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Strong Club, Transfer Positives, 1Spade Neg.

We play a strong 1 system with transfer positive responses and 1 as our negative (0-7 points) response. In addition to being any negative, 1 may also be a GF transfer to 1NT with no 4 card MAJ, 8-11 points and therefore is forcing.

We use a question and answer relay structure over our 1 opening in which the strong hand mostly declares after interrogating the responder's hand regarding shape and strength. We use 4 distinct asking bids starting with a simple accept of the transfer positive response, which asks more information about the trump holding. We call this the Trump Ask. The next step above the simple accept (for example, 1 - 1 - 1) shows nothing in particular and asks Responder to show a second suit, if any. We call this the Distributional Ask.  The next step beyond that asks for controls (A=2, K=1) by steps (0-2, 3, etc.). If Opener really likes the suggested trump suit, she can jump in trumps to set trump and ask Responder to cue bid first or second round control. Otherwise, Opener can break the relay by making any other bid in which case bidding reverts to a naturalistic "show and tell" style.

Someone remarked once when playing against us that he did not see the advantage to 1 negative and I wrote up my list of advantages, which I am now publishing here.

1, The positive transfer sequences start lower and either MAJ if 4 cards or longer can be shown at the 1 level, if the hand is worth a GF.  An auction can start 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2 and Opener knows that Responder has 4 or more s and exactly 4s and we are still below 2NT. This makes for more efficient slam investigation below the level of game and allows for more bidding in forcing sequences where Opener, in particular, knows that Responder cannot PASS because no game has been bid.

2. The ability to show 4 card or longer MAJs at the 1 level is coupled with a mandate that any 4 card or longer suit be shown (not bypassed) regardless of other distribution. "What does 1 (response) show?" "At least an A and a K, at least 4 s and may have another 9 card suit." Keeping the mandate showing bids low, means that "impossible" bids are similarly available at a lower level. For example, 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2 would presumably show s (first response) and s (second response), but since Responder has already denied s the second bid shows some (undisclosed) 6 card or longer suit. This is a bit of syntax that needed to be discussed and agreed but it is not hard to remember.

3. Our structure is designed to out-compete 2/1 or Standard bidding at the other table. Often the 1 is a balanced hand in the NT range for other pairs. Our 1 - 1 - 1NT sequence leaves us no worse and often better positioned than the other table. If the 1 opener has an unbalanced hand we have equipment (developed by my partner) to sort out fits when we are in the part score zone and to show GF strength in the 1 hand when we hold it. If Responder holds 8-11 balanced, he simply raises the strong hand's 1NT rebid: that is, 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2NT = 8-11 BAL, no 4 card MAJ by Responder. Any second bid of 2NT by Responder in any sequence discloses the GF 8-11 hand.

4. If the Opponents want to compete over our "strong - negative" sequence, they are forced to do so at the level of 1NT or higher. In traditional precision they can toss a "fert 1 level overcall" in over the 1 - 1 start. We are less prone to facing a psyche competition because the 2 level is just too risky and may be uncomfortably high for them.  The preemption factor is strong and parallels the problems posed for OPPs by the strong NT opening. Also, there is the ambiguity in the 1 call. It may be a balanced 8-11 and perhaps Opener holds a few defensive trump tricks so wading in on a lark is dangerous.

5. If the Opponent competes directly over 1, then the weak hand is excused (or even barred) from entering the auction as the 1 seat becomes live. But the Opponent enters an auction where Responder is live and could be very strong so she does so at her own considerable risk.

We have occasionally faced problems with strong 2 suiters (although not recently since Yu worked out a system for showing these at the level of two MAJ three min). And in one rather amusing case we had a 1 - 1 - 2 - 3 all PASS auction that amused one of the better players on the West Coast of the US. "I'm guessing that this is not one of your more comfortable auctions."

However, for the most part we are satisfied with what we feared would be a completely unmanageable feature of the system.  Although I was suspicious at first blush, I have learned to love the 1 negative response.

I published this summary to ask for criticism of the system as well as to hear some ideas on defending against it as we have been asked. For now we honestly respond that if faced with this we would x the transfer bid for lead or sacrifice, bid the "shown suit" as takeout of that suit (suggesting MAJs more than mins), bid NT for the minors and wait with balanced power.

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