These system notes are excerpted from "Howard Schenken's 'Big Club': A revolutionary, highly competitive, and accurate way to bid for every bridge player" (1968). Schenken was a luminary in American bridge who won the Bermuda Bowl thrice in the 1950s.
While now outdated, the Schenken System is an interesting and important ancester of modern strong club systems.
"Big Club" Summarized
High Card Points: Ace=4, King=3, Queen=2, Jack=1.
As opening bidder
, for a suit contract: add 1 point for each four card suit (Q-x-x-x, J-10-x-x or better). Add an additional point for the fifth card of any suit, and 2 points for every card over five.
When raising partner's suit:
count high cards at face value, add 1 point extra for a high trump honor. For each doubleton, add 1 point. For a singleton, add 3 points. For a void, add 5 points (4 with 3 trumps).
Big Club Standard
Opening Bid of 1 (limited) 17-22 HCP
|Notrump-type hand||19-22 HCP.|
|Suit-type hand||17 HCP plus at least 2 DP.|
|Strong spade suit or major two suit hand||14 HCP plus 5 DP.|
Rebids by Opener After 1 Response
|1||Negative, artificial, less than 9 HCP and 1.5 honor tricks.|
|1/||At least 9 HCP and 1.5 honor tricks, 5 card suit or longer, or strong 4 card suit. Forcing to game.
Single jump suit response = solid suit, double jump = semi-solid suit.
|1NT||9-11 HCP, balanced hand.|
|2NT||12-14 HCP, balanced hand.|
|Over opponents' overcall through 3||Double shows positive response and requests a takeout by opener. A bid shows less than 9 HCP.|
|Non-jump suit rebid||May be passed.|
|Jump suit rebid||Forcing for one more round.|
|1NT||19-20 HCP, balanced hand.|
|2NT||21-22 HCP, balanced hand.|
Opening Notrump Bids - Standard American
Add 1 point for a good five-card suit.
Raise 1NT to 2NT with 8-9 HCP, to 3NT with 10-14 HCP.
Responses of 2//
Responses of 3 in a suit are game forces.
Jump takeout to 4
is Gerber and asks for opener's aces.
Stayman Convention: Standard after notrump openings, asking for a four card major.
Stayman after 1
Opening Suit Bids of Two (except Clubs) - game force, Standard American
Five card suit plus 25 HCP.
Six card suit plus 23 HCP.
Seven card suit plus 21 HCP.
|2NT||Less than 7 HCP.|
|Suit response||Positive 5-card suit plus at least 7 HCP.|
|3NT||Balanced hand, at least 7 HCP.|
Opening Bid of 1, 1 or 1
Limited range, usually 12-16 HCP.
Good six or seven card suit or two-suit hand: 10-11 HCP.
|Pass of opening bid||Game remote, less than 7 HCP.|
|Single raise||Constructive, 8-11 points.|
|Jump raise||Invitational, not forcing, 12-13 points.|
|Jump to game in major||Shutout, at least four trumps and 11-14 points, mostly distributional.|
|1NT||Balanced hand, usually 8-11 HCP.|
|2NT||Balanced hand, 12-13 HCP, not forcing.|
|3NT||Balanced hand, 14-16 HCP.|
|One-over-one||At least 8 points, including distribution.|
|Two in a lower ranking suit||Usually 10 HCP or more (exceptions - six card suit headed by A-Q-J or A-K-J).|
|Single jump suit takeout||At least 17 points including distribution.|
Opening Bid of 2
Six card or longer club suit or strong five card suit. 11-16 HCP.
Two in another suit is not forcing.
Two notrump or jump shift are forcing to game.
Opening Bid of 3
Solid club suit (usually at least six), 10-15 HCP.
|Suit response||Strong six card suit, forcing.|
|Raise to 4 or 5||Weak, shutout bid.|
The Complete Schenken System
- The strong artificial opening bid of 1 is used, but unlike Big Club Standard it is unlimited in strength.
- Game forcing two bids, and the strong opening bids of 2NT and 3NT are not used. The strong artificial opening bid of 2 is substituted for the other strong Standard American bids.
- Other opening bids, responses, and bidding procedures are the same as Big Club Standard with the following exceptions:
Opening Bid of 2
Strong, artificial, forcing (usually to game).
Balanced hands: 23 HCP or more.
Freak hands: long powerful suit with not more than one loser, strong slam possibilities if partner can supply certain key cards.
Rebids by the Opening 2 Bidder
|Ace responses||2 = none; 2NT = heart ace; 2, 3, 3 = ace of the suit bid.|
|3, 3, 4||The ace bid and the ace below it.|
|4||Aces of clubs and spades.|
|3NT||Aces of spades and diamonds or hearts and clubs.|
|4NT||Any three aces.|
|2NT||Balanced hand, 23-25 HCP.|
|3NT||Balanced hand, 26-27 HCP.|
|Cheapest suit rebid by opener||Asks for kings. Then, if repeated, it asks for queens. Responder shows kings as he did aces.|
Optional Notrump Openings
1. The Solid Minor Suit 2NT and 3NT Opening
|2NT||Solid minor suit, 17-20 HCP, 7-8 playing tricks.|
|3NT||Solid minor suit, 17-21 HCP, 8.5-9 playing tricks, should include ace, king or queen in every suit.|
2. The "Unusual" 2NT Opening
|Over 2NT||3 is Gerber asking for aces.
Raise to 3NT with 4-10 HCP, to 6 Notrump with 13-14 HCP.
Bid a six card or longer suit on an unbalanced hand.|
|Over 3NT||4 is Gerber asking for aces.
Raise to 6NT with 12-13 HCP.
Bid four in a seven card major suit.|
|Not vulnerable||10-13 HCP, 5-5 or 6-5 in the minors.|
|Vulnerable||13-16 HCP, 5-5 or 6-5 in the minors.|
All high card strength should be in the minor suits.
Not vulnerable: bid three of longest suit as a signoff.
Jump to four or five in a minor suit as a shutout.
Bid three in a strong six card major.
With very strong support in a minor and slam possibilities, bid 4NT, Blackwood.
Vulnerable opening 2NT bids are strong, therefore any response under game is forcing, except three in a minor suit.
A New Response to the Opening Bid of 2
is forcing and may be artificial. It may be bid on a good diamond suit or may have support for one or both majors, plus 12 HCP or more. Opener is requested to bid a four card major, or else rebid his suit or bid 2NT.
New Responses to 1NT
is forcing to game and shows (a) 11 HCP or more, (b) 9 or 10 cards in two suits (usually the minors), (c) a singleton or void.
Rebids by the Opening Notrump Bidder:
|2NT||Both majors stopped (Q-J-x or J-10-x-x).|
The second bid by responder depends on opener's rebid. If opener shows strength in responder's short suit, responder bids 2NT or 3NT. If both hands are weak in a major, responder bids his longest suit. 3
are preemptive responses to 1NT and show weak hands with a six or seven card minor suit.
Nonforcing Stayman Applied to Minor Suits:
A Stayman 2
response to 1NT followed by a second response of three in a minor shows 6-7 HCP plus a 5-6 card minor. Opener may then pass, or with a strong notrump bid 3NT.
The New 3 Response to One in a Major Suit
This response shows (a) strong four card trump support, (b) 16-17 points including distribution.
Rebids by opener:
With a singleton or void, rebid in that suit. Otherwise, rebid original five or six card suit, or with a four card suit bid 3NT.
The New Step Response to 1
A response of 2
is artificial and shows 7-8 HCP plus at least one king. This in turn reduces the negative response of 1
to 0-6 HCP. Responder promises to bid a second time.
After a preemptive bid by partner of three or four:
A bid by responder at the five level in a new suit asks opener to show his controls in that suit by steps:
On constructive bidding:
|Lowest bid||Two or more losers.|
|Two steps||King or singleton.|
|Three steps||Ace or void.|
|An immediate jump to 5NT||Asks partner to show the three top trump honors in the preempt suit by steps.|
A jump response one trick higher than a forcing bid asks partner to show his controls in the suit asked:
|One step||No controls.|
|Two steps||King or singleton.|
|Three steps||The ace.|
|Four steps||A-K, or void.|
Weak Jump Overcalls
|Not vulnerable||Good six card suit plus one defensive trick.|
|Vulnerable||The same, but extra playing strength usually within two tricks of the contract.|
Weak Two Bids (Majors only)
Good six card suit, 8-12 HCP. 1.5-2 honor tricks, little or no support for the other major suit. Varies according to vulnerability, position at the table and partial score situations.
A simple suit response is a signoff and a strong denial of opener's suit.
2NT is the only forcing response. At least a sound opening bid, 13 HCP.
Rebids by the Weak Two Bidder After a 2NT Response
Three of opener's suit is a signoff.
With an almost solid suit and a sure reentry, bid 3NT.
Show a "feature": a side suit or a high card.