In this common auction, you have an easy decision if you hold minimum or game-forcing strength. Partner’s single raise shows 6-10 support points, so if you opened a minimum (12-14 points), you pass 2S because you know you don’t have the 25+ combined points needed for a game contract. With a very strong, game-forcing hand (19+ playing points), you can jump directly to game (4S).
The problem hands are those with in-between strength (16 to 18 playing points, counting distributional values). With these hands, you need more than a bare 6-7 points from partner to make 4S, so you need a way to invite game and involve partner in the decision.
To do this, you can use a game-try bid, which is a below-game bid made after you’ve agreed on a trump suit. It shows extra values and asks partner to re-evaluate his hand to determine if he has what you need to make a game contract.
The general guideline for invitational bids is that if you freely take the auction to 2NT or the 3-level, you’re showing extra strength and interest in game. The same principles apply to game-try bids. Once you’ve agreed on a trump suit and found a safe partscore, any bid past that level invites partner to bid on to game.
There are three types of game-try bids:
1) Further raises of your agreed suit. In the auction above, a 3S rebid by you would show extra strength (around 16-18 playing points), but with a weakish trump suit that needs help. It invites responder to bid on to 4S if he has good trumps (high honors or extra length) and/or maximum strength. You would bid 3S here with a hand such as «Q8762 ♥KQ8 ♦AKQ2 ♣3 .
Note that this meaning changes in competition. If an opponent bids over partner’s 2S raise, your bid of 3S is not a game try. It's merely competitive. It says you’re willing to be “pushed” to the 3-level -- usually because you have extra trump length -- but you have no more than a minimum opener. To show extra high-card strength in a competitive auction, you must use a new-suit try (#3 below).
2) Notrump bids. A rebid of 2NT is a try that shows balanced strength (16-18 high-card points). It’s often a hand that could have been opened 1NT. You might hold «KQ986 ♥QJ ♦KQ3 ♣AJ3 .
Partner will add his points to yours to decide if you have the combined 25+ points needed for game. With 8-10 points, he’ll bid on to 4S or, if he also has a balanced hand, he can bid 3NT. With most hands of 6-7 points, he’ll retreat to 3S and you will pass.
3) New-suit bids. Your bid of a new suit (3C, 3D or 3H in the auction above) is called a help-suit game try because it asks partner for help (mainly honors) in that suit. This invitation is usually made with a hand that has a 4+-card side suit that is missing key honors (KJ54, for example), but it could also be a 3-card suit (K54). In the above auction, you would bid 3D with a hand such as «AQ986 ♥3 ♦QJ92 ♣AK5 .
To evaluate game chances, partner can consider his overall strength, but his main focus is on his holding in your game-try suit. Good holdings are high honors (ace, king and/or queen) and length. Shortness in your game-try suit (a singleton or doubleton) can also be valuable, especially if he has 4+ trumps. The weakest, most undesirable holding in the game-try suit is xxx.
After your 3D help-suit try, partner should:
Jump to 4S with «K102 ♥9874 ♦K103 ♣842 . It's only 6 high-card points, but the hand has perfect cards in your two suits.
Retreat to 3S with «J54 ♥KJ84 ♦876 ♣QJ3 . Even though this hand has more points than the first example, it lacks help in your diamond suit and has "soft" values in other suits.
Jump to 4S with
♣43 . There's no honor help in diamonds, but
this hand has other compensating assets -- a sure outside trick (the
♥A), a potential ruffing
value (the doubleton club), an important trump honor and perhaps most valuable,
extra length in trumps.
The same types of game-try bids – with the same general meanings -- are useful in longer auctions, too. Here are two common examples:
(1) You Partner (2) You
1C 1H 1D 1H
1S 2S 2H ?
In (1), opener (you) can make a game try at your third turn to bid. Any further bid by you in this auction -- even the “old” suits of 3C and 3H -- invites partner to bid 4S.
Responder can also use game-try bids after opener raises his suit. In (2),
partner's rebids of 2S, 2NT, 3C, 3D and 3H are all tries for a heart game,
showing at least 11 playing points.
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