Mr. Terence Reese devised this method and based it on the Astro Convention. Mr. Terence Reese also gave a name to the overcaller. The overcaller is called the Astronaut. For whatever reasons behind the choice for the designation, it seems that Mr. Terence Reese decided to name the conventional concept after a popular British brand of aspirin.
Note: The reader will please forgive this digression. These headache tablets, or aspirin, were sold under the following names: Aspro Clear Extra Tablets, Aspro Clear Tablets, Aspro Extra Strength Tablets 500 mg, Aspro Junior Tablets, Aspro Microfined Tablets, Aspro Paraclear Junior Tablets, Aspro Paraclear Tablets. Aspro analgesic tablets were to become a phenomenally successful pharmaceutical product after a young Australian chemist, Mr. George Nicholas, in 1917, began manufacturing aspirin to replace unobtainable Bayer supplies from Germany during the First World War.
His company went on to become Nicholas International with Aspro just one of its range of products. The product was a good one and really did relieve the symptoms of common ailments such as headache, colds, and rheumatism, but much of the company’s success can be attributed to canny advertising and promotional campaigns. By 1940 it had become the world’s most widely used headache and pain treatment.
With the Aspro conventional method the opponents can defend against a No Trump opening. Aspro, in its simplicity, is separated into two categories.
A: The First Category is Major Two Suiters
These are bid differently and specify a 5-card Spade suit and a 4- or 5-card Heart suit. The overcaller, called the Astronaut, bids 2 Clubs, and his partner follows with a Relay Bid of 2 Diamonds, and then the overcaller follows with a 2 Spades bid. The designation of relay, as employed by Mr. Terence Reese, is used to describe the responses in the neutral suit.
If the overcaller has 4-card Spade length and 5-card Heart length, Mr. Terence Reese’s conventional method varies. After the 2 Clubs bid, and the Relay Bid of 2 Diamonds, the Astronaut will bid 2 Hearts. With this variation, the partner of the overcaller has the chance to correct to Spades.
If the overcaller has a stronger hand, whether, in high card points or distribution, the bidding also changes. The Astronaut, instead of overcalling 2, will overcall 2 and then rebid 2, No Trump, after the relay bid to show a much stronger holding.
Then if West has some good values, then West may even consider the game.
B: The Second Category is Pronounced Two Suiters
Employing this method, the Astronaut is showing a 6-5 or even a 6-6 distribution and specifically identified suits. For a distribution such as this, specific bids are used:
- Indicates Black Suits – Spades and Clubs
- Indicates both Minor suits – Diamonds and Clubs
- Indicates both Red Suits – Hearts and Diamonds
- Indicates both Major Suits – Spades and Hearts
The student of the game of bridge will have already discovered that several combinations are missing, like Spades and Diamonds or Hearts and Clubs. What do you do then? Well, Mr. Terence Reese has compensated for these combinations also. The overcaller (Astronaut) bids two of the Minor suit, and his partner bids his Relay Bid, then the overcaller jumps in the Major suit. That is Mr. Terence Reese’s solution to a strong Minor-Major distribution.
Note: A redouble by either the Astronaut or the Responder becomes an SOS Redouble, according to Mr. Terence Reese.
In essence, this is the Aspro method as originally presented by Mr. Terence Reese.
Variations on the concept proposed by Mr. Terence Reese have been employed by many individual bridge partnerships and have had some success at the bridge table, but few have survived beyond local bridge communities. A variation follows, which is based upon the original concept and which reflects the game’s evolution incorporating changes.
After some changes in the laws of sponsoring organizations demanded that one suit must be known via the overcall, for example, the original concept was altered to meet these changes.
The origin of the following variation is unknown and it is also unknown whether the author intended employing the use of the relay bid of the neutral suit to allow the Astronaut to clarify the holding or whether the overcall actually designates one know suit and an unspecified suit. Owing to this fact, the responses of the partner are unknown and can be decided by the partnership agreement.
The following schematic outlines these bids:
Double: A double is for penalty. The partner must pass. Generally promises 15+ points.
- Shows Hearts and an unspecified second suit.
- Shows Spades and an unspecified Minor suits.
- Shows a semi-solid 5-card or broken 6-card plus Heart suit.
- Shows a semi-solid 5-card or broken 6-card plus Spade suit.
- Shows both Minor suits, either 5-4 or 4-5 or 5-5 plus. The factor is vulnerability.
- Promises a long Club suit of at least 6/7 cards in length. Preemptive and obstructive in nature.
- Promises a long Diamond suit of at least 6/7 cards in length. Preemptive and obstructive in nature.
The student should notice that the use of the double has been incorporated in this variation as well as Preemptive bids on the three-level.
Note: This variation of the Aspro convention is somewhat dependent on the bidding system employed and can be altered or varied to meet the requirements of the particular bidding system.
Note: Some partnerships have agreed that the distribution of the holding, when overcalling could / may be reduced to 4-4 in both Major suits regardless of the state of vulnerability, otherwise the distribution is generally 5-4, 4-5, or 5-5 depending on the state of vulnerability. This is entirely a partnership agreement in all employed variations of the concept.
Note: The student of the game of bridge should also be aware of the Astro conventional method and the Asptro conventional method, note the differences and similarities, compare the effectiveness and inclusiveness of the overcalls, and then choose wisely.