Gyuri Szalay

The transfer mania and its enemies

Homage to Karl Popper and to my late countryman Gyula Lorant, the best defender of Aranycsapat and the amazing coach of Bayern München


‘ Ist sie eine eine Mauer, baun wir silberne Zinnen auf Ihr.

Ist sie eine Tür, versperren wir sie mit einem Zedernbrett.’

Das Hohelied 8,9


As all we know, a transfer is a good solution after a strong(ish) notrump opening. It gives us more room, and it rightsides the contract. And THEIR extra room isn’t a factor, because the NT opener has strength BEHIND the incoming opponent, so THEIR finesses will be real ‘finesses’ as Frenchmen say.


But like many good ideas (such as using a good comb to make our dark and curly hair beautiful – now some people use combs for weedgardening as well) it has terrible extensions as well. To play transfers after a weak(ish) NT is questionable even by itself, but the (so-called modern) tendency in duplicate bridge (as we mentioned in Article 1. is to play 1 Club as 2+ cards and use transfer responses after it. Many players, me included, have tried it. THEORETICALLY it‘s fine (gives us more SPACE), rightsides the contract, but…


And there are TWO big buts. First of all, „rightside“ is often the  wrong side and, much more importantly, WE (the users of this method) win only a small space but give THEM more ROOM. The easiest defence that we used against this ‘maniac transfer’ up till now was VERY effective:

take (1C)-p-(1D=HEARTS) as a real 1H answer and use everything the same but 1H is a real takeout of 1H and DOUBLE is just a weak NT.

This is a common handtype  which we COULDN’T bid after a natural response. But we can do it now, thanks to the so called ‘good transfers’. And all of us using this defence found that it is a huge winner for us: nearly none of us would come after 1C directly with a weakish 5-bagger and 6-9 points previously, but we can compete comfortably NOW.


So the drawbacks are clear, but after a funny trip from Kitzbühel, Tirol, ÖSTERreich to München, Bayern, Deutschland I woke up after a nice 5-hour sleep with a brand new idea.


Lets go back to Golden Ages of bridge and play something new (looking):

Lets limit our overcall after transfer to 8-14 HCP lets say and play DOUBLE as 2 way: either weak NT OR 15+ with any good suit. 

(The ranges are depends on of your ORIGINAL overcalling style. Our one is very French: simple overcalls by UPH is ALWAYS show opening values.)


Because our opponents have 16+ HCP   for (nearly) sure, we won‘t be preempted, but can use this new policy for our positive effect. And as we mentioned in Article 1 too: bridge (different to life, never forget to mention it) is a zero-sum game, so what is good for us, is bad for them (8). We tried this new concept in the local Club  Monday with my friend György Weisz, on Gründonnerstag with Walter Sorger. Later or sooner we will do it in a French or English speaking city. And at 1st of April, Ostermontag and Fools Day in Wien.

Au revoir, Hongrie!


Bogenhausen, München, Bayern, Deutschland


2013, 29th March, Day 35 ACE, Karfreitag 



Stuart KingMarch 30th, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Could you not say the same thing in reverse about sequences starting 1C – 1D in natural methods allowing very cheap heart and spade overcalls compared with 1C – 1S in the ‘transfer’ methods?

What I really comes down to is this; ‘with which hands is the space more beneficial to us relative to the opponents?’

Letting the opponents have cheap major suit bids when you have a likely weak NT opposite a hand without a major suit seems a lot more likely to let the opponents steal the contract than allowing them to show a weak NT when we do have a major suit. Also that is going to help us in the play whenever we do win the auction, as we’ll as the small negative inferences we can make when they don’t.

You are right that the extra space you get playing against transfer Walsh is where you gain, and is where you need to attempt to make back the ground lost in other sequences, but I would also look for a good defence against 1C – 1S.

barry rigalMarch 31st, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Strongly disagree.
The plusses come from improving the constructive nature of opener’s continuations after the transfer responses; we play opener’s 1NT rebid is 18-19 and completion of transfer shows 2/3 cards…not everyone does this and the jury is out on the merits.

but now far and away the WORST sequences for responder come when you dont intervene and have 5-cards in the bid major; when the opponents intervene support x clear up all such problems.

Stuart KingApril 1st, 2013 at 9:42 am

Barry, I presume you are talking about sequences like 1C – 1D – 1H, (I play this as showing 12-14 balanced w/o 4 hearts which sounds similar to you) as being problematic for a 5 card major wielding responder? Deciding to play in 1N vs 2H being the decision to be made?

Even if there is a problem that can be solved with support doubles when the opponents interfere I’m not sure that it invalidates the point that the opponents giving themselves more room also gives you more room and you should try to use it to the best you can.

Perhaps the best scheme is not one of those presented above, but a good scheme would probably take into consideration the fact that the opponents will have a very good idea of wether to compete to 2M if we interfere, and so be appropriately designed.

Also, I think your point that one of the big pluses (and I agree with you that it is a big plus) of improved opener rebids after a major showing response, is in fact an argument for interfering more over the 1D/H responses. In that if you leave them to it they are in a better position than standard bidders, but if you bid they are in the same position as standard bidders.

doug bennionApril 2nd, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I’ve played transfers over 1C for many years now, and find the benefits far outweigh the negatives. I think they are optimal for weak notrumpers, since the transfers rightside most major-suit fits, and most notrump contracts. The one-level ‘raise’ is another major pickup that has many possible treatments.

It’s true that space is also opened up for the opps (they get to double the transfer bid), but it is also true when they use that space, it creates even more choices for you. If RHO doubles here, showing whatever .. 1C (P) 1D=h (X); that double gives two additional bids to opener which he didn’t have if RHO passed … Pass and Redouble … and an opportunity to refine his two-level raise.

In my opinion they work so well you should stuff as many hand-types into 1C as you can, including any balanced hand you don’t open 1NT, and that means any 5332 (including 5M) and at least some 5422 holdings.

Gary MugfordApril 3rd, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I am a little surprised transfers are still absolute commands in most player’s bidding arsenal. My partners and I generally have the following agreement: Accepting the transfer is negative. If we have a positive response (i.e. support in most cases), we ‘raise’ by bidding another suit. And by agreement. we bid the first suit we do NOT have positive values in. By bypassing the first and any other suits up the line, we show values OR SHORTNESS in the bypassed suit, as well as raising values in the asked for transfer suit. This DOES expose a weak suit for the opponents to guess shortness in and double, thus backing into an auction. But that is off-set by the not infrequent RE-Double at the low level that turns things around on them about as often. Suddenly, the frivilous card/lead showing double turns into a big number. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

Now, there ARE some cases where we are known to be the weaker side and our non-transfer acceptances show shortness specifically. But I honestly can’t think of a single place where we play acceptance of transfer as being an absolute command. We play that a hand with club support upon hearing a Brozel double over NT, will bid 2D or higher depending on the hand. I’ve seen auctions where an unbid suit is introduced after a response to 4NT theoretically creates enough doubt in the Blackwood asker to try and get to 5NT rather than the suit slam he or she was headed for. And the ‘transfer’ there can STILL be ignored if the responder decides a void might cure the sudden jitters.

Nope. No transfer is absolute. And we have copious bidding notes to describe the negative features of all of them. (I hope [G]).

Leave a comment

Your comment