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Invitational jump shifts. Again.
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I did some copy and pasting, and so some of the formatting looks off :(

Invitational Jump ShiftsSummary: To cut an increasingly long story short, I think invitational JS >> (strong JS >>) weak JS. Zoom all the way to the bottom, for a suggested consistent basic treatment.

I of course learned much of this through Larry Cohen's articles, but I thought I'd fill int the "background reasoning".

This was also motivated by some communication with Ryan Wessels on BW, and his recent polls on whether 2/1 is preferred-to-be-played as GF in some/all sequences.

I'm a strong proponent of invitational jump shifts, and am generally sad that I can't get many people to play them with me. I'd like to present my guess as to why they're not so popular, in fact not even in the world view of most players ("invitational JS, what do you mean??")

Many an intermediate player has learned SAYC and moves on to saome form of Vanilla 2/1. SAYC is maligned, and correctly so -- 2/1 isn't a GF, so especially at IMPs you give up the most important distinguishing "telling" bid --, but often for the wrong reasons: in other ways, it's a lot better than Vanilla 2/1 (or what I think Vanilla 2/1 is; your local specialty may disagree).

SAYC is a slow arrival system (fast arrival in Vanilla is almost a deal breaker for me these days)SAYC has well separated "chunks". 

What do I mean by the second point? In SAYC, a 2/1 is ~10+ intermediate to moderate GF. As such this means that a JS should be either weaker than that (so a WJS) or stronger than that (a strong JS, often slammish). Since you don't have a forcing NT available in SAYC (later we see that the purpose of the forcing NT is to "recover" an extra option which is simply unnessary in SAYC), it's consistent to use WJS as your option(also the emphasis on MPs in US club games means that giving up the strong JS doesn't have nearly as much loss, since slams are rarely bid anyways, even in moderate fields). But either route you pick is consistent with the central pivot point of the system: which is that 2/1 is invitational +. 

  • 1M - 2m - 2M is F to 2NT or 3m; 1M - 2m - 2NT is NF
  • 1M - 3m = weak (or strong if you prefer)

The 1D - 2C sequences are also consistent:

  • 1D - 2C similarly F to 2NT or 3C. GF if responder bids anything else, or opener bids a major (requires agreement).
  • 1D - 3C = weak
  • (1D - 1NT may have constructive hand with clubs).

Now pretend you're an intermediate/advancing player and are getting used (and liking!) 2/1. Just basic.

Basic is good. Basic is flawed. But not in the gadgets sense (although you might think I like conventions, I am very much a "natural" bidder. For instance, a transfer to me shows a natural suit, and is no different to bidding the suit. I think relay systems are inherently different, although very effective). You immediately notice awkward hands irrespective of pet "toys" you have.

You pick up your above-average 11-count

Kx  QJx  xx  AJTxxx

Partner opens 1S, and you wish you had never switched to this new-fangled (well Roth onwards :) ) 2/1 GF. In SAYC you had a perfect 2C available.

You trot out the forcing NT (3C would likely be weak) hear the expected 2D, and well ... you pick your poison: (2H anyone?) 2S - underbid, 2NT - don't show your clubs which is a likely source of tricks in 3NT; 3C - are you 100% sure partner will take this as invitational?; or 3NT - an overbid.

So maybe after this session, you switch to 2/1 not GF when suit rebid, as advertised by your local club mentors (ah! so that's what they were talking about). Next session you pick up:

KQ  AKx  AKJTxx  xx,

And of course hear

1S - 2D

2S/NT - ? 

You'd sure like to hear about a C control for a D slam, but if you bid 3D, that'd be NF (in fact it should limited, playing suit-rebid-NF), and 4D would be awkward. You might be ok, but you're going to have to manufacture something. Are you cringing yet?

So maybe 2/1 100% GF is a good idea after all. So you supportive partner agrees to the notion that 1M - 1NT - bid - 3m is invitational. Great. And I have to say this is relatively workable -- Another aside: in fact proposing agreements is really the big-leap-forward between the intermediate-to-advanced stage. You can blindly follow system and not know why it's there, but when you propose treatments, it shows you're understanding problems that come up, and are looking for your own solutions. A tolerant partner will let you try it out (shout-out to a long-time partner of mine, George Clark, for being very open to whatever my whims were at the time), and sometimes offer their own pet solution to see if you might like that instead.

But you still run in to the problem auction of:

1D - 2C, and you have that invitational hand. There is no Forcing NT over 1D  So yes, you can play suit-rebid limited-invite after this beginning. You simply have to agree on the forcing versus NF sequences. e.g. you can even play that 1D - 2C - 2D is a "minimum response" and allow for the partnership to get out in 2NT. But there's some artificiality. And doubt.

(As an aside, I like to play that 1D - 1NT almost forces 2C whenever opener has a singleton Major, and at least 3C: e.g. 1=4=5=3 is an automatic 2C rebid in this sequence. I am almost certain that this is "correct": partner has at least 7 cards in the minors, and you will get to a good spot. Even at MPs, a plus score is likely to be good, especially if partner will bid 1NT on a 5-count and 6 clubs)

Whatever you choose however, the root cause is unaddressed. What are the basic "chunks" in 2/1? Since a 2/1 is any GF+, you really need a strong JS (although to be honest, making direct slam tries can be very effective, especially at IMPs), and so you only need to cover "weak hands" and "invitational hands" (and yes, there are the constructive, moderate hands in the middle).

Vanilla 2/1 uses weak jump shifts: e.g. consider the following basic sequences:

  • 1D - 2S = weak
  • 1D - 1S - 2C - 2S = constructive, NF
  • 1D - 1S - 2C - 3S = invitational but NF.
  • 1D - 1S - 2C - 2H! - bid - spades again = GF 6+S (are S trumps?).

How does responder distinguish, a "pure" slammish spade hand, to a more flexible NT'py GF hand with 6 pieces?

AKQJxxx Qx x KJx: I imagine spades should be trumps. Slam just needs some controls. If partner has a singleton/void in S, can we still get them to co-operate?

KJTxxx Axx xx KQ: maybe 3NT is best, but you want it played from pd's side if they have Qx of hearts. Will partner be on the same page? Can we help them get it right?

Argh! Responder doesn't have a simple direct way to GF and suggest strong spades (below a "game try" of 4S), without having to distort via a 4th-suit-force. Furthermore, on the invitational hand you're at the dreaded 3 level! If no fit, there's no benefit to be playing 3S. You'd rather be in 2-or-4, especially at IMPs. At MP's you might even just distort and only rebid 2S.

Back to actual 2/1 sequences. To recap Major suit options, lets say opener has spades, and responder clubs (admittedly, the "least room" option):

  • 1S - 3C = weak
  • 1S - 2C = GF
  • 1S - 1NT F - 2Red - 3C = invite?? or to play holding C & not-S & not-Red
  • (also 1S - 1NT F - 2X - 2NT = hide your clubs)
  • (also 1S - 1NT F - 2X - 3NT = why not?)

So, you've placed doubt in the most important option: the possibly-invitational hand, in which case 3NT may still be alive, even when opener has a flattish weak NT hand -- but they do have 2 bullets, some length in the uncovered suit, and a fitting honor to run your clubs. 9th trick on the lead, or your extra dummy value fits with one of the bullets. Often many chances.) Note that irrespective of your treatment, the Forcing NT (why it's necessary, and also why I do not personally like the semi-forcing NT) exists to provide this extra flexibility: this extra option.

But you're scuppered over

  • 1D - 2C = GF
  • 1D - 3C = weak
  • (Lets ignore the option of bidding 3 card Majors)

So when you start thinking about it, the problem is that I have an extra "chunk" (the invitational type hands) with nowhere to put it. What's the solution? Drop weak jump shifts completely! Now you have the slot back to put your invitational hands. When you have a bid that has a "surrounding option": in this case an invitational bid has both weaker hands, and stronger hands surrounding it, when you have the invitational bid available, you obtain negative inferences for not having used the bid. A 2/1 GF makes a large separation: good GF+ hands, versus sub-GF hands. As such, just making a 2/1 bid puts you in a good spot whenever you have a GF or better hand. It's the same principle in SAYC. An SAYC 2/1 is invitational +, and so whenever you're dealt an invitational or better hand you're in good shape. 

But notice the opposite direction is not nearly so great -- a WJS hand is just weak ... anything weaker is likely an automatic PASS! So there's no useful surrounding information gained when playing WJS: all you can say is that "I have a bad hand, but not a truly awful hand". So what? 

  • Are you going to be getting game/slam bonuses for that? Hell no. 
  • Are you often going down in a misfit (doubled?). Sure.
  • Are you scared to use the bid even when it's available (you're red)? Sometimes.
  • Is it really obstructive? Maybe, but the opponents are likely bidding when you are weak. Note this is one the other big objections to WJS (even in an SAYC context): the frequency is really low. If your hand is this bad, the opponents are bidding, and you are *passing*. You might as well play strong JS, so that when it does happen, you bid and make the slam.

So how about intermediate JS? It is a (relatively) "extreme" bid, in that it gobbles up bidding room. But it is a descriptive bid, in the same sense that splinters or picture-jump bids, or fit-jumps, or vulnerable pre-empts are "descriptive". Partner is excellently positioned to place the contract, and you can happily co-operate in any slam try, since you've already limited the hand. Partner won't place you with any extra Kings you clearly don't have.

  • Descriptive
  • Harder for opponents to compete (I think invitational JS in Major suits are great in competition: 1C (1D) 2S ? pressure. Opener knows the hand well AND knows partner has some high-card-power, but advancer doesn't know the level of fit at the table. If 2S were weak, yeah compete!)
  • (You don't play WJS. Voluntarily going for minus scores in no fit. Yuck.)
  • 2/1 100% GF. No doubt. Even 1D - 2C. Since 1D - 3C would be invite.
  • Negative inferences

So what are these negative inferences, or rather improvements to other bidding sequences? The "surrounding" gains.

  • 1M - 1NT F - 2X - 3m = guaranteed to be "to play". No doubt. I love not having doubt in bidding sequences. That leaves the cases where there is  doubt to be genuine judgement calls, not doubt just because your system sucks. (Note that not playing weak JS doesn't mean you can't bid those hands!)
  • 1x - 1M - 2y - 3M = slam try in M. Not invitational because 1x - 2M would be. Opener should be delighted to co-operate with Aces and Kings, irrespective of their trump strength
  • A fourth-suit-forcing-then 3M = choice of games, moderate slam hopes (trump suit not solid). Now we've distinguished the "pure" hand type from non-pure hands. xyz aficionados (of which I am a strong member) know exactly what I'm talking about. Analagous to over 1x 1y 1z follow-ups.
  • 1x - 2M: If there isn't a fit, you get out at the 2 level, and really expect to make it. You will after all have 21+ hcp even when both sides are thin, and a 6 card trump suit. If you're playing in your 6-0 fit, it sure beats a Vanilla invite sequence: 1D - 1S - 2C - 3S - (they X).

So if you've read thus far, thanks! Here's a basic 2/1 system with invitational JS. Note, I've not discussed the suit-quality or hcp strength required for an invitational JS. This will depend on your opening standard, the vulnerability, and the scoring. I am still fairly proud of one I made on Ax xxx xx AT98xx, after partner opened 1S. Sure partner had a good hand, but I liked my Aces and suit texture. Partner loved his hand looking at Kxxx C and drove to the cold 6C (I might have made 7) while other people stuttered in 3NT. I'm not saying such aggression is right for you, but it's a bidder's game, and it pays at IMPs at least. You should also discuss whether the invites deny fit with opener's suit or not.


1C:    2D/2H/2S/2NT natural invites; 2C is inv+

1D:    2H/2S/2NT/3C natural invites; 2D is inv+. Note that 2NT is no longer made on "long club suits". You are after all interested in 3NT.

1H:    2S/3C/3D natural invites. Optional: 2NT = inv+ (there's no real gain to regular Jacoby); similarly over 1S.

1S:    3C/D/H natural invites.

I've yet to play about with "stronger" opening semi-weak 2's (say 7-11, or 8-12, or even 10-14), but imagine they have some similar gains. The difference is the obstructive aspect, especially holding the S suit. Maybe for another day / year ...


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