Barry Crane System Notes by Kerri Sanborn
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The Barry Crane system may seem loose and free wheeling, and it is. But, within the framework
which I will lay out, it is actually quite disciplined. What may seem a ludicrous action to a Roth-Stone
player is actually systemic in Crane. Just as these solid players would consider it an error to make
a vulnerable overcall with AQTxx and out, so it is an error in Crane not to bid.
To begin your orientation I'll give you a few of the basic philosophies which Barry and his partners used to advantage.
1. Get in early, say your piece, then get out of the bidding. This means that there is virtually
no balancing. An auction that goes 1S - P - 2S - P - P - Double is a penalty double. If we had
a takeout double, it would have happened on the first round of bidding. Likewise, if responder
to the overcall has one bid to make, he gets it out of his system. It is wrong to raise
1S to 2S then later compete to 3S (except in rare cases).
2. When bidding decisions come up, we take a pessimistic view. If partner needs a key card
or two, we don't play him for it. If you can't find out if a slam will be a good one, don't bid it.
3. When there is a decision as to whether to double the opponents or to push to the five level,
take the sure profit. This applies in many other bidding situations too.
4. Never lose the setting trick.
5. On defense, give count frequently and suit preference signals freely.
6. In bidding it is most important to show distribution.
7. Open any 11 point hand containing a king. With good distributional hands open lighter.
Opening Bids - Majors
Open 5 card spade suits, 4 card hearts.
Example: Axxxx Ax x Axxxx 1S
Example: Axxx Axxx Axx xx 1H
If you open a 4 card heart suit, you also have 4 spades or 4 or 5 diamonds.
Example: Axx Axxx Axxxx x 1H
Example: Ax Axxx Axxx xxx 1H
Example: Axxx Axxx xx Axx 1C
Example: Axxx Axxx xxx Ax 1H
With 1-4-4-4 open 1H, rebid 2D. Whenever you open 1H and follow with 2C, it shows
a five card heart holding. (Exception: xx AKxx Ax AJxxx open 1H and over 1S
bid 2C and following a preference, 2NT).
Opening Bids - Minors
The only situation where you may open a 3 card diamond suit is when your
shape is 4-4-3-2 and hearts are worse than QTxx.
1D shows 4 except in the case above. 1C shows 3 or more, except one case
AKxx xxxx xxx Ax. Rather than bid 3 small diamonds or unbidable heart suit, bid 1C.
As a rule we open the suit under the singleton with 3 four card suits, but in these cases we can't.
Example: Axxx Axxx Axxx x 1H
Example: x xxxx Axxx AKxx 1D
With 2 four card minors open 1D unless there is a great discrepancy in the
suits such as xx Qxx xxxx AKQJ.
Responding to Notrump Bids
Jacoby Transfers are used. Then responder should bid distribution.
Example: AQxxx xx Kxxx Jx 1NT-2H-2S-3D
Example: AQJxxx Kx xxx xx 1NT-2H-2S-3NT
Three of a minor is weak. Three of a major is a slam try. 2S is Minor Suit Stayman. There is
a gadget for finding a fit at the two level with weak hands. You may bid Stayman and retreat to
2NT knowing that partner must pass. In order to invite, the auction starts 1NT-2NT. If opener
now wishes to accept and has a 4 card major he now bids 3C Stayman. Responder bids 3D with
any major and 3NT without one. Over 3D, opener names his major and is thus able to investigate
a fit. A possible auction or two.
Example: 1NT-2C-2H-P xxx Kxxx Kxxx xx
Example: 1NT-2NT-3H (5-card suit) -4H-P
15-17 HCP - no small doubletons. The minimum holding in a suit is Qx. If you
cannot bid the hand any other way, you may deviate. Five card majors are OK.
Example: xx AKx Qxx AKxxx. If you open a club you cannot rebid, so 1NT is correct.
Example: AKxx xx Qxxx AKx. Open 1D intending to rebid 1S.
A 2NT rebid shows 18-19 HCP.
Example: AKxx Qxx Axx AJx 18 HCP Open 1C, rebid 1S, but
Example: AKxx QJx Axx AJx 19 HCP Open 1C rebid 2S.
With 20 HCP rebid 3NT, but if you have a major to jump in, this takes precedence.
With 21 or 22 HCP open 2NT.
Distribution can be liberal.
2C followed by 2NT = 23-24
Opening 3NT = 25-26.
Thus 2C then 3NT = 27-28.
Over Major Openings
Jump raises are forcing and may have a singleton, so after jump raise 3NT
asks for singleton. Limit raises in competition.
Since we do not play limit raises, we use 2C as a temporizing bid to show the point count to go to
the two level. When followed by a simple preference, this shows a limit raise and says nothing
about clubs. When followed by 2NT it shows 11-13 HCP. If opener rebids his suit it is nonforcing
if responder has a limit raise and he should usually pass (1S-2C-2S = minimum)
With no clear bid and an invitational hand, opener bids 2D to see what the 2C bid was all about.
Should partner bid 1S, bid 2C with:
QJx AKxxx xxx xx - rebid 2S
xx AKxx Qxxx Kxx - rebid 2NT
Axxx Axxx Qxxx x - rebid 2S
With all but the last example, you should pass a 2S rebid.
In majors they are forcing.
Example: 1S-2D-2H-3S forcing Qxx Ax AKxxxx xx
Example: 1S-2D-2H-4S QJx Ax AKxxxx Kx - monster!!
After Minor Opener
1C or 1D and raise = 2-6 HCP
1C or 1D and jump raise = 7-9 HCP
jump preference = 10-12 HCP
In competition this does not apply.
Responder Suit Rebids
By responder - Jump rebids are forcing!
Example: 1C-1H-1S-3H = Ax AHxxxx Kx xxx
A simple rebid of your suit invites.
Example: 1C-1H-1S-2H = xx KQT9xx AJTxx
With xx KQT9xx x JTxx make a weak jump response initially. This can show 8 HCP.
A raise of a weak jump response is constructive. 2NT is natural.
Opening 2 Bids
All are strong in first or second seats with 2C as either a NT rebid or a club suit.
In third or fourth seats 2D, 2H, and 2S are weak, and raises are constructive.
After 2H or 2S, 2NT shows no fit but both minors - asks opener for preference. New suits are non-forcing.
Responding to Strong 2 Bids
Over 2C, 2D is negative. There is no double negative. Over 2D, 2H, or 2S, 2NT is negative.
A jump raise shows trump fit but no first or second round controls.
Overcalls (1-17 HCP)
If partner is not a passed hand, you should be sounder than if he has passed,
especially if you are bidding at the two level.
Example: AJT9 x T98xxx Jx is an acceptable 1S overcall in the second seat,
but not good enough for 2D. At matchpoints, overcall more freely for a lead.
Jump raises by unpassed hands are equivalent of good limit raise. Cue bids are forcing, Jumps in new suits are
95% forcing. They show a good opening bid. Jump overcalls are preemptive.
Negative doubles are played thru 3D. After 1C-1S-double, opener needs four hearts to bid them,
as responder has not guaranteed four. 1C-1D-double shows 4-4 in the majors,
but occasionally 4-5. 1C-1H-double usually denies four spades, but opener
should bid a spade suit anyway. 1C-P-1D-1S-double is negative for hearts. The Crane double.
Over Opponents Takeout Doubles
New suits are non-forcing and deny the strength to redouble. Jumps in a new suit are equivalent
to weak two bid. After a major - double - 2NT is both minors. One of a major by responder
following takeout double shows 5-card suit (e.g. 1C-double-1S = 5)
In first or second seat they are sound and follow the rule of 2 and 3. In minors they show 7 or 8 to
AKQ, AKJ, AQJ, or AKQJ. With passing partner, they are random
When they prempt
Doubles by you are takeout thru 4D, optional of 4H, and penalty of 4S.
When they open 1NT
2C is a random takeout bid, but with a gear toward the majors. If it denies a suit, it will usually be clubs.
Responder should not pass without a six card club suit. Doubles are penalty and are made
more liberally than in most systems, especially over weak notrumps.
New minor forcing except by a passed hand.
2NT is minimum with 2 spades
3NT is minimum with 2 spades
2H shows 4 hearts and 2 spades
The weak 6-4 bid is used when the minor could not have been bid at the one level
1S 3C = weak with 4H and 6C
1S 3D = forcing because we bid up the line with 4-6.
Weak jump responses, as described earlier, up to 8 HCP, may be 5-card suit.
Double jump shifts show 7-4. This should be a reasonable hand as you are raising the level so high.
3S = AQxx x x AKxxxxx
Splinters in the most obvious situations. That is when you jump in opponent's suit directly.
1H - 1S - 3S = Splinter
1C - 1H - P - 3C = Clubs !!
Notrump overcalls are 15 - 17 HCP. Over these cue bids are stayman. Transfers are off.
Unusual notrump show the lower two unbid suits.
Direct cue bids are strong. Responders first obligation is to bid notrump with a stopper in
opponents suit. 1S - 2S could be xx Ax AKQxxxx Ax. If the auction goes 1S - 2S - P - 3C - P -3D
is not forcing.
If the opening bid is a minor in forcing club system, the cue bid is natural
Unusual over Unusual NT's
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3C = limit raise
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3D = forcing raise
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3H or 3S = non-forcing: if in your suit, weaker than 3C.
Gerber is used only when obvious and must be a jump.
Over Blackwood interference., double is penalties (take sure profit).
Pass shows no aces. Bid up the line with 1 or more ace.
We lead high from 3 or 4 small. Fourth from honors or 5 or more. Q from KQ10 demands Jack.
Against NT, A asks for the highest card. K for second high. Foster echo to first trick.
Versus NT - lead aggressive if 5-4. Lead strength, not length.
Special Distributional Rules
Many of these are from Culbertson's rule of symmetry. Others may seem silly,
but if you play the same way always you eliminate guessing.
Rule for Finding Queens and Jacks
When you are looking for a queen or jack, it is over the jack or ten in the minors.
In the majors this is reversed. This does not take precedence to knowledge of where length is.
It applies only in guessing situations.
Missing four to the Queen.
Always a problem or do you always play for the drop ? According to the rule, you check your own
distribution first. If your combined hands contain a singleton, you play for this suit to break 3-1 too.
If you have 2 singletons, they balance and so will your mystery suit - play for the drop.
If you are 3-0 or 2-1 in a side suit. This also will balance - again play for the 2-2.
Missing three to the King.
When you lead toward the ace, if the next hand plays the smallest card, play the ace -
if he plays the middle card, then finesse. This has a partial logic in that, with two small most players will play small.
QJ1098 (Lead Q toward the A)
A6543 (If 2 appears - play ace)(If 7 appears - finesse)