Dan Romm

The ACBL Bureaucracy

I attended my first appeal process after the mixed pairs at the Reno national. I am completely unknown by any members of the five person committee chaired by Ms. Kent. Cam Doner, an internationally known player, had filed the appeal.

These are the facts: my partner, Helen Abbott, opened one diamond and I bid five hearts (exclusion Blackwood, which was written on both our cards). She failed to alert, looked confused, went into a one-minute huddle, and finally bid five spades. I bid six diamonds, which she corrected to 6NT holding the AQ10 of hearts. We eventually reached 7NT that luckily made on a finesse. At the hearing I (unfortunately) told the committee that when she bid five spades I breathed an internal sigh of relief that she hadn’t passed five hearts, which Cam claimed, for the first time, was visible. The director’s fact sheet only stated that he had heard me make a remark when it was my turn to bid. When asked what he heard, he answered “some sort of inaudible guttural noise,” an oxymoron. His partner, when asked the same question said, “I may have heard something coming from the next table.” When I was asked if I had said or done anything unusual, I replied that the only reason I even attended the hearing was to deny that I had, since I conceded that all the rest of the facts were correct. Next, Helen denied having seen or heard me do anything other than make a bid in a normal fashion.

The committee ruled that I had conveyed unauthorized information to my partner by my (internal) sigh and rolled the contract all the way back to six diamonds. The committee chairman’s (Ms. Kent) write-up claimed that my testimony seemed contradictory, but omitted any mention that Cam’s testimony contradicted his own statement on the fact sheet The affront to my integrity (and Helen’s) angered me to the point that I left the proceedings before finding out what I am most in the dark about. Can any of you enlighten me and alleviate my misgivings about the integrity of the process? Even Cam would not deny that Helen doesn’t have ESP.

Assuming I made an “inarticulate guttural noise” (which I didn’t) and/or visibly sighed before I bid six diamonds (which I didn’t):

a) What relevant information could these actions convey to my partner?

b) Would the information justify precluding her from bidding 6NT, which I think any competent bridge player would have done with her holding in hearts?

Follow-up: I was subsequently accused of violating an ACBL rule for not calmly accepting the insult to my integrity and asked to attend a disciplinary hearing in New Orleans (at my expense). Although I couldn’t attend the hearing due to the birth of my grandson, I was encouraged to submit a written statement, which I did although it took some time to compose. This is it (along with the above):

Facts re: Reno incident

1. As stated in Ms. Kent’s document, I was willing to accept the verdict (knowing by Ms. Kent’s demeanor and the tenor of the panel that I had no chance (see 2 below)) and leave, but she insisted that I stay. Hence, she has only herself to blame for my affront to the “dignity” of her and the committee for their affront to my (and my partner’s) integrity (see other document).

2. At the meeting, Mr. Doner was merely asked (politely, unlike me) what he thought he heard me say with no further remarks from the members after he answered. I, on the other hand, was grilled about what I was alleged to have done, quite hostilely by the member seated across from me at my extreme right (a different person than Ms. Kent).

3. I stated (and do believe) that Mr. Doner called the director after the first trick was played. He denied this was the case, claiming that the director was summoned immediately, at which time I stated that I wasn’t absolutely positive about this. Perhaps this was the contradictory testimony I am alleged to have given (although this would be an incorrect use of the word ‘contradictory’). The committee didn’t elaborate in their write-up. If I don’t attend the hearing please enlighten me as to what was contradictory in my testimony.

As supporting evidence for my position, the first words Mr. Doner uttered were “I’m not happy about this.” Why wouldn’t he be unless he knew we were making? I assure you a director wouldn’t have been summoned had we gone down! Nonetheless, you can ask the director when he was summoned and I will abide by his answer. If he agrees with Mr. Doner’s version that he was summoned immediately upon Helen’s hesitation then he must have been able to observe the manner in which I made my bid. Please ask him if he observed anything unusual in my behavior (I am surprised the committee didn’t bother to ask him that unless, of course, he was summoned after my turn to bid.)

4. I wasn’t going to appear at the meeting at all but Matt Smith advised me that it would be in my best interests to attend (sorry Matt, it wasn’t). I also asked the director who brought me the fact sheet if I could merely note that I disagreed with only one thing (that I did anything unusual) and leave it at that. He told me that I couldn’t and needed to appear if I wanted to dispute Mr. Doner’s assertion.

If (unlike Mr. Doner) I cared so little about the ruling, why would I be so upset if it weren’t for the insult to my integrity, the ludicrous ruling, and the intense grilling to which I was subject? I admit that my partner may have given me unauthorized information and I would have been quite satisfied with the committee’s decision based on that, whatever it might be, without even bothering to appear.

But I was stunned that, given all the true relevant facts at their disposal the committee elected to base the verdict on the one (completely false) allegation my partner and I denied, namely that I had done anything other than behave in a proper manner – quite a slap in the face if you ask me.

5. I noticed Mr. Doner vehemently arguing with someone outside the playing area during the tournament. I assume it was about the director’s ruling in our behalf. Incidentally, to this day I remain uninformed as to what that ruling was. I was only told that there would be an appeal at 11:15. When I arrived, there were several other pairs waiting to file an appeal standing outside of a room adjacent to the committee room in which Mr. Doner was wrapping up a statement to several people in the room (I had no opportunity to plead my case before the meeting). Please inform me as to the purpose of the room, its attendees, and why I wasn’t informed of its convocation prior to 11:15. Clearly it meant something since people were waiting to enter upon Mr. Doner’s exit.

6. Ms. Kent’s allegation in the charging document that I made a remark (of any sort) as to the manner in which my opponent walks is a figment of her imagination. If I don’t attend the hearing I would like an explanation of what the remark was. Please note that “an inaudible guttural noise” is not a remark, although I didn’t do that either.

7. Neither my partner nor I heard Ms. Kent mention sanctions to me at the meeting, although she contends that she did in the charging document.

8. When I denied that I had done anything unusual, Ms. Kent stated incorrectly that my signature on the fact sheet was an admission to the authenticity of the allegations (as stated on the fact sheet it merely confirmed that I had read the document and been notified of the appeal) as if to say that she had already made up her mind despite my denial. It seems to me that in the committee’s zeal to find in favor of Mr. Doner they disregarded his embellishments, clutched at straws and overlooked the obvious.

9. Should I not attend, I would also like an answer to the two questions I pose at the bottom of my other document.

10. I would like to know if any of the appeal board has spent any time with Mr. Doner other than at the bridge table and, if so, which ones.

11. Since Mr. Doner made the ONLY substantial recantation, I find it odd that his integrity went unchallenged whereas Helen’s and mine were called into question. The ethicality of baldly asserting on the fact sheet that I had made a remark and then changing his tune when confronted is worthy of reprimand (in a real court of law it would be tantamount to perjury). In fact he, not I, should be the one facing sanctions at a hearing.

12. The rule that a player graciously accepts any verdict goes against human nature, since it essentially asks one to smile sweetly and say “Thank you” no matter how badly he may have been shafted. If I deserve a reprimand it would be for using the words “crock of shit.” I apologize for this; “farce” would have sufficed.

13. Regardless of the outcome of this hearing, I urge the ACBL to take a serious look at the appeals process. There seems to be many procedural defects. To mention one, the entire proceeding was conducted as if I was a defendant and Mr. Doner was the plaintiff.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that being a bridge player qualifies one to pass judgment on integrity. I am far from alone in being quite dissatisfied (and suspicious) of the process and have heard at least eight cases wherein it appears to me that the result was biased in favor of the better-known bridge player. Could this be because they, a priori, pay considerably more fees?

Please answer the underlined questions.

Not only did the disciplinary committee refuse to answer my questions, they completely omitted any response to my statement and sentenced me to a one-month suspension beginning 8/10 with no explanation of any kind. So, they apparently feel that their time is more important than mine even though I wrote the statement at their request. This doesn’t surprise me. I am well aware of the truth of Lord Acton’s quote implying that small minds are easily corrupted by the slightest taste of power and, let’s face it, bridge players like Cam Doner whose only pleasure in life is winning master points to the exclusion of all other activities are, a priori, likely to be small minded.

All of the ACBL’s actions, including naming a time and place for the hearing no matter how inconvenient or expensive it might be for me, asking me to spend time pleading my case in a written document while they knew full well it would be for naught, not having the courtesy to reply to my document or at least offer some sort of explanation or basis for their ruling, chastising me for reacting angrily to a clear affront to my integrity, wanting me to stick around for the appeal committee’s explanation for their ludicrous ruling which I knew would only aggravate me more and then filing a grievance for an affront to their ‘dignity’ when it did, and rudely grilling me even though Mr. Doner, not me, had refused to accept the director’s ruling by filing an appeal (does this make ME a defendant?), smack of the utmost arrogance and clearly suggest an exaggerated sense of importance by a dictatorial group whose only credentials are that they play a good game of bridge.

The Best Of Both Worlds – Part II

Let’s explore the pros and cons of the method espoused in Part I.


1. With a GF hand you now need to postpone mentioning your suit for a round (but this is offset by the fact that now opener usually has an extra level to further describe HIS hand).

2. A limit raise may have only three trumps (but this is commonplace nowadays anyway) since you can no longer start with a forcing 1NT. But you can bid 2NT instead if you have three small trumps, no doubleton, and 10-11 HCP.

3. With a weak hand and a 6-card club suit you must bid 1NT and risk being passed whereas in ordinary 2/1 you can always sign off in 3 . But partner may bid over 1NT in which case you can still sign off and if he doesn’t then 1NT may be a better spot (especially at match points).

4. Without Flannery, hands with five hearts and four spades present a problem (there is no perfect system!), as they also do in 2/1. I don’t necessarily advocate Flannery since it gives up a lot when it replaces a weak 2 opener, so what should opener do over 2NT in the new method with more than a minimum? If he bids only 3 he may be passed and if he bids 4 his partner has to bid 4NT with 2-2 in the majors whereas the field can stop in 3NT. I advocate opening 1NT with 4522 distribution and more than a minimum, which will resolve this problem (as well as others) for those hands. Otherwise, in the infrequent cases where you have a singleton, partner bids 2NT, partner is 2-2 in the majors, and you can make only 3NT but not four with more than a minimum opposite 10-11 HCP, then chalk up a zero due to a system fix (as I said, there are no perfect systems).


1. You can describe weak one-suited hands (other than clubs) at the two-level rather than the three-level (where you may be too high) and partner will be well positioned to know how to proceed if his RHO decides to compete.

2. You can play 1 or 1NT.

3. Opener’s bids over two clubs are always real suits (not necessarily true after a 1NT response in ordinary 2/1).

4. Responder can set up a GF auction at the cheapest possible level, leaving maximum room for exploration. After a 2 response, proper control showing or cue-bidding techniques (once the trump suit is set) will further clarify how just how big responder’s and opener’s hands are without using Jacoby 2NT (which bypasses a level of bidding), especially if you use first or second round cue-bids in which case any singleton by opener can still be shown.

5. The immediate 2NT bid with most 10-11 point semi-balanced hands with at most a doubleton in opener’s major is superior to the treatment in 2/1 in which responder first bids 1NT and then follows with 2NT. In 2/1, responder’s ambiguous bid of 1NT could have anywhere from 6 to 12 HCP (as opposed to the precise 10 -11 HCP of a 2NT response in the new method) so when the auction goes, say, 1 – 1NT – 2 – 3 how does opener know whether or not to carry on to game? If opener passes 3 with 14 – 15 HCP and partner has 11 he is probably too low, whereas if he raises to game and opener has 8 or 9 he is probably too high. Other problems in 2/1 occur (1) when opener has six spades and four hearts (do you bid 2 or 2 over 1NT?) and, of course, (2) the hands with a five-card major and no second suit, in which case opener must bid a three-card minor and is stuck when partner raises holding four. Another big advantage of the immediate 2NT is that partner’s RHO will have to bid at the 3-level if he wants to compete, in which case partner is well positioned to know how to proceed (frequently a profitable double).

6. You can more easily reach a superior 4-3 spade fit when the field is playing in NT.

7. After a 2 response opener’s RHO can’t make a takeout double with a two-suited hand, since responder’s real suit is unknown (I recommend that a double shows clubs).

This system is merely a framework and leaves lots of room for further tweaking (for instance responder can now bid 3NT immediately or 2 followed by 3NT and you are free to decide what the difference is. My preference is that both show 15-17 HCP with the direct 3NT showing exactly 4333 distribution and the delayed 3NT showing a doubleton in opener’s major). It can also narrow the gap between 2/1 and strong club systems when it comes to slam bidding. In this method, rather than 1 showing a strong opener, 2 shows a strong response. If you like, you can try using the same methods over 2C in this system that you used over 1 when playing a strong club system. The only difference is that, rather than using 1 to show a strong opening you now use 2 to show a strong response, so responder becomes the captain instead of opener (after a 2 response, 2 by opener would be artificial, showing a minimum opening hand, etc.)

The Best of Both Worlds – Part I

2/1 has both advantages and disadvantages. But many of the disadvantages can be eliminated by a simple modification that carries little, if any, cost as follows:

A. After an opening bid of one of a major in 1st or 2nd seat:

1. 2C is artificial and is the only GF bid (other than a splinter). After a 2 response bidding proceeds naturally. Responder supports partner, bids NT, or bids a new suit with a good one.

2. 1 over 1 is natural, NF, and either less than 10 HCP or 10-11 HCP with only a four-card suit (otherwise use 5 below). With more than 11 HCP start with 2 and then bid spades.

3. 1NT and non-jump two-level bids (other than 2 ) are natural, NF, less than 10 HCP, and usually less than three cards in opener’s suit (may have three small if no doubleton, otherwise raise).

4. 2NT is 10-11 HCP (may have a five-card suit), usually with less than three cards in opener’s suit (may have three small if no doubleton) and fewer than four spades. [This replaces the sequence 1 – 1NT – 2 – 2NT in ordinary 2/1.]

5. A jump shift is natural (presumably, but not necessarily, a six-card or longer suit), invitational, and has fewer than three of opener’s major (with three or more make a limit raise). After this bid, opener either bids a new suit (natural and forcing for one round) or places the final contract.

[Note – 4 and 5 above cover all invitational hands (10 or 11 HCP) with fewer than three of opener’s major and fewer than four spades. With a five-card suit you have a choice and must consider other features of your hand to determine which is best.]

6. Simple raises and limit raises remain the same (but only need three card support for a limit raise).

B. Opener’s rebids after a 2 response:

1. A new suit, including clubs [the auction 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 should be RKC in clubs], or a rebid of his major are natural and unlimited. Since a new suit is always a real suit, the rebid of opener’s major may be a five-card suit.

2.  A jump shift is whatever you want it to be [but is not necessary to force to game, since you already are]. I suggest a highly two-suited hand.

3. 2NT is a minimum balanced hand.

4. 3NT is a balanced 18-19 HCP if your opening 1NT range is 15 –17 HCP.

C. Opener’s rebids after a non-forcing response:

1. A new suit or a rebid of opener’s major are natural and NF.

2. A jump shift is GF.

3. A raise of partner or a jump rebid of opener’s major are natural and invitational.

4. 2NT is 15-17 HCP if that is your opening 1NT range, but probably with a singleton in responder’s suit [or else opener could have opened 1NT].

5. 3NT is 18 or more HCP if your opening 1NT range is 15 -17 HCP (if more than 19 then opener probably has a singleton in responder’s suit [or else opener could have opened 2NT].

D. Opener’s rebids after a 2NT response:

1.With a balanced hand merely pass or bid 3NT.

2.With a two-suited minimum bid your second suit at the 3-level (NF). Responder should pass with three-card support, raise with four-card support, or return to opener’s first suit with equal length (2-2) unless the auction has gone 1 – 2NT – 3 in which case responder should bid 3NT with equal length (note that, since responder did not bid 1 , opener should only bid 3 over 2NT if he thinks he will do better in a 4-3 fit).

3.With a two-suited hand and more than a minimum you have enough for game opposite 10-11 HCP so bid your second suit at the four-level (game-forcing). Now, responder should return to opener’s first suit with equal length (2-2), or bid 4NT to play with fewer than four cards in opener’s second suit and good holdings in the other two suits (can also pass 4 with good three-card support and weakness in one of the other suits).

E. In competition (if responder has no 2 bid available, merely revert to your usual methods):

1. If a 2 bid is available it is GF [and the auction 1 – 1 – 2 is now exactly a limit raise (since responder would start with 2 with a bigger hand)]. After 1 – double, 2 is again the only GF, redouble replaces 2NT as a balanced 10-11 HCP with fewer than three cards in opener’s , and 2NT shows exactly a limit raise.

2. If a 2 bid is available, all non-jump bids of new suits other than clubs are natural with 6-9 HCP and all jump bids of new suits are natural with 10-11 HCP.

[That’s all there is to it. Nothing else in your system needs changing unless it conflicts with one of the above bids (note – Jacoby 2NT is no longer needed as a forcing raise since you can bid 2 and then support opener’s major). In Part II we will explore the pros and cons of these methods vis-à-vis ordinary 2/1.]

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.

Fixing Lebensohl After a Weak 2-Bid

After a double of a weak two-bid and a pass by LHO, in Lebensohl if responder has a weak hand he bids 2NT (transfer to clubs) and then bids his suit or passes with clubs. This has a big disadvantage in that doubler doesn’t know responder’s real suit. So, doubler is stuck if he has a hand too big to play 3 or if after he bids 3 the two-bidder’s partner now raises (since he won’t know whether to pass, double, or bid a suit at his next turn). These problems are easily solved with the following modification (which my partners have dubbed Rommensohl to distinguish it from modified Lebensohl, which is different). Note: it is assumed that doubler has at least three-card support for any unbid major. Responses to the double:

1. 2NT guarantees clubs.

2. 4 or 4 is natural with a five-card or longer suit and a holding in opener’s suit that calls for responder to play the hand (see note below).

3. With a weak hand bid your suit (if not clubs) at the cheapest level (with one exception, see example g below).

4. With an invitational or better hand bid the suit below your real suit at the 3-level.

a. To reject the invitation doubler merely accepts the transfer at the 3-level.

b. To accept the invitation with a stopper in opener’s suit doubler bids 4 of responder’s suit.

c. To accept the invitation without a stopper in opener’s suit doubler Q-bids opener’s suit after which responder with a four-card suit and a stopper can elect to bid 3NT (if possible, else he bids game in his suit).

5. 3 is an opening bid with no four-card major and no stopper in opener’s suit.

6. 3NT is to play.

Note: with better than an invitational hand, responder can choose which side plays the contract by using either 2 or 4 above. Responder should use 2 with, say, Qx (in case doubler has Ax) or Kx in opener’s suit. With, say, AQx in opener’s suit responder should use 2 with a 5-card suit and use 4 with a four-card suit if there is room to bid 3NT after doubler Q-bids opener’s suit. I should point out one advantage that Lebensohl has over Rommensohl: whenever responder has a mere invitational hand and doubler has no extras the hand will play from doubler’s side in Rommensohl (but not in Lebensohl), which will be disadvantageous if responder’s holding in opener’s suit is, say, Kx (and doubler doesn’t have the Ace or Q) or Qx (and doubler has the Ace). But these occurrences are rare and, I believe, insufficient to offset Rommensohl’s advantages.


a. 2 – X – P – 3 shows both majors.

b. 2 – X – P – 3 is invitational or better with hearts.

c. 2 – X – P – 3 is invitational or better with spades.

d. 2 – X – P – 3 is invitational or better with diamonds.

e. 2 – X – P – 3 is weak with diamonds.

f. 2 – X – P – 3 is invitational or better with spades.

g. 2 – X – P – 3 shows diamonds (could be weak or invitational or better).

h. 2 – X – P – 3 is invitational or better with hearts.

i. 2 – X – P – 3 is weak with hearts.

A Hand To Test Your Declaring Mettle

I recently encountered the following interesting hand playing IMP’s:

North (Dummy)

9 7
A K Q 10
A J 10
A Q 10 7
South (Declarer)

10 8 5 4 3
9 8 7 3 2
5 3

The auction went 2NT by North, 4H by South (a very aggressive bidder) showing 5-5 in the majors with no slam interest, all pass. West led the 2 of clubs, which you are told could be from either a three or four card suit and not necessarily from an honor. Assuming reasonable breaks (i.e. – trumps split 2-2, spades are no worse than 4-2, and West does not have a singleton club) and that your opponents are world-class players who ALWAYS defend perfectly, how should you play the hand? After you have completed your analysis you may wish to take a peek at the hint in the footnote at the bottom of the page and try again before reading the solution. Incidentally, it is worth noting that, had West led a diamond, ducking is the only play that guarantees a make (if you duck there is no way for the defense to prevent you from establishing and cashing a spade for your tenth trick, whereas if you play the Ace then diamond continuations will erase this possibility whenever spades are 4-2).

Solution. You always have nine tricks consisting of seven trump tricks (including two ruffs in dummy) and two Aces. Let’s examine your choices for a tenth.

Case 1: you can play the Queen at trick 1 planning to double finesse clubs (the Queen would be the best way to do this since you are more likely to make an overtrick). This will give you a 75% chance to make. Can you significantly increase your odds by also trying to establish a spade trick? Unfortunately no. If East wins the King of clubs he will return a diamond (an honor if he has one) and when you lead a spade East will win and return a low diamond, which you must ruff (if you pitch you will only make if East started with KQ of diamonds, a mere 25% chance). Then, when you lead your next spade, you will get tapped again in diamonds at which time your only chance is to take another club finesse. So your odds of making are exactly 75% if you play the club Queen at trick 1.

Case 2: you can play the Ace at trick 1, draw two rounds of trumps and lead a spade. West will win the spade and lead the four of clubs at which time you can (a) play the ten of clubs or (b) play the Queen of clubs.

If you choose (a) then you will make whenever West holds the Jack, a 50% chance. You will also make whenever East began with specifically KJx (about 3% of the time). The other 47% of the time East will win the Jack and return a LOW club. You can either pitch, which works if East has the King of clubs (about 50% of the time) or ruff, which works if West is left with the lone King of clubs or the spades split 3-3 (again about 50% under our assumption that they split at worst 4-2). So, whichever you do you will bring your overall chance of making to roughly 77%, slightly better than case 1. Before we move to (b), lest you be weary of all these intricate calculations, let me assure you that we are done with them and, in fact, they were all entirely unnecessary since you have overlooked the key fact of the hand, as we shall see.

If you choose (b) then you are virtually certain to make! How so? Well, clearly you will make if the Queen holds. And, if it doesn’t, then you will make by pitching on East’s low club return, since no world-class defender would ever make an opening lead from Jxx or Jxxx against a suit contract. This hand is an excellent illustration of my contention that, in bridge, psychology is at least as important as technique.

How incorrect plays may occasionally get top boards against experts…

… although I do not recommend them!
Dummy: ♠Jx     KJ9x     xx     ♣J9xxx
Declarer: ♠Axxx     A10x     AQ     ♣AK10x
Contract: 3NT. No adverse bidding.
Open lead J (standard leads).
RHO plays a low diamond and you win the queen. You play ♣AK and the queen drops so you cash your remaining three ♣s in dummy pitching a low ♠ from your hand on the fifth one. LHO pitches two low s and a low ; RHO pitches two low ♠s and a low .
Nothing unusual so far, but now the fun begins. You cash your A and continue with the 10 upon which LHO shows out, discarding a low ♠ and RHO ducks (a very strange play for who knows what reason)! You now cash your ♠A upon which LHO follows low and RHO plays the queen. You next cash your A, upon which both O’s follow low.  
The remaining cards are now
LHO: no s, no ♣s and three unknown cards in ♠s and s.
Dummy: ♠J, KJ.
RHO: Qx and an unknown ♠ or .
Declarer: two low ♠s and a low .
Now what? You ask yourself what is RHO’s unknown card? Answer – it must be the ♠K! It can’t be a low since RHO would not throw a ♠ from KQ to keep a low . It can’t be the K since RHO would have played it at trick one (or at least would have won the Q and then played it) to prevent me from winning my marked Q when opener might have held the ace (they were playing standard leads, so opener would lead the J holding AJT9 or AJT8 or AJTxx.
So, I naturally now end-played RHO with a ♠ to her king forcing her to lead into dummy’s KJ. Result – RHO’s remaining card WAS the K, so LHO won his ♠K and I took no more tricks for a bottom board! The failure to ever play the K combined with the weird duck of the Q was much too tough for me to figure out.     

One Level Transfers (Part II)

This is a continuation from One Level Transfers (Part I)

5.  Analysis of the deluxe one bids

The one-bids described above are the essence of the deluxe version of 2/1. It seems clear to me that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Let us look at this in detail.

Advantages (in descending order of importance):

a)  You get an extra bid that is not available to most the rest of the field – namely one spade.

b)  Bidding after a one-spade opener is easy and highly effective. The GF two-diamond bid allows you to leisurely probe for the right game or slam and all other two level bids are non-forcing.

c)  Opening one spade with minors prevents an opponent from making either a one level overcall in any suit or a takeout double where his partner can respond at the one-level. Although an opponent can still show spades at the one-level by treating a double as such (a break even), he is severely hampered if his suit is hearts or if he has both majors.

d)  Finding the right 4-3 major suit fit after an opening bid of one of a minor 2/1 is difficult without one-level transfers, but now a 1C opening guarantees at least one three card or longer major. Without one-level transfers if the auction goes 1D – P – 1H – P – 1NT and responder is 4-4 in the majors he will pass. But if opener’s distribution is 3244 you are probably better off playing two spades. Now, the auction would go either 1C – P – 1S – P – 1NT – P -2H – P – 2S or 1C – P – 1S – P – 2S.  

e)  Marginal responses are easier to handle. Bidding one heart over one diamond can be as little as zero and as much as a weak eight points. Opener now has a chance to show extra values at the one level and responder can take another bid (possibly also at the one level) when at the upper range of his initial response.

f)   You can handle two-suited hands more easily since partner will rarely pass your first bid with a weak hand, and if he does you will probably be in the right spot (see j below). For instance, without one-level transfers you run a real risk of partner passing when you hold a big hand unless you open two clubs, but if you open two clubs you are in danger of being pre-empted before you can show both suits. Using one-level transfers: 1D – P – 1H – P – 3C or 3D are jump shifts and are forcing for one round; 1D – P – 1H – P – 1S shows extra values with hearts and spades, but is not forcing; 1D – P – 1H – P – 2S shows a true reverse and is forcing for one round; 1D – P – 1H – P – 2C or 2D show two-suited hands with extra values and are not forcing.

g)   You can easily handle hands with four spades and five hearts without resorting to the Flannery 2D bid***, so that 2D can now be used for something else (i.e. – a weak two bid, Multi, or a Roman 2D bid). Using one level transfers you merely open 1D and bid spades at your next turn if you are strong enough. Specifically, over a 1H response either (a) pass with a minimum, (b) bid 1S with more than a minimum, or (c) bid 2S with a true reverse. Let’s explore the advantages in situation (b). If responder has 4 spades he merely passes or raises, but without one level transfers he will pass a one heart opener whenever he has a weak hand so that you will be in hearts even if he has fewer than three rather than in your 4-4 spade fit. If responder has a minimum response with fewer than three hearts and fewer than four spades he will bid one no trump over opener’s one spade rebid and will play it there, but without one level transfers his one no trump bid will be forcing so that the hand can no longer be played in the optimal one no trump contract.           

h)  You can show big (but not game forcing) one-suited major hands a level lower opposite a weak hand by partner. 1D – P – 1H – P – 2H would show 16-18 points with a good 6-card suit and 1D – P – 1H – P – 3H would show 19-20 points or 16-18 points with a 7-card suit.

i)   Whenever you hold a balanced hand worth 15-17 points including a five card major you will avoid trouble if partner has a very weak hand. In non-deluxe 2/1 you will usually open 1NT and, if doubled for penalty, may be in big trouble. But in deluxe 2/1 you pass whenever partner merely accepts the transfer since he shows at most 8 points. It is nearly impossible for opponents to double for penalties on this auction! Furthermore, since partner can pass a 1D (1H) opening with diamonds (hearts) and a weak hand (in which case you will be in the perfect spot), he is likely to have tolerance for your major if he accepts the transfer.

j)   You can play at the one level in a choice of two suits whenever you open a big hand and partner has a bust (see 1b above). If partner has length in your artificial suit and shortness in your implied suit, he can pass. If he has support for your implied suit he can accept the transfer at the one-level. You will certainly get a top board if you hold something like AKxxx, x, AJxx, AKx and partner has x, Q1098xx, xxx, xxx since you will play one heart making two whereas most of the rest of the field will be going down in either one spade or three hearts (if they play preemptive jump shifts).

k)  After a takeout double of one diamond or one heart you can distinguish between weak hands with support for the implied major and weak hands without support for the implied major while staying at the one level (see 1g and 1h above).

l)   Whenever you hold a balanced hand worth more than 17 points including a five card major you can both refine your ranges and also frequently save a level of bidding. Merely open 1D (1H) with a five card heart (spade) suit and continue as follows: rebid 1NT with 18 or 19 HCP; rebid 2NT with 22 or 23 HCP; rebid 3NT with 24 HCP or more. With 20 or 21 HCP open 2NT and use puppet Stayman. Note – the hand will play from the weak side whenever responder has 3 or more of opener’s major; the pros and cons of this are discussed below.

m)  Suppose you are playing in a two-session event or a KO team event and your halfway results are poor, to say the least, so that you now need a very good session to win; a mere 60% game will not suffice. Is there anything you can do to improve your chances for a big game? There are various tactics you can adopt: you can take anti-percentage actions, but you will need to be extremely lucky to succeed with this approach; or you can switch to an anti-field (but not anti-percentage) system, such as a 10-12 NT, but you may not be prepared to play it. One-level transfers don’t require any major alterations to 2/1 and they are strongly anti-field since they transfer play to partner whenever you open one diamond (instead of one heart) or one heart (instead of one spade) so that the opening lead comes from a different side than at the other tables (which is only slightly anti-percentage; see below). Needless to say, once one-level transfers catch on (as I think they will) then they will no longer be anti-field so that this advantage will disappear.


Features that are both advantageous and disadvantageous:

a)   The hand will often play in a major suit from the responder’s side instead of from the opener’s side. When this happens it will convey an advantage to the opponent on opening lead whenever responder’s hand is weaker than opener’s and an advantage to you whenever responder’s hand is stronger than opener’s. In the former case you will probably be playing a part score and in the latter you will probably be in game or slam, so that your disadvantage is increased at match points and your advantage is increased at IMP’s.

b)  Whenever you open one club, neither the opponents nor your partner know any details about your minor suit holdings; they only know that you don’t have a five-card major. This has the same advantages and disadvantages as an artificial one-club system or any system where a one-club or one diamond opening could be short.



a)   Opponents gain an extra bid at the one-level since they can either double your artificial suit or cue bid your real suit. One (i.e. – the cue bid) can be used as a normal takeout double of your real suit (or suits if one spade shows minors, in which case two clubs and two diamonds are both available to show majors) and the other (i.e. – the double) can be used for another purpose, such as showing the (artificial) bid suit or as a stronger takeout. If double is used to show the bid suit (the recommended defense) then an opponent can, in effect, overcall in the bid suit at the one-level by doubling, which incurs no risk of penalty, rather than at the two-level which incurs a significant risk. However, the lead directing value of a double is neutralized when opener’s partner passes with support so that opener will again be declarer.


Recommended defenses are straightforward:

a)   Over one diamond or one heart – double to show the bid suit; bid the implied suit for takeout.

b)   Over one club – use whatever defense you normally play over “one club could be short.”

c)   Over one spade – double to show spades; use two clubs and two diamonds as Q-bids for whatever purpose you prefer.



*** Flannery was introduced to eliminate the necessity of bidding 2C over a forcing 1NT response to 1H when opener holds 4522 distribution.

One Level Transfers (Part I)

One level transfers as I propose them is not a new system, it is merely an effective adjunct to the 2/1 system currently in vogue and makes it more competitive with strong club systems. Although it has undoubtedly been thought of before, I offer a thorough analysis on the pros and cons in which it comes out a clear winner and a bona fide improvement (not a gimmick). Although they are currently not approved by the rules committee I hold out hope that they will be in the near future, since the committee already allows artificial one club openers and has recently approved artificial one spade openers. Including artificial one heart and one diamond openers to allow one-level transfers seems like the obvious next step since they are easy to play and are offered as a sincere attempt to raise the bar on bridge bidding to a higher level.

One level transfers        


1.  One diamond and one heart

An opening bid of one diamond now means exactly what an opening bid of one heart did and an opening bid of one heart now means exactly what an opening bid of one spade did in non-deluxe 2/1. They show opening bids with at least five of the major they transfer to. That’s all there is to it. So what’s the big deal? For one thing you gain an extra bid! One spade is now freed up for other purposes. But, as we shall see, there are several other far-reaching advantages. Moreover, one-level transfers are trivial to incorporate into 2/1. After a one diamond or a one heart bid responder proceeds exactly as he would if opener had bid one heart or one spade respectively! The only difference is that if you were going to pass a heart opener you now bid one heart over one diamond (unless, of course you would prefer to play one diamond!) and likewise you would bid one spade over one heart (or pass if you prefer hearts).

Here are a few example auctions using one-level transfers*:

a) 1D – P – 2H shows a simple raise just as 1H – P – 2H would without one-level transfers.   

b)   1D – P – 1H shows a marginal response to a one heart opener. Responder should have either (a) fewer than 6 HCP with three or more hearts or (b) fewer than 8 HCP with less than three hearts. If opener bids again he shows extra values.

c)  1D, 1H (or 1S) – P – P shows a hand that is not worth a normal response and contains length in the bid suit and shortness in partner’s real suit.

d)  1D – 1S – dbl is a negative dbl showing the minors.

e)   1D – 2C – dbl is a negative dbl showing 4 spades.

f)  1D – dbl – P shows a weak hand (less than 6 HCP) with fewer than three hearts.

g)  1D – dbl – 1H shows a weak hand (less than 6 HCP) with more than two hearts.

h)   1D – dbl – 2H is a normal heart raise (6-9 points).

i)   1D – P – 3H is a limit raise in hearts (10-12 point).

j)  1D – P – 2NT is Jacoby 2NT (if you play it).

k)   1D – P – 4D is a splinter (an opening bid with four or more hearts and shortness in diamonds).

l) The meaning of 1D – 1H – dbl will depend on what methods your opponents are playing. If they play the one heart cue bid as a takeout dbl, then dbl will have the same meaning as a redouble after a takeout double would have playing your usual methods.

Etcetera. Just respond as you would in 2/1 had opener bid his real suit instead of the suit below it.


2.  One club

It is already commonplace to play “one club could be short” so that is what we will do. An opening bid of one club guarantees at least one three-card or longer major. That’s all there is to it. All one level openings that contain no three-card or longer major are opened one spade or one no trump. The bulk of your one-club openers will be balanced hands, 4432 or 4333 distributions. Many of these will play best in a 4-3 major suit fit and this is the main reason for requiring a three-card major; it will be easy to find your 4-3 fit if partner knows you have at least one three-card major:

a)  1C – P – 1M (or 1NT) – P – 2D (2C) shows 12-14 points with four or five diamonds (clubs), at most three M, and a hand unsuitable to play a 4-3 fit in partner’s M with three of them (otherwise, bid 2M). Note – you no longer reverse to show a strong hand with clubs and diamonds; you will open those hands one spade.

b)  1C – P – 1M (or 1NT) – P – 3C (3D) is 15-17 points with a good six card club (diamond) suit.

c)   1C – P – 1M – P – 1NT – P – 2D (2C) is one-way new minor forcing (NMF) with diamonds (clubs). Here NMF is not even invitational, it is merely an attempt to find the right part score. If opener’s partner wishes to invite he can always bid again.

d)  1C – P – 1D shows diamonds. If followed by a rebid of diamonds it is weak, if followed by the bid of any other suit it is GF.

e)  1C – P – 1S – P – 1NT – P – 2H is not forcing and shows at least four hearts, but does not guarantee five spades. Responder may be probing for the known 4-3 major suit fit and should start with spades if 4-4 in the majors. To force, use NMF (see c above).

f)   1C – P – 1NT is 8-10+ points with no four card major.

g)  1C – P – 2D (2C) is an inverted minor in diamonds (clubs), i.e. – no four card or longer major, at least five diamonds (clubs) and 10 or more points.

h)  1C – P – 2H (2S) is a jump shift with hearts (spades). These can be either weak or strong (your choice, although I prefer strong at IMP’s).

i)   1C – P – 2NT shows 12-14 points with no four-card or longer major.

j)   1C – P – 3C, D, H, or S is preemptive.

k)  1C – P – 3NT shows 15-17 points with no four-card or longer major.


3. One spade

Open one spade if and only if you hold no three-card or longer major** – that is the sole criterion! As we have seen, all one-level openings that contain a three card or longer major are opened one club, one diamond, one heart, or 1NT. Continuations after one spade are:

a)  1NT shows 6-9 points with holdings in the majors.

b)  2C is a weak hand (0-8 points) asking opener to pass or correct to diamonds.

         1)    1S – P – 2C (or 1NT) – P – 2H shows 18-21 points with at least six clubs.

         2)    1S – P – 2C (or 1NT) – P – 2S shows 18-21 points with at least six diamonds.

         3)    1S – P – 2C (or 1NT) – P – 2NT shows 18-21 points with no six-card minor.

         4)    1S – P – 2C (or 1NT) – P – 3C (3D) shows 15 – 17 points with at least six clubs (diamonds).   

c)  2D is artificial and GF. Bidding proceeds naturally.

d)  2H is a six-card or longer heart suit with 0-9 points.

e)  2S is a six-card or longer spade suit with 6-9 points (pass with less than 6 points). 

f)  2NT shows 10-12 points with holdings in the majors.

g)  3C (3D) shows 10-12 points with at least five clubs (diamonds). With more, start with 2D.

h)  3H (3S) is a six-card or longer heart (spade) suit with 10-12 points. With 13-15, start with 2D and then bid NT.

i)   3NT shows 16-18 points with holdings in the majors. With more, start with 2D and then jump in NT.


4.  One no trump

With a balanced hand worth 15-17 points including a 5 card major, I recommend a 1NT opener whether or not you play one-level transfers since if you open with a suit and partner bids 1NT (forcing) you can no longer play 1NT and you will also have trouble describing the strength of your hand.


* I will only discuss auctions beginning with one diamond since those beginning with one heart are identical if you substitute  “H” for “D” and “S” for “H”.




** Excluding, of course, two club and two no trump openers and preempts.

When does ruling the game become ruining the game?

Answer – when the power of the rulers becomes self-serving and abusive. Lord Acton’s famous quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” certainly applies to the handful of power brokers who sit on the bridge rules committee and presume to speak on behalf of the entire bridge community and also to the editors of the few bridge circulars who take it upon themselves to decide what is fit to print. This is censorship at its worst and essentially disallows access to some the latest ideas and innovations so that bridge players can decide for themselves whether or not they want to play them. The committee carves out a few conventions out of thousands to disallow. They permit bids that can have 64 different meanings (i.e. – multi-two diamonds), artificial one spade bids, one club bids with a void, etc, yet currently refuse to allow artificial one diamond and one heart bids which would provide bona fide improvements to the 2/1 system currently in vogue, even in the highest level tournaments. Note – I have written an article that elaborates on this, but since the rules committee disallows it no editor will publish it!

What a pity. Imagine a bridge rules committee in a bygone era deciding to disallow negative doubles, weak no trump, weak 2-bids, etc. Would not the game suffer as a result? Imagine the World Chess Federation disallowing the Queen’s Gambit opening? Would this not prevent the game from achieving its highest level?

The only rationale I have ever heard for disallowing any bid is that it would discourage beginners by making the game too complex. Fair enough, but then why have thousands of complicated conventions been approved? Either select 100 or so conventions and bar the rest or allow all. This in-between approach is suspect, and self-serving. I say this because in a regional KO event my team encountered a team captained by a member of the rules committee. He proudly displayed a convention card replete with artificial conventions (a friend had forewarned me that this team never has what they bid). Among them was one-club could be short. As a small measure of self-defense we decided to play CRASH over a one-club opening whereupon the captain promptly called the director who informed us that the rules committee disallowed this! The director commiserated with us but told us that the rules were clear and it was out of his hands. Help! Incidentally, I submitted this article to the Bulletin and, as expected, it was not only rejected but the editor took umbrage at my suggestions of censorship!  Good thing that Masterpointpress’s blogging sire exists as an open forum for discussion or else some good ideas might never come to the attention of the bridge public.