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        Welcome to a Discussion and Explanation of the Modern Montreal Relay - a Bridge Bidding System

Roy Wilson

Eric Kokish
Eric Kokish of Montreal, Canada, was a recognized expert of the game and was very successful in bridge, and is ranked among the top all-time Canadian players.  He won two North American championships, the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams and the Men's Board-a-Match Teams.  He also earned two silver medals in international play, one in the World Open Pairs in 1978 and the second in the 1995 Bermuda Bowl.  Eric finished third three times in the prestigious Rosenblum Cup.

Although he was the author of the nascent Montreal Relay, he did not regard it as one of his best bridge ideas, and later stated he considered it to be a convention rather than a system, one of many to be added to the modern 2/1 bidding style.  Further, years later, he said he thought it only suitable for beginners.  However, many players today believe that with some work, as outlined here, it can become an entire bidding system capable of being used at the highest levels of play.  Some experts now believe that Eric Kokish may have abandoned his idea too soon.
    Eric passed away on June 10, 2023 at the age of 76.

Mr. George Kennedy probably laid the groundwork for the basic foundation of the concept in 1965 when he wrote a booklet describing his bidding methods, but the convention as outlined by Kokish was first published in a 1974 issue of The Bridge World magazine - volume 45, number 11.

Becky Bray and Margart Matheson wrote a two-part article on a variation of the Montreal Relay that appeared in the July and August, 2009, issues of the the Bridge Bulletin.

You may ask who the heck is Roy Wilson to write this?  I am a Diamond Life Master and was introduced to this system by Jan Wickersham, also a Diamond Life Master, in 2004 and we play it together and our other partners as well.   All of them have contributed ideas to what I have here.   Special thanks to Jan Wickersham, Laurie Silton, John Barrow and Gabrielle Sill.  We play in the Pasadena, California area.  I also want to thank Bob Locke, a player in the Sacramento area, who has provided many valuable suggestions for improving Major Suit Keycard, which is our version of Blackwood.

What's the advantage claimed by this Montreal Relay System?  It's the ability to pinpoint a 5-card major in responder's hand at the 1-level, and also the ability to play a 4-4 fit with the opening bidder, presumably the stronger hand, being the declarer.  That was the extent of the original convention, but with the addition of other agreements this convention can be made into a complete system. 

     Opening bids at the 1-level are limited to a maximum of 17 points
     Responder bids a 5-card major after an opening bid of 1
     An opening bid of 1 is always at least a 5-card suit
     A 1NT response to an opening bid of 1 shows 11-15 High Card Points
     An opening bid of 2 is a balanced hand with 18-20 HCP   (Partner's 2-level responses are non-forcing)
     An opening bid of 2 is a strong hand with 18+ HCP   (Unbalanced if the range is 18-20 HCP)

Different bidding systems enjoy unique advantages over other systems, which is generally why players adopt them, and perhaps the Montreal Relay System described here could be considered as an eclectic collection of conventions and agreements taken from other systems, but of course with its own unique set of bids.  One of the major advantages enjoyed by the Precision bidding system is the knowledge that any opening bid except 1 is limited to no more than 16 HCP.  This system employing the Montreal Relay described here also limits the strength of the opening 1-level bids to no more than 17 points, which means that jump rebids are usually unnecessary, but when they are used they often describe a hand with distributional values rather than points.  Also, this Relay system finds 5-3 major suit fits much more quickly, an advantage when responder has a weak hand.  The third advantage is the ability to have the opener be the declarer in 4-4 major suit fits.  Most bridge players recognize that when the lead comes up to the stronger hand the declarer has an advantage in being the last to play.  This is the same advantage provided by Jacoby Transfer bids.

Finally, I would like to offer a quote from the great Benito Garozzo...
Interview in the Daily Bulletin at the 2017 San Diego Nationals on Saturday, December 2, 2017.
    Benito, you have invented many bidding systems...
    Thanks to computers, everybody improved in card play. Nowadays, results are achieved during bidding, especially in competition.  The bidding system gives a 5-10 percent average advantage, which seems not much, but if you think that we have lost world championships by 2 or 3 IMPs, you can see how big a difference bidding methods can make.
Benito was talking about bridge at the very highest levels - I suspect that his estimate of 5-10 percent advantage probably doubles at a club game.

    You might say that the more agreements you have, the more precise will be your bidding, but the corollary is that it's also more likely you will forget an agreement at a crucial moment.  Ah, well, agreements and conventions are fun to play.

A work in progress...   More to come!     April, 2022
A page with a few practice hands has been added, and more will follow.

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Opening Bids

Defensive Bidding

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