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Relay Systems???

#61 User is offline   mikestar13 

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Posted 2013-March-08, 18:34

Some clarification of some points that have been raised.

1. I understand that 1NT forcing response can't be inv+ per item 2 in the responses and Rebids section of the GCC, but 1NT forcing response GF is legal per item 3. Item 3 would also allow 1NT response GF to a minor.

2. Make me the boss, any the whole relay restriction would vanish, but I doubt ACBL will ever do this. Perhaps the GCC might someday be amended to use the Mid-Chart rules for relay systems (legal if game forcing). This would remove much of the problem in the definition, as non-GF responder-initiated relays are not as common as GF, though I'm
fully aware the the former do exist.

3. Relays over a strong club are legal because they start with opener's rebid (in every case I'm aware of--correct me if I'm in error).
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#62 User is offline   the hog 

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Posted 2013-March-08, 19:15

View PostArtK78, on 2013-March-05, 09:55, said:

Stayman, Blackwood, Gerber, etc., are not relay bids per se. They are artificial bids that ask a specific question and request a specific response. Bids following the initial response to Blackwood and Gerber act as relay type bids, but they don't comprise a system of bidding. Furthermore, they are so entrenched in the tradition of contract bridge after having been around for the better part of a century that players do not think of them as relays. And lastly, Blackwood and Gerber occur primarily in uncontested auctions at a high level and are easily explainable and well known.

Relay systems are systems which are based primarily on a captain/servant relationship between the players. One partner (the "captain") makes a bid which begins a series of asks and tells. The captain makes a minimum bid at each turn to call which asks the other partner (the "servant") to describe his hand according to a predetermined set of responses. After the response, the captain may either make another minimum bid to request additional information, he may place the contract or he may make a natural bid to commence natural bidding.

Typically, one of the bids that begins a relay sequence is an opening bid of 1, which, in these systems, is the big bid - strong artificial and forcing. When opener does not have a strong forcing opening hand, he opens something else - 1 of a suit (other than clubs) or 1NT - and responder can start a relay sequence, typically by responding 2, which is strong, artificial and forcing.

In well designed relay systems, the most common answers to the relay bids usually are the next bid or the bid above that. So, in many relay sequences, it will appear that the bidding side is using every available bid to ask and answer questions. It is not uncommon for a relay sequence to go something like this:

1 - 1
1 - 1
1NT - 2
etc.

Where 1 is strong, forcing and artificial, the 1 response shows some particular type of hand (typically a negative response, but not always), 1 by opener is a relay asking for more information, 1 shows some rather common distributional pattern, 1NT says tell me more, and 2 would either be additional high card information or additional distributional information.

At some point in the auction, the captain knows all that is needed to be known about servant's hand and the captain places the final contract. The strong hand may also "break the relay chain" by making some bid other than the next higher bid, which typically starts natural bidding. Opener's minimum strength is indicated by how many relay bids were made (the more relays made, the stronger the hand), and that would force the auction to a particular level.

The result of a relay sequence is that a great deal of information is known about one hand but virtually nothing is known about the other hand.

Why are relay systems not allowed? Probably due to their rarity, players' unfamiliarity in dealing with them, the amount of time that would have to be expended to properly explain them, and, in general, most players' dislike of such methods. Furthermore, given the time constrains on most events (typically pair events), the fact that one pair that was one of the earliest practitioners of these methods - Rubin-Granovetter - was known for taking exceedingly long periods of time to conduct their relay auctions, did not endear themselves to tournament officials. I believe that they were suspended for a period of time due to continued slow play in major events.

Even the best players who play relay methods have to acknowledge that there is a great deal of memory strain in using such methods, as the answers to relays are not intuitive. They have to be memorized, and many responses do not come up often enough to be easily remembered. This causes delays in auctions and slow play. It can also create problems when errors are made or incorrect explanations are given.


There are many errors in Art's post. Relay bids do not need to be difficult or memory intensive in a well designed relay system. Clearly Art has never looked at Symmetric relay.
Relay players do not need to bid slowly either. Some relay players bid very quickly. Rubin-Granovetter are very slow anyway.
Only old farts object to relay systems. They hold interest for younger players and those who are interested in developments in the game.
"The King of Hearts a broadsword bears, the Queen of Hearts a rose." W. H. Auden.
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#63 User is online   awm 

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Posted 2013-March-08, 21:59

The sort of interesting one is that 1NT forcing "cannot be part of a relay system." This would seem to suggest that a sequence like:

1 (natural) - 1NT (forcing)
2 (several hand types) - 2 (tell me more)

would be illegal on the general chart (and perhaps even the mid-chart since 2 is not GF). This seems to apply to Gazzilli and probably some other methods like Bart as well.

On the other hand, the same basic sequence:

1 (natural) - 1NT (semi-forcing)
2 (several hand types) - 2 (tell me more)

would seem to be allowed. After all, the NF 1NT call cannot reasonably be considered a relay, and there is no particular prohibition against 1NT (natural NF) being possibly the start of relays.

Another funny and fairly commonly-played one:

1 (natural) - 1NT (forcing)
2 (natural reverse) - 2NT (please pattern out)

would also seem to be illegal!

In practice I think all of the above sequences would be allowed by virtually all ACBL directors. Just more evidence that the rules aren't all that clearly written.
Adam W. Meyerson
a.k.a. Appeal Without Merit
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