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Zia Mahmood's Bridge column for the Guardian newspaper today tells of two players with world titles to their names, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes, who apparently have an intriguing bidding system:

They play a bidding system that is unique in top-level bridge: opening bids at the one level are forcing, while opening bids at the two level are not weak - they just show not enough points to open at the one level.

In the example deal, Fantoni and Nunes quickly jump to 3S with 11 points between them (!) as North and South, stymying poor old West who is holding 21 points, and ends up in an unmakeable 6H due to lack of bidding space (6C or 7C would have been much better). Score one for the rogue system!

What are the key features of this interesting system? According to a link kindly provided by Aryabhata, some people are wary of "Fantunes" because of its high amount of variance. It must be possible to get to the very top using it, but could this be more down to Fantoni and Nunes' playing skill than the strength of the system?

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Like the weak NT, these 10-13 two-bids not only deprive the opponents of bidding space when it is their hand, but they also define opener's hand well enough that responder can often place the contract when it is our hand. They do play a very artificial system of responses over those two-bids in order to sort it all out.

Minimum 4441 openers don't fit in either their two-bid or one-bid openings, however. They open them 1NT, but that is not ACBL legal.

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This system seems to follow the motto, "If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well." That is, it encourages a lot of "weak two bidding" for "pre-emptive" purposes. That could include two clubs, since one club is now forcing.

On the other hand, it might mean that "one" level bids need to be stronger, since they ARE forcing. Basically, you need to have a hand you're comfortable going with to the two level (or one no trump) opposite someone who has nothing. People who already play a forcing one club (one diamond means "I have nothing") might not mind this feature.

These features seem to follow the minority of players (including yours truly) who like to substitute trumps for high card points. Larry Cohen and his partner Marty Bergman are another example. The idea is if you have five good trumps, you can (statistically) expect partner to have three, so you don't mind going straight to the two level with five GOOD ones, such as AKJxx, or even AKxxx, and maybe one side honor.

Even if I were playing this system, I wouldn't open at the TWO level with Qxxxx, and (defensive) values OUTSIDE my suit. Fantoni was a bit lucky to find his partner with three, and the ability to continue the pre-empt to the three level. Even so, they did NOT have the balance of power in the spade suit (eight cards plus two HCP, ten total, out of the sum of 13 cards and 10 HCP, or 23). In my book, Qxxxx is barely enough for a conventional ONE spade call (with the usual 13 points).

True, they got away with it, but West should have doubled. East could have left it in (down four, 800 points), or more likely taken it out, ending in five clubs for the same 800 (100 points for game, 700 for a vulnerable rubber). they had a slam in clubs, but not necessarily a biddable one, so it didn't cost them that. But since East-West SHOULD have earned 800 points either way, Fantoni and Nunez were playing with "house" money when their bid "gummed up the works." (Heads I win, tails I break even.)

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Mm, what appealed to me about the system is its strongly preemptive nature - just as I love the weak 1NT with its instant ability to deprive stronger opponents of bidding space, so these weakish-but-with-a-fighting-chance 2 bids are going to happen often enough to infuriate opponents a lot. Sure, they'll go down sometimes, but these players are world-class, they must think that on balance the penalty points are worth the amount of frustration they create for their opponents. I really want to get hold of the system and have a go with it! –  thesunneversets Sep 22 '11 at 22:44
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Similar to MICS, all opening 2 bids are intermediate/preemptive.

2C = 10-16 4441, 4450 or 4432 2D = 14-16 5+,4+ in Minors 2H = 10-16 5+ Hearts and 4+ in Clubs 2S = 10-16 5+ Spades and 4+ Clubs 2NT = 10-13 5+,5+ in Minors 1NT = 13+ thru 16-

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Cool, looks like a fun system. What do you do with a really strong hand (i.e. how does the 1-level work, I guess)? –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '13 at 11:57
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