The california club system overview

Over Dbl.-Xfers into D,H,& S

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Over Dbl.-Xfers into D,H,& S

(2C=D, 2D=H, 2H=S)


The two club opening bid is defined as a hand with 11-16 HCP and at least a good 5-card club suit. If the club suit is only five long, the hand will always have a 4-card major. Otherwise it will have a 6+ card club suit.

Responder bids 2D on most hands with enough values to rebid at the 2NT or 3C level. All game-forcing responding hands begin with two diamonds, with subsequent new suit bids forcing. Direct responses of 2H and 2S are non-forcing, usually showing 6-card suits. Jumps to 3D, 3H, and 3S are invitational , with semi-solid 6+ card suits. A direct 2NT is invitational.

There are many hands containing five clubs that should NOT be opened 2C. With a BAD 5-card suit, opener should almost always try to find a better alternative. This is usually either a 1D or a 1NT opening.With four diamonds and five clubs and 11-13 HCP, 1D is the proper system opening. With 5-4 2-2 distribution, 14-16 HCP, and decent stoppers in the 2-card suits, 1NT may be best. 1D is the other reasonable choice.

My prejudice against 2C openings with bad 5-card club suits extends to almost all 5-4-3-1 hands,even to those with only one diamond and 4-3 distribution in the majors. With those hands I always open 1D. There are two reasons for this. First, the 2C bid is the most awkward bid in a strong club system. Responder often is forced to pass with a weakish hand when a much better fit is available in another suit. Second, if responder does manage to check for a better spot, he may still be forced to return the contract to 3C when the combined trump holding is very poor. He will often be a level higher than anyone else in the room and down an extra trick. If the opening bid decision is not clearcut, look for a bid other than 2C.

When the partnership assets are minimal or only slightly better, the 1D opening almost always gives us the best opportunity to find a major suit fit. It also gives us a chance to get to a 1NT contract, which is obviously impossible if you open 2C. Here are some very common minimum openers:

A. ♠ x ♥ AQx ♦ KQxx ♣ Jxxxx B. ♠ KJx ♥ x ♦ AKxx ♣ Qxxxx

  1. ♠ KQJ ♥ AQxx ♦ J ♣ 10xxxx

I wouldn’t open any of them 2C. I would open hands A and B with 1D, with no second choice. A 1H bid would be conceivable on hand C, but I would probably open it 1D. With a 1D opening, all three hands give you good rebid options and the chance to find a decent 2H, 2S, or 1NT contract opposite a minimum responding hand. The 1D opening will also give you a chance to duplicate (sort of) the way the bidding will go at most other tables. Non-strong clubbers will open 1C on many of the hands in question, of course, but a major suit response will put them in almost exactly our position.

With hand A, you raise 1H to 2H, bid 1NT over 1S, bid 2C over 1NT, and raise two of either minor. With B, you bid 1NT over 1H, raise 1S to 2S and treat 1NT, 2C, and 2D just as before. On C, you raise partner’s 1H, 1S and 2C bids. You pull 1NT to 2C, since responder is almost certain to have 3+ clubs. A forcing 2D bid is a little annoying , but you just bid 2NT.

These hands bring us to a little system rule which covers 1D-1NT auctions. When a 1D opener pulls a 1NT response to 2C, he is not promising both minors. Responder is absolutely prohibited (by common sense, not law) from correcting the contract to 2D without at least five good (preferably six) diamonds. Hand C is a perfect example of why.

Now that we’ve gone over reasons to avoid a 2C opener, let’s discuss hands that we want to open 2C. If it sounds like I think the 2C opening is a big liability, that is not really true. While it may have some awkward aspects, it also has some distinct advantages. Responder never has to worry about a short club suit in competitive auctions. It often allows easy bidding to club games and slams that would be harder to reach with a vague one club opening bid. It helps responder picture a good source of tricks for a three no trump contract. It is even mildly preemptive. A good response scheme can make it an effective bidding tool.

Here is the response scheme:

Pass= not strong enough to try to improve the contract or search for game

via a forcing 2D, an invitational 2NT or a 3-level jump. Also not

able to bid a non-forcing 2H or 2S (weak hand, 5/6+ card suit)

2D= artificial; enough values to force at least to 3C, and the start to most invitational and game-forcing auctions. A 2D bid followed by a new suit shows a 5+ card suit and is forcing. A 2D bid followed by a raise of opener’s 2H or 2S rebid to 3H or 3S is invitational, as is a rebid of 2NT. An immediate raise of opener’s 2H or 2S rebid requires five –card support.

This is because the bid may just show a feature, not a four-card suit.This will be explained in the next section.

2H or 2S= non-forcing, resembling a weak 2-bid. It shows a 6+ card suit,

although 5 may do if responder is desperate to escape a 2C contract.

Opener is expected to pass, although he may raise with a maximum and a great fit.

2NT = balanced or semi-balanced, 11-12 HCP, invitational to 3NT

3C = 6-9 HCP, 3+ clubs

3D, 3H, 3S = good 6+card suit, invitational

4C = RKCB 1430

4D, 4H, 4S = splinter bids, 4+ clubs, singleton or void, 13+ HCP

Opener’s Rebids After 2C-2D

Opener’s rebids after 2C-2D are unique to the system. In most strong club systems (unless they use 2C only for 6+card one-suiters), a 2H or 2S rebid is strictly natural, showing 5+ clubs and a 4-card second suit. A 2NT bid is usually natural ,showing a better-than-minimum semi-balanced hand with stoppers in the side suits.A 3C rebid merely shows 6+ clubs. As usual, the resident ‘mad scientist” couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The common bids do not allow opener to differentiate between a maximum and a minimum hand when he does not have no trump distribution.

The solution? I’m glad you asked.

The solution is to make a 2H or 2S rebid by opener a two-way bid. When the auction goes 2C-2D-two of a major it shows one of two hands. Opener either has 5+ clubs and four of the bid major or he has 6+ clubs, a maximum hand(15-16 HCP), and a feature in the bid major. This allows him to show a good unbalanced hand not suitable for a 2NT rebid.The 2NT rebid now guarantees a maximum with 6+ clubs and semi-balanced distribution. A simple 3C rebid after 2C-2D shows 6+ clubs and a minimum

(11-14 HCP) hand.

“How does responder know which hand opener has?” I hear someone ask. As I usually answer questions of that sort, “Simple!” Responder bids 2NT to inquire. If opener really has 5+ clubs and a four-card major he bids 3C. Any other rebid says he had the unbalanced maximum with 6+ clubs. He can bid another feature, rebid the major to show a good 3-card holding, or raise responder to 3NT. Since responder will usually have values in the suits opener didn’t bid, this will generally right-side the 3NT contract. If it seems that neither partner has much in a particular side suit, it may steer them to a good 5C contract. The pair may also be able to find a good 5-3, 5-2, or even 4-3 fit in opener’s feature suit. Of course, if opener shows a 4-card major and a 4-4 fit is found, responder can simply invite or bid game in the major.

Here are some sample auctions featuring a 2C opening bid:


-A.♠ KxJxxx 2C 2D(artifical/forcing)

♥ xxxxx 3C(6+ clubs,minimum) P

♦ AxKJxx

♣ AQ10xxxKx

B.♠ QJxxAxxx 2C 2D

♥ KxxQxxx 2S (2-way) 2NT (asking)

♦ xxxx 3C (5+C,4S) 3S (invitational)

♣ AKxxxQx P

C.♠ KQxxxx 1D !!! 1H

♥ AQxx K10xx 2H P

♦ xKxxx

♣ Qxxxx10x

!! (don’t open 2C with a bad suit and/or a weak hand)

If you open 2C with bad suits and weak hands, you play this one in 2C.

D.♠ QxA10xx 2C 2D

♥ AJxxx 2NT(maximum, 3NT

♦ KxQxxx semi-balanced)

♣ KQ10xxxAx

E.♠ AJxKQ10xxx 2C 2S (NF / with Q of C,

♥ xx xx could bid 3S-invitational)

♦ Kx Qx 3S (maximum, 4S or P (coin flip)

♣ AKxxxxxxx good fit)

F.♠QxxKJ10xx 2C 2D

♥ JAxx 3C 3S (5+ spades, forcing)

♦ KQx Jx 4S

♣ AJ10xxx ♣Kxx

G.♠ AJxxQ10x 2C 2D

♥ xxxx 2S (2-way) 3D (5+ diamonds, forc)

♦ Axx ♦KJxxx 3S (4 spades) 4C

♣ KQxxxAxxx 4D 5C (no side ace to cue)


H.♠xAKxxx 2C 2D

♥AKxxQJx 2H 2S

♦ xx ♦x 3H(confirms 4 hts) 4H (Sonny Moyse

♣ KQxxxxJxx lives!)*Responder could

bid 4C instead of 4H.

The final contract would

then be 5C.

*Sonny Moyse was a long-time editor of the Bridge World magazine. He was an ardent advocate of 4-3 fits. The 4-3 fit is widely known as the Moysian Fit.



It is important to have good agreements to handle opponents’ competition over our opening bid of 2C. We especially don’t want to miss 4-4 major suit fits that may be easier to reach after

a standard 1C opening.

Direct overcalls and doubles offer no special problems. They are treated essentially the same way standard bidders treat them (negative doubles,etc.), though at a higher bidding level.

If opener’s LHO doubles, responder can redouble to show strength. He may be laying the groundwork for a subsequent penalty double. He may also be planning to make a later bid in a new suit (forcing), showing a good hand and at least a good 5-card suit. A third possibility is a good (better than a direct 3C) raise of clubs. Opener will generally pass the redouble around to the doubler with a decent opener and no unusual distribution. He may occasionally pull it to his side major or 3C with a 6 or 7-card club suit or a really atrocious defensive hand. Any immediate suit bid over the double is non-forcing and shows length in the suit without much interest in defense or belief that our side can make a game. It is essentially the same bid responder would make without the double, taking into account the fact that the doubler may have four or five of the suit.

When the opponents bid and the auction gets back to responder , a double should be for penalty. 2NT could be natural and invitational,

but I think it might be more useful to use it as a conventional takeout bid, guaranteeing four cards in the opposite major (assuming the opponents have bid 2H or 2S) and at least a partial fit for clubs. Opener could then revert to 3C or bid three or four of the major. If the opponents have run out to 2D, I would suggest a special treatment. A double should still be penalty, but a bid of 2H or 2S should show only a four-card suit. With a five-card suit,

responder can bid 3D(transfer with 5+ hearts) or 3 hearts (transfer

with 5+ spades). Alternatively, responder could just bid and rebid the major with five, and use the transfer with six. Any reasonable agreement should work. Opener is free to bid three with a minimum

or jump to game with a maximum.

Two level overcalls of the 2C opening pose no special problems. Over a 2D overcall, a double by responder just asks opener to continue his description of his hand. Responder simply makes a standard negative double over 2H or 2S. That guarantees four cards in the opposite major, but should also show at least two (three would be nice) clubs, in case opener has to retreat to 3C. With a five-card or longer suit he has two options: he can make a free bid in his suit (2H, 2S, 3D), which is forcing for one round. This may be a hand strong enough to force to game. With a 6+ card suit worth no more than a competitive bid at the three level, he may make a negative double and then bid his suit (probably bidding 3H or 3S. Opener is expected to pass. The bid is non-forcing. A jump to 3D, 3H, or 3S directly over the opponents” double can be treated as preemptive or invitational.

Fourth seat competition by the opponents requires slightly different treatment. Actions after 2C-P-P- double simply involve common sense. Opener may redouble to show a maximum with good defensive values. If the opponents then get too high, the responder might find a double with modest vaues. Opener might

also bid 3C with exceptional length,simply to get in the way and annoy the opposing pair. The passed hand responder is unlikely to get involved with his limited strength, but he could conceivably toss in a bid with a very long suit that he couldn’t bid earlier- especially if he wouldn’t mind a lead of his suit.

When the auction goes 2C-P-2D- [action by opponent], however, the situation is different. The responder has to have some values for his 2D bid , and will often have a four card major for which he was seeking a fit. Game is often feasible.

Let’s start when RHO sticks in a double.This action is rather easy to handle.The opener can make his first rebid almost exactly as he would without the double with two extra options - he can redouble to show a maximum with solid defensive values, and pass to show a minimum without a four card major. With four hearts or four spades he can bid his major. With extra length or especially good offensive values (partners might even want to specify a solid or semi-solid suit) he can bid 3C. If the opener passes or bids, responder can basically continue as he would have in an uninterrupted auction. He can bid a new suit (forcing), raise a four card major, bid no trump, or raise clubs. If opener redoubles, he may decide to sit for that contract or to play for penalty and begin doubling any escape bids made by the opponents.

Finally, we come to the situation which is most likely to lead to confusion. When the auction goes 2C- P- 2D- [2H or 2S] , what does a double by opener mean? Does it show that the opponent has bid his four card major? Is it for takeout? As in other areas of the system, more than one scheme will work. What’s really important is that both partners are on the same page. The official system is as follows:

Since the 2C bid shows, by definition , either 6+ clubs or five clubs and a four card major, we can show a hand that might want to

double the overcall for penalty by a process of elimination. We don’t need to use an immediate double by opener for penalty. When partner bids 2D and RHO overcalls 2H or 2S , opener has the following choices:

Double = four cards in the opposite major

2NT = maximum with 6+ GOOD clubs and a stopper in

the opponent’s suit

3C = minimum with 6+ clubs

Here’s where the process of elimination comes in: If the 2C bid does not contain a 6+ card club suit he wishes to bid or four cards in the other major, there are only two possibilities- he either has four of the overcaller’s major or he has a maximum with a high honor in the suit.The overcaller has stolen his planned rebid. Therefore a PASS shows that hand.

So: Responder can now

Double = giving opener the chance to pass for penalty

Bid a new suit = forcing

Cue bid = suggesting opener bid 3NT

Raise opener to 3C = stronger than an immediate 3C

In general, we can say that once responder has bid 2D, showing values,

The partnership is committed to some action over two level overcalls. They must either compete to at least the three level or double the




We now come to the anchor bid of the system- the strong 1C opening bid. This bid shows a minimum of 17 HCP (occasionally an exceptional 16) and defines the limits for the 1D, 1H, 1S, 1NT, and 2C opening bids. All of those bids are limited to a maximum of 16 HCP by definition*. One club is not the only strong bid in the system , but it handles a vast majority of the big hands.

The negative response to a 1C opening bid is 1D. The 1D bid usually shows 0-8 HCP. The only exception, which will occur less than 10% of the time, is a modified version of the old Precision “Impossible Negative” bid. We will go over that bid in a separate section of this chapter. The most common positive suit responses (1H, 1S, 2C ) show 9+ HCP. I am tempted to qualify that by saying a positive response can be made with a “good” 7-8 point hand, but I really don’t want to encourage the current fad of “upgrading” hands that don’t really meet supposed system standards. It has become common for strong clubbers to open “good” 15 HCP or even 14 HCP hands with 1C and to give positive responses on lousy hands simply because they have decent distribution. I think this undermines the usefulness of the whole system. There is really no need to upgrade a 15-16 HCP opener. It is easy to open one of a suit and make a strength showing jump if you think it necessary. It is also not a crime to have a maximum for your opening bid. Upgrading a 7-8 HCP hand to a positive response is even worse. Not only will it sometimes encourage opener to push to a bad marginal contract based on an extra queen that you “have to” have for your bid, it also often wrongsides the contract while gaining no significant advantage. The most common 1C auction in this system is 1C-1D-1NT, showing a balanced hand with 17-19 HCP. When this occurs, responder can easily describe a 5+ card suit with near-positive values with a transfer bid and invitation. If, however, he decides to be a genius and makes a bad 1H or 1S response, the same contract will probably be reached with the weak hand as declarer. The advantage of having the opening lead coming into the strong hand is lost. So too is the advantage of having the strong hand concealed. So upgrading a responding hand is not just misleading. It is also dumb.

The 1NT response and all two and three level responses have non-conventional meanings and will be discussed in individual sections. Several have more than one meaning or serve as relays.

One major difference between this system and most other strong club systems is the fact that an opening 1C and rebid of 1H or 1S is forcing for at least one round. Opener does not need jump rebids in the majors to create a game force. As we shall see when we discuss big suit-oriented hands, game forces are only created after an exchange of information at the one level + The “1D with muscles” is the sole exception-(17-20 HCP)

A major advantage of this approach is that those jumps to 2H, 2S, and 2NT can be used for other purposes. In the “Big Balanced Hands” section we will see one of them . The jump rebid of 2H will take the place of a standard 2NT opening bid. We will discuss that bid as part of our discussion of big balanced hands.

In addition, the jump rebids to 2S and 2NT are now used to describe traditional “strong 2-bids” in the minors. Those sequences will also be discussed thoroughly in separate sections. But first we will examine how the system handles big balanced hands.

1C-1D-1NT(17-19 HCP)

Our first range for a powerful balanced hand is 17-19 HCP. Assuming responder gives a negative (0-8 HCP) response to the 1C opening bid, this hand is described by the simple rebid of 1NT. Should responder start with a positive 1-level response, the 1NT rebid is made with any 17+ hand. There is no need to jump around to show extra strength. Opener will let the responder show his strength and then decide whether to make any move toward slam.

By far the most common auction is 1C-1D-1NT. This bid handles all the hands that that would be shown by a jump to 2NT if one were playing a standard system. A couple of advantages are obvious. If the auction stops at 1NT, we are one level lower and no suits have been mentioned by either partner. The opening leader is making a blind lead. It may not make any difference , but it can’t hurt.

Although this is just like opening a very big 1NT, at this point there are several differences in responder’s continuations. Simple Stayman (no longer guaranteeing invitational or better values) and standard transfers now apply. The 2NT and 3C answers to Stayman can still be used, but the sequences involving transfers to 2S are now just identical to those surrounding transfers to 2H.

Opener will still bid 2NT over 2C to show both majors and a minimum, and will bid 3C to show both majors and a maximum. This should not be a problem. If responder has a NT invitation he passes 2NT or raises 3C to 3NT. If he has the weakish hand with one or both majors, he simply transfers into 3H or 3S. With a better hand (7-8 HCP) he just bids the appropriate game.

Slam is probably out of the question (unless responder has an “impossible negative”), so the meanings of the 2S and 2NT continuations are altered. Jumps to 3C,3D, 3H, and 3S are “impossible negatives”. They show 9+ HCP, a singleton in the bid suit, and 4441 distribution. This eliminates the 3D, 3H, and 3S bids used in response to 1NT. It will probably be useful to go through the entire response scheme one bid at a time.

Assuming a 1D response, these hands would all be opened 1C and rebid 1NT:
A.♠ AKxx B.♠ Ax C.♠ AQx

♥ KxKxxKQx

♦ QxxAQxxxKQx

♣ AKxxKQJJxxxx

Our definition is fairly simple.The hand contains 17-19 HCP and (almost always) no 5-card major . It may contain a 5-card minor. The following responses apply:

2C- Stayman

Stayman is no longer used as a convoluted way to make an invitational bid in a 5-card spade suit. It is a simple request for opener to show a 4-card major. It does not guarantee that responder has a 4-card major. It may be the beginning of a two-step invitational raise in no trump, shown by rebidding 2NT over opener’s 2D, 2H, or 2S reply to 2C. It may also be the the start of a Smolen rebid at both the two and three levels. With 5-4 in the majors and 5 to a bad 7 HCP, responder bids 2C . If opener bids 2D, responder bids his 4-card suit at the two level. Opener can sign off at 2S or 3H or make a game try in another suit. If responder has 8 HCP (or a good 7) he bids his 4-card suit at the three level. Opener will choose the appropriate game- either 3NT or four of responder’s long major. What if responder has 5-4 in the majors but 0-4 (or a bad 5 HCP)? He should simply transfer into his long major and pass. Similarly, with 5-5 in the majors and a very weak hand, transfer and pass is my choice of actions. (I would transfer into spades. If the opponents balance, you can compete with a 3H bid).

With 5-5 in the majors and better (mildly invitational) values, we have a slight problem. The “impossible negative” jump to 3D after 1C-1D-1NT has taken away the 3D bid we use to show both majors after a 1NT opener. If we still want to make the strong hand the declarer in any heart or spade contract, we have to use some ingenuity. Fortunately, we mad scientists are just full of it (you may interpret that any way you wish.) Here is the solution: With two 5-card majors and 5-7 HCP we bid 2D to transfer into 2H, and then rebid 3D as a completely artificial bid showing that hand. The loss of 3D as a natural bid here is not a big deal. Opener can then bid 3H or 3S to play or jump to 4H or 4S with the right hand.

What if we have a maximum (good 7+ -8 HCP) negative response and 5-5+ in the majors? We should be willing to force to game in one of our suits. When opener shows a minimum by bidding 3H or 3S, just raise him to four anyway and hope he makes it. What can he do? Revoke your bidding privileges?

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