18 English Bridge August 2017 www.ebu.co.uk
f you have been thinking about boning up on an
alternative to four card majors (4CM) - a basic
tenet of Acol - read on. In clubs all over the
country a quiet revolution is gaining ground -
players are switching to five-card majors (5CM).
These are not internationals seeking to fit in with
European and US partners - but club players
looking to try the alternative. I think many players
recognise that once you have played a bit, it's easier.
And often better. So why do we teach four-card
majors in the first place?
The dichotomy is steeped in history and
geography. Globally 5CM systems are dominant but
in Britain and Ireland 4CMs hold sway. This is more
true at club-level - teach 5CMs and students would
emerge at odds with much of the club. But when
partnerships establish, they are free to diverge, and
many club players are now switching to 5CM.
SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES
And better? Well, teachers abhor an overcall on a
4-card suit, so why permit opening with one? Once
auctions become competitive, knowledge of majorsuit
length is critical. 5CM anticipate competition
and nowadays everyone bids at club pairs!
The most immediate gain is that you no longer
have to open a good hand (15+ HCP) with a 4-card
major. This spares your Acol blushes in these
D 1´-1NT: is 16 HCP enough to raise to 2NT?
Probably not; it's best to pass in the long run but
you would rather not have this problem;
D 1´-2´: is 16 HCP enough to make a move, say
2NT? Again, probably not.
Other benefits are:
D Major fits emerge sooner;
D This makes game and slam bidding easier;
D Using the Losing Trick Count is simpler;
D Your raises of a major make life difficult for
Eventually you might adopt pre-emptive raises to
further exploit the last point. Those new to the
game over-focus on trying to make contracts, not
trying to get in the opponents' way. But without
doing much, simpler bidding on frequent major-fit
auctions makes defence harder for opponents.
Last, if you play other forms of bridge, most
notably teams or pairs scored with IMPs, these
aspects become increasingly important.
KEEP THE WEAK NO TRUMP
So you're intrigued about 'switching to five'? Let
me be clear - I would not recommend also
transitioning from a weak no trump to a strong no
trump. It's not necessary and is not an integral part
of 5CM. You can try it later if you wish. For the
moment, pleasingly, there are no new conventions
to learn (or forget). Now, the obvious question …
If you can't open a major with four cards what do
you open when your only four-card suits are
With a balanced hand, playing 4CM, you choose
a convenient 4-card suit anticipating a no trump
rebid. But of course you only open a four-card suit
with 15+ HCP, otherwise you have five in the suit
opened (the dreaded 4-4-4-1 is an exception to be
tackled later and difficult in all systems).
Playing 5CMs and 'preparing to bid no-trumps' is
a significant change. Rather than open a four-card
major before rebidding no-trumps you will select
the longer minor - and that might be a 3-card suit.
D 1NT is still 12-14.
D With unbalanced hands with five, six or more of
a suit you have a clear choice, the same as 4CM
systems. Where you have two equal-length suits
choose the higher-rank first (with no
D But with balanced hands with 15 HCP or more
you can't open a 4-card major. So what do you
do on balanced hands, too strong for 1NT?
The opening bid
TRANSITION - Five-Card Majors by Chris Chambers