Page 0018

18 English Bridge August 2017 www.ebu.co.uk

I

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

situations:

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

opponents.

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

majors?

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.

OPENINGS

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

exceptions).

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

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Index

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