We’re moving into the late stages of my editor Paul Laliberte’s auctions that begin with 1NT and don’t end there.

Sequence number 10:

North         South

1NT           2♦

2 ♥            2♠ ? ? 

The first nine bidding sequences are Stayman sequences. Sequence number 10 is a transfer. By virtue of the transfer to hearts followed by a rebid of 2 ♠, South has advertised five hearts, four spades and invitational values. At this point, the opening NoTrumper (armed with a perfect image of partner’s holding) will place the contract exactly where it belongs. South will pass whatever North bids. A sample hand for South:

♠Q J x x 

♥A J x x x

♦x x

♣ J x

Sequence number 11:

Let’s say that partner opens 1NT. You hold the following:

♠ x  

♥ x x

♦ K x x x x

♣  K x x x x

Unless you use minor-suit transfers, the best you can do is to pass 1NT and hope for the best. But the holding is much more conducive to playing in one of the minors. Which one? How can we find out?

The solution is a transfer to one of the minors. Bidding 2♠ as a transfer to clubs is decidedly inferior, because the partnership will be committed to playing in clubs while diamonds may offer a better fit. Use 2♠ only when you have at least six clubs and no interest in diamonds.

With 5-5 in clubs and diamonds, bidding 2NT as a transfer to diamonds is the way to go, because both minors will remain in play as possible contracts. 

Over 2NT, 3♦ by partner should be super-acceptance (showing a great diamond fit with partner and a willingness to play in 3NT if there are enough tricks available). But with such a poor holding, responder will gladly pass 3 ♦ (which should prove to be a great contract). 

Okay, but how do clubs get in the picture? With poor diamonds, the NoTrumper bids 3♣ (leaving the rest to partner). At that point, responder will know that the diamond fit is a poor one. Since the opening 1NT has promised a balanced hand, the partnership rates to have a better fit in clubs than in diamonds. It will certainly not be any worse! 

Hence, partner simply passes 3♣, which rates to be a decent contract. The bottom line is simple. Faced with a weak 5-5 holding in the minors after 1NT by partner, merely transfer to diamonds (2NT) and pass whatever partner bids (either 3 ♣ or 3 ♦). The resulting play should produce a better result than 1NT if you allow the opener to play there.

If we pause to review the first 10 bidding sequences presented in this series, it will become apparent that responder’s goal is to give the opening NoTrumper an idea of both the shape and the strength of a particular holding. Moreover, two bids are required in order to do so.

The first, either a Stayman inquiry or a transfer, is known as the table setter — a preparatory bid for the one to follow. It’s the second bid that actually puts food on the table by further defining responder’s assets. At that point, it will be incumbent on the opener to place the contract where it belongs.  Out of pure faith, responder will respect the NoTrumper’s decision and pass quietly.

Sequence number 11 deviates to a great degree, because the responder won’t need two bids to get the job done. Only one bid will be necessary in order to steer partner in the right direction. By responding properly to the transfer, the opener will actually be placing the contract where it belongs without even knowing it at the time. In effect, one simple transfer bid by responder will not only set the table but put dinner on the table for the partnership.

There are other times when responder will be able to do much the same thing with a single bid made in a suit at the three level after partner’s 1NT opener. Such bids advertise a 5-5 pattern in either the majors or the minors and are either invitational or game-forcing. As was the case for sequence number 11, one (and only one) bid will be all that the responder will be required to make in order to get things moving in the right direction. The opener will take care of the rest (this time, of course, with full knowledge of partner’s assets).

We have just paved the way for the last four bidding sequences of this lengthy series. They are to follow in the fifth and final installment. 

P.S.: If you normally raise partner’s 1NT to 2NT to show 8-9 HCP and no interest in a major-suit game, there’s still a way to get there. Bid “false Stayman” 2♣ and then rebid 2NT.