The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (November 2009)

    8.  They consider partnerís potential problems. (Part 14)  

When I was in college, the players at the campus club had a large lexicon of colorful bridge slang. One frequently invoked term was BOON, which was a Bid Out Of Nowhere. A BOON Ė and its cousins, the DOON (Double), LOON (Lead) and TOON (Trick) Ė referred to an unexpected and seemingly ďimpossibleĒ action by partner or the opponents.

The college club had many novices and wild bidders, and most BOONS there were just bad bids. There are legitimate situations, though, where a good partner may spring one of these surprises on you. No matter how perplexing the bid, if you trust your partner, youíll know thereís a logical reason he chose this strategy.

In a 2-over-1 system, what is partner showing in these auctions?

  Partner    You     
     1S           2C
     2S           4S

The first four bids indicated that both of you held minimums, so you were expecting partner to pass 4S. Like most BOONs, the 5C bid requires you to alter your previous assumptions and figure out partnerís new message.

With what type of hand would he rebid just 2S, then head for slam? He must have extra values and a problem that prevented him from showing them earlier. A possible hand is  ♠AQ7543  AKJ  93   ♣A10.

A jump to 3S isnít recommended with a suit this weak, so partner had no way to describe his suit length and overall strength in one rebid. He had to settle for 2S, learn more about your hand and then show his full values. His choice of a 5C cuebid rather than Blackwood suggests heís missing the ace and king of an unbid suit. If you hold  ♠K102  95  KQ6  ♣KJ875, youíll want to cooperate by bidding 5D to show your control.

   Partner     You     
      1S            2C
      2NT         3NT

This is another auction that tells you partner had to hide his full strength when he made his first rebid. A jump to 3NT would have promised 15 to 17 points, so partner needs two rebids to show a balanced 18-19 points. His 4NT is an invitation to 6NT with a hand such as  ♠KQ1073  AQ8  AK7  ♣102 .

   Partner    You     
      1C          1S
      2C          3NT

3NT would almost always end this auction, but partnerís BOON tells you he has something more than a routine 2C rebid. Is 4H an esoteric move toward slam, or is it an offer of a final contract? 

Unless partner resorted his hand and found another ace (or two), he canít have enough strength to be looking for a slam. Unlike the first two auctions, your response here didnít force to game, so partner wouldnít rebid a passable 2C if he had a big hand.

Since partnerís ďhiddenĒ feature canít be extra high cards, it must be extreme distribution. 4H should be natural, showing five hearts (youíve denied four hearts, so a 4-4 fit isnít possible) and asking you to choose between 4H and 5C. 

Partnerís problem was a hand that was too weak for a reverse rebid of 2H. He had to rebid 2C with  ♠J2  K9753  Void  ♣AQJ1095, but now that youíre at game level, he doesnít want to play notrump with an undisclosed 5-card major and a void in an unbid suit. Your 3NT showed heart values and therefore good chances for a 5-3 fit.

A minimum 6-5 opener can be especially awkward when the lower-ranking suit has the greater length. Some pairs show this hand with a jump-reverse rebid (1C-1S-3H). Others agree to always open the higher-ranking major, but most prefer to use their judgment. They base their decision on which suits they hold (they open the longer suit when their 5-card suit is spades) and on suit quality (with strong hearts and weak clubs, they open 1H).

Even if you havenít discussed these auctions, bridge logic will often lead you to the right interpretation. As with other unusual bids, fielding a BOON is easier if you have a trustworthy partner and youíre aware of the possible problem hands he might hold.

   ©  2009   Karen Walker