A MODIFIED MONTREAL RELAY
This bid is the cornerstone of the Montreal Relay bidding system. It is artificial and also Semi-Forcing. It may be as short as a singleton, much like the Precision bid of 1, but unlike that system it can sometimes be passed. The point-count is generally 11-17 points, and denies holding a 5-card major.
The big difference is that when the opening bid is 1 responder must have at least a 5-card suit to bid a major. There are other refinements, too.
When responder does not have a 5-card major, he must bid an artificial 1 to tell his partner about his lack of major suit length. The response is alertable for two reasons - first, of course, is the fact that's it's artifical and may not be a diamond suit, and second because not only does it deny holding a 5-card major, but could have zero points. Responder is not obligated to bid again, however.
If responder has a 4-card major, he first bids 1 to deny five, and also allow opener to name a 4-card major. Responder can pass, raise or bid a new suit. Since the opener will often become declarer in a 4-4 fit this is one of the benefits of the system.
What does semi-forcing mean? It means you are allowed to pass with some hands but must respond 1 without those particular hands. Suppose your partner opens 1 and you have either of these two hands...
Here's another hand where you cannot pass, but you don't have a 5-card major, either. Respond 1 and pass your partner's next call. Fortunately you seldom have hands as bad as these!
Declarer Plays Many of the 4-4 Fits
Here's an example where the Montreal Relay again has an advantage...
Your partner opens 1 and after your response of 1 he rebids 1, showing a 4-card suit. You have enough to raise to 2 and the final contract will depend on your partner, but most importantly, your partner will be the declarer.
Since your partner is the declarer instead of you, the stronger of your two hands will be hidden. That has to be an advantage during the play. Your partner will also have the opening lead come up to him, rather than through his hand, which is a second advantage. Sometimes a favorable outcome can depend on little things such as this.
Most players today use a jump shift to show a weak hand with fewer than 6 points, but we use the bid to show 8-10 points with a good 6-card suit. Hands with 8-10 points occur much more frequently than either very weak hands or very strong hands, so we get to use this bid often. Sometimes it leads to a good 3NT contract and is almost never in danger of being doubled.
A problem hand for any bidding system is the one with 4-4-4-1 pattern and more than 17 points. There are proposed solutions but they often have unacceptable limitations. Even so, something is needed. Here is a method you might consider... Open 1 and if your partner responds with a 5-card major and you happen to have four more, you have found a great hand. If your partner's 5-card major is your short suit you can jump to 2NT showing 18+ points and no fit. Your partner won't need much to bid game.
If your partner bids 1 in response to your opening bid, denying a 5-card major, he may still have a 4-card major. Jump to 2NT to tell your partner the size and pattern of your hand. If your partner has at least 6 points he should bid a 4-card major since you have at least one major. Without a 4-card major your partner should show his best minor.
Minor Suit Rebid
When the opener bids 1 and then rebids 2 over a 1 response, he denies a 4-card major and also denies any ability to rebid 1NT. Opener should have at least a 5-card club suit with distributional values.
If opener's rebid is 2 it gets a bit complicated... Yes, it does show 5-card diamond suit, but there are inferences to be drawn. Why didn't he simply open 1? This is our agreement: Opener has a reverse with five clubs and four diamonds and about 16-18 points with an interest in slam. He does not have a 4-4-4-1 hand nor 5-5 in the minors. Therefore he specifically has 3-2 in the majors.
Jump Shift Rebid
Some strong two-suited hands are very difficult to describe so let's fall back on an old standard - Open one of them and then jump in the other one. Generally your first bid suit is the better of the two suits. If you can suggest a better way, please send me an email.
A Reverse is a nonjump bid at the two-level in a new suit that ranks higher than the first bid suit. From the early days bridge the point count is defined as 16-18, but the Montreal Relay system outlined here generally has an upper of 17 points, so our Reverse is a very good 15 to 17 points.