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Henry's 1NT-3C Convention (5/13/02)


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Henry's 1NT-3C Convention
Having played both in Hong Kong and in the United States, I've personally experienced different bidding styles and conventions that seem to be more popular within a specific region. One example where this comes up is after strong 1NT openers.
In the United States, many players tend to play 4-suit transfers for the two level bids and weak-strong 5-5s for the three level bids. Some even use 3-suit transfers by using 2S as a relay to 3C pass or correct and leave 2NT natural. Some use post-acceptance (bidding the suit to show you like it) for minor suit transfers to solve the problem of the weak 5-5 hand in the minors and leave 3C available for puppet stayman.
In Hong Kong and many parts of the Far East, a typical 1NT structure would use 2S as minor suit stayman, 2NT as a relay to 3C pass or correct, and 3 level bids to show a 6 card suit with two of the top three honors. I once played with a Taiwanese international who wanted 3 level bids to show one of the top two honors, and said to bid 3NT with two of the top three honors in a 6 card suit!
I have played both styles over the years and find merits to both, although I personally do not like minor suit stayman. Another convention many people like is a way to show 3-1-5-4 distributions with a singleton major. I like this because it brings back the aim of trying to find the right strain to play in game, which is a critical part of bridge that many less experienced players do not focus enough on.
So to try to get the most out of the little bidding space available over 1NT, I propose to play a conventional 3C directly over 1NT to do the following:
3C asks opener for a 5 card major. If opener has one he bids it, if not, bid 3D. Over 3D, responder now bids the singleton or fragment (by agreement) to show the 3-1-5-4 distribution and lets opener decide the contract. This allows you to show the 3-1-5-4 distribution and to find 5-3 major suit fits even after opening 1NT. This is to be played in conjunction with post-acceptances for the minor suit transfers, so that with 5-5 in the minors, you transfer to diamonds, and if partner doesn't like diamonds, he will bid 3C which you can now pass. I do not know if other people have used this treatment before, but it seems efficient to me, and there is space to show other things with subsequent bids (say 4 of a minor) over opener's response to 3C.