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Conventions: Negative Free Bids Part 2

Source: Articles published in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin

Part 2 — Responder’s First Bid  (Read Part 1 Click here )

 Called «a modern solution to a common bidding problem» by the Encyclopedia of Bridge, the  Negative Freebid has become a popular addition to many partnerships’ systems. Whether you  and your partner decide to use this bid or not, it’s likely you’ll be playing pairs who do, so it’s a  good idea to arm yourself with some information.

 The Negative Freebid is not really a convention (all of responder’s and opener’s bids are  natural) but is best classified as a bidding treatment or agreement. When using Negative  Freebids, you and partner agree to lower the point requirements for some of responder’s  freebids in competitive auctions. This increases responder’s ability to show a long suit after an  opponent overcalls and improves your chances of finding a fit.

 The «problem» with standard freebids

 Consider this typical situation. Partner opens 1D, your RHO overcalls 1S, and you hold:

  53 KJ8743 82 K82 or
  643 842 Q7 KQJ103

 With standard methods, a new-suit bid at the two-level would promise at least 11 points  (perhaps a good 10). Neither of these hands is strong enough to bid your suit freely, so what do  you do?

 With Hand #1, the usual solution is to make a negative double. Since partner will seldom be  kind enough to bid hearts, you plan on bidding 2H over his expected rebid of 1NT, 2C or 2D.  But what if LHO raises his partner’s spade suit? When the auction is passed back to you, you’ll  have another dilemma-pass and lose a possible partscore, or risk a 3H bid, which could be a  disaster if partner doesn’t have a suitable trump holding.

 With Hand #2, the negative double isn’t even an option. You’re more or less «stuck» with  passing and hoping you can show your hand later. If LHO raises his partner’s spade overcall,  you may be shut out forever.  Even if LHO passes and partner reopens with a double, you have no good way to describe this  hand. A jump to 3C would show some values, but virtually promises a 6-card suit. And 2C is  somewhat of an underbid, since you have a considerably better suit and hand than partner  might expect.

 The Negative-Freebid Solution

 The Negative Freebid (NFB) allows you to make your natural response with hands like those  above, but without promising game-invitational values or catapulting the auction too high.  A NFB is used when an opponent overcalls your side’s opening bid and responder has a long  suit that cannot be shown at the one-level. In the examples above, you would make a NFB of  2H with Hand #1 and 2C with Hand #2.Responder’s Use of the Negative Freebid  Responder’s NFB is always a non-jump, new-suit bid between 2C and 3D. It is an alertable bid  that shows:

 •A good suit-a 6+-card suit or a strong 5-carder.
 • 5-11 points.
 • If partner opened 1H or 1S, no 3-card or longer support for partner’s suit.

 Some pairs prefer to play NFBs through 3S, but this can create some very awkward auctions  when responder holds a strong hand. More often, you’ll want to use the 3H and 3S bids to show forcing hands.

 Remember: These freebids are called «negative» because they’re non-forcing. They are, however, intended as constructive; they show good suits and good playing values.

 Responder’s new-suit bid is NOT a NFB if the bid is made:

 •At a level of 3H or higher. If partner opens 1S and your RHO overcalls 3D, no Negative  Freebid is available; your new-suit bid of 3H or 4C is forcing.
 •At the one-level. Responder’s new-suit bid at the one-level carries the standard meaning.

 After 1D by partner, 1H by RHO, a freebid of 1S is unlimited, showing 6+ points and a 5+-card  suit (since you would make a negative double if you held only 4 spades).

 Much of your success with this system depends on your hand evaluation skills. Remember that  a Negative Freebid tends to tell partner you have a one-suited hand without features that would  be more valuable in other contracts. Your choice of whether or not to use the NFB, then,  depends not just on your high-card values and suit quality, but on your outside holdings. The  vulnerability and the form of scoring may also affect your decision (you’ll usually want to be
 more conservative at IMPs).

 Try your judgment with the following hands:

 Partner RHO You
 1 D 1 S ?
 1. 8654 Q108643 A7 3

Bid 2H. You have minimum high-card values, but your length in spades (and partner’s  presumed shortness) makes it more likely that dummy will have fair support. Your 2H bid  may also have some preemptive value because it prevents LHO from bidding a «cheap»  2C .

 2) J74 K9632 1054 A7

 Double. This hand isn’t a good choice for a NFB at any vulnerability or form of scoring.  Your suit is weak and your hand would be a good dummy for contracts of 1NT or 2D, so  keep all options open with a negative double. If partner rebids 2C, take a preference to 2D.

 3) 9 AKJ97 108732 64

 Bid 2H. A NFB is often the only bid you’ll make in the auction, but you’re free to bid again  with hands that have extra playing strength. If the opponents bid over your NFB, you can  compete by rebidding your suit (if you have a strong 6-carder and can do so at the 3-level) or by supporting partner’s minor, which you would want to do with this hand. If partner  doesn’t raise your hearts, your hand is strong enough to compete up to 4D.

Partner RHO You
 1 H         2 C    ?

 4) 43 J54 AQJ985 72

 Bid 2H. Even though you have a strong suit, resist the temptation to bid 2D, which would  deny 3-card heart support. Raising partner’s major is more important than showing a new  suit, especially if you have a minimum. If LHO competes and it’s right for your side to bid  on to 3H (or 4H), partner won’t be able to make an intelligent decision unless you show
 your support right away.

 5) J92 42 KJ1097 AQ6

 Bid 2NT. Your suit is good enough for a NFB of 2D, but your hand’s most valuable feature  may well be the double club stopper. The 2NT bid gives partner a better description of  both your high-card strength and your hand’s suitability for the most likely game of 3NT.

 Other System Changes

 Since so many of responder’s new-suit bids are non-forcing, you’ll need to make a few other  adjustments to handle stronger hands. The two main changes involve negative doubles and  responder’s jump shifts in competition, which will be covered in Part 3.


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