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The Switch Principle By Joe Grue

for Bridgewinners by Joe Grue May 18, 2012      

OK, this week I’m back with a new convention. This convention occurs when our side opens a weak 2-bid in spades.

When responding to 2, I like to switch the meanings of a 3 and 3 response. This uses the same philosophy behind Kokish relay auctions. For those of you who don’t know the Kokish relay, 2-2-2 shows either a big balanced 24+ HCP hand or hearts. Then responder relays to 2, and now the strong 2 opener either bids 2NT showing the big balanced hand or bids at the 3-level to show a hand with primary hearts.

Now, standard Kokish treats the 3-level new suit rebids as natural with primary hearts. However, the common expert trend in Kokish is to “switch” the meanings of 3 and 3, so that 3 shows a single-suited hearts hand and 3 shows 5+  and 4+ . In my opinion, there are many auctions in both 2/1 and Precision where this “switch” principle provides a huge advantage, saving space by using the 3 bid to show hearts and the 3 bid to show clubs. The reason is that partner can now support you at the 3-level with a 3 bid. Meanwhile, you don’t lose much when you show clubs with 3 instead of 3. When partner has support, they would already have to bid 4 anyway. I will go into the many other auctions and an even better Kokish relay system at a later time if people are all that interested, but for now I will try to stay on topic!

Anyway now that I’ve clarified the 3/3 switch principle, one of the auctions where this applies is when partner opens a weak 2. Use a 3 call to show a game-forcing hand in clubs. Some would say that if you go past 3NT, then 4 is a playable contract even though it isn’t game, but that’s up to you and your partner. The big gain comes when you have 6 bad hearts or 5 good hearts that’s close to a game force, but really needs a fit to do so. I will now describe how Jlall and Curtis and I handle these auctions.

So first, if we bid 3 over 2 it shows game-invitational+ values and 5+ hearts. Opener bids over this as follows:

  • 3 – tolerance (2 or more) for hearts. If partner bids 3 over that it’s non-forcing but we can kick it into game if we like.  We can also bid 3, which would show a spade suit suitable for play opposite a singleton or even a void. (likely 1.5 losers opposite a void).  3 not only shows an excellent spade suit, but a maximum as well.  (With excellent spades but a minimum or no heart tolerance, bid 3 immediately).
  • 3 – 0-1 hearts, nothing else of interest.  We make this bid on almost every hand with 0-1 hearts.
  • 3 – excellent spade suit, either minimum or 0-1 hearts (with a max and 2 hearts we would have rebid 3 followed by 3).
  • 3NT – super-max hand with stiff heart.

Now that leaves us with what to do with most of our hands that fit hearts well. First, we can simply jump to 4 over 3, on a hand like AQ10865 xxx x Qxx. If we bid 4 or 4over the 3 call that would be a splinter in support of hearts, promising high honor-third of hearts or better.  For example: AJ10xxx xxx x Kx (4) or AKxxxx Kxx xxx x (4).

I could show you many examples of good hands, and most of you would laugh at how good the hands are, saying you would never open those hands with a weak 2. But I like to play sound weak twos, I feel like Brad Moss and I are the last two people on earth that have this style, and maybe we are crazy! (Well, I guess it’s a well-known fact that we are!)

Here’s a hand showing the switch principle and our followups in action:


So I opened 2 and Curtis had a hand that might PASS in standard bidding. He has a good hand but not a game-force, and the hand could play really badly if the deal is a misfit or if I’m minimum. However, we were playing switched 3/3, so Curtis could now bid 3. I showed my heart tolerance and Curtis was able to invite with 3, which I accepted. We won a vulnerable game swing when the other table passed it out in 2.


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