The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (December 2009)

    8.  They consider partner’s potential problems. (Part 15)

Good partners strive to create auctions that are natural and familiar, but even the best partners will sometimes test you with a “bid out of nowhere” (BOON) – an unexpected call that’s inconsistent with the earlier auction.

Last month, we discussed bids that sound implausible, but are actually defined by your bidding system. Other BOONs may be products of partner’s imagination, invented to alert you to something unusual about his hand. What’s he trying to show in these auctions?

  You       Partner       
   1H          1NT  (forcing)
   2C           2S

This is the Impossible 2S, so named because partner cannot hold a spade suit. What you do know is that he must have a good hand to force the auction to 2NT or higher. His choice of an artificial bid also suggests there’s no natural rebid that accurately describes his values.

Partner’s problem hand is  872   64  AKJ3   QJ85. He doesn’t have enough clubs for a raise (your 2C rebid could be just three cards), and 2NT is uncomfortable without a spade stopper. The solution is the otherwise idle bid of 2S.

There are other meanings you can assign to this auction, but the most popular agreement is that 2S is a game invite with four or more clubs. Some pairs specify that it also denies spade stoppers. A direct raise to 3C is constructive, promising longer clubs and fewer high-card points – a hand such as  872    4   AJ73   KJ862.

 You       Partner       
   1D          1NT
   2C           2H

The same principle applies here. Partner, who has already denied a major, can’t be looking for a heart fit. Instead, he’s saying that your second bid improved his hand, so much so that a raise to 3C wouldn’t do it justice. His 2H shows a maximum, excellent club support and values in the bid suit. A possible hand is  874    KJ8   A5   J10973.

One difference from the Impossible 2S is that partner responded a standard (non-forcing) 1NT, which limits his hand to 10 points. Another is that he has two “impossible majors” available, so he can choose the one where he has high-card strength (stoppers for notrump).

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

This is a more emphatic version of the same message, even though partner’s “impossible” major is a suit he’s already bid naturally. His 1NT rebid denied the length and strength for a 2H rebid, so he can hardly be suggesting hearts as trumps now, especially after you’ve advertised a void.  

As with other BOONs, partner’s sudden enthusiasm was sparked by your last bid. He must have a big club fit and a maximum, but for his 9-10 points to be powerful enough to force to the 4-level, all of his high-card values should be in your suits. He may hold  A8    10754   K3   Q9864.

This BOON is a “Bluhmer”, named for its inventor, the late Lou Bluhm. It’s a jump that has no other systemic meaning (splinter, ace-ask) and, based on the previous auction, cannot be intended as natural. It promises maximum high-card strength, controls and trump support and, most important, no wasted honors in the bid suit.

A Bluhmer doesn’t require known shortness in partner’s hand. It can be a “just in case” bid, as here:

  Partner   You         
    1D           1H
    2H           2S
    4D

This fits the description of a Bluhmer auction, and if partner has used the bid wisely, you have a near-perfect picture of his hand. His newfound strength is based on a spade fit, so he must be 4-4 in the majors with no diamond honors. A possible hand:
AQ76    A1084   963   A3.

If you have a singleton diamond, partner’s Bluhmer may help you find a short-point slam. With two losing diamonds, you’ll know not to venture past game.

In each of these auctions, partner’s happy problem was a fitting hand that had become too strong for a standard rebid. Even if you haven’t discussed these situations in advance, partner may be counting on your bridge logic to lead you to the right answer. If a new partner tries one of these bids with you, take it as a compliment.

   ©  2009   Karen Walker