Game-Try Bids

      You       Partner
       1S           2S

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 bidsYour 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  «K1075  A876  ♦742  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.

Game-try bids in other auctions

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       Partner
            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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