The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders (May 2007)

6. They make the bids partner wants to hear. (Part 5)

In the previous issue, we discussed what partner is searching for when he makes a game-try bid after you've found a minor-suit fit. Many of these auctions focus on finding stoppers for notrump, so they ask two questions: Do you have enough strength for game? If so, which game?

Advances toward major-suit games should be easier because you already know the answer to the "Which game?" question. Or do you? Here are some common game-try auctions where communications can break down if you aren't clear on the exact questions partner is asking.

  You    Partner
   --        1S
   2S       3C

This is a help-suit try that asks you to bid game if you have club cards to fill in partner's side suit (or 3-card fragment). Your decision is simple if you follow the game-before-slam principle that three-level bids are searches for game, not slam. For now, partner is interested only in your choice between 3S and 4S. He doesn't want to hear a club raise or a cuebid for a possible slam.

There are situations where you may want to bid a new suit over 3C, but only as an extension of the game try. A 3H bid, for example, would offer partner another option for evaluating his hand. It tells him that you don't have the right club holding to accept his invitation, but that you have a possible source of tricks in hearts. If partner isn't short in hearts, he'll be encouraged to bid 4S. You would bid this way with a hand such as  QJ4  KQ1064  85  754 .

  You    Partner
   --        1S
   2S      2NT

Partner needs overall strength from you, and your primary choice is between 3S and 4S. 3NT is a possibility only if you have a maximum with no ruffing value.
The 2NT advance shows a semi-balanced hand, so there's no reason to issue your own game-try by bidding a new suit. A 3C or 3D bid would do little more than give the opponents information and confuse partner. A bid of the other major, though, should be a natural suggestion of a better trump suit. A 3H bid shows a game acceptance with weak spades and good hearts, a hand such as  754  QJ1085  KQ4  102 .

Even if you provide "wrong" answers in the auctions above, you'll often land in the right contract because you've already confirmed the 8-card fit. That's not the case here:

  You    Partner
   1D      1S
   2S      3C

Partner may have a standard help-suit try, or he may be allowing for the possibility that you raised with 3-card support. He might hold a hand such as
A754  72  Q107  AQJ7 .

Partner wants to hear a simple value bid of 3S or 4S if you have 4-card spade support. Any other rebid should deny four spades and offer information that will help partner evaluate other games. Over the 3C try, you could rebid 3D or 3H with a hand such as  KJ6  KQ104  AJ862  5 .

Since the other game under consideration is 3NT, choose the bid that best shows your outside values. If partner has a problem for notrump, it's in hearts, so a 3H rebid rates to be most helpful.

  You    Partner
   1C      1H
   1S       3H

A common pitfall is treating this jump-rebid as a try for 4H or 3NT. Partner has a strong suit but limited high-card values, so there's little room in his hand for the outside stoppers and entries you'll need to make 3NT. He wants to know if you can bid game in his suit, and you need a fit and quick tricks to accept.

  You    Partner
   1D      1H
   2C      2NT

This doesn't sound like a major-suit game try, but it could be, since partner has no way to show an invitational hand with five hearts. He has to count on you to reveal the fit if he holds  AJ6  KQ863  93  J102 .

If you're going to accept the game invitation, it costs nothing to show 3-card heart support on the way with  J92  AKJ86  KQ84 .

Your 3H bid should be treated as forcing. If partner doesn't hold five hearts, he'll often go back to 3NT. Your "picture bid", which pinpoints the singleton spade, could also help him choose a superior 4-3 heart game.

  2007 Karen Walker