The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (February 2009)

    8.  They consider partnerís potential problems. (Part 5)

One of the cardinal rules of bidding used to be that 4-card majors should be bid ďup the lineĒ.  Thatís still the right approach with most hands, but there are some situations where bypassing a 4-card major will be the best way to describe your hand. A good partner will recognize the auctions where you might have made this choice and heíll find your hidden major if he needs it.   

One of the most common situations is openerís rebid with a balanced 18-19 points. If you open 1C and partner responds 1H, you canít show everything when you hold

AK95   K8   K72   AJ104

The recommended tradeoff is a 2NT rebid. This temporarily hides the spade suit, but it pinpoints your strength, shows your balanced pattern and puts partner in charge. If you instead rebid 1S, partner may bid 1NT and wrong-side the contract. If he shows a stronger hand, you risk missing a slam because youíll have no clear way to show this exact strength.

Keep this possibility in mind when youíre responder. After 1C-1H-2NT, donít give up on a 4-4 fit when you hold a hand such as

10742   AQ74   85   Q93

Instead of hastily raising to 3NT, rebid 3D (artificial) to check on openerís major-suit length. If he has two hearts and four spades, heíll rebid 3S and youíll find the best game.

Change openerís hand to  AK95  K82  K7  AJ104  and he now has a different problem. Over your 3D checkback, should he show his 3-card heart support or the 4-card spade suit?

On most deals, showing support for partnerís major will lead to a simpler auction because thatís the information heís most likely to need. Responder will hold 5 hearts and 0-3 spades more often than 4-5 hearts and exactly 4 spades.

If opener rebids 3H with the 4-3-2-4 hand, the spade fit isnít lost. Youíll follow with 3NT, and opener will now know you were looking for 4-4 spades rather than 5-3 hearts.

Note that by rebidding 3NT instead of 3S, you assure that opener will declare the final contract, whether itís 3NT or 4S. Your entire, perfect and partnership-friendly auction will be:     

   Partner     You
     1C            1H
    2NT           3D 
     3H            3NT
     4S            Pass

Hidden majors in 1NT rebids

Your system may require similar accommodations over openerís 1NT rebid. Many pairs agree that if you open 1C and rebid 1S, you guarantee at least 4-4 in your suits. The problem hand in this structure is the minimum 4-3-3-3 opener, which must skip the 4-card spade suit and rebid 1NT over partnerís 1D or 1H response.

If your partnership uses these methods, youíll occasionally miss a 4-4 spade fit when opener rebids 1NT and responder is too weak to bid on. With invitational or better values, though, responder can find openerís spade suit. After 1C-1H-1NT, bid 2D (new minor forcing) with    

QJ63   KQJ7  65   A43

If opener rebids 2H (3-card support), youíll continue by making a value bid in notrump Ė 3NT with game strength or 2NT with invitational values. 

Your message is the same as in the auction where opener rebid 2NT. Since you showed no interest in openerís heart support, it will be clear to him that your reason for bidding 2D was to check for a spade fit. If opener has the 4-3-3-3 hand, heíll bid 3S or 4S over your notrump rebid.

And a simple one:

Hereís a Stayman auction where opener voluntarily bids his ďhiddenĒ major: 

   Opener    Responder
     1NT           2C
      2H            3D 

Itís obvious to most that opener is showing two 4-card majors, but that message may escape those afflicted with ďcuebiditisĒ. If either partner interprets 3S as a cuebid for a diamond slam, this auction could spin out of control.

Even the simplest auctions can become tortuous if youíre looking too hard for problem hands that donít exist. When in doubt, assume partner has the ďeasyĒ hand. If thereís a natural, standard meaning for his bids, go with that and save the deep inferences for unusual auctions where youíre truly perplexed.

   ©  2009   Karen Walker