This used to be a system-notes document I used with a long-term partner, but I've taken out things I only play with that partner.
If the convention card disagrees with our notes, the convention card takes precedence because it gets updated more often.
In my view, every auction has two parts. First there is a two-way information exchange, which lasts until one partner is sure where we need to be (or sure enough that one or two asking bids will gather all needed information). Then the partner who knows enough is supposed to take control and steer the ship into port.
Once one partner has taken control, I believe the other should trust him absolutely and not try to take it away without pretty much absolute certainty that he knows better. (Zia seems to agree with this; one of the examples in his book Bridge My Way is a good illustration of it.)
Where the second phase begins depends on the auction. If you make an asking bid such as Stayman or Blackwood, or a sign-off such as a jump to game, you have taken control. Sometimes in part-score auctions, no one takes control until the final pass. But if a pair reaches the slam level voluntarily (meaning not in competition) without either partner having taken control, something is probably wrong.
Any unusual, unilateral action such as an undiscussed jump to game or slam, passing a takeout double or negative double, passing a forcing bid, or passing after one of us has made a bid that is forcing to game, also amounts to taking control. Again, if you do this I will trust you absolutely and leave it in, even if we get doubled, unless I'm just about absolutely sure I know better.
I've met a few players who insist on every decision being shared right up to the end of every auction, but that seems to me the wrong way to play. Not only does it mean both our hands always get explained to the opponents, it smacks of the "encounter group" school of decision making, where nobody ever wants to take responsibility for doing anything.
I wrote this section because of an incident with a one-time partner, who had a lot more master points than I, in July 2004. Partner opened in diamonds, and I bid 2NT with opening count and long spades. I asked for aces, then bid six spades, which would have made, and partner took it out to seven diamonds, which didn't. Afterwards, he had the nerve to ask me, "Don't you trust your partner?" Apart from being insulting, this tells me that he just doesn't get how bridge is supposed to be played.
Most of the rest of this document is what I will assume about how we play, in areas we haven't discussed.
The above situations (a through d) are the main areas of misunderstandings I've had when I've tried playing the "2/1 Forcing to Game" system in the past. 2/1 also makes it much more difficult to stop in low-level contracts. Both that confusion and that lack of stopping ability are the reasons I won't play 2/1.
I usually agree with most of the columnists in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin, but not Jerry Helms, whose ideas are about as opposite to mine as can be. (I also don't bother with Eric Kokish, whose system is so complex that I could never remember it.)
Because (b) comes before (d), the "Frequently bypass 4+ D" box should be checked on our convention card.
Exceptions: If responder bids a minor suit (including supporting opener's minor), he denies a 4-card major, and if responder bids 1NT, he denies 4 cards in any major suit that ranks above opener's suit. In either of these cases, if you know that we don't have an 8-card fit in your second suit, you shouldn't bother showing that suit.
Sometimes, opener must rebid his first suit (usually a minor) with no extra length because he has nowhere else to go.
[I suggest this method to deal with this problem: After opener raises responder's new major suit, a notrump bid by responder means he has only 4 cards in that suit.]
However, a jump-raise of partner's suit to the three level by either opener or responder absolutely promises four-card support, whether we are playing Bergen Raises or not.
This is the only opening bid I'll make with this point count. If we're not playing Gambling 3NT then I'll never open 3NT.
After opening 2C, if opener's second bid is a suit, it shows the same length it would if he had opened one of that suit. Similarly, if opener bids 2C followed by 2NT, he has a balanced hand (though stronger than opening 2NT) and Stayman and transfers are on just as if opener had merely opened 2NT.
Responses to 2C are something we should discuss. I'm willing to play 2D waiting and 2H negative, or just 2D negative. (I used to play step responses but have pretty much decided they're counterproductive.)
The level at which to preempt should be determined primarily by the Rule of 2, 3, and 4. (That is, you should expect to go down no more than 2 vulnerable-against-not, 3 at equal vulnerability, or 4 at favorable vulnerability, in a worst-case scenario where your partner has nothing helpful and all of your finesses lose.)
If the Rule of 2, 3, and 4 tells you to preempt at a level that would promise a longer suit than you actually hold, it suggests that you hold too much defensive strength to want to preempt, and should either open at the one level or defend instead. (However, opposite a passed partner I am perfectly willing to preempt with strong hands. In this case I know we're not going to game anyway unless partner has a distributional monster, so why not take up more of the opponents' bidding room and make them guess! As Terence Reese wrote in Play Bridge With Reese, "A preempt that is known always to be weak is a blunt sword.")
This asking bid is usually made when responder is thinking about bidding 3NT but is missing a stopper. Like other asking bids, it means the asker has taken charge of the auction.
What is a minimum? I'd define it as 5-7 HCP not vulnerable, 7-9 vulnerable.
I don't use or understand "jump cue bids" of any kind.
If I have a strong hand and want to force, I'll either go directly to game, make a negative double, bid Jordan 2NT, or make one of the cue bids described in cases (a), (c), or (d) above.
If doubler's LHO bids or redoubles, these responses still hold, except that I would pass with 0-5 points and no long suit (defined as roughly KQxxxx, Q10xxxxx, or any 8-card suit).
Passing partner's takeout double (if opener's partner hasn't bid) is a unilateral decision to defend the doubled contract. This requires that you be pretty sure you can set it by yourself, usually based on a long or strong trump holding. The pass always requests partner to lead a trump if he has any, because you probably have better trumps than declarer and want to draw them before he can cross-ruff the hand.
A notrump response to partner's takeout double is something you occasionally have to do if your only length is in opener's suit, but you aren't strong enough to leave the double in. (This bid does not mean "Partner, choose a suit yourself," and I am not willing to play it that way. Yes, it promises a stopper in opener's suit.) But I hate this bid if I'm the doubler. It leaves me not knowing what to do, so I usually just leave it in. Please don't do this if there is any alternative.
We should discuss whether a Lightner double cancels a lead request of this type. I prefer to play that it doesn't.
[For discussion: In "jammed" auctions where the hand may belong to either side, it would be nice to have cooperative doubles more generally available. But if we haven't discussed them, I'll usually assume that double is for penalty.]
(I know Cappelletti, DONT, and Landy but prefer not to play them, because the resulting contract nearly always goes down more than the value of a part score in notrump.)
Opening leads against suit contracts, in order of preference (from Murder at the Bridge Table by Matt Granovetter):
Against notrump contracts, the good old "fourth best (or an honor from a sequence) from your longest and strongest suit" is unlikely to hurt. (Of course if you have nothing, you should usually lead your shorter major suit and hope to find partner's strength.)
Similarly, if partner leads the suit first, playing two honors (or 10-9) in the "wrong" order shows a doubleton - but in that case, high-low is always the "wrong" order.
In both cases, playing the honors in the "right" order denies a doubleton.
Contrary to what Marty Bergen says in Points Schmoints!, the "right" order is the same at trick one as it is at later tricks. Making it different would be a needless complication.
In a suit contract, this high-low response in a side suit usually shows a doubleton, unless all the trumps have been drawn before the suit is first led.
If I'm out of declarer's suit, I'll discard low-high in a suit I don't want you to lead, or high-low in a suit I do want led.
Apologies in advance if you don't need to be reminded of these things. I've played with folks who do!
For the same reason, avoid hesitating before you discard, because that also calls attention to the fact that you're out of the suit led. (Some players make a practice of doing this on purpose, and I've never called them on it, but I feel that I ought to.)
For the same reason, please keep quiet (or at least whisper) if we finish while other people are still playing.
This section is for reference and does not imply that we're playing any of them. But most of these are conventions that I like to play, and many of them have details that aren't the same for everybody, so I felt we should nail down their meanings.
1NT with systems on over interference: This means that if we open 1NT and opener's LHO doubles or overcalls 2 of a suit, Stayman and transfers are still on as through the opponent had not bid. Systems are still off if the opponents bid 2NT or anything higher.
Special cases: If the overcall is higher than the Stayman or transfer bid you would have made, you make your bid at the 3 level instead (which must be Alerted, not announced as "transfer"). If the overcall is the same as the Stayman or transfer bid you would have made, you double instead (also Alerted). [If you bid the suit, it would be a Western Cue Bid.]
If responder passes the overcall, he wants to penalize it. Opener is requested to double.
If we're playing this, write "2 bids, X" in the "Systems on over ___" space on the convention card.
If we are also playing Puppet Stayman, the sequence 1NT - (2 of any suit except clubs) - 3C is Puppet Stayman, not regular Stayman.
Regardless of whether or not we're playing 1NT with systems on over interference, if opener's RHO bids or doubles after responder's Stayman or transfer bid, opener is still expected to give the proper answer (if it can be done at the 2 or 3 level). Opener may double with the meaning "he stole my bid" if that bid would be a Stayman response - but if responder transferred, and opener doubles the overcall, it is for penalty.
Inverted Minors: This simply swaps the normal meanings of raising an opening bid of one of a minor to the 2 or 3 level. Thus, raising 1 of a minor to 2 shows opening count and is forcing to game, while raising 1 of a minor to 3 becomes weak (like a normal raise to 2).
This convention stays on even if the opponents double or overcall (up to some level which we should discuss; I suggest 3S). If they overcall at the 2 level or higher, a non-jump in our minor by responder is still the strong bid.
The main reason for playing inverted minors is to be able to make stopper-showing bids below 3NT on game-going hands.
[For discussion: This convention, like the original Goren bids, has no good way to distinguish responding hands of "limit raise" strength from those of game- forcing strength. I know of two variants that address this problem, and I'm willing to play either if we discuss it first. One, by Al Roth, has us pass the weak hands and use the raise to 3 for the limit raise hands, saving the raise to 2 for game-forcing hands. The other variant (which has no name that I've been able to find) uses the raise to 2 for the limit-raise hands, and handles the game-force hands by having you bid an artificial jump-shift into the other minor suit (which requires an alert). If we haven't discussed it, I will treat the limit-raise hands as part of the "weak" range, and thus raise to 3 (2 if not playing inverted minors).]
Gambling 3NT: An opening bid of 3NT (alert) promises a running minor suit of at least 8 cards, with at most one outside stopper. If responder doesn't have at least two suits stopped, including one major, he is expected to bid 4C (which is neither Stayman nor Gerber, but means "pass or correct to 4D").
If we're not playing Gambling 3NT, I assume that we will simply never open 3NT.
Stayman: After we have opened or overcalled 1NT, a bid of 2C by responder is Stayman. This bid is artificial and asks opener whether he holds a major suit of at least 4 cards. If he does, opener is expected to bid 2 of the major. (If he holds at least 4-4, he should prefer the longer major, or if equal length, the stronger). If he does not, he bids 2D.
(Please do not "get creative" by making any other response, such as 2NT, because if that is possible, it defeats Garbage Stayman.)
Note that after opener's reply to 2C, any further bid by responder other than 2H promises some values - and therefore is not allowed on Garbage Stayman hands.
In particular, after opener's reply, 2NT by responder invites game. For this reason, responder should avoid bidding Stayman unless he has at least invitational strength (or one of the two Garbage Stayman hand shapes).
The 2C bid promises that responder holds at least one four-card major. (Some pairs abandon this assumption in order to give 1NT-2NT some artificial meaning such as a transfer or Lebensohl, but I don't play any of those conventions.) Thus, if opener holds at least 4-4 in the majors, and responder goes back to some number of notrump after opener's reply, opener can and should bid his other major. Example: 1NT-2C-2H-3NT-4S.
Some players use jump responses of 3H or 3S to show a 5-card suit, or a maximum point count within the 1NT range, or both. I prefer we agree never to do this (nor "super-accept" a transfer by making a similar jump) because it can get us too high if responder has a Garbage Stayman hand.
Over an opening bid (or a non-jump overcall) of 2NT, or an opening bid of 2C followed by 2NT, 3C is also Stayman unless we have agreed to play Puppet Stayman. This works exactly the same as Stayman at the two level, except of course that all responses are at the three level.
Stayman is so standard that I assume we are playing it even if we haven't discussed it. This includes Garbage Stayman but not Puppet Stayman.
Garbage Stayman: It is OK to for a responder who has a weak hand to use Stayman if he has one of two specific hand shapes. This practice is known as Garbage Stayman. The shapes are:
Note: If responder's major suits are not the same length, he should not be using the "crawling Stayman" sequence. He should transfer to 2 of his longer suit instead.
Puppet Stayman: This is a variant of the Stayman convention which allows the responder to ask if opener holds either a 4- or 5-card major suit.
After an opening bid (or non-jump overcall) of 1NT or 2NT (or an opening bid of 2C followed by 2NT), a bid of 3C (alert) by responder is Puppet Stayman and asks opener whether he holds a 4- or 5-card major suit. Unlike regular Stayman, responder does not promise a 4-card major; he may have only a 3-card major.
Some pairs use Puppet Stayman only over an opening bid of 2NT. (Puppet Stayman over 1NT is an innovation by Marty Bergen, in his book Points, Schmoints!) But if you do play Puppet Stayman over 1NT, responder must still bid 3C, not 2C, to use Puppet Stayman. The sequence 1NT-2C is the regular Stayman convention.
The 3C bid is forcing to game. Therefore, responder must be strong enough to make it safe to do so. In the sequence 1NT-3C, responder needs at least 10 high-card points (assuming the opening 1NT is "strong", showing 15-17 points). But in the sequence 2NT-3C, responder needs only 6 HCP because opener has promised 20-21.
Opener is expected to rebid one of the following:
|3H or 3S||Opener has 5 cards in the bid suit. Responder will normally raise to
game with 3-card support, or bid 3NT without.
|3D (alert)||Opener does not have a 5-card major but does have at least one 4-card major.
|3NT||Opener does not have more than three cards in either major.|
If opener's second bid is 3D, indicating at least one 4-card major, responder's second bid also has special meaning:
|3H (alert) or 3S (alert)||Responder has four cards in the other major - NOT the bid suit.
(This is done so that opener will be declarer.) Opener is expected to bid
4 of the other major (if he has four cards in it) or 3NT (otherwise).
|3NT||Responder does not have four cards in either major. This is a
|4D (alert)||Responder is 4-4 in the majors. Opener is expected to bid 4 of his longer or stronger major.|
Note that Puppet Stayman does not require the partnership to stop at game. Responder is free to continue with Blackwood or a control-showing bid after the trump suit (or NT) is determined. (Opener has no business doing so himself because his opening bid limited his hand to a narrow range, thereby making responder the "captain" for the remainder of the auction.)
If opener's second bid was 3H or 3S, promising a 5-card major, and responder's second bid is anything except 3NT or a raise to 4 of the major, it is either Blackwood or a control-showing bid. (Since responder has not told opener what trump will be, opener should assume that his 5-card major is the trump suit when replying to any form of Roman Key-Card Blackwood.)
If opener's second bid was 3NT, any second bid by responder is either Blackwood or a control-showing bid. (If responder is not interested in slam, he should pass 3NT.)
If opener's second bid was 3D, and responder has at least one 4-card major, responder must first bid 3H (alert), 3S (alert), or 4D (alert), as above, and have opener set the trump suit, before continuing with Blackwood or a cue-bid. Therefore, if opener's second bid was 3D and responder's second bid is 4H or any higher bid, that bid is either Blackwood or a control-showing bid and implies that the hand will be played in notrump.
Like most conventions, Puppet Stayman is off if an opponent overcalls. But it is on after a double, and it is on if the initial 1NT or 2NT bid was a (natural) overcall by our side, as long as the opponents haven't bid again since then.
Transfers: I think everybody understands the idea of transfers, but I'm including them here anyway to tighten up some details that different people play differently.
After an opening bid or overcall of 1NT, if responder bids 2D or 2H, it is announced as "transfer" and requests opener to bid the next higher suit. Similarly, after an opening bid of 2NT (or 2C followed by 2NT), 3D or 3H is a Jacoby transfer to the next higher suit.
Accepting the transfer is mandatory (that is, doing anything else would be "unilateral", and I can't think of a case where both that and the original notrump bid would be correct actions).
Transferring shows at least a 6-card suit, unless responder (who initiated the transfer) then bids notrump or passes. It also implies that responder's hand is pretty much one-suited; that is, most of the time, you shouldn't transfer if there is more than one suit you may want to play in, even if they're not the same length. (Exception: Transferring is preferable to "crawling Stayman" with unequal length in the majors, because suit length is so much more important with such a weak hand.)
If responder transfers and then bids notrump, he shows a suit of exactly 5 cards, and is asking opener to either pass with only two cards of that suit, or rebid the suit with three or more. Transferring and then bidding 2NT invites game, showing the same strength as if responder had raised to 2NT on the first round.
Some players "super-accept" a transfer by jumping to 3H or 3S to show a maximum point count for the notrump bid, or a certain length in the suit, or both. I prefer we agree never to do this, because it can get us too high if responder has a weak hand and intended to pass 2H or 2S.
Some pairs play both Jacoby transfers, as described above, and Texas transfers, at the four level, with the difference being that a Texas transfer means that responder isn't interested in going any higher than game. But I don't see any reason to play that way. Opener described his hand when he bid notrump, so responder should be the one making decisions about what level to play at.
If responder transfers and then repeats his diamond or heart bid, it means the transfer bid wasn't really a transfer but was intended as natural. We've all done it, and I don't see any reason for this sequence to have any other meaning. (But beware: this correction agreement would be a violation of the Laws of Bridge if the original transfer bid had been intended as a psych. So never psych a transfer bid.)
Drury: This convention has several versions, but the point of all of them is to allow the passed partner of a 3rd- or 4th-seat opening bidder to invite game without getting into trouble (that is, having to go above the two level) if opener doesn't have a full opening bid.
Regular Drury: After a third- or fourth-seat opening bid of 1 of a major, 2C (alert) by responder is an artificial bid, asking opener whether he would have opened in first seat. If the answer is yes, opener bids 2D (alert). If the answer is no, opener bids anything else.
If responder instead raises opener's suit (to any level), it is preemptive, NOT invitational.
Reverse Drury: After a third- or fourth-seat opening bid of 1 of a major, 2C (alert) by responder is an artificial bid showing a limit raise of opener's suit (3-or-more-card support and 10-12 points including distribution). This allows opener to sign off at 2 of his suit if he doesn't have a full opening bid.
If responder instead raises opener's suit (to any level), it is preemptive, NOT invitational.
If responder has fewer than 10 or more than 12 points counting distribution, he still has all other normal bids available to him, including Jacoby 2NT and splinters (but not Bergen Raises).
Two-Way Drury (from More Points, Schmoints! by Marty Bergen): This is the same as Reverse Drury in all respects - except that responder can show a limit raise of opener's major by bidding either 2C (alert), which shows 3 trumps, or 2D (alert), which shows 4 or more trumps.
Drury (in any of its forms) is on after a double, but off after an overcall.
Jacoby 2NT (from p. 76 of Marty Sez… Volume 2 by Marty Bergen): After an opening bid of 1 of a major, 2NT (alert) by responder is an artificial bid, promising at least 4-card support for opener's suit and 13+ HCP, and denying any singleton or void (otherwise responder would splinter instead). This bid is forcing to game and suggests slam.
Opener's second bid is expected to be one of the following, in order of preference:
All of these bids, except 4 of the major, are considered positive moves toward slam. If opener doesn't have any reason to believe that a slam is likely, and doesn't want to give the opponents information about how to defend the hand, he can simply return to 4 of the major. (This is a change by me: in the published version, opener is always expected to show a second suit or short suit if he has one, regardless of his strength.)
Jacoby 2NT is off over any interference, even a double (but Jordan 2NT may apply).
I play that Jacoby 2NT is still on if responder is a passed hand. Not everyone plays that way.
With most partners I assume we are playing Jacoby 2NT because it is on the Yellow Card. If you don't want to play it, please make sure I know. (If we aren't playing Jacoby 2NT, then I'll want to play the raise of a major suit from 1 to 3 as the old-fashioned forcing raise rather than as a limit raise. When playing limit raises, there needs to be some other way for responder to show a hand with 13+ HCP and support for opener's major suit, and normally the way to do that is either to bid Jacoby 2NT or splinter.)
Note that Jacoby 2NT does not apply after a minor-suit opening. The sequence 1 minor - 2NT is natural and invitational.
Splinter Bids: If opener bids 1 of a major, any double-jump in a new suit by responder (that is, skipping two levels, as in 1S-4D or 1H-3S) is a splinter. Similarly, if responder's first bid is in a new major suit, and then opener double-jumps in a new suit, that is a splinter. A splinter shows at least four-card support for partner's major, a singleton or void in the suit bid, and a hand too strong to merely jump-raise the suit (say 18+ HCP for a splinter by opener, 13+ by responder). All splinter bids require an alert, and are forcing to game.
Like the conventional responses to Jacoby 2NT, a splinter bid shows interest in slam, and also like those responses, you may sometimes want to avoid bidding a splinter if it may give the opponents too much help defending the hand.
Some people play splinters even if the trump suit is a minor, but I do not.
I play that splinters are off over interference. Not everyone plays that way.
I play that either partner can still splinter even if responder is a passed hand. Not everyone plays that way.
I'll avoid splintering if we haven't discussed it, but if you make a double-jump bid (below game), I'll assume you mean it as a splinter, since that kind of bid has no other common meaning.
Bergen and Kokish have written that there is such a thing as a hand too strong to splinter -- but I haven't seen either of them say what that limit is, or what to do if you're above it. I play that there is no such upper limit (and similarly, that there is no upper limit on bidding Jacoby 2NT).
Bergen Raises: These are a new set of responses used to support an opening bid of 1 of a major suit, designed to tell the opening bidder his partner's length in the trump suit as well as his strength. Bergen Raises are described in several of Marty Bergen's books, including Points, Schmoints! They are part of a very aggressive bidding style based on the Law of Total Tricks (explained in To Bid or Not To Bid by Larry Cohen).
Over a first- or second-seat opening bid of 1 of a major, these bids by responder have new meanings:
If responder has only three trumps but 10 or more points, he bids 2 of a minor (which need not be a real suit) first, then raises opener's major. (In the Bergen System, responder would bid 1NT Forcing in this case, but I don't play 1NT Forcing because I like responder to be able to sign off in 1NT.)
If responder has five or more trumps, he should jump directly to 4 of opener's major - regardless of strength - whether we are playing Bergen Raises or not, unless he is strong enough to bid Jacoby 2NT or splinter.
Jacoby 2NT and splinters are still on when playing Bergen Raises (in fact, if you play Bergen Raises you pretty much have to play Jacoby 2NT). However, because 3C and 3D have the new meanings given above, you can no longer make a strong jump shift over partner's opening bid of one of a major, unless it's into the other major.
Bergen Raises are on if the opponents double, but off if they overcall. They are also off when responder is a passed hand (that is, opener is in third or fourth seat), but Drury can be used instead.
[If we are not playing Bergen Raises, I define the "limit raise" (a jump to 3 of opener's major) the same as 3D in Bergen Raises - that is, it shows 10-12 points including distribution and a four-card suit.]
Cue Bids: Like so many things in bridge, this term has multiple meanings, depending on context. A "cue bid" can mean:
Stopper-Showing Bids: Once we have agreed on a trump suit, any bid in a new suit at the 2 or 3 level is not an attempt to play there. Instead, this bid, which is forcing for one round, shows a stopper (defined as Ace or Kx) and requests partner to bid one of the following, in order of preference:
A stopper-showing bid is not forcing to game (because if we have a misfit and don't have all the stoppers, we may sign off), but you do need to be strong enough to force game to make the bid (because it implies you want to play at least 3NT if we have all the stoppers).
If the response to a stopper-showing bid is another stopper-showing bid, one of the same set of responses is expected. This can continue until we have both shown all our stoppers, or until the bid level reaches or passes 3NT.
Each stopper-showing bid must be the cheapest bid that shows a stopper that neither partner has already shown. Thus, partner will infer that you don't have stoppers in suits you've skipped.
Stopper-showing bids are on in competitive auctions, no matter which side opened the bidding. (But if we bid a suit that the opponents have already bid or implied, it is not always a stopper-showing bid -- find its meaning here.) In a competitive auction, stopper-showing bids can extend above 3NT because control-showing bids are off.
I'll avoid making any stopper-showing bids if we haven't discussed them, but if you make a bid that fits the description, I'll assume you mean it as stopper-showing, since it doesn't make much sense to agree on a trump suit and then abandon it for a new suit.
Control-Showing Bids: Once we have agreed on a trump suit, any bid in a new suit at the 4 level or higher is not an attempt to play there. Instead, this bid, which is forcing to game and implies slam interest, shows a control (defined as a stopper, singleton, or void) and requests partner to show a control of his own, if he has one, or return to the agreed trump suit.
As with stopper-showing bids, a control-showing bid is usually the cheapest bid that shows a control neither partner has already shown. However, all first-round controls (ace or void) are shown first, then all second-round controls (Kx or singleton).
Once either partner has gathered enough information this way to know what level we should be playing at, he should put us there. Thus a return to the agreed trump suit at any level is usually a sign-off, although at the minimum level this can just mean you're passing the decision to partner. Other conventions such as the Grand Slam Force or (rarely) Blackwood can also be used after a series of control-showing bids.
Control-showing bids are off in competitive auctions (no matter which side opened the bidding), primarily because we're not likely to have enough room to find out what we need to know at a safe bidding level. [I have played with people who disagree with this point, and I could be talked into changing it.]
I'll avoid making any control-showing bids if we haven't discussed them, but if you make a bid that fits the description, I'll assume you mean it as control-showing, since it doesn't make much sense to agree on a trump suit and then abandon it for a new suit.
Negative Double: After our opening bid in a suit is overcalled by opener's LHO with any bid (up to some agreed maximum level; I suggest 3S) except a natural notrump bid, a double by opener's partner at his next turn is artificial and promises specific shape.
[For discussion: Bergen says that only 1C-(1D)-X shows both majors, but 1D-(2C)-X only promises one, since otherwise if responder is too weak to bid at the 2 level, he is shut out of the auction. I could be talked into changing to Bergen's interpretation, but it would mean we may reach unsafe levels in misfit situations, something I'd rather avoid.]
In all cases, the negative double suggests a lack of support for opener's suit, and suggests shortness in overcaller's suit. Thus, opener should not leave the double in unless he has length in overcaller's suit. (Corollary: If responder has length in overcaller's suit and would like to double it for penalties, he should pass instead - and opener should recognize this situation and, usually, double.)
A negative double requires enough strength for the level where opener will be forced to bid (if overcaller's partner passes). Thus a negative double after 1H-(2S) or 1S-(3D) shows about 10+ HCP, since opener will have to bid at the three level. There is no upper limit on the doubler's strength.
Negative doubles apply even if the overcall is a jump or has some special meaning. However, if the overcall is Michaels or the Unusual 2NT, the negative double shows whatever suit(s) neither bidder has yet shown. (Example: If the auction goes 1H - (2H) - X, where 2H is Michaels, the double shows both minors as if the overcall had been 1S, since we don't yet know which minor suit the Michaels bidder has along with his spades.)
It's unlikely that we'll want to make a negative double after partner has opened 2C, but I'd rather say the negative double applies anyway than create an exception for this case.
Negative doubles do not apply if either the opening bid or the overcall is a (natural) notrump bid. (If the opening bid was notrump, a double at this point would mean "he stole my bid", as explained under 1NT with systems on over interference). A double of a 1NT overcall (or of 2NT over an opening weak two) is for penalty, but may be taken out; it shows about the same strength as if it had been a negative double.)
Michaels: When their side opened the bidding with a natural bid of one or two of a suit, and one of us bids opener's suit at his next turn, and neither of us has done anything but pass up to that time, the cue-bid is Michaels. (If these requirements are not all met, it is not Michaels.)
If the suit bid was a minor, this cue-bid promises at least 5-5 in the majors and the same strength as a two-level overcall (depending on vulnerability). If the suit bid was a major, it promises at least 5-5 in the other major and one minor, and 16+ HCP, and partner can respond 2NT (alert) to ask you to name the minor. (You need 16+ HCP because you may be forcing the auction to the three level when partner has nothing!)
Western Cue Bid: If we opened the bidding, and the opponents have overcalled showing only one suit, and one of us bids that suit, it is a Western Cue Bid. This asks partner to bid notrump if he has a stopper in that suit. Otherwise he should return to his own suit or show another suit.
Western Cue Bids apply even if the opening bid was notrump (since unlike Goren's day, an opening bid in notrump does not promise that all suits are stopped). In that case if partner does not have a stopper, he has to choose a suit he can stand to play in.
Western Cue Bids do not apply if the opponents' overcall is in a suit we have already bid.
Western Cue Bids do not apply if the opponents have bid (or shown) more than one suit. (This includes a two suited overcall such as Michaels or the Unusual 2NT -- if we know which two suits it shows.) In that case, a bid in one of their suits shows a stopper rather than asking if partner has one.
Jordan 2NT: After our opening bid of 1 of any suit is doubled or overcalled by opener's LHO, 2NT (alert) by opener's partner shows a limit raise or better (10+ points including distribution) and 4-card support. This is forcing one round.
A jump raise of opener's suit in these situations is preemptive (even if we aren't playing inverted minors), and so is a jump shift. However, a new suit at the one level is forcing one round; and over a double, redouble is available to show 10+ HCP without four-card support for opener.
Like Jacoby 2NT, I usually assume we're playing Jordan 2NT over a takeout double if we haven't discussed it, because it's on the Yellow Card. (However, most people who play Jordan use it only over a double. Using it after an overcall is my own invention.)
Jordan 2NT is still on if responder is a passed hand -- unless any form of Drury is available to him (meaning we're playing Drury and the overcall is at the one level). Then 2NT becomes natural.
Roman Key-Card Blackwood (RKCB): Whenever 4NT would normally be Blackwood, 4NT instead asks how many key cards partner holds.
Key cards are defined as the four aces and the king of the agreed trump suit. If no suit has been agreed, the last suit our side bid naturally is assumed to be the trump suit. (If we haven't bid any suit naturally, then 4NT reverts to being regular Blackwood. That's an awkward situation which I hope we will recognize when it comes up.)
The responses to RKCB are:
|5C||0 or 3 key cards.
|5D||1 or 4 key cards.
|5H||2 or 5 key cards, without the queen of trumps.
|5S||2 or 5 key cards, with the queen of trumps.|
The above are sometimes called "3014" responses.
There is an alternative version of RKCB known as "1430" (falsely and confusingly presented as "standard RKCB" in a book by Eddie Kantar) which swaps the above meanings of 5C and 5D. [I don't like "1430" for two reasons: it is more likely to get us too high when we don't have all the key cards; and the "3014" responses are similar enough to standard Blackwood that if we forget and mistake RKCB for normal Blackwood or vice versa, it usually won't hurt us.]
If the 4NT bidder continues with 5NT, asking for kings (and guaranteeing that our side has all five key cards), the responses are the same as in regular Blackwood except that the king of trumps is not shown again (and thus 6C shows no kings, rather than "0 or 4" as in regular Blackwood).
[Some people play that the 5NT king-ask also guarantees possession of the queen of trumps, and/or that it asks for a specific king rather than the number of kings. I haven't learned those versions, so I can't do them.]
Note: The Roman Key-Card treatment does not apply to the Gerber convention, because if we use Gerber it usually means we expect to play the hand in notrump.
I actually prefer regular Blackwood, but included RKCB here because I'm willing to play it if asked and because it has variations that needed to be nailed down.