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Responding to partner's 1 or 1♠ opener -
"We have a fit!"

Partner, sitting across the table from you, has just told you that she holds five cards in either hearts or spades (depending on which suit she actually bid) and also holds 13-21 points or 7 or fewer losers in her hand. Your job at this point is to look at what you can determine about how high and where to play the hand.

If you hold three or more cards in the suit partner has opened in, you have a suit fit and we know where you want to play the hand. The only question becomes "how high"?

Support points

When the partnership has found a suit fit and one or both partners know it, it is common to slightly change how you add up the points in your hand. This is usually done because you can trump cards if one of the partnership's hands is out of a suit and that suit is played. The change is done in the following way (not too difficult, so don't get worried):

  • Count your high card points and length points as you normally would
  • Then, for suits [outside of the trump suit] which are shorter than three cards, you add the following:
    • 1 more point for a doubleton (a suit in which you hold 2 cards),
    • 2 more points for a singleton (a suit in which you hold only 1 card), and
    • 3 more points for a void (a suit in which you hold no cards at all).

This results in your support points for partner's major suit. Use this total to determine how high you want to bid.

Counting losers does not change whether we have a fit or not. Sometimes it's a good idea to count support points to see what that says you should be bidding and then counting losers to see what that says. If the counts agree (which they often do!), then you can feel confident of what you should do. If they disagree (every once in awhile they do), you know you have a close decision between two different bids and should see if there is anything else in the hand which makes it worse or better (and make your bid accordingly). 

Responding to partner's 1 of a major opening bid:

It's important to remember the three types of hands that opener can have to open 1 or 1♠:

  1. Opener has a maximum opener [19-21 points or 5 or fewer losers]. What do you need to make game opposite this kind of hand? As far as points go, you need anywhere from 5-7 points (or more, of course) since this will add up to the necessary 26 points needed for game. As far as losers go, the partnership needs 10 winners to bid 4 of the major. Remembering that to determine partnership winners, you subtract the total partnership losers from 24. That would mean that the partnership has to have 14 or fewer lowers. Since (in this case) your partner has 5 or fewer losers, you need 9 or fewer losers. So, opposite a maximum opener by partner, you have to hold 5-7 points or 9 or fewer losers to be in game.
  2. Opener has a strong opener [16-18 points or 6 or fewer losers]. What you need to bid game if opener has this kind of hand is 8-10 points (or more) to add up to 26 points. Or, if you're using Losing Trick Count (LTC), you need 8 or fewer losers.
  3. Opener has a minimum opener [13-15 points or 7 or fewer losers]. You would need 11-13 points and 7 or fewer losers.
You don't know which kind of opener partner has right now. What's the least you need to have a chance of getting to game if we should be there? Either 5-7 points or 9 or fewer losers. Yes, if this is all you have, partner might have a minimum opener and you won't be anywhere near 26 points (or 14 or fewer losers). However, partner won't be jump shifting and you'll still be at a low level. Thus, you can still put the brakes on the bidding after partner makes her next bid. Right now, you have to keep the bidding alive just in case partner has a maximum opener.

Most people will use the following ranges to describe a responder's hand:

  1. A weak hand has less than 6 points or 10 or more losers.
  2. A minimum responding hand has 6-9 points or 9 or so losers.
  3. An invitational responding hand has 10-12 points or 8 or so losers.
  4. A game-forcing responding hand has 13 or more points or 7 or fewer losers.
You'll be using these numbers when discussing responder's bidding, so keep them in mind.

How do you tell partner about these ranges? Suppose partner has opened 1 and you have three or more hearts in our hand. You have a fit!!! Using Standard-American Yellow Card (SAYC), you use the following to describe the fact that you have a fit with partner's suit and to describe the point range of your hand:
  1. With a weak hand, you PASS.  Game is impossible since partner didn't open 2, so we stop the bidding as soon as possible. (There is one exception to this which I'll discuss in just a minute)
  2. With a minimum responding hand, you bid 2. Note that this is the lowest heart bid you can make, so partner will know that you have the least points you possibly can have to make a response.  Partner will also know that you have a heart fit. Then, she can count her support points and add them to the 6-9 that you've shown. She's now in a good position to make a decision about how high to play the hand. [Since you raised her suit, she knows where to play the hand.]
  3. With an invitational responding hand, using SAYC, you bid 3.  [VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not the way that many books on Standard American teach you to bid. That's because in "Yellow Card", this is a special bid. Always keep in mind that you and partner have to be speaking the same bidding language!] In SAYC, this is called a limit raise. It tells your partner that you have a fit for her suit and that you have enough points to get to game if she has more than a minimum opening hand. Again, now she can make a decision on how high to play the hand.
  4. With a game-forcing responding hand, we make a conventional response of 2NT, known as "Jacoby Two No Trump." This special bid does not imply an interest in a No Trump game!!! It tells opener that you have a fit for her suit and that you have enough points to get to game even if she has a minimum opener.  The next lesson will look at how she should bid.
Note that you raise partner's suit if you have a fit. [Yes, 2NT is a "raise" of the suit, even though you didn't use that suit in your bid. Partner knows that you have a fit for her suit.]  Also note that partner has a very good idea of how many points (or the maximum number of losers we have), so she can make an intelligent guess as to how high to play the hand.

The exception

The one exception to these bids is for weak hands. When you have five cards or more in support of partner's suit, you have a weak hand and you have a singleton or void in another suit, you make a "shutout bid" and jump all the way to four of the suit! Admittedly, this seems insane! You're bidding game and you're not even sure we have enough points for it! You jumped more than the limit raise! Yet, "everyone" makes this kind of bid. I can hear the cries now: "Why would anyone do such a thing?"  There are two reasons for it.  

First, the partnership holds at least 10 cards in that major. At least one opponent is going to be "short" (singleton or void) in that suit. So far, you've had nice opponents and they have PASSed whenever the bidding got to them. However there are several kinds of bids they can make which are usually safe when they are short in the suit you're bidding. With your partnership holding so many cards in your suit, they're likely to want to make some kind of bid. 

Second, by jumping all the way to game, you'll be making it hard for the opponents to bid. They'd have to make a bid at the four-level or higher and it's just very hard to do that and know that you're right. So, if they do bid, they'll be making a blind guess. Since your opponents don't know if partner holds a maximum or minimum opener either, they don't know if your partnership has enough points for game or not.

But realize that you must have all three requirements for this bid: a weak responding hand, five cards in your partner's major suit, and a singleton or void in another suit. If you hold more than a weak responding hand, do NOT jump to 4 of the major. If you hold only four cards in partner's suit, do NOT jump to 4 of the major. If you do NOT hold a singleton or void in another suit, do NOT jump to 4 of the major. 

There is more to discuss here, but this is probably enough for now.  Don't feel overwhelmed. Don't think that knitting is easier (well, ok... sometimes it is. But only sometimes.)  Don't worry! You'll see how all this comes together.





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