The Maxi Raise
by George Rosenkranz


The Jacoby 2NT forcing raise of a 1H or 1S opening bid is a popular convention. 
Most experts and intermediate players use it in its original form. I have dubbed my modified system the "maxi raise". 
The test for all conventions is three-fold: efficiency, frequency of use and ease of memory. With many conventions, these factors result in a compromise to reach what is considered the optimal version. With these factors in mind, here's a look at the latest version of the maxi raise. 
What is the maxi raise? It is a 2NT response to partner's 1H opener and a 3C response to partner's 1S opener. It is a game forcing and expresses a desire to explore slam possibilities. 
In case you are wondering, a 2S response to 1H and a 2NT response to 1S are used to show mini-splinters: hands with four trumps, a side-suit singleton and 6 to 9 high-card points. 
What are the requirements? At least four-card trump support, usually at least 14 HCP, a minimum of five controls (A=two; K=one) and at most five losers. 
The responder may not have a void and will have a singleton only if he plans to control the subsequent auction. Normally, with a singleton or void, you make a splinter bid. 

Rebids by opener have been arranged according to Jeff Rubens'useful space principle 
- the bids needing the greatest amount of shape description come first. Rebids show strenght 
- minimum, intermediate or maximum 
- and distribution: balanced even the lenght of opener's major and his full pattern. 

As for strength, if you are using some form of Standard American, the ranges in terms of point count are 12 to 14 for minimum, 14+ to 17 for intermediate and 17+ to 19 for maximum. In Romex, where the opening bid of one of a suit is limited, the ranges are 12 to 14, 15 to 16 and 17 to 18. 
If you play a strong 1C system such as Precision, you can dispense with one range, using 11 to 13 for minimum and 13+ to 15 for maximum. 

Here are the rebid schemes: 

1H-2NT 
3C        : unbalanced minimum or any hand with a void. 
3D        : intermediate, balanced or un balanced. If you always open 1NT with a 5-3-3-2 pattern, a five-card major and 15 to 17 HCP, this bid will always show an unbalanced 
hand, so you don't need the balanced-hand step in the next relay. 
3H        : six-card suit, balanced or unbalanced. 
3S        : six hearts, five spades. 
3NT      : maximum, balanced or unbalanced. 
4C or 4D: at least 5-5 in the bid suits. 
4H        : minimum balanced hand (5-3-3-2, 5-4-2-2 or, rarely, 6-3-2-2). 
4S        : Roman Key Card Blackwood for hearts. 
4NT, 5C, 5D: Exclusion Keycard Blackwood. Responder answers key cards for hearts, excluding aces in spades (4NT) and the named suits. 

1S-3C 
3D        : unbalanced minimum or any hand with a void. 
3H        : intermediate, balanced or unbalanced. 
3S        : six-card suit, balanced or unbalanced. 
3NT      : maximum, balanced or unbalanced. 
4C, 4D or 4H: at least 5-5 in the bid suits. 
4S        : minimum balanced hand (5-3-3-2, 5-4-2-2 or, rarely, 6-3-2-2). 
4NT      : Roman Key Card Blackwood. 
5C, 5D, 5H: Exclusion Keycard Blackwood. 

Opener's third bid 

Responder may sign off if opener's rebid does not suit him, but in most cases 
responder will relay by bidding the next step. This ask for further description. Opener 
replies in steps: 
 - First step: balanced. 
 - Second step: 5-4-2-2 shape. 
 - Third step: low singleton. 
 - Fourth step: middle singleton. 
 - Fifth step: high singleton. 

After opener rebids to show a minimum and responder relays, the first two steps 
are omitted - openers is known to be unbalanced - and the shape is known in six steps:

 - First step: low singleton. 
 - Second step: middle singleton. 
 - Third step: high singleton. 
 - Fourth step: low void. 
 - Fifth step: middle void. 
 - Sixth step: high void. 

Thus the auction never goes beyond four of the agreed major. After opener's shape is shown, responder may super-relay (skipping a step in the bidding) to ask for a side four-card suit. This is sometimes vital information. There are deals in which you can make an extra trick by playing a 4-4 fit, the 5-4 fit providing a critical discard. 
The next relay, either immediately following the opener's shape-showing rebid or after the super-relay is Roman Keycard Blackwood. An immediate jump to 4NT over the opening bid is not RKCB, it is simple Blackwood. You must use the maxi raise to initiate RKCB. After RKCB, the next relay initiates the spiral scan
There is one other consideration: what happens when opener shows 5-5 or 5-6 shape? I think tha second suit should be at least KJTxx, although I am aware that many players require at least two of the top three honours. After this pattern is shown, there is no shape inquiry relay. Responder may sign off (this can be ignored, of course, when opener has considerable extra strength), cuebid or use RKCB. 
All of this may sound complicated, but after some practice it soon becomes routine and easy to remember. Some important notes: if a combined holding of 10 trumps is known to both players, the ask for the trump queen is omitted. 3NT by responder is always a relay - never to play. Five of the agreed major is not a signoff but a relay if opener has shown a maximum or three key cards. 

Interference 

The opponents won't enter the auction that often, but when they do it helps to be prepared. 
Suppose, for example, that opener's right-hand opponent doubles the 3C maxi raise. How does this change opener's rebid? Here are my suggestions: 

 - Redouble: good five-card club suit with interest in playing 3C redoubled. 
 - Pass: no club control. Responder redoubles to continue the relay. 
 - All other steps remain the same but show a club control. If opener's rebid is doubled, responder bids as follows: 

 - Pass: no control in the suit doubled. 
 - Redouble: relay promising a control in the suit doubled. 
For example: 

West North East South 
1H     Pass  2NT Pass 
3D     Dbl 

Pass = no diamond control. 
Redouble = relay with a diamond control. 

If there is an overcall after the maxi raise, opener may double for penalty or continue the system. For example: 

West North East South 
1S    Pass   3C    3H 
Double = penalty. 
Pass = first step: minimum, unbalanced or any void. 
3S = second step: intermediate, etc. 

Mike Passel, Phillip Alder and Eddie Wold contributed valuable suggestions for this article.