# The Shortness Rule by Eric Kokish

#### ByEric Kokish

Nov 22, 2013

May, 2006: In his column of  the  [button link=»http://www.acbl.org/join/indices.html#index»]ACBL[/button] bulletin Eric Kokish answered this question:

Dear Eric, I held as West

A K 10 5 A Q 6 4 8 5 7 54  and opened 1NT (11-14 PH).

The auction continued (opponents silent):

 West East 1NT 21 2 3 3

1 transfer

Now what would 5 by responder show? I think that as 4 would have been a cuebid, 5 must be a singleton. Am I crazy?

Partner’s had: J 6 2  K J 9 8 3   A K Q 2  9

Partner didn’t actually bid 5 but 4 and we missed the slam. Is there any other way to get there from here?

For starters, you still needed the spade finesse, even with the perfect fit so it’s not big deal either way. Look at it the other way: if you had reached 6 with your combined 27 HCP and the spade finesse had lost, you would have achieved a very
poor result.

A few things:

1. Over 3 your 3 in tradition al usage shows values in spades, perhaps with a diamond fit, looking first for the best game. To set heart as trumps, bid 3. (3 was game forcing).

2. In your methods, your idea about 5 is eminently sensible, although many would treat 5 as a void rather than a singleton and some would define it as Exclusion Blackwood (assuming partnership agreement about which suit was trump).

Over 3 you could adopt something I call the shortness rule: when a player shows nine or more cards in two suits and a fit of eight or more cards is confirmed in a gameforcing auction, that players next bid in a new suit shows shortnes. With no shortness, bid 3NT/4NT/old suit to show a 5-4-2- 2 pattern. Here, using the shortness rule, the bidding might go:

 West East 1NT 21 2 3 3 4 4 5 5/6

With the final bid being a matter of judgment by opener. The shortness rule has many applications:

• Notrump auction. involving transfers and second suits after a fit is located, e.g., 2NT -3; 3-4; 4 -5 shows diamond shortness. Similarly, 4 would show spade shortness.
• Smolen sequence. after a fit is located e.g •. 1NT-2; 2-3; 3-4 or 4 shows shortness in the minor bid.
• Fit-showing jumps, where the jumper’s next bid in a new suit shows shortness. For example, Pass-1; 3 – 3; 4 or 4 would show shortness.
• After a game-forcing 2/1 response, a new suit rebid and two-level support, e.g., 1-2; 2– 2; 3 and 3 both show shortness.
• After immediate two suit agreement, e.g., 1-2; 3 -3; 4 and 4 both show shortness.

This agreement applies only when a genuine fit is assured. With no fit or if another strain might be better (as in reverse and jump shift auctions) or if the auction is not game forcing, opener shows length (fragment) instead.