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An Unusual Big Club System
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One of my friends likes to play a big club, a weak 1NT, and three-suited 2 and 2 bids. Lately he's also decided to play that one of a major over 1 shows at least a five-card suit. I thought I'd try to build a well-integrated system out of all this, and came up with something that looks surprisingly playable.

Suppose that 1 promises either one six-card minor (possibly with a four-card major) or both minors, five-four or better. Responder bids 1 or 1 with five or more cards in the major, otherwise makes a standard rebid. With an average hand, opener raises a major with three or four, bids 1NT with both minors, or bids his one long minor. (If responder has a four-card major, he may introduce it now.) With extras, opener jumps to 2NT with both minors or to 3m with one long minor, or shows an unspecified splinter in responder's major by bidding the other major, e.g., 1 - 1 ; 1 or 1 - 1 ; 2.

Responder may then sign off by rebidding his major, else learn opener's short suit after a mini-splinter by bidding notrump at the cheapest level. (Opener bids his shortness (almost) naturally — clubs, diamond, other major.)

Opening 1 and 1 bids are typical five-card majors with 11/12-15 HCP.

1NT shows 12-15 HCP with shapes including (42)(52), and possibly 22(54) with strength in the short suits. 

 Opening 2 and 2 bids cover all three-suiters with 11/12-15 HCP that include a four-card major -- (40)(54), (41)44, (41)(53), (43)(51), 44(41), and 44(50), about 10 percent of all minimum opening bids. The response structure described below is non-trivial and may be worth considering only by those thinking of adopting the system, but a simpler approach is available as well.

In both approaches, 2 shows shortness in a pointed suit while 2 shows shortness in a rounded suit. (Memory aid: opener has a shape that makes his bid passable.)

Over 2, responder may:

  • Pass
  • Bid 2 as the start of an asking sequence (see 2 - 2 sequences below)).
  • Bid 2 to play.
  • Bid 2 asking opener to pass with spade length, else bid 2NT (after which responder sets the contract).
  • Bid 2NT as a relay to 3 showing a weak hand with length in any suit. (Opener passes responder’s rebid, even if short.)
  • Bid 3 or 3 (suits opener is known to have) with at least a five-card suit and invitational values.
  • Bid 3 or 3 with at least a six-card suit and invitational values.
  • Bid 3NT or 4M to play.

Over 2, responder may:

  • Pass
  • Bid 2 as the start of an asking sequence (see 2 - 2 sequences below).
  • Bid 2 to play.
  • Bid 2NT asking opener to bid 3 with heart length, else bid 3 (after which responder sets the contract).
  • Bid 3 or 3 with at least a six-card suit and invitational values.
  • Bid 3 or 3 (suits opener is known to have) with at least a five-card suit and invitational values.
  • Bid 3NT to show a 4450 shape with extras.*
  • Bid 4M to play.

* This avoids going above 3NT in the steps over 2 - 2 ; 3 below.

With a strong hand, responder may bid the cheapest suit over 2m to inquire further about opener's hand. A partnership interested in simple(!) methods may play 2 over 2 or 2 over 2 as an ask for opener’s shortness (and perhaps strength), and continue along natural lines from there. A more ambitious partnership may employ the structure below to learn about opener’s shape exactly.

Over 2, 2 asks strength and exact shape:

  • 2 = Short , minimum. 2 asks shape in four steps: 3415, 4315, 4414, 4405
  • 2 = Short , minimum. 2NT asks shape in four steps: 1435, 1453, 1444, 04(45)
  • 2NT = Short , extras. 3 asks shape in four steps: 3415, 4315, 4414, 4405
  • 3 = 1435, extras*
  • 3 = 1453, extras*
  • 3 = 1444, extras*
  • 3 = 04(54), extras*

Over 2, 2 asks strength and exact shape in a similar manner:

  • 2 = Short , minimum. 2NT asks shape in four steps: 3451, 4351, 4441, 4450
  • 2NT = Short , minimum. 3 asks shape in four steps: 4135, 4153, 4144, 40(45)
  • 3 = Short , extras. 3 asks shape in three steps: 3451, 4351, 4441 (bid 3NT directly over 2 if 4450 with extras)
  • 3 = 4135, extras*
  • 3 = 4153, extras*
  • 3 = 4144, extras*
  • 3NT = 40(54), extras*

* These steps show spade shortness with extras in the same order as after 2 - 2 ; 2, or heart shortness with extras in the same order as after 2 - 2 ; 2NT.

After all this work, the auction is still no higher than 3NT and responder knows both opener's exact shape and if he has extras. Responder may then bid 4 to ask for opener's number of controls, bid 4 to force 4 and from there either pass or sign off with his next bid, or bid 4M or 5m to set trump and ask opener for keycards.

To sum up, with 11/12-15 HCP opener bids 1♦ with one or both minors (and responder only bids 1M with five or more), 1M with a five-card or longer major, 1NT with a balanced hand, or 2 or 2 with a three-suiter.

I've never seen a structure quite like this, and I'm eager to see how it works in practice. I'd welcome feedback from readers who have thoughts on the matter or, better yet, have had some experience playing similar methods.

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