Glasnevin Bridge Club

Playing a weak 1NT, it is essential to have an escape route when you are doubled for penalties. Note, that not all doubles of 1NT are penalty orientated so before launching into Helvic, it is prudent to ask the doubler’s partner the nature of the double. Assuming it is for penalty, this convention is always used. There are two scenarios;
  1. Partner opens and next seat doubles 1NT-(dbl)
  2. Partner opens, next seat passes, you pass and next seat doubles i.e. 1NT-(pass)-pass-(dbl)
Holding a 5+ card suit, redouble. Opener will now bid 2C which you pass or correct.
Holding two touching 4 card suits, bid the lower one so;
  • 2C shows clubs & diamonds
  • 2D shows diamonds & hearts
  • 2H shows hearts & spades
  • 2S shows a 4333 hand with 4 spades. (In original Helvic, it showed spades and clubs but that stranded responder intolerant of spades at 3C - often far too high)
Otherwise pass which forces opener to redouble.
After openers redouble;
  • 2C shows clubs & a major (not clubs and hearts as in the original version). Opener can now pass or use 2D to ask for the major
  • 2D shows diamonds & spades
  • pass instructs opener to play (and make!) 1NT redoubled.
What if your shape is 4333? You have to lie. Either upgrade the 4 card suit to 5 or pick the least offensive 4-3 combination.

This is less neat and can be handled in a variety of ways. The following is what I suggest;
If opener has a 5 card suit he may bid it, otherwise he passes and leaves the final decision to responder.
Responder with a 5 card suit redoubles or with touching 4 card suits bids the lower one so there’s no problem. Likewise if responder is strong and can stand the idea of 1NT doubled playing, he can just pass. Responder has lost the ability to show non-touching suits. As a result, there are more situations where judicious lying is required.

Note that Helvic is a rescue manoeuvre so if the opposition intervenes at any point it is usually right to breath a sigh of relief and let them at it!

Index of Conventions
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