A synposis of Black­Stiff Mini­Roman, by Brad Bart.
All alertable bids are marked with a *.
Black­Stiff Mini­Roman 2D

Most standard systems (and a lot of strong­club systems) have difficulty handling hands with Roman distribution, i.e. 4-4-4-1 shape. Here are some of the ways that standard bidders attempt to cope.

  1. Weak notrumpers may open hands of the appropriate range 1NT, especially if the stiff is in a minor suit. If the stiff is in a major, there is more danger that partner will transfer.
  2. Standard bidders will open the suit below the singleton. This is not a big problem for hands containing a stiff diamond or a stiff heart as is shown in the sample hands. If responder bids your short suit, you will have a comfortable rebid at the one level.
    S x x x x
    H x x x x
    D x
    C x x x x


    S x x x x
    H x
    D x x x x
    C x x x x


  3. The 1-4-4-4 and 4-4-4-1 shapes are problematic. Standard bidders try to bid these shapes without lying to partner too much. Some try opening either of these 1D and others try 1H. There is no clear rebid for partner's expected response in your short suit.
    S x
    H x x x x
    D x x x x
    C x x x x


    S x x x x
    H x x x x
    D x x x x
    C x


Case 3 is why I recommend Black­Stiff Mini­Roman.

A 2D* opening bid shows 11-15 points in high cards with a singleton in clubs or spades and Roman shape.

I used to play Mini­Roman 2D which could show any stiff, but I found it too tough to bid good slams simply because there was too much to do. For instance, when partner opens Mini­Roman 2D with an unknown stiff and you want to probe for a slam, it is impossible to:

all before you might want to bid 4NT. I hope that knowing two suits will make it easier to cope.


  1. 2D-Pass
    To play.

  2. 2D-2H  (or 4H)
    To play. Remember that in both 1 and 2, partner must have 4-4 in the red­suits.

  3. 2D-3H
    Invitational to 4H.

  4. 2D-3NT
    To play.

  5. 2D-3C
    To play, even opposite a stiff club.

  6. 2D-3D
    Slam­try in diamonds. Opener should try to cooperate if possible.

  7. 2D-4D

  8. 2D-3S (or 4C)
    Undiscussed. Perhaps a this should be a solid suit?

  9. 2D-2S*
    Game­forcing. Tends to deny 4 spades.
    The strategy is simple: responder is the captain. The first thing he will do is find out both what shape opener has and whether his hand is minimum or maximum. Next, responder will set the trump suit, which will demand a Q­bid from opener, if trumps were set at a low level. After some Q­bids, responder can feel free to probe for a slam however he wishes: either by Q­bidding or by using Blackwood.
    Note that 3NT cannot be played after a 2S response.

    1. 2D-2S-2NT*
      Shows a minimum opener with a stiff club.

    2. 2D-2S-3C*
      Shows a minimum opener with a stiff spade.

    3. 2D-2S-3D*
      Shows a maximum opener with a stiff club.

    4. 2D-2S-3H*
      Shows a maximum opener with a stiff spade.

      The next suit which responder bids sets that suit as trumps and demands a Q­bid from opener. If responder wants to set the trump suit to be the opener's artificial rebid, then he should bid 3NT*.
      Here are some interesting sequences.

      1. 2D-2S-2NT-4C or
        2D-2S-2NT-4D or
        2D-2S-3C-4C or
        2D-2S-3C-4D or
        Kickback­1430. But...

      2. 2D-2S-3D-4C or
        2D-2S-3H-4C or
        This just sets the trump suit.

      3. 2D-2S-2NT-3NT

  10. 2D-2NT*
    Shows 4+ spades and is forcing for one round only.
    Note that it is impossible to play in a 2S contract.

    1. 2D-2NT-3C
      Shows a stiff spade. All other rebids show a stiff club.

      1. 2D-2NT-3C-Pass
        To play. This is the best way to choose a contract with a moderate hand with 4+ spades and 4+ clubs.

      2. 2D-2NT-3C-3H
        By inference, this is a game­forcing heart raise. If responder held an invitational hand with 4-4 in the majors, he would probably just invite with 3H, even though he holds 4 spades. Opener should attempt to cooperate with a maximum by Q­bidding. 3NT would be uncooperative here.

      3. 2D-2NT-3C-3D or
        2D-2NT-3C-3S or
        To play.

    2. 2D-2NT-3S*
      Shows a minimum opener with a stiff club. Any further continuations by responder are Q­bids for spades and opener should cooperate on any excuse.

    3. 2D-2NT-3D* or
      Shows a maximum opener with a stiff club. The red­suit bid is an advanced Q­bid in support of spades. If responder rebids 3S or 4S, then opener should respect the sign­off. Any other continuation by responder is a Q­bid, including 3NT.


  1. Our Q­bidding style is very loose here. Because it's important that opener describe his hand in detail to responder, opener should Q­bid any available ace or king up the line. To make the Q­bidding sequence run smoother, responder is allowed to "Q­bid" 3NT (serious 3NT). Opener should never Q­bid the stiff suit unless he holds the stiff ace.

  2. Note that all of the artificial responses are made in suits in which we have cards. This will prevent the opponents from making easy lead­directing doubles.

  3. Clever opponents might try to find their way into the auction after the sequences:

    2D-2S-3C or

    Typically, these sequences deny a combined holding of 5 spades, which means the opponents hold 9+ spades. Especially at unfavourable vulnerability, the opponents may start bidding spades, killing our auction. I don't know how to fix this flaw in the system except to note that responder won't always deny 4 spades, especially for bulky, awkward hands.

Originally written by Brad Bart on June 27, 1998.