Source: Vesuvius Bridge Blog
Adam Kaplan

The Best System (Part 1 – Introduction and First 3 Systems)

I came across a few very interesting questions today:
“What is the best bidding system available?”
“What would be the best bidding system to learn if I want to learn something new?”
“If you lived in a perfect world, where you had unlimited memory and practice, what do you think is the best system or combination of systems?”
I’ve been asked these before, stumbled across them again, and figured it would make a good post. It’s one topic that I think most bridge players don’t consider too often, and if they do, they often don’t have enough experience playing such systems to make an informed decision. I’m not suggesting that I am anywhere near the best person to answer this question, however I do have a fair amount of experience playing a fair amount of odd/non-natural systems as well as a reasonable amount playing standard stuff, and figured I’d write something on the general pros and cons of several systems, and what I think is the best system, and combination of systems. As a general theory, one of the best ways to learn how to defend something, is to learn how to use/play it. This is especially true for systems and conventions. Often knowing what the opponents are doing, and their other inferences they may have from their partner’s bidding is often very valuable. A simple example would be Multi 2D. When the auction goes (2D) – P – (2S), and it is alerted as “Pass or Correct”, you are missing a negative inference that the opponents have, and may make your bidding/play easier on this hand. When responder bids 2S here, there is an additional inference that he has longer hearts than spades, and often an invitational hand opposite a heart pre-empt. The opponents are not required to tell you this (I don’t think?), and there is no way you would know it unless you played Multi yourself. There are often small inferences available in the auction that unless you have experience playing your opponent’s system/convention, you would never know. This is just another reason to be well-read on systems, and to have some knowledge of what your opponents are playing. I’ll start with a general rundown of systems, not an extremely comprehensive list, however I think it covers most general systems, going in order of difficulty, with 1 being the easiest:
1. Passing Always
  • Easiest to remember
  • Can never misbid
  • People have tried this system in a local game, and gotten above average with it (Provided you are good at defense)
  • Able to practice defense (always)
  • Many boards are passed out, making for a faster game
  • Completely insane
  • Never any chance to practice declarer play (always)
  • Opponents have uncontested auctions
  • About 50 other downsides as well — Not recommended!
2. Standard American
  • Very simple to learn (and play)
  • Mostly natural bidding
  • Allows some room for creative changes
  • Can play with most pickup partners, and is widely known throughout the world.
  • Handles inference fairly well, since you can bid naturally most of the time.
  • Hands with 10-11 HCP with invitations can often show their suit at a lower level, and find the right contract
  • Not enough forcing calls, often you are forced to jump and pre-empt the auction when it would be better to bid constructively.
  • Usually not well-defined bids, much more guesswork than preferred
  • Extremely easy to play against
  • Game forcing hands opposite a 1M opening usually cannot create a constructive auction, and instead must guess at the final contract sometimes (See the first Downside).
  • Strong hands cannot show strength immediately
3. Two-Over-One Game Forcing
  • Constructive and slow auctions when responder has a game-forcing hand
  • Fairly simple to learn (and play)
  • Mostly natural bidding
  • Can play with most pickup partners, and is the most popular/highly known system in the US, as well as most other countries.
  • Handles interference pretty much the same as SA, usually pretty well.
  • The most room for creative changes (One treatment I highly suggest is a Short Club with Transfer Responses, although it is not too popular in the US.)
  • Strong Hands cannot show strength immediately
  • Very easy to play against
I’ll continue this later tonight or tomorrow with more. Headed off to an Ian Anderson concert now.