The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (December 2008)

    8.  They consider partnerís potential problems. (Part 3)

Last month, we looked at situations where partner makes a bid that ďsounds likeĒ a minimum, but actually comprises a fairly wide point range. When his values are near the top of the range, partner has to hope you have enough strength to bid one more time, allow him to show his extras and, ideally, bid on to game.

This type of accommodation can also pay off in auctions where youíve already identified a game or slam contract, even those where youíre certain your choice will be right opposite 95 percent of partnerís possible hands. The most successful players think about that other 5 percent, and they look for ways to cater to them.

These opportunities often arise in competitive auctions. Suppose partner opens 1S, RHO overcalls 3H and you hold:

   K1085   42   AK73   J102

Bidding 4S will put you in the right spot on most deals, but it costs nothing to cuebid 4H on the way. This isnít a slam try and it doesnít promise a heart control. It simply tells partner you have a high-card raise to game rather than a weaker stretch. That can be essential information if he has slam-going values or if the opponents compete to 5H.

Trusting partner is at the heart of many of these decisions. How much control are you willing to offer him on this deal?

     You      LHO    Partner     RHO
      1H         2S           5H         Pass

   A4   Q8763   42   AJ64

Partnerís jump to 5H asks you to bid slam with first- or second-round control of the opponentís suit. At this point, you may be regretting your decision to open this marginal hand,  but it would be a partnership felony to pass. And although it doesnít violate your system, a meek 6H is a misdemeanor at best.

The more obliging player will bid 5S to accept the slam invitation and confirm a first-round spade control. This doesnít express any enthusiasm about other features of your hand. Partner had other ways to investigate your overall strength and trump quality, so you have to trust that heís asked the right question and will do the right thing with your answer.

Heíll appreciate your cooperation, which will make it easy for him to bid 7H with

  62   AK952   AKQ873   Void 

Blackwood auctions offer one of the more common Ė and often ignored -- options for soliciting a final opinion from partner.

   Partner    You   
     1H           1S   
     4C           4NT
     5C              ?

 Q10942   63   A76   A54

Partnerís 4C was a splinter (spade support and club shortness) and his 5C response to Blackwood showed 0 or 3 keycards. Thatís one of the answers you were hoping for (he certainly has three keycards), and if you think youíve already been aggressive enough with your 10-count, you might be inclined to end the auction with a jump to 6S.

Partnerís hand is limited by his failure to open a strong 2C, but you really donít know how powerful it became after you bid spades. Give him a chance to tell you by extending the auction one more round with 5NT. This asks for kings, but its main message is that your side has all five keycards.

That confirmation gives partner the option of bidding a grand slam if he has extra high-card or playing strength. Thatís just what heíll do holding

   AK73   AKQJ9   983   2

Thereís no reason to add yet another round to the auction (by showing the heart king), so partner will jump directly to 7S over 5NT.

   ©  2008   Karen Walker