A ‘transfer’ is a bid in a suit, telling partner to bid another suit. It is normal that the transfer-suit is one below the suit required to be bid by partner. We shall consider ‘red suit transfers’ as distinct from full transfers – the major difference being in the meaning of the 2♠ bid.

Why Play Transfers?

1.      Transfers effectively give the responder two bids for the price of one, making it much easier to describe the hand at a manageable level. There is much more clarity in distinguishing between weak, invitational, and forcing hands. For example consider the hand

                                          ♠ 643
                                          ♣ K4.

Using traditional methods, when partner opens 1NT, this is a difficult hand to bid. 2 is too weak; 3 (forcing) is too strong; an invitational raise to 2NT conceals the main feature of the hand (five hearts); 2♣ (Stayman) followed by 3 is acceptable, but this commits the partnership to the three-level which may be too high if there is no fit. Transfers enable this sort of hand to be accurately described.

Of secondary benefit are:

2.      The probable stronger hand is concealed during the play, making defence more awkward.

3.      The initial lead comes up to strength, rather than through it.


            (we shall assume an opening 12-14 1NT).

2 (with five hearts) - partner has to bid 2.

            2 (with five spades) - partner has to bid 2♠.

            2♠ - see below. This bid is different in red-suit and full transfers.

            2NT – 12 points as normal. However many partnerships attach special meanings to this bid – in particular minor suit orientated hands, but these can be developed later.

Note with the 2 and 2 bids, opener must bid 2 or 2♠. Following this, responder has a second chance to describe his hand further (some pairs allow the transfer to be broken – but don’t consider doing this unless very experienced).

When To Use

A useful little rhyme:

                                    Stayman is used for four,

                                    Transfers for five or more.

(- but like all conventions, there are exceptions).

Whenever you hold five or more cards in a major suit, you can use a transfer from 0 to 19 points – hence the flexibility. Stayman on the other hand is primarily used to find a 4-4 major fit.

(In the following hand classifications, novice players should increase the required point ranges by one point).

Weak Hands (0-9 points with a 5+ card major)

Responder transfers and then passes opener’s bid of the transfer-suit. This is equivalent to the traditional weak take-out, except that the 1NT opener becomes declarer.

1NT – 2 - 2 - pass (up to 9 points with five or more hearts).

            1NT – 2 - 2♠ - pass (up to 9 points with five or more spades).

(The exception to this is a weak hand with a 5-card major and a 4-card major. In this situation it is best to go through Stayman. Over a 2 response simply bid the 5-card major. Over a response in either major, simply pass).

Invitational Hands (10 or 11 points with a 5+ card major)

-    transfer, and then either:

a)   - re-bid three of the major with a six-card suit – i.e. 1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 3♠.

b)   - re-bid 2NT with a five-card major.

c)   - over 1NT – 2 - 2 - bid 2♠ to also show four spades.

The idea of these sequences is that you are inviting partner to bid game with a maximum, in the knowledge that you have a 5-card major. With minimum points, partner can pass 2NT with only two-card support for the major, or he can bid three of the major with three-card support. With maximum points, partner can bid 3NT with only two-card support for partner’s 5-card major, or bid four of the major with three-card support. (Playing 12-14 1NT, he has to make a judgement with 13 points).

Strong Hands (12 + points with a 5+ card major)

-    transfer and then either:

d)   - jump to 3NT (i.e. 1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 3NT).

e)   - bid a second suit at the three-level (in particular with the other major). (i.e. 1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 3 shows five spades and four hearts and 12 + points – partner you choose).

f)   - jump to 4/4♠ with a six-card suit (but no slam prospects). (i.e. 1NT – 2 - 2 - 4).


- Responder’s hands (i.e. containing a 5+ card major).

a)♠ 63b)♠ 643c)♠ KQ8542d)♠ AQ6e)♠ 7

KJ10864 KJ1053 AJ2 KJ1074 KQ9853

107 A96 76 Q6 K62

♣ 842♣ K4♣ 92♣ Q83♣ AQ6

a)   1NT – 2 - 2 - pass.

b)   1NT – 2 - 2 - 2NT  -  ? - you are showing five hearts and 10 or 11 points. Partner can pass. (This is the hand featured in the introduction – easily bid with transfers).

c)   1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 3♠ - ? - you are showing six spades and 10 or 11 points. Partner can pass.

d)   1NT – 2 - 2 - 3NT  (partner will probably convert to 4 with three hearts).

e)   1NT – 2 - 2 - 4♥.

-    Opener’s hands (i.e. having opened 1NT, partner makes a transfer bid and a subsequent bid):

f)♠ A963g)♠ 963h)♠ 963i)♠ QJ83j)♠ 95

76 A4 A4 95 AJ63

KQ6 KQ75 K975 KQ64 KQ64

♣ AJ92♣ AJ85♣ AJ85♣ A76♣ A76

f)   1NT – 2 - 2 - 2NT – 3NT. Partner has invited with 2NT. Maximum and only two hearts – bid 3NT.

g)   1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 2NT  - 4♠. Partner has invited with 2NT. Maximum with three spades – bid 4♠.

h)   1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 3NT – 4♠.  Be careful not to pass 3NT. With a side suit doubleton it is better to play in the safer 4♠.

i)   1NT – 2 - 2 - 3 - pass. Partner has shown six hearts and has invited game, but with a minimum just pass.

j)   1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 2NT – 3 - ? Partner has invited to game with 2NT, but he may have a four-card heart suit as well as five spades. You are happy to bid to game, but show the four-card heart suit on the way (the bid is now forcing).

Responder’s Initial 2♠ Bid (Mc.Kendrick)

Playing transfers allows more flexible use of the initial 2♠ bid by responder. Remember, that to show a 5-card spade suit, he would have made an initial transfer of 2.

Numerous meanings can be attached to the 2♠ bid, but the most practical for newcomers to transfers

is as follows:

2♠ - either an 11 point hand without a four-card major (i.e. may wish to be in 3NT game, opposite a maximum) or a weak hand with a 6-card club suit or a weak hand with a 6-card diamond suit.

Note: with a four-card major still use Stayman

            Opener’s responses:

-    with a 12 or 13 point hand opener bids 2NT. Responder with an 11 point hand, simply passes; with a weak minor, he simply converts this to either 3♣ or 3 which opener must pass.

-    with a 14 point hand, opener bids 3♣. Responder with an 11 point hand, bids 3NT; with a weak minor he passes 3♣ or bids 3.


-          Responder’s hands

k)♠ A86l)♠ 64m)♠ 832

Q96 A98 K7

K642 94 A108632

♣ Q72♣ KJ8532♣ 94

k)   bid 2♠. Opener will bid 2NT with a minimum which you would then pass. With a maximum he would bid 3♣, over which you now bid 3NT.

l)    bid 2♠. If partner bids 2NT with a minimum, bid 3♣, which he will pass. If he bids 3♣ with a maximum, just pass.

m)  bid 2♠. If partner bids 2NT with a minimum, bid 3, which he will pass. If he bids 3♣ with a maximum, bid 3 which he will pass.

Responder’s Initial 2NT Bid

2NT – a 12 point hand. Opener passes with 12 points, and bids 3NT with 13 or 14 points.

(More experienced pairs sometimes use this bid with alternative meanings, e.g. both minors).

Responses With 5-5 In The Majors (not standard, but my own preferences):

Methods vary when responder holds 5-5 in the majors (with 5-4 the approach outlined above is fairly standard). Hands still need to be classified as weak, invitational, or game forcing, but with the more distributional 5-5 shape, point-count can be relaxed (3 points less). My own preferences are:

Weak Hand (0-6 points) - use Stayman, and over the expected 2 response just bid the better one. Obviously if partner bids a major just leave it.

Invitational (7-9 points) or Strong Hand - use Extended Stayman – i.e. 1NT – 2♣ - 2 - 3. Opener must now respond with his better major at the three-level with a minimum, or at the four-level with a maximum. If he responds at the three level, responder can pass (invitational hand) or raise to game (strong hand).

(Other sequences showing 5-5 majors can be used on slam invitational hands – not discussed here). e.g.- 1NT - 2 - 2 - 4


n)♠ AKQ10863o)♠ A9873p)♠ AK832

A9632 K8742 KJ732

6 6 6

♣ 72♣ 72♣ 72

n) 1NT – 2♣ - 2 (probable) - 2♥.

o) 1NT – 2♣ - 2 (probable) – 3 - (partner bids 3, 3♠, 4, 4♠).

p) 1NT – 2♣ - 2 (probable) - 3 - 3/♠ - 4/♠.

Other Bids (again not standard, but my own preferences):

1NT - 3 or 3♠ are now slam invitational in that major (I also extend this to 3♣ and 3 responses). For the more experienced, this is followed by cue-bids.

1NT – 4 or 4♠ are pre-emptive raises to game (i.e. 7+card suit, intermediate values).


Transfers do not normally apply if the opponents bid directly over the 1NT (unless playing Rubensohl).

(However some players do employ a transfer system over a double of 1NT).

1NT Overcall

Transfers are used opposite a 1NT overcall in exactly the same way, but adjusted for points (all bids can be made with 3 points less – assuming the overcall is 15 – 17).

At this stage, also respond exactly the same to ‘meaningless transfers’ e.g. over the opponents 1 (five –card major), you bid 1NT and partner bids 2 - transfer to hearts??  At this stage comply with the transfer, but with more experience different meanings can be attributed to this type of bid (e.g. a simple weak diamond take-out).

Other Considerations

Transfers are somewhat linked to the use of Stayman. Sequences such as 1NT – 2♣ - 2 - 3♠ now need to be re-assessed if playing transfers. Also having transferred, what is the meaning of a jump-bid following the completion of the transfer (e.g. 1NT – 2 - 2♠ - 4♣). These are beyond the scope of this presentation.

Any Disadvantages?

After 1NT, pass, 2 or 2 (transfer bid), the next opponent has more bids available knowing that he will get a second chance to bid (opener has to complete the transfer). However at club level, if a suitable hand occurs, virtually no partnerships are able to exploit this, so it is only a theoretical slight disadvantage.