Defense against Polish Club by Gerben Dirksen

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The Polish Club system can be tricky to deal with. Before choosing a defense, it’s important to know what your opponents are doing. Opening bids of

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The Polish Club system can be tricky to deal with. In the 1993 Bermuda Bowl, Balicki-Zmudzinski were no longer able to play their forcing pass system, and changed to Polish Club instead. Apparently one of the later winners said he was more comfortable defending the forcing pass system than Polish Club…

Before choosing a defense, it’s important to know what your opponents are doing. Opening bids of 1 through 2are natural, so we don’t worry about those. 2 nowadays is often used as Multi, which is probably one or more articles by itself. I’ll therefore focus on the defense to the 1bid. In general, 1can be one of the following four hand types:

  • 11+ – 14 NT
  • 12 – 17, three-suiter with shortness (e.g. 4414)
  • 15 – 17, 5+unbalanced
  • 18+ any

Without further information, opener approximately has a weak notrump 60% of the time, a strong hand 30% of the time and one of the other two types 5% of the time.

Responder then bids 1 negative (may also include some stronger hands without 4-card major), or bids naturally with constructive hands. In contrast to most natural bidders, a response of 1/1shows a “real hand”, e.g. it isn’t bid onAxxxx and out (as they have 1available as a negative response). An example hand of this is shown on the next page.

After 1– 1, opener’s 1NT rebid shows a big notrump (too strong for the 1NT opener of 15 – 17), which means that with a weak NT, opener has to invent a 3-card major (1or 1rebid). Some prefer to always bid 1without a 4-card spade suit.

Weaknesses of the system

Since we are defending, I won’t go into the advantages of the system. Rather I will focus on the two main weaknesses of the system:

1. If we take a lot of space in the first bidding round after 1, this may be uncomfortable for opener.

2. If opener has a weak NT opposite a negative 1 response, they may be in trouble, especially vulnerable.

The first one can of course be attacked by bidding a lot, which isn’t really a helpful advice, since we also have to be careful about constructive bidding. The second can only be taken advantage of if you know about it beforehand, as will become clear below.

Suggested simple defense

Many pairs use “treat as natural” after a Polish 1. I think this is not optimal because, as we have seen above, the hand types that really show clubs (the 3-suiter and the intermediatehand) only make up about 10% of the 1openers! Even including the other hand types,is opener’s longest suit less than 50% of the time. Instead it should be treated as “either a weak 1NT or a strong 1“, which means thatis not a “bid suit”.

One simple way of defending against the Polish 1is as follows:

  • Dbl: Major-oriented T/O double (e.g. a normal T/O of 1or 1, or any 18+ hand)
  • 1/1/1: Natural overcall
  • 1NT: 5+with a 4-card major
  • 2: Natural overcall
  • 2: 5+5+
  • 2/2: Weak jump overcall
  • 2NT: 5+5+
  • 3/3/3/3: Weak Jump Overcall

The first thing you might notice about this defence is that a strong notrump is never mentioned. This is intentional. I suggest passing initially with a strong notrump, but I will cover this later. Another thing is although this list looks simple, there is more to it.

Further bidding after (1) Dbl

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