The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (March 2011)

   9.  They analyze the auction from partner’s point of view.  (Part 15) 

What type of hand do you believe your 2C bid shows in this auction?    

    LHO     Partner      RHO     You   
     1C          Pass         1S         Pass
    1NT        DBL         Pass       2C

In the previous issue, we looked at methods for competing after your opponents have bid two suits. In some of these auctions, you’ll want to bid one of the opponent’s suits. One approach is to define all of these “cuebids” as artificial. This offers the advantage of simplicity and may be the safest interpretation if you haven’t discussed these situations. When in doubt, “If it could be forcing, it is.”

A popular and more flexible idea is to treat bids of your RHO’s suit as natural and bids of LHO’s suit as artificial and forcing. This allows you to compete when responder is on your right and you have length and strength in his 4-card suit.

If you apply either guideline to the above auction, you may decide that your 2C has to be artificial. It is, after all, a “cuebid”, and it’s LHO’s suit. The more important question, though, is will partner come to the same conclusion?

Even if you’ve discussed similar auctions, you have to be alert to the exceptions. To decode an ambiguous bid, a thoughtful partner will always rely on his bridge logic first, then your default agreements. Here, that logic will tell him that your 2C bid is natural and weak.

One way to tune in to partner’s thought process is to construct a few of his possible hands. He’s freely entering a non-fitting auction, so he shouldn’t have just a light takeout. You can also conclude that he doesn’t hold a 5-card suit (no overcall). That tells you he must have “real” takeout-double strength, but couldn’t act at his first turn because he has spade shortness. His hand may be
   ♠84   AQ43   KQ52   ♣K92 

Partner will assume that you know he has this general strength and distribution. His bidding suggests moderate club length, so he won’t be surprised if you want to make that suit trumps. He won’t read 2C – or even 2S – as a strong “cuebid” because if you had enough to force, you would have passed 1NT doubled. The hand he’ll expect for your 2C bid is
  ♠J765   J6   73    ♣Q10743

Here’s another situation where you and partner will have to think alike:

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

If your default is that a bid of RHO’s suit is natural, will partner think it applies when two suits are bid by the same opponent? The answer comes from visualizing opener’s hand, which should be at least 4-5 in the black suits for this auction. If you trust partner to take the same inference, you can be confident that he knows you wouldn’t willingly choose to play in opener’s 5-card suit. Both 2C and 2S must be artificial and forcing here.

Freak hands can also create unfamiliar auctions that test partner’s judgment. Should you expect him to field your 4C bid here?

    LHO   Partner      RHO     You    |
     1C         Pass         1D        1H
     1S         Pass         3S         4C

Partner’s first reaction might be “This is an impossible auction” or “I can’t pass a cuebid at the 4-level!”. Eventually, though, he’ll think through the whole auction and realize that this must be an exception to your agreements about bids of your LHO’s suit being artificial. A hand that started with a simple 1H overcall couldn’t possibly be strong enough to force now, so 4C has to be lots of clubs. How else would you bid  ♠2  AKJ53  Void  ♣KQ108654 ?

   ©  2011   Karen Walker