Optional Upgrades

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 03/02/2012
Level: Intermediate

This page is for:

1) Advanced-to-expert level players

2) Strong-memory players

3) Professional players

4) People who love toys/gadgets

5) People who want a headache


These are enhancements (optional upgrades) to LC Standard.

It is assumed that if none of these are discussed or mentioned, that plain basic LC Standard is in use.


Optional add-on conventions/treatments:

After Our 1NT Opening

Transfer lebensohl (optional upgrade) (click the link)

New modified Puppet (optional upgrade)

In original Puppet (3?), the responses are:

3?=At least one 4-card major
3NT=No 4- or 5-card major

The modification (below) is better:

3?=No 5-card major (Responder bids 3 of his non-4-card major if he has 4 in the other)

3?/3?=5 cards

3NT=Does not exist


The modification is better in that it reveals much less about opener's hand.


After Our Minor-Suit Openings:


Jump-transfers to 3NT(optional upgrade)

As far as I know, this gadget was devised in the 1980's by my friend, Marty Bergen. We used a jump-cue-bid of the opponents one-level overcall as a transfer to 3NT. For example: 1? (1?) 3? or 1? (1?) 3?. The bid shows a balanced 3NT hand (13-15) and a stopper(s) in the suit overcalled. Positionally, it is almost always best to play from opener's side. For example, responder holds: ?A J 2?K Q 10?J 3 2?Q 10 8 7. His partner opens 1? and there is a 1? overcall. Rather than bid 3NT, it is better to transfer to it. This puts the overcaller on lead (much better for your side than having the overcaller's partner get to lead). Picture the opener with, say ?Qx, and look at the difference on who plays it. There are numerous suit layouts where it is better to have the overcaller lead through dummy and up to partner's hand, than the other way around. Of course, you can still choose to respond 3NT if you want to play from your side (with ?AKJ, there is no need to let partner play it). You can even use this to allow the stronger declarer in the partnership to play most of the hands. After the transfer to 3NT, the opener will bid 3NT on most hands. Any time he would have passed a normal 3NT response, he bids 3NT (he can even do so with a singleton in the opponent's suit). If your partnership isn't likely to handle the memory (when this bid arises), don't add it to your convention card.


Reverse Flannery (optional upgrade):

1?-2? (or 1?-2?) = 4? and 5?, weak  (0-9)
1?-2? (or 1?-2?) = 4? and 5?, invitational (10-11/12)

I leave it to the players to decide if 6? are possible and to discuss all follow-ups.

There is even a newer method on the market whereby 1?-2? is 3-way (don't ask).

Flip-flop (optional upgrade)

After 1? (or 1?) is doubled, a jump-raise is weak and a jump to 2NT is shown on the main card as an invitational or better raise (over majors, it is called Jordan).  When the opening is a minor, it makes sense to invert the meanings of 2NT and the weak jump raise. This is to right-side 3NT. After a weak-jump, 3NT is an unlikely spot.  But, after an invitational jump, 3NT is quite likely. The problem with "Standard" is that after the double and the 2NT (minor-suit invitational jump), the 3NT will be played from the wrong side. The opener is the one with the likely notrump (stoppers) hand, but the declarer will be the player who might have a singleton.  So, using flip-flop, the jump to 2NT shows the preempt and the jump-raise is invitational.




Another flip-flop  (optional upgrade)

In LC Standard, jumps by a passed hand are fit-showing. So, P-P-1?-P-3? shows spade support with club stuff. A jump to 2NT has to replace the natural, invitational 3? hand (?3
?6 5 4
?A J 2
?K Q 10 9 8 7
. The problem with 2NT to show clubs is that 3NT is wrong-sided. It is better to use 2NT to show the major-suit fit (since notrump will never be the final strain) and to use 3? as a natural invitational jump.  This "flip-flop" is necessary only with clubs as trump. Since 2? is Drury, there is no way to show clubs on the 2-level.  Since 2-way Drury isn't used, a bid of 2? is free to show 10-11 points and diamonds.  Summary: If you can memorize it, it is best to play that a passed-hand jump to 3? after 1? or 1? as invitational and that a jump to 2NT is fit-showing with club cards.


Transfers/Bromad after double (Optional upgrade)

After 1? or 1? is doubled, most experts use a form of transfers. The most common (combining effectiveness without too much memory drain) is:

XX=10+ and exactly 2 card support (if you wish to use XX as any 10+ it doesn't effect or change the rest of these bids)
1NT=Transfer to clubs (either a club suit, or a raise of the major with club cards/values/length/feature).
2?=Transfer to diamonds (either a diamond suit, or a raise of the major with diamond cards/values/length/feature).
2?=Transfer to hearts (If 1? was opened, it shows a constructive raise 8-10); if 1? was opened it is either hearts or a spade raise with heart cards/values/length/feature).

2?= If 1? was opened, a lousy raise (4-7).  If 1? was opened, it shows a constructive raise 8-10.

2?= If 1? was opened, a lousy raise (4-7).  (If 1? was opened, this is a plain old natural weak jump in comp).


Summary: Starting with 1NT, everything through 2 of our major is a transfer. The 1-under transfer shows a constructive raise. The direct raise shows garbage.  Opener will "accept" the transfer any time he would have passed had his partner been showing a weak natural hand in the suit transferred to (example:  1?-X-2?-P-2?= "I would have passed a NF 2? bid).



There is a popular convention used (Bart) after 1?-1NT-2?, whereby 2? shows many hand types. There are tons of variations (a Simpsons fan came up with "Lisa."). The basic system goes along these line:

After 1?-1NT-2?-2?, opener bids:

2?=2-3 hearts and 5 spades, minimum
2?=Natural, denies 3 hearts
2NT=Natural, extra, denies 3 hearts
3?=Natural, 5-5 in blacks
3?=3 hearts/artificial, maximum


Then, responder's next bid is:

2?=Doubleton, but extras (9/10/11)

2NT=Natural, invitational
3?/3?=Stronger than bidding it without going through 2?


There is much more to this system --this is just a quick summary of the main points. One reader suggested that BART (developed by Les Bart) should stand for "Barely Able to Remember This."



This convention, designed by Eric Rodwell, uses an artificial 3NT bid when a major-suit fit has been established. If it is impossible to want to play 3NT (this requires lots of partnership discussion and work) and it is obvious that the major is trumps, then there are 2 ways to control bid.  One is to just make a control bid (such as:  1?-3?-4?). The alternative is to bid 3NT.  As first written, the control-bid (4?) showed a mild slam try, while 3NT showed a better hand. In later versions (sometimes called "Non-Serious 3NT"), the meanings are inverted.  I don't recommend this convention to any but the most serious and long-term partnerships.

After 1-level openings, general:

Artificial 2NT ask/force:


Many 2NT bids can be employed as artificial and forcing. I suggest that in all of these auctions, 2NT is not natural. It is forcing and looking for more information:

1?-1?-2?-2N   OR  

1?-2?-2N   OR  



Or similar (either player has repeated his first suit on the 2-level at his second turn and his partner bids 2NT)


As to "what information" 2NT asks for -- there are many possibilities (some quite esoteric). I leave it to the partnership to take it from here. The main purpose of 2NT is to have a multi-purpose force/inquiry available.  Note: If the suit that was rebid was hearts, there is a case for using 2? (the next step) as the inquiry.  This entire area needs a lot of work/discussion--I am just mentioning it here as a springboard.


After Our 2NT Opening

LC Standard doesn't use Puppet after 2NT (because there is no way to show 5-4 in the majors). This is solved by something called Muppet Stayman:

3? asks partner to describe their hand:

  3? shows at least one 4-card major. (Responder can bid a 4-card major with 4 in the other)

  3? denies a 4- or 5- card major (Responder can show 5? by now bidding 3?)

  3? shows 5 spades

  3N shows 5 hearts (responder can transfer to 4? via 4?)


With 5? and 4?, responder to 2NT can transfer to hearts then bid spades.

This system allows responder to handle all 5-4 major-suit hands--but involves study and memory.



Weak jumps after our takeout double 

I like to play that after partner's takeout double, and their responder's action, that all jumps are WEAK. For example, all jumps by South in the 3 auctions below are weak.  With more, start lower or with a responsive double.


1? Dbl 1? 2?
 1? 3?


 Some Artificial Method after the Opponents make a 1NT Overcall

LC Standard simply uses Penalty Doubles. New suits are natural and NF. However, there are many artificial methods on the market should a pair wish to play "something" here. I don't think it comes up enough to be worth the added memory burden.

 Some Artificial Method after the Opponents make a 2-suited Overcall (Michaels or Unusual NT)

 A possible treatment is here.

Versus their Weak Notrump


An upgrade from LCStandard is as follows:
Double = Same (Penalty)
2?=Same (Both Majors)
2?=One major (partner's bids are pass/correct,  2NT asks)
2?/2?=Two suiter with that major and either minor (2NT asks)




Use 3NT as a 4-of-a-minor preempt (instead of Gambling) and use:

4? Opening=Stronger than opening 4?
4? Opening=Stronger than opening 4?

Responder's in-between step shows slam interest



Smith Echo is part of LC Standard. Experienced partnerships need to discuss many situations and interpretations.


General Treatments to Discuss

STYLE -- Are you aggressive or normal or conservative with:

1) Opening Bids

2) Preempts
3) Overcalls and Takeout doubles


Do you use OBAR BIDS (Balance light in Direct Seat)?

Does opener bypass spades with, say 4=3=3=3 after 1?-1? ?

Is 1?-1?-1?-1? natural or 4th suit forcing?

Discuss full methods after opener's Reverse. 


Return to suit after forced to a level is weakest action. For example:



 Pass 1? Pass2NT

In both cases, South's last bid is his weakest possible action.


Doubles of Splinter Bids (Can agree that it asks for the lead of the highest [or lowest] unbid suit.


Anti-Lead Doubles (Can agree that if you double when they cue-bid a suit you've already shown that it says don't lead the suit).


For my partnership checklist, click here.


For a full LC Standard convention card and a prettier version of this series, see Bridge Winners.