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Bridge Conventions

  by Richard Pavlicek

This sheet is an overview on the controversial subject of bridge conventions. I offer some recommendations as to what I feel are good conventions, and a few other tips which may help you improve your partnerships.

Simpler May Be Better

Many players are eager to play a lot of conventions, thus taxing their memory to the extent that they fail to use good judgment. I recommend using fewer conventions, and only those that you know well.

Honor Your Agreements

A common mistake by an inexperienced player is to violate a system agreement deliberately — such as to pass a forcing bid because of not knowing what to bid. Even if this works on occasion, it will serve to undermine your partnership confidence for the future. Respect your partner’s bids, or you will soon find yourself without a partner.

Essential Conventions

I think the following conventions are essential for effective bidding; in fact, some are so common they are not considered “conventions.” Each is covered in my Advanced Lesson Series, and also in my book Modern Bridge Conventions.

Negative doubles
Fourth suit forcing
New minor forcing
Strong two-club bid & responses
Weak two-bids & responses
Takeout doubles
Unusual notrump overcall
Blackwood (regular or key-card)
Gerber (jump over NT only)

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Good Conventions

The conventions listed below are popular and highly recommended. Any (or all) would be excellent to adopt in your regular partnerships to sophisticate your bidding. These are not covered in my lesson series (since many students like to keep it simple), but each is fully explained in Modern Bridge Conventions.

Jacoby transfer bid
Texas transfer bid
Limit major raises (3 NT forcing raise)
Splinter bids (over majors only)
1 NT forcing
Two-over-one game forcing (usually)
Weak jump shift responses
Inverted minor raises
Reverse Drury
Truscott 2 NT (aka Jordan)
Michaels cue-bid
Invitational cue-bid
Responsive doubles
Astro (defense to 1 NT)
DOPI (over Blackwood interference)

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Conventions To Avoid

While most conventions offer an improvement to your bidding, there are a few popular ones I believe are unsound.

Jacoby 2 NT
Support doubles

I play Flannery, Baghdad twos and Kamikaze notrumps. Any questions?

Yeah, just one. Do you play bridge?

Most conventions not mentioned on this sheet constitute the middle ground — there is generally some advantage if used properly.

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Certain areas of bidding, often undiscussed in many partnerships, can be simplified by using conventions that are already familiar. I suggest these partnership agreements:

After your natural 1 NT or 2 NT overcalls (direct or balancing), use the same structure as after your 1 NT or 2 NT openings.

1. 1 S1 NTPass2 C

The 2 C response is Stayman, just as if the 1 S opening did not exist.

After your weak jump overcall at the two level, use the same structure as after your opening weak two-bids.

2. 1 D2 SPass2 NT

The 2 NT response is forcing, exactly is if partner had opened 2 S.

After your weak jump overcall at the three level or higher, use the same structure as after your preemptive opening bids.

3. 1 H3 CPass3 S

The 3 S response is forcing, just as it would be if partner had opened 3 C.

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Enemy Conventions

When you first play against new opponents, do not try to study their convention card. Chances are that anything you read will not come up anyway. I recommend just a glance at their general approach and their opening 1 NT range. Beyond that, it is the opponents’ duty to alert you of any artificial or special bids.

Winning tip: If an opponent alerts a bid and you have no intention to bid or double, wait until the auction is over to ask for an explanation.

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek