Barry Crane System Notes
by Kerri Sanborn
The Barry Crane system may seem loose and free wheeling, and it
is. But, within the framework which I will lay out, it is actually
quite disciplined. What may seem a ludicrous action to a Roth-Stone
player is actually systemic in Crane. Just as these
solid players would consider it an error to make a vulnerable
overcall with AQTxx and out, so it is an error in Crane not to
To begin your orientation I'll give you a few of the basic philosophies
which Barry and his partners used to advantage.
Get in early, say your piece, then get out of the bidding. This
means that there is virtually no balancing. An auction that goes
1S - P - 2S - P - P - Double is a penalty double. If we had a
takeout double, it would have happened on the first round of
bidding. Likewise, if responder to the overcall has one bid to
make, he gets it out of his system. It is wrong to raise 1S to
2S then later compete to 3S (except in rare cases).
When bidding decisions come up, we take a pessimistic view. If
partner needs a key card or two, we don't play him for it. If
you can't find out whether a slam will be a good one, don't bid
When there is a decision as to whether to double the opponents
or push to the five level, take the sure profit. This applies
in many other bidding situations too.
Never lose the setting trick.
On defense, give count frequently and suit preference signals
In bidding it is most important to show distribution.
Open any 11 point hand containing a king. With good distributional
hands open lighter.
Opening Bids - Majors
Open 5 card spade suits, 4 card hearts.
Ex: Axxxx Ax x Axxxx -1S
Ex: Axxx Axxx Axx xx - 1H
If you open a 4 card heart suit you also have 4 spades or 4 or
Ex: Axx Axxx Axxxx x - 1H
Ex: Ax Axxx Axxx xxx - 1H
Ex: Axxx Axxx xx Axx - 1C
Ex: Axxx Axxx xxx Ax - 1H
With 1-4-4-4 open 1H, rebid 2D. Whenever you open 1H and follow
with 2C it shows a five card heart holding. (exception: xx AKxx
Ax AJxxx open 1H and over 1S bid 2C and following a preference,
Opening Bids - Minors
The only situation where you may open a 3 card diamond suit is
when your shape is 4-4-3-2 and hearts are worse than QTxx.
1D shows 4 except in the case above. 1C shows 3 or more, except
one case AKxx xxxx xxx Ax. Rather than bid 3 small diamonds or
unbiddable heard suit, bid 1C.
As a rule we open the suit under the singleton with 3 four card
suits, but in these cases we can't:
Ex: Axxx Axxx Axxx x - 1H
Ex: x xxxx Axxx AKxx - 1D
With two four card minors open 1D unless there is great discrepency
in the suits such as xx Qxx xxxx AKQJ.
Responding to Notrump Bids
Jacoby transfers are used. Then responder should bid distribution.
Ex: AQxxx xx Kxxx Jx 1NT-2H-2S-3D
Ex: AQJxxx Kx xxx xx 1NT-2H-2S-3NT
Three of a minor is weak. Three of a major is a slam try. 2 spades
is minor suit stayman. There is a gadget for finding a fit at
the two level with weak hands. You may bid Stayman and retreat
to 2NT knowing that partner must pass. In order to invite,
the auction starts 1NT-2NT. If opener now wishes to accept and
has a 4 card major he now bids 3C Stayman. Responder bids 3D with
any major and 3NT without one. Over 3D, opener names his major
and is thus able to investigate a fit. A possible auction or
Ex: 1NT-2C-2H-P xx Kxxx Kxxx xx
Ex: 1NT-2NT-3H (5-card suit) - 4H - P
15-17 HCP - no small doubletons. The minimum holding in a suit
is Qx. If you cannot bid the hand any other way, you may deviate.
Five card majors are OK.
Ex: xx AKx Qxx AKxxx If you open a club you can't rebid, so 1NT
Ex: AKxx xx Qxxx Akx Open 1D intending to rebid 1S.
A 2 NT rebid shows 18-19 HCP.
Ex: AKxx Qxx Axx AJx 18 HCP Open 1C, rebid 1S, but
Ex: AKxx QJx Axx AJx 19 HCP Open 1C, rebid 2S.
With 20 HCP rebid 3 NT, but if you have a major to jump in, this
takes precedence. With 21 or 22 HCP open 2NT. Distribution can
2C followed by 2 NT = 23 - 24.
Opening 3 NT = 25 -26.
Thus 2C then 3 NT = 27 - 28.
Over Major Openings
Jump raises are forcing and may have a singleton, so after jump
raise 3NT asks for singleton. Limit raises in competition.
Since we do not play limit raises, we use 2C as a temporizing
bid to show the point count to go to the two level. When followed
by a simple preference, this shows a limit raise and says nothing
about clubs. When followed by 2NT it shows 11-13 HCP. If
opener rebids his suit it is nonforcing if responder has a limit
raise and he should usually pass (1S-2C-2S = minimum). With no
clear bid and an invitational hand, opener bids 2D to see what
the 2C bid was all about. Some examples:
Should partner bid 1S, bid 2C with:
QJx AKxxx xxx xx - rebid 2S
xx AKxx Qxxx Kxx - rebid 2NT
Axxx Axxx Qxxx x - rebid 2S
With all but the last example, you should pass a 2S rebid.
In majors they are forcing.
Ex: 1S - 2D - 2H- 3S forcing Qxx Ax AKxxxx xx
Ex: 1S - 2D - 2H - 4S QJx Ax AKxxxx Kx - monster!
After minor opener
1C or 1D and raise = 2 - 6 HCP
1C or 1D and jump raise = 7-9 HCP
jump preference = 10 - 12 HCP
In competition, this does not apply.
Responder's Suit Rebids
By responder - Jump rebids are forcing!
Ex: 1C-1H-1S-3H = Ax AKxxxx Kx xxx
A simple rebid of your suit invites
Ex: 1C-1H-1S-2H = xx KQT9xx A JTxx
With xx KQT9xx x JTxx make a weak jump response initially. This
can show 8 HCP. A raise of weak jump response is constructive,
2 NT is natural.
Opening 2 Bids
All are strong in first or second seats with 2C as either a notrump
rebid or a club suit. In third and fourth seats 2D, 2H, and 2S
are weak, and raises are constructive. After 2H or 2S, 2NT shows
no fit but both minors - asks opener for preference. New
suits are nonforcing.
Responding to Strong 2 Bids
Over 2C, 2D is negative. There is no double negative. Over 2D,
2H, or 2S, 2 NT is negative. A jump raise shows trump fit, but
no first or second round controls.
Overcalls (1 - 17 HCP)
If partner is not a passed hand, you should be sounder than if
he has passed, especially if you are bidding at the two level.
Ex: AJT9 x T98xxx Jx is an acceptable 1S overcall in second seat,
but not good enough for 2D. At matchpoints, overcall more freely
for a lead. Jump raises by unpassed hand are equivalent of good
limit raise. Cue bids are forcing. Jumps in new suits are 95%
forcing. They show a good opening bid. Jump overcalls are
Negative doubles are played through 3D. After 1C - 1S - Double,
opener needs four hearts to bid them, as responder has not guaranteed
four. 1C - 1D - Double shows 4-4 in the majors, but occasionally
4-5. 1C -1H - Double usually denies four spades, but opener
should bid a spade suit anyway.
1C - P - 1D - 1S - Double is negative.
Over Opponents Takeout Doubles
New suits are nonforcing and deny the strength to redouble. Jumps
in a new suit are equivalent to weak two bid. After a major -
Double - 2 NT is both minors. One of a major by responder following
takeout double shows 5-card suit (e.g. 1C - Double - 1S
In first or second seat they are sound and follow the rule of
2 and 3. In minors they show 7 or 8 to AKQ, AKJ, AQJ, or AKQJ.
With passing partner, they are random.
When they preempt
Doubles by you are takeout thru 4D, optional of 4H, and penalty
Notrump Overcalls are 15 - 17 HCP. Over these, cue bids are Stayman.
Transfers are off.
Unusual notrump shows the lower 2 unbid suits.
When they open 1 NT
2C is random takeout bid, but with a gear towards the majors.
If it denies a suit, it will usually be clubs. Responder should
not pass without a 6-card club suit. Doubles are penalty and are
made more liberally than in most systems, especially over
Direct cue bids are strong. Responder's first obligation is to
bid notrump with a stopper in opponent's suit. 1S - 2S could be
xx Ax AKQxxxx Ax. If the auction goes 1S - 2S - P - 3C - P - 3D
is not forcing. If the opening bid is a minor in forcing club
system, the cue bid is natural.
New minor forcing except by a passed hand.
1C - 1S
1NT - 2D
2 NT is minimum with 2 spades
1C - 1S
1NT - 2D
3NT is maximum with 2 spades
1C - 1S
1NT - 2D
2H shows 4 hearts and 2 spades
The weak 6-4 bid is used when the minor could not have been bid
at the one level
1D - 1H
1S - 3 C = weak with 4H and 6C
1C - 1H
1S - 3D = forcing because we bid up the line with 4-6.
Weak jump responses, as described earlier, up to 8 HCP, may be
Double jump shifts show 7-4. This should be a reasonable hand
as you are raising the level so high
1C - 1 H
3S = AQxx x x AKxxxxx
Splinters in the most obvious situations. That is when you jump
in opponent's suit directly.
1H - 1S - 3S = Splinter
1C - 1H - P - 3C = Clubs!!
Limit 2NT in competition.
Unusual over Unusual NT's
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3C = limit raise
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3D = forcing raise
1H or 1S - 2NT - 3H or 3S = non-forcing; if in your suit, weaker
Gerber is used only when obvious and must be a jump.
Over Blackwood interference, double is penalties (take sure profit).
Pass show no aces. Bid up the line with 1 or more ace.
We lead high from 3 or 4 small. Fourth best from honors or 5 or
more. Q from KQT demands jack. Against NT, A asks for highest
card. K for second high. Foster echo to first trick. Versus NT
- lead agressive if 5-4. Lead strength, not length.
Special Distributional Rules
Many of these are from Culbertson's rule of symmetry. Others may
seem silly, but, if you play the same way always you eliminate
Rule for finding Queens and Jacks
When you are looking for a queen or jack, it is over the jack
or ten in minors.
AJx - play LHO for Q
Qxx - play RHO for J
In the majors this is reversed. This does not take precedence
to knowledge of where length is. It applies only in guessing situations.
Missing four to the Queen
Always a problem or do you always play for the drop? According
to the rule, you check your own distribution first. If your combined
hands contain a singleton, you play for this suit to break 3-1
too. If you have two singletons, they balance and so will
your mystery suit - play for the drop. If you are 3-0 or 2-1 in
a side suit, this also will balance - again play for the 2-2.
Missing three to the King
When you lead toward the ace, if the next hand plays the smallest
card, play the ace - if he plays the middle card, then finesse.
This has a partial logic in that, with two small most players
will play small.
A6543 2 - play ace; 7 - finesse