Source: BridgeWinners

Some time ago, there has been a request for a description of transfer advances. In this article I have described my preferred method after a simple overcall.

Why transfers?

When they open the bidding, they have not only partially taken our bidding room, also we have an information disadvantage compared to the opponents: They have taken the first opportunity to declare their hands.

In such a situation, it is important to be able to show length in a suit as often as possible. Transfer advances, which have been popularized by Jeff Rubens, help here. Let’s look at a basic situation:

West North East South
1Club Suit 1Heart Suit Pass ?
In standard bidding, you have to decide if you want to play 2Diamond Suit as forcing or non-forcing. Both meanings have proponents. Assuming your choice is non-forcing. Then you have to decide what to do with forcing hands with Diamond Suit. Either you can choose to bid 3Diamond Suit, or you make a cue-bid (2Club Suit), hoping that partner’s further hand description will help you.

My preferred choice is:

  • 1-over-1, e.g. (1Club Suit) 1Diamond Suit (p) 1Spade Suit, is forcing
  • 2-over-1, e.g. (1Club Suit) 1Heart Suit (p) 2Diamond Suit, is non-forcing
  • A new suit after a 2-level 2-overcall, e.g. (1Diamond Suit) 2Club Suit (p) 2Heart Suit, is forcing

Of course your choice may differ from mine, however in some sequences you don’t have to choose! There is hardly any cost (other than memory) to play transfers starting at the opponent’s suit.

Transfers when responder passes

If advancer passes, transfers after our overcall function as follows:

West North East South
1Club Suit 1Heart Suit Pass ?
  • 1Spade Suit: Forcing with Spade Suit
  • 1NT: Natural
  • 2Club Suit: Transfer to  (showing either a non-forcing 2Diamond Suit bid or a forcing 2Diamond Suit bid)
  • 2Diamond Suit: Cue-bid (showing a forcing raise or a GF hand that cannot be shown otherwise)
  • 2Heart Suit: Simple raise

The cost of this method is that your cuebid has been exchanged with the bid directly below the single raise of the overcall. This method is most effective if partner has skipped many steps in the auction to make his overcall, as here:

West North East South
1Diamond Suit 2Club Suit Pass ?
  • 2Diamond Suit: Transfer toHeart Suit
  • 2Heart Suit: TransferSpade Suit
  • 2Spade Suit: Cue-bid
  • 2NT: Natural
  • 3Club Suit: Simple raise

Note that here the cue-bid has moved up two steps, allowing for two transfer bids.

However, in case of an overcall in the cheapest available suit there is unfortunately no room for transfers, as the cue-bid is already the bid directly below the simple raise:

West North East South
1Heart Suit 1Spade Suit Pass ?
  • 1NT: Natural
  • 2Club Suit: Non-forcing withClub Suit
  • 2Diamond Suit: Non-forcing withDiamond Suit
  • 2Heart Suit: Cue-bid
  • 2Spade Suit: Simple raise

Further bidding after the transfer bid

After advancers makes a transfer bid, overcaller simply bids as if partner had made a non-forcing suit bid:

  • Complete the transfer: I would have passed a non-forcing suit bid.
  • Bid something else: I would have bid on after a non-forcing suit bid.

Particularly, with a decent hand and 3-card support for advancer, jump to 3 of partner’s suit.

As the case of accepting the transfer is the most likely outcome, let’s see what advancer’s 2nd bids show in this case:

West North East South
1Diamond Suit 2Club Suit Pass 2Heart Suit
Pass 2Spade Suit Pass ?
  • Pass: Non-forcing with Spade Suit
  • 2NT: Invitational to 3NT (with 5(+)Spade Suit)
  • 3Club Suit: Secondary Club Suit support without stopper, non-forcing
  • 3Diamond Suit: GF asking for stopper
  • 3Heart Suit: GF with both majors
  • 3Spade Suit: Invitational, good 6+Spade Suit
  • 3NT: To play

One point to note is that the meaning of the immediate jump overcall defines the meaning of overcaller repeating his first suit:

(1Club Suit) 1Spade Suit (Pass) 2Diamond Suit* (Pass) 2Spade Suitis intermediate, if a direct 2Spade Suitbid is weak, and vice versa.

When responder does not pass

If responder does not pass, one can simply play all new suit bids as non-forcing. Due to the rule-of-40 (which states that even if it looks differently, there are only 40 HCP in the deck), you won’t normally want to bid new suit forcing after an opening bid, an overcall and a voluntary response.

One situation is however notable: The bid of 2NT as response to a two-level overcall when responder has bid is no longer needed as invitational to 3NT, the natural meaning, because of the rule-of-40. This bid can now be used to show a good raise:

West North East South
1Heart Suit 2Club Suit 2Heart Suit ?
  • Double: Both unbid suits or at least invitational w/o fit
  • 2Spade Suit: Non-forcing
  • 2NT: Good Club Suit raise
  • 3Club Suit: Simple Club Suit raise
  • 3Diamond Suit: Non-forcing
  • 3Heart Suit: Asking for stopper
  • 3Spade Suit: Fit-showing jump

Our transfer gets doubled

All is easy if opponents pass or bid after your transfer, but what if it gets doubled? For example:

West North East South
1Diamond Suit 2Club Suit Pass 2Heart Suit
X ?
In this case we have two more bids available. Also we can now treat both red suits as “bid suits”:
  • Pass: Extra values and 4+Heart Suit.
  • Redouble: At least invitational, no 4Heart Suit and no 3Spade Suit.
  • 2Spade Suit: To play opposite a non-forcing 2Spade Suit bid.
  • 2NT: Good raise to 3Spade Suit (again, 2NT is never natural when you are the fourth player to bid)
  • 3Club Suit: Intermediate with a very good Club Suit suit (weak if you play int. jump overcalls)
  • 3Diamond Suit: Fit and Diamond Suit shortness
  • 3Heart Suit: Fit and Heart Suit shortness
  • 3Spade Suit: Minimum hand with 3+Spade Suit.

Transfers on a higher level

If the auction starts on a higher level, the same principle still applies:

West North East South
2Heart Suit 3Club Suit Pass ?
  • 3Diamond Suit: Forcing with Diamond Suit
  • 3Heart Suit: Transfer to Spade Suit
  • 3Spade Suit: Cue-bid (asking for a stopper)

To conclude a final warning: Be sure to agree exactly when transfers apply, otherwise all the gain of playing this convention can be lost in one single hand!