The origin of this concept is not completely unknown since history may show that it ought to be accredited to Mr. Ely Culbertson, and also since these responses were practically the cornerstone of his devised bidding system, but whether they were devised and developed by him, or simply incorporated into his bidding system, is unknown.

Mr. Ely Culbertson was born on July 22, 1891 and died on December 27, 1955. The dominant role he played in the promotion, organizing, arranging national and international bridge tournaments, which were reported in the daily newspapers of the time, is indisputable. Many of his peers provided him with the moniker or cognomen of the man who made contract bridge. His showmanship, his public presentations made him a household name in the bridge community.

He was born in Poiana Vărbilău in Romania to an American mining engineer, Almon Culbertson, and his Russian wife Xenya Rogoznaya. He attended the L'École des Sciences Économiques et Politiques at the Sorbonne in Paris, and the University of Geneva. After the Russian Revolution in the year 1917 Mr. Ely Culbertson lived for four years in Paris and other European cities by exploiting his skill as a card player. In the year 1921 he moved to the United States and earned his living from monetary winnings at Auction Bridge and poker. In the year 1923 he married Mrs. Josephine Murphy Dillon, who was a successful teacher of Auction Bridge and a leading female bridge personality in Manhattan, New York, United States.

     

Parameters of the Concept

Today these responses are employed after a strong, artificial Two Clubs Opening bid, that are based on the theory that the opener with a powerful unbalanced or semi-balanced hand is more interested in his partner's first-round controls than in any particular long suit or even general strength.

These first responses were also originally designed for the bridge players, who do not employ Weak Two bids, but rather strong Forcing Two bids. Such forcing bids were almost historically, if not traditionally, employed as an opening bid to guarantee game or even slam, and were sometimes referred to as Culbertson Two-Bid, Demand Bid or Strong Two-Bid.

These forcing bids constituted the foundation of the Culbertson System and remained popular until the late 1940s. After the introduction of the Weak Two Bids or Acol Two Bids they were limited to the strong, artificial Two Clubs opening.

First Responses

2 : Promises 0-7 high card points, and denies any first round control.
2 : Promises the Ace of Hearts as a first-round control.
2 : Promises the Ace of Spades as a first-round control.
2 NT: Promises 8 high card points plus, and shows no Aces.
3 : Promises the Ace of Clubs as a first-round control.
3 : Promises the Ace of Diamonds as a first-round control.
3 NT: Promises 2 Aces or two unspecified first-round controls.

Clarifying Examples

The following examples should illustrate the concept behind the Ace Showing Responses to a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening bid. The attempt is to present sufficient examples to explain several of the first responses. It is also necessary to remind the reader that after a No Trump rebid by the opener, it is a matter of partnership agreement whether or not Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, and other convention methods do apply. The assumption made here in the explanation is that the systems are on, meaning that all approaches and styles and conventional methods are in effect unless competition renders them ineffective.

Example 1
Opener   Responder Meaning
KQ96
AK7
AKQ
K74
 
A87
Q986
J87
Q98
2 Strong, artificial opening showing a minimum of 8.5 to 9 playing tricks.
2 Partner, I have the Ace (first-round control) of Spades.
2 NT Shows 23-24 high card points and a balanced to semi-balanced holding.
3 Stayman asking for a 4-card Major suit. In showing the Ace of Spades with the first response, the responder does not deny a 4-card Spade suit.
3 The opener promises a 4-card Spade suit.
4 NT Only the responder knows that there is no fit. The responder attempts a small slam by asking for Aces and/or Keycards. (Note: see below for variation)
   
Example 2
Opener   Responder Meaning
KJ96
AK74
AKQ
K4
 
A87
Q86532
76
A8
2 Strong, artificial opening showing a minimum of 8.5 to 9 playing tricks.
3 NT Partner, I have 2 Aces and 8 plus points.
4 NT A rebid of 4 NT shows 23-24 high card points and is not an Ace-asking rebid.
5 Jacoby Transfer to Hearts.
5 Opener accepts the transfer.
6 / 6 NT The small slam set by the responder becomes the final contract. The responder may choose between a suit contract and a No Trump contract.
Note: The responder can gamble and set the final contract at 7 No Trump or 7 Hearts. However, this bid will be based on a possible false lead and/or on an error in defending since the number of losing tricks held by the responder equal 7 losing tricks, which is insufficient to bid securely the grand slam.
 
Example 3
Opener   Responder Meaning
QJ95
KQ74
AK
AKJ
 
K87643
A3
872
Q8
2 Strong, artificial opening showing a minimum of 8.5 to 9 playing tricks.
2 Partner, I have the Ace (first-round control) of Hearts.
2 NT Promises 23-24 high card points, and a balanced to semi-balanced holding.
3

This is a Jacoby Transfer to Spades. The first response of 2 is artificial and transfers are still valid even if the suit has been already bid. (Note: since the transfer suit has already been previously bid some partnerships agree to the understanding that both Stayman and transfer bids are considered as being systems off.)

3 The opener accepts the transfer.
4 NT The responder decides that a try for slam is justified.
5 (x) The opener replies according to the agreed Ace or Keycard conventional method to show 3 Aces or 4 Keycards.
6 The responder bids the small slam knowing that the partnership holds all four Aces or all five Keycards. The responder could also decide to place the final contract in No Trump.

The bridge student should remember that this is only the beginning of many variations in the shape of the hand. But, if the bridge player thinks logically and visualizes the holding of the partner, then the bridge player should arrive at the correct contract using these guidelines. The exchange of correct information between partners is important, as are the individual partnership agreements.

Variation

It remains unknown as to whether the above description is a variation or whether the following information describes a variation, which has its origins in the country of France. The following constitutes the guidelines for a response scheme employed generally in France, and which carries the same designation according to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, page 13.

The main difference is that the bid of 4 No Trump no longer requests partner to count the number of held Aces and/or Keycards, since they are shown in the first responses. The bid of 4 No Trump requests the number of held Kings.

Bid Meaning
2 : Promises 0-7 high card points and denies any first round control. Negative first response.
2 : Promises the Ace of Hearts as a first-round control.
2 : Promises the Ace of Spades as a first-round control.
2 NT: Promises 8 high card points plus, and I have two Kings. (Note: this is the main difference in the response scheme.)
3 : Promises the Ace of Clubs as a first-round control.
3 : Promises the Ace of Diamonds as a first-round control.
3 : Promises two mixed Aces: either the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Diamonds, or the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Clubs.
3 : Promises two Aces of the same color: either the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Clubs, or the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Diamonds.
3 NT: Promises two Aces: either the two Aces of both Major suits, or the two Aces of both Minor suits.

This variation uses the two idle bids of 3 and 3, which are not included in the response scheme described at the beginning to show the nature of the held Aces. The opener can subsequently request information about the number of Kings by employing the usual bid normally employed for asking for Aces, which is 4 No Trump. The partnership can also agree to employ Gerber or a variation of Gerber, but the target is, once again, not the number of Aces but rather the number of Kings. This is particularly advantageous if the trump suit is a Minor suit.

How many High Card Points must I have to open 2 Clubs?

The question cannot be answered, and the following illustration should be sufficiently informative in understanding why the point count, although relative, is not ultimately the decisive factor, but rather the trick taking ability of the holding.

Opener   Responder
AKQJ109876543
J
 
A5432
872
J8652
Analysis
The opener has only 10 high card points, but 12 playing tricks.
The opener should not bid 6 Spades, but rather open the auction with a forcing 2 Clubs bid.
The responder, by employing the Ace Showing Response method, will bid 2 Hearts.
And now, opener, knowing that his Jack of Hearts is covered, will bid 7 Spades.

When a bridge player evaluates the dealt 13 cards, the bridge player also counts the number of possible playing tricks, or winning tricks. A good rule of thumb is to count the playing tricks, and if there are approximately a good 8.5 or 9 playing tricks, open the hand with a strong, artificial Two Clubs opening bid. Several partnership agreements state that the number of playing tricks should be 8-9 playing tricks.

The general guideline is to count the number of losing tricks in the holding, which is the total number of missing Aces, Kings, and Queens. If the number of losing tricks equals 4 to 4.5 or fewer, then the holding qualifies for a strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening.

Note: some partnerships require that the number of losing tricks be four or fewer.

Note: Some bridge partnerships demand that the point count be above 20 high card points. If that is the partnership agreement, then the partnership should abide by this agreement until both partners decide to change the agreement.

Summary Chart for Losing Tricks

Perhaps the following chart will provide some general guidance for deciding to open Weak Two bids, preempts, and the strong, artificial Two Clubs bid. However, it can serve only as a General Rule of Thumb. The partnership agreement is that all opening bids above the one level, except an opening of 2 Clubs, is weak and preemptive.

2 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
2 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
2 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
3 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
3 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
3 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
4 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
4 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
4 : # of Preempt times 2 should equal number of playing tricks.
2 : # of Preempt times 4 should equal number of playing tricks.

Something Less Obvious

Opener   Responder Meaning
AK9876
AK83
AQ7
 
4
QJ10976
K86
Q65
2 Strong, artificial opening showing a minimum of 8.5 to 9 playing tricks. This opening can be employed to show a balanced holding, a one-suited holding, and also a two-suited holding.
2 NT Partner, I have 8 plus high card points, but no Aces.
3 Partner, my suit is Spades.
4 Shows 1-card Spade support or possibly a void. The bid of a new suit promises 5/6 suit length.
7 The opener can, of course, go through the motions and request additional information about Aces, Kings, Keycards, and perhaps the trump Queen. However, with only three losing tricks, or 10 playing tricks, the opener simply opts to bid the grand slam knowing that the partnership holds one void and 10 trumps.

 

 

If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.

 


     
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