Two of the simplest conventions of all, following Blackwood and Gerber, are Stayman and transfers.
Yet recently I saw a person who has played for more than 50 years and who has consistently taken lessons from several different instructors bid a hand incorrectly, using transfers.
Her partner had opened one no trump, and this lady correctly bid two diamonds, a transfer to hearts. Her partner bid the two hearts, and now the lady bid three hearts, and they went to four. When the transfer bidder became dummy and her hand came down, she showed only five hearts and nine points. It was pointed out to her that she had promised six hearts by rebidding hearts.
Her answer was, “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do,” and continued to say that she was pretty sure there was game in the hand and wanted to go on.
Three hearts isn’t forcing. When she bid diamonds, she was saying she had five hearts. She had told her story except for letting her partner know how many points she held. She had nine and should now bid two no trump, which says, “I have five hearts and eight or nine points.” Not playing transfers she would have merely bid two no trump from the first.
Fortunately her partner held four hearts herself, but she could have just had two and that would have made a problem. The correct answer, two no trump after the transfer, would allow opener to choose whether to raise hearts, go to game in hearts, pass, or bid three no trump with seventeen points and just two hearts.
Here are a couple of quiz questions for those who are interested in improving their game by correctly bidding their hands.
Hold your hand over the answers until you have made your decisions.
Your partner has opened one no trump in each of these. In the following hands, give your first responses and then when partner replies, give the second, if one, answer.
You are holding:
A K x x spades
x x x x x hearts
x x diamonds
x x clubs
Correct answer: two diamonds.
Now when partner obliges with the two-heart response, what is next bid? It is pass. You have only seven points and that is the reason you did not use Stayman because what would you do if you asked for a four card major and partner doesn’t have one and answers two diamonds to state that. You can’t correct to two hearts because it is a forcing bid and partner still might have only two. If you use the convention Smolen, which is one I am just learning, there are other options for this.
A K Q spades
Q J 10 9 8 7 hearts
A x diamonds
x x clubs
First consider what you know and your partner doesn’t. You know that you have a fit in hearts because he should have a least a doubleton (can’t open no trump with singleton), you know he has fifteen to seventeen points and that you can now add you two doubletons as a couple more points so even he has only fifteen, you are in slam range. You transfer again to hearts and after his response, bid four no-trump Blackwood. If he has the other two aces, you may now bid five no trump to ask about kings. If he has three you know how he is at the top of his bid (two aces = eight; three kings = nine, so he has seventeen points so you can go to seven no trump, not seven hearts, because you can count on taking three spades, six hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. Partner cannot have any jacks or queens or he would have over seventeen points).
If he has only one ace, you can assume that he has the three kings and enough of the remaining queens and jacks that would make up the fifteen of the promised fifteen to seventeen point bid, else he would not have opened one no-trump. If he has only two, he would have to have the remaining queens and jacks to allow him to open no-trump. (One ace equals four; two kings equals six; two queens equals four; two jacks equals two. You have a choice of six hearts or six no-trump. What you don’t know is whether that one ace is of hearts or clubs. So it is probably safer to stay in hearts when you know you have a six-card fit that could allow some ruffing power.
Don’t give up on slam bidding when the points are in your favor. It usually works out but there are always those other times. However, you can almost count that other partnerships will be there and will have the same score that you do, unless one of the pesky opponents partners do something weird or brilliant.
I would really love to hear from you about this or anything else. Very professional players would have more sophisticated methods but these will do you quite well. I am not a very sophisticated player myself.
More hands like this next week. Have any of your own that are still puzzling to you? If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does.
Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.