Negative Freebids   (May 2005)

Part 5 – Frequently Asked Questions

To wrap up our discussion of the Negative Freebid (NFB), here are answers to some common questions about its efficiency, possible system “tweaks” and problem auctions.

To review: The NFB is used when partner opens, your opponent overcalls and you have a long suit you cannot bid at the one-level. In these auctions, your non-jump bid of a new suit between 2C and 3D is non-forcing. A jump in a new suit is invitational with a strong 6-card suit. To show forcing-to-game values, you use a “strong double” auction (negative double first, then bid a new suit).

Q:  What is the expected frequency of NFBs? How often are they likely to provide an advantage?

A:  It’s difficult to do a simulation because there are so many variables, but from playing experience, I’d estimate that a NFB comes up once, maybe twice, in every 50 deals. That’s a fairly high frequency compared to many of the other conventions on my card.

Compared to standard methods, the NFB system makes it a bit more difficult to bid stronger responding hands and a lot easier to bid weaker hands. The weaker hands are more common, and the ability to bid naturally with them can offer an edge in partscore battles.

Q:  Is there value in playing NFBs “on” after all overcalls, even those where I could bid my suit at the one-level? If I have spades and the auction goes 1C by partner - 1H overcall, wouldn’t it be handy to differentiate between a limited hand (1S freebid) and a stronger hand (double, then bid spades)?

A:  This isn’t recommended. Negative-double auctions are the most awkward part of the NFB system, so it’s best to avoid them if you have a standard, natural response available. A one-level freebid allows you to hear partner’s natural rebid and show your extra values later.

Q:  What’s the meaning of a jump in a suit you could have bid at the one-level? After 1D by partner – 1H overcall, would a 2S response show the invitational hand?

 A:  It shouldn’t, for the same reasons as above. It’s not difficult to describe this hand with standard responses, so it will be more valuable to play the 2S bid as a weak jump-shift.

Q:  I like to play fit-showing jumps in competition. Is it workable to keep that agreement and use only the non-jump responses as NFBs?

A:  Probably not, mainly because it would require changing the meaning of the “strong double” auction from forcing to invitational-or-better. If you have to start with a double to show an invitational one-suiter – and if the opponents keep bidding (don’t they always?) – the auction may be at the three-level before you can bid your suit. That will leave you with no safe way to clarify whether you have the forcing or invitational values.

Q: After the auction 1S by partner - 2H overcall, can I make a 3C NFB with a hand such as  104  542  KQ3  KJ986 ?

A:  A three-level NFB should be at least a six-card suit. I admit that I’ve made freebids here with five-carders and landed on my feet, but not with a suit this ragged. If you don’t want to pass, the best you can do is show some values with a slightly off-shape negative double.

Q:  How does responder show a big two-suiter?

A:  You have to start with a negative double. If partner doesn’t support one of your suits, you’ll try to get both into the subsequent auction if there’s room. If not, your problem won’t be much different from the one faced by standard bidders.

Q:  In the auction below, how do you tell partner you have the “strong double”? You hold  6  AK84  KQ1062  J43 ?

         Partner    RHO     You      LHO 
 1D           1S         DBL     Pass 
           2S           Pass        ?

A:  Since your new-suit bid here is forced, there’s no easy way to show your extra values. Instead, you’ll have to collect information from partner. Take it slow with 3D. Partner’s next bid should clarify which type of strong hand he holds, and you’ll be in charge from there.

Q:  If you make a NFB and then double later, is it takeout or penalty? Here's an example auction:

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

A:  This should be cooperative, suggesting maximum values and good defense. It’s penalty-oriented, but it’s not a command for partner to pass. You might double here with a hand such as  K105  AQ983  104  J62 .

Copyright ©  2006   Karen Walker