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5-Card Majors - The Scanian Way. Free Bridge Book for Junior Players courtesy of Mats Nilsland.

I am creating this post so that all Junior players (Born 1993 or later) may take advantage of a truly wonderful and generous offer from one of the greats of the Swedish bridge game - Mats Nilsland - semi-finalist to the legendary Icelandic Bermuda Bowl winning team of 1991 and no doubt numerous other accomplishments. I am yet to meet Mats and I have been fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of his book ahead of publication on June 4th. He sent me a pdf version because I am involved in youth bridge, particularlly in the UK, but also further afield (see my bio).

Mats is giving away copies to the first 100 Junior players who register. He is undertaking to mail these books out anywhere around the world (at a cost of around 20 Euros each to him) After that there may be more copies for junior players should a sponsor be forthcoming.

The book is 152 pages and details Mats system as played and honed over many years with Bjorn Fallenius - a successful partnership in the Swedish Open team of which Mats has been a member for over 40 years. They will be playing this system in Wuhan as part of the Swedish Seniors Team.

Far more important than the system itself, which is a truly thorough exposition, are the insights into bidding strategy in general and the logic behind the suggested methods. I have only had access for just over 24 hours and the zeal of the converted is why I am writing this post now.

The system Mats plays is based on a 5533 approach. I've been a fan of 5542 since playing 2/1 and now having seen the many advantages of 5533, I will not be going back. The system uses transfers over 1C. It also uses transfers after a second-seat opponent interferes with Dble/1D/1H bids and the benefits here are legion, notably allowing declarership from either side of the table: it is often best to force the opponent who has shown strength to make the opening lead. It is also often vital to protect 'Kx' holdings and the transfers here allow for this possibility among many other advantages that transfers confer.

The book reinforces the importance of making general rules. If bidding conforms to logic then remembering it is not a problem. Mats prioritizes information leak, especially in competitive situations. For instance confirming a 9-card major suit fit offers some advantages for the opening side but it also has considerable drawbacks, enabling opponents to better know when to compete and to what level. It also aids the opening leader since a trump lead is often winning against a 5-3 (or 6-3) fit whereas a more aggressive lead can often be necessary against a 5-4 major fit. Once the opponents are in the auction, then responder's priorities shift and the race is on to be the first to establish the fit and bid to the highest level immediately, forcing the opponents to the last guess. Much of this will be nothing new to the BridgeWinners' audience but for the Junior players, such principles will help them to reconsider their fundamental approach and strategy and the book is full of such hard-earned wisdom. My examples are the simpler and more obvious ones but there is so much more that will continue to unfold on the third and fourth read-through.

This book shows new partnerships how to build their own system based on logic and sound strategy. It is not necessarily a blue-print for a system for others, but rather a smorgasbord of well-thought out, detailed methods that do form a coherent and structured whole. Few will adopt all of them - there are so many good ideas here, many of which are common practice among top players already I think. The difference is Mats' thoroughness in outlining the handling of competitive situations in particular and establishing simple logical principles that apply universally.

I particularly like the 2C opening which covers the balanced hands in the range of 18-21 points while also including GF hands without diamonds, which are covered by the Multi 2D opener. The implications here are that when 1 of a minor is opened these hands will only be balanced when holding 11-14 points. Balanced 15-21 hands open 1NT or 2C. The benefits of this are clear and wide-ranging.

Widening the frequency of the 2C opener makes better use of a bid rarely used in all standard natural systems. Other highlights are the "switch' bids, the 3/4 card invitational Jacoby and the multiple uses of forcing 2NT bids to differentiate hand-types. When Opener has shown a 6-card suit Mats asserts that it is rarely ever right to play in exactly 2NT. This was one of many 'aha' moments for me. 2NT is a gateway bid and using it naturally is wasteful in the vast majority of circumstances. Gazilli is there - in great depth of course. Muppet with some special adds on for minor suit discovery. The approaches over 1NT and 2NT leave very little uncovered and I will be adopting many of these improvements on my current methods even with just occasional partners.

I could eulogize for a long while over this book. My final word of praise is that the system allows multiple ways of bidding hands that are similar or identical in shape but different in suit quality, texture and playing strength - there are often multiple ways to bid a hand, each with its own special nuance. It's this flexibility above all that in my opinion makes it superior to any system I have ever played or studied before.

There is a preview available of the first chapter so I will let Mats speak for himself:

Please click PDF version so that the suit symbols come up properly.


The registration link is here:

The registration link goes live in 24 hours - around 5am on Wednesday on the East coast of America. There is a countdown clock on this page. 

The first 100 juniors are in for a treat. The rest of you too - I will be buying my hard copy come June 4th. It's a system I believe that can take any pair to the highest level there is - it's ideal for juniors looking to build a system file to compete internationally. It's natural, it's logical and it's strategically right up there with the best systems played by expert players. And it's available. Few top players are as generous in revealing their methods. Thank you Mats! A great contribution to the Literature of Bridge

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