The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (March 2014)

11.  They visualize the play. 


In the last issue, we looked at a common type of "pattern bid" that pinpoints your distribution and helps partner envision possible sources of tricks in various contracts. In that example, opener bid two suits, then used his third bid to show 3-card support for responder's major.

Pattern rebids can also be made in unbid suits:

     Partner      You      
      1S              1NT  (forcing)
      2C              2NT
      3H                ?

Partner is showing exactly three hearts (with four, he would have rebid 2H instead of 2C) and an unbalanced hand. You can count on him to have "real" clubs (4+ cards) and diamond shortness -- a hand such as
 ♠AQ862   A94   6   ♣KQ87 .

That's enough for a raise to 3NT, but by bidding out his pattern, partner is offering you more choices. One is a 4H game if he catches you with a 5-card heart suit. If not, his description will help you evaluate your chances in other contracts. 

Suppose you hold   ♠K4   K753   A95   ♣J1062 . The news about partner's diamond shortness gives you a good idea of what will happen to 3NT. You'll get a diamond lead and, holding only one high filler in partner's long suits, you probably won't have nine tricks ready to run. 

One alternative to 3NT is playing 4H in the 4-3 fit. That allows you to ruff diamonds in the short-trump hand, but try to imagine how you can do that and still manage to take your other tricks. Your weak hearts and the lack of late entries to your hand will make it difficult for you to pull a second round of trumps and establish the black suits.

That narrows your choices down to 5C and 4S. Either could be successful, but your paucity of aces and the strong doubleton spade make the 10-trick contract more attractive. All your honors are working, so bid 4S over 3H.  

Another type of pattern bid can be valuable after you've already found a trump fit:

     Partner      You      
      1C              1D
      1H              2C
      2S                ?

What's your call holding  ♠A104   3   QJ652   ♣J983 ?

Partner's 2S does double duty here as a game try and a pattern rebid. He's promising  extra values -- a maximum of around 17-18 points, since he didn't jump at his second turn -- with something in spades (3-4 cards with an honor or two) and shortness in diamonds. There's a strong possibility that he has a void, as he might have chosen 2NT instead of 2S if he held 3-4-1-5 distribution.

Should you cooperate with partner's invitation? Although your diamond honors have little or no value in a club contract, the rest of your hand is worth an encouraging move. You aren't strong enough to jump to game, but you can be fairly certain your hand will take more tricks in clubs than in notrump. My partner, Nate Ward, found a good way to send that message when this problem was posed in a bidding forum. His comment:

"3S. It's close, but if partner is going to show me 12 of his cards, I should oblige and do the same."

As with other bidding dilemmas, if you can't place the contract, try to give partner information that will help him do it. In this case, you're replying to a pattern bid with a pattern bid of your own. A 3S bid here suggests a 3-card  fragment and therefore heart shortness, and your failure to bid notrump suggests not too much wasted strength in diamonds.

That description should give partner a good idea of how many heart and spade tricks will be available in a 5C contract. And if he happens to hold   ♠KQ3   A1054   Void   ♣AQ10642, you've told him everything he needs to know to bid the 23-point slam.

   2014   Karen Walker