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 1heart/1spade – 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
  • 2club transfer to diamonds
  • 2diamond 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
  • 3club/3diamond natural, but shows 6-4, the four being the unbid major.

Let’s see how it works. The bidding goes 1heart – Pass – 1NT- ? and you hold

a) spade Q10654 heart A5 diamond 9 club KJ1076

Double, showing clubs. If opener passes and partner bids 2club, you next bid 2spade, showing a two-suited 5-5 hand. If you were 6-4 in clubs and spades, you would bid 3club.

However, suppose you are 4-4 in clubs and spades. You have the hand:

b) spadeAJ54 heart7 diamondAK93 clubA874

You now bid 2heart, showing a strong takout double. With either of the following hands:

c) spadeAJ54 heart72 diamondQ87 clubKJ74

d) spade9542 heart7 diamondKJ854 clubQ107

You would bid 2heart, 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: 1club – DBL – 1heart – ?

What do you bid if you are weak and have four spades, bid 2heart. With 10+ points and five spades, bid 2spade.

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: 2spade – Pass – 3spade – ?

How do you now compete? Consider the following bids.

  • 4club shows clubs and hearts
  • 4diamond shows diamonds and hearts
  • 4spade shows game in a long minor and asks partner to bid 5club which may be corrected, if necessary, to 5diamond
  • 4heart 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!

Jeff Rubens
Jeff Rubens

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 1club -1spade– pass – ?? You may bid as follows.

  • 1NT natural with club stopper
  • 2club transfer to diamonds
  • 2diamond transfer to hearts (weak with only 4)
  • 2heart 5 hearts and strong
  • 2spade natural
  • 2NT reverse good-bad notrump (relay to clubs and bid your strong suit)

You hold: spade5 heart985 diamondKQJ865 club J43. Bid 2club, transferring partner to diamonds.

However, holding spade5 heartQ87 diamondAKQJ86 club QJ4; bid 2NT, and after the club relay, bid 3diamond. If partner holds spadeAJ7642 heartK104 diamond732 club 8, he will pass.

With the hand: spade5 heartAQJ943 diamondJ87 club954, bid 2diamond as a transfer to hearts

With the hand: spade5 heartAKQJ75 diamondA87 club973, bid 2heart. What do you think? Develop you own bidding sequence.

What sequence do you use if the bidding goes: 1spade – 2heart – 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.