by Julian Pottage for Mr. Bridge
The official definition of a freak hand varies. Some say any hand with a void or two singletons. Others say a hand with at least eight cards in one suit or eleven cards in two suits. Three-suited hands with a void rarely present a problem. If partner bids your short suit, you proceed cautiously. If the opponents bid your short suit or if partner bids one of your long suits, you will bid more vigorously.
A J 9 3 K Q 6 5 Q 8 7 4 2
With this hand, you make a take-out double of an enemy 1 opening, or a splinter raise if partner opens one of a major. Conversely, if an opponent opened one of your long suits, you would probably pass; if partner opened 1, you would make a simple change of- suit response. When you have a long suit, much depends upon suit quality. When the quality is poor, fit becomes important.
|Hand A|| Hand B
| K Q J 10 8 4 3 2
7 3 2
| K 9 7 6 5 4 3 2
Q 9 2
With Hand A, you do not really care whether partner has spade support. Even facing a void, you have just one spade loser. With Hand B, by contrast, you might easily lose three trump tricks if partner is void. You would be much more inclined to open 4 with Hand A than with Hand B. With both Hands, you would expect the trumps to play for no loss facing A-x. With a two-suited hand, it is usually important to show both your suits. If you play in the wrong suit, which is clearly a risk if you show only one suit, you may find yourself forced and running out of trumps.
7 Q K J 8 4 3 K J 9 5 3 2
Should you open 1 or 1 with this hand? The answer really is neither. If you pass, you might well get the chance to make an unusual 2NT (or 3NT) overcall (if an opponent opens in a major) and show both your suits at once. Of course, if partner is the one to open 1 or 1, you will know of the probable misfit and take the auction slowly.
7 2 A Q 8 4 3 K Q J 8 5 2
With this stronger hand, you are too good to adopt the same tactic. You open 1 correctly. Should you now reverse into 2; after all, the hand comes out as only four losers on the losing trick count?
You should beware of using the LTC when you have not found a fit. You need to remember that you have only 12 HCP and that you have a void in partner’s suit. Moreover, as the opponents have remained silent, partner probably has a few spades as well. It is highly unlikely that you will miss game if you make a simple 2 rebid. By contrast, if you rebid 2 and partner’s hand does not fit yours, you could easily go overboard.
On that hand, there were two warning signals of a misfit: a bid from partner in your short suit and a lack of opposing bidding. A third possible warning signal is if the opponents bid no-trumps.
A Q 10 7 4 3 A7 4 K J 8 2
Partner probably holds six spades (you would expect the opponents to find an eight-card spade fit if they have one) and is likely to be short in hearts. Bidding 4 would be foolhardy. A much better action is to double. As the meaning of such a double is, ‘please try to find my suit,’ this should deflect partner from a spade lead to a heart lead.