The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (June 2009)

    8.  They consider partner’s potential problems. (Part 9)

In previous articles, we’ve looked at the types of hands where partner may have problems describing his strength or suit length. In some auctions, he has to make a rebid that conceals his major-suit length, then rely on you to discover the “hidden” 5-3 or 4-4 fit if it’s there.

Deals with 6-2 fits tend to be less troublesome because the partner with the long suit can ostensibly bid it twice. Still, there are many hands that don’t have the right combination of strength and suit quality for an immediate rebid of the long suit. Here’s an auction that suggests partner has such a hand: 

   Partner     You     
      1S            1NT
      2C            2H
      2S

Some pairs treat 2S as a scramble with extreme heart shortness. A more valuable agreement is that partner is showing a “2.5” spade rebid – a 6-4 pattern with some extra values, but not enough to jump to 3S at his second turn. A typical hand is  KJ8654  A8  AQ82.  With less strength, partner would rebid 2S over your 1NT.

In the auction above, partner is encouraging you to bid on if you have a fit and some helpful values. Most hands with two-card support and 8 or 9 points are worth a raise to 3S. A hand such as  Q2  A108543  762  K5 is only 9 points, but with three working honors and a ruffing value, it’s strong enough for a jump to 4S.

Partner may even bid this way with only three cards in his second suit. If he opens 1S and you respond 1NT, he has no good follow-up with  K108543  AK3  AQ6. The hand is too strong for 2S and the suit is too weak for 3S, so his best strategy is to rebid 2C and hope he can show extra spade length later.

Be alert to this possibility when partner opens a major and rebids a new suit. If you have enough strength to cooperate with a game try (around 9 points), try to keep the auction open.

Suppose partner opens 1H, you respond 1S and he rebids 2D. If you hold  A9762  J3   KJ10  654, take a “false preference” to 2H. With  AK64  J943  8743, raise to 3D. In either auction, if partner’s next bid is 3H, he should have the good 6-4 (or 6-3) hand and you’ll raise to 4H.

Spades and hearts

You have different considerations when you hold six spades and four hearts because there are two potential major-suit fits. Some players prefer to always rebid the hearts, even with dead-minimum openers. This strategy guarantees you won’t lose a possible heart fit, but since responder will often stretch to raise opener’s second suit, it can propel the auction too high.

A more successful approach is to discard “always” and “never” rules and use your judgment. With most 6-4 hands that have extra values, choose the “2.5” auction (open 1S and rebid 2H). With a minimum, base your decision on suit quality. In general, the weaker your hand and the stronger your spades, the wiser it will be to bypass the heart suit.

What’s your rebid with these hands after you open 1S and partner responds 1NT?

KJ10962  Q753  KQ – If you cringe at the thought of declaring 3H opposite a 9-count, don’t introduce the suit. Rebid 2S to limit your hand and slow down the auction.

K97654  KQ105  A5 – The discrepancy in suit qualities makes 2H a more attractive rebid. This essentially treats the spades as a 5-card suit, as you can’t rebid them later without promising a stronger hand.

KQJ1086  AQ65  KJ  4 – A Hobson’s Choice: 3S buries a possible heart fit, but you have a lot of extra playing strength for a simple 2H and not enough for a forcing-to-game 3H. When faced with this type of dilemma, it’s often better to commit a sin of omission (suppressing the hearts) rather than commission (misrepresenting your strength with 2H or 3H). A jump to 3S is a good description of your suit quality and overall strength, and even if you miss a heart fit, spades may play as well or better.

   ©  2009   Karen Walker