Minor Suit Transfers


After a 1NT opening, many partnerships use 2 as a transfer to Clubs, and 2NT as a transfer to Diamonds.  This can we a used as a way to escape to 3 of a minor with a weak hand (Responder will have at least a 6-card suit), or as a prelude to a more contractive auction.  One important point for partnership clarification, after, say 1NT 2 (transfer to Clubs), is the difference between a rebid by Opener of 2NT and 3.  Normal practice is for one of these bids to say "I like Clubs" and for the other to say "I don't like Clubs".  The most common method (though not necessarily the best) is for the intermediate bid (2NT here) to be encouraging.  Similarly, if the auction starts 1NT 2NT, then 3 says "I like Diamonds" and 3 says "I don't".


                                     6th October, 2010                           Both Vul



♠ 64



♣ T8762

South   West    North   East 

Pass    Pass    1NT     Pass



Here is an interesting bidding problem, especially for those who play Minor Suit Transfers (2♠ to Clubs and 2NT to Diamonds).  Suppose that the auction has started 1NT 2NT.  Now Opener can bid 3♣ or 3, depending whether or not she likes Diamonds.  Some play that 3♣ says “I like Diamonds”, some bid 3 to say that.  The latter method works better when Responder is weak with both minors.  Here, South would like to play in 3♣ or 3, but was not want to guess which one.  So, she bids 2NT transferring to Diamonds, after which:

-         If Opener likes Diamonds she will bid 3 and play it there.

-         If Opener does not like Diamonds she will bid 3♣ and play it there.


Anyway, that’s what we suggest and it works like a charm here.  South transfers to Diamonds and North strangely ends up playing in Clubs!  That’s a better contract than 1NT, and should make 9 tricks.


                                           24th May, 2006                 Board 16      E-W Vul


♠ A75



♣ JT9542

South   West   North   East

            Pass   1NT     Pass   




Pretty much everybody plays Jacoby Transfers for the majors.  Many also play Minor Suit Transfers, part of which is that it gives Opener the chance to say (in this case) “I like Clubs” or “I don’t like Clubs”.  South has a reasonable hand, and it would no doubt be improved if Partner said “I like Clubs”.  But, this whole preamble, we confess, has been nothing but a red herring!  South’s hand is good enough to gut it out in 3NT regardless of North’s opinion of his Clubs.  Just because we have a gadget available, does not mean that we have to use it indiscriminately!


                                           7th June, 2006                  Board 8      None Vul


♠ J84
♣ Q98532

East   South   West    North

                       1NT    Pass


After West opens 1NT, and East will have three possible plans:

Plan A: Just play it in 1NT ... those Queens certainly look No-Trumpish, but we do have a singleton Diamond, and the Club suit is so weak that it may not set up unless Partner has a good fit.

Plan B: Play it in 3♣.  Most partnerships have a way to get out in 3 of a minor after a 1NT opening, most usually after a transfer sequence.

Plan C:  Play it in 3♣ or 3NT, depending upon Opener’s opinion.  If you play 1NT 2♠ as a transfer to Clubs, and if you further distinguish between Opener’s rebids of 2NT and 3♣ (one of these should like Clubs, the other one should not like Clubs), then you can try 3NT if Opener has a Club fit.

We would choose to play in 3♣, regardless of whether or not Opener said he liked Clubs, we don't think the hand is likely to provide game.  Our second choice would be to pass 1NT.  Trying for 3NT is a bit optimistic in our opinion … say that East transfers to Clubs, and West says “I like Clubs!” … now East bids 3NT, and, on the actual hand, although Opener has a maximum, all Aces and Kings, including 3 Clubs, 3NT has no play on a Diamond lead … even on a non-Diamond lead, Clubs must be 2-2 for the contract to make.


                                            6th September, 2006         Board 15      N-S Vul


♠ 6



♣ A98652

North   East   South   West

                      1NT     Pass




North clearly is not going to game, and with that distributional hand would like to play in one of her suits.  In the old days, this hand was a piece of cake … North would bid 2♣ (hoping for a 4-4 Heart fit), South bids 2, and North signs off in 3♣.  In modern-day bidding, most partnerships play that sequence as strong … no doubt an admirable treatment, but not useful on this hand.


Nowadays, it’s more common to use 4-suit transfers, which means that the way to escape to 3 is via a 2♠ transfer … so that’s what we’d do, giving up on any chance of finding a 4-4 Heart fit.


                                           21st May, 2008                        Board 3    E-W Vul


♠ 6



♣ K8

North   East     South   West

                        1NT     Pass

2NT     Pass    3♣       Pass



This one is more about methods than it is about judgment.  Let’s say that your 2NT was a Minor Suit Transfer, in this case showing Diamonds.  Let’s further suppose that you are part of an enlightened partnership which plays that 3♣ says “I don’t like Diamonds”.  What next?  Perhaps a better question is “What do 3 and 3♠ mean in this situation?”  A common treatment is that this bid shows shortness.  It’s not necessarily a slam try, it could merely be an attempt to find the best game.


OK, so you bid 3♠, Partner bids 3NT.  Do you give up slam?  Surely not!  What is needed now is a Roman Key Card bid that allows N-S to play in 4NT (not enough Key Cards) or in 6 (enough Key Cards).  The solution is to use 4 here as Minorwood.  If you don’t like Minorwood, then use 4 here as Redwood.  Using 4NT here as Roman Key Card might work on the actual hand (because Partner has enough Key Cards), but it’s a poor method, so we strongly recommend that you consider the alternatives.


                              7th December, 2011                 None Vul



♠ 53



♣ 76542

South   West    North   East

            Pass    1NT     Pass




South would like to play this one in 3 or 3, whichever is North’s better minor.  What are your methods?  Some play that 3 here shows precisely this type of hand, and that’s very convenient on the rare occasion when it comes up.  But it might be better to use 1NT-3 for other purposes (such as Puppet Stayman if you are apt to open 1NT with a 5-card major).


Do you use Minor Suit Transfers (1NT-2 transfers to Clubs, 1NT-2NT transfers to Diamonds)?  If you do, then the next question is “After 1NT-2NT, do you use 3 to say that you like Diamonds, or do you use 3?”  For the time being let’s assume that 3 is your chosen method (in other words, you bid ‘em if you like ‘em).  In that case, the solution to the above hand is to bid 2NT, transferring to Diamonds:

-         If North likes Diamonds, she will bid 3 and that is where she will play it.

-         If North does not like Diamonds, she will bid 3 and again that is where she will play it.


Of course, some play the responses to South’s transfer the other way around, and the analogous method in that case is to use one of these sequences:

-         1NT 2, 2NT 3 (playing in 3 when North likes Clubs)

-         1NT 2, 3 3 (playing in Diamonds when North does not like Clubs).


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