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A Useful Inversion

Standard American doesn’t deal very well with auctions that begin 1m – 1M ; 2m or 1 - 1M ; 2. Responder’s new-suit bid at the 2-level is full of ambiguities. It may or may not be natural. If it’s the third suit, it may or may not be forcing to game. And if it’s a prelude to making a forcing raise of a suit bid by opener, responder may have difficulty clarifying his intent before reaching the stratosphere. For example, after 1 – 1 ; 2 – 2, what happens if opener bids 3? Is 4 a cuebid for hearts or might responder be interested only in diamonds? And, if so, might we already be past our last safe haven of 3NT?

 

The treatment proposed here solves all these problems as well as offering numerous other advantages by inverting responder's 2-level rebids. After 1♣ ­– 1M ; 2♣ or 1 – 1 ; 2m, responder's bid of the cheapest unbid suit is a relay, generally to responder's first-bid suit, either to play there or, if followed by any further bid, to create a game force. Responder’s rebid of his first-bid suit shows an invitational hand with 5+ cards there and 4+ cards in the relay suit. When combined with invitational jump shifts to 2 and 2, responder is able both to clarify his intentions unambiguously with game-forcing hands and to invite game when holding 1- and 2-suiters without going beyond the 2-level.

 

Here's how it works:

 1) Responder’s jump shifts to 2/ by an unpassed hand with no competition show 6-card suits and invitational values (about 9–11 HCP).

 

2) After 1♣ – 1♥ ; 2♣, the meanings of responder's 2♦ and 2♥ are more or less inverted:

–- 2♦ forces 2 (unless opener wouldn't pass a weak 2 rebid). Responder then passes if weak; if he bids on, the auction becomes game forcing. (Note that here and in similar situations below, when responder makes a game-foricng bid in a suit bid by opener he cancels any message about having more than 4-card length in his major.)

–- 2♥ is invitational with 5+ hearts and 4+ diamonds.

 

3) After 1♦ – 1 ; 2m, 2♥ and 2 are similarly inverted:

–- 2♥ is either a drop in spades or a prelude to creating a game force.

–- 2 is invitational with 5+ spades and 4+ hearts.

 

4) After 1♣ – 1♠ ; 2♣, responder’s 2 and 2 are inverted as well:

–- 2♦ is either a drop in a major with 5+ spades and possibly 4+ hearts or any game force. Opener assumes responder has a weak hand with both majors and bids accordingly. Responder's 2♠ over 2♥ is to play, anything else is a game force.

– 2♥ is invitational with 5+ spades and 4+ hearts.

– 2♠ is invitational with 5+ spades and 4+ diamonds.

 

This treatment has many advantages:

* All invitational hands with 1 or 2 suits higher than opener’s can be described without bypassing 2 of responder's first-bid major.

* Responder’s intent always becomes clear. There's no ambiguity about the strength of his hand or about the suit(s) in which he has interest.

* When holding a game-forcing hand without srong direction, responder can establish a game force then bid 2NT to get further information from opener. (Over 2NT, opener’s priorities are to bid 3 with 4 hearts, to support partner’s major with 3, to rebid clubs if 5–5 in the minors, to rebid a 6-card minor, to show a concentration of strength in an unbid suit, or to bid 3NT with stoppers in all the unbid suits.)

* Because responder can use a 2-level relay to create a game force with ordinary hands, 3-level rebids of his major or of a lower-ranking unbid suit can be used to show slam interest with length and good texture in the bid suit(s).

* Similarly, a distinction can be made between auctions where responder first creates a game force and those where he directly jumps to 3NT or above. (One suggestion is that delayed splinters show a void and that delayed jumps to game imply mild slam interest.)

 

The proposed approach has a few disadvantages:

* Jump shifts to 2M can’t be used for another purpose, e.g., weak, reverse Flannery.

* Responder won't find out until the third round whether opener has 3-card support for his major or, after 1 – 1 ; 2m, whether opener has 4 hearts, things responder can sometimes learn at the 2-level when using standard methods.

* Responder’s relay bid might be doubled to direct the lead.

* If a minimum opener holds both minors and responder has a 6-card major, 4 cards in the minor not opened, and invitational values, the partnership will likely play in responder’s major at the 2-level rather than at a higher level in its minor-suit fit (something that will often happen playing standard methods as well, and often not a bad thing).

* This treatment doesn’t handle all cases. It’s not available after 1 – 1 or 1 – 1 because there’s no intermediate suit for responder to bid at his second turn. Nevertheless 2 and 2 respectively can still be invitational jump shifts and responder’s 3/ rebids can still show strong 1- suiters since an unbid major is available at the 2-level to create a game force with less pure hands. 

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