32. Advanced Checkback

The Checkback Family is New Minor Forcing (NMF), Fourth Suit Forcing, and XYZ. NMF has a variant, Two-Way New Minor Forcing (TWNMF). The first two conventions were covered previously; TWNMF is described in detail in this chapter.

Two-way New Minor Forcing (TWNMF), also called Two-Way Checkback Stayman, distinguishes invitational vs. game-forcing hands by using both 2♣ and 2♦ as artificial and is close to universally used amongst experts instead of NMF.

XYZ extends the idea of TWNMF to the case of the opener’s rebid being 1♠, and is so-named because the auction has begun 1x - 1y - 1z. Since it is identical to TWNMF if “z” is no-trump, the two conventions are played together. In this approach, it is still possible to have a fourth-suit auction such as 1♥ - 1♠ - 2♣ - 2♦!.

Two-Way New Minor Forcing

Two-way New Minor Forcing (TWNMF), also called Two-Way Checkback Stayman, applies after a 1N rebid by opener after responder bids a major. Responder distinguishes invitational vs. game-forcing hands with his first rebid.

Note

Some also play TWNMF after auctions that begin 1♣ - 1♦; I do not, to avoid confusion with the Walsh style. Likewise, some do not play it after 1♥ - 1♠ - 1N.

TWNMF is off by a passed hand. TWNMF is off after interference.

After 1m 1M 1N, 2M is to play showing 5 cards; playing in even a 2-5 fit is usually better than playing in 1N. After 1m - 1♥ - 1N a bid of 2♠ shows a hand 4-4 in the majors with minimal values.

Checkback: Invitational Hands

We bid 2♣!(artificial) with invitational hands containing five of our major or four of the other major. Opener must rebid 2♦!(forced). The bid can be explained as “invitational with five of our major or four of the other major, or a weak hand with diamonds”.

After 1m - 1M - 1N, a weak hand with five cards in M should rebid 2M, to play.

Then, in the case of 1m - 1♠ - 1N - 2♣!(artificial) - 2♦!(forced), responder bids:

  • Pass - signoff in 2♦.

  • 2♥- Invitational with 5 spades and 4 hearts.

  • 2♠- Mildly invitational with 5+ spades.

  • 2NT - Invitational, with 4-card support for opener’s minor. This allows opener to sign off in 3 of the minor if he wishes.

  • 3♣- Invitational with 4 spades and clubs.

  • 3♦- Invitational with 4 spades and diamonds.

  • 3♥- Invitational with 5-5 in the majors.

  • 3♠- Invitational with 6 spades.

If responder’s suit had been hearts, make the corresponding changes:

  • Pass - signoff in 2♦.

  • 2♥- Mildly invitational with 5+ hearts

  • 2♠- Invitational with 5 hearts and four spades

  • 2NT- Invitational with four-card support for opener’s minor.

  • 3♣- Invitational with 4 hearts and clubs

  • 3♦- Invitational with 4 hearts and diamonds

  • 3♥- Invitational with 6 hearts

If responder does not have support for opener’s minor, and no interest in pursuing a major fit, he raises 1N to 2N and does not use TWNMF. In the sequences above, the 3m bids show either support for the 1m opener or a decent suit and invitational values.

Checkback: Game-Forcing Hands

The responses for 2♦! are easier; we are not stopping short of game and use a slow-shows approach to slam. Opener should not jump. Priorities for opener remain as in NMF:

  • With four of the other major, bid 2W

  • With 3-card support for M, opener should bid 2M. However, with a flat hand and the points mostly not in M, consider 2N.

Two-Suited Minimal Hands

If you have a minimal hand and bypassed a five-card diamond suit to bid a four-card major, you can bid the 2♣!(relay) and pass the obligatory 2♦!(forced).

With 5 or more in M, bid 2M to drop dead. With five spades and four hearts, bid 2H showing your shape; opener can pass or correct. It should do better than 1N.

Finally, we have the problem of a weak hand with clubs. A bid of 3♣ after the 1N rebid is minimal and to play. (With a better hand we’d go through the 2♣ or 2♦ bids first and then bid 3♣).

Responder Jump-Rebids

After the 1N rebid, a direct bid of 3M shows a slammish hand with a good suit. We could go through 2♦! first if we were just game-forcing. A jump to 3♦, such as 1♦ - 1♥ - 1N - 3♦ is slammish in diamonds. But a jump to 3♣ is weak, as noted above.

Optionally, you can make 3♣ a slam try too and show the weak hand in clubs by bidding:

1N  2N!(relay to 3♣)
3♣!(forced)  Pass

This is possible since a plain balanced invite begins with the 2♣ relay so the direct 2N is an unused bid. The problem is that the 2N bid may be error-prone. So I prefer having 1m - 1M - 1N - 2N just be natural too and lose the 3♣ slam-try bid.

XYZ

XYZ is a convention that applies when the first three bids are on the one level, and responder has an invitational or better hand. The name comes from writing this as 1X - 1Y - 1Z.

Essentially we extend the ideas of TWNMF to these additional auctions.

Research XYZ with a partner after having plenty of TWNMF experience.