Use the Free Space

Dick Schroeder (Germany)


Dick Schroeder of  Wiesbaden, Germany, bridge teacher, journalist and travel organizer. WBF World Master. Won three Common Market titles and 29 German titles. Represented Germany regularly since 1969, and headed German master-point standings since 1974. Developed first European Youth Camp 1975. Member of the European Bridge League Executive and its youth committee since 1989. IPBA  Awards Secretary and member of its Executive. Columnist for Deutsches Bridge Verbands-Blatt since 1969.

  In post-war Germany, nobody has been as important for German bridge as Dirk Schroeder. In 1950, the Germans reappeared in the European Bridge League but in spite of the presence of Egmont von Dewitz, a real star, there have been no successes in international tournaments.

In Germany bridge was not popular at all and the number of  affiliated members did not exceed a few thousands. The generation of Dirk Schroeder produced a revolutionary change. The German national team became stronger and Schroeder himself played an important role in the organisation of the German federation. The membership increased and by winning the Rosenblum Cup in Geneva (1990) the Germans have played themselves into the top group countries in the world.

  Dirk Schroeder’s article is certainly a good piece of work. Very interesting for the more advanced player, perhaps a little bit too difficult for the average player. Most likely, the members of the jury have taken this into account. Nevertheless, the fourth place is a very good result.

  Dick Schroeder said, “ I have always tried to contribute to the development of bridge, my heart’s desire. I hope that this idea will be appreciated by all bridge-players over the world and that will make me very happy”. 

In comparison to chess, bridge theory is still in its infancy, even its babyhood. Looking at the development in the recent years, it is noticeable that new developments in the play of cards are much scarcer than those in the theory of bidding and consequently new bidding systems. In short, card games have evolved far past something you do with your friends on the beach under a sunbrella umbrella to pass the time., it is noticeable that new developments in the play of cards are much scarcer than those in the theory of bidding and consequently new bidding systems. Especially among top bridge players most strange bidding systems and sequences have been advanced. It is almost impossible for average players to understand these.

   This Babylonian maze arose by man’s wish for perfection. Whenever a bridge player had a hand, which he was not able to bid logically using his ‘own’ bidding system, he was ready to look for new methods to meet the situation.

    I do not want to investigate whether the path, chosen by many top players leading to more and more artificial systems is wrong. At any rate bridge at the top has become a new game for the great mass of bridge players.

   I, however, should like to show a different approach to perfecting bidding; a method that could be integrated into every natural bidding system. The basic idea is simple (it existed even when Blackwood thought of his convention): make use of bids, which cannot be explained logically, to express what cannot be shown in a natural way. In examining the natural systems we find a number of bids which are not used, because they lack a natural logical meaning.


Some examples:                  North                     South

                                                                              1¨                          1©

                                                                              2§                           2NT



The Three Spade bid cannot be natural as One Spade did not follow over One Heart. Thus the Three Spade bid can be used for something else. I use it to show a 5-5 distribution in the minors with enough strength to go for game. In this way the bid of Three Clubs can be used to sign off.


Another example:                           North                     South

                                                                       1©                           1NT

                                                                      2§                           2ª


Unless you have a special understanding with your partner for the Two Spade bid, it cannot be natural under any circumstances, because of the former One No-trump bid. South could have called Three Hearts, Three Clubs, Two No Trumps, Two Hearts, Two Diamonds and Pass at this point.

   Try to figure out how the Two Spade bid could be utilised. There are a number of such ‘free spaces’ in various natural bidding systems and I, in my tip, should like to make you acquainted with one of these.

   We take for granted that the partners have found their fit in a major by reaching the three-level and that it is understood that no other denomination can be considered for the final contract:


For instance:


North     South                     North                South                        North                South

2§           2©                           2ª                3ª                                   2§                2©

3©                                                                                                      2ª                3ª


In these situations a new suit at the fourth-level must be a cue bid to investigate the possibility of a slam. In this case the controls are shown in ascending sequence. In these cue bids sequences the most striking fact is that there is no natural use for the bid of Three No trumps. My proposition is: Use Three Notrumps as a trump cue bid showing a better trump quality than has been shown already. Conversely, going past Three No trumps shows a poor quality.


   It happens frequently that slam contracts fail because of trump quality, although all the other suits are perfectly controlled. Using Three Notrumps as a cue bid, the slam bidding could be stopped in time, when the poor trump quality is found out. The Three No trump cue bid sequence located between the Three Spade and Four Club bid. When Spades are established trump suit this is the lowest possible cue bid.

   Some examples from my own experiences:


North                                        South

                                ª A                                        ª K J 9 6 2

                                © A K 7 4 3                           © 10 8 5

                                ¨ K Q J 4                              © A

                                § K Q 9                                  § 10 7 5 3


                                North                                     South

                                2 ©                                          3 ©

                                3 ª                                          4 ¨*

                                4 ©


The 4¨bid says firstly I have poor trumps, secondly no club control and now the partnership can safely stop in the 4 level


                                                    North                                     South

                                ª A K                                    ª 10 9 7 4 2

                                © A Q 10 8 4 2                     © K J 9

                                ¨ A                                        ¨ 8 3 2

                                § A K 7 3                              §10 4


                                North                                     South

                                2 §                                          2 ¨

                                2 ©                                          3 ©

                                3 ª                                          3 NT *

                                4 §                                          4 ©

                                5 ¨                                         5 ©

                                5 ª                                          6 §

                                7 ©




                         North                                        South

                                ª K 8 6 3 2                           ª 10 7 5 4

                                © A 7 2                                  © K Q 5

                                ¨ 10                                       ¨ A J 9 8 6

                                § A K Q 5                              § 6


North                                        South

                                1ª                                           3ª

                                4§ *                                        4ª


* = leaving out 3 NT – poor trump quality


                        North                                     South

                                ª K Q J 5                              ª A 9 6

                                © A 7 5 4                              © 10 9 6 2

                                ¨ K Q 4 2                              ¨ A J 10 5

                                § A                                         § Q 6


                                North                                     South

                                1 ©                                          3 ©

      4 § *                                          4 ©


* = leaving out 3 NT – poor trump quality


                        North                                     South

                                ª 8 6 5 4                                ª A K J 10 7

                                © A 10                                   © 9 6

                                ¨ K Q 9 6 4                           ¨ A J 10

                                § A 5                                      § K 2


                                North                                     South

                                1 ¨                                         2 ©

       3 ª                                          3 NT *

                                4 §                                          4 ¨

                                4 ©                                          5 ¨

                                5 NT **                                  6 © ***

                                6 ª


     *       = good trump quality

     * *    = repeated enquiry in trumps

     * * * = not three top honours in spades


                   North                                        South

                                ª 10                                        ª A 5 4 2

                                © A J  9 8 6 5                          © K Q 7 2

                                ¨ A K Q 10 8                          ¨ J 7

                                §  A                                        § J 9 7


                                North                                     South

                               2 ©                                          3 ©

     4 § *                                       4 ª * *

                                5 NT * * *                              6 © * * * *

                                7 ©                                         


     *           = leaving out 3 NT = poor trump quality;

     * *        = must show good trumps;

     * * *     = asking for top honours in trumps;

     * * * *  = two top honours in hearts.


Whenever this “Three No Trump quality cue bid” has been agreed upon with a partner, one must think: ‘What have I promised up to now in trumps?’ in order to decide the use or leaving out of this cue bid.

  When a minor suit fit has been established, the three No Trump bid does not constitute a free space in the natural bidding course. In this case this bid must be considered as a real proposition as to the preferred denomination and cannot be misunderstood as a trump quality cue bid.

  Finally once more my Bols tip: Use the Tree No Trump space in cue bidding sequences based on a major suit, to establish the quality of the trump suit in time. Examine your natural bidding system step by step looking for free spaces which are of no natural use. Try it investigate together with your partner how these spaces could be utilized in a sensible way.

  A natural system thus enhanced might possibly save you the burden of learning a complicated artificial system in order to solve your bidding problems.