M J Bridge

Theory and Conventions




As with Stayman everyone (I exaggerate only slightly) plays transfers over 1NT.

However, these common features mask an infinity of differences.

Many pairs play only red-suit transfers into the majors.  This method works perfectly well as far as it goes, but it uses only a fraction of the potential that these bids are able to unleash.

When transfers were first introduced it was in the American game where the strong no trump held sway.  It was not desirable to play a weak take-out and find yourself declaring the hand with about four points in your hand whilst sixteen or so points were laid out on the table for all to see.  The transfer enabled the stronger hand to be the declarer.

From this historical situation have arisen two common misconceptions:-

i) that transfers are a kind of weak take-out;

ii) that the purpose of transfers is to ensure that the strong hand becomes declarer.

These are, indeed, two important aspects of transfer bids, but they fall far short of the whole story.

The principle strength of transfer bids is their versatility.

With a weak hand you can transfer and then pass - with a stronger hand you can transfer and then describe your hand more fully with a further bid.

They give you two bids for the price of one.

So, the idea that a transfer is little more than a form of weak take-out is fundamentally wrong.

As for transferring the declarer play to the stronger hand, this is little more than a side bonus.  (Apart from anything else, the argument about the strong hand declaring is persuasive when responder is extremely weak, but when responder holds anything in the way of values the disparity is much less pronounced facing a weak no trump.)

Another common by-product of the limited view of transfers is the conviction that a transfer into a minor should be made whenever you hold six cards in the suit.

This is rarely the correct option on a weak hand.

Are you really certain that you can make two more tricks?

With a poor seven-card minor in a weak hand it is likely to be correct to make such a transfer, but with a six-card minor in a weak hand it will more frequently be correct to leave partner in 1NT.

With a stronger hand you will be with the majority if you choose to retain the six-card requirement as you transfer into a minor and then make a further bid (always forcing - usually played as game-forcing), but as a partnership you might alternatively agree the possibility of including constructive and forcing sequences in which the transfer bid promises no more than five cards in the suit in the first instance.

Note that when you adopt any transfer system you will lose your weak take-out into diamonds at the two-level, just as when you adopted Stayman you sacrificed the same bid in clubs.

Fear not - just pass for now and escape to your minor later at the two-level if someone doubles.

Putting your system together

Red suit transfers

are probably the most common implementation of the concept in everyday club play.

In this section (improvers’ methods), as we encounter transfer bids for the first time, I shall recommend what I call

simple four-suit transfers

Following that there will be a complete page of examples showing how four-card promissory Stayman together with simple four-suit transfers can be used to show a wide range of hand-types.

There is much to be said for mastering this versatility before trying more advanced variations.

Opener’s first bid

Opener’s rebid

Post-beginner and above

Context  -  Partner opened 1NT - RHO passed - improvers’ methods

This page last revised 1st Nov 2019