The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (April 2014)

11.  They visualize the play. 


Constructive auctions offer many opportunities for you to take advantage of a strategy called "patterning out", which involves choosing rebids that describe the distribution of all four suits in your hand. A typical pattern bid is made by opener at his third turn to show length in a third suit (usually a 3-card fragment) and therefore shortness in the fourth suit.

This picture helps partner evaluate potential contracts in light of how the play might develop. He'll have a good idea of which suit could be a problem for notrump, which suits are likely to provide length and ruffing tricks, even what the opening lead might be.

Some pattern bids are made after responder has made a rebid that limits his hand. Opener's advances in these auctions always promise extra values.

Other pattern bids can be natural replies after responder makes a forcing bid, as here:

      You          Partner   
       1H              1S
       2D              3C

Partner usually has five or more spades in this auction, so it looks right to make the bid he wants to hear (3S) if you hold  ♠842   AQ743  AKQ102   ♣Void . That doesn't suggest anything more than a minimum, but it serves as a pattern bid because it shows the distribution of 12 of your cards -- 5+ hearts, 4+ diamonds and 3-card spade support. This is a good auction, but can you do better?  

This hand offers you a rare opportunity to pinpoint the location of all 13 of your cards. In doing so, you can also provide valuable information about how strong your hand is and where your honors are. This will require an extra round of bidding, but you should be able to show everything if you rebid 3D now, then support spades at your next turn. The auction may continue:

      You          Partner   
       1H              1S
       2D              3C
       3D             3NT

Partner will probably be somewhat surprised by your 4S bid, but if he trusts you to have a good reason for holding him in suspense about your spade support, he'll read all the inferences.

Partner will have no problem figuring out that you have a 3-5-5-0 pattern. After that, his first thought may be that your sequence just "sounds" strong, so you must be showing extra values. He'll also be asking himself why you went out of your way to emphasize diamonds over spades, and the conclusion will be that suit quality had to influence your choice.  

Advice from the top

Master bridge teacher and multiple national champion Richard Pavlicek has a "pet theory" about this type of hand. He advises that in auctions where slam is a consideration, you should not raise partnerís suit immediately with three low trumps. His experience is that this flawed raise often lands you in a poor slam or the wrong slam.

This deal could be Exhibit A for Pavlicek's theory if partner holds  ♠A9763  K  J83  ♣AK62 . After your encouragement, he has enough for slam. Your message about weak spades and strong diamonds will talk him out of 6S, where he can see the danger of two trump losers. He knows that spades won't be a problem in 6D (or even 7D), though, because you can pitch two of your low spades on his ♣AK .

 ©  2014   Karen Walker