Fourth seat: the Rule of 15 and CRIFS

Fourth seat: the Rule of 15 and CRIFS

By Larry CohenLarry Cohen

Courtesy of


Marty Bergen

My former bridge partner, Marty Bergen, has 11 conventions named after him: Bergen Raises, Bergen over Notrump, BROMAD (Bergen Raise of Major After Double) and on and on ad nauseam.

I would like just one ‘Cohen’ convention and I will get to it at the end of this article.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about fourth seat.

After Pass-Pass-Pass, there are some items to consider such as:


The normal range for a weak 2-bid is 6-10. But, after three passes, surely you wouldn’t open the bidding with 6 points (nor 7, 8, or 9). Really, the range for a fourth-seat weak two should be about 10-14. After three passes, I’d be happy to open 2 with:

 K Q 10 9 6 5  K 3  9 8  K J 5

This combines preemption with description. Of course, you can’t open this hand 2 in any other seat, because it is too strong. Three-level preempts in fourth seat also show close to opening-bid values.

RULE of 15

The ‘book’ rule on whether or not to open with a 1-level bid in fourth seat says to add your HCP to your number of spades. If the total is 15, open the bidding. If it’s less than 15, pass it out. The theory is that it will be a partscore battle, and if your side doesn’t have enough of the high-ranking suit, you could easily lose the battle. So, you would pass out this hand:

K J 5 4  K J 8 7  K 9 8 7  (11 HCP + 1 spade = 12)

but open:

 K Q 10 9 2  A J 4  8 7 6  5 3 (10 HCP + 5 spades = 15)

This rule is commonly called either ‘Pearson Points’ or ‘Cansino Count’.


When you open in 4th seat, you are often on the light side. If you open 1 with

 K Q 10 9 2  A J 4  8 7 6  5 3

you don’t want partner to get too excited. Say that he has a good hand with game interest

A J 5  7 6  J 4 2  A J 8 7 2

You wouldn’t want to get too high opposite that hand (eight tricks are the limit). The responder is too strong for 2, but rather than bid 3, he can bid an artificial 2 to say he has a limit raise (it is just a coincidence that this example contains a club suit–the Drury 2 bid says nothing about clubs). Playing modern Drury, the opener would then rebid 2 to say he is not interested in game and the partnership stops safely on the two level. (Technically, this is called ‘Reverse_Drury,’ but it is the way ‘everyone’ plays it.)  Drury is also used after third-seat openings (also potentially light).


Now, forget the Rule of 15 for deciding whether to open or pass out the deal in fourth seat. I prefer CRIFS — Cohen’s Rule In Fourth Seat. Any time it is borderline (like 10, 11, 12 HCP), evaluate your opponents! Yes, I am serious. If you are playing against Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell (or the best pair at your local duplicate game), then pass it out. You will likely get a middlish score/result. Who needs to open and have to do battle with an expert pair who will fight hard for the partscore and play or defend well? Conversely, if you look up at your opponents and see Schlemiel and Schlimazel (the worst pair in the room), then open the bidding. You can push them around in the auction and will get an extra trick or two in the play/defense. You rate to go plus — so don’t pass the board out.

I ask just two small favors:

1) Please publicize this treatment with the CRIFS acronym.

2) Please don’t tell your opponents why you opened that 10-count in fourth seat (I don’t want them to know what we think of their game).