The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (January 2009)

    8.  They consider partner’s potential problems. (Part 4)

In previous articles, we’ve discussed the types of auctions where partner may have extra values that he hasn’t yet been able to show. These are situations where you’ve found the right trump suit but might not find the right level unless you give partner an opportunity to bid again.

A similar problem is an auction where you know your combined strength but need to investigate further to find the best strain. One of the simplest searches often comes after opener raises your major-suit response (1C-1H-2H, for example). To accommodate the hands where opener has only 3-card support, you offer a choice of games by rebidding 3NT with a hand such as

KQ8   AJ86   K103   872.

Confirming the 4-4 fit is more difficult when you lack stoppers in both unbid suits. After 1H-1S-2S, you can ask for more information by rebidding 3D with a hand such as

KQ64   103   AQJ4   764.

3D is defined as a help-suit try for a spade game, but a thoughtful partner will recognize that you could hold other types of hands. If opener has made a 3-card raise, he’ll try to tell you more than just whether he wants to play a game or partscore.

If you’re opener in this auction, allow for the possibility that responder may have this problem hand (or others) and that his game-try bid could be the start of a search for 3NT or even a slam. Instead of choosing between 3S and 4S, look for ways to clarify your trump length as well as your overall strength.

How would you help partner with the hands below after this auction?

    You        Partner
      1D           1S
      2S           3C

This sequence is forcing to at least 3S, which leaves you room to describe other features of your hand. Here are basic guidelines for choosing your rebid:

KQ8   9742   AQJ43   5

3D. With a minimum opener and no help in clubs, you can’t accept the game-try. The auction may eventually stop in 3S, but you can warn partner on the way that your trump support isn’t ideal, just in case he has other contracts in mind. If partner rebids 3S over 3D, he’s showing only invitational values and you can pass.

AJ9   AQ9   Q10743   J2

3NT.  Partner’s club cards solve your stopper problem, so if you have enough to accept the invitation, you can suggest 3NT. This promises heart honors, confirms a 3-card spade raise and leaves the final decision up to partner.

Q105   KQJ3   AQ743   3

3H.  You could bid 3NT, but since partner’s 3C didn’t promise great strength, your club shortness could be a problem. If partner is looking for 3NT, you want him declaring. He’s already counting on you for diamond cards, so show values in the suit where he’s most likely to have a stopper problem. If partner retreats to 3S over 3H, you can try 3NT, content that you’ve already identified club weakness. This description may talk him into choosing the 4-3 spade game if he has only one club stopper.

K1082   4   A10932   KQ6

4H.  With most 4-card raises, there’s no reason to tell partner (and the opponents) about your outside values. It’s usually best to answer the game-try with a simple value bid of 3S or 4S. The potential of this particular hand, though, increased dramatically after partner’s 3C bid.  Communicate its “new” playing strength with a 4H splinter, which shows a singleton, confirms 4-card support and implies good help in clubs.

You’ve already limited your hand with 2S, so partner won’t be misled about your high-card strength. If he has a standard invitation, he’ll stop in 4S. However, if he holds a stronger hand -- 

   AQ93   876   K5   AJ102

-- your extra help on the way to game will convince him to try keycard Blackwood and bid your 26-point slam.

Next:  Problem hands with “hidden” 4-card majors

   ©  2009   Karen Walker