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Conventions: Transfer Lebensohl

Source: richmondbridgeassociation.org

One thing I try to encourage most of my wonderful students to do is to open one no trump as often as possible. 14 and a half to 17 (or 14 with a an extra glint on the corner of a card if you are me) is often the range you will see a lot these days. So what do you do at the table when your annoying opponents try to interfere with your no trump auction? One possible solution is transfer lebensohl. With transfer lebensohl you can keep your Puppet Stayman and your transfers.

First let us discuss when Transfer Lebensohl is in effect. Transfer lebensohl is in effect when the opponents make a bid at the two level after a one no trump opener by your side. There are exceptions however. If the opponents bid – double, two clubs, two no trump or three clubs all of your normal one no trump sequences apply. For example if the overcallers bid a double over your one no trump opener transfer are still in play along with Puppet. What happens if the opponents bid two clubs? Transfers would still be on. A double would be Stayman and three clubs would be puppet. What if the opponents bid three clubs? A double would be Puppet. So how does Transfer Lebensohl work?

2-level suit bids are merely competitive and «to play» with no interest in game. This is the same as regular Lebensohl.

2NT is «Lebensohl» and commences all «slow» sequences. At this stage 2NT says nothing whatever about their hand. It simply commands Opener to rebid 3, after which Responder will clarify their hand-type:

  •           Pass shows a hand merely wanting to compete in Clubs
  •           Any other bid generally shows invitational, especially for the majors.
  •           A rebid of 3NT shows values for game, denies any interest in unbid Majors, but promises a stop in    opponents’ suit

«Fast» diamonds or hearts bids at the 3-level are all transfers into the next suit up. In all cases it is the suit that is being transferred into that matters, not the suit that is being bid:

  • Transfers into hearts or spades are either weak or strong (if the suit could have been bid at the 2-level, then clearly they are strong). Opener completes the transfer and responder then passes with a weak hand or bids again with a forcing game-going variety. When Opener completes the transfer, Responder is able to take whatever action they like, to pass, bid 3NT, show a second suit or bid game in their first suit.
  • A bid of three clubs is Puppet and normal Puppet sequences apply.
  • A «fast» 3NT shows values for game, denies interest in unbid Majors and denies a stop in Opponents’ suit. Typically, it shows a long running Minor with values in the Majors. Opener passes with a stop in opponents’ suit or converts to 4 otherwise.

Some examples of Transfer Lebensohl (opponents’ interference shown in brackets):

Sequence                              Explanation

1NT-(2)-2                        Purely competitive and 100% «to play» (no different to standard Leb)

1NT-(2)-3                        A Transfer to Spades either weak or strong, but in practice will always be strong, since Spades could have been bid competitively at the 2-level.

1NT-(2)-2NT-3-3       This is competitive in Diamonds.

1NT-(2)-3–                      This is Puppet

1NT-(2)-3                        A «fast» cue bid, showing a transfer to hearts. After transfer partner will take further action if warranted.

1NT-(2)-2NT-3-3       A «slow» cue-bid, invitational values for spades.

1NT-(2)-3NT                      A «fast» 3NT, showing values to play there, denying 4-card Spades and denying a stop in Hearts This is normally a long 6-card Minor (but doesn’t have to be) and the same as normal Lebensohl.

1NT-(2)-2NT-3-3NT     A «slow» 3NT, showing values to play there, denying 4-card Spades and promising a Heart stop. This is identical to normal Lebensohl

As you can see, Transfer Lebensohl allows almost all possible hand-types to be shown. The only exceptions are invitational-strength hands with Clubs and/or diamonds. You can always show interest in any unbid Major suits and at the same time show or deny a stop in the opponents’ suit. Competitive and strong hands can always be shown and the sequences are flexible enough to be able to cope with most contingencies. Please review standard lebensohl if there is a sequence I may have missed.

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