|Leeway is an amalgamation of several known conventions, plus one I invented, plus a modified Smolen.
When used in combination with each other, they allow us to cogently bid all of
the meaningfully different hands one can hold as the partner of a 15-17 NT
opener (uncontested auctions).
The summary list is shown here with the details below in outline form. Also
try the Sequence Page for a complete list of the
bids and what each bidding sequence means.
- Jacoby Transfers
- Leeway Minor Slam Relay (MSR)
- Minor Suit Stayman (MSS)
- Two Pesky Hands
- Texas Transfers
- Three of a minor invitational
- Two-Way Two-No (2W2N)
- What's Not Here (revised, Jan 2013)
- Jacoby Transfers. Use this with any hand
containing a 5-card or longer major as long as the hand does not also contain a
4-card major (one exception: See Smolen). Can be used as either a "drop-dead" bid, a game invite
or a slam invite; but see Texas Transfer for the one-suited major
Example 1: ♠ KQ9873 ♥ 743 ♦ 32
♣ 43. Bid 2♥
and pass partner's spade call.
Example 2: ♠ KQJ873 ♥ K43 ♦ 82
♣ KQ. Bid 2♥.
When partner bids 2♠, you bid 4♠. Since you didn't choose Texas Transfer in the first
place, partner understands by inference that your hand will make slam as long
as partner's aces and kings are in the right places.
- Leeway Minor Slam Relay (MSR). This tool fills
an important gap that exists in standard
bidding(1). Use it to describe a hand that
is all of the following.
- It's single-suited (one six-card or longer suit).
- Your single suit is a minor, not a major.
- You do not also hold a four-card or longer major. (Those hands proceeds via
Stayman or Jacoby Transfer.)
- The hand is at least mildly slam oriented.
MSR's calls are as follows.
- For Responder:
- A 3♥ bid shows clubs;
a 3♠ bid shows diamonds.
- The 1NTer's second call:
- Holding a small doubleton in your suit, the 1NTer refuses the
transfer with a 3NT call. This must end the auction unless the
responding hand is strong enough to demand a slam facing most NT openers.
- With a better holding in the transferred minor, partner accepts the
transfer. After acceptance, most slam methods are available:
Kickback and cue bidding particularly recommended.
Example A: ♠ K9 ♥ 3 ♦ AQJ9632
♣ K43. Bid 3♠. If partner answers with 3NT, this hand is not so
hot for a diamond slam. If he bids 4♦, you are
off to the races.
Consider that the 1NTer might hold any of the following hands facing Example A above.
- ♠ QJ873 ♥ K4 ♦ K84
♣ AQJ. (Yes, a mangy 5-card major.) He
accepts the transfer by bidding 4♦. Holding no
Blackwood No-Nos(2) responder uses Kickback
(4♥) and the auction screeches to a halt in 5
when we discover that two key cards are missing.
And a bonus: if the Kickback reply happens to be 4NT, one can pass for the
extra score (at matchpoints).
- ♠ AQ73 ♥ KQJ3 ♦ 74
♣ A92. With a puny doubleton in diamonds,
but excellent slam controls in all other suits, opener can go directly to
Kickback on his own with a notrump slam in the crosshairs.
- ♠ A7 ♥ Q874 ♦ K74
♣ AQJ2. No matter where partner's shortness
may be, this 1NT opener fits well enough to at least investigate for slam. This
hand accepts the transfer and mentally prepares for a cue bidding sequence
since the hand does contain a Blackwood No-No [the heart suit, Patricia]. With
the actual partner hand, responder's second call is Kickback, and you sail into
6♦. Others will struggle to diagnose both the
heart shortness and the excellent diamond fit.
One Final Thing. Some ask "What if I have six cards in one minor and four in the other?
Isn't there a conflict between this and Minor Suit Stayman?"
Answer: No. MSR's third qualifier prohibits four in a major, not four in a minor.
Consider the two following possibilities, keeping in mind that either
minor could face two or three small ones in the 1NTer's hand and that
either could face five of them.
- ♠ K9
- ♠ AK
♣ J432. In both cases,
the quality of the clubs in the 1NTer's hand will be critical
no matter what the final contract, so you might
as well give both minor suits a chance (Minor Suit Stayman).
In addition to all of this, keep in mind that when your longer suit is
an auxiliary suit (rather that being trump) and the 1NTer has more than
a couple of them with you, the chances of the suit being ruffed on the opening
lead increase by leaps and bounds for every additional card.
This makes us lean toward making the longer suit trump
when we hold so many of them.
- Minor Suit Stayman. This convention is well
documented elsewhere and is not detailed here. Basically, MSS allows us to
explore for minor suit slams in hands where we hold nine or more cards in the
minors (a two-suited hand). It also does double duty as the drop dead for
diamonds in the following sequences.
1NT - 2♠ - 2NT - 3♦ - pass
1NT - 2♠ - 3♣ - 3♦ - pass
1NT - 2♠ - 3♦ - pass
- Stayman. Most hands containing a four-card
major need to begin with Stayman(3). But we also
use this route to handle the flat notrump invite. For example, when holding
♠ A83 ♥ J98 ♦ QJ94 ♣ J93. Since the 1NT - 2NT sequence is taken for
something else, one must invite the notrump game via
Stayman. This hand is revealed when responder's second call is 2NT. One may
have to alert the 2♣ call with "Does not
promise a 4-card major."
- Smolen (modified). This Stayman add-on contributes an
important feature for tournament players: In addition to giving the 4-card major
a chance, one can also reveal an additional longer major while still making
the 1NTer be the declarer (like a transfer). However, the common version of Smolen
contains a serious flaw: There is no passable invitational sequence with
the 5-4 and 6-4 hand patterns. With this modified version, there is. (BTW the original Smolen is covered
in excellent detail elsewhere and is not repeated here.)
- The drop dead bid. We accomplish this via Jacoby transfer in one bid.
- Leap to 3♥ or
3♠. These bids are unused.
- Simple (non-jump) bid in the other major (forcing). Rather than leaping to
3♥ or 3♠ bid just
2 in the shorter major.
Opener rebids 2NT having a doubleton in the other major and a minimum NT;
Opener rebids 3NT having a doubleton in the other major and a maximum NT;
Opener rebids 3 of the other major with three pieces and a minimum;
and yes, 4 of the other major with three pieces and a better NT hand.
Even if the 1NTer turns down the transfer the first time, the responder can
repeat the transfer to insist when holding six or seven of them.
As in the following sequence:
*1: Please bid spades (5+ of them)
*2: Max NT, but doubleton spades
*3: Pretty please bid spades (6+ of them)
*4: Oh, all right [grumble, grumble]
- Two Pesky Hands. There are two other hands
that bug bridge players the world over:
Your hand pattern is five-five in the majors and your hand value is either
invitational or game forcing. How do you handle both of these without
disturbing your other systemic bells and whistles?
Here is my solution.
- Invitational. Transfer, then rebid the hearts.
3♥. Opener will pass holding a minimum and
three hearts. This is the only combination in the entire Leeway structure
where the notrumper will not be the declarer.
If he calls 3 spades, preferring that suit, that ends the auction. And he is
of course free to accept your invitation and go directly to game in either major.
IMPORTANT: If your style allows you to be two-two in the majors and still open
1NT, not to worry - the hand will play better in a suit contract
despite the 7-card fit. Just don't pull this on partner when you are staring
at two bad doubletons. Such as:
You: ♠ 83 ♥ 92 ♦ AQJ9 ♣ AKJ93.
♠ Q9763 ♥ AQ854 ♦ 65 ♣ 2.
On this combination, it's far more important to use bids that reveal the misfit
so that you don't go beyond the two level; so let the hand proceed
via suit calls. It will also help keep peace in the family if you avoid giving
your unsuspecting partner the impression that
either of his majors will do as a mighty fine resting spot.
- Game Force. Start with Stayman. If partner has no four-card major,
leap to 4 diamonds.
4♦. For most players, this is an unused sequence.
Me: ♠ KJ ♥ AQ ♦ A632 ♣ J9873.
♠ Q9763 ♥ KJ543 ♦ 95 ♣ A.
This time, despite the two doubletons and the seven-card fit,
the notrumper's extra firepower in the majors renders the major-suit contract
clearly better. Imagine how very
much better it will be when the notrumper is more balanced.
- Texas Transfer. We use this gateway for two hand
types; both types start with a 4-level transfer bid:
4♦ when holding six or more hearts,
4♥ when holding six or more spades.
Also, the hand must not contain four cards in the other major;
for that hand, try Section V - Smolen.
- Type One is this: ♠ 3 ♥ KJ9876 ♦ QJ43 ♣ Q93. It contains a six-card or longer major, no
4-card major, sufficient strength for game, and no designs on slam (a
"game and only game hand").
- Type Two is this: ♠ void ♥ AQJ9764 ♦ KJ3 ♣ K93. This hand is a slam goer of the first
magnitude and needs little more help than to know how many slam controls
partner owns outside the spade suit. Enter "Exclusion Blackwood."
After the 1NTer's forced 4♥ call, a new suit bid
shows a void and requires the 1NTer to reveal in step order how many key cards
he owns outside the void suit (0,1,2,3). And yes, 4NT is one of the allowed
- Three of a minor invitational. This tool handles
one specific hand that can be described no other way: ♠ 3 ♥ 876 ♦ AQJ943 ♣ 1093.
No, it is not a 7-point hand; it's a five-trick hand that is just four tricks
shy of game, 3NT, when the hand facing it has the one missing diamond honor and
three other tricks (not a great challenge to put on the 1NT opener).
So, over 1NT, bid 3♦ with this collection. Stated
as rule: You need a six- or seven-card minor suit containing three of the
suit's four face cards. The 1NTer can bravely bid 3NT when he holds the missing
honor and nothing disastrous in the other suits. He must pass
when he does not hold the one missing honor.
The running suit makes all the difference between a game bonus and a drop dead
bid. For example, the 1NT bidder can hold any of these hands.
- ♠ QJ9 ♥ KJ94 ♦ K8 ♣ KQ72. No help in three suits informs opener that
3NT is a rather high risk contract. He may choose to bid it anyway,
but at least he knows.
- ♠ QJ9 ♥ AK54 ♦ K6 ♣ A762. Partner can almost claim 3NT (or 4) before
the auction ends.
- ♠ J64 ♥ KQJ4 ♦ K6 ♣ AK62. You may be the only partner in the room
who gets the disaster alert for spades. Others who hold this maximum will be
unable to hit the breaks in time.
- Two-Way Two-No (2W2N). The 1NT - 2NT sequence is
our gateway for two very different kinds of hands. For both types, the 1NTer is
required to say "Three Clubs" (no exceptions unless your RHO
Then the fun begins.
- Type 1 is the well known drop dead in clubs where you hold ♠ 432 ♥ 75 ♦ 86 ♣ J87543.
- Type 2 is a lesser known problem hand: the 4-4-4-1 slammish hand
(4). Let's say ♠ KJ32 ♥ AQ75 ♦ 8 ♣ K943. This hand has four important attributes,
and the 1NTer needs to know all of them:
- It's slammish if the 1NTer holds little if any diamond duplication;
- There are three suits eligible to become our slam trumps, not just
- He must hold at least four cards (not 3) to have a suit fit;
- And unlike the other multi-suited bids in the other
sections of this document, you hold just four cards in these suits; in
other words, no five-carder.
The significance of the four-carder versus the
five-carder cannot be overstated. A nine-card fit (rather than eight) increases
the playing value of a hand by about a trick and a half. Using 2W2N with this
hand allows you, by inference, to inform partner about a five
card auxiliary suit when you use one of the other Leeway conventions: for
example, starting with Stayman and following up with a diamond bid.
When responder does not pass the opener's mandatory 3♣ call, he reveals this strong three-suiter by bidding
his singleton (3NT reveals the club singleton, so listen
The 1NTer has two choices on his next call:
1) Settle for 3NT when holding
in partner's singleton; or
2) bid 4 of a suit in which he has four (can be five) pieces opposite one of
the 2W2N-bidder's suits and little or no duplication opposite
And don't get cute about it, a simple suit agreement at this point paves the way
(This gadget is fancy enough already). After announcing suit agreement, your
partnership is off to the races again with cue bidding or Kickback.
- What's Not Here. (revised, Jan 2013)
- Puppet Stayman.
Many players try to fold Puppet Stayman into the 1NT mix, where responder
employs a bid, commonly 3♣, that asks the 1NTer
whether he holds a 5-card major.
Example: If the 1NTer can hold a hand like this:
Opposite a responder who holds:
or a responder who holds:
In both cases, the major suit combination is much better. The reason for
first one is obvious. The reason for the second is that with 7 HCP,
responder will pass 1NT, but will raise a partner who has opened
with 1♠. The latter case should result in
a reasonable game. 1NT likely fares much worse.
Conclusion: To decide between opening 1NT and one of a major,
do the latter on a high-quality suit; do the former holding a mangy major.
A really mangy major is obvious:
♥ Q9754; and equally obvious is
a really strong one such as the Puppet example above.
The key then is to decide where to draw the line.
This decision is, in turn, decided by what second bid the opener might make.
- With a strong suit, open the major and jump next time if the sequence
calls for it, such as: 1♥ -
1♠ - 3♥ ...
- With a mangy 5-card major, choose the 1NT opener.
- A suit containing three face cards is "strong";
anything less is "mangy."
- Flat Hand Stayman.
In Flat Hand Stayman, the 1NTer's partner announces a 4-3-3-3 hand pattern
with game values via a 3♣ or
3♦ call. Long story short:
I studied this convention via computer and found that it's a break even:
you neither gain nor lose with it. In some cases, you get a worse result
because you gave the defense too much information. In other cases,
you end up in the same spot with no difference in the outcome, and so on.
There were five common outcomes.
With nothing to gain, it was easy to discard this convention.
In conclusion, using the Leeway amalgamation, one is very hard pressed to
suggest any combination of cards that is difficult to bid optimally over
partner's standard 15-17 one notrump opening.
- One word about another popular method: Four-Suit Transfers (4ST).
For the MSR examples here, 4ST will probably work equally well. Unfortunately,
4ST's leap to three clubs precludes us from showing the one-suited
game-invitational hand (See Section VIII). Also, 4ST disables
us from revealing the 2W2N hand shown in Section IX.
- A Blackwood No-No is either a void, or any non-trump suit where
the defenders can take two off the top. One must use another method such as
Exclusion or cue bidding when holding a Blackwood No-No.
- The big exception being the 4-4-4-1 slammish hand covered in
- Advanced Bridge Bidding for the 21st Century. Max
Hardy. P 98. ISBN 1-58776-125-6.