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Taking the "Suck" out of Suction

What is Suction?

Suction is a system of interference over 1NT and other strong openings. The basic idea is that when the partnership bids over 1NT, they are showing either the next higher suit, or the two suits after that.

(1NT)2CShows diamonds or the majors
2DShows hearts or the black suits
2HShows spades or the minors
2SShows clubs or the red suits
2NTEither clubs and hearts, or diamonds and spades

Bidder's partner normally treats this bid as a puppet to the next higher suit. If bidder then had the two-suited hand, he corrects.

Why does it suck?

The problem with Suction is that it is easy for a prepared partnership to defend against it. After all, the bidder never has the suit he has bid. Therefore, it is relatively safe to use a double of the Suction bid as generically value-showing with some desire of defending.

The natural auction:


is much more troubling to the notrump opener, because partner might have the values to compete but not have had a penalty double or a hand with a clear competitive bid. The problem that is presented to the opener and responder is "how do you decide whether to double this contract?" If responder passes zero information, opener cannot (often) safely double for penalty on his own, but the only two calls responder has which allow him to defend are "pass" and "double."

But if 2D is artificial, responder can double to show values, opener can later double when she has a stack in the suit the opponents have bid.

Psycho Suction

I invented something I called "Psycho Suction" which didn't have this drawback. In Psycho Suction, you either have the suit bid or the next two suits.


(1NT)2CClubs or red suits.
2DDiamonds or majors
2HHearts or black suits
2SSpades or the minors
2NTNon-touching pairs (C+H or D+S)

It also has the advantage that you get out at the two level more often, and have to make fewer bids.

The partner of the Psycho Suction bidder has to guess base on his hand shape whether he thinks partner has the one-suiter or two-suiter, and is allowed to pass the call. For example, say you hold:

S: xx
H: xxxxx
D: xxxx
C: xx

And the auction has proceeded (1NT)-2C-(P). It is your call. In this situation, it makes sense to pass, because it is far more likely that partner will have clubs than that he will have diamonds and hearts.

It's certainly dangerous - it might go (1N) 2C All Pass, and partner ends up playing in a 2-1 fit, which can be embarrassing, particularly at unfavorable vulnerability. In fact, these non-fit situations are precisely why the word "psycho" is in the convention name.

Inverted Psycho Suction

I then realized you can minimize the number of times you must pass by inverting the calls:

(1NT)2CMinors or hearts
2DRed suits or spades
2HMajors (or clubs? How different from 3C?)
2SBlack suits (or diamonds?)
2NTNon-touching pairs (C+H or D+S)

I call this system "Inverted Psycho Suction," just because that sounds pretty threatening. In general, if advancer has no preference for the two suits overcaller might have, advancer takes a preference for the higher suit. For example, after the auction (1NT)-2C-(pass) and you hold:

S: xx
H: xxxxx
D: xxx
C: xxx
you would bid 2D, since you don't prefer clubs to diamonds, and don't want to miss hearts if that's what partner holds.

As a corollary to this, bidder is allowed to be 5-4 with 5 in the second suit and 4 in the bid suit, since partner will take the preference for the second suit with equal holdings.

This system can be played over artificial 1C and 2C openings, too.

I've played Psycho Suction a little, but sadly, I haven't had a chance to play the Inverted form. It seems like it would be fun, even if it didn't work. Plus, just the name is good enough to make me want to use it.

[ Incidentally, I think you should avoid table feel playing systems like this, unless it is really obvious that the table feel is coming from the opponents alone. You are already "guessing", and if you are often guessing based on table feel, rather than your own holding, you might find yourself "wired" by accident, resulting in ethical breaches, or the appearance of ethical breaches. You might even want to discuss strict rules about when you "guess" to pass. Your opponents would be entitled to that information, of course... ]

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