In previous articles, we've focused on how responder can use the Negative Freebid (NFB) to describe hands with long suits and limited high-card strength. To add this convention to your system, you agree that over an opponent's overcall of your opening bid, responder's non-jump, new-suit bid between 2C and 3D is not forcing. It shows 5-11 points and a long suit (usually six-plus cards, but it may be a good five-carder at the two-level).
Opener also has critical decisions to make in these auctions. In some cases, partner's NFB will give you enough information to place the contract. In others, you'll need to choose a rebid that describes your strength and fit for partner's suit. Here's a system for opener's rebids after this typical NFB auction:
1D 1S 2H Pass
A minimum with no promise of a fit. Resist the temptation to bid again with
a hand such as AJ6
Partner's hearts may be better than your diamonds, so don't "save" him by running to 3D or 2NT.
Rebid of your suit (3D) -- Not forcing, showing a long, reasonably strong suit and no fit for partner.
Unbid suit (3C) -- Not forcing, showing 5-5 or longer in your suits and extreme shortness in partner's suit. However, if the fourth suit is a reverse (for example, you open 1C and rebid 3D), it's forcing.
2NT -- Invitational (16-18 pts.) with stoppers in the opponent's suit and one or two cards in partner's suit.
3NT -- To play.
A free raise (3H) -- Invitational, showing a fitting hand worth 16-18 playing points. Since partner has promised a good suit, you can support with a good doubleton.
Jump to game (4H) -- A good fit and extra playing strength, but not necessarily extra high cards. Even if partner has a minimum NFB, you have good expectations of game with a hand such as 4 Q972 AQ1084 A76 .
Cuebid (2S) -- Forcing to game. This may be a slam-try hand with support, but it can also be used to ask for a stopper or start the description of other strong hands. You'll clarify your hand type with your next bid.
Jump cuebid (3S) or jump in the unbid suit (4C) -- Splinter, showing a singleton, great trump support and slam-try values.
You'll want to adjust some of these meanings if your RHO competes. If RHO raises to 2S in the auction above:
3C or 3D are still non-forcing, but since you're no longer “running” from 2H, these freebids suggest stronger suits and better hands.
A raise (3H) should be played as competitive, not invitational. You can compete with almost any hand that has at least three-card support, even a dead minimum.
2NT can be natural and invitational as above, or it can be defined as a game try in partner's suit. If the opponents have bid and raised the same suit, some pairs agree that a double shows support and extra values. This is a matter of partnership preference.
Double can be defined as purely penalty, but many partnerships prefer to play it as cooperative or "positive", showing extra values but with no clear-cut action. It describes a non-fitting hand with good defense -- a hand such as J74 7 AK1043 AKJ6 .
Depending on the vulnerability and his own playing strength, partner may pass, rebid his suit, support your suit, bid notrump or cuebid (3S) to ask you for a stopper.
Responder's negative double is alertable. If the opponents ask, explain that partner could have either a "normal" negative double or a forcing hand with one long suit.
For the time being, you should assume it's a standard negative double and make your natural rebid at the appropriate level. Keep in mind, though, that partner may not have the major he's temporarily showing, so use some caution. If you have a strong hand with four-card support for the unbid major, try to avoid blasting off to 4H or 4S. Instead, start with a low-level cuebid to let partner clarify his hand type.
Be careful about passing for penalties. Partner could have a monster one-suiter, so don't pass a negative double unless your hand and the vulnerability screams that it's right.
Responder's jump-shift in competition (1D-1S-3C) is invitational, showing a long, strong suit and a hand worth around 10-11 points. Partner will often have a "cover card" outside his suit, but his jump is based more on playing strength than high-card values. As opener, you use that picture of partner's hand to evaluate your chances for game. Your point-count isn't the deciding factor. Quick tricks, a fit and ruffing values are.
Continued in Part 5
Copyright © 2005 Karen Walker