Making the most of your opponents’ transfer bids.

March 11, 2009 at 2:50 am 7 comments

Okay, so it’s right to do something to exploit the opponents’ transfer bids….but what exactly should that something be, asked Jill yesterday. What’s the best way to make use of the extra room?

I’m with the Netherlands. Anytime a takeout double is otherwise not available, that’s what the double should be – the meaning you would have assigned to the bid if RHO had bid the suit itself.

If you don’t believe me, look at it this way. Your opponent opens 1S showing spades. What do you play double as? Almost certainly you play it as take-out. You DON”T play it as a heart showing bid, which is the other method commonly awarded to transfer bids – ie you DON”T use double to show the suit bid, rather than the suit shown. It’s the most useful and important thing you can do with this bid.

As you can see from the actual hand we were last looking at (see last post), play it as heart-showing, which presumably Sweden was, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you can use it! It has to show just the right hearts. Not good enough to bid at the 3 level….not bad enough to want to avoid mentioning. A take-out double will cover some of that scenario.

Using it as a take-out double means:

(1) Your bid is approximately 100% safe
(2) Your partner has a cue of their suit available to mean something sensible

The other bid left to discuss is the cuebid. DON”T use that as the takeout bid – it is far more dangerous and takes away a useful bid from partner who sometimes would have been able to use the cue himself. Rather, the cue should be Michaels. How nice not to have to bid at the 3 level to show a Michaels shape!

(1NT) Pass (2H*) Double is t/o of spades, 2S is Michaels.

Once you have this agreement you can generalise it to all like scenarios. You don’t have to discuss them all. Simply have a general principle that over transfer calls double is takeout of the SHOWN suit.

Hence, for example, in my partnership, in the auction in the other room:

(1NT) Pass (4D*) we would know without bothering to discuss it that double is takeout of spades.

This is not the only way that transfer bids cost, giving the opponents that extra – and SAFE – room to bid their hands.

If I pick up game values and a six card major, over 1NT opening by partner I always bid game at my first shot – it makes the auction hardest for the opponents. But, in a moment of weakness a while ago I made a transfer, raised partner to game and LHO doubled FOR PENALTIES. Everybody had their bid. If I had simply bid game straight away LHO could do nothing but collect 200. Instead he got 500 for nothing – because I let him bid his hand. Lesson learned.

A few days ago in Surfers my partnership had this auction:

(1NT) Pass (2D) Pass
(2H) Pass (Pass) Double

Again, this double is penalties – my partner would have doubled 2D with takeout of hearts. Two hearts was going down a couple.

Moral of the story: any time the opponents are playing any sort of transfer bids they are giving you extra room to bid your hands, often more safely than you would otherwise be able to. Make them regret it! BRIDGE IS A FOUR-HANDED GAME.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Mulley  |  March 30, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I think a distinction needs to be drawn based on the level at which the transfer is occurring. At the one-level (transfer openings, transfer responses to 1C), I favour a similar approach to Cathy, but a bit freer:

    X = T/O;
    “Accepting the transfer” = “mini-Michaels” typically one card shorter in the major than traditional Michaels;
    Jump accept of the transfer = real Michaels.

    I wouldn’t advocate “mini-Michaels” at higher levels, though.

    Reply
  • 2. phil markey  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:52 am

    i’m reading this and thinking i’m right to transfer to my shortest major when pard opens a weak 1nt and i have no values and the next guy passes – running target staymen is too old fashioned

    Reply
    • 3. andrew webb  |  March 26, 2009 at 10:47 am

      according to cathy (if I understand it correctly) against her you should be using a direct weakness T/O, because if you use transfers, she can double you for penalties.

      Reply
  • 4. Bill Jacobs  |  March 12, 2009 at 5:21 am

    I must admit I use the double as showing the suit doubled; cue is Michaels; with a 3-suited takeout, I hope to get a chance to double later for takeout.

    Is this so inferior?

    Reply
    • 5. cathychua  |  March 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm

      I don’t understand the concept that it will be safe to double for takeout later. I guess if that were the case the Swedish player holding the takeout double would have doubled game later on. Even if that worked on the hand, is that best overall? I find it unlikely.

      Reply
      • 6. Bill Jacobs  |  March 13, 2009 at 11:44 am

        Who knows whether it will be safe … but the method gains a third hand type: a takeout hand, michaels AND lead directional.

        It’s hard to be dogmatic about which approach works best over a lifetime, but you are certainly making a fair attempt at it!

        Reply
  • 7. Jonathan  |  March 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    You make a good case, but so often the auction goes
    1NT-transfer; complete; 3NT. It’s much easier for partner if (s)he can use the fact you doubled or failed to double the transfer when selecting the lead. So I usually play these doubles as lead directional. Then in 8th seat double really has to be a moderate takeout, and the cue a more distributional one. I feel this is better
    on frequency grounds, but feel free to correct me. My 5th seat has perhaps to be more agressive with pre-protection than you.

    J

    Reply

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