The california club system overview


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C.♠ A ♠ Kxx 1C 2D

♥ KJx ♥ Axxx 2NT 3C

♦ KJxx ♦ AQxxx 3D 3H (3-4-5-1 )

♣ AQxxx ♣ x 3S 4D

4NT (1430) 5S (2KC + Q of D)


D.♠ Jx ♠ x 1C 2D

♥ AQJx ♥ Kxxx 2NT 3C

♦ KQx ♦ Axxxx 3H 3S (1-4-5-3)

♣ AQxx ♣ KJx 4NT 5H



The 2H response to 1C now takes on two other possible meanings,

taking some of the pressure off the 2D response. It DENIES a 4-card heart

suit. If it is a positive reponse, it will specifically show 5+ diamonds and

either 4 spades or 4 clubs. Otherwise, it shows 7+ SPADES and less than

9 HCP. Again, opener generally makes a waiting bid (either 2S or 2NT)

and lets responder clarify which type of hand he has with his second bid.

As usual, the strong hand winds up playing any no trump or spade contract,

with the attendant lead and concealment advantages.
Opener’s first rebids follow the familiar pattern:
After 1C 2H =a preemptive hand with 7+ spades and 0-8 HCP

OR 9+HCP, 5+D/ 4S or 5+D/ 4+C

Then: 2S = minimum 1C opener or poor fit for spades,willing to play 2S if

responder has a very weak spade hand (it definitely does

NOT show a five-card spade suit - with that hand bid 2NT)

Responder’s rebids:

Pass = minimum, 7+ spades

3C = 5+ diamonds, 4 clubs 9-12 HCP, 0-2 spades

(3D=asks spade length- 3H=0, 3S=1, 3NT=2)

3D = 5+ diamonds, 4 spades, 9-12 HCP

3H = retransfer, 7+ spades, invitational (will pass 3S)

or better (7-8 HCP, planning to raise to 4S)

3S = 5+ diamonds. 4 clubs, 9-12 HCP, 3 spades

3NT = 5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 13+ HCP (4C can ask

side suit shortness- 4D=2-2, 4H=0-1 H, 4S=0-1 S))

4C = 5+diamonds, 4 spades, 0-1 club, 13+ HCP

4D = 5+ diamonds, 4 spades, 2C, 2H- 13+ HCP

4H = 5+diamonds, 4 spades, 0-1 H- 13+ HCP

When responder bids 2H, opener’s 2NT shows a hand which makes game possible

(and 3S fairly safe) even when responder has a weak hand with long spades. It may

be based either on extra strength or a super spade fit. It is a hand that opener definitely

does not want to be passed in 2S. He bids 2NT even with a 5+ card spade suit. It is not likely that there is a 5-7 spade fit, but it would be embarrassing to play in 2S if it were

there and 6S was cold.

Responder’s rebids are designed to quickly clarify the spade situation. 3C and

3D show the positive hand with 0 - 2 and 3 - 4 spades, respectively. Opener can bid 3S

with any holding that makes a spade contract reasonable (a 5+-card suit over 3C, a

4+ -card suit over 3D). Responder can then bid 3NT with the worst holding

or raise spades with the best. He may even cue-bid at the 4-level to show the best

holding and a maximum values for slam.

Hands lacking a spade fit will generally wind up in NT or minor suit games or


Here is a complete summary:
2NT - extra values or strong spade fit (possibly even 5+ spades) willing

to play at least 3S

Responder can clarify with:

3C= 5+ diamonds, 4 clubs, 2-3 spades, 9-12 HCP

(opener may bid 3S with 5+ spades)

3D= 5+ diamonds, 3-4 spades 9-12 HCP

(opener will bid 3S with 4+ spades)

3H=RETRANSFER-(min. preempt, 7+spades)

3S= 5+ diamonds, 4 clubs, 0-1 spades , 9 –12 HCP

3NT= 5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 2-2 in majors, 9-12 HCP

4NT would show same hand with 13+ HCP)

4C= 5+ diamonds, 4 spades, 0-1 club - 13+HCP

4D= 5 diamonds, 4 spades, 2C, 2H - 13+ HCP

4H= 5+ diamonds, 4 spades, 0-1 heart – 13+ HCP

4S= 5+ diamonds, 4 clubs. 0-1 spade - 13+ HCP

4NT= 5+ diamonds, 4 clubs, 2H, 2S - 13-15 HCP

Here are some example hands:

A.♠ Jxxx ♠ AQxx 1C 2H

♥ AKx ♥ xx 2S (could bid 2NT) 3D (5 D, 3 or 4 S / 9-12) HCP)

♦ Kx ♦ AQxxx 3S (4+ spades) 4S ( I have 4 spades, too)

♣ AQxx ♣ xx P (with only 3 spades would

bid 3NT)

B.♠ Jxxx ♠ Q109xxxx 1C 2H

♥ AKx ♥ J 2S or 2NT 3H( 7+ S, min.)

♦ Kx ♦ Jxx 3S or 4S( 50 / 50 )

♣ AQxx ♣ xx

C.♠ x ♠ Q109xxxx 1C 2H

♥ AKJxx ♥ x 2S P

♦ KQx ♦ Jxx

♣ Axxx ♣ Q

D.♠ AKJxx ♠ x 1C 2H

♥ AQxx ♥ Kxx 2NT 3C (5+D, 4C, 0-2 S)

♦ x ♦ AJ10xx 4C (1430) ** 4S(2 KC)

♣ QJxx ♣ Kxxx 6C (,some would sign off in 3NT rather than

bid 4C)
E.♠ QJx ♠ xx 1C 2H

♥ AQxx ♥ Kx 2NT 3NT

♦ AJx ♦ KQxxx

♣ Kxx ♣ Qxxx

**Note; Whever the strong club hand raises two or three of a minor to four of that suit, it is not only a raise but also an ace-asking bid (1430, 0314, or straight Blackwood, depending on partnership agreement).

( See Hand D)
When the weaker hand raises the stong club hand to four of a minor,

the stronger hand should be the one to ask for aces. Therefore, REDWOOD (4D over 4C, 4H over 4D) is used.

For example, if the auction went : 1C - 1D – 3C - 4C , 4D by opener would be REDWOOD - 1430 with clubs as the agreed trump suit.



The 2-spade relay response to 1C starts transfer sequences

into many long suits as well as hands with 9+ HCP and 5/5+

distribution in the minors. In its original form, 2S forced 2NT;

responder then bid 3C, 3D, 3H, or 3S naturally, showing 7-card

suits with two of the top three honors. He could also raise 2NT

to 3NT, showing any solid (AKQxxxx) suit.

With a little tinkering , however,a transfer scheme was developed

to insure that all contracts were played by the strong hand. It is

slightly more complex, but definitely superior.

In the new improved version, 2S starts transfer sequences into

3C, 3H, and 3NT. Transfers into 3D and 3S are made directly at

the three level. If it helps, here is a memory aid. Transfers into the

lower minor (clubs) and the lower major (hearts) start with a relay

at a lower level (2S) Transfers into the higher minor(diamonds) and

the higher major (spades) are made directly at a higher level (simple

three level transfers.)

SO: 1C 2S (forces 2NT)

2NT 3C = 7 clubs, 2 of 3 top honors (lower minor)

3D =7 hearts, 2 of 3 top honors (lower major)

1C 3C = 7 diamonds, 2 of 3 top honors (higher level,

higher minor)

3H = 7 spades, 2 of 3 top honors, (higher level,

higher major)
This leaves 3 unused sequences for SOLID (AKQ) suits:
1C 2S (forces 2NT)

2NT 3NT = AKQxxx,any suit(uses lower bid-

2S-only 6 - card suit)
1C 3D = AKQxxxx in MAJOR(higher level –

7 - card solid suit) **

doesn’t know which major responder has, he bids 4CLUBS**

- responder then retransfers into his suit

(4D = transfer to hearts / 4H=transfer to spades)

1C 3S-AKQxxxx in MINOR (strongly suggests

opener bid 3NT).



(It is almost impossible to have a 1C opener that

cannot take 10 or 11 tricks opposite a AKQxxxx suit.)

Responder then bids a singleton at the 4 level or bids

4NT with a 7222 hand. Over a singleton bid, 4NT IS TO PLAY.

Over any 2nd bid by responder,the CHEAPEST SUIT asks for

aces.(5C over 4NT or 4S).


4C (not sure of game in minor)or 4D (willing to play in 5C or

5D). He may also bid a VERY GOOD 5-card or 6-card major

(willing to play there opposite a doubleton ).

If you look carefully,you will see that the 1C opener plays

all contracts - a big advantage.The weaker hand with the long

suit always comes down as dummy.

Secondary meaning - When responder is 5/5 in the minors with 9+ HCP

In addition to showing long suits, the 1C-2S sequence can be used to show

positive responding hands with 5/5+ distribution in the minors. The bidding is

very precise.

There are 2 unused 3 level rebids after the auction goes 1C-2S-2NT.

They are 3H and 3S.It is simple to make these bids show singletons

with 5/5+ in the minors.Thus 1C-2S-2NT-3H shows a singleton heart

and a likely 2155 shape. 1C-2S-2NT-3S shows a singleton spade and

probable 1255 distribution.

Followups are also very straightforward. Opener can sign off with 3NT,

4H, or 4S (natural-to play) or try for slam with 4C or 4D (usually setting

trump but perhaps just getting information) which are RKCB for the bid suit.

If more precision is desired, all of the 4- level is also available after

1C-2S-2NT. For example, one could define these bids as follows: 4C=1156,

4D=1165, 4H=heart void, 4S=spade void. Other meanings are also possible,

depending on partnership agreements.

Here are some example hands:
A.♠ Axxx ♠ xx 1C 2S (relay to 2NT)

♥ Kx ♥ AQxxxxx 2NT 3D (transfer to 3H)

♦ AQJ ♦ xxx 3NT or 4H

♣ Kxxx ♣ x

B.♠ AKJxx ♠ xx 1C 3S (solid 7-card minor)

♥ Kx ♥ xxx 6NT

♦ xx ♦ AKQxxxx

♣ AKQx ♣ x

C.♠ AKJxx ♠ xx 1C 3D (solid 7-card major)

♥ xx ♥ AKQxxxx 6H

♦ AKQxx ♦ xx

♣ x xx

D.♠ AKJxx ♠ x 1C 2S

♥ xx ♥ xxx 2NT 3C ( 7+ clubs,2 of top 3 honors)

♦AKQxx ♦ xx P

♣ x ♣ KQxxxxx

E.♠ AJ10 ♠ x 1C 2S

♥ AQxx ♥ xx 2NT 3S (0-1 S, 5+ C, 5+ D / 9+HCP)

♦ Kxxx ♦ AQ10xx 4D (1430) 5C (2 KC+ Q of D)

♣ Kx ♣ AQxxx 5H (kings?) 5S ( 0 )


F.♠ AKxxx ♠ x 1C 2S

♥ QJ9x ♥ xx 2NT 3S

♦ A ♦ KQJxx 3NT

♣ Kxx ♣ AQxxx



The 2NT response to 1C shows a balanced 16-18 HCP. Since that means the partnership has at least 33 HCP, it is essentially forcing to slam. In order to minimize memory strain, we will use a continuation scheme almost identical to the one used after a 1C-1NT auction. If you recall , that involves the use of Ogust-like replies to inquiries about holdings in opener’s suits. Of course, all the bids and replies will be one level higher.

Here is the three - level version of that scheme:

When opener is balanced , he bids 3C, looking for a 4-4 fit in a suit. Responder’s replies are as follows:

3D=shows 4 hearts, possibly with a second suit

3H=shows 4 spades, possibly with a side minor

3S=shows 4 clubs, possibly with four diamonds

3NT=shows 4 diamonds, with no side suit (3343)

If opener has four cards in responder’s indicated suit, he bids the suit. This bid doubles as an asking bid, inquiring about trump quality. With a known

4-4 fit, responder answers as follows:

1st step = poor suit (Jxxx or less)

2nd step = fair suit (Qxxx, Kxxx, Axxx)

3rd step = good suit (QJxx, KJxx, AJxx)

4th step = excellent suit (KQxx,AQxx, AKxx)

5th step =super suit (AKQx)

If opener does not fit responder’s indicated suit, he may bid a different suit, hoping to find a 4-4 fit there. Since responder has not promised four cards there, a second set of answers is used. They are:

1st step= lacking 4-card support

2nd step = poor 4-card support (Jxxx or less)

3rd step = fair 4-card support (Qxxx, Kxxx, Axxx)

4th step = good 4-card support (QJxx,KJxx, AJxx)

5th step = excellent 4-card support (KQxx, AQxx, AKxx)

With a more unbalanced hand, opener may bid a 5+card suit (3D, 3H, 3S, 3NT=5+ clubs). These bids also serve as asking bids. Responder uses a third set of answers. These are needed because he has to show both his length and strength in the suit. They are still as similar to the other answers as possible.

1st step = poor support (xx, Hx) H=Q, K, or A

2nd step = poor 3-card support (Jxx or less)

3rd step = good 3-card support (Qxx, Kxx, Axx)

4th step = poor 4-card support (Jxxx or less)

5th step = fair/good 4-card support (Qxxx, Kxxx, Axxx)

6th step = excellent 4-card support (KQxx, AQxx, AKxx)

If the answer shows poor support, opener can ask about a second suit if he has one. The second suit may also just be a help-suit slam try. The same answers apply. Any continuation is forcing. The cheapest new suit after a trump suit is found may be used to start asking for aces, and the cheapest bid after the answer can be used to ask for kings.Since it is almost certain that you will wind up in slam somewhere, the main purpose of all the exploration is twofold - to see if a suit fit may be better than 6NT, and to see if a grand slam is possible.
Here are some example hands:
A.♠ KQx AJxx 1C 2NT

♥ AxxxKx 3C 3H (4 spades)

♦ KQxx AJxx 4D 5C (good 4-card support)

♣ AxKxx 5D (1430) 5NT (2 KC)

6C (kings?) 6S (2 outside kings)

B.♠ Axxx KJxx 1C 2NT

♥ QJx AKx 3C 3H (4 spades)

♦ Ax KQxx 3S 4D (good suit)

♣ AQJxxx 4NT (1430) 5H (2 KC, no Q)

C.♠ x ♠ AKx 1C 2NT

♥ AKQxxxx 3H 3S (poor support)

♦ AKJxx Q10xx 4D 5D (good 4-card support)

♣ Qx AKJx 5H (1430) 6D (2 KC + Q)

6H (kings?) 7C (2 outside kings)


D.♠ KQJxxAx 1C 2NT

♥ xAKQx 3S 3NT

♦ AQxxxx 4C 5C (good 4-card support)

♣ KQxx Axxx 5D (1430) 5S (3 KC)

5NT (kings?) 6D (1)

7C or 7NT

Note; After 1430, I just use a simple 0,1,2,3 answer for kings.
E.♠ AQ KJ10x 1C 2NT

♥ KQ10xx Jx 3H 3S (poor support)

x ♦ AKQx 4C 4S ( Hxx)

♣ AQJxxKxx 4NT 5H (2 KC)

6C 6NT
F.♠ x AKJ 1C 2NT

♥ AKQJxx 3D 3NT ( Hxx)

♦ KJ10xx Qxx 4C 4S (Hxx)

♣ AQxxx ♣ Kxx 4NT(1430-clubs) 5H (2KC)

6C 6NT?


This bid will occur about as often as Halley’s Comet will appear above Los Angeles. It’s only real function is to provide the 2NT response with an upper limit. I won’t waste time outlining a response scheme. Should it ever come up, just use the scheme for the 2NT bid, with every bid one level higher.

Just as an aside, there is one added advantage to using this rebid and response scheme for the 1NT, 2NT, and 3NT responses to 1C. Some of us are getting to the age where we have occasional memory lapses. Since the responses always go from the worst to the best holdings, it is usually easy to tell if you’ve found good support or poor support, even if you forget the specific meaning of a bid. A “senior moment” probably won’t cause a disaster.

NOTE: As I mentioned, the continuation scheme after 1C-1NT and

1C-2NT could be completely natural, eliminating the Ogust-type

responses. The 2NT response could also be a two-way bid - either strong and balanced or a long minor in a very weak hand.I have included a possible alternate bidding scheme as an appendix on p.168.
Because opener’s first suit rebid after a 1C opening bid always shows a five card suit, it is necessary to have a bid showing a big 4441 hand. In the original version of the system, that bid was 2D. The 2H and 2S bids were standard weak two bids. Then the mad scientist in me complicated matters.

I wanted to have a way to differentiate between good preemptive hands and the junk that the modern players preempt with. I did come up with a good method for doing this, but there was a minor problem. I had to use the 2S opening bid for my brainchild. That left only two bids - 2D and 2H - to describe three different hands- a weak two bid in hearts, a weak two bid in spades, and a big 4441 hand. The only way to solve this problem was to make these two bids do double duty. Thus were born the Schizoid 2D and 2H opening bids.

The Schizoid 2D bid shows either a weak two bid in hearts or a 4441

hand with 16+ HCP and a singleton in a black suit. Thus it always guarantees at least four hearts.

The Schizoid 2H bid shows either a weak two bid in spades or a 4441

hand with 16+ HCP and a singleton in a red suit. Thus it always guarantees at least four spades.

Those guaranteed suits are important. The ACBL is deathly afraid of Multi, where a 2D opening shows a weak two bid in either major. They think that American players are not smart enough to handle defending against such a complicated convention, though millions of Europeans seem to handle it quite easily. Their main contention is that having a weak two in an unknown suit is unfair. My schizoid bids unequivocally meet their objections. The major suit in question is always known. Opener will either have a weak hand with six of a specific major or a very good hand with four of that suit. Defenders will almost never want to play in the anchor suit.

I also provide a simple and logical defense for these bids. There should be no possible way to argue that using them is taking advantage of inexperienced players. However, because some ACBL directors may forbid their use, I will also outline the original set of bids alluded to earlier

at the end of this chapter (P.168). Another suggestion is provided in

Appendix C (P. 175).

Using the Schizoid 2D and 2H allows the use of the Sartor 2S bid for good preempts. The Sartor 2S describes all preempts containing either two of the top three honors or AKQ in ANY suit. That means all three level preempts can have no more than one top honor. It also creates a kind of “transfer Gambling 3NT” as a side benefit.

Taken as a group, these three bids constitute the “fun zone” of the California Club system. They are useful, logical, and fun to use. A detailed summary of each bid follows.

As stated in the “Fun Zone” summary , the Schizoid 2D bid shows either

a weak two bid in hearts OR a 4441 hand with a singleton in a black suit.

It thus always guarantees at least 4 hearts. I estimate that it will be a weak two

bid about 95% of the time. It is therefore usually a transfer to hearts, exposing

the already known weak hand as dummy and leaving partner’s hand concealed.

The response system is designed to ensure that the opener’s hand winds up as

dummy if it is indeed a weak two bid. The cheapest response - 2H – indicates a

willingness to play that contract if partner is weak. The next response - 2S -

shows a good enough hand to be willing to play at least at the three level if

opener has the weak two bid. Of course, if opener shows up with the good 4441,

then the 2S response is forcing to game. Opener’s rebids define exactly which

hand he has.

Here they are in chart form:

AFTER 2D - 2H Opener bids as follows:

PASS = weak 2 bid in hearts

2S = 4441 -singleton club, 16-17 HCP (cheaper of each pair of

bids = lower black singleton/next bid = higher black singleton)

2NT = 1444-spade singleton, 16-17 HCP

3C = 4441-club singleton, 18-19 HCP

3D = 1444-spade singleton, 18-19 HCP

3H = 4441-club singleton, 20-21 HCP

3S = 1444-spade singleton, 20-21 HCP

3NT = 4441-club singleton, 22-23 HCP

4C = 1444-spade singleton, 22-23 HCP

4D = 4441-club singleton, 24+ HCP(unlikely but why not ?)

4H = 1444-spade singleton 24+HCP (when pigs fly) Actually, I’ve

seen this hand once.

You don’t have to memorize all these bids-just count on your fingers.

Responder now places the final contract. In the rare instance

where slam is possible, a cue bid of the singleton would ask for aces.

AFTER 2D - 2S, game or slam is more likely and a different

set of rebids is used - one which lets responder ask for controls

if slam is possible.


LOWER SINGLETON (this allows a convenient cue bid of the

singleton,which can now ask for point range).


maintains the transfer - the weak two bidder never bids his actual suit).



IMMEDIATELY (again - merely the most efficient use of space)

(memory aid - the 4441 hands with the higher singleton always

start at 3 of the possible weak two suit}. SO:


2NT = 4441 –club sing., any range (to ask ,responder bids the

cheapest suit, which conveniently is also a cue bid in the

stiff - 3C. Opener replies in steps. 1st step = 16-17 HCP

2nd step = 18-19 HCP ,3rd step=20-21 HCP, etc.)

3C = poor (5-7 HCP) weak two bid in hearts-responder may sign

off at 3H or bid game.

3D = good (8-10 HCP) weak two bid in hearts- since both partners

have shown values, 3H is now invitational,4H to play,

and other bids are slam tries.

3H = 1444-singleton spade, 16-17 HCP (cheapest bid-3S - now asks

for controls, starting at 0-4.

3S = 1444-singleton spade, 18-19 HCP (cheapest suit bid - 4C - now

asks for controls, starting at 0-6 / 3NT is to play)

3NT = 1444-singleton spade, 20-21 HCP (4C still asks for controls)

4C = 4441-singleton spade, 22-23 HCP, etc.

One important issue essential to avoid misunderstandings is how to handle

interference. Unless firm agreements are in place, disasters are possible.These

bids offer more protection against such dire results than multi because we have

a guaranteed anchor suit, but confusion is still possible without discussion.

Let’s start with an opponent’s double of the opening bid. Obviously, with a

weak nondescript hand responder will just pass. With a weak hand and a fit for

the anchor suit, he may bid two, three, or even four of that suit. How high

he competes will depend on distribution and vulnerability. With a good hand,

especially one with a strong holding in the suits most likely to be bid by the

opponents, responder should redouble. With a weak two bid , opener will have

to use his judgement on whether to retreat to his suit immedately , or pass and

possibly play a redoubled contract in a second suit or go for a penalty. At least

he will have more than guesswork to go on. Should the opener have the good

4441 hand, the carnage may be spectacular. Both partners should double at every

turn to bid.

When an opponent makes a direct overcall, responder’s first responsibility will

be to double if he has a strong holding in that suit and reasonably good values.

Opener can pull the double with a minimum weak two and poor defensive

values. A pass will leave it up to opener to compete if he has the good hand.

With a good fit for the anchor suit, responder can bid it at an appropriate level.

Where confusion may set in is when the overcall is passed around to opener.

If our agreement is that responder will double rather than trap pass with a hand

that might yield a big penalty, there is no need to have opener reopen with a

double to show shortness and the good 4441. Any action other than pass will

show the good hand and also usually pinpoint opener’s short suit. He can double

or bid no trump with a strong holding in the overcaller’s suit. This will almost

certainly pinpoint his singleton as being in the other suit of the same color. If he

bids that suit, it will almost always show shortness in overcaller’s suit. This

scheme may not be perfect, but it should allow responder to always have a good

picture of opener’s hand. It will also ensure that an underhanded opponent ( like

me ) can not get away with psyching us out of a fit.

Here are some hands involving the 2D opening bid:

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