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.
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 .
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:
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.
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.
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 4 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