Theory and Conventions

Home

M J Bridge

Bidding

Hands

Responder’s first bid

Kokish relay


Suppose you hold a twenty five point balanced hand - you opened an artificial strong 2 - partner relayed with 2 - and now you hit a difficulty as you choose your rebid.


In a standard system you would now rebid 2NT with twenty three or twenty four points, and 3NT with twenty five or twenty six points.

But the 3NT rebid removes any chance of locating a better game contract.  Certainly you can play a version of Stayman and transfers at this point (recommended if you stick with the simple framework above) but this search for a suit contract will inevitably take you past what might be the optimum contract of 3NT.


In the section on the opening bid I hinted at an ingenious solution to the problem - the ‘Kokish relay’.

This convention addresses the problem by introducing an artificial and forcing relay rebid by opener of 2 showing either a strong hand based on a heart suit of at least five cards, or a strong balanced hand in some agreed range.


Usually responder will relay with 2 after which you can show your hand-type.

The single-suited hand will then rebid in hearts, a hand which is 5-4 (or 5-5 if you prefer) in hearts and another suit can still be shown by making the relay bid of 2 and then bidding the second suit naturally at the next turn.


In the basic form of the convention the sequence 2, 2, 2, 2, 2NT will show the balanced hand of 23-24 points.

The sequence 2, 2, 2NT can then be used to show the 25+ point hand.

These two allocations can be reversed.


Following either of these sequences the full array of Stayman, transfers, etc. is available as over an opening bid of 2NT.


The only slight difficulty is that you have lost the natural non-forcing sequence 2, 2, 2.


The usual solution is to play that 2, 2, 3 is natural and invitational (8 or 9 playing tricks say and invitational depending on the definition of your original 2 bid),

and the slow route via the relay - 2, 2, 2, 2, 3 is natural and game-forcing.

Post intermediate and above

Responder’s rebid

K Q 9 6

K Q 6

A Q

A K 7 6

Twenty three points in a balanced hand.

Bid 2.

Partner will normally relay with 2 following which you will rebid 2NT showing a balanced hand of twenty three or twenty four points.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

2

-

2

-

?








K Q 9 6

K Q 6

A Q

A K Q 6

Twenty five points in a balanced hand.

Bid 2NT.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

2

-

2

-

?








K 6

K Q 9 7 6 4

A K

A K 6

Eight and a half playing tricks and a six-card heart suit.

Bid 3 - invitational.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

2

-

2

-

?








A 6

K Q J 7 6 4

A K

A Q 6

Nine and a half playing tricks and a six-card heart suit.

Bid 2 then rebid 3 over the 2 relay response - natural and game-forcing.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

2

-

2

-

?








A 6

K Q J 6 4

A K

A Q 8 6

Twenty three points with five hearts and four clubs.

Bid 2, then rebid 3 over the 2 relay response.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

2

-

2

-

?








This page last revised 13th June 2017


As a bonus the convention also works well alongside an immediate rebid of 3NT allowing opener to show a strong hand with both minors, and it also combines well with a game-forcing opening 2 and a system of responses to 2 which permit responder to show long suits in weakish hands with considerable accuracy (see responder’s rebid).


For most of us these hands will not happen with sufficient frequency to justify another bit of bidding machinery, but for those of you with serious aspirations, or just a love of conventions, the Kokish relay is recommended.


Note that I started this page by postulating a hand of twenty five points, but that is by no means a requirement for the opening bid.

As is indicated by the inclusion of invitational sequences above there is no reason why this convention should not be played alongside an opening bid of 2 which is either ‘Benji’ or ‘Benji or better’.