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© Copyright 2000, Jim Loy
This article is about relays. Really? No, relays.
Sorry about that. The following convention is a game-forcing 2D relay Stayman, as used with the Symmetric Relay, a Relay Precision bidding system. This convention was described by Alan Truscott, and has appeared in print in several places. I am using this convention to illustrate several relay ideas. As this is Precision, a 1NT opening bid is relatively weak, 13-15 HCP (or 14-16). In Symmetric Relay, 1NT is a balanced hand; and it can be bid with one five-card major (but no other 4-card suit).
A relay is a cheap bid (usually the cheapest, to conserve bidding space) which tells absolutely nothing about the bidder's hand (except that he wants to continue relaying) and asks about Responder's hand. (Relayer's partner is called "Responder" in this article, even though he/she was the opening bidder.) It is an "asking bid." In relay systems and conventions, a whole series of relays may be bid, such as 1NT-2D(r)-2S-2NT(r)-3D-3H(r)-3NT. Here the bids marked with "(r)" were relays. They just asked the opening 1NT bidder to keep describing his/her distribution. In the end, Responder has shown his/her exact (complete) distribution. In this case, he/she has 4 spades, 3 hearts, 4 diamonds, and 2 clubs. You will soon see how I got that information. The contract should now be obvious to the Relayer. The Relayer's bids gave away no information, except that they were going to game. Since the 1NT bidder describes his/her complete distribution, this convention is not as effective when used with a strong 1NT opening bid.
I will now give the convention, with an abbreviated diagram which I will explain afterwards:
1NT 2D(r) 2H 4 or 5H 2S(r) 2NT 4-4 majors, numeric 3C 4 or 5C, numeric 3D 4 or 5D*, numeric 3H 3-4-3-3 3S 5H, 2-5-3-3 3NT 5H, 3-5-2-3 4C 5H, 3-5-3-2 2S 4 or 5S 2NT(r) 3C 4 or 5C, numeric (4-2-2-5, 4-2-3-4, 4-3-2-4) 3D 4D numeric 3H 4-3-3-3 3S 5S, 5-2-3-3 3NT 5S, 5-3-2-3 4C 5S, 5-3-3-2 2NT No majors (5422 or 4333), numeric
(2-2-4-5, 2-2-5-4, 3-3-3-4, 3-3-4-3)
3C 5C, numeric 3D 4-4 minors, numeric 3H 5D, 2-3-5-3 3S 5D, 3-2-5-3 3NT 5D, 3-3-5-2
* The original paper by Truscott said "4D," but that leaves the 2-4-5-2 distribution out of the entire table.
This table has been shortened, with the use of a few standard terms. First of all 5422 is a "shape." It does not tell which suit has a length of 5 (except that above, this shape is used with "no majors"). 2-2-4-5 is a specific distribution, 2 spades, 2 hearts, 4 diamonds, and 5 clubs. "Numeric" will be explained below.
Numeric (apparently a term coined by George Rosencranz) means that the possible distributions are treated as numbers, and are bid in numeric order. For example, in the above table we see, after a 3C bid, "numeric (4-2-2-5, 4-2-3-4, 4-3-2-4)." These three distributions are the only three possible, after the previous bids. These distributions are treated as numbers: 4225, 4234, and 4324. And when Relayer relays one more time (with 3D), these distributions are shown in that order: 3H=4-2-2-5, 3S=4-2-3-4, and 3NT=4-3-2-4. Numeric is an organizing principle. It makes the convention consistent, and makes the above table shorter. All of this makes the convention easier to learn.
The above table contains many examples of "numeric." Many of them are stated expicitly. Many of them just say something like "4D, numeric." In that case, Responder has 4 diamonds. And when Relayer relays one more time, Responder will show the exact distribution, using the above "numeric principle." Well, after 1NT-2D(r)-2H-2S(r)-3D, we read from the table that Responder has shown 4 (or 5) hearts and 4 or 5 diamonds (and so there are not 5 hearts). And we read the word "numeric." What are the possible distributions? Here they are numerically: 2-4-4-3, 2-4-5-2, and 3-4-4-2. As I said above (at the asterisk), the original paper by Truscott said 4 diamonds, not "4 or 5 diamonds." But we must deal with the 2-4-5-2 distribution somehow.
Relayer can skip to game instead of relaying. That may show a small amount of information about his or her hand. But there are a couple of responses of 4C. So if the contract is going to be 3NT, Relayer shouldn't relay when a response of 4C is possible.
Besides "numeric," there are other possible organizing principles that you may prefer:
That list only scratches the surface. Numeric is the most popular.
Is this relay convention legal? In most ACBL events, "relay systems" are illegal. But this is just a relay convention, not a system. So it would seem to be perfectly legal, in most events.
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