Chuck Arthur


This may not be a classic MSC type problem since I do not give you your hand. Nevertheless I solicit your thoughts.

I found the following auction posed by Bob Gray of some interest

West North East South
1 1 pass pass
1nt pass ??  


EW are playing 1 notrump opening 15-17 HCP. I hope that we all agree that 1 notrump by West shows 18-19 HCP with some semblance of a spade stopper or two. Even if you play weak notrump openings so that the balancing 1nt need only be 15+ or so, these questions still apply. What do bids mean at the ?? by East? Should systems (Stayman, transfers) be on? Have you discussed this with your partners? If you have not discussed it with this particular West, are there any macro agreements that can assist?


Chuck GallowayMarch 27th, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I believe in “Systems On” in any auction. Opening NT, Overcalls, Balancing Overcalls, balancing by opener, etc. etc. Any time it’s a real notrump bid. I would omit 2H above from the scheme. I tell my regular partners that if they’ll listen – some refuse and make exceptions, the others forget, and it becomes a guessing game. I can think of no general principle to solve the problem.

With some of them I write notes – and they either don’t read them or forget them. Sigh.

john lauferMarch 28th, 2010 at 8:01 am

Responder has few problems if he had either a trap, or awkward positive; he will most likely bid game in 3nt, or initiate with a cue bid. The more likely problem holdings are weak distributional hands. In this case, natural bids at the two level seem necessary; other problem hands could lump two no-trump as some ambiguous two suiter, and strive to find a landing spot, jumps could be shapely and descriptive of an invitation.

Gur BaykalMarch 28th, 2010 at 9:18 am

Front of the card is the approach I would take in this situation. Since the responder did not use neg dbl only action is to look for 3nt. Qxx or better in spades i would invite with 7 points. Lacking help in spades I would want to have 8 to invite. I would bid 3nt with 8 and a good 5 card suit.

Bryan MonkhouseMarch 28th, 2010 at 10:23 am

Systems on for the whole range of natural NT bids, followed by a pass , as here has worked best for me – anything more complicated gets forgotten. Here, without the Neg dbl by east on the last round our only game possibility is NT , Not knowing the vulnerability , It’s hard to judge the probabilities, but the most likely action is pass , as East rates to have a balanced 3 or 4 count .

Carl HudecekMarch 28th, 2010 at 10:27 am

Your partner’s cards are poorly placed. If your side is vulnerable, you could be going

for a number in 1NT. Seems to me you have to play “system off” so you can deal with

hands like xx QJxxx xxxx xx or x xxxx JTxxxx x and get out AT THE TWO LEVEL.

There are implications in partner’s auction:

a) He probably does NOT have four hearts, since he didn’t reopen with double.

b) He does not want to defend 1S. Can he have something like AQ Axx Kxx KQTxx

or AQx Ax Kxx KQTxx ?

c) His spades should suggest your pass of 1S was not based on an intent to penalize.

Even playing “system off”, you can invite to 3NT by bidding 2NT.

Abe BirenbaumMarch 28th, 2010 at 10:38 am

Any bid by responder I would take as to play . If he bid 2 NT it would be invatational but I doubt he has any points. Abe Birenbaum

Debbie BennettMarch 28th, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I like to play systems on, less to think about, less to remember. I don’t know if you read my response to previous hand, but I will repeat, I’m getting too old to change.

Steven LariviereMarch 29th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Getting out cheaply is my opinion. Systems off.

john cunninghamMarch 30th, 2010 at 7:40 am

Mr Hudecek makes consistent good sense

Blair FedderMarch 31st, 2010 at 10:55 am

1NT rebid shows a minimum of 3 spades, should hold 4 unless NT’er holds some hand with running clubs….Jx, Ax, Qxx, AKQJXX. Any bid over 1NT rebid is to play, as partner has to be able to contribute say with xxx, Qx, J10xxxx, xx a 2 diamond call

NickApril 1st, 2010 at 6:29 pm

The way my partners and I play is that ‘System is On’ in this situation, with the difference being that the West bid now shows 18 – 19 HCPs and at least 1 1/2 stoppers in S.

If I am playing with some other players, the assumption will be the same as the front of the convention card applies in this situation.

Chuck ArthurApril 6th, 2010 at 12:59 am

My immediate reaction was “Systems on” or “Front of the card”. Upon reflection, and with the benefit of reading some of the comments here, I am persuaded by Carl Hudecek’s arguments (and others likewise) that it is more useful to play all bids as natural … systems off.

The vote (including my own) is: systems on, 5; systems off, 7.

That said, if I am ever playing with a partner who responded “Systems on” and the situation arises. assuming that we have not had an agreement to play otherwise. I’ll play it your way.

Ross AndersonApril 6th, 2010 at 9:50 am

I like 2NT as invitational , 2 spades as game forcing stayman showing at least 5 hearts (partner would often double with 4), and all bids of 2C,2D,2H as to play. 3C , 3D and 3H are invitational with at least 5 cards in suit and 2 of top 3 honours.I am assuming that between opener and partner there are a minimum of 30 points so give or take a point how much can partner have. MY partners are usually broke so I like them to have a way of getting out cheap.

don mcgillApril 6th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

In my partnership with “TO’s best unknown player”, to quote Ron Bishop, we play systems off to maximize escape possibilities.

AmyJune 5th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

The way my partners and I play is that ‘System is On’ in this situation, with the difference being that the West bid now shows 18 – 19 HCPs and at least 1 1/2 stoppers in S.
If I am playing with some other players, the assumption will be the same as the front of the convention card applies in this situation.

Mike HamiltonNovember 6th, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Partner’s hand is narrowly defined and this has to make my bidding easier. I know his strength within a point and his distribution within a few cards.

I also know something about the hand I can’t see. The negative double has evolved into a versatile bid that shows just about any hand with limited values (the type of hand is described by my next call after the double), and I didn’t make it. North will have 7-17 HCP with 5+ spades (sometimes a strong 4-card suit like A-K-x-x for an overcall at the 1-level). If partner is showing 18-19 HCP, I would guess North’s overcall range is reduced to something like 7-12 HCP. I give North something like

SK Q 9 8 4 HQ 10 6 DA 10 7 2 C5

Partner has something like

SA J 6 HA K 9 3 DK 6 CK J 8 3

My failure to double condemns me to a weak hand, but I might have a long broken suit. If I have a hand like

S10 2 H9 7 5 2 DJ 9 8 4 CQ 6 4

I should pass quietly.

If I have something like

S10 2 H9 5 DQ J 9 8 4 3 C6 4 2

I could jump to 3D. Partner will play me for a long suit in a weak hand and pass because I failed to double over the 1S overcall,

I think the failure to make a negative double defines the bidding structures. If the opponents overcall a major, how do you restructure Stayman and Jacoby responses if you want to play systems “on”? You could do it, but there’s memory work to do and maybe some alerting at the table. We all learn standard bidding so that it can kick in when our systems have to be turned “off”. I think some straightforward simple standard bidding should apply to my subsequent bids if I can’t double an overcall in the first round.

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