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Over 1NT, some people bid two diamonds to say they have five hearts, and two hearts to say they have five spades. The 1NT person bids the desired suit, completing the transfer.

Apparently the idea is to "hide" the (stronger) 1NT hand. Except for one thing. As a defender I already have a pretty good idea of the 1NT hand; balanced distribution probably one or more honors in every suit. A defender might actually be more interested in seeing the "five trump" hand, particularly if is highly distributional (singletons and voids, instead of high card points). The "no trumper" has three trumps, on average.

Can the advantages of transfer bids possibly outweigh the disadvantages? Put another way, why is it more important to hide the high cards than the five trumps?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The main reason to transfer is because the opening 1NT bidder is more likely to have tenances (AQ, KJ, etc.) in his hand than the responder. As a defender with dummy on your left, you can lead through them to score your partner's honors. If they were hidden, leads by you could very well wind up giving declarer free finesses. Yes, you wind up showing the more shapely hand, but that is considered preferable to showing the defense just what honors the stronger hand has.

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OK, it's the TENACES that count in the 1NT hand, not just the points. Accepted on that basis. –  Tom Au Jun 21 '11 at 20:32

A much more important reason is to allow the responder to describe their hand more fully. A 1NT opening bid describes both shape and point count and so it's usually up to responder to then set the contract - the 1NT opener will typically not bid again. However, responder with points for a 2NT raise and a five card major is in a quandary. Bidding 2NT may mean missing a 5-3 major suit fit, but bidding 3M may take them past the safe level of 2NT if opener is minimum. With transfers, responder gets two bites at the cherry. Holding five spades, responder bids 2H. Opener converts to 2S and now responder bids 2NT getting across shape and point count and leaving opener much better placed to set the final contract.

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Ok, the responder gets two bids, one artificial (which forces the opener to "convert,)" and the second a real one. –  Tom Au Oct 31 '11 at 18:20

A responder uses Stayman (two clubs) to imply a four card major suit and 9-11 points. Then there is the question of what should the responder do with a five card major? And there is another question of whether it is a strong bid (9-11 points) or a weak one (6-8). Different systems treat two of a major differently.

A transfer forces the opener to bid the responder's suit: 1NT, two diamonds, two hearts. Or 1NT, two hearts, two spades. Then the responder has the option of passing at the two level with the weaker hand, or raising to game with the stronger one.

In some bidding systems, the opener also has choices. If s/he has FOUR of the major, then opener can raise to THREE of the "transferred" suit. This invites a game bid by responder with only 7-8 points, because 23 points and nine trumps can make game.

Also, some openers will go to 2NT with xx in the "transferred suit.

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Transfers are useful over 1N. They are even more useful over 2N or over 2C-2D/2N. While Jacoby (red suit) transfers are popular, 4 suit transfers are also coming into vogue. For example, 2S is often used as a transfer to clubs with 2N as either minor suit Stayman or a transfer to diamonds. Or 3C could be used as a transfer to diamonds. Use of a transfer bid does NOT carry any suggestion wrt responder's point count. With a weak hand, responder wants to escape from notrump. Nor does it imply that responder has a one suited hand. This is determined when responder rebids a second suit, passes or raises the transfer suit.

Further (and I hope this is not straying from your question) advancer to an overcall may use transfers or responder may use transfers (rubensohl) when partner's notrump is overcalled. And transfers enhance the communication process AND bring the limit bidder (the opening no-trumper) back into the dialogue. But breaking the transfer is allowed ONLY with a super "fit", when opener can jump to the three level; for the law of total tricks comes into the picture on the one hand, and using up the opponents' bidding space on the other. Say partner opens 2N and you hold S94 H109752 D98632 C5; you can transfer to 3H and actually produce a couple of tricks PLUS an entry or two. Who knows; he might even make it.

But he WILL NOT make 2N. Or, say you hold S AQ1052 H KJ932 D void C 543 Over 1N, you can transfer to spades, then rebid hearts. Who knows, you MIGHT reach 6H facing SK4 H A1076 D Q106 C AK8 So far we have talked about Jacoby transfers. Yesterday, I am playing in a pairs game with an old buddy. Put yourself in his shoes. You hold something like; S 10987532 H void D Q9853 C 6 WE are VUL. Pardy opens the bidding 1N; 12-14. RHO passes. Do you transfer to spades? (You are NT playing Texas transfers. OLD buddy; remember?) The opponents have 24-26 HCP. They also are likely to have 9+ hearts and 8+ clubs between them. Even a Texas transfer is fraught with danger. LHO might DOUBLE 4H, and they will reach FIVE or even SIX hearts. Yes. transfers have a downside. Indiscriminate use might facilitate the opponents endeavors. So did YOU find the 4S bid that will silence the opponents? South African Texas transfers would work well here, but THAT is just lucky. Issues such as protecting tenaces, finding the best "fit" and defining controls are quite subservient to the need to eat up their bidding space. The obvious danger is that your suits break badly and you get nailed for a number. As against that, if you have a 10 card or better spade "fit", THEY may have a slam. And will they REALLY be able to double you? Partner bid 2H. LHO finds a horrific double on HK9875. I bid 2S, suggesting 3. RHO now bids 4H on HAQJ642 and some cards in clubs. Sometimes it is better not to transfer.

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Welcome to the site. Good answer. An upvote to get you started. –  Tom Au Jul 14 '12 at 0:04

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