Dan Romm

The Jackass Convention

When your right-hand opponent opens the bidding and you hold a balanced 16-18 HCP your options are pass, double, or 1NT. Let’s explore these:

1. If you pass, your left hand opponent is likely to pass, bid 1NT or raise his partner to the 2-level. In the first case your partner may well have a 5 or 6 card suit with insufficient values to compete, in which case he will pass and you are likely to get a bad result. In the second case, if your right-hand opponent rebids his suit you and your partner are in the same bind. In the third case, what can you bid at your next turn? It is certainly risky to force your partner to take some action at this point; but you again are likely to get a bad result if partner has a 5 or 6 card suit with some values, in which case he will probably sell out even if it is your hand.

2. If your right-hand opponent has opened in a major, if you are balanced without AT LEAST three-card support for the other major you will disappoint partner. Even if you do satisfy this criterion, your double is ambiguous. You could have one of two kinds of hands; a strong hand or a mere opening bid with shortness in opener’s suit. It will be difficult to clarify which of these hands you have on the next round (especially if you have 3-card support for partner), and it will be even harder if partner has jumped or if the opponents compete.

3. So what’s the problem? You can bid 1NT, the perfect descriptive bid, and solve all your problems. The problem is that conventional wisdom requires that you have AT LEAST one stopper in right hand opponent’s suit, so if you don’t you are restricted to the first two flawed options. In my opinion, your best option is to bid 1NT even without a stopper. It lets partner get into the auction if he chooses to and if he passes and also has no stopper you should have plenty of losers to pitch while the opponents are running the first five tricks.

4. But, if you wish to avoid going against conventional wisdom (horrors!), I propose a highly effective convention that has no down side to it and can be arrived at by simple logic even if you don’t have an agreement (so, technically it is not really a convention per se), which I call the “Jackass Convention” in honor of a well-known Washington expert who called me a jackass when, as his partner, I overcalled 1NT without a stopper. [Note – since he insisted on playing a reopening 1NT as a full 1NT opener I thought that if I passed the odds of his reopening with any balanced hand, even with a full opening bid, were rather slim, so that I felt compelled to take SOME action with my 17 point hand. Ironically, he raised to 3NT, which was cold even though he didn’t have a stopper either, but only from HIS side so I went down. At the other table our opponents passed my hand, reopened 1NT with his hand, and played a part score]. The jackass convention plugs the hole created by a 1NT overcall with no stopper and comes into play when partner has game going values, also without a stopper, and wants to probe for the right spot.

The Jackass convention – when partner has overcalled 1NT, a 3-level cue bid of opener’s suit at any time asks him if he has a stopper. If he has a stopper he bids 3NT, otherwise he bids something else (what depends upon his partner’s prior action).

As usual a cue-bid of opener’s suit at the 2-level asks partner to bid a four-card major if he has one or else to bid his best suit. So, if the 1NT bidder’s partner has started with a 2-level cue bid and then cue-bid again at the 3-level, the 1NT bidder, if no stopper, merely retreats to another 4-card suit if he has one or else rebids his prior suit. If the 1NT bidder’s partner jumps immediately to a 3-level cue-bid, the 1NT bidder, with no stopper, bids his lowest ranking 4-card suit. If the NT bidder’s partner makes a forcing 2-level bid other than a cue-bid (usually a transfer) and follows with a cue-bid at the 3-level, the 1NT bidder, if no stopper, merely retreats to partner’s implied suit.

1 Comment

kenrexfordMarch 1st, 2010 at 6:56 pm

FWIW, I play Transfer Jackass, Puppet Jackass, Jackass Smolen, Jackass MSS, and even some stranger versions of Jackass.

Basically, I play systrems on, Jackass-ified.

If RHO opened 1H, for instance, and I overcall 1NT, and partner bids Stayman, partner can bid Smolen to show that he started with four or five spades, GF values, but a need for a real heart stopper.

If partner simply wants to check on a stopper, he can transfer to hearts, with various super-accepts designed to describe the sufficiency and depth of the heart stopper, if any.

After a minor opening, MSS comes into play.

Partner could even in theory ask for a hidden five-card major, while checking on stoppers, via Jackass Puppet.

With both minors, and 3-1 in the majors, partner could show that hand, with Jackass implications.

There are lots of other, deeper Jackass meanings.

Where it gets complicated is with Jackass in competitition. Jackass Lebensohl, and the like, obviously come up.

Heck, I even play Jackass treatments after a strong 2NT overcall!

Leave a comment

Your comment