by Pat Harrington for the ACBL       [ilink url=»»] Click here[/ilink] to read Part I

Just in Case

You, East, are the responder and this is the auction:

West    East
1        1
2        ?

What has West told you about his hand? How strong do you expect West to be? What do you know about West’s distribution?

West narrowed down his strength with the 2 rebid. A simple raise to two describes a minimum hand. West has about 13 to 15 points. Because your 1 response promised only four spades, you probably expect West to have four-card support. Recall from part 1, however, that opener occasionally has a hand that is awkward to bid. Sometimes opener raises a 1 or 1 response to the two level with only three-card support. How does that affect your bidding if you are considering game, you can sometimes cater to a game other than four of your agreed major. Let’s see how.

Using the above auction, choose your rebid as responder with each of these hands:

1 . KJ42 Q97 763 K94,

2. K10873 Q8 K94 KQ9,

3 . Q542 KJ9 J103 AQJ,

4. QJ93 A7 KQ854 74,

5 . 8754 AQ Q102 QJ94.


1. You have no hope for game with 9 high-card points opposite a minimum opening hand. Your only choice is to pass. Whether or not partner chose to support with only three spades doesn’t matter. Any further bid from you would invite a game and you can’t afford to do that.

2. A 4 bid is easy with your opening hand opposite partner’s minimum opener. You have game, but not slam, and are sure of a spade fit, even if partner raised with only three-card support.

3. A common reaction with your 14 points opposite partner’s opening hand is to bid 4. With values in both unbid suits, however, a NT is a reasonable alternative. You can cater to the chance that partner supported with only three spades by rebidding 3NT. Opener knows that we usually prefer playing in a 4-4 major suit fit to playing in aNT and is free to correct to 4 with four-card support.

4. Your 12 HCP and distribution make this a game-going responding hand despite the chance that partner might have only three-card support, 4 is your best bid. Don’t get hung up on that diamond fit. You expect to use it to make 4. Even if you do end up in a 4-‘3 fit, 4 is llkely to be as good or better than a 5 contract (and scores higher at matchpoints.). Bid 4.

5. This time you have 11 points – a hand that wants to invite game, but you aren’t really anxious to play in 4 if ‘partner raised with three-card support. Make an invitational, non-forcing 2NT rebid. If opener doesn’t have enough for game, he can pass 2NT (a likely choice with only three spades) or sign off in 3. With enough for game, opener can bid 3NT or 4.

Let’s end with advice for opener and responder. Remember our game priorities. Major-suit games are generally preferred as long as there is an eight card fit. NT is only second-best and minor games are usually our last resort.

Opener: If responder bids game or moves toward game after you’ve raised his major to the two level, it’s usually best to play in the major as long as you have four trumps. Don’t let a notrump bid sidetrack you; partner may just be catering to your having had a tough rebid and giving you an alternative in that case. Go back to the major with four-card support. Leave it to the experts to decide when to play in NT, despite their 4-4 major suit fit. It’s not easy.

Responder: A good partner is aware of the problems that his partner might encounter in the bidding. Once you realize that opener occasionally might make a single raise of your major-suit response with only three-card support, you’ll be able to suggest an alternative contract just in case this was one of those occasions. You’d be a better partner and your scores might be better, too.