Quick summary

After 1 NT opening, you need a 5-card Major to transfer, either for weakness or for strength.

Bid one suit lower than you mean:

  1. with heart, bid 2diamond
  2. with spade, bid 2heart

. . opener will then accept, by blindly bidding what you meant.

Responder's rebids:

1. Weak: pass

2. Invitational:

  1. with 5 cards, bid 2NT
  2. with 6 cards, bid 3heartspade

3. Game forcing:

  1. with 5 cards, bid 3NT
  2. with 6 cards, bid 4heartspade
  3. with 2 long Majors, transfer to the longer, then bid the shorter.

For a minor (club or diamond):

You must have 6 to transfer. 2 different systems:

  1. use Stayman. Then, if needed, correct opener's response to 3club or 3diamond
  2. bid 2spade. Opener blindly bids 3club, and you adjust to 3diamondif needed

Opener obeys! plus:
"Super accept" at a higher level with all 3 of:

  1. 3 card
  2. maximum 14
  3. a doubleton

"Super accept extra" in a different Major, to show also have 4-card 2nd Major


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal

«  0081  »

Basic Convention. Transfer to a Major after 1NT

A technique for solving 4 serious problems at once (and maybe sometimes creating a tiny one).

After a NT opening, bid a suit one lower than the one you really mean. Your partner will recognise what you've done, and 'transfer' into the suit you actually meant.

81. 5-card Major Transfer, after 1NT opening bid
Game on ?            HCPs: ?? (0-18) Close (11-12) Yes (13+)
What to bid with 1st bid 2nd bid, 11-12HCP 2nd bid, 13+
5-card Major eg. heart 2diamond 2 NT 3 NT
6-card Major eg. heart 2diamond 3 heart 4 heart
Add to your customised cribsheet

First though, a quick headline, or revision, to get firmly into your head. The easy bit: You need a Major with at least 5-cards, after a 1NT opening.

The bit you need to remember: on your re-bid. . .. . ..

Re-bid NT, if it's only a 5-card suit - precisely

That's to give your partner a card count, so partner can decide if there's an 8-card Major fit. With a 6-card suit you rebid the suit.

Anyway, why bother with Transfers?

After a NT opening bid, Transfers allow you and your partner to have your 5-card Major cake and eat it!    And you'll get to game more often.

But you will need to do a little mental work, which might not suit you or your beautiful and charming partner! (Or a beginner during their first stages of learning the game).

There's a section below, at the bottom, that explains the logic and all the benefits of moving to transfers, but in summary it's:

  • more bidding space and opportunity to explore NT vs. Major, and the level of the final bid (2,3,4 or 6)
  • keeping the bidding low as you explore;
  • retaining weakness take-outs, and transferring 'take-out' control from opener to responder;
  • the obvious hand becomes dummy (the less obvious and subtle hand is hidden from the enemy).

OK, you've got a 5-card Major. Is the strength of the hand important?

Very Weak (0-8), or Weak (9-10)

Transfer whenever the responder is very weak, having insufficient points for game to be at all possible. Rather than leaving your partner in 1NT, you transfer into your long Major suit, then pass on your re-bid. Easy.

You can do a weakness transfer into a minor too, by bidding 2spade, but you must have 6 of them because you'll end up at the 3-level. Stayman is also a useful alternative for a weakness takeout into a minor.

With a less weak hand, 9-10 HCP, it maybe a little safer to pass, unless you have a singleton or void somewhere, or a 6-card suit to be transferred into.

Strong (11+)

This is where it gets interesting. Transfers can be used when the responder has either invitational hands (just short of sufficient points for a definite game), or a hand which has enough for game, typically 13+ HCP. The transfer convention will not only help you find game (if it's there in these potentially uncertain conditions), but it wil also help you choose between NT and a Major.

1NT is a precise opening: transfers allow the responder that has a Major suit with at least 5-cards to use a two stage bid to be precise about his hand too, so that if necessary a final judgemental on

  1. major or NT
  2. game or not

can then be made by the opener, depending on whether

  1. he has either 2-card or 3-card Major support
    • with 3+ card choose the Major;
    • if only 2, then choose NT
  2. and whether he is at maximum 14 points, then bid on to game.

Very Strong (19+)

You can and should still transfer, but your rebid must be different, because with 31+ HCP you are looking for Slam.

When not to use

  1. Don't ever use with a 4-card Major. Use Stayman for this.
  2. Don't use when you have a two long Majors (44, 45 or greater). Again, use Stayman, to avoid missing a Major fit.
  3. With a minor, plus game going points, raise straight to 3NT.

How it works

Stage 1

The responder bids a suit with the rank one lower than the one s/he means. See table 81 above. This simply tells the opener that you have at least a 5+ card Major (or a 6+card minor). But that's all. We still have no idea how many points responder has.

Stage 1a - Acceptance,

Here, idiotically easy, the opener blindly accepts, by bidding the suit that responder really meant:

  1. responder bids diamond, so opener then blindly bids heart
  2. responder bids heart, so opener then blindly bids spade

    Stage 2

    In part 2, the responder now reveals if he has a 5-card Major, or a 6-card Major, or even two Majors:

    • with a 6-card Major suit, he must now himself bid the Major, since an 8-card fit is guaranteed;
    • with a 5-card Major suit, he must bid NT, since only 7 are assured. (Opener will leave it in NT is he has 2, but convert back to the suit if he has 3+ because he knows there is an 8-card fit);

    The responder also reveals if he is either inviting or forcing to game:

    • with an invitational hand, just short of game values, bid at the next available level (3heart/spade or 2NT).
    • with game going points, bid the same thing but one level higher (4heart/spade or 3NT)

    Stage 2, but with two long Majors

    (This italicised section is only for people who insist on using Transfers when they have two long Majors. (I'm not keen on this, since you can miss an 8-card Major fit if you choose the wrong suit. I prefer Stayman).

    • with 2 Majors (5-4, 5-5), responder will switch to the other suit on the rebid, the shorter one if it's 5-4.
    • with 2 5-card Majors, it's best to transfer to Spades then to rebid in heart, twice if necessary.

    The responder can also show a two-suited 5-5 hand by switching on the re-bid to the other Major and at the same time differentiate between invitational strength and game forcing strength by choosing which suit to bid first:

    • 1NT-2diamond-2heart-2spade is invitational (11-12 points),
    • while 1NT-2heart-2spade-3heart is game-forcing.
    • Note: when you have two 5-card suits, an 8-card fit is guaranteed after a 1NT opening from partner. So you can add in the value of your shortages.

    Stage 2, but with a side suit of a 5-card minor

    As mentioned earlier, Stayman is our preferred method of exploring the right contract when in possession of 2 long Majors. However, if a second 5-card suit is a minor then:

    • a 3club (or 3diamond) responder re-bid is natural and game-forcing (10-15HCP, + shape), showing two-suited hands.
    • Note: again, when you have two 5-card suits, an 8-card fit is guaranteed after a 1NT opening from partner. So you can add in the value of your shortages.

    Stage 2a - Final Conversion

    If Stage 2 was invitational, Opener can now convert to game with a maximum 14HCP hand, either in the Major if there is an 8-card fit, or in NT if not.

    If Stage 2 was game forcing, Opener has nothing to do, apart from convert any NT bid to the Major if he has 3-card support for the Major.


    Here are two techniques that can be used to find a game that might otherwise be missed, with very little risk.

    If the opener is strong in all of three key respects, he can "super-accept" by biding at a level one higher than normal. He must have

    1. 3-card suit support
    2. the maximum HCP (i.e. 14), and
    3. an outside doubleton (to allow one of the 3 trump cards to ruff for an extra trick)

    So for example, a strong opener opener would re-bid 3spade instead of 2spade, after a 2heart from responder. There is however the risk that the responder's bid was a very weak weakness takeout, but it might be worth it for the extra games that emerge.

    Some people change this slightly, by insisting on 4-card support instead of the outside doubleton (and by calling it "Bouncing" or "Bypassing").


    Only for more advanced partnerships...

    If, in addition to satisfying these same 3 "super-accept" conditions, if the opener also has a second 4-card Major, then he can super-accept with this second suit, bidding it at the 3 level.

    E.g. 1NT-2diamond-3spade would mean that Opener does of course realise that partner has 5 heart, and confirms that he has 3 heart of his own, and also has a 4-card Spade suit, plus 14 HCP.

    Some people go on to change the meaning of this bid significantly, calling it "Breaking". In this variant, Opener rebids 3 of an unexpected suit (3spade) to show maximum points (14 with Acol) and a poor doubleton (xx) in the bid suit (in this example in Spades).


    Note that with a 6-card major and game-going points, the responder has an interesting choice: he can transfer (making himself the dummy) or he can simply go straight to game after the 1NT opening (making his partner the dummy) by not bothering with the transfer, provided he doesn't have another suit.

    The choice of transferring or not will be influenced by the shape of your hand. If for example you have Kx in a side suit, then you don't want to be dummy, just in case the defenders lead this suit through your beatable King. So don't transfer.

    (Shape always helps: with a 6-card major, the HCP requirements are 2 lower than for 4-carder. With 7-card, they're 3 or 4 lower).

    The 6 benefits of using Transfers

    Let's look at the problem of ignoring transfers, William.
    If you don't use transfers, then a response to 1NT of, for example, 2heart is limited to mean only ONE of two things: EITHER

    1. Shut up, please partner, we're in 2heart. (I'm 'taking you out' of No Trumps); or
    2. Let's explore heart at a higher level

    But which one of these two options have you and your partner chosen and agreed upon beforehand?

    The normal option for beginners to choose is the first - so-called 'weakness takeout'. And of course, if you decided that it does means 'shut-up', then you can't use the second meaning without going to the 3-level, thereby removing lots of bidding space that could have been used for a conversation about the choice of suit or level.

    But wait!
    The use of transfers allows you to explore both of these situations, and many more, while also keeping the bidding very low to avoid over-bidding. (There's another benefit too - it places the simpler and obvious hand on the table for the enemy to see, keeping the more complex hand hidden from their prying eyes).

    Part of the problem of a 1NT opening is that any further 'conversation' after the opening bid now needs to start at the already somewhat elevated 2-level. Now of course, the 1NT opener cannot see your hand, yet you have only one bid (from 2 of something upwards) to start to indicate an attitude that might need to take your team to various different final levels: Slam, Game, the more modest 3-level, or just keep it to the 2-level and no further.

    (Here we ignore the option of a pass, to leave it at 1NT, but that too can be an unwise choice if you have a weak hand with any nasty shortages).

    By using 'transfers', you (the responder) can open an exploration of all of the following 5 or 6 situations - and more, and several of them at the nice low 2-level, since you are guaranteed a chance to bid again if you wish:

    1. Weakness take-out, keep quiet!! (I've got 5+ heart, and very few points, but at least we won't get slaughtered in NT due to my shortages in other suit[s]).

      (Partner, I'm going to force you to keep quiet, 'cos I won't re-bid after you've obeyed my transfer command.)

    2. Let's see if we can get to something a bit stronger in heart and keep the enemy out (I've got 5+ heart, and 11+ points). But we also need to have a conversation about whether we should be in heart or NT.
    3. Game might be on (and it might not) - but should we be in heart or NT?
    4. Game is on, I can see that - but should we be in heart or NT?
    5. Game is on, but we've got the same issue of suit choice, and can we also explore the choice of Slam or Game, 'cos I'm strong enough.

      And by using 'transfer' bidding, all of the above 5 can be achieved with only the 'simpler' and obvious hand (containing the publicly declared long suit) placed on the table as dummy, exposed for the enemy to see, while keeping the more complex and less obvious hand that was unrevealed in the bidding, the NT-bid hand, hidden from the enemy. All helpful for increasing your chances of bid and made!

    6. "Partner, I've got 2 long Major suits. Let's talk about the same issues as above, but with even wider possible outcomes. But I'd prefer to use Stayman for this, if you don't mind...".
    7. Transfers are even more advantageous after a super-strong 2NT opening. Again, you really don't want the complex hand, with all its winners, exposed on the table for the enemy to inspect.

    Worth it?

    By using transfers to explore these issues, the chances of ending up in the optimum contract are not 100%, but they are frequently higher than when bidding in a language that doesn't allow the team to have the conversation.

    But is your brain big enough? You DO have to learn to respond to 1NT by bidding one rank lower than the 5-card Major in your hand.

    Transfer bids are not really for total beginners, who have enough on their plate. But as soon as you start learning responses to 1NT, it might be better to learn the slightly more advanced and advantageous way that so many other players use these days, rather than learning 'beginners' bridge, only to have to 'unlearn' that later.

    You can also transfer into a minor



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