Kokish Relay

Isn't it fun when you pick up a juicy 26-pointer like this?

Spade AQT8Heart KQ6 Diamond AQ6 Club 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.

Basics

After 2Club 2Diamond, we use 2Heart as a relay to 2Spade.; 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 2Club 2Diamond, we use 2Spade as a relay to 2NT.; Now Opener will either rebid 3Spade to show Spades or 3Club/Diamond/Heart 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.

Some examples:

Follow-Up

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!

SpadeAQT8 HeartKQ6 DiamondAQ6 ClubAKQ6

Spade6 HeartA97 DiamondT932 ClubT6542

2Club - 2Diamond - 2Heart - 2Spade - 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 3Spade 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 6Club 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 2Club 2Diamond, 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 2Club 2Diamond, 2Heart is a relay to 2Spade, 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 2Club 2Diamond, 2Heart, a bid of 3Club (breaking the relay) would show Diamonds, as in the following example:

Spade6 HeartAKT976 DiamondAQ8 ClubAKJ

Spade T95 Heart3 DiamondKJ97643 Club82

2Club - 2Diamond - 2Heart - 3Club - 3Diamond 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 2Club. 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.