The 3344 Convention


When you open a minor and your partner responds with one of a major, you may not have the kind of hand where a 1NT rebid is appropriate and you may not have four of that major, so you support your partner with just three hearts or spades.

Now if the responder has 10 HCP or less, he should pass. If responder has 11-12 HCP and a five-card major, he can invite to game. If responder has 11 or more HCP and just a four-card major, he may employ a convention that Joe Sacco has dubbed “3344.” He has been playing this convention for 12 years. To initiate it, Joe, as responder, bids 2NT.
This 2NT bid is alterable and forcing. If asked, opener should explain, “Responder is asking me to further describe my hand.”

Opener now has four different responses; each is alterable:

3 shows three-card support and a minimum opening hand
3 shows three-card support and a good opening hand
3 shows four-card support and a minimum opening hand
3 shows four-card support and a good opening hand

After hearing opener’s bid, responder will know how and where to place the contract. With only seven trumps, responder may consider 3NT or a part score in declarer’s minor suit. It is also possible to play a game contract or a part score with only seven trumps.

While this convention is most frequently employed when responder has a four-card major and 11-13HCP, the 2NT bid by
responder may also be employed with slam or near-slam going values. Responder could have a five-card major and 18HCP. He could employ the 2NT bid, which is forcing, to learn more about opener’s shape and values. If opener responds 3, a suit bid by responder would be a cue bid.

Of course, if your partnership is playing Support Doubles and if declarer’s RHO bid over the 1M response, then opener may simply double to show three-card support.

If opener has this hand: K 10 x K J x Q J x A 10 x x, he may bid 1NT over a 1M response. However, suppose opener has the hand 8 7 A J x K Q x x x A x x. Now after hearing the bid of 1, the bid of 1NT would be incorrect with only two small spades. Opener would merely bid 2. If responder has the hand x x A K x x A J x Q x x x, responder would bid 2NT using the 3344 convention. Opener would bid 3, and the game in hearts would be reached.

Val Covalciuc suggested in her September 2007 ACBL “Bridge Bulletin” (page 39) article that here are two requirements for the opener when raising partner’s major: opener should have some decent values in his three card suit and he should have ruffing values in his hand.
In addition to New Minor Forcing and the Support Double, you now have a new tool in your bidding toolbox: 3344. Covalciuc wrote that this convention has no name, but Joe Sacco’s name is highly descriptive. The name itself helps you remember the trump requirements (3min: 12-13HCP, 3max: 14-15HCP, 4min: 12-13HCP, 4max: 14-15HCP).

This is a simple convention that you will not forget, because when responder’s rebid is 2NT, a bell will ring in your head.
NOTE Provided by Neil H. Timm: The 3344 CONVENTION is a subset of the more complicated convention developed by Eric Rodwell called the Rodwell Game Try Convention – After responder bids a possible 4 card major and opener makes a 2 level major suit raise, responder makes an artificial next suit rank query to determine opener’s trump length and strength. The Rodwell Game Try provides an alternative to the Help Suit Game Try, for example. Details follow.

Bidding Meaning

1m – 1 ;   1m – 1;
2 – 2;   2 – 2NT;

Bidding 2/N, the next rank above agreed on major

asks opener to make a step response describing trump suit length and overall handstrength

1 – 1; 1 – 1;
2 – 2; 2 – 2NT;
2NT – ;       3 – ;
  1st step = 3 trump, minimum hand (11-13 HCP)
1 – 1; 1 – 1;
2 – 2; 2 – 2NT;
3 – ;        3 – ;
  2nd step = 3 trump, maximum hand (14-15 HCP)
1 – 1; 1 – 1;
2 – 2; 2 – 2NT;
3 – ;        3 – ;
  3rd step = 4 trump, minimum hand (11-13 HCP)
1 – 1; 1 – 1;
2 – 2; 2 – 2NT;
3 – ;        3 – ;
  4th step = 4 trump, maximum hand (14-15 HCP)

Eric Rodwell’s original treatment incorporates additional features beyond this note