Special Bids

These bids are only used in auctions that begin 1♣!. We give them here to simplify the chapter on Opening One Club.

The Heart Relay

The Heart Relay, also called Kokish, applies only after the auction begins 1♣! - 1♦, and there is no interference.

1♣! - 1♦! - 1♥! asks responder to bid an artificial 1♠!. The opener will clarify his hand type on his next bid. The 1♥ bid usually means a hand with hearts, but it can be a strong notrump hand or (rarely) a hand 6-5 in the minors.

This bid should be explained as, “A five-card heart suit or a strong balanced hand; or rarely, a hand 6-5 in the minors.” The answer to “How strong a balanced hand?” is “20-22 HCP or 26+ HCP”.

After 1♣! - 1♦! - 1♥!, responder bids 1♠!(relay) except in these cases:

  • 1N with 5-5 in the majors, very weak.
  • 2-level suit bids with a modest six-card suit, weak hand, no outside Queens.
  • 2N with 5-5 in the minors, very weak.
  • 3-level suit bids with seven-card suits, very weak.

The 1♠! bid can be explained in more detail as “not a very weak distributional hand”.

Showing Balanced Hands

After 1♣! - 1♦!, we have three notrump bids, 1N, 2N, and 3N; and at each level you can bid it directly or first use the heart relay. Using the heart relay first will show a stronger hand.

  1. 1N! => 17 - 19
  2. 1♥! - 1♠! - 1N! => 20 - 22
  3. 2N! => 23 - 25
  4. 1♥! - 1♠! - 2N! => 26 - 28
  5. 1♥! - 1♠! - 3N! => 29+, forcing to 4N.
  6. 3N is to play, usually based on a long solid minor.

After 1♣! - 1♦! - 1N!(17-19), the system is on. Responder bids 2♣ as ordinary (not Puppet) Stayman in three cases:

  • As Stayman with 7 HCP. Yes, opener may have 19, but don’t bid 2♣ with 6 HCP;
  • As Stayman with a bust hand short in clubs, intending to pass the reply;
  • When 5-4 in the majors, intending to bid 2♥! (Garbage Stayman).

After any of the stronger sequences the system is “on”. Transfers are on even if the suit has already been bid, as for example:

1♣! - 1♦!(0-7)
1♥!(hearts or strong NT) - 1♠!(relay)
1N!(20-21) - 2♥!(transfer to spades)

Responder shows his five spades, even though he will play a spade contract.

Showing Unbalanced Hands

After the 1♥! relay is accepted with 1♠!, an unbalanced opener bids as follows, all bids showing a heart suit, and jumps showing extras.

  • 2♣! shows 3+ clubs as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 2♦! shows 3+ diamonds as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 2♥ shows a 6+ heart suit, no extras.
  • 2♠! shows 4+ spades as well as the 5+ hearts.
  • 3♣!, 3♦! are forcing, suggestive of 5+ in the minor as well, or extras.
  • 3♥ shows 6+ hearts, invitational.
  • 3♠ shows 4+ spades, 5+ hearts, with extras.
  • 4♥ shows 6+ hearts, to play.
  • 4N is RKC for hearts

Two special bids show 6-5 minor-suited hands:

  • 4♣ forcing, 6+ clubs, 5+ diamonds.
  • 4♦ forcing, 6+ diamonds, 5+ clubs.

Asking Bids

Bidding a bid that is Beta starts a sequence of “Asking Bids”. After the response to Beta, an immediate bid of the trump suit is a Trump-Asking Bid. Subsequently or instead, a bid of a side suit is Control-Asking Bid. A notrump bid or a signoff ends the sequence.

Trump-Asking Bid

The Trump-Asking Bid (TAB) occurs when opener bids trump below game following a Beta. TAB asks about the quality of the responder’s suit. (A responder can never make a TAB, and opener can only make it if he does so the first chance he gets.)

Step responses indicate the length of the suit, and the number of the top three honors held:

  • first step: zero honors, any length
  • second step: one, five cards
  • third step: two, five cards
  • fourth step: one, six+ cards
  • fifth step: two, six+ cards
  • sixth step: three (AKQ), five+

Examples:

  • 1♣! - 1♠!(12+ HCP, spades), 2♠ accepts spades and is TAB.
  • 1♣! - 2♦!(12+ HCP, hearts), 2♥ accepts hearts and is TAB.

After a TAB, each rebid short of game is asking about the quality of the trump suit or of a specific side suit.

  • Asking further about the trump suit, Repeat TAB (rTAB), is invoked by another bid in the trump suit below game.
    • If you have shown 0 or 3 of the top three honors, the first step shows a seven-card suit; the second a six-card suit; the third a five-card suit. That’s right: worse is higher!
    • If you have shown one of the top three honors, the steps show Ace, King, Queen. Again, worse is higher.
    • If you have shown two of the top three honors, the steps show AK, AQ, KQ.
  • Asking about control details for a given suit, CAB, is invoked by other suit bids. There can be a sequence of these.

After a TAB or repeat TAB, if you make a bid in a non-trump suit it is a Control-Asking Bid (CAB). So if you want to make an rTAB inquiry, you must do it immediately after the TAB, and once you make a CAB you cannot make any trump-quality inquiry.

Note that this is the ONLY scenario that involves TAB and rTAB, – when it is opener accepting responder’s suit. It is always asking about the responder’s suit.

Opener can show slam interest with one or more CABs.

Control-Asking Bid

A Control-Asking Bid (CAB) is asking about controls in that suit. A CAB must follow a Beta or a Beta/CAB. After CAB, TAB is no longer available. The replies are in steps:

  1. No control (Jxx or worse)
  2. Third round control (a queen or doubleton)
  3. Second round control (a king or singleton)
  4. First round control (an ace or void)
  5. AK or AQ

For steps 2 through 4, opener can bid the suit again to ask responder to distinguish length (first step) from strength (2nd step); the 3rd step shows the honor and the one beneath it, or a stiff Ace.

Any subsequent bid in another suit that is not trump is again a CAB.

Once a control-asking bid is at the five level, the replies must be compressed:

  1. Neither first- nor second-round control
  2. Second-round control
  3. First-round control

ETA

If you do not wish to learn ETA, substitute the CAB responses.

ETA is only used by a 1♣ responder who has a three-suited hand. ETA responses are similar to TAB responses, but since we know the suit length (4), we show the trump Jack instead:

  1. Jxxx or worse
  2. One top honor (AKQ), no Jack
  3. One top honor, with the Jack
  4. Two top honors, no Jack
  5. Two top honors, with the Jack
  6. AKQx or AKQJ

There is no repeat ETA. Bidding the trump suit again is to play.

Example:

1♣! - 2♠!(8-11, three suited)
2N!(shape?) - 3♣!(short in diamonds)
3♥(hearts are trump)  - 4♦!(one top honor in hearts, with Jack)
6♥