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Dutch Spiral
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I think at least 90% of expert players have a way to ask for more information after the auction starts 1m (P) 1M (P) 2M. Most importantly, you will want to know if partner is supporting your major with 3- or 4-card support, and if opener has a minimum or maximum.

There are a variety of different agreements in this situation, but the majority of the ones I encountered either appeared flawed or overly complex. The common flaws were:

  • Sometimes opener is forced to bid 2NT with 3, even though he did not rebid 1NT over 1M, and then opener ends up declaring 3NT from the wrong side.
  • Some structures require opener to show his whole shape immediately. This means the opponents also have this information, giving them an easy lead, even if responder only wants to know about 3- or 4-card support.

 

A few years ago I suggested an easy structure to my partners, and somehow they all agreed. Not only my partners in The Netherlands, but also my US partners (Zia, Chris Willenken, Billy Miller, Jay Borker). Billy Miller liked it so much that he now plays it with everyone, and named my treatment Dutch Spiral.

I don’t claim it is anything spectacular, but personally I am happy with the structure. It was based on 4 principles:

  1. It had to be simple to remember
  2. There should not be too many steps
  3. Opener only bids NT if he is not going to declare 3NT
  4. We can stop in 3 of opener's minor

 

Dutch Spiral always uses the NEXT STEP as the relay: 2 is the asking bid after hearts have been raised, and 2NT is the asking bid after spades have been raised. There are four replies after the relay:

1m-1M

2M-relay

  • 3 Major = 4-card Min           
    • A minimum, just like it sounds.  Non-forcing.
  • 3 Opener's Minor = 3-card Min          
    • Responder can pass as opener will often have a 5-card or longer minor.
  • 3 Other Minor = 3-card Max         
    • Artificial, and responder will (almost) never pass this.
  • 2NT or 3 = 4-card Max         
    • 2NT after the 2 relay and 3 after the 2NT relay.

 

It looks simple, and that was the goal! If you want more detail about the continuations, read page 2.

I am happy you liked it enough to have a look at page 2.

 

As the main objective (90%) is to check whether to play 3 of a Major, 4 of a Major, or 3NT, opener did not describe his hand fully. This was to inhibit the opponents from finding the best lead against 4 of a Major (“Aha, opener is 4315? I lead a heart!”).

In 10% of the auctions, responder is looking for slam though!

Here, I also tried to make it as simple as possible (It is wonderful to have something great, but even better if you have something both partners will remember!)

The simple continuation after opener's response, is to play: the next step asks again. Unfortunately (for me!) I have two different sets of answers. With most partners I play simple again: “Next step asks shortness”.  But with some partners I play my preferred set of answers:

 “Next step asks shortness if opener had 4-card support, but asks for unstopped suits if opener had 3-card support”.

That is because you are often exploring slam facing 4-card support, but exploring 3NT facing 3-card support.

In both cases I use my favorite schedule NLH (No, Low, High). In the “asks unstopped suits” response schedule, there is even a NLHB (No, Low, High, Both). The last step takes us past 3NT, but that's a small loss: with both side suits unstopped and responder asking for stoppers, we probably don't want to play 3NT.  

There are 2 further points:

1. After 1 - 1M - 2M  - 2/2NT (asking) – 3, we cannot stop in 3, but as opener has shown a maximum, we don’t care!

2. After 1 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 3, we still use 3 as “asks for shortness”.

This sounds strange as opener just told you he is minimum, but I have always liked to play 1 Minor – 1 Major - 2 Major – 3 Major as invitational with 5+ cards in the Major. Many people prefer this as preemptive, but the opponents have passed multiple times already and now you want to preempt? Against WHAT? If you still want to play 3 Major as preemptive, you can use 3 as “asks for shortness”.  But it breaks my rule of: “It has to be simple!”

And finally: this structure is only for 1m (P) 1M (P) 2M. For 1 (P) 1 (P) / 2 (P) 2NT, I suggest:

  • 3/3 = Natural (4+) with 3 spades (e.g., 35[41]) 
  • 3 = Natural (6 ) with 3 spades
  • 3 = Minimum with 4 spades

And with a maximum and 4 spades, feel free to make it as easy or complicated as you like. But this article is not about 1 – 1 - 2, which is not part of Dutch Spiral!

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