Bridge: Artificial Bids
Want to move away from natural bids into the wonderful and devilishly delicious world of artificial bids? Here are three of the most popular artificial conventions to start you off with! Remember: when using any of these bids, signal it by using the Alert in your bidding box!
The Stayman is used to help you and your partner "escape" a NT contract into something easier. When your partner opens 1NT, reply with an artificial 2C. This is fundamentally you saying, "hey, I've got 8+ points and can support you in one of the major suits; would you like to play that instead?"
Your partner can now convey more information about his hand through his reply:
- 2D: "Aaah, I don't have 4 cards in any major!"
- 2H: "Yeah, let's play Hearts, I've got exactly 4 Hearts."
- 2S: "Yeah, let's play Spades, I've got exactly 4 Spades."
What should you do if your partner responded with the 2D "aaaah!!!" bid? Aside from screaming in your head, you can either return to a natural bid (i.e. bid what you would normally bid given the cards in your hand) or respond with:
- 2NT: "oh crap, fine, let's play 2NT. If you want to go 3NT, you bid it."
- 3NT: "meh, I've got 10+ points, let's take this bad boy home."
Now of course, just because your partner bids 2H or 2S doesn't mean that you have to accept 2H or 2S respectively as the bid! If your partner replied with the major suit that you don't actually have, just reply with a 2NT and a worldweary sigh, and resign yourself to playing NT instead.
The transfer is, again, used in response to a 1NT bid; except this time, instead of telling your partner that you are strong in a major suit, you're telling your partner that you would like to escape to a particular suit.
- 2D: "Let's play Hearts; you should reply with 2H."
- 2H: "Let's play Spades; you should reply with 2S."
- 2S: "Let's play Clubs; you should reply with 3C."
- 2NT: "Let's play Diamonds; you should reply with 3D."
You may notice a pattern: the transfer bids are always one lower than the desired suit, except for the case of Diamonds (which uses NT) because an artificial 2C is already taken up by - you guessed it - the Stayman.
However, you might be asking, why on earth wouldn't you just bid the suit you wanted to play instead of doing all this song and dance? The answer is simple: by doing a transfer bid, you allow the partner with the strong hand (who in this case would be your partner, since he had opening) to be the declarer and keep his hand hidden. If you bidded naturally, you would be the declarer instead, which means that your partner's strong hand is now public information. This, as you might expect, is A Bad Thing (tm).
When your opponent opens with 1 in any suit and you bid an artificial Double, you're telling your partner two things: one, that you have an opening hand, and two, that you can play any suit other than the one that your opponent just declared. Fundamentally, you're asking your partner to take you out to any suit other than the one your opponent just bid.
How should your partner reply to a Takeout Double? Simple: he should just bid whatever suit he's longest in!