.  Its purpose is to locate a 4-4 major suit fit after partner has opened either 1NT or 2NT.  This bid is totally artificial and simply asks, "partner, do you have a 4 card major?"  If the answer is 'yes', the NT opener bids 2H or 2S--a 2H response does not deny 4 spades.  A 2D reply denies both 4 hearts and 4 spades.

                                           1NT-P-2C is Stayman                2NT-P-3C is Stayman

Requirements for a Stayman response to 1NT:
         At least one four card major.
         At least 8 HCPs.
         At least one short side suit (2 cards or less).
Note:  Do not bid Stayman with 4-3-3-3 distribution.  Even with a 4-4 fit, it is better to play the contract in 2NT (8-9) or 3NT (10-15) with no short suit to trump.

Examples:                 Opener                            Responder
                                  1NT                              2C (Stayman)
                                  2S                                 4S (4+spades, 10+ points)

                                  1NT                               2C
                                  2D (none)                       2NT (8-9 HCPs)                 

                                   2NT                              3C (Stayman)
                                   3H                                3NT (5-6 HCPs, 4+S)*

*Opener can correct to 4S if also holding 4 spades; if not, play 3NT.

                                                                  Garbage Stayman

   If you hold 4441, 4351 or 4450 distribution and have minimal points, with partnership agreement you can bid 2C and pass whatever opener responds.  Since partner must bid either 2D, 2H or 2S, your pass will provide a better contract than 1NT.

          Example:   You hold    9872 3842 K863 2.  Bid 2C and pass the response.

  Jacoby Transfers
     The Jacoby Transfer convention was developed to allow the strong hand to play the contract.  It applies after your partner has opened 1NT (15-17) or 2NT (20-21).  This convention is played in conjunction with Stayman.  After your partner has opened the bidding (1NT or 2NT), you transfer by bidding the suit below your 5+card major suit.  Opener must accept the transfer, i.e., 2D/3D is a transfer to hearts and 2H/3H is a transfer to spades.  This is commonly referred to as RST (red suit transfers).  Note: Since responder's bid is artificial, the convention must be marked on the convention card and the Opener must announce "transfer."

Requirement to use Jacoby Transfers:
     0+ points.  You do not need points....just shape.
     Holding one 5+card major suit (and not 4 in the other major).
     Holding 5-5 or 5-6 in the majors.

Note:  With 5-4, 6-4 or 7-4 in the majors, use Stayman.

Five example auctions using Jacoby Transfers:

                   Opener                        Responder
                     1NT                              2D*
                     2H                                3NT**

*Transfer to hearts                      **5 hearts only and game values.

                  Opener                         Responder
                     1NT                              2H*
                     2S                                 4S**

*Transfer to spades                     **6+spades and game values.

                  Opener                         Responder
                     1NT                              2D*
                     2H                                Pass**

*Transfer to hearts                      **5+hearts with a weak hand.

                 Opener                          Responder
                    1NT                               2D*
                    2H                                 2NT**

*Transfer to hearts                      **5 hearts, 8 or 9 points.

                 Opener                         Responder
                    2NT                               3H*
                    3S                                  3NT**

*Transfer to spades                     **5 spades, 5-6 points, no void/singleton.

  Asking for Aces
    There are two common conventions in use to ask partner how many aces he/she holds, Gerber and Blackwood.  Two caveats apply in using either of the two:
     a.  be sure where you intend to play the final contract (suit or NT).
     b.  don't use either one if you have a void.

Gerber - It is recommended that you use a JUMP bid of 4C when the FIRST or LAST bid has been 1NT or 2NT.

Responses to Gerber:

           4C                 4D = 0 or 4 aces
                                4H = 1 ace
                                4S = 2 aces
                              4NT = 3 aces
If your side has four aces, 5C asks for kings.
           5C                5D = 0 or 4 kings
                               5H = 1 king
                               5S = 2 kings
                             5NT = 3 kings

Blackwood - When you or partner has opened the bidding with a
                    suit bid, 4NT asks for aces.

           4NT               5C = 0 or 4 aces
                               5D = 1 ace
                               5H = 2 aces
                               5S = 3 aces
If you have the four aces, 5NT asks for kings.
           5NT               6C = 0 or 4 kings
                               6D = 1 king
                               6H = 2 kings
                               6S = 3 kings

                                                                               Roman Keycard

     After you have mastered the Gerber and Blackwood methods above, you may want to consider using the modern day refinement of Blackwood, known as Roman Keycard.  It includes 5 cards to report, the 4 aces plus the King of trump. (If the trump suit has not been clearly established, it should be understood that the King of the last bid suit will be reported.)  With this system, you might also tell partner about the Queen of trumps.  Keycard blackwood uses 2 signal systems (pick one and note on your convention card), 1430 and 3014.  By and large, 1430 predominates in the U.S. while 3014 is the European standard.
     Following a 4NT bid by partner, 1430 responses are:
   5C - 1 or 4 keycards.
   5D - 0 or 3 keycards.
   5H - 2 or 5 keycards w/o the Queen of trumps.
   5S - 2 or 5 keycards with the Queen of trumps.
     If using the 3014 system:
   5C - 0 or 3 keycards.
   5D - 1 or 4 keycards.
   5H & 5S are same as 1430.

  Takeout Doubles
     A double is for TAKE-OUT when:
        1.  Opponents have opened with a suit bid.
        2.  Neither you nor partner have yet bid (other than Pass).
        3.  The auction is still below game level.

     Requirements for a T-O Double:
        1.  11+ distribution points.
        2.  Shortage in Opponent's suit (2 or less).
        3.  Tolerance for all unbid suits with emphasis on the majors.
        4.  Exception:  With 17+points and a good suit of your own, your hand may have any distribution.  (Doubling and then bidding your suit promises a BIG hand.)

     Responses to a T-O double (no interference):
        1.  0-8      Bid your best (longest) suit at the lowest possible level.
        2. 9-10     Jump one level in your best suit.
        3. 11-12   Jump to one level below game.
        4. 13+      Jump to game OR cue-bid opponent's suit.
        5. 1NT     6-9 HCPs with stopper(s) in opponent's suit,
        6. 2NT     10-12 "       "        "           "      "           "
        7. 3NT     13-15 "       "        "           "      "           "

     Doubler's 2nd bid:
        1.  Add your values to those shown by partner and take appropriate action.
        2.  If there is no chance for game, pass.  If there are game values, bid it.
        3.  If there might be values for game, invite partner to bid game (or pass).

                          Examples of T-O Double hands
Opponent opens 1D           You              Bid                Comments
                      1)  J532 KQ74 8 AJT9       X     Should have both majors, 4/4+
                      2)  KQJ KQ74 95 Q842      X      If 4-3 in majors, 3cd suit strong
                      3)  KQJ5 95432 - J653       X     Ideal!
                      4)  AKQ98 43 AJ3 QJ2      X      Big hand! Bid 2S on rebid
                      5)  A43 AKQ QT J6432   Pass    Wrong shape. Wait!
  Negative Doubles

     A Negative Double (negative meaning NOT a PENALTY) is a TAKE-OUT double by the RESPONDER.  It only applies when your partner opens a suit bid and RHO overcalls with a suit bid.  If so, a double by you promises 4 (no more) cards in the other unbid suits.  Negative doubles are forcing for one round.  Partner must bid.

   1.  If one major has been bid, you promise the other major and a minor.
   2.  If neither major has been bid, you promise both majors (4/4+).
   3.  If both majors have been bid, you promise both minors. (4/4+).

   HCPs required:
     1 Level  - 6+
     2 Level  - 8+
     3 Level  - 11+

Negative Doubles apply until the bidding has reached the 2 spade or 3 spade level (partnership agreement).  3 spade level is recommended.

                                Negative Double Examples

Partner opens 1C.  RHO bids 1S.
            You                    Bid                Comment
xx AKJx Qxxx xxx             X                 Perfect for a 1S or 2S overcall.
xxx AJxx AKxx Qx            X                 Perfect for a 1S, 2S or 3S overcall.
xxx KQJxx xx Jxx              X                 Less than 10 pts. Don't bid 2H.
AJx Kx xxxx Jxxx            1NT              6-10 HCPs with a spade stopper.
xx KQJxx Axx Kxx            2H               10+ HCPs, 5+ hearts.
xxxx Kxxx x Jxxx           X/Pass            With 4 HCP, 4 hearts, a singleton and 4cd club support, suggest X.
                                                           Conservative players may pass.

Partner opens 1D.  RHO bids 1H.
              You                  Bid                           Comment
KJxx xx AKxx Kxx            X                  Perfect for a 1H, 2H or 3H overcall.
QJxxx xxx xx Axx             1S                 Promises 5+ spades, 6+ HCPs.
Jxx Kxx xxxx Axx             2D                Promises 4+ diamonds, 6-9 HCPs.

  New Minor Forcing
     Many good players value this convention where responder holds an invitational type hand (11+ HCPs) and is looking for a major suit fit after opener's rebid of 1NT following an initial first bid of either 1C or 1D.  Ex:
           Opener                                         Responder
  Kxx Jx AJxxx KQx                            Axxxx KQxx Qx Jx
             1D                        -P-                         1S
            1NT (13-15)           -P-                         2C* (artificial & alertable)
             2S**                     -P-                         4S

*NMF (the other minor)      **3 spades, no 4 card major
Note:  If opener has 4 hearts, the response is 2H and 4H becomes the final contract.  Having neither 4H or 3S. opener bids NT or rebids diamonds.  Play this convention OFF with interference.
    Here's an interesting convention that you might like to try, called Smolen.  This is simply an extension of Stayman, designed to make the strong hand the declarer when you happen to be 5/4 or 4/5 in the two majors.  There are two versions of this convention, both of which attempt to place the contract in one of the major suits.  Simply stated, when partner opens 1NT, and you make  a 2C Stayman reponse which is followed by 2D (no 4-cd major), you bid your 4-card major which promises 4 in the bid suit (partner does not have more than 3) and 5 in the other major (partner may have 3 in that one.)
                           Non Forcing Smolen
Ex.        Partner                   Responder
     AJ2 KJ9 Q8753 A7      QT975 Q842 K2  83
               1NT                           2C
                2D                            2H*
                2S**                          P
* Alertable as promising 5 spades and 4 hearts. (less than 8-9 points),
** Partner has 3 spades and is willing to play in spades with an 8-card fit.

                           Forcing Smolen (9-10+)
Ex.       Partner                    Responder
     AJ2 KJ9 Q8753 A7     QT97 AT852 K2 J3
              1NT                           2C
              2D                             3S*
         4H or 3NT**                   P
* Jumping one level promises 4S and 5H and is game forcing.  Alertable; with 3 hearts, opener bids 4H, otherwise 3NT.

Note:  This is a nice convention, but don't even consider it until you are very solid with your Stayman and Jacoby Transfer bids.

  Inverted Minors
     If your partnership employs the 'better minor' opening concept which promises a minimum of 3 cards in the suit bid, you might consider adding the inverted minor convention to your system.  This 2-level bid is alertable and should be marked on your CC and promises 5+ clubs or 4+ diamond support, 10+ HCPs and no 4 card major.  There is no HCP limit on the high side so this bid is one round forcing and highly invitational.  If you are playing in a pairs game for MPs, the ideal spot to place this contract if possible is in NT, which will usually produce a better score than 5C or 5D.  Opener can either respond normally or, with partnership agreement, you can bid stoppers up-the-line to determine the feasibility of a 3NT contract.  Ex:
                  Opener                                   Responder
   KQxx Kxx Axx Jxx                         Axx QJx Qx ATxxx
           1C                        -P-                      2C*
           2D**                    -P-                      2H***
           2S****                 -P-                     3NT

* IM       **diamond stopper    ***heart stopper      ****spade stopper

Note:  Skipping a suit cue bid denies a stopper in the suit skipped.  If you decide to play inverted minors, you should play a jump minor bid as weak and preemptive.  
  Michaels and Unusual 2 No Trump
     Most bridge players will agree that being able to tell your partner that you have two 5+card suits in your hand with one bid can do wonders toward finding the proper strain and/or in making things difficult for your opponents who have opened the bidding.
     Two bids that fall into this category are Michaels and U2NT.
       Michaels is a cue bid of opener's suit bid, i.e. 1D-2D or 1D-P-P-2D.  Cuebidding a minor promises both majors; cuebidding a major promises the other major and an unspecified minor, which can be questioned if necessary by the advancer by bidding 2NT.  Suggest two levels of hand strength apply for a Michaels bid, weak (7-12) and strong (16+).  With a minimum opener (13-15), overcall with the higher ranking suit.
     U2NT should be used to promise the two lowest unbid suits, i.e. 1D-2NT (clubs and hearts).  Suggest that the 2NT always be a jump bid, i.e. 1S-2NT (clubs and diamonds).  Since you are forcing your partner (who may be broke) to bid at the 3 level, your hand should be one of opening distributional strength.  If you follow the jump bid trigger for this convention, then you and partner could use a 2NT overcall of a weak 2 opener, i.e. 2H-2NT as a 1NT overcall (15-18 HCPs with a heart stopper).
     There is definitely a time and place for these two conventions, but keep in mind that their meaning is also clear to your opponents who may often use the information to their advantage if they win the final contract.
  Responses to Partner's Strong 2C Opener
     When asked what general structure they used for responses to a strong 2C in their favorite partnership, a representative group of experienced duplicate bridge players offered the following:
       36% -- 2D waiting, cheaper minor 2nd negative.
       25% -- Control showing step responses.
       21% -- 2D semi-positive, 2H immediate double negative.
       10% -- 2D negative, 2H balanced positive.
         4% -- Point-count step responses.
         4% -- Other artificial systems.

Here's a quick look at the two most popular responses:

   2D Waiting

     With this widely used approach, responder almost always bids 2D to give the opener maximum room for hand description.   The popular exception is for responder to bid a good 5+card suit (2H, 2S, 3C, 3D) with 2 of top 3 honors and 8+ HCPs.  The advantages of 2D waiting are that it's simple and saves bidding space.  Its drawback is that responder has fewer opportunities to describe his/her hand strength and suit length and may find it difficult to catch up later in the auction.

    Control-Showing Responses

      This approach is popular because it allows responder to show the most important cards (aces and kings) immediately, all in one bid.  Counting each king as one and each ace as two, responder makes one of the following bids:
       2D = 0 or 1 control
       2H = 2 controls
       2S =  3 controls (1 ace and 1 king)
    2NT =  3 controls (3 kings)
       3C =  4 controls
     There are many variations in use, including one that adds point count to the first two bids - both 2D and 2H show 0 or 1 control but 2D limits point count to 0-3 while 2H promises 4+. 2S becomes the 2 control response and the other steps are modified accordingly.
     A few players define steps with point count only (0-3, 4-6, 7-9 etc), but this has little value because it makes no distinction between jacks and aces and can result in the weak hand being declarer.  The 2C opener seldom needs to know responder's point count; information on aces and kings is much more helpful.
     Remember to clearly mark whichever system you are using on your convention card. 

  The Sandwich 1NT
     Here is a nice bid, always in the balancing seat and always at the 1 level after your opponents have each bid a different suit, i.e., 1D-P-1H-1NT to inform your partner that you have 4/4 distribution or better in the two unbid suits with a HCP range of 8-13.  Overcall or double with a stronger hand.  This bid is alertable and one round forcing on partner if there is no intervening bid.  If you are a bridge player who likes to interfere and muddy the waters, consider the Sandwich.  It usually works well.

  Jacoby 2NT and Splinter Bids
     These are two popular conventions in use today which promise 4+ trump support and an opening hand after your partner has opened one of a major suit.  Both are game-forcing and slam invitational.  It is the opinion here that if you are going to use one of these conventions, use them both because they are in essence mirror images of one another.

                                                                              Jacoby 2NT

     This bid promises 4+ trumps and 13+(no high limit) HCPS and asks partner to bid a suit with a void or singleton.  There are several possible responses; know them all if you use this convention:
    Ex.  1S-P-2NT
           3C=club shortage
           3D=diamond shortage
           3H=heart shortage
           3S=no shortage, 17+ points
        3NT=no shortage, 14-16 points
           4C=second 5+card suit (QJxxx or better)
           4D=    "         "        "             "
           4H=    "          "       "             "
           4S=no shortage, minimum opener
Note:  Consider this convention OFF with an interfering bid.  In this case, 1H-1S-2NT would show 11-12 HCPs, balanced with a spade stopper.

                                                                             Splinter Bids

     These are triple jumps which promise 4+ trumps and a singleton or void in the suit bid and 13-15 distribution points, i.e., 1S-P-4D, 1H-P-4C, 1H-P-3S, etc.  Splinters offer an excellent opportunity to identify slam hands with considerably less than 33 points if the distribution fits. The singleton should not be an ace or king.
Ex.          Pd                                  You
    AK654 KQ6 862 A6        QT987 A542 5 KQJ

1S-P-4D is great news for partner who can proceed with Blackwood or cuebids and play an easy 6S with 28 points.
Note though that if the responder bid 4H over 1S, slam is very unlikely so a 4S game should be the final contract.

Note:  With partnership agreement, splinters can be ON or OFF after interference; suggest OFF.

Note:  A splinter bid can also be made by the opener with a strong hand (19+):
Ex                   Opener                              Responder
            AJ65 7 KQJ3 AQT4         KQ742 863 842 J4

1D-P-1S-P-4H tells partner with a minimum responding hand
to sign off in 4S.  With a better hand (add AH and KC) responder can proceed toward an easy 6S contract.

  Brozel and Landy
     Since virtually everyone uses Stayman and Jacoby Transfers as responses to a 1NT opener by their partner,  lots of meddling types have conjured up interfering bidding conventions designed to confuse responders and/or to compete for the contract.  Since there is a risk jumping into the fray when your RHO has indicated an opening, balanced hand, you need to have a decent, distributional type hand and the ability to identify a long-suited or two-suited hand to your partner in one fell swoop.  There are oodles of conventions in play today to accomplish this, i.e., Cappelletti, DONT, Astro, Meckwell, Hamilton, etc, but there are only two that positively identify both of your suits with one bid, Brozel and Landy.  At the risk of being tagged 'old-fashioned', these two are recommended here because they are the simplest to play and as good or better than any of the others.
     There are a number of opening NT ranges in vogue today, 15-17, 15-18. 16-18, 10-14, 12-14, etc.  Call the first three 'strong' and the last two 'weak.'  To combat this variety, suggest both be on your card, Brozel against 'strong' and Landy against 'weak.'  Both bids promise at least a 6-card long suit or 5/4+ if two-suited.  Here's a peek:

Brozel -  With a big hand on your right, have a distributional opener, particularly if vulnerable, with the HCPs in your long suit(s).  Ex.
           Opener                            You
             1NT                                  X  (6+cd long suit, strong) *              
                                                    2C (clubs and hearts)
                                                    2D (diamonds and hearts)
                                                    2H (hearts and spades)
                                                    2S (6+spades, weak)
                                                  2NT (5/5+ in both minors)
*Alertable as 'Long Suit'
Note: Your bid is forcing if LHO passes. Your double is a relay to 2C.  Otherwise, partner bids best suit fit.
Final Note:  if your double (X) is a spade suit, suggest you play it stronger than a simple 2S overcall.

Landy - With a weak NT opener on your right, you need to have a penalty double in the event that you have the better hand.  Ex.
            Opener                             You
               1NT                                 X  (Penalty)
                                                      2C (both majors, 5/4+)
                                                      2D (natural, 6+cd suit)
                                                      2H (natural, 6+cd suit)
                                                      2S (natural, 6+cd suit)
                                                     2NT (both minors, 5/5+)
Note:  Partner may pass all bids except 2C and 2NT.  On the latter two, best fit is selected.                                          
  Bergen and Reverse Bergen Raises

     In general, bridge players are a heady lot.  Many of them spend lots of time dreaming up conventions and special ploys to give them and their partner a competitive edge.  Some of these guys are excellent teachers, and some of them even play together often as partners.  Two of the best, in my book, are Marty Bergen and Larry Cohen.  2/1 is their favorite system and Marty is noted, or is it notorious, for DONT and Bergen Raises while Larry is generally credited with conceptualizing the Law of Total Tricks which, in a nutshell, states that the total number of tricks that a partnership can be expected to win, in a competitive auction, is equal to the combined trumps held in the two hands.  I personally think that this formula has more validity for 2 and/or 3 level contracts, but it can be debated.  In any case, if your side is bidding hearts and their side is bidding spades, the LOTT says that you can expect to take 8 tricks, but NOT 9, with 8 combined hearts,  If they have 8 spades, both sides can make 2 and both will go down at the 3 level.  In a pairs game, vulnerability often is the deciding factor as to whether to pass or bid at the 3 level.
     This is the roundabout way of getting to the subject of Bergen Raises.When partner opens 1 of a major suit and you as responder have 4 card trump support,  the LOTT says that you can take 9 tricks in your trump suit, so Marty says to bid the MAX immediately (without interference) by making an artificial jump raise to 3C (alertable), which promises 7-9 points and 4-card trump support; a jump raise to 3D shows a stronger hand, 10-12 points with the same 4 trumps.  Some folks prefer to reverse these two bids (Reverse Bergen) with 3C being the limit raise (10-12) and 3D being the constructive (7-9) bid.  If you play Bergen raises, then you can jump a 1S opener to 3S to show a weak hand with trump support.
     This can spice up your 2/1 game for sure but beware of playing too many conventions, particularly with a partner who might temporarily miss the meaning.  If your 3C or 3D bid is passed, you will go down a ton.  If you do, smile and consider it a good lesson and press on to the next hand.  Enjoy the game.