Building a Strong Club System – Part 2

Part 2 – Key Design Considerations

Anyone playing a strong club needs to deal with a series of personal desires or choices on structure. Today we’ll talk about some of the underlying design considerations for our new system – issues like the 1C opening lower range and whether 5card majors have any place in a strong club system design.

The 1C Opening – What’s the floor?

All popular or historic strong club systems have different “floors” – their minimum opening strength. Schenken and the Blue Club need 17pts; all Precision flavors require 16pts; and Moscito variations only require 15 pts.

The weaker the 1C opening, the more often it arises and the more aggressive you can make your non-1C openings. By lowering the “floor” of your 1C opening, you lower the “roof” of your limited openings – in turn allowing you to either narrow your opening range or aggressively open lighter hands.

Within the guidelines of the GCC then, 15pts is considered the lowest HCP allowable to consider the bid as “strong” and allow conventional responses. This is the “floor” we will choose.

4 or 5-card majors?

Apart from Precision and it’s variants, all common strong club systems open 4-card majors. Why is this the case?

Well, consider the 1D opening. If your intent is to have some semblance of a natural opening here [3+d], work out the math if you open 5-card majors. What do you open with 44=1=4 or 3=4=1=5?

Let’s review what some renowned strong club advocates think about 5-card majors.

From Big Club by Howard Schenken: “Five card majors, thumbs down”…
“This in my mind is such a mad notion that it must present problems that are completely unsolvable”…
And my favorite – “This is so absurd that I wish to go on record in stating that the Big Club cannot be played with any hope of success if you attempt to use it by bidding only 5-card majors”

Or World Class – Conversations with the Bridge Masters by Marc Smith from his interview with Bob Hamman: “My opinion on Precision is that combining five-card majors with a forcing club is like trying to mix oil and water, and it has serious structural defects…”

Canapé?

No, it’s not an appetizer or snack – it’s a “style” of bidding from the late 30’s that shows a shorter suit before a longer one – typically a 4card major in preference to a 5card minor.  It forms the underlying basis for the Blue Club – and a style that is currently used by Auken and von Arnim, as well as other major stars in the international scene.

Canapé allows “majors always first” bidding – a style that is very effective in MP. And, more importantly, it alleviates the problems inherent in a strong club system with 5card majors.

More on this in our next installment – along with the importance of the spade suit and what to do with your 1D opening.

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