The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (August 2010)

   9.  They analyze the auction from partnerís point of view.  (Part 8)

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

Whatís your call holding  ♠AJ5  104  A84  ♣A10854 ?

Although youíre disappointed that partner couldnít bid notrump, youíve had a good auction. Your bidding showed a club suit, spade values and game strength, with no high honors in hearts. Since you were still searching for the right game, your fourth-suit bid (3H) asked for a stopper.

Partnerís 3S rebid denies a heart stopper and suggests three spades (in case you hold four and want to try 4S). From his failure to support your suit, itís a good guess that he has club shortness. That picture of partnerís hand should convince you to give up on slam.

4D may seem the logical way to steer the contract back to diamonds. If thatís your choice, then partner, who holds  ♠K72  763  KQJ1093  ♣K, will pass. Can he do that?

Itís true that you created a game-forcing auction, but that was based on having the strength to make 3NT, 4H or 4S. A minor-suit game requires considerably more power, and when you donít have it, you need to be able to stop below the five-level. Thatís why the modern definition of ďforcing to gameĒ is ďforcing to 3NT or the four-levelĒ.

This auction is at the point where you need to choose a final contract, and that requires a value bid that shows your full strength. With three aces, good support and a potential ruffing value, your hand is surely worth a 5D bid. If you donít bid it now, you probably wonít get there.

If you bid only 4D, the message partner will hear is, ďI have enough for a 25-point game, but I donít have the extra power needed for 5DĒ. Heíll assume you have a minimum game-force such as  ♠AQ6  J2  874  ♣AQ842. He doesnít have to pass 4D, but since you know he has no aces, you shouldnít expect him to bid on.

In some auctions, the value bid will be openerís responsibility: 

   You     LHO    Partner    RHO         
    1D        1S        DBL         Pass
    2C        2S         3S           Pass                  

If you hold  ♠83  A  KJ742  ♣KJ765, retreat to 4C and be happy the auction can stop there. Partner will know you have nothing extra, and heíll pass with a ďsoftĒ minimum such as  ♠7652  KQJ6   A3  ♣Q92.

Change your hand to  ♠4  A5  KQ1063  ♣AJ1084  and you should make the value bid of 5C. Partner has only four hearts and no spade honors (he asked you for a stopper), so he must have help in your suits. The big selling points, though, are your singleton spade and three quick tricks.

A 4S cuebid is a stronger route to game or slam, but itís less partner-friendly because it hides your distribution. Partnerís negative double promised hearts, not clubs, and he may need to hear about your fifth club. He canít cooperate with a slam try if he doesnít know what the trump suit is.

A value-showing jump is usually unnecessary in situations where youíve already found a playable contract. If partner had rebid 3NT in the above auctions, your bid of 4C or 4D would show slam interest. A free raise of a passable 3C or 3D bid is also strong. After 1D Ė 1H Ė 3D, for example, your rebid of 4D is a clear force.

Other auctions may be more difficult for partner to read, and subjective factors can come into play. When holding extra values, bridge players have a natural tendency to expect the best hands possible from their partners. With poor hands, they fear the worst. If your partner is looking at a dead minimum, he may find it easy to come up with the weakest possible meaning for your ostensibly forcing bid.

When in doubt, avoid taking chances with 4C and 4D bids, especially in auctions where partner might believe heís already shown everything. A value-showing jump could occasionally obscure a search for slam, but it will never cause you to miss a good game.

   ©  2010   Karen Walker