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Our Unbalanced Diamond
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There's been some posts on the natural unbalanced diamond, see for instance the one from Yuan Shen. In short the idea is to open 1 with 4+ diamonds, but that it promise an unbalanced hand (so 5332 opens something else, usually 1). It is a popular treatment in 5542 systems, but also in Polish/Swedish club or strong club with weak NT. It is perfectly fine to play natural responses and rebids to this opening bid, but many use some artificial ingredients. A common structure is the one presented in Yuan's article, with transfer rebids by opener, in this article I'll present another way; it isn't new but I haven't seen it as an article on BridgeWinners before.

I play unbalanced diamond in my Swedish Club system, but the structure presented here would work in 5542 too. Our unbalanced diamond is actually more "nebulous" than most; we can have any 4441 pattern (most 5542 players open 1 with 4441 unless they have a stiff club) and we open hands with 4 and 5 with 1. The range for our opening is 11-19, but it would work fine to expand it to include stronger hands too.

Our response structure features a few artificial bids, it looks like this:

  • 1 = Natural. If only four then no slam interest. The 1 response denies 4+ unless GF. If 6+ suit then weak or GF.
  • 1NT = Less than GF with 6+ or 3-3-2-5 or 5+ and 4+.
  • 2 = Artificial GF. Usually no 5+ major.
  • 2 = Simple raise with 3+.
  • 2 = INV with 6+M.
  • 2NT = Natural INV.
  • 3 = Diamond limit raise.
  • 3 = Mixed raise.
  • 3 = Void splinter.
  • 3NT = 4333, 13-15
  • 4 = Void splinter.

Opener's rebids over the 1M response are designed to avoid awkward rebid problems and courtesy raises. We give up playing in 1NT after our 1 opening, so opener's 1NT rebid is forcing. Our 1NT rebid is inspired by Gazzilli, and shows either a minimum opening with 6+, or 15-17 with 3 card support, or a hand with extra values that want to force. The 2 rebid is natural (for us it could be 4441 with a stiff in partner's major, or 5-4 minors either way, but if playing 5542 it would probably show 5+ and 4+) and limited to about 11-15(16) hcp. We then use some transfer rebids in order to raise opener's major in different ways:

  • 1-1;
  • 1 = Natural, almost forcing (could play it as forcing if you like).
  • 1NT = 6+, 11-14 (less than 3) or 15-17 with 3 or a strong hand not covered below.
  • 2 = Natural, limited to 11-15(16). Less than 3.
  • 2 = Transfer raise. 3 and 11-14 or 18+ hcp.
  • 2 = Four card minimum raise.
  • 2 = Natural, GF.
  • 2NT = 4+, 16+ hcp.
  • 3 = 5-5 minors, about 14-16.
  • 3 = 6+, about 15-17.
  • 3 = Medium raise, 4 and about 14-15 hcp.
  • Higher = Special rare hands. 3NT solid suit with stoppers; void splinters etc.

The rebids over 1 is very similar, the most notable change is the 2 rebid:

  • 1-1;
  • 1NT = "Gazzilli" as over 1.
  • 2 = As over 1.
  • 2 = 5 and 4, 11-15(16). Less than 3.
  • 2 = Transfer raise, as over 1.
  • Higher = Same principle as over 1.

Over the Gazzilli 1NT rebid, responder bids 2 if he want to be in game vs the strong hand types. Otherwise he usually bids 2, but could rebid his major with a weak hand with 6+ major. Over the positive relay opener will bid 2 with the weak hand, or make a (semi)natural bid with the strong variant. Over 2 opener may pass with both the strong hand and the weak hand, but the strong hand often takes another bid.

The transfer raise is pretty simple to handle too. Responder accepts the transfer if he doesn't want to invite vs 11-14, and now opener continues the bidding with 18+. Responder could instead invite with 2NT, 3 or 3M, or rebid an aritificial 3 which is GF with 5+M and asks shortness. With GF values and just a four card major responder bids 3NT, since if he had a four card major and slam interest he would have started with the 2 response to 1.

Over the 2NT raise we play that the 3 rebid by responder establishes a GF and ask shortness. The rest is natural. You could be fancy and play that 3M-1 is a weak/strong transfer and 3M is invitational if you want to complicate things further.

A common treatment over unbalanced 1 is to play 1NT as a GF relay, and 2 as natural (5+) and non-forcing. We've switched these responses. One of the reasons is that we use 2 as a GF relay over our 1 openings, and wanted to reduce memory strain by having a similar structure over the 1 opening. Another is that responder's 3-3-2-5 shape is awkward (we probably belong in diamonds, but how should opener know if you respond a non-forcing 2?). At first we played the 1NT response as always showing clubs, and that's fine: you can then include GF hands with clubs in there. We wanted to play 1-2M as natural (it doesn't really matter if you play weak, invitational or GF, but we've chosen invitational) in order to put some stress off our 1M responses, so we couldn't put Reverse Flannery (5+, 4+ and less than GF) by responder there. Reverse Flannery may not be necessary playing this structure, but over 1-1 we had some problems when opener held 1-4-4-4, should we show our clubs or our hearts? If you open 1 with that shape you may not need Reverse Flannery, but we decided to include it by putting the Reverse Flannery hands in the 1NT response.

So to recap, our 1NT response shows one of:

  1. Less than GF with 6+, no major (or at least we can not show it later).
  2. Less than GF with 3-3-2-5. If invitational then for some reason we do not want to respond 2NT.
  3. Less than GF with 5+ and 4+.

Opener usually rebids a non-forcing 2 (could have very short clubs), but may also rebid a natural and non-forcing 2, or 2 as an enquiry with a strong hand, or make a natural GF rebid (2NT showing 4+). We try to make responder's rebids "natural", but you decide :)

  • 1-1NT; 2--
  • Pass = Weak with 6+.
  • 2 = 3-3-2-5, non-forcing. Opener places the contract.
  • 2 = Reverse Flannery, less than INV. 2NT asks.
  • 2 = Reverse Flannery, INV. 2NT asks.
  • 2NT = INV with 3-3-2-5, concerns about no-trump.
  • 3 = INV with 6+.
  • 3 = INV (6+ and 3).

And over the 2 enquiry:

  • 1-1NT; 2--
  • 2 = Reverse Flannery, non-forcing
  • 2NT = 3-3-2-5, non-forcing.
  • 3 = 6+, non-forcing.
  • 3 = 6+, GF.
  • 3 = 5-5 majors, forcing.
  • 3 = Reverse Flannery, forcing.
  • 3NT = 3-3-2-5, GF.

As with any "multi" bid by responder, the 1NT response could get ugly if fourth hand enters the auction. Since the hand types are different, it will often be clear which hand type responder holds if opener studies the overcall and his own hand.

Our 2 relay allows us to find out about opener's (usually complete) shape, by using further relays. Responder may break the relay though, with his second bid, and the following auction is natural. The relays usually work fine, but sometime you have a GF hands with long clubs that really would have preffered to have a natural 2 response. That's a price to pay, and to me it is pretty small. If you do not like a natural 2NT response you could perhaps put GF hands with long clubs there.

I'm not going to discuss our relays in detail, but opener's rebids look like this:

  • 1-2;
  • 2 = 4+
  • 2 = Natural.
  • 2NT = 7+
  • 3 = Minimum with 6 and a singleton.
  • 3 = 6 and no singleton.
  • 3 = Extras with 6+ and short clubs.
  • 3 = Extras with 6+ and short hearts.
  • 3NT = Extras with 6+ and short spades.
  • 4 = Too good to bid 3NT (since 3NT would be non-forcing for us).

A more natural approach could be something like this:

  • 1-2;
  • 2 = Catch-all. Could be extras with 5-4 minors.
  • 2 = Natural and extras.
  • 2NT = Extras with 6+.
  • 3 = 5-5, minimum.
  • 3 = Minimum with 7+.
  • 3 = Extras with 5 and 5 and short major.

There you have it! This response structure has been working nice for us. Opener has comfortable rebids and responder too usually have cheap forcing rebids available. It includes a fair bit of artificiality, so may not be for everyone.

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