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Partner transferred to a major


The first principle to get straight in your mind is that partner is ‘in charge of the auction’.

Once you have opened the bidding with 1NT he knows the strength of your hand, he knows roughly the shape of your hand, he knows that you have at least a doubleton in every suit (and this will be the assumption even if you have a partnership agreement to the contrary), and he has the right to dictate where the auction might go from here.


Partner’s transfer bid is both informative (e.g. ‘I have a five-card heart suit’) and also an instruction as to your next action.

You do not have the option to decline the transfer.  There is absolutely no way in which you can be certain that there is a better spot in which to play than the one which partner has chosen.  If by any chance there is such a certainty then you made the wrong bid in the first place.


Despite the foregoing, you should not always complete the transfer as instructed.


If you always do just exactly as you are told then you are a goody-goody, and goody-goodies don’t always come out on top.

More to the point in the present context, you are wasting every other available bid:-


partner could have a big hand, and the sooner you start telling him more about your hand, the better;

there may be a borderline game holding between you - knowledge of each other’s strengths or weaknesses might make it well worth a try;

partner might have a really feeble take-out hand, but a quick jump to the three-level based on your four-card support and a combined nine-card fit could make life very difficult for your opponents.


However any bid by you other than a completion of the transfer as instructed, accepts partner’s choice of suit.  Remember, he might have a long suit and no points.  There is no way in which you can opt out.


Breaking the transfer


This page introduces an idea which you should add to your armoury at a relatively early stage.


Whenever you hold four-card support for partner’s implied major you should at least consider ‘breaking the transfer’ - that is, do anything other than complete the transfer, thereby agreeing partner’s suit and forcing the bidding to the three-level.


Jump break


The simplest option is to break the transfer with a jump in partner’s implied major whenever you hold four cards in that suit.


The jump break as described above is recommended as an early first extension of the basic transfer method.

K Q 8 4

K T 7

K T 7 6

J 5

Bid 3.

If partner has next to nothing then you have put up an excellent preemptive barrier.

If he holds some values you might just have helped him on his way to the best game contract.  Notice that this bid says nothing about the strength of your opener.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?








It is, though, possible to elaborate on the principle above in various ways.

Most of these possibilities are fairly simple in concept, and are effective at least up to a point.  You will probably wish to adopt one of the available options sooner rather than later.


Partner has promised at least a five-card suit, and you have therefore a nine-card fit.  The principle of ‘bidding to the level of the fit’ tells us that this will usually be the correct action even if partner hold just a five-card suit and no points.


There is an exception to this generalisation:-


if vulnerable against not you might agree to compete to one less than the level of the fit, in which case a simple completion of the transfer at the two-level would be appropriate.

One very reasonable option is that at this vulnerability you should never break the transfer.  Partner can be counted on to make a further effort if holding invitational values.

Intermediate and above


A second option, and surprisingly popular, is to make such a break only when holding a maximum (fourteen or a good thirteen).


This agreement misses the point that it will usually pay to bid to the three-level on the nine-card fit even with minimum combined values, and the weaker you are the more important it is to get there quickly before your opponents have started searching for their contract.


The method of jumping only with a maximum is not recommended.


Jump with a minimum holding


My preference, and the choice of many experts, is that you should make this jump break only with a minimum (twelve or a poor thirteen), thereby putting on the maximum preemptive pressure as quickly as possible.  The example above suits this method well.


If this is your choice then you will also agree that a simple completion of the transfer denies four-card support (except perhaps at adverse vulnerability), and you will then have to show four-card support and a maximum in some other way.


There are several methods from which to choose.


2NT on any good hand


The simplest agreement, and perfectly effective, is that with any four-card support and a better than minimum hand you will bid 2NT.

Partner is then in an excellent position to choose between three and four of the major.


With this agreement, when holding four-card support for partner’s implied suit:-


at adverse vulnerability   - always complete the transfer at the two-level;

at any other vulnerability - with a minimum hand make a jump break with an immediate leap to three of the agreed suit,

with a maximum hand bid 2NT.


This method based on the 2NT and jump transfer breaks is recommended as one which is simple in concept, and which will serve you well to a high level.

K Q 8 4

K T 7

K T 7 6

J 5

Your basic agreement will be to jump to 3 with your four-card support.

If vulnerable against not you might agree just to complete the transfer with 2.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?









Further options


Repeat transfers


Anyone brought up in the world of the strong no trump will be horrified that the 2NT sequence leaves the declarer play in the hand of the responder.  The opening hand will therefore be there on the table for all to see, and the opening lead will be coming through it rather than up to it.


This consideration is not nearly so important when playing a weak no trump, but it is not totally without merit.

The problem is easily circumvented by giving responder a repeat transfer bid of 3 (to hearts) or 3 (to spades) at his next turn.

A Q 8 4

K T 7

K J T 6

7 5

Those two tens make this into an excellent thirteen count.

Show your four-card support in a maximum hand with 2NT.

Partner will choose between 3 and 4.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?








K J T 4

K 9 7 3

T 8

K Q 6

Four-card heart support, in a minimum hand.

Bid 3 except at adverse vulnerability.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?









Other transfer breaks


There are other possible agreements for breaking the transfer.


Lowest suit shows a good raise


A common choice is to use the 2NT bid to give rather more precise information about the hand.  Three possibilities are given below.

If this is your choice then you will have to show any other maximum hand in some other way.  An obvious method is to rebid 2 over a transfer into hearts and 3 over a transfer into spades.  This allocation leaves space for the ‘repeat transfers’ as shown above.


2NT on a flat hand


One idea which is to be found in the world of five-card majors is to bid 2NT on a maximum hand with four-card support and 4-3-3-3 shape, and to use the lowest suit bid (above) with any other maximum.  The idea is to locate 3NT when it is the better contract.

The principle is excellent on those occasions when a 5-3 fit is located and there is no ruffing potential in the hand with the shorter trumps.  However, with a 5-4 fit there is still every possibility that there might be a ruffing trick or two in the responding hand, and so this method does not come high on my list of recommendations.


2NT with a weak doubleton


This one is to be found in Barry Rigal’s writing.  The primary purpose is to keep you out of a 3NT contract with a matching weak suit in the two hands.  You will be hard-pressed to construct two hands with a 5-4 major suit fit on which you would prefer to play in a no trump contract and so this is not my choice, but such hands do exist so choose this if you wish.


New suit transfer break


The alternative approach is to show more specific information by a bid in a new suit and to use 2NT to show any other maximum with four-card support.


Control showing


Quite popular in club play is to break the transfer by bidding a control in a side-suit.

Experience has shown that this approach tends to help the opponents as much as your partner and so the method is now falling out of fashion.


Good suit


Another possibility is for opener to show a source of tricks.  Basically this means that he holds something like KQJx in a side-suit as well as four cards in partner’s suit.  I have no experience of this method, but I suspect that if the combined strengths of the hands is anything less than a slam then you might again be giving away valuable information - I would be a little more impressed if there were the possibility of a secondary five-card suit.


Some of these methods are played by excellent partnerships and so clearly have some pedigree.

A Q 8 4

K T 7

K J T 6

7 5

Show your four-card support in a maximum hand with 2NT.

Partner will repeat transfer with 3, and you will complete this transfer to 3.

Partner will then either pass or raise to 4.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?








Responder’s first bid

Responder’s rebid

Post-beginner and above

K J T 4

K Q 9 7

K Q 6

T 8

My choice is to bid 2NT to show four-card spade support in a maximum hand.

Alternative methods would be to bid 2NT or 3 to show the weak doubleton, or 3 to show the cheapest first or second-round control.


You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1NT

-

2

-

?








Context  -  You opened 1NT - LHO passed - partner made a transfer bid.