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Reverse Flannery

The problem: You’ve been dealt a pretty nice hand with five spades and four hearts. ♠KQ987 – KQ87 –75 – ♣62.

Your partner opens the bidding with one diamond and you dutifully bid your longer major (spades). Your partner rebids two clubs. What do you do? Your “obvious” options are:

  • (a) correct to 2;
  • (b) bid 2;
  • (c) bid 2♠;
  • (d) bid 2NT.

Each has various insufficiencies.

  • (a) is a sign-off;
  • (b) would be fourth-suit forcing
  • (c) could be correct but at the table partner might glumly apologise before placing down a 0-4-5-4 distribution;
  • (d) this bid may be often correct, but will miss the making major-fit part scores at least some of the time.

As you can see, without Reverse Flannery, partner can systematically prevent you from finding a major fit.

In this article, I shall briefly outline the responses to 1 of a minor called Reverse Flannery (by responder); explain how the continuations of the auction progress from there; and, briefly discussed the influence that this might have on other systems.

Three Forms of Reverse Flannery

Take note! In each example I treat it as though the bid can only be 5 Spades and 4 Hearts, but the distributions allowed vary by partnership agreement.

One-Way Reverse Flannery
WestEastExplanation
1 ♣ / 25 Spades, 4 Hearts
Invitational hand (10-12pts)

This simplest structure is best for people who want to keep 2 Spades open for weak jump shifts or are scared of jumping to the two level with weak major oriented hands!

If eager to maintain the weak jump shift into hearts also, then one can replace the 2 bid by 2. This is easily forgotten as at the table 1 – 2 can easily be mistaken for diamond support! And, notwithstanding that, can raise issues for how one shows natural diamond support!

Two-Way Reverse Flannery
WestEastExplanation
1 ♣ / 25S and 4H and “weak” (between 5-9pts)
 2♠5S and 4H and “invitational” (between 10-12pts)

This version of Reverse Flannery is most common.

There are two key differences that might alter the shape that one is willing to make these bids on: (a) a response of 2 Hearts will more often be passed and therefore weak 5-5 hands in the majors will often be simpler bid directly (especially over 2 where the auction 1-1♠-2-? leaves little room for showing a weak second major); (b) a response to 2♠ will more often be continued from, this leaves open the ability for (6 spades and 4 hearts) or (6 spades and 5 hearts) shaped hands to be bid and shown through enquiry bids.

This inclusion as described is common but will depend on the continuations chosen and alternative auctions.

N.B. adding 5-5 in the majors to the “stronger” bid has a downside that “correcting” to the better fit increases the level of the auction. This may or may not be worth it in all the circumstances, but has certainly caught on amongst some world-class players.

Three-Way Reverse Flannery
WestEastExplanation
1♣2Shows 5-5 Majors weak or 5-4 majors (either way), weak.
 2Shows 5+S and 4+H and invitational (not 6-4)
 2♠Shows 6+S and 4H and invitational
12/♠As two-way Flannery

Once you’re feeling confident with reverse flannery and its continuations, this is a fine way to play it. Of course, once you are this confident, then you might have your own ideas about how the system can be developed!

Example Hands:

Let us consider some example hands and compare how they might be bid under Reverse Flannery as a response to 1♣:

a)b)c)
♠ K10752
Q953
108
♣ 86
♠ 87643
A5432
65
♣ 2
♠ 86543
KQ984
A4
♣ 7
d)e)f)
♠ AJ754
K954
6
♣ Q72
♠ J10543
Q987643
5
♣ A
♠ AK864
A9653
105
♣ 4

Hand a is straight forward. If playing one-way you pass or bid. With two-way you bid 2. If playing three-way you bid 2 opposite 1♣ or rebid 2 opposite 1 (as opposite 1 one plays two-way).

Hand b is similar to hand 1. In this instance, however, you can only bid 2 if the agreement allows for 5-5 weak hands. If you aren’t playing Reverse Flannery, you have to choose between bidding and passing.

Hand c is of invitational strength but 5-5. As such, if playing either one-way or two-way reverse flannery you’ll have to bid it naturally. If you’re playing three-way the bid of 2 will more than suffice.

Hand d is of invitational strength. A bid of 2 for one-way and three-way, and a bid of 2♠ for two-way will do the trick.

Hand e is weak and distributional. Playing one-way flannery you pick which major to show first. Otherwise, it’s up to partnership agreement how to treat these distributional hands. Personally, I think Reverse Flannery is sufficient. Partner is likely to pass with equal length and the dire high-cards in the majors don’t tempt me to bid more constructively.

Hand f is very good. With such a nice hand you’ll show your spades, when you show your hearts your partner will know that you can’t be 5/4!

Continuations

Note that because of the number of variations of the system that there is no standard way to define continuations. Let us consider the potential priorities (not ordered):

  • Showing the strength of the bid. “Good/Bad”
  • Showing the length of the majors.
  • Showing shortages.
  • Showing support for partner’s minor.
  • Showing suitability for No Trumps.

These depend, therefore, on both the kinds of hands partner opens 1♣ and 1, the strength of an opening 1NT and the kind of scoring. After all, finding 5 is a lower priority at matchpoints than teams.

Nevertheless, I will outline a potential rebid system:

WestEastWestComments
1m2X2MSign-off. No further interest in bidding.
  2N*Artificial Inquiry bid (see below)
  3mSign-off.
  3omFourth-suit forcing. Seeking stops for NT.
  3MInvite based on fit.
  3NNatural.
  4mGame forcing single-suiter.
  4omSome form of splinter or two-suited hand, per partnership agreement.
  4MSign-off
  4NTTwo-suited Roman Key Card (Six ace RKCB)

The above is simple in that it acts to clearly define the auction and avoids using opener’s minor as invitational. However, if willing to use 3♣ as an artificial enquiry, one can gain 2NT as a way to progress the auction in more ways.

Kokish (whose three-way system is outlined above) does this by using 2NT as a bid that says “bid 3♣ if you would pass 3♣ otherwise bid as you would opposite a natural 3♣”. Such a system allows opener to show a two-suited minor hand when one has opened 1D. Any further rebids then act as slam-tries.

Below I assume that 5=5 and 6=5 are possible.

WestEastWest Comments
1m2X2N* Artificial Enquiry
   3om5=4=2=2 minimum
   3pm55 majors with three card support for partner’s minor
   3/♠54 majors. 3 shows club shortage, 3♠ shows diamond shortage. (i.e. lower suit shows lower shortage, singleton or void)
   3NT5=4=2=2 maximum
   4♣/55 or 65 either way in majors, splinter.
   45=6=1=1 or 6=5=1=1
   4♠? perhaps best as strong 4 card support for partner with 5=4=(0-4)

We can see how this tries to balance between our priorities. With only 9 cards in the majors we attempt to keep bidding at the three level and only venture as high as 3NT. The only bid that does not is the delayed raise for partner’s suit where partner may now have three places to consider playing in (a major, a minor and no trumps).

At the 4 level we assume that partner is enquiring for the purposes of finding a major game or slam. As such, the priority is showing shortages to aid partner in bidding further.

Note that in many places the minimum/maximum difference is treated as not existing. Even though the difference between the bottom and top of a weak bid can be as much as a King! If playing Reverse Flannery without the possibility of 5=5s and 6=5s then one can use this bidding space far more precisely.

Final Thoughts – Inferences!

Often, the auctions where the effect of Reverse Flannery by Responder are truly felt are those where the auction has not used it!

To illustrate consider the auctions:

(1)

WestNorthEastSouth
1♣Pass1♠Pass
2♣Pass2 

(2)

WestNorthEastSouth
1♣Pass1♠2
PassPass2 

(3)

WestNorthEastSouth
1♣Pass1♠Pass
2Pass3 

Supposing they play two-way Reverse Flannery we have that East cannot have:

  1. 5 Spades and 4 Hearts and less than a Game Forcing Hand
  2. 5-5 in the majors and a weak hand.
  3. 6 Spades and 4 Hearts and an invitational hand.

As such the ranges for these bids (if playing naturally) is distinct from the normal ranges. What these bids mean is therefore subject to partnership agreement and discussions of general principles.

The first auction is, I think, the simplest. Since partner can, at worst, have a 5-5 with invitational values, this auction is almost surely forcing to game. (I do not say absolutely forcing, as partnership agreement may prefer [e.g.] 1♣-1♠; 2♣-2; 2NT-3 to show this exact form of hand and be able to be passed).

The second auction is, I think, similar in form. The implication of the 1 Spades opener suggests a lack of Hearts. As such, this 2 bid should be more constructive than merely competitive, despite the balancing position.

The final auction is somewhat nebulous. If playing a form of Lebensohl (so a 2NT rebid by East would show weaker hands) this 3 is not only game forcing but incredibly slam encouraging! If not, however, it could be used to show the “weak” 6 Spades and 4 Hearts rebid and the stronger forms of support can be bid through other mechanisms.

The negative inferences that come with Reverse Flannery are often useful throughout an entire auction and (if the opponents end up declaring) in defence. As such, the system makes a fabulous addition to many players repertoires.

Lavings

The Lavings convention is a simple way of asking for 5 card majors after partner has opened a strong or weak NT.

After an opening 1NT Bid and 2♣ Response

So it’s important to known you can only bid 2♣ with invitational hands.

BidMeaning
2Minimum no 5 card Major
2Minimum 5 card hearts
2♠Minimum 5 card spades
2NTMaximum no 5 card suit
3♣Maximum 5 card club suit
3Maximum 5 card diamond suit
3Maximum 5 card heart suit
3♠Maximum 5 card spade suit

Continuations after 2

So after 1NT – 2♣ – 2 uninterrupted

BidMeaning
25 card suit non-forcing
2♠5 card suit non-forcing
2NTTo Play
3♣Promissory 4 card Stayman
33 Card Stayman
3Shows 5 spades and 4 Hearts
3♠Shows 5 hearts and 4 Spades

Continuations after 2NT

So after 1NT – 2♣ – 2NT uninterrupted. 3♣ would be promissory Stayman and a bid of 3 would ask for a 3 card major.

Some Examples

Let’s look at some examples of strong and Weak NT openers.

a)b)c)d)
♠ AQ1083
K8
KJ7
♣ A97
♠ AJ53
J54
QJ72
♣ K7
♠ KJ4
K108
AQ762
♣ A7
♠ KJ862
42
KQ7
♣ AJ10
♠ 954
A74
Q8543
♣ K3
♠ Q73
KQ973
A65
♣ 43
♠ Q72
AQ962
93
♣ 953
♠ Q73
KQ973
A65
♣ 43
e)f)g)h)
♠ AQ862
42
KQ7
♣ KJ10
♠ KJ82
42
KQ7
♣ AJ107
♠ KJ8
42
KQJ7
♣ A1092
♠ KJ62
42
KQ7
♣ AJ107
♠ J73
K10973
43
♣ A65
♠ Q763
KQ93
A65
♣ 43
♠ Q763
KQJ3
1073
♣ K5
♠ Q1073
KQ73
A65
♣ 43
i)
♠ K82
AQJ6
A982
♣ K8
♠ AJ943
1094
QJ3
♣ A7

The Bidding

a) 1NT (15-17) – 2♣ – 3♠ – 4♠

So the 3♠ shows a maximum and you simply raise it to 4♠

b) 1NT (12-14) – 2♣ – 2 – 2

Partner has invitational 5 card heart suit but after just bidding 2 you can pass this even with 3 card support.

c) 1NT (15 – 17) – 2♣ – 3 – 3 – 4

The original NT bidder is maximum with a 5 card diamond suit. You now bid your 5 card heart suit (game forcing) which gets supported to 4.

d) 1NT (12 – 14) – 2♣ – 3♠ – 4♠

The original NT bidder is maximum with a 5 card spade suit. You now bid 4♠.

e) 1NT (15-17) – 2♣ – 2♠

So the 2♠ shows a minimum with 5 spades which you can just pass.

f) 1NT (12-14) – 2♣ – 2NT – 3♣ – 3♠ – 4♠

2NT shows a maximum without any 5 card suit. 3♣ is promissory Stayman (it guarantees a 4 card major) and partner bids 3♠ which then gets raised to 4♠.

g) 1NT (12 – 14) – 2♣ – 2NT – 3♣ – 3 – 3NT

The 2NT shows a maximum without any 5 card suit. 3♣ is promissory Stayman (it guarantees a 4 card major) and partner bids 3 which denies a 4 card major. 3NT is then bid.

h) 1NT (12 – 14) – 2♣ – 2NT – 3♣ – 3 – 3NT – 4♠

The 2NT shows a maximum without any 5 card suit. 3♣ is promissory Stayman (it guarantees a 4 card major) and partner bids 3. 3NT is bid as you don’t like hearts and partner converts to the known 4-4 spade fit and bids 4♠.

g) 1NT (15 – 17) – 2♣ – 2NT – 3 – 3 – 3NT – 4♠

The 2NT shows a maximum without any 5 card suit. 3 asks for a 3 card major (should guarantee a 5 card major) and partner bids 3. 3NT is bid which partner can either pass or bid 4♠ if they have 3 card spade support.

So that’s how to play the Lavings bidding convention….a five card major ask after an opening 1NT.

Multi Landy

Multi-Landy is a convention used after the opponents open 1NT. It gets its name from the use of the Landy 2♣ overcall and the Multi 2 convention. One purpose is to more precisely identify major-suit fits.

The conventional calls over 1NT are as follows.

BidsMeaning
DoublePenalty 15+points (particularly against a weak 1NT).
Against a Strong NT it shows a 4-card major with a longer minor. Double after passing shows a 4-card major with a longer minor.
2♣At least 5-4 or 4-5 in hearts and spades. 8-15 points
25+ hearts or 5+ spades (no side suit). 8-15 points
2At least 5-4 in hearts and a minor. 8-15 points
2♠At least 5-4 in spades and a minor. 8-15 points
2NTAt least 5-5 in clubs and diamonds. 8-15 points

Minimum points usually at favourable vulnerability or/and when 55 or 6 card suits…don’t bid vulnerable with garbage!

Some example hands that might use this convention are:

1)2)3)4)
♠ AQ102
K10963
4
♣ K75
♠ KQ10942
A8
842
♣ 75
♠ 6
KQ1063
AJ1085
♣ Q7
♠ KJ763
8
♦ AQ109
♣ Q76
5)6)
♠ 9
84
AQ1085
♣ KJ763
♠ AQ
K98
QJ1095
♣ KJ8
  • Hand 1 would bid 2♣ showing at least 5-4 in the majors
  • Hand 2 would bid 2 showing a 5+ major without a second suit.
  • Hand 3 would bid 2 showing 5 hearts and a minor suit.
  • Hand 4 would bid 2♠ showing 5 spades and a minor suit.
  • Hand 5 would bid 2NT showing 5-5the minors
  • Hand 6 would simply double against a weak NT for penalties

Responses to the Double showing a minor and a major

ResponseMeaning
2♣Shows club tolerance and willingness to play in clubs. Partner can pass with long clubs, or bid 2D without clubs.
2An artificial bid asks partner to bid their major suit.
2Natural, 6+ hearts, non-forcing.
2♠Natural, 6+ spades, non-forcing.
2NTArtificial, forcing. Asks the over caller to clarify their major holding.
3♣ – Shows 4 hearts, max strength.
3 – Shows 4 spades, max strength.
3 – Shows 4 hearts, min strength.
3♠ – Shows 4 spades, min strength.
3♣Natural, 6+ good clubs, non-forcing.
3Natural, 6+ good diamonds, non-forcing.
3Pre-emptive or Good suit maybe 7 card suit.
3♠Pre-emptive or Good suit maybe 7 card suit.
3NTTo play

Responses to the 2C Overcall

The 2♣ overcall shows at least 5-4 in the majors.

ResponseMeaning
PassNatural, 6+ good clubs
2An artificial bid asks partner to bid their major suit.
2Natural sign-off, showing a preference for hearts even if partner is 5-4.
2♠Natural sign-off, showing a preference for spades even if partner is 5-4.
2NTArtificial, forcing. Asks the over caller to clarify their major holding.
3♣ – Shows 5 hearts, max strength.
3 – Shows 5 spades, max strength.
3 – Shows 5 hearts, min strength.
3♠ – Shows 5 spades, min strength.
Natural, 6+ good clubs, non-forcing.
3♣Natural, 6+ good clubs, non-forcing.
3Natural, 6+ good diamonds, non-forcing.
3Pre-emptive
3♠Pre-emptive
3NTTo play

Responses to the 2D Overcall

The 2 overcall shows a single suited major.

ResponseMeaning
2Natural, 6+ good diamonds
2Natural signoff if over caller has hearts. However, this bid may also be made with game-invitational values in spades. If over caller corrects to 2♠, then partner is allowed to raise or bid something else to show a good raise in spades.
2♠Natural signoff if over caller has spades. However, this also shows a good raise in hearts. If over caller has hearts they bid 3 with a minimum and bid a feature with a maximum…or can bid 4 direct.
2NTArtificial, forcing. Asks the over caller to clarify their major holding.
3♣ – Shows 5 hearts, max strength.
3 – Shows 5 spades, max strength.
3 – Shows 5 hearts, min strength.
3♠ – Shows 5 spades, min strength.
3♣Natural, 6+ good clubs, non-forcing.
3Natural, 6+ good diamonds, non-forcing.
3Natural, 6+ good hearts, non-forcing.
3♠Natural, 6+ good spades, non-forcing.
3NTTo play

Responses to the 2H Overcall

2 shows a 5 card major and at least a four card minor.

ResponseMeaning
PassThis is where we play
2♠Natural, 5+ good spades, no heart support, non-forcing.
2NTArtificial, forcing. Asks the over caller to clarify their minor holding.
3♣ – Shows 4+ clubs, min strength.
3 – Shows 4+ diamonds, min strength.
3 – Shows 4+ clubs, max strength.
3♠ – Shows 4+ diamonds, max strength.
3♣Asks partner to pass or correct to 3
3Good raise in hearts
3Pre-emptive raise
3♠Natural, 6+ good spades, non-forcing.
3NTTo Play
4To Play
4♠To Play

Responses to the 2S Overcall

2♠ shows 5 spades and at least a 4 card minor.

ResponseMeaning
PassThis is where we play
2NTArtificial, forcing. Asks the over caller to clarify their minor holding.
3♣ – Shows 4+ clubs, min strength.
3 – Shows 4+ diamonds, min strength.
3 – Shows 4+ clubs, max strength.
3♠ – Shows 4+ diamonds, max strength.
3♣Asks partner to pass or correct to 3
3Good raise in spades
3Natural, 6+ good hearts, non-forcing.
3♠Pre-emptive raise
3NTTo Play
4To Play
4♠To Play

Responses to the 2NT Overcall

Shows 5/5 in the minors.

BidsMeaning
PassThis is where we play
3♣A weak hand with tolerance for clubs.
3A weak hand with tolerance for diamonds
3Natural, 6+ good hearts, non-forcing.
3♠Natural, 6+ good spades, non-forcing.
3NTTo Play
4♣ / Invitational
4 / ♠4 / ♠
5♣ / To Play

Please note that these notes are merely ideas on how to play this convention…but you can change them how you want. That is one of the main points about complex bridge conventions…that you can change them to how you want to play them…as long as you agree them with your partner…that is the crucial point.

In Competition

Obviously when you overcall 2♣, the opposition might double this contract which might show clubs, they might bid diamonds…so it’s important you have an agreement what double, re-double or 2 means from partner?

I would suggest over 2♣ double, Redouble asks for the longer major and 2 is now natural.

Over a 2 bid double asks partner to bid their longer major.

2 Way Checkback

This is one of my favourite systems. In this example video I show how you use it playing a weak NoTrump. In other words when the 1 NT re-bid shows 15-17 points. It’s also shortened to 2WCB. In the future i’ll also show how you respond to the 2NT re-bid.

Exit Transfers

This video shows you what to do when you’ve been doubled for penalties in a 1NT (usually weak) contract. Click exit transfers for more detailed notes to go along with the video.

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