Gyuri Szalay

Von Blau(frankisch) nach(t) Rot(h)wine: Bikavér



Hommage á János Esterhazy, Ludwig Wittgenstein et J.J.Rousseau


As we mentioned in an earlier article the famous Blue (Team) Club lost popularity, except in few countries,  e.g. in my last-to-one residence place, Österreich. There, the top players ’native bridge lanuage’ remained that system with few modifications.

For those who don’t know it, the cornerstones of Blue (Team) Club system are:


  1. Strong Club: all unbalanced hands with 17+ HCP start with 1Club, and nearly all 18+ if balanced. Responder uses Italian controls (A=2, K=1). 1D:1-6 HCP, 1H: 7+ with 0-2 controls, 1S: 3, 1N:4 and so on.

          2. Canapé principle: they could have opened ANY 4.card major; and they generally open 2nd longest suit when holding at least 2 4+card suits. The exception is when the lower ranking suit is the shorter AND they are in a lower (11-13) range. Originally canapé principle was part of the sys by responder as well, but (and  this is a big but,as Miss Smederevac, my generous landly and outstanding player-teacher-author, noticed) it takes the bidding extremely high with strong, slammish hands.

                  An example: if opener has Spades and responder strong and long Hearts, the bidding goes: 1S-2m-2S-3H.

  1. Notrump-range. The original version’s (as it was described in the famous book) NT range was 2-tier:
    1. 15-17 balanced
    2. 12-14, 3S3H2D5C OR 33334C.

            They used 2-way Stayman (2D was the GF one) and NO transfers. However, nearly all current BC-players switched to transfers (except the school of Mr. Géza Márton, the famous Hungarian system-maker and great political reformer in 70’s). They call their solutionGladiator –  nearly nobody opens the 12-14 3325 or 3334 hand type with 1N, 1D became experts choice.


Österreichische version has an interesting extension to 1N. Mainly thx to Mr. Jan Fucik (probably the best Mittel Europe player, a refugee from Praga, Czech(sloakian) Republic) who opened 1N with some hands none previously would. These players found that thinking ahead about NEXT bid – like the chess players, –was more useful than making strict rules for opening bids. For them 5M422 wasn’t a problem, and they would open 1NT even with some 5431 or 4441, if HCP count was in the appropriate range.


  1. 2 Clubs was natural and limited, 1 suiter.
  2. 2 iamonds originally was strong 2suiter, 17 or more HCP.


First, 2D went to the trash (in Vienne a trashcollector gains 1300 euro monthly, much more than my best friends TOGETHER in Magyarország with 5 degrees (Princeton, UCLA) and 4 nice kids) and really usefull ANTIFLANNERY took over its place. That hand type (5S4H is very tough if we r in lower 10-13 range. Only few pairs, opene 4-4 majors with 1S, I know that famous Hamman-Wolff did .


When Precision (Strong, but only 16+ 1C system as well, combined with 5card M, 13-15 NT and NO canapé principle) became more and more popular players either STOPPED using Blue Club at all OR adopted Precision bids for some parts. Curently in Österreich as I’ve noticed in last few years (danke für especially to Mr. Christian Persy, music teacher, publisher and the (deputy) chairman of the Oper House in Pressburg, Slovak Republic) most of top Österreichische players are playing Precision with 2 deviations. Like  many of the Strong Clubbers they switched to Strong NT (exceptions are Mr. Bauke Muller’s version Tarzan and Magyar school), and nebulous 1D, but control responses after 17+ 1C.


These kind of solutions remind me of a situation when a really cute girl in her 20’s meets with an older guy, and instead of learning from his past mistakes she follows some of his worst mistakes. But hope is not at all lost for them.


I strongly believe that giving up canapé opening principle is a huge mistake. First of all, agressive 4-card major openings increases the probability of a HIGHER opening bids, and causes more difficulties for the defending side (foxes and rabbits, once more): if overcaller has sound values and Heart suit easy overcall after natural 1-of-minor and follow up is quite common as well. Everything is much more complicated after 1 Spade start.


Second interesting point is that defence is easier against 5card majorists. Most of the time, the main important task for defenders not to blow a trick: very rare that a weak(er) dummy has usefull cards that are parking places for declarers losers. That is the main reason why passive (often trump) leads and count-orientated defences are winning in the long run.


I think the worst part of the original BC sys are control responses – they invite opponents for Walzer (what is quite popular yet at pre-mature banquettes in (ex) Monarchia countries). Moreover, unlike the original Wiener Walzer – what most of the time was a foreplay of a proposal and a happy marriage – this is einladung for opponents to ’please, disturb us: we have game values but didn’t tell anything about our real SUIT-MATCHING’.


It’s especially true if you are an agressive overcaller against Big Club and/or responder uses control responses after overcall as well. When nonvulnerable, I suggest the following method: be a brave guy, and jump to 3-level with mediocre 5-card suit yet and to level-4 with good(ish) 6-bagger.


Before I switch to system review, few words about the 2N opening. As strong or 2- or 3way Clubs (all came from Roman Club) like Polish and Carott (I confess, I don’t like to polish things and like my amazing dogmatesurvivor advisor (sir) Alex Rácz I hate to eat carott without good meat) became more and more popular (their advertisement paper is: ’we make their life tough since  they don’t know whether we have any big or weak balanced hand’),

they started to forget many positive effects of natural 2N opening.



First of all its always better if we have GAPS in our NT ranges in our comb. If we are playing Big Club and (lets suppose) 20-22 NT we can play 2N rebid by opener as stronger than 22.

Second:  opponents don’t have time/space to suggest lead/save against our contracts. Playing 2N (like any weak AND artificial NT bid) as preempt, in some way has the same kind of problems:

  1. It can be doubled easily as prelude of punishment.
  2. We can’t play lower than level 3. Have you ever seen someone to play this 2N (dbl’d or not) after ART 2N opening bid?


Btw it’s funny that I’ve good memory of a pair with ’funny’ 2N openings. The amazing Magyar cardplayer and theorist Mr. László Szilágyi likes to play 2N as 11-15, 6+ C, 4D in his Big Boss Club system.

I remember 8.5 years ago in Istanbul against France, in Round 16, we won coming back from a loss – thanks, among others to this 2N striking big score. And when 2 weeks ago in österreichische ski resort Kitzbühel I had a pleasure to play with Mr. Günther Purkarthofer (Vienne, Österreich – originally from Istanbul) for his request we played in our Big Club  2N as weak, 5-5+ minors and had a huge gain in last round.

First of all, in both cases the success was mainly because of opponents huge misjudgements.

Second, if u used bad policy in your life (e.g. lose nearly everything what you really have; to call something love if someone simpathetic at first glnce) its best to use when you REALLY gain from them. So STOP (THE) WARS, and instead of burning brid(g)es lets raise and build a good ones TOGETHER.


Here are my suggestions for the (best) WORKING Strong Club System.

Lets name it ROTH-GRÜN Club.


–        1C: 16+, with good shape 15(14) yet. The suggested follow up is ’standard’ Precision, but after 1C-1M I suggest to use 1N as shapeasking with unbalanced hands.

–        1D: (10)11-15, denies (exactly) 4card M and CAN’T ba balanced in 1st/2nd position.

–        1M: (10)11-15, ’standard’ canapé. If 5M332: 11-13, with 14-15 I suggest 1N.

                  I suggest to play 1N as semiforcing: no gamegoing values.

                             Few more suggestions:

  1. Opposite to traditional way, PLEASE RESPOND with weakish

      hands too. It’s not the 11th Commandment that we can respond

            only if WE have chance of game.

  1. Use the jumps after 1M-1N as 55+ with good hand.
  2. Use 2C as GF relay after 1M.
  3. Use 1M-jumps ase halffit bids: 5+ in jump suit, 3card fit.
  4. 1M-3M: like weaker Bergen-raise, 4+ fit.
  5. Don’t use limit raise: bid the game, relax, smoke a cigarette

            (hope authorities soon will understand, cigar and bridge

            are close friends. Or do u enjoy nonsmoking cafehouses? YES I DO, CANT STAND THE SMELL OF CIGARETTES)

            and hope your partner can make it. If opponents could beat

            it, they became tired – and it is good for US.

  1. 1M-2N: minimal gamegoing hand with at most xxx in M.
  2. 1M – 3N: 3M433, (12)13-16.





– 1N: weak NT, (11NV)12-15(16 w/o 4card M). So with balanced hands (except 11-13                                                              5M332) we either pass or ot big club or 1N.

                                   – 2C: GF, 2D: INV stayman. NO TRANSFERS. Thx to Mr. Szilágyi

                                                           best to play xfers over 2C, rangeshowing ones over 2D.

-2D: antiflannery (5S4+H, 10-13) OR 44 majors with short MINOR, 11-15.

                                   2H is GF relay (2S shows 3suiter, rest is a.flannery), 3D INV with M.


– 2C: A. 5M-4+C (10)11-15 with 4C, 10-13 with 5+C.
            B. 6+ C, onesuiter.

            2D clarifies, can be weak.

2N: 20-22. Don’t play (with) puppets, anymore!

Lets give it to OUR KIDS!




08/04 2013. Memorial Day

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 


Comic minors – come back rabbit, come back!

-for the better minor(itie)s –

How fair and how pleasent art thou, O love, for delights!’
Solomon 7:6.

Lets suppose you are playing 5card major, strong no-trump. There are currently two schools about how to handle weak balanced hands. One of them is called ’better minor’. It means that we open the LONGER minor, otherwise 1 Club with 3-3, and 1 Diamond with 4-4. It is a bit strange that this doesn’t mean we open stronger (better) one, but it seems we just create a rule and give it a (strange) name.

Another school is called ’prepared 1C’. It’s very similar to ’better minor’ but instead we open 4=4=3=2 with 1C and not 1D. It helps a bit, but causes two kind of problems. First of all you can’t raise the Club suit to the 3 level, because it could have been a doubleton only. Second is aggressiveness: you put an (original) 1D opening into the 1C basket, so your bid’s pre-emptive effect will be lower.

However, I strongly believe the main problem with both these styles is the same. Let’s suppose you open 1-of-minor and rebid 1 or 2 N. Most of the times you will play a NT partial/game. When the length of 2 of your suits is known, the rest is easily countable, thanks to this ’better minor/prepared Club’ rule.

We all know that the battle between defence and offence is like the famous  game foxes and rabbits. At the start of the play the declarer (the Rabbit) has the advantage, and as the play progresses the defenders (Foxes) position continually improves. If they can count declarers MAJORS this means they know the MINORS as well. Let’s see a few examples:

  1. 8 minor cards. 5-3 with opening minor and 4-4 ONLY if it started with 1D
  2. 7 minor cards. 4-3 or 5-2 with longer opening minor. (Although sometimes the 2452 drops down to 1C)
  3. 6 minor cards. 4-2 or 3-3 if opening bid was 1C.

I think a brand new concept could help declarer a lot. I discovered it en route to a big Central European tourney, Montegrotto. Italy. Let’s suppose you have 3-3, 4-4 or 4-3 in minors in balanced hands and currently you have quite strict rules about what to open.

I suggest the following rule: with 3+-3+ minors randomly choose 1 of them.
 You can use your clock or even better if you don’t have one: the colour closer to your right hand.

It doesn’t cause any problem for you because partner can raise your suit to the 2 level with 4 cards, or the 3 level with 5.  We tried it in Montegrotto and it was huge success. Defence became more difficult. And bridge (unlike the bigger game, called life) is a zero-sum game: what is good for us is necessarily bad for them.

What are the possible drawbacks? Most players use game forcing checkback after raise/NT rebid. But all good checkback mechanisms mean that common hand types are lower, so you should  have enough room to investigate.
 I’ll write about it in the next article.

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