Big club: five or four card majors?
A question that gets regurgitated on the net from time to time is whether to play a big club system with five card majors or four card majors. The right answer is likely a compromise: 1S 5+, 1H 4+.
One of the worst big club/five card major sequences is 1H-2H uncontested so far: 2H announces at least a 5-3 heart fit, which implies the opponents have a fit too, and since both 1H and 2H are limited, the bidding tells the opponents they have some values to bid. Perhaps one could alert 2H, and, when asked, explain, "you are getting sleepy, you don't want to bid" or in Obi-Wan's voice "these aren't the bids you're looking for".
If 1H is 4+, unbalanced if 4, and responder freely raises with 3, then 1H-2H can be just a 4-3 fit, and now the opponents can't assume anymore that they have a fit: there is some risk for them to get into the auction. In a big club/five card major system, 1S(5+)-2S is open season for competitive bidding as well, but at least the opponents have to reach at least the three level (or a questionable 2NT or 2S doubled), and that will turn out okay on much of the hands. 1H(5+)-2H often drives the opponents to the perfect partscore of 2S, and that is bad news usually.
Playing 1H as 4+ eliminates the the need for a Precision 2D short-diamond opening - the 4-4-1-4 and 4-4-0-5 hands can open 1H, as well as 3-4-1-5. It can take out the hands with 4Hs & longer clubs out of the 2C opening: thus 2C will be 6+Cs or 5Cs+4Ss. Now after a 2C opening, and opponent's spade overcall, double can just show values, since it's not needed as a negative double to indicate four hearts. There is extra space to unwind hand types after 2C-2D(asking), since 2H can now be used as a rebid on many hands, with a 2C-2D;-2H-2S re-ask.
Here's a big club system framework that uses the half five-card majors approach, with a couple of other innovations, to produce a bulletproof system. The innovations are:
- 1C with not be too-shapely or short in a major if 15-16. This is two-fold: we want to start with natural bidding if the opponents are likely to compete in a major, and if we open 1C and the opponents compete, we would like responder to be able to bid a major suit as non-forcing opposite a minimum 1C opening. When opener has a 15-16 natural suit opening, opener will be able to show the extra values whether the bidding is contested or not, since the hand will be shapely and/or have major suit shortness.
- 1C will not be balanced if 18-21, and thus if the opponents compete over 1C, responder focuses on the 15-17 balanced or close to balanced possibility for opener, knowing that if opener is shapely and/or extra values, then opener will be able to show those hand types easily on the next turn to bid. This competitive-bidding-aware premeditated distinguishing of hand types by the system design is a characteristic of many modern systems.
1C: Big club, either:
a) 15-17 balanced or close-to-balanced with no major suit singleton/void
b) 17+ unbalanced
c) 22+ balanced
1D: 4+Ds, 10-16, unbalanced, can be 4D-5C in minors, if 15-16 shapely and/or major suit singleton/void
1H: 4+Hs, 10-16, unbalanced, can have longer clubs, if 15-16 shapely and/or spade singleton/void
1S: 5+Ss, 10-16, unbalanced, if 15-16 shapely and/or heart singleton/void
1NT: 11/12-14 balanced, can have five card major
2C: 6+Cs or 5Cs+4Ss, denies 4+Hs, 10-16, unbalanced, if 15-16 shapely and/or major suit singleton/void
2D: 18-19 balanced, can have five card major
2NT: 20-21 balanced, can have five card major
Rest: Preemptive to taste
Labels: bridge bidding system