Thursday, September 23, 2010

Montreal Relay - Not Something I'll Be Promoting Any Time Soon

As many of you know, I have a certain fascination with Montreal even though I still have never been there. However, I very much dislike the Montreal relay convention. I had heard of it before but had never played it and it may well be my new least favorite convention in bridge. I was coerced into playing last night. I rarely play in the Wednesday game in Macon but there was supposedly a very good player passing through who wanted to play and they called me to partner her, but she insisted on Montreal relays but called it by another name, Kennedy. Maybe it's a south florida thing. Here is the summary:
After a standard 1C opening (or a could be as short as 2 but natural):

1D is normal response values but artificial promising no 5 card major and at least one 4 card major. Thus, opener must bid a 4 card major if he has one next and minor suit lengths are still ambiguous.
1M response promises 5 and 1NT denies a 4+ card major.

Yes, it is true that this system will get opener playing your 4-4 fits and you will find 5-3 fits sooner. That is what people seem to think is the advantage of this little convention. However, it really slows down the process of finding the 4-4 fits, especially when they bid over 1D. Now you are kind of clueless as to whether this is a total misfit hand or youhave a fit and need to be competing. Are 5-3 fits really that hard to find after a normal 1C-1M start? With so many ways to check back for 3 card support and support doubles, responder promising a 5 card major at the 1 level seems very unnecessary. Getting the opener to play the hand may be a very slight advantage when you wind up in a partscore, but by the same token, you get responder playing 1NT when you don't have a fit. And when responder has a stronger hand, who gets to declare is pretty irrelevant, so that little plus is a wash.

A couple of rounds into it, I picked up AKTx, AJT, Jx, AQxx and dutifully opened 1C and she bid 1D (alert). I would hate to bid 1S and then have her play NT even though she specifically said that a NT rebid by opener would deny a 4 card major. So I bid 2NT anyway and, yes, we missed a spade fit. 2NT is rarely passed. Why not checkback for a 4 card major, even bid 3S if you're not sure 3 of a minor would be forcing?

This is like the anti-Walsh convention, and I like Walsh. Walsh is little more than bypassing any number of diamonds to bid a 4 card major in response to 1C. That way opener can then bypass a 4 card major after 1C-1D because responder either has no 4 card major or has enough points to bid it now, over 1NT. You get the bigger hand playing 1NT more often, which is probably more useful than getting the big hand playing 2M. And you find out about possible fits sooner so that interference doesn't cause such a problem.

Obviously I'm going to like Walsh better because I like canape and Walsh is kind of canape-ish. True canape would bid a 4 card major before a 5 card diamond suit regardless of suit strength (not only with minimum responses as in Walsh), and true canape would bid a 4 card a diamond suit before a 5 card major in response to 1C, which isn't such a bad idea if your partner is in on it too.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm all for finding out the 4-4 major suit fits as soon as possible so any system or convention that delays bidding 4 card majors isn't going to rank very high on my list.


  1. "1D is normal response values but artificial promising no 5 card major and at least one 4 card major."

    I understand the above, and can agree with it.

    "Thus, opener must bid a 4 card major if he has one next"
    Why? why did right-siding the hand or pinpointing shape and values suddenly become a lower priority? I am not sure if the system of Montreal Relays includes the 2nd clause in your above agreement. If it does, yeah, it's a pretty restrictive questionable value agreement.

  2. I totally disagree with you on the Montreal Relay. We made one modification to the MR and defined it as "asking for", not offering a 4 card major. We play short club, and when you have less then 6 HCPs and less then 4Cs you must respond to the club opening. MR alows you to bid 1D with a 4 card major and leave your P in his major bid at the 1 level with a 7 or 8 card fit. In addition the MR helps where there is interference after the responder's bid. A preempt by opps after the responders bid can make it very difficult to find a 5-3 fit at times..... I see no down side to the MR

  3. The one local MR player here plays that a 1C opening promises a 4 card major and a 1D opening denies. Thus either minor suit opening could be made on a void! Ugh. If opponents overcall and buy the bid, what's your lead if you don't know partner's suit. A good general rule is not to use a convention when natural bidding works fine. Learn to bid like "everyone else." You'll have more partners. This is a really, really bad convention.