History and usage
American bridge players became aware of transfer bids by way of an article in The Bridge World in 1956 by Oswald Jacoby. Transfers have such utility in notrump bidding that they enjoy broad acceptance of most players, in duplicate and in rubber bridge.
For instance, Two Diamond and Two Heart responses following partner's One No-trump (1NT) opener are conventional bids, each requiring the opener to bid the next higher ranking suit. The one who initiates the transfer promises five cards in the major suit (Spades or Hearts) into which opener is required to transfer. The primary objective is to have the strong hand become declarer whenever the final contract is the major suit. Additionally, transfers enable describing certain invitational hands that standard bidding cannot accommodate.
Partner opens 1NT. You have a five-card heart suit that may make a better contract than notrump if partner has three or four hearts. Absent the transfer, you would respond in hearts, becoming declarer whenever partner supports hearts. At times it may be more profitable for the strong, opening hand to become declarer because this keeps his honors hidden from the defense; and it results in the opening lead coming into the strong hand.
The transfer procedure is quite simple. Any time you respond to 1NT with a 2 diamond or 2 heart bid, opening partner is compelled to bid the next higher ranking suit. For instance, if you have five hearts and desire to transfer, answer 1NT with 2 diamonds; partner must then call 2 hearts. If your strong partner likes hearts (three-card support) you are likely to play in hearts with partner becoming declarer. Similarly if your suit is spades, bid 2 hearts, forcing partner to be first to call the spade suit. The transfer can be used after 1NT and 2NT openings and certain other situations where partner's last bid was notrump. The transferor guarantees holding at least five cards in the transferred suit.
When you play the transfer convention, you give up the ability to play in a 2 diamond contract after partner opens 1NT. (It's still possible to play in 2 hearts or 2 spades by transferring into them and then passing.) The inability to play in 2 diamonds is deemed not to be a substantial deficiency since 1NT often produces a higher score. Using the transfer convention frees the 2 Spade response for other uses, such as minor suit transfers (which are considered non-standard applications).
After the transfer is completed by the 1NT opener, subsequent bids by the transfer initiator are:
- for Weak hands:
- pass, to play a partial game in the transferred suit
- for Invitational hands:
- 2NT, giving the strong partner the option of continuing to game or playing a partial game, in either no-trump or the transferred suit
- 3 of the transferred suit, promising a six-card suit
- for Game strength hands:
- New suit, showing 5-4 or 5-5 and game forcing
- 3NT, allowing opening bidding a choice of 3NT or 4 of the major
- 4 in the transferred suit, to play promising a six-card suit
Transfers may be made in a similar manner after the strong hand opens 2NT and after certain other bidding sequences. Additionally there are some circumstances where the transfer process should be avoided.
- Standard applications of the Jacoby transfer are fully described in Standard American 21 by John Sheridan Thomas (ISBN 1412020638).