The california club system overview

D and 2H - Standard Transfers To Majors

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2D and 2H - Standard Transfers To Majors

As previously mentioned , the 2D and 2H transfers to the major suits after 1C-1D-1NT are fairly standard. Responder transfers and invites with 2NT or a new suit when holding a only five of his major . With a 6+ card suit he can invite with a simple raise to 3H or 3S. New suits after a transfer are now simply help-suit game tries. Since opener has 17-19 HCP, invitations show about 6-7 points. With a decent 8 HCP, it’s best to just jump to 3NT or 4 of the major in most cases.

The Two-way 2S Response

Since slam is not usually in the picture, two spades is no longer needed for a slam try. It is more useful as a bid to show a long minor which may run in 3NT or to show a two-suited hand with 5/5+ in the minors and 7-8 HCP. In the first case it shows a 6+ card suit headed by AQ, KQ, or AJ10 and suggests opener bid 3NT with the ace, king or a good 3-card fit in the suit. It implies the complete lack of an outside entry. In the second case it may show the way to a minor suit game when 3NT has a fatal weakness in one of the majors.

After 1C-1D-1NT, responder bids 2S. Opener is required to bid 2NT. If responder now bids 3C or 3D, he is showing the one suited invitational hand.

If he instead bids 3H or 3S, he is showing a singleton or void in the bid suit, 7-8 HCP, and 5/5+ distribution in clubs and diamonds.

Opposite the long suit , opener can either bid 3NT with the right fit or pass. If facing the minor two-suiter, he can bid 3NT with solid major suit stoppers. He can sign off in 4C or 4D. If he likes his fit, he can bid 4H (RKC for clubs ), 4S, (RKC for diamonds), or just jump to 5C or 5D.

The Multi-Minor 2NT Response- “One Suit Weak or Two Suit Freak”

The 2NT bid after 1C-1D-1NT is a multi-purpose call. Primarily it serves as a way to stop in three of a minor with a weak hand and a long suit. Opener is forced to bid 3C. Responder can then pass or correct to 3D.

However, by pulling 3C to bids other than 3D, responder can describe several other types of hands. It is tempting to overload the bid with too many additional meanings, but some are useful. Basically, they are all two-suited “freaks” in the minors.

These bids follow a logical pattern which should help with memory strain. Lower bids show the slightly less extreme distribution(6-5). The higher bids show voids. The lower of any touching pair of bids shows longer clubs ( the lower suit) while the higher shows longer diamonds (the higher minor). When length in the minors is known , the lower bid shows shortness in hearts (the lower major) and the higher, spades (the higher major). Since all of this is probably as clear as mud, let me explain with a chart:

After 1C-1D-2H (bal.20-21 HCP) 2NT-3C :

Pass = 0-4 HCP, 5-6+ clubs 2D = 0-4 HCP, 5-6+ diamonds

THESE ARE TO PLAY – any other bid is a two-suited “freak”

3H = 6C, 5D, 1H, 1S 3S = 6D, 5C, 1H, 1S

4C = 6C, 5D, H void 4D = 6D, 5C, H void

4H = 6C, 5D, S void 4S = 6D, 5C, S void

Finally, he can describe a minor 6-6 two-suiter with a void.

3NT = 6C, 6D, H void 4NT= 6C, 6D, S void

Here are a group of hands held by a 1D responder. Assume that in every case the auction has proceeded 1C- 1D (by you)- 1NT. What bid or sequence of bids would you use to describe your hand? Cover the right side of the page to hide the answers until you decide on an action on each hand.

  1. ♠Kxxxx A. 2H With 0-4 HCP, just transfer

♥10xxx and pass.


B. ♠xx B. 2D, followed by 2NT

♥QJxxx With 5-7 HCP you can

♦Kx invite game.

C.♠x C. 2NT, followed by 3D

♥J10x 2NT forces 3C; the

♦Q10xxxx correction to 3D is

♣xxx “drop dead.”
D. ♠xxx D. 2S, followed by 3C

♥xx 2S forces 2NT, then 3C

♦xx (or 3D) is invitational

♣KQxxxx to 3NT

E. ♠AQxx E. 3H-“impossible negative”

♥ x 3H shows a singleton

♦Kxxx heart, 4144, 9+ HCP


F. ♠ x F. 2S, followed by 3S

♥xx This sequence shows a

♦A10xxx singleton spade,7-8 HCP,

♣KJxxx and 5/5+ in the minors

G. ♠K10xxx G. 2D, followed by 3D, then P

♥QJxxx 3D is artificial, showing

♦x 5-5+ in H,S and 5-7 HCP.

♣xx (This sequence makes the 1C

declarer in either major.)

H. ♠Qxxxx H. 2D,followed by 3D, then

♥AQxxx raise 3H or 3S to 4

♦xx This shows 5/5+ in the

♣x majors with 7-8 HCP.

We now come to the 20-21 HCP balanced hand. “What’s to discuss?”you

may ask.”Everyone bids 2NT and plays Stayman and transfers, don’t they?”

No, not everyone. Many other “mad scientists” have come up with suggestions for ways to handle this hand more efficiently, but none of their ideas have caught on. We’ll have to see whether my brainstorm will have any more success.

The standard 2NT opener is often as much of a problem for the opening side as it is for the opponents. It is known in some circles as ‘the slam killer”. It also frequently winds up as the final contract opposite very weak hands, with declarer having to play the contract entirely out of his own hand and going down two or three tricks. It makes it almost impossible to escape into a minor suit partscore. You would obviously not choose to throw it in and ask for a redeal, but you have to recognize that this holding has possible pitfalls.

The Califonia Club version of a standard 2NT opener begins with an opening bid of 1C. This gives us an immediate advantage whenever responder has a positive response or one of the holdings covered by a special two or three level response. Responder may be able to give a good description of his hand while opener just listens and sets the contract. When responder has a 1D response and opener has to show his exact strength, though, our non-standard bidding scheme is still a major improvement on ordinary methods.

As previously mentioned, a 1H rebid by a 1C opener is forcing and can include very strong hands. That frees a jump to 2H for a special purpose- it takes the place of a 2NT opening bid. It shows a balanced hand with 20-21 HCP.

Starting two denominations below the standard 2NT gives us a couple of major advantages. By differentiating between bids made directly at the three level and bids that start with a 2S relay, it doubles the number of responder’s possible descriptive bids. It also creates the ability to make both invitational and sign-off bids in clubs and diamonds. Anyone who has ever gone down in 2NT when dummy’s entryless 6-card minor would have produced an easy +110 or +130 at 3C or 3D will appreciate this last feature.

The standard 2NT opening does have one major positive feature-ordinary Stayman and transfer sequences automatically make the big hand the declarer in all major suit and no trump contracts. It took a bit of ingenuity to make that happen in the new scheme, but eventually it was accomplished. An underlying principle was established. Hands with less than four spades use 2S as a relay to 2NT. Hands that have four or more spades bypass the 2S relay to 2NT and are bid directly at the three level. The weak hand never bids spades or no trump first if those are possible final contracts. The strong hand declares all major suit and no trump contracts, just as in standard bidding.

For clarity, I’m going to give an overall summary of the possible bids after 1C-1D-2H. Then I’ll try to give a more detailed description of each bid.

Bids which deny a 4-card spade suit ( must first use 2S relay)

2S This bid requires opener to bid 2NT. It begins several descriptive

sequences. The continuations are:

3NT=5-8 HCP, balanced or semi-balanced

3C or 3D= 5-6 HCP, 5/6+ card suit, needing fit for 3NT

3H= 5-8 HCP, 4-card heart suit

3S= 5-8 HCP, 5+card heart suit(2S denies spades)

[memory aid-with a heart suit, responder must go through

the 2S relay to bid the suit.]

4C =This shows 6+ clubs and 5+ diamonds with 5-8 HCP.

4D =This shows 6+diamonds and 5+ clubs with 5-8 HCP.

4H =This shows 6+ hearts and 5-8 HCP.

Direct 3/4-level bids(not using the 2S relay)

2NT This bid requires opener to bid 3C. He will usually pass or correct

to 3D, making that the final contract. An additional optional use

is to use a pull of 3C to any denomination other than 3D to

describe hands that will never play in no trump because of

freakish distribution (see later discussion.)

3C This bid is Smolen (5H/4S or 5S/4H) Because responder first bid

1D, it is limited to 8 HCP.If opener replies 3D, responder bids the

4-card major. If opener shows a 4-card major, he raises it to game.
3D This bid is modified Stayman. It guarantees 4 spades. It may also

show 4 hearts.If opener has both majors he bids spades. If he bids

3H, responder raises to 4H or uses 3S as a relay to 3NT.
3H This bid is a transfer to spades.With only 2 , opener bids 3NT.

With 6+ spades, responder can retransfer by bidding 4H

3S This shows a singleton spade, 9+ HCP, and 1444 distribution.

Improved version - see P. 105

4C This shows a singleton club, 9+ HCP, and 4441 distribution.

Improved version - see P. 105

4D This shows a singleton diamond, 9+ HCP, and 4414 distribution.

Improved version - see P. 105

4H This shows a singleton heart, 9+ HCP, and 4144 distribution.(“)

The best way to get a handle on the ‘Not Your Standard 2NT” 2H bid is to think in terms of general principles, rather than trying to memorize a list of bids.

1.Whenever your object is to place the contract in NT, you use the 2S relay. This makes the strong hand declarer. You only use the 2S relay when you have no interest in spades as a possible contract. The 2S relay almost always denies four spades.

2. Whenever you plan to show a 4-card or longer heart suit and you hold less than four spades, you use the 2S relay. This again makes the strong hand declarer should you wind up in NT instead of hearts.

3. The weak hand tries to never bid NT first when there is any possibility that the contract will wind up in that denomination. Therefore the 2NT response (after 1C-1D-2H) is used in only two circumstances:

a) responder plans to sign off in 3C or 3D or b) responder has a freak hand with at least 6-5 distribution in the minors.

4. Whenever responder has four or more spades (including when he also has four or more hearts) he avoids the 2S relay and bids directly at the 3-level or higher. The 3-level bids have been carefully designed to make the strong hand declarer in spades, hearts, and no trump. Again, the guiding rule is that a responding hand with a spade suit never bids that suit first.

Keeping those principles in mind should make it much simpler to to remember what to do when you are responder and your partner has jumped to 2H after opening 1C. Let’s go over some specific instances.

1C-1D-2H- 2S

  1. You have a balanced hand and will place the contract in 2NT or 3NT..

  2. You have a long minor with no sure side entry and you plan to bid an invitational 3C or 3D over opener’s forced 2NT bid.

  3. You have 4+ hearts. With exactly four, you will bid 3H over opener’s 2NT. With five you will bid 3S. Opener can bid 4H or 3NT. With six hearts you can now correct to 4H if you wish. Note that there are two ways to bid the 6-card heart suit. You may want to establish a partnership agreement that the slow route (1C-1D-2H-2S-2NT-3S-3NT-4H) is simply to play, while the more direct 1C-1D-2H-2S-2NT-4H indicates at least mild slam interest, perhaps guaranteeing two keycards. Remember, we can’t use a simple jump to 4D as a transfer because that’s an “impossible negative” with a singleton diamond.

The auction begins 1C-1D- 2H (20-21HCP, balanced). How would you follow up with the following hands?

A.♠ Jxx B.♠ xx C.♠ x D.♠ xx E.♠ x

♥ Qxx ♥ xxx ♥ xxxx ♥ QJxxx ♥ Axxx

♦ J10xx ♦ KQ10xxx ♦ K10x ♦ K10x ♦ QJxx

♣ Qxx ♣ xx ♣ KJxxx ♣ xxx ♣ Kxxx

A.Bid 2S, then 3NT B. Bid 2S, then 3D(invit.) C. Bid 2S, then 3H(4hearts)

D. Bid 2S, then 3S(5 hearts) E. Jump to 3S (1444, 9+ HCP)

1C-1D-2H- 2NT
  1. You have a very weak (0-4 HCP) hand with a long minor. Opener is forced to bid 3C. You will pass or bid 3D, which opener must pass.

  2. You have a freak two-suiter with at least 6-5 in the minors. You have 4-8 HCP. After you force opener to bid 3C, you may bid an invitational 3H(6C/5D), 3S(6D/5C) or 3NT(6C/6D) . Opener can bid 3NT, 4C, 4D ,or force with 4 of a major. You can also show voids by bidding directly at the four level with game-forcing hands.Direct 4C and 4D bids would show at least 6 of that suit and a heart void. 4H (longer clubs) or 4S (longer diamonds) would show 6-5 and a spade void. 3NT could show 6-6 and a heart void. 4NT would show 6-6 and a spade void. Since the auction started with 1C-1D, transferring the contract to the strong hand is moot. Opener will play all the club contracts and responder will declare in diamonds.

If all of the possibilities in part 2 are giving you a headache, just use part 1.

After 1C-1D-2H, what do you bid with:

A.♠ x B.♠ xx C.♠ x D.♠ x E.♠

♥ xx ♥ xxx ♥ x ♥ ♥ x

♦ Jxx ♦ Qxxxxx ♦ Kxxxxx ♦ QJxxxx ♦ KQxxx

109xxxxx ♣ xx ♣ Q10xxx ♣Q10xxxx ♣ QJxxxxx

A. 2NT, then pass 3C B. 2NT, then correct 3C to 3D C. 2NT, then 3S

(1-1-6-5) D. 2NT, then 3NT (1-0-6-6) E. 2NT, then 4H (longer clubs, spade void). With a very weak hand, responder would simply sign off at 3C or 3D, despite extreme distribution.

1C-1D-2H- 3C

This is modified Smolen.

1. You have 5-4 in the majors. If opener bids a major, you will raise to game. Occasionally you may bid 3NT as a mild slam try. If opener bids 3D, denying a 4-card major, you bid your 4-card suit. Opener can then bid game in your 5-card suit or bid 3NT.

2. You have 6-4 in the majors. You may choose to ignore the 4-card suit and just relay or transfer into the 6-carder. However, should you decide to bid your shape, you start with 3C. If opener bids a major, you may raise to four or make the 3NT slam suggestion. If he bids 3D you show the 6-4 by indirectly showing the 6-card suit.First you bid your four-card major, showing five in the other major. If opener shows a three-card fit you can make a slam try by bidding a short minor or just settle for game. If he denies the 5-3 fit by bidding 3NT, you show six of your long suit by taking 3NT out to your short minor.

3. You have 5-5 in the majors. You first bid 3C If opener bids 3H or 3S, you can raise to game or even bid a singleton in a minor with a maximum. If opener bids 3D, a 4C or 4D bid shows the 5H/5S hand and shortness in the bid suit.
After 1C-1D-2H, what do you do with:(opener bids 3D over 3C) ?

A.♠ Qxxx B.♠ A10xxx C.♠ J10xx D.♠ QJxxxx E.♠ K109xx

♥ KJxxx ♥ J10xx ♥ A10xxxx ♥ Kxxx ♥ KQxxx

♦ x ♦ Qx ♦ Q ♦ J10 x

♣ xxx ♣ xx ♣ xx ♣ x xx

A. Bid 3C, then 3S B. Bid 3C, then 3H C. Bid 3C, then 3S. If opener bids 3NT, bid 4D (6 hearts, short diamonds) D. Bid 3C, then 3S. If opener bids 3NT, bid 4C (6 spades, short clubs) E. Bid 3C. Over 3D, bid 4D (5-5)
1C-1D-2H- 3D

This is “Telling Stayman.” It always guarantees four spades. Responder may also have four hearts. If opener has no major, he can just bid 3NT. If he has both majors, he always bids 3S, the known fit. If he has four hearts but not four spades, he bids 3H. Responder can then raise him to 4H or bid 3S, which is now just a relay to 3NT. As always, this maneuver makes the strong hand the declarer.

After 1C-1D-2H-3D, what do you bid with these hands?

A.♠ KQxx B.♠ AQx A. Bid 3S; responder promises 4 spades

♥ A109x ♥ K10x

♦ AJ ♦ AJ10x B. Bid 3NT

♣ AQx ♣KQJ

1C-1D-2H- 3H

Believe it or not , this is a standard Jacoby Transfer. Opener’s bids are not quite standard, however. With three or more spades, he accepts the transfer and bids 3S (or 4S). With only two he bids 3NT. The reason for this is, as usual, to make the 1C opener the declarer. If responder now bids 4H, a retransfer, responder shows 6+ spades. He can also bid 4C or 4D to show a second 5+card suit .

After 1C-1D-2H-3H, what does a 3S bid show? 3NT?

3S= opener has 3+spades 3NT= opener has only 2 spades

After 1C-1D-2H-3H-3NT what does a 4C bid show? 4D? 4H?

4C= 5 spades, 5+ clubs 4D=5 spades, 5+diamonds 4H=6+ spades

1C-1D-2H- 3S,4C,4D,4H

These bids are all “impossible negatives.” They show 4441 distribution, 9+ HCP, and a singleton in the bid suit. Opposite a 20-21 HCP hand it might be prudent to separate the impossible negatives into two groups. Those with only 9-10 HCP might best be handled by Telling Stayman (if the hand has four spades) and the regular sequence showing a four card heart suit (if spades is the singleton). That way any of these jumps would be in at least marginal slam territory. This would allow more confident exploration which might take us up to the five level. This would have to be a matter for partnership agreement.

Here is an outline of such a two-tier scheme:

Two-Tiered “Impossible Negatives”

After 1C- 1D- 2H (20-21 HCP, balanced)

In the basic outline of the system, jumps directly to 3S, 4C, 4D, and 4H after opener’s 2H rebid show 9+ HCP and shortness in the bid suit. This is fine, but it may not be enough for opener to accurately judge prospects for slam.

A better, although slightly more complex , approach would be the following:

A. Use the 3D (“Telling Stayman”) bid for all minimum (9-11 HCP) 4441’s except those with singleton spades. (Since the 3D bid guarantees a four-card spade suit, the 3S bid will have to cover all hands with singleton spades.)

B. Use the 3S bid for both minimum and maximum 1444 hands. Use opener’s subsequent 3NT bid to ask for clarification.

C. Use the 4C,4D, and 4H bids for maximum 4441(12+ HCP) hands. These are the hands that are most likely to produce makeable slams.

Here is the outline:

Opener Responder

1C 1D

2H 3S (9+, 1444)

3NT (rightsides NT, asks 4C= 9-10 HCP

for HCP range) 4D=11-12 HCP

4H=13+ HCP

Over a 4C or 4D answer, 4H or 4NT would be a sign-off. 4S would be RKCB or 1430.
1C 1D

2H 3D (“Telling Stayman”)

3H,3S, or 3NT 4C,4D,4H = 9-11 HCP, 4441

singleton. in bid suit

Any game bid in opener’s bid major would now be a sign-off. 4D or a bid of the opposite major would be RKCB or 1430.

1C 1D

2H 4C, 4D, or 4H (12+ HCP,

4441, singleton in bid suit)

Any suit bid at this point should set trump and serve as RKCB or 1430.

4NT should be the only four-level sign-off, since there is a minimum of

32 HCP between the two hands.

Although I included the very simple version of the “impossible

negative” as the basic method of showing 4441 hands opposite the 20-21 HCP opener, I think the two-tiered scheme is far superior. It can help find good slams and keep us out of bad ones. I would treat it as our default choice for the system.


The opening 2NT is remarkably mundane. It shows a balanced 22-24 HCP

hand. The responses are equally unexciting. 3C is standard Stayman. 3D and 3H are standard Jacoby Transfers. 3S serves as a signal of slam interest in one of the minors. 4C is Gerber- either directly or after a Stayman or transfer reply. 4D shows 5/5 in the majors.

Responder is able to use “invisible Blackwood” responses that we discussed in “Little Bit West of Texas” transfers. He can transfer into 3H or 3S and then jump to a denomination above four of the suit. The first step above would show two keycards with no queen, the second two with the queen, etc. For those still unsure of what I’m saying, here are two examples:

2NT-3D-3H – 4NT= 2KC + Q of H 2NT-3H-3S- 5D=3 KC, no Q of S


The opening bid of 3NT is probably the clumsiest instrument in our entire bidding arsenal. Luckily it only rears its head about once a decade. The worst aspect of a 3NT opening is that you may belong in a 4-4 major suit fit, but you will wind up in 4NT if you try to find one and fail. In the process you may go down when you have exactly nine tricks.

It is probably not worth designing an extremely sophisticated scheme to deal with this type of hand. However, this system actually allows a pretty fair way to solve the problem described above.Because a 1C -1D -1H sequence is forcing, we actually have three ways to show a balanced 25-27 HCP.

  1. opening 3NT= balanced 25-27 HCP, no 4-card major

  2. opening 1C-1D-jump to 3NT= same hand, 4-card spade suit

  3. opening 1C-1D-1H(forcing)-any rebid-jump to 3NT = same hand,

4-card heart suit

With 25-27 and both majors, you’re out of luck. Try #2 or #3.


There is nothing extraordinary about the California Club’s initial treatment of strong suit-oriented hands. In most cases they are opened 1C. The 1C is somewhat stronger than that of most other strong club systems. It shows 17+ HCP, though judgement is allowed with a very good 16. In my opinion 15-16 point hands don’t really qualify as “strong”. They are just nice solid openers. Be that as it may, when a California Club user opens 1C, he has a strong hand. And when responder makes a positive (9+ HCP) response, the auction is almost (maybe 99%) forcing to game. Fudging, or as it is now popularly known, upgrading, is not encouraged. If a player is not quite strong enough for a strong action at his first turn he can show a maximum limited hand at his second turn. This avoids a lot of overbidding.

The first major diversion from more conventional systems comes with opener’s initial rebid. As previously noted, a rebid of 1H or 1S after a 1C-1D sequence is FORCING for one round. This means that the one-level major suit rebid may include hands that standard bidders would open 2C.(We have already seen how a 2H rebid shows a balanced 20-21 HCP). When opener has a really huge hand he shows it by jumping at his second turn. This delayed sequence allows the weak responder a second chance to define how weak his negative response actually is before opener shows his full strength.

This is important because the 1D bidder could have anywhere from 0 to 8 points. He could even have 9 or more and an “impossible negative”. He can have a raise or a suit of his own. He gets a chance to describe his hand at a low level.When opener makes his second bid, he at least knows whether he’s facing a hand with some values or a complete bust.

This is partly accomplished by an artificial “warning bid” response that responder can use to curb an overly optimistic 1C bidder’s enthusiasm for his strong hand. This bid works with narrowly defined raises and new suit bids to give opener a good idea of responder’s hand. Let’s look at how the responder defines his hand:

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