Paul Cronin

Soon everyone will be playing 2/1 ?

Have been watching a match between Benito Garozzo-Marina Stegaroiu (Romania) and Patrick Bocken (Belgium) -Tarun Badiani (Belgium). As I watched, I couldn’t help smiling when I thought of the 2/1 advocates here who say that soon everyone will be playing 2/1. Well, maybe not everyone – as here are a few of the bids I saw:

a 1S overcall of a 1D opening, showing 4+ hearts

a 2C opening showing 5+,4+ in the majors

a 1C opening showing 4+ clubs OR any 12-14 NT OR game forcing

transfer responses to opening bids

I guess we here in North America tend to think that we are the centre of the (bridge) universe, and that the rest of the world will follow our lead.

But the more important issue is the question – “How crucial is system?”.

Is it more important than good defense? good declarer play? table sense? 

If it isn’t more important than these, then why is all the emphasis, particularly with new players, placed on learning a system? And then lacing it with innumerable conventions!

I see numerous signs at the local clubs advertising courses (for which you have to pay) on 2/1, Negative Doubles, Michaels, Flannery, Roman Keycard, Responsive Doubles, Cappilletti, Lebensohl – the list is endless. But I have never seen a sign for a course in declarer play or defending. Is there some sense in learning how to reach the “right” contract when you can’t play well enough to make it?

My sense is that, unless you have a very practiced (expert?) partnership, the more complicated you make your bidding system, the more restrictions you place on the number of bids you can make. I well remember playing in a weekend tournament where one of my opponents was absolutely shocked that I had opened a weak two spades without two of the top three honours. So shocked that she reported the incident to the director. It’s not that I’m advocating opening weak twos without two of the top three, but rather noting that her interpretation of what the bid should contain greatly restricted the number of times she would be able to make it.

The money, of course, is always in teaching people “new” things, and many have followed the advice given by Deep Throat when he said “Follow the money”. We can only guess what will come next – 3/1?




Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Hi Paul,

I enjoyed your analysis. No systems should serve as bibles. As long as your methods are ‘accepted’ as legitimate and alerted when appropriate, no one should try to interfere with the methods of others. As far as your unhappy lady who summoned the director because of non-standard usage of strict WTBs, it is so reminiscent of the popular retort … “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

I am an old disciple of the stringent WTB openings of yore so I know know exactly where that gal was coming from. However, systems change for the better and bridge (as well as life) moves on!

paul croninFebruary 4th, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Hi Judy,

Hope all goes well with you and Bobby!

What is your take on the size of the Bridgeblogging audience?

Am asking because I posted the same blog on Bridgewinners and have 27 “Comments” so far as opposed to yours being the only one here.

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 5th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Hi Paul,

Bobby and I are enjoying life in Vegas, growing old together .. but as has been pointed out ad nauseum, the alternative is worse.

I am always leery of one’s reason for playing a complicated system. For the challenge of desiring to improve one’s partnership communications, for the allure of
being ‘different’ and gaining attention .. or just to confuse the enemy?? I have travelled the highways of bridge .. starting with KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) in my bridge infancy .. to KS after marrying Norman .. and presently am a disciple of what I consider Bobby’s quite effective applications .. ethical use of aggressive auctions that appear frequently, making it harder for the opponents to reveal their holdings at a low level by jumping into the bidding as soon as possible. I am convinced the world hates a coward! Further, I believe the more artificial systems have more drawbacks than advantages. Also ‘forgets’ play a big role!

As to your question regarding the difference between our site and BW, it is a different type of audience. At the beginning Bobby and I were fairly active on BW, but the early lack of control and sarcasm turned me off and I have not blogged there in years although I am still a devoted reader. However, I must say the owners/creators issued certain restraints on the blatherers and I now find it very informative and much more respectful than at its inception. Also, BW has made boundless positive contributions to our game in other areas.

You can tell by the responses on, it (for the most part) is a factual and more educational site focusing on hands and bidding styles rather than zeroing in on extremely controversial happenings and situations which sometimes incite the contributors to vent their spleens in protest or overwhelming agreement. As long as respectability is maintained, each site plays a major role. However, the personalities of their audiences differ widely.

I do admire the generous contributions here at our site of Linda and Ray Lee (with the fantastic help and technical guidance of John Goold). They have far more readers than the ‘commentary’ indicates. I speak from personal experience as I receive many private emails from readers who are too shy to write. has enriched my life immeasurably in the last several years and I am grateful for the opportunity of espousing my views and making so many new friends across the airways!

Amir FarsoudFebruary 5th, 2015 at 9:51 pm

Hi Paul,

First, I’m going to apologize if this is going to be somewhat rambling. Any time systems are discussed, it hits a bit of a raw nerve with me.

I must admit, I’m a big fan of systems. In fact, before having various tournaments / clubs barred it for not being GCC compliant (A more idiotic concept I have never come across. Not being able to play Multi 2 Diamonds in a separate A/X Swiss at a sectional is ludicrous.), I played a system that included 3 of the four things mentioned in your post (exception being the 1S overcall showing hearts), along with Multi 2 Diamonds and Transfer pre-empts. I find systems to be generally fun, and more importantly, I have found that “standard” systems (SAYC, 2/1, Precision) have huge holes in them, whereas many European based systems are far more accurate and complete, allowing you to describe a far wider variety of hands with far greater accuracy. So, if you believe that accuracy is the purpose of bidding (not everyone does, but I do), then having an accurate system becomes crucial.

As for why there are so many more classes on systems / convention than on declarer play or defense, I think there are 3 main reasons.

First, teaching a convention is a lot easier than teaching declarer play or defense. You can teach any convention in one session, and any comprehensive bidding system in 4-5 sessions, whereas teaching all the nuances of good declarer play or defense would take forever.

The second thing is that they are a lot more fun. Who wants to pay to listen to the innumerable suit combinations and how to play each depending on how many tricks you need, etc…

Finally, I think there is a certain amount of logic to the premise that equipping people with a good system is the start of their bridge journey, and learning declarer play / defense is something that anyone wishing to improve on those areas can do so by reading / practice, or for the more impatient, hiring a pro.

Just my agonizingly long 2 cents

Dave ArmstrongFebruary 26th, 2015 at 2:52 pm

2/1 breaks Bayes Theorem to bits by overloading the 1NT response.
5 card majors likewise by overloading the 1C opening.

However, what you say might be true and 2/1 will takeover the world simply because as human beings our mind lies to us and we remember what we want to remember. I suggest the 2/1 player analyse the hands that the forcing 1NT is used and 1 is opened to find out the truth. I think that they would be surprised.

Dave the Chimp

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