The One Club Opening Bid

    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.
                    Alert!  My partner's 1 opening bid may be a singleton and is semi-forcing
What does semi-forcing mean?  It means you are allowed to pass with some hands but must respond 1 without those particular hands.  Responder can pass with a weak hand if he has at least four clubs.

These are the key points for responder's bids after opener bids 1
  •    A major suit response must have at least a 5-card suit
  •    A 1NT response is 11-15 points
  •    A 2NT response is at least 16 points
  •    A 1 response is artificial and denies the above.  May have no points
  •    A jump raise of clubs has a 6-card club suit with 8-10 points
  •    A jump response in a new suit shows a 6-card suit with 8-10 points
  •    A double jump response in either major shows 5-5 in hearts and spades
Responder Must Have a 5-Card Suit to Bid a Major
When responder does not have a 5-card major he bids an artificial 1, which must be alerted.  Many times the declarer, who has the opening hand and presumably the stronger one, will be able to bid a 4-card major after the 1 response.  Often the team can play in a 4-4 major suit fit at a low level, sometimes even at the 1-level, with opener as declarer.   (And there's a huge advantage in having the lead come up to the stronger hand.)

A second advantage is that since opener knows that his partner has a 5-card major immediately after his first bid there is no need for the New Minor Force agreement.

When responder does not have a 5-card major and bids 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.

Here's an example where the Montreal Relay allows declarer to play the 4-4 major suit contracts`...
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.
   K T 9 3
   T 5
   A 8 5 4
   Q 7 3

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.

2-Level Responses
A very popular agreement in the US is to jump in a new suit with a weak hand, but hands with fewer than 6 points are infrequent, thank goodness, so we prefer to use the bid to describe a hand that occurs more often - a 6-card suit with 8-10 HCP.  This is the 6-8-10 agreement.  To be consistent we use the jump raise in clubs the same way - a 6-card club suit with 8-10 points.

You might be interested in a different method suggested by Dr. Neil Timm, a Montreal Relay contributor on

3-Level Major Suit Responses
A popular response to an opening 1NT call is a 3-level jump to either hearts or spades to show 5-5 in the majors.  We can use the same structure after either a 1 or a 1 opening bid.
  • 3    At least 5-5 in the majors with game forcing values
  • 3    At least 5-5 in the majors with invitational values

3-Level Club Suit Response
Opener will sometimes have either a singleton or a doubleton in clubs, so please do not use the Inverted Minor agreement that you can jump to 3 with a weak hand and a 5-card club suit.  Instead you will get better results with the 6-8-10 agreement - You have a 6-card club suit with 8-10 points.

3-Level Diamond Suit Response
We haven't agreed yet on this bid, so if you have a suggestion please email me.

Notrump Responses - 11-15 and 16+ HCP
Responder has 11-15 HCP when he bids 1NT after a 1 opening bid.  Both 2NT or 3NT show 16+ points.   There is a page with a much more detailed explanation available.

Opener's Rebids
    Jump to 2NT Rebid - 4441
    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 your jump to 2NT shows 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 6 or more points he should bid a 4-card major since you have at least one of the majors.  Without a 4-card major responder 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.

    When the opener bids 1 and then rebids 2 over a 1 response, opener has a reverse with five clubs and four diamonds and about 16-18 points.  He does not have a 4-4-4-1 hand nor 5-5 in the minors.  (The system has other bids to describe those hands.) 

    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.

    Reverse Rebid
    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 usually a very good 15 to 17 points.  (Usually a 5-6 Losing Trick Count.)