Main     Lesson 3P by Richard Pavlicek    

Bidding Judgment

Every bridge player should be acquainted with the priorities for choosing the final contract. The first priority is an eight-card or longer major-suit trump fit; second is notrump if the two hands are balanced or nearly balanced; and the last is to play in a minor suit.

This lesson explains some of the finer points necessary to become a consistent winner. It shows where to bend the bidding rules slightly to gain an advantage.

Positional Values

Some honor holdings — particularly A-Q, K-x and Q-x — may be worth an extra trick when the opening lead comes around to them.

Holding A-Q, K-x or Q-x in an unbid suit, look for an opportunity to become declarer, especially in notrump.

1.
S K 8 2
H Q 7 2
D A K 9 3
C J 10 2
TableS A J 3
H K 3
D 10 5 2
C A 9 8 5 4

West
1 D
3 NT
North
Pass
East
2 NT
South
Pass

Holding K-x in hearts East grabs the opportunity to declare the most likely contract. Note that if East made his normal response of 2 C, he would become the dummy in notrump.

2.
S Q 7
H A Q 10 6 3
D Q 8 2
C K 8 2
TableS A 8 3
H 4 2
D A J 9 4 3
C A 9 5

West
1 H
2 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 NT
South
Pass

In West’s view his spade holding may not even provide a stopper, but the positional value warrants the stab at notrump. If the S Q had turned out to be worthless, you would probably fail at a suit bid also.

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Choosing the Better Fit

If you discover a fit in two suits, you should consider how the play may go. Usually the more even suit should be trumps so the lopsided suit can provide discards.

With a fit in both majors (or both minors) prefer the more evenly divided suit as trumps.

3.
S Q J 10 8 2
H K Q 4 3
D 5 3
C A 8
TableS A K 3
H A 8 6 5
D J 8 4 2
C 7 2

West
1 S
2 H
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
4 H
South
Pass

With hearts trump you will win 11 tricks with normal breaks; but with spades trump there is no way to win more than 10. Also note that if hearts break 4-1 you might still make 4 H while 4 S is doomed to fail.

4.
S K 9 7 2
H K 3
D A Q
C A 8 6 4 3
TableS A 8 5 3
H A 10 8 6 5 4
D 2
C 7 2

West
1 NT
2 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
4 S
South
Pass

East could jump directly to 4 H, but it costs nothing to use Stayman first and a better contract is found. Also note West’s choice of opening bids.

Exception: When a major suit is extremely strong (6+ cards with K-Q-J) or extremely long (7+), it should usually be trumps.

5.
S A 9 8 5 2
H 5 4
D K J 3
C A Q 8
TableS K 6 3
H K Q J 10 7 6
D 8
C K 4 3

West
1 S
2 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 H
4 H
South
Pass

East chooses 4 H instead of 4 S because of his extreme heart strength. Note that in spades a trump trick would always be lost, but in hearts you have a chance to discard a spade on the D K.

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Notrump with Major Fit

Sometimes, especially at matchpoint scoring, it is desirable to play in notrump with an eight-card or longer major-suit fit. There is no way to be certain, but look for these characteristics:

No singleton or void suit
No obvious way to gain a trick by ruffing
Stoppers in the unbid suits with secondary honors

6.
S K Q J 7 5
H 10 7 2
D A 4
C A 7 2
TableS A 8 4
H Q J 4
D K Q 6 2
C Q 10 3

West
1 S
3 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 NT
Pass
South
Pass

Because of his flat shape and secondary honors, East elects not to support spades unless his partner showed dissatisfaction with notrump.

Occasionally the player with the long major suit must cooperate by not insisting to play in his trump suit. Instead he abides by his partner’s decision to play in notrump.

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

West
1 NT
3 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 H
Pass
South
Pass

West is supposed to raise to 4 H holding three trumps, but he takes exception with his flat shape and abundant stoppers. East has no singleton or void so he accepts the decision.

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Seven-Card Major Fit

If an eight-card major-suit trump fit does not exist and notrump is undesirable because of a weak side suit, it might be advantageous to play in a major suit with only seven combined trumps.

If other options are unattractive, consider raising a five-card major with a doubleton honor.

8.
S A K 7 5 3
H A 2
D K 10 9 6
C 9 4
TableS Q 2
H 9 4
D A 8 3
C K Q 8 6 5 2

West
1 S
2 D
4 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
2 S
South
Pass
Pass

The key bid is 2 S, which is preferable to rebidding 3 C with an unsubstantial suit. The opening bidder also uses good judgment not to bid notrump because his heart stopper is primary.

When your major suit is divided 4-3, the risk is slightly greater due to the likelihood that an opponent will have equal trump length. Look for these characteristics:

The four-card suit is sturdy — at least two of the top four honors.
The hand with three trumps has the shortness in the weak side suit so that enemy “taps” will not shorten the longer hand.

9.
S K Q 8 2
H K 8 4
D A 9 8 6 5
C 3
TableS J 3
H A Q 10 2
D K Q 7 2
C 9 8 2

West
1 D
1 S
3 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 H
3 D
4 H
South
Pass
Pass

Notice that declarer’s hearts are strong (to draw trumps) and the club ruffs can be taken in the dummy. 4 H will yield a better score than 5 D (also makable).

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Minor-Suit Contracts

Minor-suit contracts are avoided, but this does not mean excluded. (Some players overdo this aversion to minors.) The characteristics of a good minor-suit contract are:

At least a nine-card trump fit
A singleton or void suit
Lack of secondary honors in the side suits

10.
S 2
H A J 9 7 3
D K 10 2
C A Q 10 2
TableS A 9 6 5 3
H 2
D 4 3
C K J 8 7 3

West
1 H
2 C
3 NT
5 C
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
3 C
4 C
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

The key bid is 4 C. Dummy’s hand contains all of the desired characteristics. 5 C might fail with repeated trump leads, but note that 3 NT is almost sure to fail.

11.
S A 2
H A 5 3
D J 10 9 4 3
C K Q 7
TableS 9 3
H 9 4
D K Q 8 2
C A 10 9 8 3

West
1 D
3 C
3 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
3 D
5 D
South
Pass
Pass

After 3 D opener expects a nine-card diamond fit and his major suits contain no secondary values. Rather than be committal, he shows his heart stopper; responder then places the contract.

12.
S A K 9 5 3
H 5 2
D K 10 2
C Q 10 3
TableS 2
H A 6 4
D Q J 9 8 7 4
C K J 4

West
1 S
3 D
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
4 D
South
Pass

This case is less clear-cut because responder does have some secondary values in clubs; but the expected lead is a heart. Opener should pass 4 D.

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Overbid or Underbid

Sometimes you will have a close decision whether to pass or bid for game. There is no simple solution for this — you must consider each situation as it occurs at the table. You can improve your judgment by keeping these factors in mind:

High cards in partner’s suit improve your hand; high cards except the ace in an unbid suit or enemy suit may be useless.
Intermediate cards (tens, nines and eights) improve your hand, especially in the trump suit or your long suit at notrump.
Extreme shape (especially with a void in an unbid or enemy suit) suggests an overbid; flat shape (especially 4-3-3-3) suggests an underbid.

13.
S K 10 9 7 3
H A 9 3
D Q 6
C A 8 2
TableS Q J 2
H 8 2
D A K 9 7 2
C 7 6 3

West
1 S
2 NT
4 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 S
South
Pass
Pass

Opener has a minimum hand but he takes the aggressive push to game because of his good trump texture and fitting card (D Q) in partner’s suit.

14.
S A 7 6 5 4
H A K 3
D 4 3
C Q 8 2
TableS Q J 2
H 8 2
D A K 9 7 2
C 7 6 3

West
1 S
2 NT
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 S
South
Pass
Pass

Here opener has the same point count as in example 13, yet he passes because he lacks trump texture and his C Q may be useless. Compare the chances of making game in examples 13 and 14.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek