Isn't it fun when you pick up a juicy 26-pointer like this?AQT8 KQ6 AQ6 AKQ6
Well, actually, no, it's not much fun at all (unless you happen to be playing high-stakes rubber bridge)!; Standard methods don’t handle these big balanced hands very well.; The gradation of point-count ranges for big balanced hands goes something like this:
You can see that, for really big balanced hands, the real auction does not start until Opener rebids 3NT or 4NT. Now, tell me, how can you have an effective and constructive auction when you don’t start mentioning suits until the 4-level?; As a way to mitigate this problem, there is a little gadget, called Kokish.
After 2 2, we use 2 as a relay to 2.; Now Opener will either rebid 2NT (to show a BIG balanced hand) or else make any other descriptive bid to show a hand with Hearts.
After 2 2, we use 2 as a relay to 2NT.; Now Opener will either rebid 3 to show Spades or 3// to shows Spades and the suit bid. If it is Hearts then that shows longer Spades than Hearts because they did not choose the Heart relay.
In other words, the Kokish Relay allows the bidding for really big, balanced hands to start at 2NT.
For the balanced hands, the follow-up can be the same as your current methods for 2NT openings. The good news is that it’s better to start the search for a fit at the level of 2NT that it is at 3NT or above. The bad news is that many partnerships do not have particularly effective 2NT methods!
AQT8 KQ6 AQ6 AKQ6
6 A97 T932 T6542
2 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 2NT ?
Responder does not have much of a hand, but, when Opener is known to have 25+, he doesn’t need much of a hand to start thinking about slam!; How this auction proceeds will depend upon your methods.; Some partnerships play that 3 here is a relay to 3NT, after which Responder proceeds to show some kind of minor one-suiter or minor two-suiter.; Anyway, hopefully your 2NT methods will allow you to find 6 on this hand (which is cold on all 3-1 trump breaks when played from the correct side) rather than 6NT (which requires a couple of finesses)
Without Kokish, the auction would start with 2 2, 3NT.; Now, it would be hard to come up with a sensible auction which investigates a minor suit fit.
By-Passing The Relay
We said that the sequence 2 2, 2 is a relay to 2, preparatory to Opener further describing his hand.; Well, so it is.; But, once in a while, Responder may have a sufficiently unusual hand to make it worthwhile by-passing the relay and showing a long suit.; Of course, doing this is crossing Opener’s intentions, so we do not do it lightly, we need a good reason.
One popular approach is to use transfers whenever you break the relay. So, after 2 2, 2, a bid of 3 (breaking the relay) would show Diamonds, as in the following example:
6 AKT976 AQ8 AKJ
T95 3 KJ97643 82
2 - 2 - 2 - 3 - 3 etc.
In the above auction:
How good or long a suit do you need to by-pass the relay?; Obviously, the suit cannot be that good, otherwise Responder would have made a positive response over 2. We suggest that a decent 6-card suit with good fillers is probably enough. A reasonable rule of thumb would be that the suit is playable for one loser opposite Ax or Kx.