Jacoby Transfer Bids

YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB3 Ch2 (March 28, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 3 series, Ch. 2 — tells how we respond to a NT opening when holding a 5c+ suit. When these suits are a major, the partnership will want to play in that suit with the big hand as the Declarer. Responder must ask the Opener to bid Responder’s long suit, using hints that Oswald Jacoby developed into the Jacoby Transfer Bid (JTB). You may download this lesson in one of the three following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB3 Ch2 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB3 Ch2 Note.docx
  3. Practice Hands: BeB Transfers for Blog

Oswald Jacoby

Oswald Jacoby lived from 1902-1984. He was great at all games (chess, poker, backgammon). His transfer convention, the Jacoby Transfer, is neither natural nor common. When Responder bids JTB, the NT Opener must announce, “Transfer.”

Natural bids over 1NT are limited. Responder can bid at the 2-level with a weak hand (0-7 HCP) to show a 5c suit, or the 3-level with a strong hand (10+ HCP) to show a 6c suit. There are no natural bids for a 5c medium hand (8-9 HCP).

In BB3, Ch. 1, we saw that the Stayman Convention was a post WWII gadget to find a 4cM after an opening of 1NT. Stayman fits well with JTB. Both can be used together. A Responder with a 3cM bids naturally as in BB1, Ch. 2, Notrumps. A Responder with a 4cM bids Stayman. A Responder with a 5cM but no 4cM bids JTB.

JTB can be more complex than Stayman. This is perhaps why JTB are not common at social bridge. However, these transfers are outstanding at (1) finding a GF major for the partnership, (2) right-siding (converting and concealing) the long weak hand from potential Declarer to actual Dummy, and (3) placing the opening lead as LHO to the strong hand, sometimes resulting in Declarer winning the lead cheaply.

Opener’s (or Overcaller’s) First Bid

When there is no interference, Jacoby Transfers are “on” as soon as one partner bids NT. Just as with Stayman, a major-suit fit is the partnership’s goal. Opener may have a 4cM but certainly has a 3cM, as a NT can have at most one doubleton. If Responder has a 4cM, there may be a fit with Opener that we can find with Stayman. If Responder has a 5cM, there is almost certainly a fit with Opener that we can find with JTB.

JTB has major advantages over Stayman. Three of these advantages are listed below:

  • 5c+ Suit: Responder needs only a 5cM or 6cm to bid JTB. There is no initial hassle about having a minimum, medium, or maximum hand to bid. Responder can bid JTB with zero points. This means that a Responder with insufficient points to bid Stayman at the 2-level can still bid JTB. Only on later bids will Responder be concerned with their own point range and their partner’s point range.
  • Major or Minor: Responder can bid any 5c or 6c suit, whether that be a major or minor. The partnership can find its best fit, and possibly get to game in a major, but certainly get to partscore in a minor.
  • Probable: Responder can find a more likely fit by bidding JTB than by bidding Stayman, particularly since Opener has a flat NT hand with mostly 3c suits. Notrump openings can have 5-3-3-2, 4-4-3-2, or 4-3-3-3 distributions. These three distributions have a combined one 5c suit (universal fit for both Stayman and JTB), three 4c suits (universal fit for both Stayman and JTB), six 3c suits (JTB fit only), and two 2c suits (no fit).

Length Points: When Opener bids NT, the Responder need not revalue their hand with Dummy Points. Responder can continue to use Length Points. While Responder will be Dummy, Responder will not be providing any extra tricks through shortage and ruffing. Dummy will have the long trumps, and hence will not gain any extra tricks by such ruffing. In contrast, Declarer holding a doubleton may provide one ruff in their doubleton. Other than one doubleton, Declarer with a NT opening is unlikely to have any non-trump suits that are shorter than those in Dummy.

Shortages: While Responder will not develop extra tricks by having a s/v, such shortage may guard Declarer’s losers. If Opponents were to lead Declarer’s weakest suit, as is likely, then having a s/v will crimp Opponents’ ability in a suit contract to run their best suit. Consequently, if Responder has a hand worth more with Dummy Points than with Length Points, Responder may value their hand at the higher method. A Declarer with shorter trumps than Responder will value their hand with Dummy Points.

Possible Transfers: JTB has four transfers to 4 suits. Responder bids ♦ to ask Opener to transfer in ♥, bids ♥ to ask Opener to transfer in ♠, bids ♠ to ask Opener to transfer in ♣, and bids 3♣ to ask Opener to transfer in ♦. The “ask” is forcing, as Opener must make a transfer-type bid (ie, complete or break the transfer). The transfer in ♦ is not universal, as some partnerships transfer with 2♠ (Audrey Grant’s method; does not right side), 2NT (the “4-suit transfer” method; takes away a great natural bid of 2NT), or the recommended 3♣ (Eddie Wold’s method; requires a 6cm, as does a 2♠ transfer to ♣).

Table of Basic JTB to 1NT Opening

Responder Ask or Tell
1st Bid
2♦, 2♥, 2♠, 3♣ Asks for transfer to 2♥, 2♠, 3♣, or 3♦. Tells suit will be 5cM or 6cm.
4♦, 4♥ Asks for transfer to 4♥, 4♠. Tells the transfer will be a shutout.
2nd Bid
Pass Tells Responder is min (0-7 HCP) and suit is 5c
2NT Tells Responder is med (8-9 HCP) and suit is 5c
Suit raise Tells Responder is min+ (7-8 HCP) and suit is 6c
New suit at 3-level Tells Responder is max (10+ HCP), 2-suited (another 5cM or 4cm), and forcing to game.
3NT Tells Responder is max (10+ HCP) and suit is 5c
Suit jump raise Tells Responder is max (10+ HCP) and suit is 6c
nb: Slam hands may have a different sequence.

JTB in Minors

Transfers are also possible in minors, but this is by partnership agreement. The BridgeGuys.com makes the following comments about minor transfers:

  1. Points: Responder is generally weak, as Responder otherwise has the natural bid of 2NT. If Responder is very strong, then Responder continues to bid after the transfer.
  2. When: Transfer to minors after an opening of 1NT, but not 2NT or 3NT.
  3. Bids: Responder bids 2♠ or 3♣, each one suit less than the intended contract. Opener transfers to 3♣ or 3♦. The Responder passes unless interested in slam, in which case Responder cuebids or bids Gerber (normal) or Blackwood (rare).

Responder’s First Bid

  1. Minimum=0-7 Points
    1. 6c+ in Suit: Make the transfer, next pass.
    2. 5c in Suit: Make the transfer, next pass.
  2. Medium=8-9 Points
    1. 6c+ in Major: Make the transfer, next bid 3M.
    2. 6c+ in Minor: Make the transfer. Opener with a maximum will break the transfer with 3NT, 4m, or 5m.
    3. 5c in Major: Make the transfer, next bid 2NT. With 2-card support, Opener will pass or bid 3NT; with 3-card support, Opener will pass, or bid 3M, 3NT, or 4M.
  3. Maximum=10-15 Points
    1. 6c+ in Major: Make the transfer, next jump to 4M.
    2. 5c in Major: Make the transfer, next jump to 3NT. With 2-card support, Opener will pass, otherwise bid 4M.
  4. Slam Interest=16+ Points: Same as Maximum. On next bid, Responder will show a side suit. The partnership keeps bidding.

Opener’s Second Bid

  1. Opener has 15-16 HCP: Accept the transfer.
  2. Opener has 17 HCP and 4+ trumps: Super-accept the transfer (ie, jump one level).

Two-Major Response

How a two-suited Responder answers a NT opening depends entirely on Responder’s strength. Responder first determines whether they are a Minimum (0-7 HCP), Medium (8-9 HCP), or Maximum hand (10+ HCP).

  1. Min. Hand = 0-7 HCP
    1. Longest & Strongest: Responder transfers to their longest & strongest major (ie, longest unless tied, then strongest).
    2. Ignore 2nd Suit: Responder does not mention any good second suit.
  2. Med. Hand = 8-9 HCP
    1. 5-5 Majors: Use JTB. Responder’s 1st bid is a transfer with 2♦ and 2nd bid is a natural 2♠. The 2♠ is invitational, NOT forcing (ie, it is an exception to RONF). This is the reverse of what a Max hand bids, as Responder starts with ♥ and then mentions ♥.
    2. 5-4 Majors: Use Stayman. If Opener bids 2♦ negative, Responder bids 2M in the 5cM, non-forcing. Opener may pass or continue (eg, bids 2NT, 3♥, or 3♠). If Opener bids 2NT, Responder places the best contract (eg, 3NT, 4♥, or 4♠). If Opener bids 3♥ or 3♠, AG says to raise to 4M.
  3. Max. Hand = 10+ HCP
    1. 5-5 Majors: Use JTB. Responder’s 1st bid is a transfer with 2♥ and 2nd bid is a natural 3♥. This is the reverse of what a Med and bids, as Responder starts with ♦ transfer and then mentions ♠. Game forcing. After Responder’s rebid of 3♥, Opener bids 3NT, 3♠, or 4♥ to suggest NT or a preferred trump. A bid of 3NT shows a 2-2-4-5 distribution.
    2. 5-4 Majors: Use Stayman. If Opener bids 2♦ negative, Responder jumps to 3M in the 5cM, forcing. Opener will raise to game (eg, 3NT, 4M with a possible 4-3 fit, or 4M with a possible 5-2 fit).
Transfer Bids if Responder is 5-5 in Majors
Ladder Responder is Medium (8-9 HCP) Responder is Maximum (10+ HCP)
4♠ Opener’s 3rd Bid (GF in ♠)
4♥ Opener’s 3rd Bid (GF in ♥)
3♠ Opener’s 3rd Bid (GF in ♠)
3♥ Opener’s 3rd Bid (GF in ♥) Responder’s 2nd Bid
2♠ Responder’s 2nd Bid Opener’s 2nd Bid
2♥ Opener’s 2nd Bid Responder’s 1st Bid
2♦ Responder’s 1st Bid
1NT Opener’s 1st Bid Opener’s 1st Bid

Competitive Bidding (aka Interference): Assume partner bids 1NT/2NT and Opponent overcalls. Jacoby is:

  • ON with X: Opponent’s bid does not alter the bidding ladder.
  • ON with 2NT+: Opener has a big NT hand, such as 2♣ – 2♦ – 2NT or 2♣ – 2♦ – 3NT.
  • OFF in most cases: In general, Jacoby is off, but if Responder has requested a transfer, Opener can accept with 4c support and 17 points. Either partner must jump to force.


  1. ACBL: At the ACBL website, click on “Learn,” “How to Play,” “New to Duplicate,” “Commonly Used Conventions,” “Jacoby Transfers.” That might be hard to navigate. You can also Google “ACBL convention card for Jacoby Transfers.”
  2. Best eBridge: Log on, then choose Bidding, Transfers. There are 80 hands to bid. Some are the same deal, but you will alternate between being Opener and Responder. Hands 1, 2, 3, … are basic concepts. Hands 80, 79, 78, … show cuebids, 5-5 transfers, Texas transfers, super acceptance, weak balancing openings, and features we will study in BB3 Ch. 3-4.
  3. Best eBridge Transfer Guide: This is a resource available on BetterBridge.blog. The Guide is a Word document. It shows the bidding logic behind all 80 hands on BeB.
  4. BridgeGuys.com: Click on Glossary. Click on “Jacoby Transfers.”
  5. Ferguson, Fred: BeginnerBridge.blogspot.com (2008). Index is on right side of page. Scroll till you see Bidding Tools, then click on “Jacoby Transfers.”
  6. Grant, Audrey: Ch. 9, Diamond Series: Play of the Hand (2006), pp. 339-369.
  7. Grant, Audrey: Ch. 2, BB3, p. 72, shows a JTB bidding table by suit length and point range.

Tests of Comprehension

  1. Transfer 1st Bids: For a test on Opener’s and Responder’s 1st bids after a 1NT opening, go to Quiz 1 (p. 84). Try a, c, e, g, h, i.
  2. Transfer 2nd Bids: For a test on Opener’s and Responder’s 2nd bids after a 1NT opening, go to Quiz 2 (p. 86). Try a, b, c, d, e, j, k.
  3. Summary: For a test on Opener’s various bids after a 1NT opening, go to Quiz 3 (p. 88). Try c, d, e.

 _ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

Hands to Play, from BB3, Popular Conventions (230 p.)

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB3 P. 90, #5 N N 2♠ T♥ A
BB3 P. 92, #6 E E 4♥ Q B
BB3 P. 94, #7 W S 4♠ 5 C
BB3 P. 96, #8 S W 2NT J♠ D


  • A: N=17 HCP, no length. S=3 HCP, 3 Dummy points. North (N) opens 1NT. South (S) transfers to ♠. N accepts cheaply, and A.P. East (E) leads top of a 3c sequence from a 5c unbid suit. N has 7 tricks, must develop one in ♣. Urgency is to discard ♦ on ♥. Pull trumps. Drive out the A♣. Making an overtrick. (+150).
  • B: E=16 HCP, no length. W=8 HCP, 2 Dummy points. E opens 1NT. West (W) transfers to ♥. E accepts cheaply. W with 10 points goes to game in a major. S leads top of sequence from a 5c unbid suit. E has 6 QT. Game is possible if trumps divide 3-2 and the ♣ finesse is successful. Making game (+420).
  • C: W=15 HCP, no length. E=9 HCP, 2 Dummy points. W opens 1NT. E transfers to ♠, then give W a choice of games. W chooses 4♠. N leads 4th best (not a good lead). Trumps are likely to break 3-2. The ♣ suit also must break 3-2 to make. Making game (+620).
  • D: S=15 HCP, no length. N=8 HCP, 1 Dummy point. S opens 1NT. N transfers to ♥. S accepts cheaply. N shifts back to 2NT, and A.P. W leads top of a 3c sequence from a 5c unbid suit. S has 6 QT, needs to develop immediately. Making partscore (+120).

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB3 Ch2 may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s