Halsall Convention

The origin of this conventional method is unknown. The Halsall conventional method is used as an action over preemptive opening bids, especially on the three level. To a degree, it is a defensive action when one opponent has shown a one-suited holding, which means that then holding is weak in high card points and has possibly five or six side losers.

Note: This concept can be designated either as a treatment or as a conventional method.

This is a method of defending against a one-suited holding, developed on the logic that the distributional odds suggest that if a seven-card suit is dealt to the right hand opponent, then, as a consequence, the next player is twice as likely to have at least three cards in each of the other three suits as opposed to holding an essentially two-suited hand. The fact remains, however, that the absence of a two-suited takeout request will sometimes leave the player in all extremely awkward position.`

Example 1
North   East

Several of the defensive methods over a three level opening preempt do not consider a two-suited holding as in the above example. A Takeout double would not be efficient and your partner, in all probability or in one chance out of three, would bid Spades.

A second choice would be to bid a natural 3 Diamonds, but this action could end up missing a Heart fit and perhaps game. A third choice of bidding 3 Hearts is possible, but with a holding as in the example above, it does not seem the most advisable thing to bid. The Heart holding contains only one top honor followed by four small spots.

Note: Competing by bidding 3 No Trump, with the understanding that the 3 No Trump bid is a Michaels cuebid, is somewhat of a stretch.


Halsall and Two-Suited Holding

The Halsall treatment considers the possibility of showing a two-suited holding with only one bid. It is based on the concept of the so-called exclusion principle, whereby a suit overcall after an opposing preemptive bid on the three level is used to show the other two suits.

Example 2
North   East
3   3

If the partnership is playing the Halsall treatment, then the correct bid by East would be 3 Hearts. Based on the exclusion principle, only the other two unbid suits are indicated as well as a two-suited holding. Therefore, as a result the partner would understand immediately that the intention is to show a two-suited holding with Spades and Clubs. The holding should contain sufficient values to warrant an opening bid without the preemptive bid.

Note: Therefore, using this method of exclusion principle, the correct bid by East, in Example 1, would therefore be 3 Spades showing a two-suited holding with Hearts and Diamonds.

Options of the Advancer

If the preemptive opening is one of the Minor suits, the Halsall conventional method can prove effective, and if the partner of the preemptor passes, then the responder must reevaluate his holding, calculate his high card points with the known distributional values of his partner, select the preferred suit and the level of bidding.

If the responder has one or more stoppers in the preempted suit, then the responder may even consider a bid of 3 No Trump. But, in many cases, the responder is forced to bid on the four level. With sound values, the responder may even attempt a slam by bidding 4 No Trump, which is usually any style of Blackwood. This decision will also be determined by the vulnerability factor.

Drawbacks and Possible Disadvantages

As with all preemptive opening bids, and even preemptive overcalls, the nature of the preempt is such that the bid represents and constitutes a guess as to the contract. A preemptive bid is never a guarantee that the player will fulfill the bid contract. The opponents at the table, in considering competing, must factor in this possibility and base, to some degree, the decision to compete on this fact.

Consider the following example, which is the same as Example 2:

Example 3
North   East
3   4

Employing the Halsall conventional method, East would have to make a bid of 4 Diamonds, showing Spades and Clubs, but forcing partner to bid on the four level. If the advancer favors and can support Spades, then the advancer bids on the four level. However, if the advancer favors and can support Clubs, the other known suit, then the advancer must make a bid on the five level, which is two above the level of the preempt.

Therefore, it becomes clear that the Halsall conventional method is not economical under all circumstances. The preemptive bid promises only six guaranteed winning tricks, which means that there could possibly be seven losers. By unfavorable vulnerability it could be more profitable to defend rather than to obtain the contract, thereby providing a clear disadvantage for the preempting side.

Note: Another disadvantage of employing the Halsall conventional method is the exclusion of other, more frequent methods to show three-suited holdings against a preemptive opening on the three level. Using the Halsall convention method, the partnership itself actually consumes bidding space needed to reach the most favorable contract with the most amount of communicated information.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.