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OCP System Change Alert
Definition of Pre-emptive Interference (07-Jun-2018)
As of June 2018, the definition of "Pre-emptive Interference" has changed in relation to actions by Asker during Asking Bid sequences. It is now defined as:
  1. Any action during the auction where either opponent has jumped at least 1 level of bidding and Asker's RHO has bid something in front of Asker (Not Double/Redouble). This applies whether the jump is in front of Asker or in front of Teller.
    eg:
    1 - 1 - (2 ) and
    1 - (2 ) - 2 - (3 ) would both satisfy the above, but
    1 - (1) - 2 - (2 ) would not be enough to enable Pass=Leb.
  2. Any action in the auction where the opponents demonstrate Barrage Bidding:
    • Opps have bid (not Doubling or redoubling) 3 times during this auction, and
    • The most recent interference was at at least the 3-level and in front of Asker, and
      • If we haven't agreed a suit as trumps, at any vulnerability except red vs green, or
      • If we have agreed a suit, we are at green vs red
  3. After any bids by Opps at the 4-level or above
The above applies to
  • Actions by Asker over a Positive Response to 1
  • Actions by Asker over the response to a previous Ask
It does not apply to actions by Responder if there is interference over an Asking Bid, the arrangements for which remain substantially as before (ie: "pre-emptive" is a jump to a level at or beyond the level of 3NT).

These changes have also involved clarification or definition of our actions for the following:
  1. Exceptions to D1P2 and R1P2 (ie: after Lead-Directing Doubles and Artificial overcalls)
  2. Interference over Positive Doubles
  3. Sigma at Game Level after interference
  4. Repeat Trump Asks at or above Game level over interference
Please see the Asking Bid Interference (which has been widely re-written) for full details.

Interference in Asking Sequences

By their very nature Asking Bid sequences are very structured. In order to get the most from an Asking Bid sequence you have to be in a position to get in as many asks as you need to find out the relevant details from Partner's hand. Even with no interference from the opposition there will be times when you simply do not have enough space to ask all the questions you need to ask in safety. Some sequences end up being unexpectedly expensive and the simple rule is that if you can't afford to ask safely, because a more expensive reply might be what you don't want to hear and will push you too high, then you don't ask.

Opposition interference can rob you of bidding space and disrupt your sequence if you are not prepared for it. Our own strategy when opponents have opened a Strong Club is based on robbing as much space from them as possible and disrupting their bidding as much as we can. The key to using Asking Bids effectively is to have in place a series of measures that allow you to:
Interference immediately over the 1 opening is covered in the One Club page. There are effectively 5 other situations we have to cater for and each has a different method of dealing with the interference.
  1. Interference over an Asking Bid
  2. Pre-emptive interference over an Asking Bid
  3. Interference over the response to an Asking Bid
  4. Pre-emptive interference over the response to an Asking Bid
  5. Interference immediately over a Positive response to 1

Over an Asking Bid

We start with the easiest situation: If partner makes an Asking Bid (in absolutely any situation and in any sequence whether it started with 1 or not) and opponents do anything other than pass then, unless the interference is pre-emptive in nature (by which we mean jumping at least 1 level of bidding to a level that is either above game level in a suit we have agreed as trumps or above 3NT if we've not agreed a suit), the action to be taken is as follows:
  1. Double/Redouble shows the 1-step response to the Asking Bid
  2. Pass shows the 2-step response to the Asking Bid
  3. 1 step (ie: the next bid up) shows the 3-step response
  4. 2 steps (ie: 2 bids up) shows the 4-step response
  5. etc etc
In this way we aim to reclaim some of the space lost through the interference. You will see from this that in the case of Doubles, we actually gain some space we wouldn't otherwise have had and make a profit!!! This D1P2/R1P2 method is a variation of the DOPI/ROPI method of coping with interference over Blackwood or Gerbils ( LOL). The Example below needs careful study. It is about as complicated as these sequences can get.

Notes:
  1. If our LHO intervened over our previous Response and Partner has Passed in order to make the Ask (see below), then we can still reclaim a little space by using Double or redouble as our "first" step, but clearly Pass is not available to us when we're 4th-in-hand over the previous response. See the above example hand for instances of this.
  2. Similarly, if LHO intervened over our previous response, Partner doubled in order to make the current Ask, and RHO redoubles, then only Pass is available to us as our "first" step.
Example:

The above example simply shows us reclaiming lost spade using D1P2

Another Example

The above example shows instances of Pass not being available for the purposes of D1P2

Pre-empt Over an Asking Bid

If the interference is of a pre-emptive nature (ie: it is jumping at least 1 level of bidding to a level that is above 3NT, then the actions outlined above still apply, but now we also have to contract some of the Scales for the different Asking Bids, as follows:
Alpha Double shows no Support
Pass shows Support with 0-3 Controls
1 Step shows Support with 4 Controls
2 Steps shows Support with 5 Controls, etc etc
Beta is unaffected, ie:
Double shows Minimum (0, 0-1, 0-2, 0-4 etc depending on Scale in use)
Pass shows Minimum plus 1 (1, 2, 3, 5 etc)
1 Step shows Minimum plus 2 (2, 3, 4, 6 etc)
2 Steps shows Minimum plus 3 (3, 4, 5, 7 etc) etc etc
Gamma Double shows 0 or 1 Top Honours
Pass shows 2 Top Honours
1 Step shows 3 Top Honours
Delta Double shows Less than Qxx/xxxx
Pass shows Qxx/xxxx or better
Epsilon Double shows No Control or 3rd Round Control
Pass shows 2nd Round Control
1 Step shows 1st Round Control
Zeta is exactly as per Beta above (ie: unaffected)
Eta Double shows no Top Honour or 1 Top Honour (with or without the Jack)
Pass shows 2 or 3 Top Honours
Theta is exactly as per Delta above
Iota is exactly as per Delta above
Sigma Double shows no Top Honour in the suit
Pass shows 1 Top Honour
1 Step shows 2 or 3 Top Honours

Notes
  1. We only switch to the contracted Scales immediately following the pre-emptive interference. If any Asking Bids follow that compressed response, they will be using the normal scales again, because Opener knows whether or not they can afford to ask.
  2. Barrage Bidding: Barrage Bidding, of itself, does not affect Teller's actions over an Asking Bid. There needs to be pre-emptive interference over that particular Ask before we kick in the Contracted Scales. These arrangements (ie: Teller's actions over interference over an Ask) remain unaffected by the changes made in June 2018
Example:

This example shows a compressed Asking Bid Response (combined with D1P2) over pre-emptive interference.

Over a Response

Next we look at how we cope with interference over the Response to a previous Asking Bid. Note that this is not quite the same as interference over a Positive Response to 1 (See below). In this situation we reclaim some bidding space by utilising Pass and Double/Redouble to make Asks in the suits immediately below the suit of the Interference (or the last suit bid if the Interference was a Double). These are the suits which are going to be the most "expensive" for the next Asking Bid and so we gain the maximum amount of bidding space this way. Generally speaking: Note: If an Asking Bid can be reached by backwards Asking but Asker chooses to bid the suit itself, this is the equivalent of a jump in that suit and is generally "to play" (but can be Zeta if directly over a Positive Response to 1 - see below)

Exceptions to the normal D1P2 and R1P2 "Backwards Asks" There are two situations only where we change the above arrangements:
  1. These are more exceptions to the "Backwards Asking" aspect of D1P2 and R1P2, in that they affect Asker and where the backwards asking starts rather than affecting the responses that Teller makes. In both of the below situations the backwards asking arrangements start with the last suit bid rather than the suit below:
  2. Lead-Directing Doubles:
    If Asker's RHO makes a lead-directing double in front of Asker in a side suit which has not yet been the subject of an Epsilon Ask, then D1P2 and R1P2 starts with an Ask in that suit. eg: 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2 - 2 - 3 - 3 - 4 - (X) - ?? Now Double is Epsilon in Diamonds and Pass is Epsilon in Clubs.
  3. Artificial Overcalls:
    If Opps make any overcall over a positive response to 1 that doesn't promise the suit bid (eg: standard Suction bids, Panama, Amsbury etc), then Backwards Asking by Asker starts with Double being Alpha in the suit bid. Pass by Asker remains either Gamma or Beta depending on the nature of the positive response.

    This would also apply in the [unlikely, admitedly] event of artificial interference over a 2 Opening when Responder has made a 2-way transfer and Opener shows a singleton in the transfer suit and Opps then come in with an artificial overcall in front of Responder. Now Double would be Eta in the suit Opps actually bid.
Example:
This example shows D1P2 responses and also Opener not being able to ask backwards to a particular suit. It also shows a good example of taking inferences from Responses.


Notes:
  1. New Definition of Pre-emptive Interference
    As of June 2018 we have redefined what constitutes "Pre-emptive Interference" and there are now some situations that are deemed "pre-emptive" that were not previously considered to be so. You will need to read the section immediately below this one and the Summary further down this page to gain a full understanding of the new arrangements.
  2. Skipping over NTs
    Generally we "skip over" No Trumps in this backwards asking. The only exception is that if Beta is still "active" (ie: Responder's exact level of controls is not yet known) we are able to "count backwards" to a Low Beta of 1NT only. This does not extend to counting backwards to Low Betas other than 1NT.
  3. Skipping over Trumps
    Similarly, if we have agreed a trump suit at any previous point (including the Asking Bid Response just made), we generally "skip over" the agreed trump suit in our "backwards Asking" unless a Repeat Ask in the agreed trump suit is still available. Please also note that if there is interference at or above Game Level in our agreed suit, we can "ask backwards" to a Repeat Trump Ask in our suit even though a Repeat Trump Ask in the suit would normally be unavailable at Game Level if there had been no interference.
  4. Ignoring Backwards Ask
    If an Asking Bid could be reached by a backwards Ask, then actually bidding that suit at the next possible level effectively becomes a jump-shift in that suit. Obviously that does not apply to a sign-off in our agreed trump suit at or above game level. See above regarding Repeat Trump Asks over interference at game level.
  5. Relay Beta
    If the last response (before the interference) was one that agreed a trump suit and Beta is still "active" in the sense that Responder's Controls are not known exactly, then a the cheapest action by Opener (usually Pass) is always Relay Beta (and Double an Ask in the suit below, as above, if Pass is Relay Beta).
  6. Sigma
    Sigma always takes precedence over Relay Beta, including in this situation. If the last Asking Bid was Alpha and got a positive response then Pass over interference is Sigma and Double (or an actual Relay) is Relay Beta (if required).
  7. Backwards Asking Availability
    If the response to the previous Asking Bid was itself a Pass or a Double/Redouble (ie: D1P2) because of interference and Opener's RHO also passes, then it is never the case that both Pass and Double/Redouble are available for backwards Asking. In these situations Sigma, Relay Beta and Asks in the suit below take priority.

Pre-empt Over a Response

This part of the system was extensively discussed and overhauled in June 2018, in that the definition of what constituted "Pre-emptive Interference" was radically changed where Asker's actions are concerned:

Definition of Pre-emptive Interference (June 2018)
Although this is essentially to do with what turns on Pass=Lebensohl, but it does have an effect on Sigma and Repeat Trump Asks at Game Level (see below). The below applies as much over a positive response to 1 as it does over the response to a previous Ask, but note that the definition that relates to Teller's actions over an Asking Bid remains essentially unchanged. "Pre-emptive Interference" is now defined as:
  1. Any action during the auction where either opponent has jumped at least 1 level of bidding and Asker's RHO has bid something in front of Asker (Not Double/Redouble). This applies whether the jump is in front of Asker or in front of Teller.
    eg:
    1 - 1 - (2 ) and
    1 - (2 ) - 2 - (3 ) would both satisfy the above, but
    1 - (1) - 2 - (2 ) would not be enough to enable Pass=Leb.
  2. Any action in the auction where the opponents demonstrate Barrage Bidding:
    • Opps have bid (not Doubling or redoubling) 3 times during this auction, and
    • The most recent interference was at at least the 3-level and in front of Asker, and
      • If we haven't agreed a suit as trumps, at any vulnerability except red vs green, or
      • If we have agreed a suit, we are at green vs red
  3. After any bids by Opps at the 4-level or above
In the case of pre-emptive interference over the response to the previous Asking Bid we abandon using the Pass to ask in the suit 2 below. Double is still asking in the suit immediately below the interference (see below on Sigma and Relay Beta) but now the Pass is a Lebensohl-style bid (dubbed "Oliversohl" by some), forcing partner to Double, after which Opener will either pass for penalties or make a sign-off bid of some kind. Responder is only allowed to disturb that sign-off if Opener has not yet established Responder's exact level of controls and Responder has considerably greater strength and Controls than Opener might expect.


Notes:
  1. Order of Preference
    "Pass = Leb" always takes precedence over "Pass = Sigma or Relay Beta" in this kind of situation. In general, Pass=Leb takes precedence over Sigma (if applicable) and Pass=Sigma in turn takes precedence over Relay Beta. So if we've agreed trumps by means of an Asking Bid and get pre-emptive interference over the response, Pass remains "Oliversohl" and the next-cheapest action by Asker over the Interference is Sigma or Relay Beta (eg: 1-(1)-1-(2)-2(Gamma)-(No)-3(Hxxxx)-(4)-???. Here, to give us all of what we need, Pass remains Leb, after which 4 would be a sign-off (and 4NT would be "to play"). An immediate 4 is a Repeat Gamma, and an immediate 4NT is Relay Beta. Anything else is Epsilon, including an immediate Double, which would be Epsilon in Diamonds.
  2. Positive Doubles
    The criteria for using a Positive Double rather than a Positive response remain unchanged (ie: positive, but without a "good" bid):
    • Much of the time Responder will be relatively balanced but without a sufficiently good holding to show a balanced positive at the 2 or 3-level, but may be unbalanced and simply not have a good enough suit to warrant a suit positive this level.
    • Positive Doubles inevitably involve a jump-bid by Teller's RHO.
    • If, therefore, Teller's LHO bids something, we have fulfilled the criteria for Barrage Bidding (See above), so
      • Pass by Asker is Lebensohl.
      • Because Responder will often be balanced, Double after interference over a positive double is defined as being Beta rather than a Backwards Ask.
    • Alternative Scheme
      • The core OCP approach to Positive Doubles is as above, but if Pairs wish then might consider playing the Positive Double as essentially penalty-orientated especially at favourable vulnerability.
      • Opener can always choose to ignore the penalty double and continue with Asking Bids, of course, and continuations remain as now if Asker's RHO Passes or Redoubles, or as in the paragraph above (ie: Pass=Leb and Double=Beta if Asker's RHO bids anything
  3. Sigma at Game Level
    It is is probable that Sigma will not occur at game level in the agreed suit unless there has been some significant interference.
    The general rule is as follows:
    • If there is no interference over the positive response to Alpha, the normal rules for Sigma apply unless Sigma would be a bid in the agreed suit at game level:
      • In that case, the cheapest relay is always Sigma
      • The 2nd-cheapest Relay is Relay Beta, and
      • A bid of the agreed suit at game level is ostensibly "to play" (but Responder can continue if they think fit).
    • If there is interference over the positive response to Alpha, then:
      • If the interference is deemed "pre-emptive" (as above), then
        • Pass is always Lebensohl
        • Double is Sigma and
        • The cheapest Relay is Relay Beta unless Sigma is available in the agreed suit (and within 2 bids) below game level (in which case Double remains Relay Beta).
      • If the interference is not "pre-emptive", then
        • Sigma takes precedence over Relay Beta (ie: Pass is Sigma) unless Sigma is available in the agreed suit (and within 2 bids) below game level (in which case Pass remains Relay Beta and Sigma stays as an immediate bid in the agreed trump suit)
      • In general, Pass=Leb takes priority over anything else if there is pre-emptive interference and a bid in front of Asker.
      • Similarly, Sigma takes precedence over Relay Beta (whether as Pass/Double/Redouble or as a Relay).
      • Lastly Relay Beta takes precedence over anything else other than Pass=Leb and Sigma/Repeat Sigma.
  4. Exceptions to "Backwards Asking" D1P2
    1. These are more exceptions to the "Backwards Asking" aspect of D1P2 and R1P2, in that they affect Asker and where the backwards asking starts rather than affecting the responses that Teller makes. In both of the below situations the backwards asking arrangements start with the last suit bid rather than the suit below, so we effectively are playing D0P1 and R0P1 in these two situations only:
    2. Lead-Directing Doubles:
      If Asker's RHO makes a lead-directing double in front of Asker in a side suit which has not yet been the subject of an Epsilon Ask, then D1P2 and R1P2 starts with an Ask in that suit. eg: 1 - 1 - 1NT - 2 - 2 - 3 - 3 - 4 - (X) - ?? Now Double is Epsilon in Diamonds and Pass is Epsilon in Clubs.
    3. Artificial Overcalls:
      If Opps make any overcall over a positive response to 1 that doesn't promise the suit bid (eg: standard Suction bids, Panama, Amsbury etc), then Backwards Asking by Asker starts with Double being Alpha in the suit bid. Pass by Asker remains either Gamma or Beta depending on the nature of the positive response.
  5. Repeat Trump Asks at Game Level over Interference
    Generally speaking repeat trump asks are not used at or above game level unless we have definitely established slam values.
    The exception is when there is interference and backwards asking gives access to the agreed trump suit (which takes precedence over "skipping" the agreed trump suit, or when there is pre-emptive interference and we can easily differentiate between an Ask and a Sign-Off). We can therefore "ask backwards" to a Repeat Trump Ask at or above game level even if without the interference we would not have been able to ask again in the trump suit because it would be difficult or impossible to differentiate between that and a sign-off.

Over a Positive to 1

This is a slightly special situation in that we're in an Asking Bid situation, but we've not actually started the Asking Bid Sequence yet. This area of the system changed a few years ago to simplify it dramatically from how it was originally arranged and it has changed again in June 2018 to take account of the new definition of what constitutes "Pre-emptive Interference" (see above). This has been possible because of the advent of the Relay Beta. The knock-on effect this has on the system is to make Low-level beta's much less attractive, especially when Responder is a passed hand and the expensive Weak Beta might push up the level at which Theta/Iota can be used but also opposite a non-passed hand when we are guaranteed a cheap Relay Beta once we've agreed trumps.

The upshot of this is that if there is non-pre-emptive interference immediately over a Positive Response to 1, we now give complete precedence to Alpha and Gamma when Responder has shown a suit positive, and only make any kind of provision for a low-level Beta when Responder has shown a balanced positive (see also below regarding Positive Doubles). The general rules for this are as follows:

If there is interference immediately over a positive response to 1 , then over
  1. Suit Positive
    • Double is an Ask in the suit below (or if Suit below would be Gamma, in the suit 2 below)
    • Pass is Gamma in Responder's suit
      • Unless A bid of the next suit up would be Gamma anyway, in which case a bid in the next suit up is Gamma, and Pass is an Ask in the suit two below.
  2. Balanced Positive
    • Double is an Ask in the suit below
    • Pass is Beta (followed by Iota or HoC) if 1NT is unavailable (see below)
    • There is one sequence where Pass=Beta does not apply, which is 1-1-(X)-???. Here is makes no sense not to keep 1NT as Low Beta, freeing up Redouble and Pass for Alphas in the red suits, saving considerable space there and losing nothing if Beta is used by bidding 1NT.
Examples:
Here are some examples to clarify the above:

  1. 1-2-(2[Nat])-???
    • Double = Alpha in Diamonds (suit below)
    • Pass = Gamma in Clubs
    • 2NT = Handing over the Captaincy
  2. 1-2-(2[=/Majors])-???
    • Double = Alpha in Diamonds
    • Pass = Gamma in Clubs
    • 2NT = HoC
  3. 1-1NT-(2 [/Majors])-???
    • Double = Alpha in Diamonds (suit below) because Opps will have Hearts
    • Pass = Alpha in Clubs in Clubs (because next suit up is Responder's suit)
    • 2 is Gamma in Spades
    • 2NT = HoC

Notes

  1. Pre-emptive Interference at the 4-level over a positive response to 1 (eg: 1-1(Bal)-(4)-??? is slightly different to the above, but follows similar logic as to the meaning of the Double.
    • Double is Gamma if Responder has shown a suit, and Beta if they have shown a balanced positive or semi-positive, but if the next suit up would be Gamma in Responder's suit anyway, then Double becomes an Ask in the suit below and the next suit up is Gamma. This does not apply when Double would be Beta, however, since it might be the only chance for Beta we will ever get so after a sequence such as 1-1(Balanced)-4 Double will always be Beta.
    • Pass is Lebensohl, forcing a Double, exactly as above. Again, Responder can only bid on over a sign-off if they have a significantly better hand than Opener will expect (by definition there has been no Beta Ask in this kind of sequence).
    • Bids by Opener are Asks (ie: Alpha in that suit) but without reference to Controls, merely asking if Responder has no support (1 step) or support (2 steps). If Responder shows support, then a relay over the response is Beta. Note that this only applies after pre-emptive interference immediately over a positive response to 1. If we've had other asks before the interference then no bid can ever be Alpha
    • Given the availability of the Pass-Double Lebensohl sequence, a fast 4NT is Beta, agreeing Responder's suit if one has been shown. If Responder has shown a balanced hand, then a fast 4NT is natural and "to play", but showing a less strong holding in opps' suit than a slow 4NT.
  2. If Opps intervene at the 5-level immediately over a positive response to 1, then generally action by Opener is similar to that over 4-level pre-empts, except:
    • Double by Opener denies 1st or 2nd round control of Opp's suit and invites Responder to continue if they have 1st or 2nd Round Control.
    • Immediate bids are invitational rather than being Alpha.
  3. In general, during any 1 sequence (Asking or Natural & non-forcing) where Opps have intervened in some way and we've not yet agreed a trump suit, the guidelines for Opener's bids in the suit Opps have bid are as follows:
    • If Opps' bid was promising a 4+-card holding in that suit, then we treat a bid by Opener (in an Asking Bid sequence) or by either Opener or Responder (in a natural sequence) as a Directional Asking Bid (DAB).
    • If Opps' bid was artificial, possibly showing a 4+-card holding in that suit, but possibly not (eg: Panama), or definitely not showing a 4+-card holding in that suit (eg: Suction), then we treat a bid of that suit by Opener as a trump Ask (in an Asking Bid sequence), and a bid by either Opener or Responder as a natural bid (in a natural sequence).

      As stated above, if the artificial interference was immediately over a positive response, then Double by Opener is Alpha in the suit Opps have actually bid (and Pass is Gamma/Beta). If, however, the interference was "pre-emptive", then Pass=Leb takes precedence, and Double=Gamma/Beta takes precedence over Double being Alpha in the suit Opps have actually bid, so:
      1-1-(3[Panama])-??. Now Pass is Lebensohl and Double is Beta, taking precedence over Double being Alpha in Clubs.
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OCP System Change Log
Beta when Positive 1 Response Doubled (03-Apr-2017)
In one specific sequence, it makes sense to abandon the normal rules for interference over a positive response to 1. The guidelines when Responder has shown a balanced positive state that Pass is Beta if Opps interfere over the positive. When the exact sequence is 1-1-(X)-???, however, we lose nothing by retaining 1NT as Beta and gain considerably by keeping Redouble and Pass as Alpha Asks in the red suits, considerably cheaper than they would have been without the interference.

Note this is the only sequence where this applies.
Interference over a Positive Response to 1 (01-Oct-2009)
The use of D1P2/R1P2 and backwards Asking dates back to the original description of OCP in the late 1980's. Opener's action after interference immediately over a Positive response to 1, however, has always been somewhat different. Prior to 2009, there was a long list of what Opener should do depending on what the Positive response showed, and what the interference was and what it showed. This was difficult for everyone to learn and remember.

In 2009, following the advent of Relay Beta in 2008, that list was scrapped and replaced by four simple rules:
  1. If Responder showed a balanced hand, then over the interference, Pass was Beta and Double an Ask in the suit below the last suit bid.
  2. If Responder made a Positive showing a 5+-card suit, then over the interference, Pass was Gamma in Responder's suit and Double an Ask in the suit immediately below the last suit bid.
  3. If a cheap Gamma was available as a relay over the interference, then that was used for Gamma and Pass was an Ask in the suit two below the last suit bid.
  4. In the event of pre-emptive interference overthe positive response, then Pass was reserved at Lebensohl (forcing a Double), and Double was now Gamma or Beta, depending on whether Responder had shown a suit or not.