The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   

9.  They analyze the auction from partner’s point of view.   (June 2011)

In the previous issue, we looked at some of the many uses for 4NT bids and the “expert standard” guidelines your partner may rely on to interpret them. Another high-level bid that is frequently misunderstood is the voluntary raise to five of a major.  

Like 4NT, a 5H or 5S bid has multiple meanings. If partner has preempted, a raise to five of his major is an advance sacrifice. In other situations, it’s a slam-try inquiry about controls or trump quality or general strength. The subtleties of the auction dictate which question is being asked.

Standard agreements for these bids were developed decades ago. Modern players have made some refinements, but the basic meanings haven’t changed. They’re still considered “just good bridge” in almost any bidding system.

If your bridge teacher skipped that lesson (very likely), you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the accepted treatments. This is especially important if your partner is experienced enough to have encountered these situations in the past – or “mature” enough to have learned the meanings from an old-school mentor.

What do you believe your last bid should mean in the auctions below? How confident are you that partner will share your view?

           LHO    Partner   RHO     You

(1)                      1H          1S           5H

(2)                                                   1S           
            3H          4H          Pass        5S

(3)                                                   1H           
           Pass        4C *       Pass         4D
           Pass        4H          Pass         5H

          * (Splinter – heart raise with club shortness)

 (4)                    1NT         3S           5S          

In all of these auctions, the 5H or 5S bid is a search for control of a specific suit. If the opponents have bid – and if you haven’t already made a control cuebid of their suit – a 5-level raise asks partner to bid slam if he can win the first or second lead. This bid is often a double or triple jump. In (1), you might hold   75   AK876   AKJ653   Void .

This also allows you to investigate a grand slam because partner can show his exact holding in the critical suit. Over your 5H, he bids 6H with a singleton spade, 5NT with Kx or longer, and 5S with the A or a void. He passes with all other spade holdings.

Partner’s 4H cuebid may make auction (2) seem like a different situation, but the same meaning should apply. The reason is that 4H showed just a good high-card raise to 4S. It didn’t promise a heart control.

If the opponents have not bid, a five-level raise asks about the unbid suit. Partner will assume this meaning if you’ve made natural or control bids in three suits and he hasn’t yet denied control of the fourth suit. In (3), you showed the A or a void and partner showed a second-round control (singleton) in clubs, so 5H is a search for a spade control.

How do you find a control when there’s no suit to raise? The little-known but standard solution is to jump to five of the opponent’s suit, which is a notrump raise that asks for Kx or better. Auction (4) actually happened at my table at a long-ago regional. I opened 1NT (15-17) and over the 3S overcall, my partner, Tod Moses of St. Louis, found the 5S bid holding  QJ5   AJ104  A3   KQJ4 .

I held  42  KQ92  KQJ6  A105  and retreated to 5NT. Tod passed and we were one of the few pairs who didn’t go minus 100 in 6H or 6NT.

This deal shows how handy the old Standard American treatments can be and how important it is to be able to trust partner’s knowledge of them. Or maybe it’s just proof of how old-fashioned and “mature” the two bidders were.

In the next issue:  More meanings for 5-level bids

 ©  2011   Karen Walker