The Jacoby Transfer Bid
by Oswald Jacoby
In the late 1950s, Alfred Sheinwold wrote a column for The Bulletin called, “Current Conventions.” In January of 1957, he wrote the following about The Jacoby Transfer Bid.
The following description of the Jacoby Transfer Bid is very slightly expanded from notes furnished by Oswald Jacoby. The purpose of printing it in The Bulletin is to give all players a chance to become familiar with it, whether they intend to use it themselves or whether they want to know what is going on when their opponents use it.
The JTB is a method of getting the opening notrumper (16 to 18 points) to bid the long suit held by his partner. This permits the strong hand to become declarer and get the advantage of the opening lead, together with whatever advantage may come from having the strong hand concealed instead of being exposed as dummy. Essentially, it is the idea of the Texas Convention (a transfer bid at the level of four) applied at a lower level of the bidding. This permits the strong hand to become declarer at a suit contract at the part-score level; and it permits the responder to indicate certain values that are either difficult or impossible to show by standard bidding methods.
The response of two clubs to the opening bid of one notrump is Stayman, as usual.
The response of two diamonds guarantees a heart suit and demands that the opener bid two hearts. (He may jump to three hearts if he has a maximum notrump and a fine fit for hearts. This corresponds to the auction in which the normal weak response of two hearts is made and the opener goes to three hearts to show his maximum and fine fit.)
The response of two hearts guarantees a spade suit and demands that the opener bid two spades. (He may jump to three spades with a maximum notrump and a fine fit for spades.)
The response of two spades guarantees a club suit and demands that the opener bid three clubs.
The transfer to the diamond suit is handled by the Stayman response of two clubs, followed by a rebid by responder of three clubs. (If the responder has a club bust, usually shown by bidding two and then three clubs, he bids two spades, as we have just seen.)
The transfer bid may be made by almost any hand that includes at least five cards in the transfer suit. The opener must make the bid in the long suit, and then the responder is in position to pass or make some further bid to show additional strength.
Here are some examples of the JTB response of two diamonds (showing a heart suit), with rebids (if any) of the responder:
♠ 2 ♥ Q 10 8 7 6 5 ♦ 4 3 2 ♣ 7 5 3
Responder bids two diamonds to get the opener to bid two hearts. Responder then passes. The opponents should be alert to the fact that the responder has a weak hand; for otherwise, he would make some attempt to get to game opposite a 16 to 18 point hand.
With normal bidding, the responder bids two hearts himself. This makes it easy for second hand to take action when two hearts is passed around to him. If he fails to take action, his partner makes the opening lead through the notrump hand.
When the JTB is used, fourth hand gets the chance to act when two hearts is passed around. It is more dangerous for fourth hand to act because he is under the notrumper.
♠ 2 ♥ Q 10 8 7 6 5 ♦ K 3 2 ♣ 7 5 3
Responder bids two diamonds to get the opener to bid two hearts. Responder then bids three hearts. This can invite game without demanding it. By standard methods, responder must guess whether to bid a pessimistic two hearts or an optimistic four hearts.
♠ 2 ♥ Q 10 8 7 6 5 ♦ A J 2 ♣ 7 5 3
Responder bids two diamonds to make the opener bid two hearts. Responder then bids four hearts. This gets to the same spot as normal bidding, except that the notrumper gets the benefit of the opening lead when the JTB is used. (As an offset, however, the singleton spade is in full sight in the dummy; and this may help the defenders.)
♠ 3 2 ♥A J 7 6 5 ♦ K 3 2 ♣ 7 5 3
Responder bids two diamonds to make the opener bid two hearts. Responder then bids two notrump. This indicates a balanced hand with a heart suit, inviting but not demanding a game.
The opener should pass with a weakfish notrump and normal or sub-normal heart support. He should raise to three notrump with a strong notrump but not much in hearts. He should bid three hearts with a weakish notrump and good hearts. He should bid four hearts with good hearts and a strong notrump.
This hand is almost impossible to bid well by standard methods.
♠ 3 2 ♥ A J 7 6 5 ♦ K 3 2 ♣ Q 7 5
Responder bids two diamonds to make the opener bid two hearts. Responder then bids three notrump. Opener passes or bids four hearts, depending on the nature of his hand. He has been offered a clear choice.
♠ 3 2 ♥ A J 7 6 5 ♦ 4 ♣ K J 9 8 5
Responder bids two diamonds to make the opener bid two hearts. Responder then bids three clubs. This shows a two-suiter in hearts and clubs. The opener’s rebid depends on his hand, but he has much more information than he could get by any other method.
About Oswald Jacoby
Oswald Jacoby (Ozzie, Jake) 1902-1984, one of the great players of all time, first achieved international preeminence as the partner of Sidney Lenz in the famous Culbertson-Lenz Match of the early 1930s. Having already established himself as a champion at both auction and contract bridge, Jacoby next became a member of the famed Four Horsemen and Four Aces teams.
He won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500), a contest for amassing the most masterpoints in a year, four times in five years (1959 through 1963) at ages 57, 59, 60 and 61. In 1963 he became the first to acquire more than 1000 masterpoints in a single year (1034). He surpassed the 10,000-point mark in 1967, at which time he retired from active competition for the McKenney Trophy.
A member of the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame, Jacoby was a longtime bridge columnist as well as the author of several books on bridge, backgammon, mathematics, gambling, poker and other card games, including canasta.