La Lebensohl, la Rubinsohl, y la Rumpelsohl


In the November 2006, Bridge News we recommended that the Lebensohl convention be used over weak two bids, reverses and interference over notrump. However, an even better convention is the Rubinsohl convention, which uses transfer bids over disruptive interference bids. The basic convention uses the combination of transfers and Lebensohl in a competitive auction aimed at allowing a player to show his distribution with both weak and strong hands. It is similar to the “stolen bid” convention played by many of our members. The method was introduced by Bruce Neill of Australia in an article in The Bridge World in 1983. The concept was based upon the article published in the same magazine by Jeff Rubens, who used the term Rubensohl. However, the method had been previously used in the United States by Ira Rubin, and therefore named Rubinsohl and not Rubensohl. Both names (Rubinsohl and Rubensohl) appear in the Bridge Literature.
Another system known as Rumpelsohl is part of the Kaplan Sheinwold (KS) system. This is a hybrid system which incorporates parts of Lebensohl and Rubinsohl/Rubensohl.


Lebensohl is used after one opens notrump when the opponents interfere to show game forcing hands immediately. However, the bad part about Lebensohl is that you must go through relay bids to find out partners real suit and if RHO competes you might never know that you have a good fit. In today’s game the opponents always seem to use their “toy” to disturb your notrump and the RHO is getting into the action more and more to re-preempt the auction. Ira Rubin and Jeff Rubens thought it was better for partner to announce his suit directly and to show strength later.
Recall that the structure of Lebensohl is, briefly, after a two-level natural overcall (for more detail, see the December, 2006 Newsletter ——- available at our site or at in the bridge folder):Newsletter 7

Double is for penalty.
Two-level bid is to play.
Three-level bid is forcing to game.
Two notrump is artificial, forcing opener to bid three clubs.
An immediate cue-bid by responder is Stayman (except after 2 clubs, double is Stayman)
A direct jump to 3NT denies a stopper.
Two notrump followed by a cue-bid of the enemy suit after opener’s forced club relay bid is Stayman.
Two notrump followed by three notrump, after a relay to three clubs, shows a stopper and asks opener to play in three notrump.

As an example, consider the hand where opener has (, , , ) xxx AQxx AKxx Kx and the bidding goes: 1NT-2-2NT-4 and your partner has the hand: x Kxxxxx xx QTxx. You are forced to pass and miss the huge heart fit. Or, you hold xxx Ax Axxx AKxx and the bidding goes 1NT-2-2NT-3 and partner holds x xxx QJTxxx Qxx and you guess that he was competing in hearts so you pass. You missed the five diamond contract. In the first hand, it would be better to transfer to hearts and in the second, one would want to transfer to diamonds.


To avoid these disasters, one may play Rubinsohl. The basic convention goes:

Over a natural 2 overcall

2NT=transfer to clubs
3 clubs = transfer to diamonds
3 diamonds = transfer to hearts
3 hearts (transfer into their suit) is Stayman without a stopper
3 spades is a transfer to 3NT with a stopper
3NT= natural with a stopper in the bid suit.

Over a natural 2 overcall

2 spades is natural and non forcing
2NT= transfer to clubs
3 clubs = transfer to diamonds
3 diamonds is Stayman without a stopper
3 hearts shows spades with a heart stopper
3 spades shows spades without a stopper in hearts
3NT= natural with a stopper in the bid suit.

If the opponents overcall a natural minor, the treatment is as follows. Two level bids are natural and non-forcing. With the overcall 2, 2NT shows clubs as usual, but 3 is Stayman for both majors and asks if partner has a diamond stopper. If no major or stopper, one just accepts the transfer.

With an overcall of 2 (natural or not), a double is Stayman without a club stopper and two level bids are natural and competitive.

2NT is Stayman with a club stopper.

All three level bids are taken as transfers and either invitational or game forcing. With the bid of three spades, opener is to bid 3NT with stoppers, or to show his better minor without stoppers.

With so many “toys” being used over 1NT, Rubinsohl has a distinct advantage over Lebensohl since you know your suit early and it ignores the RHO getting into the act. Thus, you are not jammed out of the auction.
The above is very basic Rubinsohl and like Lebensohl may be used over reverses and weak two bids.
Rubinsohl provides responder a transfer mechanism extending the traditional Lebensohl treatment. Similar to other transfer mechanisms, Rubinsohl allows the stronger hand to become declarer, showing length in the implied suit above the rank of the suit bid. Unlike Lebensohl, a double of a two-level bid is usually not for penalty, but for takeout. However, in Rumpelsohl (discuss below), a double is again for penalty.


A system that is very similar to Rubinsohl is Rumpelsohl which is part of the Kaplan Sheinwold bidding system. Without interference, 2 is non-forcing Stayman and 2, is forcing Stayman. 2 and 2 are natural. All three level bids are transfers and 3 implies 5-4 in diamonds and clubs.

Over a double, 2, 2, 2 and 2 are Transfers. 2NT is two suited monster and 3X is to play.
Over interference, 1NT-2X; 2Y become signoff Natural, NOT A TRANSFER.
Double is Penalty, if X≠, opener must take it out with only two trumps. If X=, double is Stayman.
2NT Opener relays to clubs. Responder bids:

Pass A weak hand with 5+ clubs
3Y New Suit Y ≠ X, Invitational
3X A four card major and a stopper in the known suit X.
3NT Signoff with a stopper in X
3, 3, 3 Transfers to , , , respectively. Bids are either signoff or game forcing. Responder will bid over opener’s
response with a game forcing hand. A transfer into X is Stayman with a stopper in X.
3 Responder has values for game with no 4+ card major and with a partial stopper in the opponents’ suit (say Jxx),
and usually length in both minors, usually 5-4. Opener is asked to bid 3NT with stoppers, or show his better minor without stoppers.
4 Void in X with slam interest. 4NT by opener is signoff otherwise suits are bid up the line-forcing to the 5-level.
3NT A direct jump to 3NT denies a stopper in the bid suit. Opener passes with a stopper and bids a five card major if
he has one or his longest minor.
4, 4 Texas transfers. A transfer into opponents suit shows a singleton in X and slam interest. 4NT by opener is
signoff otherwise suits are again bid up the line-forcing to the 5-level.
(a) In the auction 1NT-double, when the double is takeout.
Redouble Our hand sets a forcing pass situation below 2NT.
2, 2, 2, 2 Are forcing and non-forcing Stayman, and major suit bids are signoff, to play.
Pass Opener is asked to show a five card minor or to redouble with none. After opener redoubles, responder starts bidding suit up the line.
2NT Two-suited monster.
3X Weak hand, 7+ card suit.
3NT Solid 7+ card minor, nothing else outside. Opener is expected to bid 4 without a reasonable stopper.
(b) In the auction 1NT-p-p-X-p-p:
Redouble Five card major, opener relays to 2.
2, 2, 2, Lower of two four card suits usually 4-4.

Rumpelsohl vs. Artificial Overcall and Doubles

(1) Vs. Two-suiter where both suits are known (e.g. Landy, Ripstal, and Brozel): The cheaper cue-bid is game invitational; the higher cue bid forces to game. All rules are on. Two level bids, transfers, and 2NT is transfer to clubs.
(2) Vs. Two suiter where one or both suits are unknown (e.g. Astro, Crash): The known suit is the cue-bid suit and all basic rules apply.
(3) Cue-bids are Stayman-like in nature (unless the overcall showed both majors), and generally game-forcing.
(4) Delayed cue-bids (after two notrump relay) show a stopper.
(5) Four-level jumps retain their normal meaning.
(6) Doubles and redoubles are natural. Double promises defensive values in one or both of the opponents’ suits. Opener is invited to double anything he can. Redouble shows a good hand.
(7) Delayed doubles after an initial pass are for penalty. Delayed suit bids are merely competitive.
(8) Vs. Artificial doubles, ignore them.
(9) Pass is forcing. If partner of the overcaller passes the conventional takeout (other than an artificial double), the notrump opener must reopen the auction with a redouble or a bid of a five-card or longer suit.

Three level overcalls

Over all three level bids, doubles are negative. 1N-2X-3Y is invitational. 1N-3X-4m is natural and forcing. Over four level bids, double are usually for penalty; however, for five level bids they are again for takeout.

Rumpelsohl over Double of Weak TWO-BID or a REVERSE

Again 2NT forces the doubler to bid three clubs, etc. as above. Transfer into the 2X overcall suit implies a stopper and values. A non-jump bid at the three level is a Transfer. The four level bids are as defined above. For more information on these conventions, one should visit Gerben’s Bridge Blog on the Web at the address: