Limit Raises


You hold:  ♠7 ♥K Q 7 6 4 ♦A J 10 5 3 ♣6 2.

Would you open this hand as dealer, vulnerable against not? Today, many players add for length when opening the bidding. The fifth cards in both red suits bring you up to 12 total points. Still not sure?

In Points Schmoints, Marty Bergen introduced the average player to the Rule of Twenty, which suggests opening “light” when the total of your HCP (10 here) and the number of cards in your two longest suits (10 in the example above) totals 20 or more. The Rule of Twenty works best when your meager high cards are in your long suits, as they are in this case. Marty and I would suggest opening 1♥.

Good news – partner makes a limit raise to 3♥. What does 3♥ show in your system? My suggestion is for a jump raise of opener’s major to be a limit raise, showing a good 10-12 points and at least four trumps. We are used to looking for an eight-card fit, but I am suggesting that partner should have better than that to make an immediate limit raise.

There is a very good reason for this suggestion. It will let you bid more games. The ninth trump is valuable – so valuable that opener should accept the game try with a minimum hand as long as it has good shape. Given that you opened this hand, would you carry on to 4♥? I would!

Here is one possible complete deal:

  ♠ J 10 6 5
♥ A 9 3 2
♦ Q 6 4
♣ K 5
♠ K 8 4 3
♥ J 10 5
♦ K 7
♣ A J 9 4
  ♠ A Q 9 2
♥ 8
♦ 9 8 2
♣ Q 10 8 7 3
  ♠ 7
♥ K Q 7 6 4
♦ A J 10 5 3
♣ 6 2

As you see, 4♥ makes even though North-South have only half the total 40 HCP in the deck. Two-suited hands are powerful – especially when you have a nine-card trump fit. If you missed this game, the form of scoring could affect your result. In a pairs game where 10 or more other pairs play the same deal, there are likely to be other pairs missing game, too, and you might salvage some matchpoints. As North-South, you score one matchpoint for every North-South pair whose score you beat and one-half matchpoint for every North-South pair you tie.

In a team game, you have only one other opponent – the pair sitting in the North-South seat at your teammates’ table. If that pair bids game, you will lose big time. A vulnerable game scores 620 points. 3♥ making four scores 170 points. Your team’s score is the net difference between the results at the two tables – minus 450 points on this deal. When that is converted into IMPs (the scoring scale used in team games), your team loses 10 IMPs. Many team matches are won
or lost by less than that! Missing a vulnerable game in IMPs is a blow, so don’t do it. In fact, team players are advised to push to bid a vulnerable game even if they think there is a bit less than a 50% chance to make it.

The loss would not have been quite so great if you were not vulnerable. In that case, you would be comparing a score of minus 420 to a score of 170 for a net loss of only 250 points, which converts to 6 IMPs. The advice for non-vulnerable games in teams is to bid any game that has a 50-50 shot.

At matchpoints, you’ll get a decent result for bidding a 50-50 game, but you can also get a reasonable result for stopping in a partscore. If you find yourself competing in a team event – and they are fun – remember to bid your games (especially vulnerable ones) and slams, and focus on setting any contract that your opponents bid. Greed isn’t necessary – if you can see the setting trick, take it.