SYSTEM OVERVIEW The California Club is a personal bidding system developed over 40 years of playing experience. It combines some elements of Schenken, Precision, and other well-known systems as well as many of my own inventions and adaptations. As Jack Benny once said the first time he was introduced as the master of ceremonies on a radio variety show, “There will now be a slight pause for any of you who wish to say “Who cares?”
Like all strong club systems, the California Club uses a one club opening for most strong hands, thus limiting bids of one diamond, one heart, one spade, and two clubs.The 1C bid shows 17+HCP, not 16. Positive responses show a good 8/9+ HCP and are game-forcing.The 1D bid is usually, but not always, 11-16 HCP and may be short in diamonds. The 1H, 1S, and 2C bids show 11-16 HCP and at least 5-card suits. The 2D, 2H, and 2S bids are non-standard (covering both weak two bids and big 4441 hands) in the advanced version of the system, but more standard alternatives are also outlined for less adventurous bidders.
One area where the California Club differs markedly from Precision and other systems is in many of the responses to, and rebids after, the one club opening bid. Many of the responses follow Jeff Rubens’ “useful space” principle; they have more than one meaning or cover a whole group of hands of a certain type. Whenever possible, transfers or suit switches are used so that a high percentage of no trump and major suit contracts are played by the one club opener.
Standard 2NT openings are handled by the 1C opening bid and described at a level lower than that of standard systems. This allows minor suit exploration and signoffs at the two and three level. Rebids of 1H and 1S after a 1C opening are forcing for one round. Therefore jump rebids of 2H, 2S, and 2NT are available for special purposes. This in turn changes the meaning of jump rebids at the three level.
These changes are not made frivolously. They allow descriptions of hands in ways not possible in most systems without sacrificing the ability to bid hands covered adequately by standard bidding.
Each of these topics will be described in detail in subsequent chapters, but first let’s look at a simple outline of the system’s constructive bidding sequences:
12-13 HCP-open 1D, rebid 1NT
14-16 HCP-open 1NT
17-19 HCP-open 1C, rebid 1NT
20-21 HCP- open 1C, rebid 2H***
22-24 HCP- open 2NT
25-27 HCP- open 1C or 3NT(check text)
11-16 HCP- open 1D, 1H, 1S, or 2C(natural)
17-21 HCP- open 1C, rebid 1H, 1S, 2C, or 2D
Special case- open 1D, then reverse or jump shift (17-20 HCP)
Game-forcing- open 1C, rebid 1H,1S(forcing 1 round),
2S(clubs), or 2NT(diamonds)
11-15 HCP- open 1D (even with short diamonds)
16+ HCP- open 2D or 2H (see text)
MAJOR SUIT WEAK TWO_BIDS
5-10 HCP, 6 hearts- bid 2D (see text)
5-10 HCP, 6 spades-bid 2H (see text)
Weak suits- open 3C, 3D, 3H, 3S
Good or solid suits- open 2S (see text)
TABLE OF CONTENTS LIMITED OPENING BIDS(11-16 HCP)
1. THE ALL-PURPOSE 1 DIAMOND OPENING BID 7-29
a. Balanced openings 8-9
b. Two-way New Minor Forcing 9-10
c. Other 1D Openings 11-15
d.“The 1D Opening With Muscles” 15-18
e. 1D-1NT 19
f. 1D-2C 20-23
g. 1D-2D (forcing) and 1D-3D (weak) 24-25
h. Alternate two-level responses to 1D 25-29
2. MAJOR SUIT OPENINGS AND RESPONSES 30-53
a. Sartor Two-Way 2/1 responses 30-36
b. Constructive Raises 37-39
c. Sartor Raises 39-43
d. Three-Way Jump Shifts 43-45
e. Splinter Bids 45-47
f. Passed Hand Responses 48
g.Alternativs(More Standard Scheme) 48-53
3. THE 1 NO TRUMP OPENING (14-16 HCP) 54-86
a.”Rube Goldberg Stayman” 55-59
b. Transfers Into The Majors 60-64
c. Sartor Slam Try 64-66
d. Transfers Into The Minors 67-77
e. 1NT-3D (5/5 In The Majors ) 78-79
f. 1NT-3H,3S (5/5 In The Minors) 80
g. Summary 81-84
h. Interference Over 1NT 85-86
4. THE 2 CLUB OPENING 87-93
a. Two-way 2H, 2S Rebids 89-90
b. Interference Over 2C 91-93
5. THE 1 CLUB OPENING (17+ HCP) 94-95, 96-157 BIG BALANCED HANDS 94-107
6. 1C-1D-1NT (17-19) 96-99
7. 1C-1D-2H REBID (20-21 HCP, BALANCED,) 100-106
a.Summary of Responses 101-102
b.The 2S, 2NT Relays 102-103
c. 3-level responses 103-104
d.”Impossible Negatives” 105-106
8. THE 2NT OPENING (22-24 HCP) 106 9. THE 3NT OPENING/VARIATIONS (25-27 HCP) 106 BIG SUIT–ORIENTED HANDS (Majors) 107-117
a. Raises 107
b. “Impossible Negative” 108
c. New suits by responder 108
d. “Warning Bid” 108-112
e. Standard Strong 2-bids in H, S 117 10. 1C-1D-1H (17+ HCP, 5+ HEARTS) 107-117 11. 1C-1D-1S (17+ HCP, 5+ SPADES) 114-117 BIG SUIT-ORIENTED HANDS(MINORS) 118-119 12. 1C-1D-2C (17+ HCP, 5+ CLUBS) 118-119 13. 1C-1D-2D (17+ HCP, 5+ DIAMONDS) 118-119 STANDARD MINOR SUIT STRONG TWO-BIDS 120-12314. 1C-1D-2S (22+ HCP, 5+ CLUBS) 120-123
d. defense vs. weak 2 bids 172 Appendix A- Alternative 1C-1NT, 2NT 173
Appendix B- 1D-2C Scheme 174
Appendix C- Alternative 2D Opening 175
THE ALL-PURPOSE ONE DIAMOND BID
I am going to start with the lowliest bid in a strong club, five-card major system: one diamond. The one diamond bid must feel like the old comedian Rodney Dangerfield- it gets no respect. I am guilty of this attitude. In friendly games, when I explain the alert for a one diamond opening, I sometimes say, “He’s got thirteen cards and the delusion he’s looking at an opening bid.” It’s not quite as bad as all that. The California Club has some standards even for a one diamond bid. With a balanced hand it will contain 12-13 HCP. Balanced 11 point hands should be passed. In essence it is a weak notrump bid. Of course, the one diamond opening is also used for a lot of suit-oriented hands that don’t fit any other opening. A better definition might be “usually a limited hand (11-16 HCP), lacking a 5-card major, which may occasionally be very short in diamonds and may on rare occasions have as many as 20 HCP”. We should probably concede that when the bidding begins with one diamond, responder really has only a vague notion of what it may mean.
Although its vagueness may cause an occasional problem, the one diamond bid also has its advantages. It allows you to open a weak notrump type hand without missing a possible 4-4 major suit fit when responder is too weak to try Stayman. It gives an immediate idea of the total partnership assets(though occasionally that idea may have to be adjusted if opener’s rebid reveals the sole exceptional strong holding, which we’ll discuss later). Of course, it sometimes allows an opponent to overcall in a major when he wouldn’t have risked a two-level overcall, but even that can sometimes work to our benefit.
The one diamond opening not only serves as a form of weak notrump, it also starts many sequences describing limited hands with no 5-card major and unbalanced distribution. This makes it the most common opening bid in the system.
Here are some of the many varied hand-types that are opened one diamond:
A balanced hand with 12/13 HCP (with or without a 4-card major)
A hand with 11-16 HCP and 6+ diamonds
A hand with 11-16 HCP, 5-4 or 4-5 distribution in the minors, and a major suit singleton (2-2-5-4 hands with 12-13 HCP open 1D; 2-2-4-5 and 2-2-5-4 hands with 14-16 HCP have the option of opening 1NT)
A hand with 5-5+ distribution in the minors
Any hand with 11-15 HCP and 4-4-4-1 distribution, even if the singleton is in diamonds
A hand with 4-3 distribution in the majors and a BAD 5-card club suit (avoiding a 2C opening with a bad suit)
7.ALERT!!!!! A hand with 5+ diamonds, a 4-card major , and 17-20
HCP (a natural reverse or jump shift)- Not opening 1C on this hand
is unique among strong club systems. It probably comes up less than
5% of the time, so responder always assumes he is facing a limited
opening bid until the auction proves otherwise).
BALANCED 1D OPENINGS
Here are some typical balanced one diamond openings:
A. ♠Axx B. ♠QJxx C. ♠Kxxx D. ♠Kx
♥Kxxx ♥xx ♥QJxx ♥Q10x
♦KJx ♦KQx ♦xx ♦Axxx
♣Qxx ♣AJ10x ♣AQx ♣KJxx
Notice that the diamond suit may be shorter than three cards long. When we discuss suit-oriented hands, we will see occasional one diamond openers that contain a singleton diamond.
With A, if responder bids 1H we have a simple 2H raise. If he bids 1S we rebid 1NT. Over 2C or an inverted 2D (10+ HCP,4/5+ diamonds), we would bid 2NT, showing a typical 12-13 HCP balanced hand.
With B, we rebid 1S over 1H, raise 1S to 2S, and raise 2C to 3C. After an inverted 2D, we would raise to 3D showing a minimum with a diamond fit. With an extra queen, we would rebid 2S after 2D, showing a better hand, a spade stopper, but no heart stopper for no trump.
With C, we would raise either major to two, raise 2C to3C, and bid 2NT after the inverted 2D.
With D,we would rebid 1NT over either major, pass 1NT, and bid 2NT over 2C. Over a forcing 2D, we could bid 2NT or 3D.
With all four hands, we would pass a 1NT (6-10 HCP) response to our 1D opening. A jump response to 2NT would show 11-12 HCP in a balanced hand with no 4-card major. Raises to 3NT will depend on your aggressiveness, your opponents, and your sanity. A 3NT response shows anywhere from 13-16+ HCP with scattered stoppers and both majors stopped.
CONTINUATIONS AFTER 1D OPENING, 1NT REBID
After a 1D-1of a major-1NT auction, two different response systems can be used. The first is simply a standard set-up using 2C as New Minor Forcing. After 2C, opener shows A) a bypassed 4+-card heart suit B) three card support for responder’s presumed 5-card suit C) a notrump rebid with no useful holding in either major. Since this is pretty standard these days, I won’t spend time discussing it. The second possible scheme is a modified version of Two-way New Minor Forcing , which we will treat as the default method for our system.
TWO-WAY NEW MINOR FORCING
After 1D- 1 of a major- 1NT, both 2C and 2D are artificial. 2C is forcing for 1 round. It begins game invitational sequences. It is NOT a relay to 2D. Opener bids 2H or 2S as described in simple NMF, but bids 2D as an artificial denial of 3-card support for opener’s suit or a biddable second major. Responder can then invite in a 6-card major, a 5-card second suit, or 2NT. 2D is game-forcing, again seeking useful information. Opener’s negative answers are 2NT or 3 of a 5-card minor. Simple rebids in the same suit or in the second major, without going through 2C or 2D, are strictly non-forcing.
Up to this point, these sequences are quite mundane, but now we come to my own adaptation of the convention. Direct rebids of 2NT, 3C, or 3D byresponder are TRANSFERS. 2NT is no longer needed as a natural invitation. To invite in NT, one starts with 2C, invitational NMF. So 2NT is now a transfer to clubs, showing 5 of opener’s major and 5 clubs, either weak or very strong. Opener takes a choice of suits with the assumption that the bidding will end with the chosen partscore. However, if responder has the strong (game-forcing and possibly slam-invitational) hand, he shows it by taking another bid. That may be a cue bid or a simple raise. The sequence 1D-1Major-1NT-3C shows 5-5+ with diamonds as the second suit. 1D-1S-1NT-3D shows at least 5 in each major. The immediate 5-5 bids could also be used to show differences in concentration of values or distribution from sequences using the 2D force before bidding a second suit. That should be a matter of partnership discussion.
2C and 2D can also begin invitational and game-forcing rebids of 6+ card
Several other invitational hands can be bid by means of the 2C NMF rebid over 1NT. For instance, 1D – 1H – 1NT – 2C – 2D – 3C would show an invitational hand with five hearts and five clubs. 1D – 1H – 1NT -2C-
2 of anything – 3H can show an invitational hand with 6+ hearts. A simple jump rebid can show the same type hand – an invitation with a 6+ card suit - so I suggest that the NMF sequence show a poor to fair suit and the direct jump show a good suit. Partnerships will have to decide what constitutes a good suit.
The game-forcing 2D bid over opener’s 1NT rebid can also be used in two possible ways. It could be used to show 5-5 hands with values that are not concentrated in the long suits. Examples might be:
♠ Kxxxx ♠ Q10xxx
♥AQ ♥ K
♦K10xxx ♦ AK
♣ K ♣ AJxxx
Knowing that the main suits may not be solid might help the partnership avoid a bad slam or steer the contract into notrump.
With five of a major and four of a minor responder could bid or raise notrump rather than immediately bidding a new suit at the three level. Alternatively, a partnership might decide that bidding a second suit at the three level only guarantees a four card suit, foregoing any differentiation between concentrated and non-concentrated 5-5 hands but probably showing interest in slam. A final alternative, of course, is to play only the 2C bid as simple New Minor Forcing with two diamonds natural. In my opinion, however, the double-barreled approach has many advantages and should be used.
1D – 1 of a MAJOR – 1NT REBID WITH PROBLEM HANDS
There are two types of hands that present an awkward rebid problem after an opening bid of 1D and a response of 1H or 1S. What do you do with a 1444, 1345, or 3145 hand when partner bids one of your singleton? Some players have a religious conviction that a 1NT rebid here with a singleton constitutes a violation of at least three of the Ten Commandments. Another drawback is that if we do it with 14 or 15 HCP we are understating our strength, since partner will generally expect a balanced 12-13 point hand. But countering these objections is the fact that 1NT may be our best spot, especially at matchpoints. Furthermore, a rebid of 2C is no panacea. Even if we land in a good spot, we may get a bad score when 1NT makes 2 or 3. With 4-5 in the minors we also have to hope partner doesn’t correct to 2D with 2-2 or 3-3 distribution in the minors.
My recommendation is to bid 1NT as long as the 3-card major is fairly strong. With absolutely no strength in either major, 2C is probably best. I wouldn’t back up that opinion with a bet of more than a dime or two, however. As to the strength issue, an aggressive partner should give you a raise to 2NT (via 2C) with a decent 11- 12 point hand on the statistically valid theory that two approximately equal hands will often make 3NT even when the total point count of the two hands is only 23 or 24 HCP, so 2NT should be relatively safe. Opener can then bid game with his offshape 14 or 15 point hand.
OTHER 1D OPENERS
As noted in the list on pages 4 -5, the 1D opening covers several types of hands which aren’t followed up by a 1NT rebid. Using that list as a reference point, let’s discuss them.
#2 A hand with 11-16 HCP and 6+ diamonds
This is fairly obvious. The usual rebid will be 2D. With a maximum (15-16 HCP) and a GOOD suit, you can jump to 3D.
#3 A hand with 11-16 HCP, 4-5 or 5-4 in diamonds and clubs, and 3-1 in the majors
As we discussed earlier, when responder bids the singleton, opener will have to choose between a 1NT and a 2C rebid. Should he decide on a 2C rebid, showing 9+ cards in the minors, responder now has a problem if he has a weak hand. Should he pass 2C or correct to 2D? Does opener have longer diamonds or clubs? Maybe Carnac The Magnificent would always be able to discern opener’s exact distribution, but most of us will guess wrong a fair percentage of the time. It might be a good idea to decide on one rule- “always pass 2C” or always correct to 2D” and stick to it. At least you won’t go nuts second-guessing yourself. Another possible solution is for opener to rebid 2D when he has a good diamond suit and indifferent clubs. That would make it a better bet to pass 2C when he chooses that bid.
When responder has a better hand, the options are clearer. He can raise 2C to 3C or jump to 3D with invitational values. He can invite game with 2NT or just bid 3NT. He can force to game and solicit more information by using 4th suit forcing.With a super fit in one minor, he may jump to 4 or 5 of that suit or make a splinter bid to show shortness and slam interest.
When responder bids opener’s 3-card major, a raise is almost always the correct action. When the auction goes 1D-1H-2H or 1D-1S-2S, responder should never assume 4-card support for his suit. With only a 4-card suit, game-going values, and strength in the side suits, he may just jump to 3NT. Opener can correct to four of the major if there is a 4-4 fit.
When responder wants to investigate more slowly, we have a treatment that covers the situation. AFTER 1D-1M-2M, RESPONDER MAKES THE CHEAPEST BID TO SHOW A 5-CARD SUIT. ALL OTHER BIDS SHOW HE ONLY HAD A FOUR-CARD SUIT. Bids of new suits are natural, but may just show concentrations of strength.When 2S is the conventional bid, 2NT stands for spades. Here are some example hands and auctions involving 5-4-3-1 1D openers:
A. ♠ x ♠ KQxx 1D 1S Do we bid 1NT or 2C? It looks
♥ AQx ♥ xxx 1NT P like an easy 110 in clubs.1NT
♦ K10xxx ♦ Qx may score 120 for a good
♣ QJxx ♣ Kxxx matchpoint score. 2C is safer
B. ♠ AJx ♠ KQxx 1D 1S The 3-card raise gets us to a
Here are some hands involving our “cheapest suit” rebid to show a 5-card suit after 1D - 1M – 2M auctions.
G. ♠ Kxx ♠ QJxxx 1D 1S
♥ x ♥ Jxx 2S 2NT* (5 spades)
♦ KQxxx ♦Ax 4S(or 3C as
♣ AJ10x ♣ Kxx game try)
H. ♠ x ♠Axx 1D 1H
♥ QJx ♥ K10xxx 2H 2S( 5 hearts)
♦ AQJx ♦ xx 3C 4H
♣ Kxxxx ♣ AJx
I. ♠ AQx ♠ Kxxx 1D 1S
♥ xx ♥ AJ9 2S 3NT(only 4 spades)
♦ Kxxx ♦ QJ P
♣ KJxx ♣ Q10xx
J. ♠ x ♠ xxx 1D 1H
♥ Axx ♥ KQJx 2H 3D(only 4 hearts)
♦ KQ10xx ♦Jxxx 4D 4H
♣ Axxx ♣ Kx P(or 5D)
K. ♠ 10xx ♠ x 1D 1H
♥ AKxx ♥ Qxxxx 2H 3C only 4 hearts)
♦ QJ ♦ A10xx 4H
♣ Kxxx ♣ AJxx
#4 A hand with 11-16 HCP and 5-5+ distribution in the minors
This hand is easy to describe. With most 11-16 HCP hands you open 1D and rebid 2C. Given a chance, you make a second rebid of 3C. With a very good 15 or 16 HCP and concentrated values in your two suits, you may open 1D and make a jump shift to 3C.The jump to 3C guarantees at least five cards in each of two GOOD suits.
These hands would open 1D and rebid 2C over any one-level bid:
♠ x ♠ Kx ♠ xx ♠ AQ
♥ xx ♥ x ♥ Q ♥ x
♦ AQxxx ♦ KJ10xx ♦ QJxxx ♦ AKQxx
♣ AKxxx ♣ AJxxx ♣ AKJxx ♣ Jxxxx
These hands are good enough to jump shift to 3C:
♠ x ♠ xx ♠ x
♥ Kx ♥ ♥ A
♦ AQJxx ♦ AKxxx ♦ KQ10xxx
♣ KQJxx ♣ AKJ10xx ♣ KQJ109
We’ll return to these hands later when we discuss the 2C and 2D responses to 1D.
#5 A hand with 11-15 HCP and 4-4-4-1 distribution, even when the singleton
is in diamonds
All minimum 4441 hands are opened 1D. Even with shortness in diamonds, the rebids are generally not a problem. Bigger (16+ HCP) 4441 hands are opened conventionally at the two level. They will be discussed later. Here are some 11-15 HCP 4441 hands along with some possible responding hands and appropriate auctions:
A. ♠ A10xx ♠ Kxxx 1D 1S
♥ x ♥ Qxx 2S 3C(only 4 spades)
♦ KQxx ♦ Ax 4S P
♣ KJxx ♣ Qxxx
B. ♠ x ♠ QJxx 1D 1S
♥ AJxx ♥ 10x 1NT P
♦ AQxx ♦ Jxx
♣ Kxxx ♣ QJxx
C. ♠ x ♠ Qxxx 1D 1H
♥ AQxx ♥ KJxx 2H 2NT(4 spades, only 4 hearts)
♦ KQxx ♦ Jx 4H P
♣ QJxx ♣Axx
D. ♠ Kxxx ♠ Q10x 1D 1NT
♥ AQxx ♥ Jx P
♦ x ♦ Jxxxx
♣ AJxx ♣ Kxx
E. ♠ J10xx ♠ KQxx 1D 1S
♥ AKxx ♥ Qx 3S(Absolute 4S
♦ AKxx ♦ Qxx maximum,
♣ x ♣ Jxxx non-1C opener,
Looking at hand E, about the only hand opener can logically have is a maximum (15-16 HCP) with four good trump and a good 4-or 5-card minor (probably diamonds) or this kind of 4441 hand. We’ll see what would be
bid with a similar slightly bigger hand when we discuss hand type #7.