Conventional Wisdom

Filling out the convention card — part 5 — Major Opening

Expected Min. Length

Check the appropriate box(es) to indicate the minimum number of cards that you expect when partner opens 1 or 1♠. Although most North American players prefer using five-card majors, some will vary this approach in third or fourth seat where only four cards are promised.

If you expect a five-card suit regardless of which position opener is in, check the boxes in the “5” column. If you are a four-card major enthusiast instead, check the boxes in the “4” column. And if you expect five cards in the major in first or second seat, but only four after a third- or fourth-seat opening, check the box under the “5” column for the row labeled “1st/2nd” and check the box in the “4” column for the row labeled “3rd/4th.”

After Overcall
You and your partner might decide the double-raise sequences have the same meaning even if the opponents interfere. Or you might decide to change your agreements after an overcall. For example, after

You Opponent Partner Opponent
1 2♣ 3 Pass

what does partner’s 3 mean? Is it the same as when the opponents were silent? Or is it different? Check the appropriate box to match your agreements. Note that the preemptive jump is not Alertable when the opponents interfere.

ALERT Conv. Raise: Many pairs use conventional forcing raises after a major-suit opening. Common treatments are listed here. If you play any of the following methods, check the appropriate RED boxes on this line and Alert the opponents.

2NT Many pairs use the auction

You Partner
1 or 1♠ 2NT

to show a game-forcing raise in the major with four-card or longer trump support. The convention called Jacoby 2NT is the most common example.

3NT: After you open one of a major, say partner jumps to 3NT. Without an agreement, the default position is that 3NT is natural, showing a balanced hand with game-going values. Some partnerships prefer, however, to use 3NT to show a specific hand type. A common treatment is that 3NT shows a 4–3–3–3 pattern with opening values. Opener may pass or correct to four of the major or even search for slam. There are other possible variations, as well.

Splinter: Another popular treatment is that a double jump into a new suit shows a game-going or better hand with four-card or longer support for opener’s suit and shortness in the suit bid. This treatment is called a splinter. For example:

You Partner
1♠ 4♣

Playing splinters, partner’s 4 would show club shortness, good spade support and a good hand.

ALERT Other: Any other conventional major-suit raises may be listed here. The popular Bergen raises, for example, would be listed on this line. Note that any treatment listed here must be Alerted.

Double Raise

You Opponent Partner Opponent
1 Pass 3 Pass


You Opponent Partner Opponent
1♠ Pass 3♠ Pass

Are they forcing to game? Invitational? Preemptive (weak)? Whatever your agreements, check the appropriate box.

ALERT If you play a double raise as preemptive (weak) in a non-competitive auction, you should check the RED box and Alert the opponents.

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