The california club system overview


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The 1NT opening bid in this system shows 14-16 HCP. It is probably best described as intermediate. It allows you to start with a one no trump bid a little more often than standard bidders, but still looks and feels like a “real” 1NT opener.

The range is slightly offbeat, but it is logical.Any balanced hand with 17 HCP is opened 1C, so a 15-17 no trump would have an unnecessary overlap in range.

What sets this no trump scheme apart from standard practice are some unusual response treatments. The structure is a little complex (surprise!)- but not radically so. Before I go into details, let me digress briefly to state that , just as with the major suit structure, almost any no trump structure will work quite well with this system. I’d like to think, however, that some of my slightly unorthodox ideas may actually offer some advantages over what is commonly used. Actually, I should admit up front that many of “my” ideas are modifications or thinly disguised thefts of ideas I’ve found in books or magazines. Some are completely original. I’ve tried to take them and form them into a coherent system.

Let me start by trying to describe some of the non-standard treaments and give at least a brief rationale for their use. First , 2C is Stayman, but it does not guarantee a 4-card major. Since 2NT is a transfer, the only way to make an invitational raise to 2NT is to first bid 2C. While we’re on the subject of invitations, we might as well discuss a second major deviant treatment. 2C also begins invitational sequences in clubs, diamonds, and spades. The delayed transfer invitation in spades is probably the most “off the wall” treatment in the entire system. I’ll explain it after the reader has had time to prepare for it. The only standard invitational sequence is in hearts. Since all invitational bids are covered by those bids, transfers to the minors are always either weak or very strong, never in-between.

The seemingly bizarre method of making invitations in the majors allows the use of the cheapest call after a major suit transfer to be used as an artifical game-forcing bid.This allows leisurely game and slam exploration. It also allows the responder to make non-forcing direct rebids at the 3-level with weakish two-suited hands. Finally, all direct bids from 2S to 3S are conventional and cover specific types of hands.

The system was not created simply for novelty. It was designed to meet several goals:

  1. to allow the 1NT bidder to declare a large majority of the contracts by the use of various transfers

  2. to allow description of weak, invitational, and game-forcing hands in all four suits

  3. to allow description of 5-4 and 5-5 hands

  4. to allow description of 4-4-4-1 hands

  5. to allow exploration for slam when both hands are balanced, with the ability to find 4-4 fits in all suits

  6. to allow avoidance of 3NT when both partners are weak in one major, and provide a route to a 4-3 fit in the other major or to a minor suit game

  7. to facilitate slam bidding in one-suited hands

In order to meet all of these goals, it was necessary to make some bids do double duty, with their meaning not fully defined until responder’s second bid.

Here is a brief overview:

1.Transfers are used in all four suits, with those in the minors either weak or game-forcing.

2.Two clubs is Stayman, but also begins many invitational sequences.

3.Two spades is game-forcing, and starts slam exploration on many balanced and semi-balanced hands.It also serves as a slam invitation on 4-4-4-1 hands.

4. Two notrump is a transfer to clubs,either weak or game-forcing. If strong it shows either a one-suited slam try in clubs or a game-forcing 6-4-2-1, 5-4-2-2, or

5-4-3-1 hand with 3-1 distribution in the majors.

5. Three clubs is a transfer to diamonds, either weak or game-forcing. If strong it shows a one-suited slam try in diamonds or a game-forcing 5-4-3-1 hand with

3-1 distribution in the majors.

6. Three diamonds shows 5-5+ distribution in the majors with at least game-invitational values. Smolen is used for 5-4 hands with game forcing values.

7. Three hearts and three spades show singletons with 5-5+ distribution in the minors and at least game values.

8. Four clubs is Gerber.

9. Four diamonds and four hearts are Texas Transfers, usually indicating no slam ambitions. However, “transfer and pull” shows slam interest and key cards.

10.Four spades is a delayed raise to 6NT. It asks for point count and any good

5-card suit that might provide an extra trick for a grand slam.

11. Since slam invitations can begin with an artificial 2S or 2NT after a transfer, 4NT after a transfer is Roman Keycard Blackwood, and jumps to 3S,4C,4D, or 4H are splinter bids.


Most of the system responses to a 1NT opening are logical and consistent, but

there is one area that admittedly looks like it was designed by Rube Goldberg.(For

those too young to get the reference, he was a character famous for impractical,

complicated, and often comical inventions.) That is the area of invitational and forcing

rebids with 5-card majors. I wanted a way to show an invitational hand at the two level

while also gaining the ability to make a low-level game-forcing bid and also make a

non-forcing bid in a second 5-card suit at the three level. On top of that, I wanted to preserve the transfer into both majors. Sound impossible? That’s where the Rube

Goldberg in me came to the fore.

After sifting through several old versions of Stayman, I decided the solution lay

in returning to an idea that was part of the earliest versions of the convention. That

idea was that bidding Stayman showed at least invitational values. When that

was the understanding, Stayman followed by two of a major was invitational, not

weak. Since I was already using Stayman to invite in NT and both minors, this

seemed to work into my scheme very well. But combining that idea with transfers

into the majors seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. It worked well in spades,

but failed miserably in hearts.

Finally, the solution hit me. I could use the Stayman sequence in spades, but

use a standard transfer in hearts.Obviously using a different bidding plan for each

major may initially cause a few memory problems, but I think any competent

pair can handle them.

There is one bidding habit that a lot of players will have to overcome. With a weak

hand and 5/4 distribution in the majors, responder can no longer bid Stayman and then

sign off in his 5-card suit when opener bids 2D. He simply has to transfer into his

long suit and pass. Occasionally missing a 4-4 fit and playing in a 5-2 fit is admittedly

a downside of this treatment. I think it is a small price to pay.

The Rube Goldberg approach only applies to invitational hands with 5-card suits. When responder has a 5-card suit with either weak or game-forcing values or a 6+ card suit, standard transfers are used. Continuations after the transfer may be non-standard, however. Oops! There is one last exception. Responder can still use Stayman with a weak 4-4-4-1 hand, planning to pass whatever opener bids. Should opener bid 2D, 2H, or 2S all will be well. If opener bids 2NT, showing both majors and a minimum, or 3C, showing both majors and a maximum,we may get too high. But in that case there is a good chance the opponents can make 3C, so we may not get a bad score anyway. At any rate the combination of the weak 4-4-4-1 opposite a 1NT with both majors will probably occur with roughly the same frequency as the arrival of Halley’s Comet, so I wouldn’t spend much time fretting over it.

Let’s look at all the responses in logical progression, beginning with Stayman and going right on up to 4-level bids. I’ll explain the more unusual bids as we come to them.

1NT-2C- “Rube Goldberg Stayman”

Our Stayman 2C response differs from the standard version in several ways. For

one thing, it does not guarantee a 4-card major. Because a direct 2NT is used as a transfer, starting with a 2C bid is the only way to make an invitational raise to 2NT. For another, it may be used to begin an invitational raise to 3C or 3D. These treatments may be slightly outside the box but they don’t qualify us for a trip to the funny farm. What may lead to a visit from little men in white coats carrying butterfly nets is my next brainstorm. Stayman is also used to make an invitational TRANSFER bid in spades. With 5 spades and a good 9 to a bad 11 HCP , responder bids 2C. If opener replies 2D, responder now bids 2H- a delayed transfer. Why go to all this trouble? Because now we can use a standard 2H transfer to spades followed by 2NT(the cheapest continuation) as an artificial game-forcing bid. We don’t have to go through all this nonsense in hearts because we have two follow-up bids available following a standard transfer (2S as the artificial force and 2NT as the standard invitation).

An obvious question occurs. What if our uncooperative partner bids something other than 2D in reply to 2C?

If he shows a 4-card spade suit, there is obviously no problem. Responder invites or bids game. The only response that fouls up our carefully laid plans is a bid of 2H. This tends to preclude using 2H yourself for a transfer. Since we still want to maintain the transfer we have to switch the meanings of responder’s next bid.2S becomes the equivalent of a 2NT bid, while 2NT shows exactly 5 spades and invitational values. This shouldn’t cause excessive brain overload. Responder simply has to remember that once he sets out to transfer into spades he should never be the first to bid the suit.

Once you get past learning these invitational spade sequences, the rest of the notrump setup is relatively straight forward. Having said that, there are several departures from standard bidding.

A 2C response is semi-standard Stayman. Opener bids a 4-card major if he has one, or bids 2D to deny holding one. However, if he has TWO 4-card majors he has two bids to show exactly that holding. With both majors he bids 2NT(minimum) or 3C(maximum). Responder then transfers into hearts by bidding 3D or into spades by bidding 3H. Since responder is almost always promising at least invitational values by bidding Stayman, there is generally no problem with getting too high.The sole exception will be if responder had the weak 4441 and wanted to pass opener’s next bid. He will have to play 3H or 3S instead of 2H or 2S.

Since 3S is not needed at this point, it can serve as an artificial slam try.

In addition, since 2NT and 3C show both majors, then a 2H or 2S answer to Stayman

denies a second major. A cue bid of the other major can also be used as a slam



This set of bids leaves the sequence 1NT-2C-2D-2S unused. It can be put to use as follows: In every response scheme to 1NT,there is a problem hand-a hand with which you would like to explore for a 4/4 major fit, but which is just short of the values for an invitational 2NT if a fit is not found. In this system, that is a hand with 8+/9 HCP. After 1NT-2C-2D, the rebid of 2S can be used for a special purpose: It says: ”BID 2NT. I have a subpar (8-9 HCP) hand for a raise to 2NT and want to sign off.” THE SEQUENCE 1NT-2C-2D-2NT SHOWS AN ACTUAL INVITATIONAL RAISE TO 2NT. (It does not promise a 4-card major) This makes exploring for a major fit on a slightly subpar hand a little safer. If opener fits responder’s major,he can pass or raise to 3. If he bids 2D, he can sign off at 2NT by bidding 2S.The worst case is when opener bids the wrong major. Responder has to rebid 2S over 2H or 2NT over 2S, risking being raised to 3NT. If opener tends to open 1D with exactly 14 HCP and a 4-card major (recommended), the risk is less.

NOTE**SPECIAL CASE- If opener responds 2H to 2C, then 2S is the invitational

bid in NT, while 2NT shows 5 spades and invitational values, thus preserving the

transfer.2S still shows 10-11 HCP here, though, not 8-9.

EXTENSION: The 2S “Please sign off in 2NT” bid can also be part of the solution to another special problem. What should responder do with 11-12 HCP and 5-4-3-1 distribution, with three cards in one major and one card in the other?

He can certainly just blast to 3NT and hope his short suit won’t prove fatal.

This at least has the virtue of not tipping off the opponents about his weakness. If he wishes to go the scientific route, however, our NT structure can supply some useful information upon which to decide on a final contract.

Since we often go through Stayman without a four-card major, he can start with a 2C bid. One of two things can happen.

  1. Opener can show four cards in a major. If the suit is hearts, responder can use the 2S relay to force the opener to bid 2NT. Instead of passing, however, he can now bid 3H, showing three hearts and a singleton spade. Opener may then steer the contract into 3NT, 4H, or 4 or 5 of a minor. If the suit is spades, responder can just bid a direct “impossible” 3H over 2S, showing three spades and one heart. Again, opener should have a good idea about the best contract.

  2. Opener can bid 2D, denying a four-card major. Responder can just use 2S to relay to 2NT then bid an “impossible” 3H or 3S, showing a singleton and three cards in the opposite major. Tis may allow us to avoid a hopeless 3NT.


Smolen is used for game-going hands with 5-4 or 6-4 distribution in the majors.

With 5 hearts and 4 spades, responder bids 2C and jumps to 3S, his 4-card suit,

if opener shows no major. With 5 spades and 4 hearts, he jumps to 3 hearts. Opener chooses between 3NT and four of the major. With 6-4 in the majors responder

can retransfer into the 6-card suit at the four level. It is also possible to use a direct jump to 4D or 4H after 1NT-2C-2D to show a 6-4 hand. Since there are two ways to show the same distribution, some pairs may choose to use one sequence as a slam try and use the other to simply set the final contract in game.

Example Auctions (1NT-2C)

Here are some sample auctions involving responder’s 2C response:


A.♠ Qxx ♠ Kx 1NT 2C

♥ A10x ♥ Kxx 2D 2NT

♦ KQxx ♦ xx P

♣ QJx ♣ Axxxx

B.♠ KJx ♠ Qxxx 1NT 2C

♥ A10xx ♥ Qx 2H 3NT

♦ Kxx ♦ AJ109x P

♣ KJx ♣ Qx


C.♠ Kxxx ♠ A10xx 1NT 2C

♥ QJxx ♥ Kx 2NT 3H

♦ Axx ♦ Q109x 3S P

♣ Ax ♣ Jx

D.♠ KQxx ♠ A10xx 1NT 2C

♥ QJxx ♥ Kx 3C 3H

♦ Axx ♦ Q109x 3S 4S

♣ AQ ♣ Jx

E.♠ KQx ♠ A10xx 1NT 2C ? P ?

♥ QJx ♥ Kxxx 2D 2S

♦ Axxx ♦ Jxx 2NT P

♣ AQx ♣ xx

F.♠ xxx ♠ x 1NT 2C

♥ AKJ ♥ Q10xx 2D 2S

♦ KJxxx ♦ Qx 2NT 3C

♣ Kx ♣ AQJxxx 3H 4H

G.♠ KQx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2C

♥ QJx ♥ Axx 2D 2H

♦ KJxxxAx 3S 3NT

♣ Ax ♣ Jxx 4S

H.♠ KQx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2C

♥ QJxx ♥ Axx 2H 2NT

♦ KJxx ♦ Ax 4S

♣ Ax ♣ Jxx

I.♠ KQx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2C

♥ QJx ♥ Axxx 2D 3H

♦ Kxxxx ♦ Ax 4S

♣ Ax ♣ Qx

Semi-Standard Transfers

Except for the specific invitational spade hands already discussed, standard transfers (2D= 5+ hearts, 2S= 5+ spades) are used. With a weak hand with no second 5-card suit, responder will transfer and pass. With a 6+-card suit, he can transfer and pass, raise to 3 as a game invitation, or raise to game. With likely slam hands he can transfer at the 2-level and raise to game or splinter at the 4-level (more about this shortly). But in addition to the usual choices, we have two additional tools at our disposal. They are available because of all the complicated folderol surrounding the spade suit.

First , we now have an artificial bid to create a game-forcing auction and indicate slam interest. After a transfer is accepted, the responder’s cheapest bid (2S over 2H or 2NT over 2S) is now game-forcing and artificial. After the force, each partner can bid new suits at the 3-level, make later cue bids at the 4-level, and generally explore for slam pretty thoroughly before bidding one or signing off.

Secondly, we can now describe weakish two-suited hands. A transfer and a bid of a second suit at the 3-level is now non-forcing. It shows at least 5-5 distribution and a possibility of either finding a better partscore fit or reaching a hard-to-bid game based on fit. There are occasional cases where a double fit may allow 10 tricks to be taken in a hand where it is “impossible” to bid game. This treatment may allow us to bid some of them.

Transfer Slam Tries

As mentioned earlier, one way to invite slam is to transfer to two of a major and then bid four. The general idea is widely used, but I think it can be more useful if given a specific meaning. I’d like to suggest a useful definition for this sequence and coordinate the bid with what I call “Little Bit West Of Texas Transfers.”

I also have a suggestion for the use of asking bids after a 2-level transfer and a splinter bid.

Let’s start with the simple 1NT- transfer-jump to four auction. We will treat this as the weakest of our slam invitations. It will show a specific holding-

exactly two keycards without the queen of trump. This is the invitation least likely to excite opener. We can now coordinate this with direct four-level transfers. “Little Bit West of Texas Transfers” will start with the next strongest hand and proceed in logical steps. I realize that most people only use Texas Transfers to sign off in game, but there is no logical reason for this. After a direct jump to 4D (6+hearts) or 4H (6+spades), opener can simply pass if he has no slam ambitions. If his hand warrants further action, however, he just makes another bid. This is essentially an answer to an “Invisible RKCB” query. His first step starts where our mild slam try left off. It shows two keycards WITH the queen of trump. The second step shows THREE keycards WITHOUT the queen. The third step shows THREE WITH the lady, and so on.

These responses will also turn up in many other slam auctions beginning with a 1NT opening . They are appropriate because it is almost impossible to have the 15+HCP required to make a slam try opposite our 14-16 HCP 1NT without having at least two keycards. To save space I will use the label “Texas” whenever this type of keycard ask is used. *** SEE NOTE ON P.77-Important modification

After a transfer and a splinter, four of the trump suit denies slam interest. The cheapest non-trump bid asks for keycards and the answers follow the same pattern: two keycards with the queen, two without, three with, three without, etc.

If my prose description isn’t 100% clear, here is a chart:

1NT- transfer to 4M, then pass= no slam ambition

1NT- transfer to 2M, then 4M= 2KC, no Q of trump

1NT- transfer to 4M,then 4M+1= 2 KC + Q of trump

1NT- transfer to 4M, then 4M+2= 3 KC, no Q of trump

1NT- transfer to 4M, then 4M+3 = 3 KC + Q of trump

1NT- transfer to 4M, then 4M+4 = 4KC, no Q of trump

1NT- transfer to 4M, then 4M+5= 4 KC + Q of trump

The last two steps are highly unlikely to occur.

Similarly, after a transfer and a splinter bid:

1NT- transfer to 2M, then splinter-

4M= no slam interest (responder takes full responsibility if he goes on.)

Cheapest non-4M bid- asks for keycards; responder bids in steps

1st step = 2 KC, no Q in either case

2nd step = 2 KC +Q

3rd step = 3 KC, no Q

4th step = 3 KC + Q and so forth…


The use of the 2D transfer to 2H is at least partly standard. Rebids of 2NT and

3H are invitational with 5 and 6-card suits. Jumps to 3S, 4C, and 4D are splinters.After a splinter, the cheapest non-trump bid can ask for keycards, with the same responses as before.

Jumps to 3NT or 4H are standard, with 4H being a mild slam try. A direct 4D is either to play or a “West of Texas” slam try, as discussed above.

Non-standard bids begin with the rebid of 2S. This is artificial and game-forcing,

and usually shows at least some interest in slam. Direct bids of 3C or 3D after the original transfer bid show a second 5+-card suit and are non-forcing. Here are some sample auctions:


A.♠ Ax ♠ KQ 1NT 2D

♥ Kxxx ♥ Axxxxx 2H 4H(mild slam interest-2KC, no Q)

♦ Kxx ♦ A P (probably 2 losers)

♣ KQxx ♣ Jxx

B.♠ Ax ♠ Kxx 1NT 2D

♥ Kxx ♥ AQxxxx 2H 4C (splinter)

♦ Kxxx ♦ AQx 4H 4NT (RKCB)

♣ KQxx ♣ x 5H (2 KC, no Q) 6H

C.♠ Kxx ♠ Jxx 1NT 2D

♥ Ax ♥ KJxxx 2H 2NT (standard,invitational)

♦ Axxx ♦ Kx P

♣ Kxxx ♣ Qxx

D.♠ Axx ♠ Qx 1NT 2D

♥ Qx ♥ Kxxxxx 2H 3H (invitational,6-card suit)

♦ AQxx ♦ x P

♣ Qxxx ♣ KJxx

E.♠ Axxx ♠ x 1NT 2D

♥ AJxx ♥ Kxxxx 2H 3D (5-5 distribution, non-forcing)

♦ KQx ♦ Axxxx 4H (great fit, no wasted values)

♣ Jx ♣ xx

F. ♠ AJxx ♠ Qx 1NT 4D (“West of Texas”transfer)

♥ Kx ♥ AQ10xxx 4H 5C (transfer and pull- 3 steps=

♦ Kxx ♦ Axx 2 KC + Q of trump)

♣ K10xx ♣ Ax 6H

G..♠ QJx ♠ x 1NT 2D

♥ Kxxx ♥ AQJxx 2H 2S (artificial, GF) As an alternative

♦ Ax ♦ KJxx he could bid 3S- a splinter-another route to slam)

♣ KQxx ♣ AJx 3C 3D

3H 3NT (“Baby RKCB”)

4H ( 2KC, no Q) 6H

If the responder bids 2S as a game force, either partner can use 3NT as “Baby Blackwood” and drive to slam. Of course, the partners may decide that 3NT is more useful as a natural bid. Then 4NT would be used for ace-asking.


The 2H transfer to 2S is also at least partially standard. With a weak hand ,

responder transfers and passes 2S. With an invitational hand and a 6-card suit, he

still transfers and raises to 3S. With game-going values and no slam interest, he can transfer and bid 3NT or just use a direct 4H to transfer to 4S, like any “normal” bidder. Using the 4H transfer and then bidding again shows keycards and slam interest, as previously discussed. A bid of 2NT after 1NT-2H-2S is artificial and game-forcing. Bids of 3C, 3D, or 3H after 1NT-2H-2S are non-forcing. Here are some example auctions:


A.♠ Axxx ♠ Kxxxxx 1NT 2H

♥ Kx ♥ Axx 2S 4C (splinter)

♦ Kxx ♦ Axx 4D (key cards?) 5D (4 KC, no Q)

♣ KQxx ♣ A 7NT(13 top tricks)

B.♠ Ax ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2H

♥ KQx ♥ xx 2S P

♦ QJx ♦ Axxxx

♣ KJxxx ♣ Q

C.♠ KQx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2H

♥ Axxx ♥ xx 2S 3C(non-forcing)

♦ xxx ♦ A 4S

♣ AQx ♣ Kxxxx

D.♠ Kx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2H

♥ KQ10x ♥ x 2S 3D(non-forcing)

♦ J10xx ♦ Qxxxxx P

♣ KQJ ♣ x

E.♠ AQx ♠KJxxx 1NT 2C

♥ Kx ♥ xxx 2D 2H(invitational, 5 spades)

♦ AJxxx ♦ x 3S 4S

♣ Qx ♣ AJ10x

F.♠ AQx ♠ J10xxx 1NT 2C

♥ Kx ♥ AQJx 2D 3H(Smolen=4H,5S)

♦ AJxxx ♦ Kxx 4S

♣ Qx ♣ x

G.♠ Ax ♠ Q109xx 1NT 2C

♥ KQxx ♥ Jx 2H 2NT(invitational, 5S)

♦ Qx ♦ Axxx 3C 3NT

♣ AJxx ♣ Kx (Responder planned to bid 2H to invite with 5 spades.

When opener bid 2H, 2S=NT,2NT=spades)


The 2S response to a 1NT opening bid is a slam try. It shows at least 15 HCP

and either 4432, 5422, or 4441 distribution.This bid combines the common 4441 try with CONFI, invented by George Rosencranz. My contribution was concocting

a way to combine the asking bids to cover all those possible distributions.

The idea is to find 4-4 fits that may allow slam to be made with slightly less than the the ideal 33 HCP. With our range for 1NT (14-16 HCP), that translates into needing 15+ HCP in a balanced hand or 14 HCP outside the singleton in a 4441 hand in order to justify making this bid, which I’ll abbreviate as SST from now on.

When making a SST, responder starts by bidding 2S. The 2S bid is a relay to

2NT and is the first step in a two-step process. It announces that the partnership

may have enough strength to bid a slam, but does not specify responder’s exact hand type. After opener’s forced 2NT bid, responder moves on to the second step.

His next bid describes his hand type and enlists opener’s cooperation.

If responder rebids 3C, he announces a balanced or semi-balanced hand and asks for the number of controls in opener’s hand (A=2, K=1). Opener answers in steps.With a 14-16 HCP no trump opening, the number of controls will generally range from 3 to 8. So his first step answer will show 0-3 controls. His second step shows 4; his third- 5, etc.There are 12 controls possible (4 aces & 4 kings) in the deck. If the total number of controls in the two hands is less than 10, responder signs off in 3NT. At this point, partnerships will have to establish an agreement. They can decide to always play 3NT, even if it means missing an occasional 4-4 major fit. Or they can allow opener to bid his cheapest major , with 4NT as the fall-back contract if no fit is found in 4H or 4S. Since the partnership will always have at least 30 HCP, 4NT should be safe. Of course, if they always stop in 3NT, their extra strength may provide a top score when the same number of tricks are available in both 3NT and four of a major. At any rate, without 10 controls the pair must give up on slam.

If the partnership has at least 10 controls, they bid suits up the line at the four level. The minimum requirement for a biddable suit is QJxx, Kxxx, or Axxx. Partner must have at least that to raise. This insures that there will never be more than one trump loser if the opponents’ trumps split no worse than 3-2. If no decent 4-4 fit is found at the 4-level, the bidding ends at 4NT. If a fit is found , opener can bid five of the suit with a minimum or bid slam with a maximum. The opponents can’t have more than one ace or two kings when our side has 10 controls, so we should be in a reasonable spot.

What if responder has the 4441 hand? Simple. Instead of rebidding 3C, he rebids his singleton. A 3D bid shows a singleton diamond; 3H a singleton heart; 3S a singleton spade; and 3NT a singleton club. Opener then has several options. He can sign off at 3NT, 4H, 4S, 5C, or 5D. He can make a forcing bid in a suit below game, showing some slam interest, setting trump, and asking for controls. If the singleton is in spades, he can bid an artificial 4C, also asking for controls (same answers as the”West of Texas” bid) or an artificial 4D, asking for aces (simple Blackwood). A cue bid of the singleton can be used as simple Blackwood when the singleton is in a suit other than spades. After controls or aces are shown, 4NT or any game bid is a signoff.

Once again, a chart, may make things clearer.

After 1NT-2S-2NT:

3C= balanced(4432 or 5422) hand and asks controls (A=2,K=1)

Answers- 3D= 0-3 3H= 4 3S=5 3NT=6 4C= 7

Opener’s non-game rebids then ask controls or aces.
3D= 4-4-1-4 hand (singleton diamond)

3H= 4-1-4-4 hand (singleton heart)

3S= 1-4-4-4 hand (singleton spade)

3NT= 4-4-4-1 hand (singleton club)

Opener’s non-game rebids now ask controls or aces- 3NT, 4H, 4S= signoffs

Here are some example auctions:


A.♠ Kxx ♠ AQxx 1NT 2S (SST- bid 2nt)

♥ KQxx ♥ xx 2NT(forced) 3C(balanced, asking controls)

♦ Axxx ♦ KQxx 3S ( 5 controls) 4D (we have 10+ controls)

♣ Kx ♣ AJx 4H 4S

5D 6D (a good 31 HCP slam)
B.♠ Kxx ♠ AQxx 1NT 2S (SST)

♥ KQxx ♥ xx 2NT 3C (asking)

♦ Axxx ♦ QJxx 3S (5 controls) 3NT(too few controls)

♣ Kx ♣ AQx 4H (4-4 fit?) 4S (no-how about here?)

4NT(no-here’s where we stop)

C.♠ Kxx ♠ AQxx 1NT 2S (SST)

♥ KQxx ♥ AJxx 2NT 3D (4414, singleton D)

♦ Axxx ♦ x 3H (sets trump, asks) 4C (4 controls outside diamonds)

♣ Kx ♣ QJxx

D.♠ Kxx ♠ AQxx 1NT 2S (SST)

♥ KQxx ♥ x 2 NT 3H (4144, singleton H)

♦ Axxx ♦ Kxxx 3NT ( poor fit; sign-off)

♣ Kx AQxx

E.♠ Axxx ♠ x 1NT 2S (SST)

♥ QJxx ♥ A10xx 2NT 3S ( 1444, singleton S)

♦ Kx ♦ AQJx 4C (asking- 4H would 4S (5 controls)

♣ A10x ♣ KJxx be a sign-off)

F.♠ xxx ♠ x 1NT 2S (SST)

♥ KJ ♥ AQxx 2NT 3S (1444, singleton S)

♦ KQJx ♦ Axxx 4D (ace asking) 5C (3 aces)

♣ KQxx ♣ Axxx 6D

Special Extension: It may be desirable to add one special treatment to the Sartor Slam Try. As we shall see in the next section, rebids after transfers from 1NT into long minor suits followed by bids showing second suits take up more space than is readily available. Some 5-4-4-0 hands can’t be comfortably described below the five level. Since the SST already covers 4441 hands and the entire four level is completely unused, the bids I am about to suggest are a sensible way to describe this other type of three-suited hand:

It could apply to either minor, but here is a simple set of bids for diamonds only:


2NT 4C = club void (5 diamonds,4 hearts, 4 spades)

4D= heart void (5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 4 spades)

4H= spade void (5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 4 hearts)

A convenient bid of the next suit now serves as an exclusion key card ask, while bids in the other suits or 4NT are to play. This is much more efficient than trying to figure out the right contract at the five level. A more complete discussion of this addition to the SST will be presented in the next section.


Author’s note: This section will be a bit schizophrenic. I am going to outline a basic scheme for transfers into long club and diamond suits. It

is quite comprehensive, covering almost every distribution a responder is likely to have to deal with. However, it does have one small flaw. The method of describing hands with 5-4-4-0 distribution involves some bids at a high level. This is necessitated by the sheer number of possible distributions and the limited amount of bidding space available at the three and four levels.

After I describe the basic plan I will also describe a slightly modified

plan which I think corrects the flaw I have noted. It is almost identical to the original plan, but has one significant modification. I think the modified plan is superior, and recommend its use as the preferred choice for the system. That choice is simply a matter of user preference, however.

Minor Suit Transfers- Basic System

In this system , transfers into the minors after a 1NT opening are either weak and intended to be passed or game-forcing with at least mild slam interest. Hands with invitational values go through Stayman, while many hands in the 11-15 HCP range simply jump to 3NT or look for a major suit fit and then bid 3NT or the appropriate game in a suit. The transfers are only used for single-suited hands with a 6+ card minor suit or for hands with five or six cards in the long minor and a four-card second suit.

When a responder transfers into 3C or 3D and then takes a second bid, he is suggesting that his long minor offers a chance to bid and make a slam, or possibly that his unbalanced distribution makes 5C or 5D the most tenable game available. In the process, the partnership may veer off into a game in a secondary suit or wind up settling for a 4NT or 5NT contract when slam exploration produces discouraging results.

The continuation scheme proposed here allows the description of many different distributions with an emphasis on pinpointing short suits and three and four card holdings in the side suits. I’ve tried to make the club and diamond responses as similar as possible to minimize memory strain, though it is impossible to make them identical.

Both sets of bids follow a few basic precepts.

  1. With a one-suited hand, responder tranfers into 3C or 3D and then rebids either 3NT (showing no shortness in a side suit) or a suit at the four level (showing a specific short suit).

  2. With a long minor and a four-card side suit, responder transfers into 3C or 3D, then relays into the side suit , using a second transfer or conventional continuation. He then shows his complete distribution at the next level.

  3. All singletons are shown at the four level or below. Due to constricted space, a couple of bids showing voids after a two-suited sequence do require a 5C or 5D bid. I have devised a way to correct that situation. (See “Modified Minor Transfers”)

I’ve also tried to make the methods as natural as possible, though some secondary transfer sequences and conventional singleton-showing bids are involved. Compared to some of my early hyper-scientific versions the final suggested scheme is downright simple.

The 2NT response to a 1NT opening bid commands opener to bid 3C. It is either a weak hand with 6+ clubs which will be passed in 3C, OR it is a

strong hand (usually 14/15+ HCP ) which will explore for game or slam.

Any second bid by responder after opener bids 3C is forcing to game. With 11-13/14 HCP, you invite through Stayman or just bid game.
Responder’s possible continuations include the following:

  1. A new suit at the three level- (all secondary transfers)

3D= forces opener to bid 3H(guarantees four hearts)

3H= forces opener to bid 3S (guarantees four spades)

3S= forces opener to bid 3NT (guarantees four diamonds)

Responder now completes a description of his description. He can bid

3NT over opener’s forced 3H or 3S rebid or 4C over his forced 3NT to show 5-4-2-2 distribution. He can make the cheapest available suit follow-up bid to show the lower possible singleton and the second cheapest suit rebid to show the higher possible singleton. For example, if he has shown 5+ clubs and 4 hearts, the cheapest follow-up would show a singleton diamond The next cheapest bid would show a spade singleton. He can also use the third and fourth cheapest rebids to show voids in either of the same two side suits. By inference , if he shows a singleton he will usually have 5-4-3-1 or 6-4-2-1 distribution, with two or three cards in the fourth suit. If he shows a void, he is probably 6-4-3-0 or 7-4-2-0.

Opener can now ask for aces if interested in slam. Ace-asking requires some clear agreements. If at all possible, we want to ask with some bid at the four level other than 4NT. This allows us to use 4NT as a natural suggested signoff. Here is my suggestion: After responder has made a shortness-showing bid, any bid in a suit in which responder has less than four cards can be used to ask for key cards, while the cheapest bid in no trump or one of responder’s long suits is to play. Pairs may decide to use 1430 or “Texas” responses, with clubs as the assumed trump. “Texas” would be my choice, since the pair possesses at least 30 HCP and a 0 or 1 key card response is almost impossible.

On rare occasions, responder may have a 5-4-4-0 shape. A transfer

to 3C and an immediate jump to 5D, 5H, or 5S can show the void

and that shape, but using a jump to 4S, 4NT, and 5C to show D, H,

and S voids (cheapest unused bids showing side suits in ascending

order) would be much more efficient. This works pretty well when

the long minor is clubs but can be awkward if the long suit is

diamonds. We’ll see an alternative in the section on diamond transfers.

If using the lower responses, bidding five of the void can be keycard-

asking (showing interest in 7) and will allow using 5NT as a sign- off.

2. 3NT= natural, 6+ clubs, no side shortness, no four card side suit

Opener can now use 4C to ask for keycards ( 1430 or “Texas”steps)

or use 4D to ask for controls (1st step= 0-3, 2nd= 4, 3rd= 5, 4th= 6, etc.)

  1. 4C= 6+ clubs with no 4-card side and a singleton diamond (likely 6-3-3-1 or 7-3-2-1 distribution) 4D asks for key cards - 1430 or “Texas” answers –( 1st step= 2 KC, no Q of C, 2nd step= 2 KC + Q, etc.)

4. 4D= 6+ clubs, no four-card side suit, singleton heart (likely

6-3-3-1 or 7-3-2-1 distribution) The cheapest bid ( 4H ) can serve

as 1430 or “Texas” keycard ask.

  1. 4H= 6+ clubs, no four-card side suit, singleton spade ( likely 6-3-3-1 or 7=3-2-1 ) 4S asks key cards

  2. 4S,4NT, 5C= 7+ clubs, no side suit, 7-3-3-0 or better distribution with voids shown in ascending order

(4S= diamond void, 4NT= heart void, 5C= spade void)

This allows keycard-asking and escapes at the five level, Bids in the

voids can ask for key cards. Cheapest NT or 5C is to play, as are

5-level bids in real suits.

Here is a chart which may give a clearer picture of the scheme:

1NT 2NT (6+ clubs - forces 3C)

3C P (weak hand, prefers 3C to 1NT)


3C 3D (4 hearts)-forces 3H

3H (4 spades)-forces 3S

3S (4 diamonds)-forces 3NT

3NT (no side suit)

Opener will always accept the transfer to the next higher suit or denomination, regardless of his fit. A bid in the cheapest new suit now shows a singleton in the lower of the two remaing suits, while a bid of the next cheapest suit shows a singleton in the higher remaing suit. So;


3C 3D (4 hearts)

3S would show 5/6 clubs, 4 hearts, 2/3 spades, and 1 diamond

3NT would show 5-4-2-2 distribution.

4C would show 5/6 clubs, 4 hearts, 2/3 diamonds, and 1 spade
Going past the two cheapest denominations would show voids. To wit:

3C 3H (4 spades)

3S(forced) 4C and 4D would show diam./heart singletons

So: 4H= void in diamonds (probably 4-3-0-6)

4S= void in hearts (probably 4-0-3-6)
With exactly 5-4-4-0, you can transfer to 3C and then jump to 4S (diamond void), 4NT(heart void), or 5C (spade void). These would be the three cheapest bids above the singleton-showing direct 4C, 4D, and 4H bids.

3C 3S (4 diamonds)

3NT (forced) 4C = 5-4-2-2

4D = singleton heart

4H = singleton spade

4S = heart void

4NT = spade void

Hands With No Side Suits


3C 4C= 6+ clubs, singleton diamond

4D= 6+ clubs, singleton heart

4H= 6= clubs, singleton spade

4S= 7+ clubs, diamond void

4NT= 7+ clubs, heart void

5C= 7+ clubs, spade void

Here are some example hands involving the 1NT-2NT sequence:


A.♠ AQx ♠ xx 1NT 2NT

♥ xxx ♥ xx 3C P

♦ KQxx ♦ Jxx

♣KJx ♣ Qxxxxx

B.♠ AQx ♠ Kxxx 1NT 2NT

♥ xxx ♥ x 3C 3H (relay to 3S)

♦ KQxx ♦ AJx 3S (forced) 4C (4 spades, singleton heart)

♣ KJx ♣ AQxxx 4H (keycards?) 4NT ( 2 KC + Q of clubs-Texas)

6C (5D, if 1430)

C.♠ AQx ♠ Kxx 1NT 2NT

♥ xxx ♥ x 3C 4D ( 6+ clubs,singleton heart)

♦ KQxx ♦ Axx 4H 4NT ( 2KC + Q of clubs-Texas)

♣ KJx ♣ AQxxxx 6C (5D if 1430)

D.♠ AQxx ♠ Kx 1NT 2NT (We have a maximum

♥ Jx ♥ xx 3C 3S (5C, 4D)

♦ KJxx ♦ AQxx 3NT ( forced ) 4C (5-4-2-2)

♣ KJx ♣ AQxxx 4D 4S (side honor)

5C (no H stopper) 5D
E.♠ AQx ♠ xx 1NT 2NT

♥ xxx ♥ Ax 3C 3NT ( 6+ clubs, no shortness)

♦ KQxx ♦ Axx 4D(controls?) 5C ( 6 controls- A=2)

♣ KJx ♣ AQxxxx 6C (or 6 NT if very greedy at MP)

F.♠ AQx ♠ x 1NT 2NT

♥ xx ♥ AKx 3C 3S(4 diamonds,relay to 3NT)

♦ Kxxx ♦ AJxx 3NT (forced) 4D( 5-6 C, 4 D, 2-3 H, 1 S)

♣ AQxx ♣ K10xxx 4S (keycards?) 5D (3 KC, no Q

6C or 5C if 1430)

G.♠ Ax ♠ KJxx 1NT 2C( not enough for 2NT)

♥ J10xx ♥ Q 2H 3NT

♦ Kx ♦ AJxx

♣ AQxx ♣ Kxxxx

H.♠ AQxx ♠ KJxx 1NT 2NT

♥ Kxx ♥ AQxx 3C 4S ( 4-4-0-5)

♦ Qxxx ♦ void 5D (keycards?) 5S (2 KC, + Q of C)

♣ Ax ♣ KQxxx 6D (kings ?) 6NT ( 2)

I.♠ KQxx ♠ 1NT 2NT

♥ Ax ♥ KQJx 3C 5C (0-4-4-5)

♦ QJx ♦ Kxxx 6C(could be worse) or P (or 5NT at MP)

♣ K10xx ♣ AJxxx

Example L shows why using 4S (minor void), 4NT (heart void) and 5C (spade

void ) is preferable to 5D, 5H, and 5S when 5-4-4-0. The cheaper answers may let

you get out or ask for kings at the five level.

Just as the 1NT-2NT sequence shows long clubs, 1NT-3C is a transfer into a long diamond suit . The 3C bid demands that opener bid 3D. It shows either a weak hand with 6+ diamonds which will be passed in 3D, OR it is a strong hand (usually 14/15+ HCP ) which will explore for game or slam. Any second bid by responder after opener bids 3D is forcing to game.With only 11-13/14 HCP, you invite through Stayman or bid 3NT.

The continuations which follow the transfer to 3D are similar, but not identical, to those used after the transfer to 3C. There aren’t enough three-level bids available to create a perfect copy.

The first difference occurs immediately. With five diamonds and a four-card

side suit, there is no room for a secondary transfer into 3H, though 3H can still be

a transfer into spades. The solution is our old friend, the “flip-flop transfer”. After opener bids 3D, responder’s 3H shows a secondary four-card spade suit while his 3S shows four hearts. 3NT has to do double duty. It shows either a 6+ card diamond suit with no shortness (just as it does after a transfer into clubs) OR 5+ diamonds and a four-card club suit. After the 3NT bid, opener can bid 4C to ask clarification. A 4D reply shows shortness in hearts and confirms a four-card club suit. A 4H reply would show that hand with a singleton spade (For efficiency, singletons are shown by bidding the suit below the short suit- just as in the club transfer scheme). 4S shows

5 diamonds, 4 clubs, and 2-2 distribution in the majors. 4NT shows 6+ diamonds and no side shortness.

Unfortunately, this leaves no space below the five level to show voids. We can still use 5C to show the lower of two side voids and 5D to show the higher when responder is 6-4-3-0 or 7-4-2-0, but showing a 5-4-4-0 hand becomes a problem. A bid of 5H, 5S, or 5NT will tend to commit us to slam even when we find the void is not an asset. So I have devised a special sequence to allow us to show 5-4-4-0 hands at the four level. It is briefly outlined on P. 66 and is discussed more thoroughly in”Modified Minor Suit Transfers” (P.75-76).

Direct four-level rebids after the initial 3C transfer to 3D are very similar to those in the club scheme, but once again not identical. We still want to allow easy four-level key card-asking bids as well as the ability to show voids below the five level of the void suit. We can accomplish both objectives with a couple of simple adjustments. A direct 4C will simply show a singleton in that suit. 4D will show a singleton heart, and 4H will show a singleton spade. A bid of the next suit can now ask for key cards (1430 or “Texas” responses). Direct jumps to 4S, 4NT, and 5C can now show voids in ascending order (4S=club void, 4NT=heart void, 5C= spade void). A bid of the void would now be exclusion key card asking, possibly indicating grand slam interest..

Here is a chart to clarify (I hope) the scheme:
1NT 3C (forces 3D) any rebid but pass= GF

3D Then: 3H= 4 spades (forces 3S)

3S= 4 hearts (forces 3NT)

3NT= Either 6+ diamonds with no shortness OR

5 diamonds , 4 clubs / 4C asks

4D= 4 clubs, 0-1 heart

4H= 4 clubs, 0-1 spade

4S= 4 clubs, 2-2 in majors

4NT= long diamonds, no


4C= 7+ diamonds, no side suit, 1 club

4D= 7+ diamonds, no side suit, 1 heart

4H= 7+ diamonds, no side suit, 1 spade

After both sequences , the opener can bid the next higher suit (usually the short suit) to ask for key cards (1430 or “Texas” answers)

With a void and no side suit , the next three rebids continue the pattern:

1NT 3C

3D 4S= 6+ diamonds, no side suit, void in clubs

4NT=6+ diamonds, no side suit, void in hearts

5C= 6+ diamonds, no side suit, void in spades
Opener can now ask for key cards by bidding the void. 4NT and 5D are sign-offs.

Here is one way to handle 5-4-4-0 hands reasonably effectively:

1NT 3C

3D 3H (4 spades)

3S (forced) Then: 4NT= 5-4-4-0, club void*

5C= 5-4-4-0, heart void

1NT 3C

3D 3S (4 hearts)

3NT (forced) Then 4NT= 5-4-4-0, club void

5C= 5-4-4-0, spade void

1NT 3C

3D 4NT= 5- diamonds, both majors, club void

By first bidding one of the majors, then jumping to show the void in one of two remaining suits, we can keep the auction at a reasonable level. As noted earlier, though, this is an area which can be handled even more efficiently.

Here are some example hands involving the 1NT-3C-3D sequence:


A.♠ Kx ♠ Qxx 1NT 3C

♥ AJxx ♥ x 3D P

♦ AJxx ♦ Qxxxxxx

♣ Qxx ♣ xx

B.♠ Kx ♠ Qxx 1NT 3C

♥ AJxx ♥ x 3D 3NT (no shortness or 4 clubs)

♦ AJxx ♦ KQxxx 4C (ask) 4D (5+ D, 4C, 2/3 S, 1H)

♣ Q10x ♣ AKxx 4H (keycards?) 5C ( 2 KC + Q-“Texas”)


C.♠ Kx ♠ Ax 1NT 3C

♥ AJxx ♥ Kx 3D 3NT

♦ AJxx ♦ KQxxxx 4C 4NT (6+D, no shortness)

♣ Qxx ♣ Kxx 5C (key cards?) 5H (2 KC + Q)

6D ( a good partner will have a club control)
D.♠ Kxxx ♠ ---- 1NT 3C

♥ AJ ♥ Kxx 3D 5C (one-suiter,spade void)

♦ AJxx ♦ KQxxxxx 5S (key cards?) 6C (2 KC + Q)

♣ Q10x ♣ AJx 6D

E.♠ Qxxx ♠ x 1NT 3C

♥ AJ KQx 3D 4H (6+ D, 1 S)

♦ AQJx ♦ Kxxxxx 4S (key cards?) 4NT (2 KC , no Q)

♣ Qxx ♣ AKx 6D

F.♠ Qx ♠ AKxx 1NT 3C

♥ Q10x ♥ void 3D 4NT! (5-0-4-4 shape)

♦ Kxxx ♦ AQxxx 5H(asking) 5NT (2 KC+ Q

♣ AQJx ♣ Kxxx 6C (kings?) ) 6S (2)

7C or 7D

Modified Minor Suit Transfers
In some cases, as we have seen, the limited bidding space available after a transfer to 3D and a relay into a second suit forces the responder to go to the five level to show a 5-4-4=0 hand. As I stated earlier, there is a way to get around this problem. Since it is already used to show three-suited hands with4-4-4-1 distribution, it makes perfect sense to extend the 2S (Sartor Slam Try) response to 1NT to cover some 5-4-4-0 hands .They can be bid efficiently at the four level, thus allowing more room to assess slam and game prospects.

This can be done in either of two ways. In the first method I am going to outline

the SST can be used for all 5-4-4-0 hands with a five card minor. In the second method, the SST is used only for 5-4-4-0 hands containing five diamonds.
Method #1
With this adaptation of the SST, it is important to keep one important point in mind – the five card suit can only be a minor. If it were a major, we would use our major suit transfer sequences. With that in mind, here is the simplest possible version of this option:

Version 1A

1NT 2S (SST-foces 2NT)
2NT (forced) 4C =club void, hence 4-4-5-0

4D= diamond void, hence 4-4-0-5

4H= heart void, either 4-0-5-4 or 4-0-4-5

4S= spade void, either 0-4-5-4 or 0-4-4-5

As I said, this is obviously the simplest and most natural scheme. Is it what I would use? Of course not.

A more efficient scheme would reverse the majors and minors. That is, the lower minor (clubs) would show a void in the lower major (hearts) and vice versa. The higher minor (diamonds) would show a void in the higher major (spades) and vice versa. This switch allows signoffs in four of either major when opener does not like slam prospects . It also allows opener to cue bid a major suit void and use it as an exclusion ace-asking bid. 4NT or 5C can be used as exclusion over 4H and 4S bids. So here is a chart of the scheme:

Version 1B
1NT 2S (SST)
2NT 4C= heart void, either 4-0-5-4 or 4-0-4-5

4D= spade void, either 0-4-5-4 or 0-4-4-5

4H= club void, hence 4-4-5-0

4S= diamond void, hence 4-4-0-5

After 4C, 4D = forcing, 4H= exclusion Blackwood, 4S, 5C= to play

After 4D, 4H= to play, 4S=exclusion Blackwood, 5C, 5D= to play

After 4H, Pass, 4S= to play 4NT= to play or exclusion (optional)

5C= exclusion if 4NT natural 5D= to play

After 4S, Pass= to play, 4NT= optional, 5C= to play, 5D= exclusion

5H=to play

These bids should obviously reserved for hands that are odds-on favorites for game at the four or five level if necessary. Usually they will be at least invitational to slam.

There is only one major flaw in this set-up. When the void is in a major, it doesn’t tell you which minor is five cards long. In some cases this could be important. It is easy enough to add an asking or relay mechanism to disclose the long suit, but all of the ones I’ve tried have us back at the five level again. Any “mad scientist” who has managed to make it this far in the book is cordially invited to come up with a solution that doesn’t get us too high.

A variation on this scheme would be to use our “suit under” bids to show the void. To wit:

Version 1C


2NT(forced) 4C=diamond void, hence 4-4-0-5 4D now exclusion

4D=heart void, 4H now exclusion

4H=spade void, 4S now exclusion

4S=club void, hence 4-4-5-0 5C now exclusion

Since bidding the void is keycard asking, bidding the first non-void denomination could ask for the long minor when a void in hearts or spades has been shown.

This idea has two major flaws. It eliminates the ability of the opener to sign off in 4H, 4S, or 4NT in many cases, and we will often wind up asking for keycards with a five-level cue bid.

Of these three variations, I think 1B is best. However, there is another possibility. We can use the club transfers sequences as they are, since they function pretty well, and use the SST only for 5-4-4-0 ‘s with five diamonds.

Diamonds Only” Modified Minor Suit Transfers

This option immediately solves the problem discussed in the previous section. There will be no confusion about minor suit length . With five clubs and two four-card side suits, responder will still transfer into clubs, relay into a four-card major, and then make his void-showing bid for the lower or higher of the two remaining suits (the basic transfer scheme). The SST will only be used with 5-4-4=0 hands containing five diamonds.

It also retains the best aspect of option 1B as delineated earlier. It gives us all the desirable information and options we need at the four level. If you suspect I regard this as the best possible method for the system, you win a free membership in the Baker Street Irregulars. If that reference baffles you, ask a Sherlock Holmes fan to explain it.

Here is the “diamonds only” bidding scheme:
1NT 2S (SST)

2NT 4C = club void (5 diamonds,4 hearts, 4 spades)

4D= heart void (5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 4 spades)

4H= spade void (5 diamonds, 4 clubs, 4 hearts)
A convenient bid of the next suit now serves as an exclusion key card ask, while bids in the other suits or 4NT are to play. This is much more efficient than trying to figure out the right contract at the five level. Therefore, by the power vested in me as author of this opus, I hearby declare this to be the official system treatment. As usual, readers are completely free to ignore me and make their own choice.

1NT-3D(5/5 in H, S)
The 3D response to 1NT is relatively simple. It shows at least 5/5 distribution

in the majors and allows the 1NT bidder to play all major suit contracts from his side. The bid only promises game-invitational values but may be much stronger. Opener bids 3H or 3S with a minimum and 4H or 4S with a good fit or a maximum. He also may cue bid 4C with a super-acceptance in hearts and 4D with

one in spades. Responder can then transfer into the appropriate suit. He then can pass or make a “Texas” response to opener’s 4H or 4S (‘invisible Blackwood” again) as a try for slam.

Responder can also make slam tries even when opener has not offered any encouragement. When opener merely bids 3H or 3S over the jump to 3D, responder may cue bid an ace as a slam try. If desired, 3NT can also be used as “Baby Blackwood”, avoiding unnecessary trips to the five level.

Here are some example hands:


A.♠ Qxxx ♠ KJxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Kx ♥ QJxxx 4S

♦ AQx ♦ x

♣ Axxx ♣ Jx

B.♠ Qxxx ♠ KJxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Kx ♥ Axxxx 4S 4NT (2 KC, no Q-“Texas”

♦ AQx ♦ x 6S (responder must have extra strength

♣ Axxx ♣ KQ to go past game-either minor king is big)

C.♠ Kx ♠ Axxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Axx ♥ Qxxxx 3H P (but 4H not that bad)

♦ QJxx ♦ K

♣ KJxx ♣ xx

D.♠ Kx ♠ QJxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Axx ♥ QJxxx 3H 3NT (slow tricks, help in

♦ QJxx ♦ K P minors)

♣ KJxx ♣ Qx

E.♠ Kx ♠ Axxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Axx ♥ Kxxxx 3H 4NT

♦ QJxx ♦ Ax 5C(if 1430) 5D( Q ask)

♣ KJxx ♣ A 5H (no Q) P or 6H

F.♠ Kx ♠ AQxxx 1NT 3D

♥ Axx ♥ KQxxxx 3H 4NT

♦ QJxx ♦ x 5C (1430) 5H

♣ KJxx ♣ x P

The 3H and 3S responses to 1NT are very much like the 3D response.They also show specific 5/5+ distributions and shortnesses.

1NT-3H( H Shortness, 5/5+ in C, D)

When responder jumps to 3H in response to 1NT, he shows a very specific hand.

The hand contains at least five cards in each minor and a singleton or void in hearts. It is game-forcing. Thus when opener chooses a minor by bidding 4C or 4D, that bid serves as RKCB for that suit. He may choose to bid 3NT (to play)

with sufficient strength in the majors. Here are some typical examples:


A.♠ AQx ♠ Kx 1NT 3H

♥ xxx ♥ x 4D(keycards?) 4H(2 KC, no Q)

♦ KQxx ♦ AJxxx 6D

♣ KJx ♣ AQxxx

B.♠ AQx ♠ Jx 1NT 3H

♥ KQxx ♥ x 4C(keycards?) 4H(2KC,+ Q)

♦ Qx ♦ AKJxx 4NT P

♣ Jxxx ♣ KQ10xx

C.♠ Axxx ♠ x 1NT 3H

♥ AJx ♥ x 4C(keycards?) 4H(2 KC + Q)

♦ Kx ♦ AJxxxx 6C

♣ Kxxx ♣ AQ10xx

1NT-3S( S Shortness, 5/5+ in C, D)

The 3S response to 1NT promises the same 5/5+ minor suit distribution as the

3H bid, but with a singleton or void in spades. It also is game-forcing. A 3NT rebid is to play, and 4C and 4D are keycard-asking (“Texas”) for those suits.
D.♠ Axxx ♠ x 1NT 3S

♥ AJx ♥ xx 4C(keycards?) 4S(3 KC, no Q of C)

♦ Kx ♦ AQJxx 5H(any extras?) 6D(yes,good diamonds)

♣ Qxxx ♣ AKxxx 7C

E.♠ AQxx ♠ x 1NT 3S

♥ Kxx ♥ Qx 4C(keycards?) 4S (3 KC, no Q)

♦ Kx ♦ AJ9xx 6C

♣ QJxx ♣ AKxxx

F.♠ xxxx ♠ x 1NT 3S

♥ AKxx ♥ QJ 4D (keycards?) 4H( 2 KC, no Q)

♦ Axx ♦ KJ10xx 5D

♣ KJ ♣ AQ10xx


2C= STAYMAN(may not have a 4-card major) (2C starts

invitational sequences in spades,NT, clubs, and diamonds- heart

invitations start with transfer) Smolen is used with 5-4 or 6-4

distribution in the majors and game-going values.

2D= TRANSFER (5+hearts) (After opener bids 2H, 2S= artificial

and GF, 2NT= invitational, 3C / 3D show 5/5+,NON-FORCING

2H=TRANSFER (5+spades) (After opener bids 2S, 2NT= artificial

and GF, 3C/3D/3H= 5/5+,NON-FORCING

****TO INVITE WITH 5 SPADES,responder bids 2C-after 2D

by opener, 2H=TRANSFER (5 spades,invitational values)

After transfers, raises to 3H or 3S, 3NT, and 4H or 4S are “normal”.

After transfers, double jumps in new suits(3S,4C,4D, or 4H) are

splinter bids.


1NT-2C-2X-3C 1NT-2C-2X-3D (natural,5+ cards in bid minor)


After 2NT, responder either passes 2NT, raises to 3NT, or

TRANSFERS into a major at the 3-level- 1NT-2C-2NT-3D***=

transfer to 3H / 3H***=transfer to 3S. Responder can then pass,

raise to game, or cue bid in search of slam.


3D=xfer to 3H, 3H=transfer to 3S


1NT-2S(SST)-2NT(forced)-3C= CONFI (asks controls) then:

3D = 0-3 controls (A,K or K,K,K)

3H = 4 controls (A,A or A,K,K or K,K,K,K)

3S = 5 controls (A,A,K or A,K,K,K)

3NT = 6 controls (A,A,A or A,A,K,K or A,A,A)




THE SEARCH FOR A 4/4 FIT. NOTE-bidding a suit after

first bypassing it shows a 5-card suit without at least the QJ.



2NT 3D = 4414 (diamond singleton, GF)

3H = 4144 (heart singleton, GF)

3S =1444 (spade singleton, GF)

3NT = 4441(club singleton, GF)

THEN:4C= asks for controls (“Texas” responses)

4D = BLACKWOOD (just aces)


****possible Extension- see Modified Minor Transfers (5-4-4-0 hands)

MINOR SUIT TRANSFERS AFTER 1NT - 2NT (clubs) / 3C(diamonds)


AFTER 1NT- 2NT- 3C responder bids as follows:

PASS- weak,6+ clubs

Any other bid is slam invitational

3D = 5+ clubs + 4 hearts, forces 3H

3H = 5+ clubs + 4 spades, forces 3S

3S = 5+ clubs + 4 diamonds, forces 3NT

-responder can now show a short suit

or bid 3NT / 4C with no singleton

3NT = 6+ clubs, no side suit or shortness

4C = 6+ clubs, 1 diamond

4D = 6+ clubs, 1 heart

4H = 6+ clubs, 1 spade

4S = 6+ clubs, diamond void

4NT = 6+ clubs, heart void

5C = 6+ clubs, spade void
AFTER 1NT- 3C- 3D, responder bids as follows:

PASS= weak, 6+ diamonds

Any other bid is slam invitational

3H= 5+ diamonds, 4 SPADES

3S= 5+ diamonds, 4 HEARTS

3NT= 6+ diamonds, no side suit or shortness


5+ diamonds, 4 CLUBS

(then 4C=asks; 4D =singleton heart. 4 clu

4H =singleton spade. 4 clubs

4S = 5 diam., 4 clubs, 2-2 in majors)

4NT = 6+ D, no shortness

1NT-3C general rules:

With diamonds and a 4-card side suit:

Transfer to 3D, 3H/3S rebid (forcing 3S or 3NT) then 4C, 4D show

lower/higher side suit singleton

Transfer to 3D, 3H /3S rebid, then 4S, 4NT show lower, higher side voids

Transfer to 3D, then direct jump to 4S,4NT,5C= C,H,S voids, 5-4-4-0 shape

**unless “diamonds only” 5-4-4-0 option is used

With one-suited hand, transfer to 3D, then direct 4-level bid:

4C = 6+ diamonds, singleton club

4D = 6+ diamonds, singleton heart

4H = 6+ diamonds, singleton spade

4S = 6+ diamonds, club void

4NT = 6+ diamonds, heart void

5C = 6+ diamonds, spade void

Possible extension of SST for 5-4-4-0 Hands

Using SST instead of transfer to 3D)

1NT 2S

2NT 4C= club void (4-4-5-0)

4D= heart void (4-0-5-4)

4H= spade void (0-4-5-4)

Partnerships may choose to simplify or modify the continuation



invitational to game or slam

AFTER 1NT-3D, responder bids as follows:

3H or 3S = min.,willing to play in 3 opposite

invitational-to-game values.

4H or 4S = minimum with 4-card fit or maximum with 3

3NT = OPTIONAL- Natural sign-off OR

super hand for slam, maximum,4 card fit in at least

one suit- responder bids 4C with slam interest or 4D

asking opener to sign off in 4H or 4S. After the 4C bid

opener bids his major,and responder shows his

singleton by bidding the cheapest suit for clubs and

the next suit for diamonds. By partnership agreement ,

this could also ask for useful controls (not counting

king of short suit)or serve as RKCB.

Partnerships may choose to simplify or modify the extensions after

opener’s first rebid.

JUMPS TO 3H/3S IN RESPONSE TO 1NT = singleton in bid suit,

5/5+ in minors, game-forcing, slam invitational - opener can bid 3NT

with good major stoppers, or 4C or 4D with slam interest. Responder

starts cue bidding at 2nd turn.




Mild slam try- shows 2 key cards , no queen of trump



SLAM as follows:

Bid of next highest suit (1st step) = 2 key cards, + queen of trump

2nd step = 3 key cards, no queen of trump

3rd step = 3 KC, + Q

4th step = 4 KC, no Q

5th step = 4KC, + Q

6th step = 4KC+Q

Note- The responses are slightly different when the 2-level transfers and jumps

to 4 can’t be used for 2KC with no Q.(i.e. transfers to minor suit sequences)


1st Step = 2 KC, 2nd = 2 KC + Q, 3rd = 3 KC, 4th = 3 KC + Q, 5th =4 KC,

6th = 4 KC


When our opening 1NT bid is doubled (whether naturally or conventionally)

I prefer the following system of responses and continuations:

    1. Responder can PASS. This bid FORCES opener to REDOUBLE. Responder will do this with one of three types of hands.

  1. He may have a good balanced hand ( at least 8-9 HCP ) and wants to either play 1NT redoubled OR double the opponents when they run.

  2. He may have a weakish hand with two suits in which to play. After opener redoubles, he will bid the lower of his two suits, ala DONT. Opener may pass or bid a higher suit, looking for a better fit. This sequence is used instead of

Stayman .

  1. He may have 4333 distribution but be too weak to risk a pass of the redouble. In this case he will have to escape to 2C even if this is one of his 3-card suits. His object will be to simply avoid playing a doubled contract. He hopes to find at least a 4-3 fit. If he’s lucky he may even have opener

scramble into his 4-card suit. ( A bold alternative might be

an immediate transfer into the 4-card suit.)

    1. Responder can REDOUBLE . This bid FORCES opener to

bid 2 CLUBS. This is a 2-way bid. It serves as a transfer into a

5+ card club suit. With clubs responder will simply pass. It may

Also (rarely) show two 5-card majors With that hand he pulls

2C to 2D. Opener then chooses his best major.

    1. Responder can make an immediate TRANSFER into a 5+ card

diamond, heart, or spade suit. 2C is NOT Stayman. It is a transfer to 2D. 2D and 2H are normal transfers into the majors.

With a hand that might normally use Stayman, responder passes and then tries to find a fit, as described above.

    1. Responder can bid 2S or 2NT(partnership preference) with at least 5-5 in the MINORS.

This system may not be perfect, but it allows you escape from 1NT ,

penalize the opponents, transfer into all four suits, and put the doubler on lead a large percentage of the time.

****Alternate treatment

Redouble = weak hand with 5+ clubs or diamonds,

2C = Garbage Stayman

2D = transfer to hearts

2H = transfer to spades

2S = 5/5 in minors


As much as I really want to keep the traditional penalty double to punish the opponents when they have the audacity to overcall our 1NT opening, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the negative double is probably more frequently useful. Therefore, when opponents make a two-level overcall, our doubles will be primarily takeout.

Over a 2C overcall, double is essentially Stayman. All transfers still apply. Over 2D, 2H, or 2S the double is negative, tending to deny a higher 5-card suit. Lebensohl 2NT is used for non-forcing or invitational bids of 5+ card suits at the three level. Direct three-level bids are either forcing or highly encouraging, depending on partnership preference.With a stack in the opponent’s suit, one can only pass and pray to the bridge gods for a reopening double.

Over 2C- Dbl=Stayman, 2-bids=xfers


Over 2D/2H/2S- 2-bids=natural, NF 2NT=Lebensohl

3-bids=forcing or highly invitational

Over Dbl- Pass forces Redouble

(shows willingness to pass

1 NT redoubled or 2 suits to run to)

(will also dbl opponents’ runout

with the good hand)

Over Dbl. Rdbl. forces 2C

(Pull to 2D=5/5 in majors)

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