Main     Lesson 3B by Richard Pavlicek    

Responses to Suit Bids

This lesson presumes a firm understanding of the basic rules of standard bidding, specifically regarding responses to opening bids of one of a suit. The purpose is to bring out some of the finer points and offer advice about common problems.

The Basic Structure

The following tables summarize the basic responding strategy after an opening bid of one of a suit without enemy interference. Some of the responses are temporizing bids to show your point count, then you will describe your hand later.

With a trump fit for partner
6-10 pointsraise to 2
11-12 pointsbid a new suit
13-16 pointsraise to 3
17+ pointsjump shift

Son, do you remember what to do after I open the bidding?
Sure, pop. First I raise your suit. Then I look at my hand.

With 4+ cards in an unbid suit
6-10 pointsbid 1 of a suit if possible else 1 NT
11-16 pointsbid your suit
17+ pointsjump shift

With a balanced hand
6-10 HCPbid 1 NT
11-12 HCPbid a new suit
13-16 HCPbid 2 NT
17-18 HCPbid 3 NT

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Which Suit To Bid

Everyone should know the basic strategy of bidding the longer of two suits first, and bidding up the line with two 4 card suits. While this is eminently sound, it may be impractical when your hand is too weak to bid at the 2 level. Further, it is sometimes tactically inferior to make the textbook bid.

The main controversy in this area occurs after a 1 C opening, when responder has a diamond suit and a 4 card major. Here is my advice:

Normally bid a 5 card diamond suit, and normally skip a 4 card diamond suit. Except:
With extreme difference in suit quality, bid the stronger suit.

If you bid a 4 card suit when holding a longer suit, you will not be able to bid the longer suit later.

1.
TableS A J 8 4
H 2
D Q J 8 5 2
C Q 4 3

West
1 C
East
1 D

This is the normal procedure; show the longer suit. If partner has 4 spades, there is plenty of time to discover this.

2.
TableS 2
H K J 9 4
D 10 7 6 5 2
C Q 4 3

West
1 C
East
1 H

Here I would ignore the lousy diamond suit and bid the strong 4 card major. One reason for this is to suggest a good lead to partner if you end up defending.

3.
TableS A 3 2
H A 9 7 4
D K Q J 8
C 4 2

West
1 C
East
1 D

The normal procedure is to respond 1 H, but the diamonds are so much stronger. It is possible that a slam exists, so showing the good diamond suit is important.

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When To Jump Shift

The strong jump-shift response is a useful means to suggest a slam to opener, but most players misuse it. A jump shift serves little purpose on hands of 19+ points since responder will almost always bid past game regardless of what opener does.

The ideal time for a jump shift is when responder is not quite strong enough to bid beyond game, and he needs cooperation.

The jump shift is most desirable on hands of 17 or 18 points.

4.
TableS K 9 8 4 3
H A 9 4
D A K 10 5
C 2

West
1 D
2 NT
East
2 S
3 D

Your hand is worth 17 points in support of diamonds. The immediate jump shift followed by a diamond raise tells the story. Any slam decision is up to partner.

5.
TableS A K Q 8 7 5
H 2
D A J 4
C K 9 4

West
1 H
3 H
East
2 S
3 S

The best way to describe this hand is to jump shift and then rebid your spades. On the auction shown if partner next bids 3 NT or 4 H, you should pass.

Another common error is to jump shift when you have no idea what the best contract will be. The smart move is to proceed slowly; you may need the extra bidding room to find the best trump suit.

Do not jump shift if you intend to show two unbid suits.

6.
TableS 3
H A K J 5
D K 2
C A Q 9 8 7 4

West
1 D
2 NT
East
2 C
3 H

Bidding only 2 C ensures a convenient path to describe your hand. Note that if you had bid 3 C the first time, you would face an awkward decision over 3 NT.

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Preemptive Responses

Certain responses were not listed in the basic structure because they are tactical alternatives. Using these bids when appropriate will improve your bidding effectiveness.

A new suit beyond a jump shift is weak. This is like an opening preempt, but responder should always overbid by 4 tricks.

7.
TableS 7 2
H Q J 10 9 7 6 5
D 9 3 2
C 8

West
1 D
East
3 H

You could say 1 H but 3 H is ideal. You show 5 tricks (4 less than your bid) and a hand playable only in hearts. If your hearts were K-Q-J-9-7-6-5, you would bid 4 H.

A raise beyond a jump raise is weak. Responder typically has 5 trumps and 6-10 points.

8.
TableS Q 9 7 5 4
H 3
D J 8 7 4 2
C 4 3

West
1 S
East
4 S

Your point count dictates a bid of 2 S but 4 S is superior. The enemy will also have a good trump fit (probably in hearts), and your raise to game may shut them out.

Tactical 1 NT Bid

If your hand is very weak (0 to 5 points) you should normally pass partner’s opening, but this is poor strategy with a good trump fit.

If you have 4 card support for partner’s major and are too weak to raise to 2, bid 1 NT.

9.
TableS 10 6 4 2
H 2
D 9 7 6 5 2
C J 4 3

West
1 S
East
1 NT

Someone will bid over 1 NT. If it is an opponent, your bid will make it difficult. If it is partner, you will give a discouraging preference back to his spade suit.

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Passed Hand Responses

The meanings of some responses are different if responder is a passed hand. This is usually obvious since responder’s strength is limited once he fails to open the bidding.

Jump Raise

As a passed hand it is unnecessary and unwise to make a temporizing bid. If your hand is too strong for a single raise, make a jump raise.

A jump raise by a passed hand shows 11 or 12 points. This is invitational (nonforcing).

10.
TableS Q 10 8
H 5 4
D A 8 7 4 2
C A 9 3

West

1 S
East
Pass
3 S

As an unpassed hand you would bid 2 D (temporizing), but now that is undesirable because partner might pass.

Jump to 2 NT

Presumably you would open the bidding with 13 HCP, so the normal meaning of a 2 NT response is impossible once you pass.

A jump to 2 NT by a passed hand shows 11 or 12 HCP. This is invitational (nonforcing).

11.
TableS Q 10 2
H A 10 4
D Q 8 2
C K 9 8 7

West

1 D
East
Pass
2 NT

As an unpassed hand you would bid 2 C (temporizing) followed by 2 NT. Now you can bid 2 NT directly.

12.
TableS A 8 2
H J 9 7 2
D A Q 2
C 10 8 7

West

1 C
East
Pass
1 H

Even as a passed hand, however, the first priority is to show a 4 card major. If partner rebids, say, 1 S you will then bid 2 NT to invite game.

New Suit Bids

A popular belief is that responder, as a passed hand, should jump in a new suit to show he is “close to an opening bid.” Wrong! Make your normal response. If partner has a full opening, he will bid again. And if partner opened light, game is out of reach.

A new suit response by a passed hand shows 6-12 points (11-12 at the 2 level). Opener should bid again unless he opened light.

13.
TableS K Q 10 8 4
H A 8 4
D 4 3
C Q 8 2

West

1 D
East
Pass
1 S

Make your normal response. If partner cannot bid over 1 S, there is no future. If partner rebids, say, 2 D you should then bid 2 NT to invite game.

Jump Shift

A jump shift is unnecessary as a passed hand just to show your own suit, so most good partnerships incorporate this agreement:

A jump shift by a passed hand promises a trump fit. This shows 13 or 14 dummy points and it is forcing for one round.

14.
TableS 4
H A J 10 8 4
D 6 4 2
C K Q 8 4

West

1 C
East
Pass
2 H

You show a heart suit and club fit in one bid. If partner returns to 3 C (discouraging) you should pass. Remember that partner may have opened light.

15.
TableS K 8 4
H J 7 5 2
D A Q 8 6 4
C 2

West

1 H
East
Pass
3 D

Here you show 13-14 points with a heart fit (a jump to 3 H would show only 11-12). If partner next bids 3 H, you should respect his judgment and pass.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek