Mr. Eric Kokish of Montreal, Canada, devised the following method to illustrate how it is possible to show a strong, balanced holding without having to consume bidding spade on the three level. This method is employed by those partnerships, which have agreed that 2 Clubs is the only forcing opening bid, and that a 2 No Trump opening is a Gambling 2 No Trump opening or a Weak Minor Preempt.

Preferred Designation by Eric Kokish

Although the designation of Kokish Relays is accepted as the official designation of this concept, it seems that, unofficially, Mr. Eric Kokish would prefer to refer to the system by its original name of Birthright. This designation, however, seems to have no relationship or connection to the concept itself.

     

Birthright

With this understanding all holdings with a 20-24 plus point range, balanced or unbalanced distribution, must be opened with the strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening.

Note: Some partnerships have agreed to employ the Kokish Relays only with a point count generally between 25-26/27 points. This is the definition provided by the Bridge World magazine.

General Bidding Guidelines for Bidding Strong Holdings

When playing a 5-Card Major Suit bidding system the following guidelines constitute the general partnership agreement:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
2 NT       Promises a balanced holding with 20-21 points.
         
2       Promises strong values either in No Trump distribution or other non-balanced distribution.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible. (Note: Personal method takes precedence.)
2 NT       Promises a balanced holding with 22-24 points.
         
2       Promises strong values either in No Trump distribution or other non-balanced distribution.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible. (Note: Personal method takes precedence.)
3 NT       Promises a balanced holding with 25-27 points.
         
2       Promises strong values either in No Trump distribution or other non-balanced distribution.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible. (Note: Personal method takes precedence.)
4 NT       Promises a balanced holding with 28-30 points.

These four bidding sequences illustrate the simplicity of showing balanced holdings with values between 20 high card points and 30 high card points.

Kokish Relay Guidelines

Opener   Responder   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener clarify his holding.
    2   The puppet bid.
2 NT       Opener promises 25 plus points and a balanced distribution.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Hearts and Clubs.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Hearts and Diamonds.
3       Opener promises a one-suited holding with Hearts.
         
Opener   Responder   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 No Trump in order that the opener clarify his holding.
    2 NT   The puppet bid.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Spades and Clubs.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Spades and Diamonds.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Spades and Hearts. (Note: the general agreement is that the Spade suit is either equal to or longer than the Heart suit in length. Trick-taking ability is not part of the equation.)
3       Opener promises a one-suited holding with Spades.

Note: The nature of a strong holding can be defined differently. With the concept of Kokish Relay bids the evaluation can be based solely on high card points, which is practically the only evaluation method for defining a balanced holding. However, in the case that the opener holds a single-suited or even a two-suited holding, then the evaluation can be made on high card points, but may also, in addition, be based on the number of losing tricks.

Kokish Relay Bidding Examples for Balanced Holdings

It is generally an accepted and almost universal agreement to show such a strong holding with strong values with an strong, artificial 2 Clubs opening. Examine the following examples and review the following explanations of the bidding sequences:

1. North   2. North   3. North
KJ98
A87
AK9
KQJ
 
KJ98
A87
AKQ
KQJ
 
KJ98
AK7
AKQ
KQJ
2 NT   2 NT   3 NT

Example 1

North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2 NT       This promises a balanced distribution and a point count between 20-21 points. The partnership remains on the two level, which is the key of this concept.

Note: In Example 1 the Kokish Relay bid was not employed since the holding does not require a relay to communicate the information that the holding is balanced with values of 20-21 points.

Example 2

North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally either a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    2   The puppet bid.
2 NT       North shows a balanced distribution of 23-24 points, a holding too strong for a normal 2 - 2 NT rebid. The partnership remains on the two level, which is the key of this concept.

Note: In order to show a balanced holding with 23-24 points the opener opens with a strong, artificial 2 Clubs and puppets the responder to 2 Spades in order to clarify the point range of the balanced holding.

Example 3

North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    2   The puppet bid.
3 NT       North shows a balanced distribution of 25-27 points, a holding too strong for a normal 2 - 3NT rebid. This rebid is not part of the original version of the Kokish Relays, but could be used as an extension of this concept by partnership agreement if an opening bid of 3 No Trump would indicate a possible Gambling 3 No Trump.

Note: In order to show a balanced holding with 25-27 points the opener opens with a strong, artificial 2 Clubs and puppets the responder to 2 Spades in order to clarify the point range of the balanced holding.

Note: There are several variations of Kokish Relays, whereby the values of the No Trump differ by a Jack, or at a maximum a Queen. This range difference is based on partnership agreement.

In the case that Kokish Relay bids are employed as per partnership agreement the concept demands a certain bidding sequence first before the actual auction of communicating information begins. As soon as the information has been communicated by the opener about a holding with substantial values, then these steps must first be performed and then the true information can then be exchanged.

The actual Kokish Relay bid is first executed, followed by the corresponding puppet bid by the responder, i.e. either 2 to 2, or 2 to 2 NT, which is then followed either with a bid of No Trump or a suit by the opener, which is actually the first exchange of genuine information. Until these bids have been made the responder remains completely unaware as to the nature of partner's holding, as to whether the holding is balanced, or single-suited, or even two-suited.

Since the bidding sequence based on Kokish Relays resulting in the communicated information that the holding of the 2 Clubs bidder is balanced, then the partnership must place emphasis on the continuations. The following example illustrates possible continuations.

North
AK105
KQ9
AJ4
AKQ
 
South
Q763
A754
K8
763
North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    2   The puppet bid.
3 NT       North shows a balanced distribution of 25-27 points, a holding too strong for a normal 2 - 3NT rebid. This rebid is not part of the original version of the Kokish Relays, but could be used as an extension of this concept by partnership agreement if an opening bid of 3 No Trump would indicate a possible Gambling 3 No Trump.

The responder, South, has the information that partner holds 25 points to 27 points and balanced distribution. However, in this and other examples the responder may attempt a slam try. The responder holds values for a small slam and could easily set the contract at 6 No Trump. The responder can also envision a grand slam in Spades if the cards are in the correct location.

Note: In attempting to ask for the number of Aces or Keycards a bid by the responder of 4 No Trump cannot be understood as quantitative, as this would be illogical. Also, any form of the Gerber convention would be entirely unambiguous. Therefore, any continuations are based on the holding of the responder since the responder becomes the captain once partner has defined the holding.

Note: When the opener shows a strong, balanced holding of 3 No Trump, then it becomes strongly recommended as to whether a bid by the responder of 4 Clubs is Stayman, Gerber, or even a cuebid of first-round control. An agreement must also be reached as to the meaning of the responder's bids of 4 Diamonds and/or 4 Hearts, which could be Jacoby Transfer bids to Hearts and Spades respectively.

Kokish Relay Bidding Example for Unbalanced Holdings

When the communicated information by the opener is that the holding is unbalanced, then the responder obtains the information that the holding is either single-suited or two-suited.

North
AKQ105
Q10
A
AKQ84
 
South
J76
A75
K8
97653
North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    2   The puppet bid.
3       Opener promises a two-suited holding with Spades and Clubs.

Note: The responder, South, following the prescribed bidding sequence in order for partner to clarify the holding, realizes that a slam in Spades is possible. The main reason is that the responder realizes that the partnership has a fit in two suits, namely Spades and Clubs.

Note: Once partner communicates the descriptive information about the holding via Kokish Relays, then the responder assumes captaincy and leads partner to the final contract.

Continuations are per partnership agreement. For example, the responder, in the above example, can first establish the trump suit, Spades, by bidding 3 Spades, which is not an invitational bid. The responder can also initiate an Ace or Keycard conventional method immediately following the 3 Clubs rebid by partner.

Note: With a combined count of 32 high card points the partnership can select among three possible grand slams in the above example: 7 Clubs, or 7 Spades, or 7 No Trump.

Non-Acceptance of the Kokish Relay Bid

However infrequently it may occur the responder may hold a 7-card plus suit, but with very few values. In such a case, the responder has the option of breaking the Kokish Relay and independently bid that suit as shown in the following example. Please note that other agreements reduce the length of the suit to a minimum of 6 cards instead of the recommended 7 cards in length in order to be considered as an independent suit.

North   South
AK98
A87
AQ9
KQJ
 
654
9
KJ108753
74
North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    3   A transfer bid to Diamonds. (Note: the relay is not accepted.)
    3   A transfer bid to Hearts. (Note: the relay is not accepted.)
    3   A transfer bid to Spades. (Note: the relay is not accepted.)
    3   Optional as a transfer to Clubs.

Note: The opener, North, plans to show a strong balanced holding with a range between 23 and 24 points. With the responder breaking the relay the responder prevents the opener from communicating this information.

Note: The responder has not accepted the Kokish Relay bid. The bid outside the relay remains a transfer bid, and in this example a bid of 3 Clubs transfers partner to Diamonds.

Note: A possible variation for a partnership agreement is that the suit bid by the responder, which is outside the relay can be understood as to play in that suit if partner has support. With the above example North has adequate support and the partnership will find the small slam in Diamonds holding combined only 27 points.

Once the responder bids outside the relay, then the opener has the option to either accept or deny. If the holding is balanced, then the opener should support. However, if the holding of the opener is not balanced, but rather a one-suited holding or a two-suited holding, then the opener should communicate this information at the lowest level. By not supporting the independent suit of the responder the opener shows shortness in that suit.

The following example illustrates the denial of support.

North   South
AKQ105
Q10
A
AKQ84
 
654
9
KJ108753
74
     
North   South   Meaning
2       An opening bid showing strong values.
    2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
2       This is the Kokish Relay, a puppet for responder to bid an automatic 2 Spades in order that the opener can clarify his holding.
    3   A transfer bid to Diamonds. (Note: the relay is not accepted.)
4       North would deny support for Diamonds by bidding 4 Clubs, as planned, to show a two-suited holding in Spades and Clubs. Since the 3 bid by the responder is a transfer bid, then North can unambiguously bid 4 to show the two-suited holding plus shortness in Diamonds.

Observation

Note: There are several agreements as to the possible range of No Trump holdings and the partnership should make adjustments to compensate. When the holding is unbalanced, then the point count becomes less important, whereas the number of losing tricks or winning tricks becomes more relevant in the evaluation.

Alternate Agreements

Other partnerships have agreed upon the following auction, which is then game forcing:

North   South   Meaning
2   2   Normally a waiting bid or a negative bid. Other responses, per partnership agreement, are not possible.
3       No Kokish Relay is required to show an independent suit holding in Hearts to show a game forcing action. The partner must continue to game, and with additional values will initiate a slam try.

If the opener bids anything other than 2 No Trump, then these rebids are natural and generally indicate Hearts. Some partnerships agree upon the Heart suit as being a requirement.

This approach is advantageous when holding strong, balanced hands, which are too strong in values for an immediate, non-forcing 2 No Trump rebid. This is because the conventional approaches listed below can be employed with ease on the three level. The auction has not been raised dramatically and the bidding space is still available.

After this Kokish Relay, the responder can, by partnership agreement, employ the Stayman, the Jacoby Transfer, Texas Transfer, the Gerber, or the Roman Key Card conventions.

Alternative Method by Danny Kleinman

As with many other conventional methods, different variations have arisen. Included is a different approach suggested by Mr. Danny Kleinman.

1. After a 2 rebid by the opener, the responder bids 3 and 3 naturally to indicate the corresponding long Minor suit and moderate values. It is possible that the responder then becomes the declarer.
2. After a 2 rebid by the opener, the responder bids 2 No Trump when holding a 6-card plus Spade suit, which the opener with the stronger holding will declare when holding Spade support. And, using the same approach, after a 2 rebid by the opener, the responder bids 3 promising a 6-card plus Spade suit and at least a 3-card Heart suit. With any support the opener, holding the stronger values, becomes the declarer in either Major suit.

 

 

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.

 


     
Email Conventions Bridge Sites
     
Home Page I Glossary Home Page II