Beginning Bridge: Basics for Responder

When your partner opens 1 of a suit, all you know about his hand is his minimum length in that suit (3+ cards for a 1C or 1D opening; 5+ cards for a 1H or 1S opening) and his minimum point count (at least 12-13). You donít yet know if he has a balanced or an unbalanced hand, extra length in his suit, a second suit or extra points. Opener needs to hear from you before he can tell you more about his hand.

Partner needed at least 12-13 pts. to start the bidding, but you need only 6 pts. to bid back to him. Your response tells him the two of you have at least half the total strength (your 6+ and partnerís 13+ is about half of the 40 pts. in the deck).

A response, even with a bare 6 pts., will help you:

  (1)  Find the best trump suit (it may not be the suit partner bid, especially if he opened 1C or 1D).

  (2)  Find the right level (if partner has a very strong hand, you may be able to make a game).

  (3)  Make it more difficult for the opponents to bid.

Which suit?

If partner opens and the next player passes, always respond if you hold 6+ points. You can:

(1)  Raise partnerís suit. A bid  in the same suit partner opened (1H by partner, 2H by you) is called a raise. It says you have enough length to guarantee a combined fit of 8+ cards. Your raise also shows your point-count ó the higher you raise, the stronger your hand.

(2)  Bid notrump.  A notrump bid tells partner that you donít have support for his suit and that you have no 4+-card major you can bid at the 1-level. Notrump bids also show points ó the higher your bid, the stronger your hand.

(3)  Bid a new suit at the one-level.  A one-level bid in a new suit (partner opens 1C, you respond 1H) shows 4+ cards in your suit and 6+ pts. Unlike a raise or notrump bid, your bid of a new suit does not show an exact point range. Opener wonít know how strong you are, so he must bid again.

Note: If you have a minimum responding hand (6-9 pts.), do not go to the two-level to show a new suit. If you canít show your suit at the one-level, respond 1NT to keep the bidding low. You can go to the two-level only if you're raising partnerís suit.

(4)  Bid new suit at a higher level.  If you make a non-jump bid of a new suit at the two-level (1S by partner, 2C by you), you promise at least 10 pts. and at least 4 cards in your suit. The only exceptions are:

What level?

You should keep bidding until one partner has enough information to choose a final contract. To make this decision, one of you must know:

     (1)  How many cards you both hold in the agreed trump suit; and

     (2)  How many total points are in your two hands.

The partner who has this information first is the ďcaptainĒ of the hand and places the contract. In many auctions, you or your partner will be able to make this decision fairly early, often before you've gone past the one-level. 

Your first bid shows your minimum points, but may not show a maximum. As soon as possible, you want to give partner more exact information. The main ways you show points are:

The level you choose for these bids will tell partner your exact point range.

When choosing a  response, think of your hand as falling into one of the three ranges below. If your point-count falls in two ranges, use the higher range if you have a ďgoodĒ hand ó aces and kings instead of queens and jacks, support for partner, extra length in your suit.

With a minimum response (6-10 pts):

Never bid above the one-level unless:

Youíre raising partnerís suit; OR

Youíre rebidding your own long suit; OR

Partner has forced the bidding higher.

You always show minimum point range when you:

Raise partnerís suit one level  (1H-2H;  1C-1H-1S-2S;  1C-1H-1S-2C).

Bid or rebid 1NT  (1H-1NT;  1C-1D-1S-1NT).  If partner opened a major suit, your 1NT response shows 0-2 cards in his suit and no new suit you can show at the one-level. This bid shows weakness; it does not  promise notrump distribution.

Rebid your own long suit at the lowest level available  (1D-1S-1NT-2S).

Jump to 4 of partner's major (1S-4S). This shows minimum point-count, but great playing strength (usually 5 trumps and a singleton).

With an invitational hand (10-12 pts.):

Plan to invite game by freely taking the auction to 2NT or 3 of a suit.

You show at least invitational point range when you make a non-jump bid of 2 of a new suit (1D-2C;  1S-2H).

Some of the ways you can show your exact invitational point range are:

Jump to 3 of openerís suit (1H-3H;  1C-3C). This is called a limit raise.

Jump to 3 of openerís second suit (a major ó 1C-1H-1S-3S) = 10-11 pts., 4-card support.

Raise to 3 of openerís second suit (a minor ó 1D-1H-2C-3C) = 10-11 pts., 4+-card support.

Jump rebid of your suit (1D-1H-1S-3H) = 6+-card suit. This invites partner to bid to game.

Rebid of 2NT  (1C-1H-1S-2NT;  1C-1H-2C-2NT) = 10-12 pts., with honor(s) in the unbid suits.

With a forcing hand (12+ pts.):

If you know your combined strength is at least 25 pts., donít give partner a chance to pass below game level. It's your responsibility to get your partnership to a game contract.

New-suit bids force partner to keep bidding. He cannot pass until you show your exact point range (by bidding notrump, raising partner's suit or rebidding your own long suit). Keep forcing partner to bid until you've collected enough information to decide on the proper strain (a trump suit or notrump).

Here are examples of auctions where responder is showing forcing-to-game strength (your bids as responder are in bold type):

Copyright ©  Karen Walker