Bridge Basics 1T41 Main

Lesson 4

 by Richard Pavlicek

More on Point Count

It is now time to learn something more about distributional points. Earlier I said you should count three points for a void, two for a singleton and one for a doubleton. There is an exception to this:

Do not count distributional points in a suit that partner has bid.

For example, if partner opens the bidding one heart, you should not count any points for shortness in hearts. Being short in partner’s suit is not an asset; your chances of finding a trump fit are diminished.

Dummy Points

On the other side of the coin, if partner bids a suit that you like, your shortness in another suit may be more valuable. If you intend to raise partner’s suit (you will become the dummy), use the following table for distributional points if you have at least four trumps:

Short SuitPoint Value

For example, if partner opens the bidding one heart and you hold four hearts and a singleton spade, you should count 3 points (instead of the usual 2) for the singleton spade.

When raising partner with only three trumps, count your distributional points in the normal way; i.e., from the table in Lesson 2.

Bridge Basics 1T41 MainTop Lesson 4

Responses to One of a Suit

If partner opens the bidding one club, one diamond, one heart or one spade, the first rule to remember is that you need at least 6 points to make any response. That is to say, you must

Pass with all hands of 0-5 points.

Most of the time you will have at least 6 points, and in that event you must make a response if your right-hand opponent passes. It is your duty to keep the bidding going because partner may have a strong hand when he opens with one of a suit.

New Suit Responses

The most common response is to bid a suit at the one level that is higher ranking than opener’s suit. This requires at least four cards in the suit that you bid.

If the suit you would like to bid is lower ranking than opener’s suit, it is impossible to bid it at the one level. In order to mention your suit you must bid at the two level, and this requires a stronger hand — at least 11 points.

In rare cases your hand may qualify for a jump response in a new suit. This is called a jump shift response and requires at least 17 points and a five-card or longer suit.

Below is a summary of the responses in a new suit. Note that there is no upper limit on any of the point counts.

PointsSuit LengthResponse
6+4+1 of suit
11+4+Cheapest bid in suit
17+5+Jump in suit

It is important to understand how the ranks of the suits may affect the meaning of a response at the two level. For example: A response of two diamonds would show 11 or more points if partner opened the bidding one heart; but it would be a jump (showing 17 or more points) if partner opened the bidding one club.

Major Suit Raises

If partner opens the bidding one heart or one spade, it is very desirable to raise his suit. Partner has promised at least five cards so you need only three cards to ensure an eight-card trump fit. One of the big advantages of a “five-card major” system is that your partnership can locate a major-suit fit quickly.

Here is the table of major-suit raises:

PointsTrumpsRaise to
6-103+2 H or 2 S
13-163+3 H or 3 S

Bridge Basics 1T41 MainTop Lesson 4

Minor Suit Raises

If partner opens the bidding one club or one diamond, raising his suit is a low priority. Always look for some other response, such as bidding a major suit, before raising partner’s minor suit.

In raising a minor suit you must have at least four trumps (preferably, at least as good as Q-x-x-x) because partner is likely to have just four cards and he may have only three cards.

Here is the table of minor-suit raises:

PointsTrumpsRaise to
6-104+2 C or 2 D
13-164+3 C or 3 D

Notrump Responses

It is also possible to respond in notrump after partner’s opening bid of one of a suit. A response of one notrump is used as a catchall bid, a way of keeping the bidding open as a courtesy to partner. This is necessary when you have 6-10 points and are unable to bid a suit at the one level or raise partner’s suit to the two level.

Unlike the above, a response of two or three notrump shows a specific kind of hand. Your hand pattern must be balanced — no singleton or void and at most one doubleton — with at least 13 points.

Below is a table of notrump responses to one of a suit:

PointsHand PatternResponse
6-10Any1 NT
13-16Balanced2 NT
17-18Balanced3 NT

Bidding tip: If your hand contains a four-card major suit that can be shown at the one level, you should bid that major suit in preference to bidding notrump. This way you may locate a 4-4 major-suit fit, which usually provides a better contract than notrump. You can always bid notrump later if you do not find a major-suit fit.

Forcing Bids

A forcing bid is one that partner is not allowed to pass; that is, he must not let the bidding end in that contract. A game-forcing bid is one that says, “We have enough points for game”; hence, all bids by either partner are forcing until game is reached.

After an opening bid of one of a suit, there are two important rules to guide your partnership in the bidding:

A new suit bid by responder is forcing.

A jump bid by responder is game forcing.

The concept of forcing and game-forcing bids is essential to accurate bidding. You will be hearing these terms over and over.

Bridge Basics 1T41 MainTop Lesson 4

Quiz 4

Assume partner opens the bidding one diamond and the next player passes. Fill in your points and the call you would make.

Enter calls like this: P 1H 2C 3N 4S 6D

1. S 9
H K 7 5Points  
D Q 9 7 3Call  
C 10 8 6 5 4

2. S K 9 8 4 3
H A Q 9 7Points  
D 2Call  
C 8 7 4

3. S A 9 7
H A J 8 4Points  
D 8 4 3Call  
C K Q 10

4. S Q J 3 2
H 9 6Points  
D K J 9 7 5Call  
C A 2

5. S A J 9
H K 10 7Points  
D K Q 5Call  
C A 9 6 2

6. S Q J
H A J 3Points  
D 9 8 7Call  
C Q 10 7 5 2


Top Lesson 4

Now assume partner opens one heart.

7. S K 10 7 6
H A 9 8 3Points  
D A 8 6 4 2Call  

8. S A 6 4
H 6 3Points  
D Q J 8 6 3Call  
C 10 7 4

9. S 5 3 2
H 10 7 2Points  
D A Q 10 6Call  
C Q 6 4

10. S A Q 9 6
H 7Points  
D A 9 6Call  
C K J 9 3 2

11. S A Q 5
H 10 9Points  
D A 9 5 4Call  
C K Q 8 7

12. S 7 2
H A 8 2Points  
D A K J 5 4Call  
C A J 5


Top Lesson 4

© 2012 Richard Pavlicek