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Birth of a Partnership

A few days ago, I happened to witness the birth of a new partnership between two Flight B players in my area.

"Would you like to play together tomorrow at the club?"

"Sure! I play Rodwell game tries, Snapdragon, Meckwell, Good/Bad 2NT..."

As I watched them go through the time-honored ritual, I was amused by all the scientific contraptions that they were agreeing to play. I then remembered our recent interview with the winners of the Blue Ribbon Pairs , Josh Donn and Roger Lee . They said they had a simple system, agreed hurriedly a few minutes before gametime.

With the help of Roger and Josh, I managed to reconstruct their championship-winning system:

Most of the card looks like the average 2/1 system used by a pair playing in a NABC. Here's a list of the conventions that are somewhat uncommon (i.e., played by less than 50% of the serious 2/1 pairs in my area), and their frequency of occurence within the event:

  1. 1NT - 2 as a range ask/clubs -- did not occur
  2. 1NT - 3 as Puppet Stayman -- once
  3. 3NT opening as a good 4M opener -- once as a negative inference
  4. 1M 1NT semi-forcing -- frequently
  5. Kokish Relay with the 3 and 3 rebids switched -- did not occur
  6. Feature and Ogust after Weak Twos -- a few times
  7. Jumps to 1-under the double raise in competition are mixed, otherwise fit -- several times
  8. Transfers over 1m 1M 2NT -- at least once
  9. Range-asking stayman responding to a balancing 1NT -- did not occur
  10. Transfers after 1M (Dbl) -- a few times
  11. Exclusion KCB 0314 -- did not occur
  12. Rusinow leads vs. notrump -- several times
  13. Reverse Smith Echo -- frequently
  14. Trump suit preference -- frequently

Of these uncommon conventions, only a couple I would deem rare. And while some were frequently used, such as semiforcing 1NT, jump shifts in competition, and carding agreements, in general the gadgets were not the key to their success.

For completeness, here were the verbal agreements they made that did not make it to the card:

  • 2/1: 2 is clubs or balanced, 2/1M promises 5, 2M rebid is the catchall
  • Walsh: Prefer to respond 1M to 1 instead of 1, unless diamonds are longer and the hand is a game-force.
  • Responses to the 1m 1M 2M 2NT asking bid:
    • 3m shows 3 card support and is natural
    • 3M shows 4 and a min
    • 3OM shows 4 and a max.

So, that's their super system. It may not be complicated enough for the club game, but it was good enough to win the Blue Ribbons. If you had just 30 minutes to discuss system with a first-time partner before a serious event, what would you choose to discuss, and why?

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