Opening 1

Premi qui per la versione in Italiano

The opening 1, and its treatment, characterize the whole system. Immediate control-showing responses, introduced for the first time in the Neapolitan Club, set the "tone" right from the beginning. The negative or semi-positive responses (1 and 1) show limited numbers of controls and so indicate the goal is a partial or game. The positive responses (1 and 1NT) guarantee game and leave the door open to slam. The strong reponses (2 and 2) immediately set a slam-seeking auction.

What is truly important, however, is the behavior that opener (who we will call North) and responder (South) hold during the course of the auction.

After the response 1:

North should quickly describe the most interesting part of her hand, forcing immediately to game if necessary, or showing more slowly if a minimum raise from responder would sum to game;
South instead must remember that she has shown a weak hand, and when North invites game or slam, must take into account any distributional information received and assess her own meager forces.

Over the response 1:

North can leisurely show her complete distribution, as the response was GF. In the case of a fit or complete misfit, North should sign off in game if at least 3 controls in responder's hand were needed for slam. Keeping the level low by opener therefore shows many controls, and invites South to search for slam with the right values;
South must remember that an ace or two kings constitutes a maximum in terms of controls, and that a side singleton or void can make the difference for an eventual slam. South should therefore revalue her hand when a distributional feature seems to become more valuable by the auction and must not scorn pushing beyond the game level with 2 controls, at least 2 "working"queens and a potentially useful singleton.

Over a positive response:

North still signs off in game when she knows there are insufficient controls for slam, leaving to South the responsibility of reopening the bidding if she holds extra values not already disclosed;
South must be aware of having already shown her potential in terms of controls. She must be ready to end the auction below slam if North doesn't encourage, but nevertheless has the responsibility to move toward slam with a hand with a promising long suit, singleton or void, "quacks" in her partner's suits or, generally, good play for slam not expressed by number of controls.

Interference by Opponents

One of the most common criticisms of strong club systems comes from the fear that they constantly are subject to devastating interference by the opponents. However, one must only recall that players like Meckstroth, Rodwell, Wolff, Hamman, Soloway, Cohen, Sontag, Weichsel  and many others, though immersed in the American culture of five-card majors, have been at the top international level playing strong club systems for decades. Would players of such stature play a strong club if it were so fragile?

 Perhaps they play it just because it is not fragile. "Wild" interference over opener's strong 1 is actually a double-edged sword. In fact, with opponents' interference:

South, with a strong hand, is in a position to show the essentials of her hand, mainly showing number of controls or, if weaker, her general strength and distribution. It is true that North's distribution is not known, but at least it is known to be strong.
If South shows a weak hand, North knows to take a cautious stance and not to discount a penalty double of the opponents if they get carried away.
Often, faced with the same preemption the five-card major bidders, after the opening of 1 or 1, can suffer even more.
If East is not disciplined in his interference, West is not well-placed to compete to the correct level, at risk to bid too high or low.
If the hand is played by North-South the distributional info can be used to make otherwise impossible contracts.
The hands that lend themselves to violent interference are not common, whereas a tactical strategy bent on destructive bidding may be subject to very painful penalties.

To sum up, occasional errors due to effective preemption should not be discouraging. If one thinks of the difficulty natural bidders face, even without interference, when most of the strength is in one hand, in deciding between partial, game or slam, adopting a strong club in the end gives enormous adavantages.

In additon, there is impressive precision inherent to opening in a suit, which can be handily separated into weak, average, and strong within just a six-point range, giving appropriate details of distribution. As Garozzo says, the strength of the strong club is seen when the opening bid is not one club.

In any case, in unfavorable conditions (red vs. white), with a distributional hand, one can open one of a suit with 17/18 points and show strength with a reverse, gaining time in case of interference.

  Treatment of raises over a strong club opening

One of the hallmarks of the system is the method of giving raises in a game-forcing situation. One has already seen, in these cases, the system takes advantage of the fact that one can hold the bidding open with "waiting" bids of NT or a new suit, in order to delay the raise when not holding a major trump honor (see discussion of raises).

Over the opening of 1, moreover, the system maintains that an immediate raise by South in a suit shown by North not only shows at least one major trump honor, but guarantees a 5-card side suit (in the other minor when raising a minor, in any suit if raising a major). In this way the slam investigation is greatly enhanced, but since a good slam normally requires not only solid trumps and appropriate controls but a side source of tricks, the side suit quality must also be determined.

With this in mind, the system distinguishes between the weak side suit (headed by at most one top honor) and solid side suit (headed by at least two top honors).

The typical sequences after opening a strong 1  

Normally the auction develops along one of the following lines:

  1. The natural auction looking for a fit bidding suits naturally
  2. If a fit is not found, the auction is directed to NT. The two players do not have suits or raises to show, but always keep an eye on the position of declarer
  3. If the fit is found at a low level the principle of "fast arrival" holds. The more quickly one hand bids game, the weaker that hand.
  4. If the bidding is directed toward slam all bids in the agreed suit (or NT if there is no agreed suit) are passable (showing a minimum), whereas all the other bids (4NT and 5NT included) are mixed cue-bids and forcing.
  5. The auction is guided mainly by the opener, who is the only one that knows exactly the total controls present, but always in a cooperative fashion, as distributional knowledge helps both players evaluate their hands dynamically. This is very different from the logic of relays where one is forced to describe her hand to the other, who makes all the decisions.