by Kitty and Steve Cooper

Question in an email from a player who only identified himself as Burt “When using transfers over 1NT, is it mandatory that opener accept partner’s transfer or may opener bid his own suit instead?”

Coopers: When you open 1NT you give up on bidding your own suit. You can only play in notrump or a suit responder suggests.

The logic of this is that when partner has a weak hand with a long suit opposite your strong balanced hand it is best to have his suit be trump so that his weaker hand can take some tricks and have entries by ruffing. 

Bidding a different suit when partner transfers is used to say that you love partner's suit and have a maximum with four or more trumps. Thus bidding a new suit does not show your own suit and that you hate the transfer.

Bidding another suit over the transfer is called a transfer break. Some people play that you bid a small doubleton. Others play that you bid a side four card concentration, that is a suit with at least two of the top three honors or similar holding such as KJ10x. Suppose partner transfers to 2S and you hold S AKxx H xx D AQJx C K10x. With this hand you would bid either 3H or 3D depending on which style of transfer break you use. To show a maximum with four trumps and no break suit you either bid 2NT (leaving room for partner to explore for slam) or three of the major. Some people just jump to three of the major with all maximums, thus telling the opponents nothing (but also not helping partner). Other players use the three level jump to show a minimum with four trumps.

We have asked a number of expert players why they break one way or the other and have gotten no convincing answers. We break to a concentration in our partnership, but the more frequent style is to break to a weak doubleton. Like most everything else in bidding, this is a good thing to discuss with your partner and have an agreement about.

One last transfer break that we use is to bid 2NT with three trumps to two of the top three honors, a maximum, and stoppers everywhere. The theory is that with this holding there might be nine tricks in notrump when partner has a hand that was not going to invite after transferring. For example, S Kxxxxx H Kx D xx C xxx will usually make 3NT opposite S AQx H Axx D Kxxx C Axx, but if you just bid 2S, partner will pass.

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