Using the 2/1 convention, after a major opening the opponents bid 1NT and announce the bid as forcing. How do you compete?
Suppose the bidding goes 1/1 – Pass -1NT – ? and you want to compete. While some may play all bids as natural, sometimes you need a way to show hands that are widely varying in strength (without misleading partner) or a two suiter. A cleaver way is to switch some bids around which allows one to compete in the fourth position. Using the Useful Space Principle, one may employ the VASILEVSKY Convention.
In the above forcing NT sequence, you bid as:
- Dbl transfer to clubs
- 2 transfer to diamonds
- 2 transfer to the unbid major
- 2 of the bid major good, distributional takeout “double”
- 2 of unbid major weaker takeout double, guaranteeing four of the major bid
- 2NT distributional takout for the minors
- 3/3 natural, but shows 6-4, the four being the unbid major.
Let’s see how it works. The bidding goes 1 – Pass – 1NT- ? and you hold
a) Q10654 A5 9 KJ1076
Double, showing clubs. If opener passes and partner bids 2, you next bid 2, showing a two-suited 5-5 hand. If you were 6-4 in clubs and spades, you would bid 3.
However, suppose you are 4-4 in clubs and spades. You have the hand:
b) AJ54 7 AK93 A874
You now bid 2, showing a strong takout double. With either of the following hands:
c) AJ54 72 Q87 KJ74
d) 9542 7 KJ854 Q107
You would bid 2, a weak takout double.
However, when you are a passed hand, Vasilevsky no longer applies. Since intervener’s hand is limited, he doesn’t need two bids.
The only disadvantage of the convention is that one may not penalize a 1NT bid; however, this does not occur that often. The advantage is that, using transfers, the calls are logical, hence easy to remember and show exactly the distribution and strength needed to compete.
The Useful Space Principle
The VASILEVSKY Convention is based upon the Useful Space Principle (USP) developed by Jeff Rubens. The principle has formed the basis for the creation and development of many modern day conventions; for example, Roman Keycard Blackwood with Kickback.
The definition is: When allocating bidding space under partnership agreements, assign it where most useful without dereference to natural or traditional bridge meanings of calls.
Let’s apply the principle in some simple situations.
Suppose the bidding goes: 1 – DBL – 1 – ?
What do you bid if you are weak and have four spades, bid 2. With 10+ points and five spades, bid 2.
Let’s consider another example. Recall Leaping Michaels is reasonable way to show a two-suited hand over weak two/three level bids. Using the USP, suppose the bidding goes: 2 – Pass – 3 – ?
How do you now compete? Consider the following bids.
- 4 shows clubs and hearts
- 4 shows diamonds and hearts
- 4 shows game in a long minor and asks partner to bid 5 which may be corrected, if necessary, to 5
- 4 is natural
- 4NT shows both minors
The above are just two examples of exchanging the normal meaning of bids; you can invent many more if you are so inclined. One Last example!
When your partner overcalls, he is usually not inviting you to introduce a suit of your own; but, sometimes you have a suit worth showing. Should the new suit shown by partner be forcing? Experts disagree, but a majority plays it as merely investigational or NF Constructive, which is the treatment, adopted in the ‘Bridge World Standard’. However you play it, you need a good suit to change partners overcall or to suggest you play in 3NT. How do you show your good suit, even with a bad hand, without misleading partner? Again, as suggested by Jeff Rubens of The Bridge World, you again use the USP and play transfers!
Here is how it may work. The bidding goes 1 -1– pass – ?? You may bid as follows.
- 1NT natural with club stopper
- 2 transfer to diamonds
- 2 transfer to hearts (weak with only 4)
- 2 5 hearts and strong
- 2 natural
- 2NT reverse good-bad notrump (relay to clubs and bid your strong suit)
You hold: 5 985 KQJ865 J43. Bid 2, transferring partner to diamonds.
However, holding 5 Q87 AKQJ86 QJ4; bid 2NT, and after the club relay, bid 3. If partner holds AJ7642 K104 732 8, he will pass.
With the hand: 5 AQJ943 J87 954, bid 2 as a transfer to hearts
With the hand: 5 AKQJ75 A87 973, bid 2. What do you think? Develop you own bidding sequence.
What sequence do you use if the bidding goes: 1 – 2 – pass – ??? Again, use the USP to develop your own sequence!
For more suggests, consult the book “Competitive Bidding in the 21st Century” by Marshall Miles (2000) published by Master Point Press.