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Problems with Lebensohl

In a recent duplicate my partner opened 1N (15-17 hcp) was overcalled with 2S and I held: xx K10xxx Kxx KQx. Playing Lebensohl I had a problem. 3H would force to game, but if partner held Kx in spades, the opening lead might sink 4H by me. If I tried to right-side 4H by using a Texas transfer, partner might turn up with xx in hearts and a double spade stop! I finally decided to treat my hearts as a 4 carder and bid 3S (4 hearts and no spade stop) thinking that if partner couldn’t bid 3N, I would convert 4 of a minor to 4H. Genius right. Partner held 4 hearts and Ax of spades so, I should have gotten a reward. However, partner forgot we were playing Lebensohl, thought I was asking for a spade stop and bid 3N which was not a success. Everyone was playing 4H by me and my partner later said: “why didn’t you bid 3H like everyone else so I couldn’t make a mistake!?”. Though I stand by my bidding, I should never have been in that situation in the first place!  Years ago, I had an article published in the Bridge World entitled Lipensohl. This was an attempt to correct some of the flaws inherent in both Lebensohl and Rubensohl. Simply put, the convention is as follows:

With a 5+ card unbid major: 3 in the step below or under an unbid major is a standard or under transfer. It shows at least invitational strength and denies a stopper in the enemy suit. 3 in the step above or over an unbid major is an over transfer and shows game values, a 5 card major and a stopper.

With a 4 card unbid major: There are two transfers to the enemy major available. One will always be the unbid major, and the other will be the other transfer (3D, the under transfer if hearts or 3N, the over transfer if spades). 3 of the unbid major shows a 4 card suit with a stopper (or a rare hand with a 6+ card major that wants to declare). The other enemy transfer shows 4 cards in the unbid major but denies a stopper.

With a 4 card major over a 2D overcall: This starts with 3C which asks for both a major and a stopper. With no stopper, opener bids 3D whether or not he holds a major. Responder will then bid his majors up the line. If opener has a stopper, he shows his majors up the line bidding 3N to deny a major. (Over 3H, 3N shows spades and 3S denies spades to right-side the contract if there is a spade fit).

Showing the minors: With a long minor, make a 2N or 3C transfer. Over partner’sforced acceptance, pass with a weak hand or show how good your suit is and whether or not you hold a stopper as follows:3H shows a broken suit (off at least 2 top honors) with or without a stopper. Opener can bid 3S to ask for a stop.3S shows a good suit (off at most one top honor) but no stopper. 3N shows a good suit and a stopper.

With no 4 card major or long weak hearts (if possible): The auction starts with 2N, a forced transfer to 3C. Responder then bids 3D, a forced transfer to 3H. Holding the weak heart hand, responder passes. A 3S rebid denies a 4 card major or a stopper. A 3N rebid also denies a major, but shows a stopper.

Had I been using Lipensohl instead of lebensohl, I would have had no problem. I could have transferred to hearts showing my length and strength while denying a spade card. If partner accepted the transfer showing a minimum, I would have rebid 3N showing game values. If 3N wasn’t playable, we might have tried for 4H even opposite a doubleton heart (though here partner held 4 hearts).

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