The Schenken Club or Schenken System was devised by Mr. Howard Schenken, and it is an artificial 1 Club system. Mr. Howard Schenken introduced his Big Club bidding system first in 1963. This bidding system was perhaps based on the principles and features established by Mr. Harold S. Vanderbilt, who advocated first in 1925 that the 1 Club opening should be employed as an artificial bid to show a strong holding.
The similarities between the Vanderbilt Club System and the Schenken Big Club are many. After the introduction and before the publishing of his book, his bidding system underwent changes, which maintained and kept the principles behind the concept, but which were also combined with the Standard American bidding system to form the Big Club Standard.
His book Big Club was written and published in 1968 and has influenced the partnership understanding of many bridge partnerships. Many bridge players continue to use the Schenken Club and presented below are the main features of this system.
It is also to be remembered that there are several variations on this bidding system in the bridge community and that these variations differ perhaps in the point count and range. The responses have also been slightly altered to meet perhaps more modern terms in order to allow for more flexibility in employing other conventions, which were devised after the publication of the book and concept. However, the foundation of the bidding system has not been altered by these variations regarding the basic concept.
Any 1 Club opening is considered forcing. This bid describes any hand which is strong in values and promises any holding with a minimum of 17 high card points or the same value with distributional values. This opening bid can describe three different types of holdings:
1. A No Trump holding of balanced distribution containing 19-22 high card points.
2. A semi-balanced holding with 17 high card points or more.
3. A strong distributional holding with 14 high card points or more.
1. A 1 Diamond response is the systemic negative response, promising 0-6 high card points or the distributional equivalent.
2. A 2 Clubs response is artificial and equals a semi-positive response indicating 7-8 high card points, promising at least 1 Ace or 1 King, but most importantly, a 2 Clubs response promises a rebid.
3. Any other response, such as 1 Heart, 1 Spade, etc., are positive, natural, and forcing to game.
Note: After any direct overcall up to 3 Diamonds, a double by the responder equals a positive response and is considered a Takeout Double and promises at least 9 high card points plus.
The opener, after a negative response, has several options:
1. Any non-jump rebid in any unbid suit may be passed by the responder, if the responder considers this suit to be the best suit. The bid of a new suit by the opener is not forcing.
2. Any jump rebid by the opener is forcing for one round. The responder may not pass.
3. A rebid of 1 No Trump promises 19-20 high card points and a balanced holding.
4. A rebid of 2 No Trump promises 21-22 high card points and a balanced holding.
Any rebid by the responder of 2 Clubs or 3 Clubs respectively after a rebid by the opener of 1 No Trump or 2 No Trump is Stayman, asking for a 4-card Major suit. This second response by the responder promises a maximum of his values after first showing a negative response.
1 Heart, Diamond and Spade
Any opening bid, besides 1 Club, is a limit bid and shows a minimum of normally 12 and a maximum of 16 high card points. The responder may pass this opening with less than 8 high card points and a semi-moderate fit in the opened suit.
Any suit raise by the responder or a No Trump response are limited responses and are considered to be non-forcing.
Any jump to game in a Major suit bid by the opener is based on high card values plus the distributional values held by the responder. The consideration of attempting a slam contract is rare since the opening promises limited values.
A response of 3 Clubs to any Major suit opening is a strong raise of that particular Major suit and promises at least 16 support points, high card points and distributional points, for that Major suit. If the opener has a singleton, the opener is expected to bid the singleton as an attempt to explore slam possibilities. Otherwise the opener bids game in that Major suit.
1 No Trump
An opening of 1 No Trump equals the standard strong 16-18 high card points and a balanced holding.
1. A response of 2 Clubs is non-forcing Stayman and promises the standard minimum of 8 high card points plus.
2. A response of 2 Diamonds indicates an unbalanced holding, promising either a singleton or a void. The responder does not have a 4-card Major suit, but this response is game-forcing and asks the opener to rebid any Major suit stopper(s).
A 2 Clubs opening is natural and shows at least a 5-card Club suit and values between 12 and 16 high card points.
1. A response of 2 Diamonds requests the opener to bid a 4-card Major suit if possible.
An opening of 2 Diamonds contains 22 plus high card points and is artificial and game-forcing. This opening bid is used to locate specific honors.
1. A response of 2 Hearts denies the holding of any Ace honor.
2. A response of 2 Spades promises the Ace of Spades.
3. A response of 2 No Trump promises the Ace of Hearts.
4. Holding 2 touching Aces, the responder jumps in the higher-ranking suit containing the Ace.
5. Holding 2 non-touching Aces, the responder bids 3 No Trump.
6. Holding 2 black Aces, the responder bids 4 Clubs.
1. The opener, in order to locate specific Kings and Queens, continues, after an honor showing response, to make the cheapest rebid to ask for Kings and Queens. The Relay bidding is continued until these specific honors have been counted and/or located.
A rebid of 2 No Trump by the opener after a 2 Heart opening promises a balanced distribution and 23-25 high card points.
A rebid of 3 No Trump by the opener after a 2 Heart opening promises a balanced distribution and 26-27 high card points.
2 Hearts and Spades
Any opening on the Two Level in the Major suits are Weak Two Bids promising 8-12 high card points (some partnerships use 7-11 high card points) and a suit with considerable length and values located mainly in the respective suit. A range of 13-16 high card points are required by unfavorable vulnerability.
2 No Trump
An opening of 2 No trump promises a minimum of five cards in both Minor suits with values ranging from 10-12 high card points if not vulnerable. By unfavorable vulnerability, the high card point range is increased to 13-16 high card points.
3 No Trump
An opening of 3 No Trump promises a solid Minor suit with at least 8 or 9 playing tricks or 5/4 losing tricks. The only requirement for this opening is that no side suit should contain a doubleton worse than a Queen-small.
An opening of 3 Clubs promises a solid 6- or 7-card suit of any rank and 10-15 high card points.
Preempt overcall bids are considered according to the vulnerability.
These are the basic guidelines for the Schenken Club. There are other options and systemic conventions and/or treatments incorporated and included in the bidding system, but these are generally based upon the partnership understanding. If deciding to play the Schenken Club, this must be noted on the Convention Card and made known to the opponents at the bridge table. If the opponents request an explanation of any bid, then the player must disclose the nature of the bid.