Poorbridge Theoreticians and Conventions II: Matic
By Damian Hassan

In the ranks of bidding theorists immortalised on these pages, pride of place should surely go to Ronald Leonard Gordon Keith, who devised the Matic system of bidding.

His first theoretical advance was to incorporate distributional points into the total point count. Oh, yes, this had been done before, but not to the extent of Matic. You add 2 points for any four card suit, 5 points for any 5 card suit, and an additional 4 points each for any extra length. Hurray! No more Yarboroughs — my usual S4 3 2 H4 3 2 D4 3 2 C5 4 3 2 is now a genuine Matic 2 count — but the true genius lay in the bidding structure...

All three level bids show two-suiters, either higher of touching suits or the lower of non-touching. With 6-5 you need 9-13 HCP, with 6-6 5-9 HCP. An opening 2NT shows a single suited hand, either 7 cards 10-14 HCP or 8 cards 6-10 HCP. Two level bids are either one or two suited, 5 HCP weaker than the 2NT or three level openers. All rather eccentric, but at least playable. The fun bit comes next.

In the first two seats, opening bids of 1C, 1D and 1H show respectively 13-17, 18-22, and 23-27 Matic points. And if the opponents open first, use double, one step and two step overcalls to show the same hands. Simple! So a 1C opening or double could be

S3 2
D8 7 6 4 3
CK 8 4 3 2


SK J 3 2
HQ 4 3
DA Q 8
CK 3 2

and a 1H opening ranges from

SQ J 7 6 5 3
HA 4
CK Q 6 5


HK Q 6
DA Q 5
CA K 6 4

An opening bid of 1S is any hand with more than 27 Matic points, and asks partner to describe his hand. Oh, and opening 1NT is Blackwood.

OK, I hear you say, this all sounds great, but we have no natural bids available at the one level; and you're worried about the rather wide range of hands that open with the same bid. Don't worry; responder can find out about our suits — eventually. As for the points, well he can form a rough impression by trying to work out our distribution points; and points, schmoints, as Marty Bergen says.

Anyway, partner's first step is to relay by bidding the next suit up (or by doubling any simple overcall) to find out about our distribution. We don't want to reveal our suits yet, so we respond in steps to say how long our longest suit is (four steps shows a 5-5 hand). And now partner can relay again to ask us to bid our suits.

Third in hand, bidding reverts to natural — almost. 1C is 15-17 balanced, 1NT 18-20 balanced, and other suits bids are 5+ in length. And if you hold a weak NT — pass! If partner couldn't open a Matic 1C, you don't want to be bidding on that rubbish.

Let's see how the system works by looking at how you can distinguish between those two 1C openers given above. You pick up SQ 7 5 4 HA J 8 6 DK 5 CA 7 6 and partner opens 1C. You might well have game on here, so you start off hopefully with a song in your heart.

Auction One: Opener has S3 2 H4 D8 7 6 4 3 CK 8 4 3 2 (3HCP + 10 DP = 13 MP).

SQ 7 5 4
HA J 8 6
DK 5
CA 7 6
S3 2
D8 7 6 4 3
CK 8 4 3 2


(1)13-17 MP
(3)5-5 shape
(4) Oh dear — now you know opener has 10 DP, so 3-7 HCP. You could sign off in 2H, and hope that the possible 4-1 fit plays for only three down, or pass 2C and hope that that is one of partner's suits, but you know you have at least a 5-3 fit somewhere, so you relay.
(5)Diamonds and Clubs
(6) Now, at this stage you know opener is 5-5 in the minors, and you would love to sign off in 3C, but that would be a relay, so you bid 3D and hope that with decent splits you can play this for three down (where have we seen that before?)

Auction Two: Opener has SK J 3 2 HQ 4 3 DA Q 8 CK 3 2 (15 HCP + 2DP = 17 MP).

SQ 7 5 4
HA J 8 6
DK 5
CA 7 6
SK J 3 2
HQ 4 3
DA Q 8
CK 3 2


(1)13-17 MP
(3)Four card longest suit
(4)Relay. Now you know that opener has at most 2-4 DP (a 4441 hand only counts two of the suits) so has 9-15 HCP.
(5)Four spades
(7)4=3=3=3 shape, so 11-15 HCP

In only four rounds of bidding Matic has arrived at the right contract. We Matic players live for such moments, which more than compensate for Auction One. (OK, so you would have got there as well — but without that feeling of peril, of wondering whether this was yet another Matic adventure)

Here are a few actual hands to show the system at work, taken from my archives.

HK 7 6
DK 10 7 4
CA J 8 6 3


(1)18-22 Matic points
(3)Five card longest suit
(5)Five clubs

SK J 9 4
HQ 5 3
DQ 5 3
C9 7 2

A decent contract, probably only two or three off.

With intervention, things get even more interesting.

SK 6 5
HQ J 8 7 6
DQ 8 5 4


(1)13-17 Matic Points
(3)Always bid versus Matic
(4)Five card suit
(6)See below

HA 10 4 2
DJ 10 7
CK Q 6 5 4
SA Q 10 9 3
H9 5
DA 2
CJ 9 7 2
SJ 8 4 2
HK 3
DK 9 6 3
CA 10 8

Again, the Matic auction to the non-fit at the three level is only going two or three off.

Finally, an example of Matic in competition.

SA K 8 6 5
HK Q 8 2
DJ 5 4


(1)18-22 Matic Points
(3)Six card suit
(5)See below

SQ J 9 3
HJ 6 5
DK Q 9 2
C10 5
S10 4
HA 10 9 4
CK J 8 6 4 3
S7 2
H7 3
DA 10 8 7 3
CA Q 9 2

Again, the controlled Matic auction has reached a non-fit which is probably going three off. Unlucky.

For a short while, I played this system with a few willing partners at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club in London. A wonderfully destructive weapon at pairs, until opponents worked out the best strategy — wait for us to subside at the two or three level, then double. I credit the system for my skill in playing Moysian and sub-Moysian fits, and for my ability to work out four-figure penalties instantly. We also had ample opportunities to test the validity of Burn's Law of Total Trumps. (When you are declarer, the total number of trumps held by your side should be greater than the total number of trumps held by your opponents). The fun continued for about eight months, until both the club committee and the EBU banned the system. Spoil-sports.

A couple of footnotes:
  1. The Matic defence to preempts is still legal. Double shows a hand with a stop, asking pard to bid 3NT; and 3NT is takeout. Inspired.
  2. The Matic defence to 1NT is again legal. Double shows 13+ HCP, and is takeout. We had a number of moral triumphs when we used this to find our non-fit at the three level, when the room was having to collect 500 or 800 from 1NT doubled. Unenlightened fools.

For more details, see the originator's notes at .