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

Major Suit Response
Responder must have a 5-card major to bid either 1 or 1.

One of the big differences between the Montreal Relay and other systems 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.
  •    A 1-level response other than 1NT is limited to 12 points maximum
  •    A major suit response must have either a 5 or 6-card suit
  •    A notrump response must have at least 11 points
  •    A 1 response is artificial and denies the above.  May have no points
  •    A jump response in either clubs or diamonds is artficial and forcing
  •    A jump response in either major shows 5-5 in hearts and spades

    There are several advantages to using this treatment, but the primary reason for playing the Montreal Relay is that in many contracts the declarer has the opening hand which most of the time is the stronger hand.  Also, the team can often play in a 4-4 major suit fit at a low level, sometimes even at the 1-level, with opener as declarer.   (And that's a huge advantage!)  A third reason is that opener knows that responder has a 5-card major immediately after the first response.  Responder doesn't have to bid a suit more than once to show five nor does he have to use the New Minor Forcing bid.  Finally, opener, who will have the stronger hand most of the time, is usually the declarer with the opening lead coming into his hand.

    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...

   7 2    9 7 5 4 2
   8 3 2    8 3 2
   T 9 7    T 9 7
   9 7 5 4 2    7 2

It's pretty easy to pass with the first hand, right?  Yes, your partner might have a singleton but passing is certainly the right call with that hand.  Unlike the Precision Club System the Montreal opening club bid is not entirely forcing.  But if you reverse the clubs and spades it doesn't look nearly so attractive to pass.  That's why 1 is semi-forcing.  If spades and clubs are switched, just place the 1 card on the table as if you didn't have a care in the world and pass your partner's next bid.  Any contract at all has to be better than playing in clubs when you have a weak hand and are short in that suit.

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!
       T 8 7
       9 5 4
       7 6 4 2
       8 4 2

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.
   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
Responder's minor suit bids at the 2-level are artificial and forcing.  The purpose is two-fold, to be descriptive and and to make the opener the declarer.  These bids described below are a modification of those suggested by Dr. Neil Timm, a Montreal Relay contributor on

A popular response to an opening 1NT call is a double jump to either hearts or spades to show 5-5 in the majors.  We can use the same structure after a 1 opening bid.
  • 2    At least 5-5 in the majors with game forcing values
  • 2    At least 5-5 in the majors with invitational values
  • 2    At least five spades with 13+ HCP
  • 2    At least five hearts with 13+ HCP
The minor suit bids serve as transfer bids and show enough points to force to game after a 1 bid.  These responses leave lots of bidding room available for slam exploration.

3-Level Responses
  • 3    A 7-card or longer suit with 10-12 HCP
  • 3    A 7-card or longer suit with 10-12 HCP
  • 3    A 5-6 card spade suit with 10-12 HCP
  • 3    A 5-6 card heart suit with 10-12 HCP
At first you might be wondering why the 3-level bids have fewer points than the 2-level calls, but that's because they take away some of the bidding room that might be necessary for a slam probe.

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.  (He might be 6-4 in clubs and diamonds, but he will always have 16+ points.)

    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.)