transfer responses to 1 (5552)

We like this system. The basic framework is Two Over One with Weak Notrumps (12-14), standard five card 1/ openings, five card 1 opening (virtually), 1 opener with as few as two, transfer responses to 1, and some specialty responses to the 1 and 1 openers. This treatment has some elements of Transfer Walsh. Go HERE for a summary of suggested responses.

We open 1 with any unbalanced hand with club length, and with any balanced hand with 15-19 HCP, even with longer diamonds. With a balanced 12-14 we open 1NT. This means we open 1 with pattern 3=3=5=2 and 16 points, for example. 

Since we open all 12-19 HCP balanced hands 1 or 1NT, our 1 openers are unbalanced. We tend to treat most 5422 hands as balanced. Most 1 openers will be the like of 5431 or three-suited patterns. There are a small number of three-suited hands we must open 1 (4=4=4=1, say), but we assume opener has five diamonds. The system could guarantee opener holds five diamonds by using some kind of mini-roman three-suited 2 or 2 opener, but we don't like mini-roman. You might.

There are a number of advantages to using transfer responses to 1. Since 1 includes balanced 15-19 hands (we rebid 1NT with 15-17, and 2NT with 18-19), we transfer our major suit fits and our notrump contracts to the stronger hand. Jacoby Transfers and Stayman accomplish this with the standard 15-17 opening 1NT, but many 12-14 and 18-19 hands are not rightsided using standard methods.

We can also distinguish between two kinds of simple 'raises', using the sequences  1 - 1 | 1 and 1 - 1 | 2. What should they mean? Maybe the 1 'raise' could show three hearts unbalanced (with three hearts and balanced, opener would rebid 1NT, maybe opener is 1=3=4=5), and 2 shows four. That makes sense. Or the 1 bid could show an unbalanced minimum raise with four hearts, maybe 4=4=1=4, and the 2 bid shows the 15-17 balanced hand with four hearts. That makes sense too. I think I like the three-card fit 1 bid.

The 1 - 1 bid is a transfer to 1NT, and having no four card major is heavy in minors, usually with diamonds, since responder didn't raise clubs. This transfer is a godsend. With natural methods the 1NT response to minors can be very awkward, especially for weak notrumpers. If the range for 1NT is in the good 5 to bad 10 range, or even 11 as it sometimes is with two over one players, then opener with a balanced 15 to 17 must invite with 2NT which will be too high opposite minimum responses. The 1 transfer permits opener to rightside with 1NT, and responder can pass if minimum for his bid.

1 - 1NT is game-forcing with clubs, and 1 - 2 is game-forcing with diamonds. You can play around with meanings for higher responses 1 - 2 and higher. I kind of like 1 - 2 to also be a transfer to hearts, showing a decent 6+ suit and not enough to make game opposite a strong-notrump 1 opener, maybe the likes of xx/QJTxxx/xx/xxx, similar to a weak jump overcall. Ditto 2 is a transfer to spades. 2 might be some kind of limit club raise.

After 1, always unbalanced, almost always 5+ diamonds, a 2 response is an artificial game force. Regardless of shape, with 12+ HCP, responder bids 2, so a game force is established immediately and the partnership can probe for the right contract. Responses of 1, 1 and 1NT are natural with a maximum 11 HCP. Typically, opener will have a holding like 3=4=5=1. After a 2 forcing-to-game auction, he will start to describe his hand. With this specific holding he would bid 2. After a limited 1 or 1 response, his rebid will be much like a standard-american rebid ... he will raise even holding just three trumps (he will be unbalanced with ruffing values), rebid his suit with extra length, rebid notrump with some hands, jump raise and reverse with the right strong holdings, and so on.

What are some problem hands? Three-suiters can be awkward, but they are awkward in other systems as well. A holding of 4=4=4=1 must be opened 1, despite holding just four diamonds. A holding of 4=4=1=4 can be opened 1 because you are prepared if responder shows a major suit, or if he bids 1 (no majors ... you rebid 1NT with the right HCP range {but what if you are say Axxx/Axxx/x/Axxx and too weak for a 1NT rebid?}), but what do you do with 1=4=4=4 or 4=1=4=4 if you open with 1 and get a 1 (no majors) response? You have a large hole in one of the majors, and often your best rebid will be 2 despite holding just four of them.

The transfers give the declaring side an additional benefit (the 1 and 2 'raises'), but at the same time they give the opponents an extra kick at the can. Using standard methods, after 1 - 1, opener's RHO cannot show diamonds at the one-level. But after 1 - 1 (4+ hearts), opener's RHO can use Double to insert a cheap lead-directing diamond bid, and he can use 1 as the 'takeout double' showing the other two suits. So the opponents have gained a bid. However that in turn gives declarer an extra bid ... he can Redouble the Double to show something, and he can Double the 1 bid to show something else, so at the end of the day, the declaring side ultimately gains one additional bid, I think.

The advantages to using transfers are significant.

  • More of your contracts will be rightsided. Almost all of your 4-4 major fits will be declared by opener. Without transfers, opener with a balanced 18-19 HCP hand in most systems will be dummy in far too many situations.
  • You can assign different meanings to low-level acceptances by opener. After 1 - 1, opener's 1 and 2 rebids can mean different things.
  • The often-awkward response of 1m - 1NT is avoided, by using 1 as a transfer to 1NT. (Not playing transfers, when playing 12-14 notrumps, hands in the 15-17 range are opened in a minor. Responder lacking a major will bid 1NT with 6-10 or so. Opener, if he has 15-17 balanced, must raise to 2NT which will often be too high opposite a minimum responder. Transfers avoid this with 1-1 // 1NT-Pass)
  • Your 1 openers are much better defined, usually 5+ and unbalanced.
  • You can often settle in a 2 or 2 contract, which is difficult to do using standard methods. Checkbacks are not required in the sequences 1 - 1/1NT - 2/2.
  • The standard response of 1 - 1 is replaced by 1 - 1 which has a nice preemptive effect.
  • The system is used over 1 - Pass - ??, and 1 - 1 - ?? (where DBL now shows hearts, other responses unchanged), and 1 - DBL - ??, with some adjustments for RDBL.

Disadvantages are very manageable.

  • After 1, opener's minor suit position is less clear.
  • You lose the 'natural' 1 - 1 response.

Another intriguing option is to use a 1 - 1NT response as 12+, game forcing, any shape. You might want that to mean your other one-level responses are limited to 5-11, or perhaps you just limit your 1 response to that range. Then you might want a 2 rebid by opener to be Stayman (in 1 - 1NT// 2). Or you might play the 1NT game force as denying a four-card major, otherwise shape unknown.

Go HERE for a summary of suggested responses.