Kokish Relay


Isnít it fun when when you pick up a juicy 26-pointer like this?

♠ AQT8
♣ AKQ6


Well, actually, no, itís not much fun at all (unless you happen to be playing high-stakes rubber bridge)!  Standard methods donít handle these big balanced hands very well.  The gradation of point-count ranges for big balanced hands goes something like this: 


20-21                  Open 2NT

22-24                  Open 2♣ and rebid 2NT

25-27                  Open 2♣ and rebid 3NT

28-30                  Open 2♣ and rebid 4NT


You can see that, for really big balanced hands, the real auction does not start until Opener rebids 3NT or 4NT.  Now, tell me, how can you have an effective and constructive auction when you donít start mentioning suits until the 4-level?  As a way to mitigate this problem, there is a little gadget, called Kokish.




After 2♣ 2, we use 2 as a relay to 2♠.  Now Opener will either rebid 2NT (to show a BIG balanced hand) or else make any other descriptive bid to show a hand with Hearts.


In other words, the Kokish Relay allows the bidding for really big, balanced hands to start at 2NT.  Some examples:


            2♣        2
2        2♠
Opener has 25+ HCPs and a balanced hand.


             2♣        2
2        2♠
Opener has Hearts and Clubs.


            2♣        2
2        2♠
                    Opener has Hearts and no second suit.




For the balanced hands, the follow-up can be the same as your current methods for 2NT openings.  The good news is that itís better to start the search for a fit at the level of 2NT that it is at 3NT or above.  The bad news is that many partnerships do not have particularly effective 2NT methods!


♠ AQT8           ♠ 6
KQ6             A97
AQ6             T932
♣ AKQ6          ♣ T6542


    2♣                   2
  2                   2♠
   2NT                 ?


Responder does not have much of a hand, but, when Opener is known to have 25+, he doesnít need much of a hand to start thinking about slam!  How this auction proceeds will depend upon your methods.  Some partnerships play that 3♠ here is a relay to 3NT, after which Responder proceeds to show some kind of minor one-suiter or minor two-suiter.  Anyway, hopefully your 2NT methods will allow you to find 6♣ on this hand (which is cold on all 3-1 trump breaks when played from the correct side) rather than 6NT (which requires a couple of finesses).


Without Kokish, the auction would start with 2♣ 2, 3NT.  Now, it would be hard to come up with a sensible auction which investigates a minor suit fit.


By-Passing The Relay


We said that the sequence 2♣ 2, 2 is a relay to 2♠, preparatory to Opener further describing his hand.  Well, so it is.  But, once in a while, Responder may have a sufficiently unusual hand to make it worthwhile by-passing the relay and showing a long suit.  Of course, doing this is crossing Openerís intentions, so we do not do it lightly, we need a good reason.

One popular approach is to use transfers whenever you break the relay.  So, after 2♣ 2, 2, a bid of 3♣ (breaking the relay) would show Diamonds, as in the following example:


♠ 6                   ♠ T95
AKT976      3
AQ8             KJ97643
♣ AKJ             ♣ 82


     2♣                   2
   2                   3♣
     3                   etc.


 In the above auction:

(a)    If Opener accepts the transfer he agrees the suit;

(b)    If Opener does not accept the transfer, he denies a fit in the suit.


So, if, over the 3♣ transfer, Opener had bid Hearts, he would simply be showing a Heart hand without a Diamond fit.


How good or long a suit do you need to by-pass the relay?  Obviously, the suit cannot be that good, otherwise Responder would have made a positive response over 2♣.  We suggest that a decent 6-card suit with good fillers is probably enough.  A reasonable rule of thumb would be that the suit is playable for one loser opposite Ax or Kx:


KJ97643                     We already saw this one in the above example, itís plenty good enough.

KJ9764                       Still OK.

K97643                       Starting to get borderline.

Q97643                       Not good enough, this will not usually play for one loser opposite K2

Q987643                     Now the extra length makes it OK.

QJT764                       This oneís fine.

JT9876                        This oneís not.


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