A Primer on Reverse Bidding – Part I

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I am not going to attempt to cover all ‘reverses':

By Ana Roth
On 26 February, 2013 At 13:24

Category : Advanced @en, Advanced 1
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Mike Hargreaves
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By BBO StarMikeH (Mike Hargreaves) for BBO News

I thought that it might be of some use to set out some guide to reverses. In what follows, I am describing North-American ideas, since that is the approach I know. My apologies to those who seek help in the context of other methods. Furthermore, these concepts do not translate well into big club methods, because the hands with which standard or 2/1 bidders reverse are dealt with in big club methods via the 1 opening.

I am not going to attempt to cover all ‘reverses': I am only going to deal with opener’s reverse into the 2-level after a 1suit – 1suit start:
1   1


1   1
2   etc.

So I am not dealing with related topics such as whether

1 2

2             is a reverse or whether

1 2


requires additional strength (the ‘high level reverse’).

How much strength does a reverse show?

The first question that any partnership must ask, in terms of reverses, is just how much strength does a reverse show?

It is common, to the point of being universal amongst good players, that the reverse is a one round force. While I have seen cases of players questionning why that is, I am not going to try to justify this: not because I can’t, but because of space/time constraints and the fact that most players accept that it is. There are many excellent basic bidding texts that can address the issue, and I may even respond to individual questions if I have time. For now, we will treat it as a given that a reverse creates a 1 round force. But this still doesn’t answer, completely, the question of just how strong it need be.

There are two schools of thought about the strength shown by opener:

  • strong reverses (18+ HCP)
  • weaker, but still good reverses (16+ HCP)

My preference is for what is known as the strong reverse approach: opener has a good 18 or more, although even we strong reversers will upgrade 16 or 17 counts with a good 3 card holding in responder’s suit. Thus after partner responds to my 1 with 1, I’ll reverse to 2 with

AQx AJxx KQ10xx x,  but not with x AJxx KQ10xx AQx.
The other school requires less for the reverse: so they might well reverse with the second hand… but not with anything less. Note that the quality of the high cards count: the 4321 point count undervalues Aces and Kings while overvaluing Queens and Jacks, so bear that in mind when deciding whether to reverse.

I am going to assume a ‘strong reverse’ approach: but, and this is important, what follows makes just as much sense in the ‘weak, but still good, reverse’ school. Just bear in mind that opposite my preferred approach, responder will be forcing to game on weaker hands than opposite potentially lighter reverses: if I hold a good 6 count, then I know that we have the playing equivalent of 24+ hcp and, with any degree of fit, I’m off to game. Whereas, if opener may have a good but non-fitting 16 count, I’m going to want 8 or 9 to create the gf… or sufficient fit and shape to compensate.

Ok, so partner has reversed.

How does responder handle this?

It is useful for responder to be able to immediately convey the good news when he likes his hand in the context of the reverse: when he is able to commit to game.

A hand discussed in the BBO Forums prompted me to share my views on this subject.

In that discussion, opener had reversed into 2 catching responder with  AKxxxx  Kxxxx  void  Qx. The consensus of the experienced players was that 3 was forcing, but several expressed doubt that partner would know this. We can all see, I trust, why 3 as forcing makes sense, on the actual hand.

But what if responder were  QJxxx  Jxxx  xx  Qx?

Now this hand has to show the  support, but wants to do so while allowing an out for opener who may have Kx AKxx AQJxx Jx.

So, one might well argue, 3 should be a weakness bid, and responder has to bid around the hand by, for example, bidding 3 as artificial, fourth suit.

This approach, while having some logic, was soon seen to be inefficient. What if opener, over 3, bid 3N or 4… now responder has to bid 4 to show the suit, and is that just a game-force or is it a slam try? And so on.

So years ago, some bright player or two (most inventions are invented several times) hit upon a lebensohl-like approach: use 2N as an artificial bid, usually connoting weakness…

We will discuss this approach in the next article. Click here

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