This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Unbalanced Major

Yesterday, one of Canada's top players, Allan Graves, commented on a posting from November - since that's an older posting and a long one, where readers could miss the "1 comment" marker at the end of two miles of system frameworks, I've reposted it here:

I recommend the unbalanced major point of view and simply use 1C as weak NT or clubs with transfer responses, 1D as natural usually unbalanced with 5 plus, 1NT 14+ to 17 frequently with 5332 major, 2D 18 -19 bal, not 5 card major.
This leaves Major opener as usually not 5332 11-17 unless third or fourth seat , a competely natural diamond and 1C 11 + natural unbalanced or a weak NT including 5332 major.
I think this separation of hand types is the cleanest and recommend Nilsson's article in the November Bridge World . Please email me allangraves _AT_ me _DOT_ com if you have system ideas etc. around this structure.
In a draft of the comment, Allan notes:

- Nilsson … is highly regarded Swedish international with impressive resume of performances
- transfer responses as per Swedish methods
- 2D 18-19 balanced per Lauria Versace
- This is a simple yet very powerful approach for non big clubbers.

For replying to Allan, you can email him, or you can comment on this posting, or email me at with your system ideas and permission to post, and I'll post your email as a blog post here.

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My reply.

The ETM Gold system was based on these types of ideas, especially influenced by Swedish and Italian approaches. Put simply it is:

1C: Natural or weak balanced (can have a five card major).
1D: 5Ds & unbalanced hand, or 4=4=4=1 exactly, or 1=4=4=4 exactly with extras (15+), or with 4Ds & 5Cs and 17+. Forcing.
1H/S: Natural, 5+ major, never a 5-3-3-2.
1NT: 14/15-17 balanced, can have a five card major.
2C: 17/18-21 balanced, can have a five card major.
2D: Any game force, can be 24/25+ balanced.

First, note that one has to park the 4=4=4=1 (4-4-4-1 exactly) shape somewhere. Thus 1D unbalanced includes that hand type. In addition I moved some unbalanced and extras with just 4Ds into 1D to take advantage of the bidding room available there.

For the 2C/2D split, I went with a modified Bocchi-Duboin approach instead of Lauria-Versace. In the Bocchi-Duboin methods, 2C was 18-19 balanced, while 2D was 23+ balanced or any game force. I increased the range of 2C since it had sufficient room to unwind a wider balanced range. The 2D opening eats bidding space, but true game forces, even balanced, or relatively infrequent compared to 18-21 balanced - in bidding design one can send a rarer hand type to Siberia in order to keep the rest nice and cozy besides the wood stove of low level bidding.

Several years later I invented Brass, which combines the 2C and 2D hand types into just 2C, freeing up 2D for other duties. Using Brass, 2C would be 18-19/22+ balanced or any game force. One option is to then play 2D as mini-Roman but never short in diamonds (11-14, a three suiter not short in Ds), and thus the 1D opening is always 5+Ds if less than 15, and the 1C opening will have 5+Cs if minimum and a singleton/void in a major.

For transfers over 1C, I did not include that in the base version of ETM Gold, as it is not ACBL GCC legal. Instead I went with a modified version of Kokish's Montreal Relay, since older rock n' roll is ACBL allowed. In the Gold Premium methods transfers over 1C is in one of the modules: Premium 1C Response Structure Including Transfers, starting on page 160 of the ETM Gold notes.



  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Larry said…

    Ah, shades of the Unbalanced Diamond! 5M332 hands are such a hindrance to competitive bidding that we have a special bid for them for the past 10 years as Opener. Recently, 2 years ago, we added the same bid for Responder to a Strong Club. 2M = 5332 and 10-14 if Opener and 8+ hcp (unlimited) if Responder. Thus, 1D, 1H, and 1S are ALL UNBALANCED (5422 is treated as unbalanced unless strong doubletons).

  • At 2:21 AM, Blogger Casa Cristeva said…

    Hi I wonder if you can help me please in settling a discussion following our instructor's tuition..

    We have only been playing 2yrs, and last year she changed the goalposts on bidding.... 1c (phoney 13-15 opening hand) 1NT 16-18pts.

    That is fine, but then she said if you have 19pt you can bid 1c to get a response from partner as opposed to bidding 1NT immediately!

    The sheets we have for opening and respding bids do not seem to cover 19pts in a hand....
    1c 13-15
    1NT 16-18
    2NT 18-20
    2c 23+ points

    My wife had 19pts last night and bid 1c, but it still felt wrong to us both, as we recalled what the instructor told us last year..

    What should the bid be?

    I hope to receive a reply and be able to correspond more with proper players/instructors as we get some really stupid hands!

    Thank you so much and best regards

    Steve Elliott

  • At 5:09 AM, Blogger Glen Ashton said…

    This post has been removed by the author.

  • At 7:58 AM, Blogger Glen Ashton said…

    Hi Steve,

    I think you meant to write:

    1c 13-15
    1NT 16-18
    2NT 20-22
    2c 23+ points

    With 19, it was likely the intention of your instructor that you open 1C, get a reply, and rebid 2NT (or raise partner to game). The other idea would be to use a ladder like this:

    1c 13-15
    1NT 16-18
    2NT 19-20
    2c 21+ points

    But this requires some structure in the 2C opening to show the various balanced ranges.


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